It’s billed as the only full-day investment forum in the world to match startup companies in the animal health sector with investors. And it’s expected to be a global draw for both entrepreneurs and financiers.
The Kansas City Animal Health Corridor — stretching between Columbia, Mo., and Manhattan, Kan. — has in its 10-year history put itself at the center of global agribusiness attention.
This year, in addition to sponsoring the seventh annual Kansas City Animal Health Investment Forum on Sept. 1 and the Animal Health Corridor’s 10th anniversary dinner the night before, corridor business leaders want to expand its reach to focus on science literacy to improve workforce quality.
“We’re working on how to attract new businesses, bring new talent into the area and increase interest in science education,” said Ian Spinks, president and general manager of the Animal Health Division, North America, of Bayer HealthCare in Shawnee, whose company has led the corridor organization’s development.
Spinks, current chairman of the corridor’s advisory board, is working with corridor president Kimberly Young to raise awareness of the more than 300 companies in the area that work in the animal health industry and encourage more companies to locate in the region.
He said the area’s quality of life and affordability are a big draw, but it continues to be a challenge to attract top-quality professionals in the industry. There are many reasons to locate in the region, he said, including multiple job options.
Already, Young said, eight of the top 10 global companies in animal health have operations in the region, and startup growth is strong.
In addition to the corridor’s annual dinner on Aug. 31, which 900 are expected to attend, about 400 are expected at the next day’s investment forum, to be held at the Kansas City Convention Center’s Grand Ballroom.
The forum will showcase up to 20 early-stage and midstage companies deemed to have high growth potential. Each will present business plans and seek between $500,000 and $20 million in funding from venture capitalists, investment firms and other funding sources.
Companies that have participated in previous investment forums have raised more than $160 million, and some have received licensing and distribution agreements for new products. Recent successes included FitBark, Traverse Biosciences, Jaguar Animal Health, Prommune, VaxLiant, Elias Animal Health and KAVB Farm.
One company scheduled to present a business plan this year is working on an odor control product for barnyards and litter boxes. Another is working on an alternative to antibiotic use in poultry. Another is working on an osteoarthritis treatment for animals.
Spinks and Young said corridor leadership also will use the events to reveal three education initiatives to be sponsored by member companies and universities. They said there is a big need to encourage young students to become interested in science, to encourage career choices in agribusiness among older students and to encourage career development among adults.
They said that development of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan is ramping up the need for veterinary scientists and other agribusiness professionals and that now is the time to encourage a science-literate workforce.