University leaders in Kansas say cuts to the Kansas Bioscience Authority’s budget could have a negative impact on the state.
The KBA, which was established in 2004 to invest tax dollars in and nurture new companies in the biosciences and life sciences fields, had been operating on a budget of more than $35 million per year in some years. State funding support, however, has fallen to about $4 million this year.
Kansas University Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said the KBA helped the KU Cancer Center attain the National Cancer Institute designation. She said the KBA’s current funding is not even close that of previous years, and the drop will hurt the university’s effort to achieve comprehensive cancer center designation to expand the center’s focus.
“That is a huge loss,” Gray-Little said.
In 2011 and 2012, the KBA came under scrutiny from Gov. Sam Brownback and other conservative Republicans over management and investments under former CEO Tom Thornton, who resigned in 2011 for a job in Ohio. A $1 million audit of the KBA found that the KBA board had handled investments in an acceptable manner, but alleged some questionable spending by Thornton.
Kansas State University President Kirk Schulz also said the lack of KBA funding will hurt efforts to recruit top-ranked professors. The KBA helped the state land the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, which is proposed to be built in Manhattan.
“I don’t think that’s positive for the state of higher education in Kansas,” Schulz said. “I’m hopeful to see funding turn around.”
Gray-Little and Schulz made their comments this past week after a KBA report to the Kansas Board of Regents.