Kevin Lockett, the new CEO of the Kansas Bioscience Authority, said Monday that the organization intends to “accelerate its intended outcome — to transition its mission to the private sector as soon as possible.”
That mission is provide investment capital for Kansas bioscience enterprises and attract new private investment to the state. In an announcement late last month, the authority said it intended to privatize its work.
Lockett, who succeeded Duane Cantrell as CEO effective Jan. 1, said it’s possible that the authority will cease to exist, determined by responses from private-sector venture capitalists, high-net-worth individuals and other investors.
“Clearly, we can’t continue to function as in the past,” Lockett said. “Over the next six to 12 months, we will work with our private-sector partners to talk about our work and see what it will take for them to pick up where we’ll leave off. We’ll work to shift our responsibilities to the private sector.”
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Lockett noted that the authority created by the Kansas Economic Growth Act of 2004 to encourage bioscience growth in the state had an expected sunset date in 2019. Until then, the state was to provide seed money to help recruit bioscience companies, and taxes from those companies would be allocated to recruit more businesses. But the authority fell victim to budget cuts under the administration of Gov. Sam Brownback.
Lockett, who had been the authority’s chief financial and operating officer, said Cantrell had “righted the ship” and “positioned it as a venture capital organization in the bioscience sector.” Cantrell had led the organization since 2012.
“Duane came into the KBA at a time when it was mired in controversy and immediately set about building a team and a vision that gave the organization a firm foundation to grow the bioscience sector in Kansas,” KBA board chairman S. J. Schaub had said in a press release released Dec. 31. “With his leadership, KBA fulfilled its mission by selectively investing in a portfolio of early-stage companies in the human health, animal health and ag technology areas.”
The authority helped work on such gains as the KU Cancer Center’s National Cancer Institute designation and the awarding of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility to Manhattan. But it fell victim to budget cuts under the administration of Gov. Sam Brownback.
Its profile also was weakened publicly when a 2012 audit found that a former president, Tom Thornton, had misspent funds and destroyed public records.
The authority cut staff in a struggle to stay alive. Despite the recent troubles, Lockett said KBA’s bioscience investment portfolio “has nearly doubled in value over the past three years due to active management and additional investments.”