Technology  November 30, 2012

Research parks draw technology, economic development

Universities and laboratories in Colorado and Wyoming are teeming with great ideas. Some could change the world — and be worth millions.

Whether they’re full-blown business incubators and just a cluster of buildings, research-park complexes are serving as focal points for drawing research funding to the Front Range and Wyoming.

And now, construction may soon begin on what is perhaps one of the more ambitious research park projects in the wider region.

The Cirrus Sky Park planned in Laramie could encompass 150 acres on land in a $7 million transaction. University of Wyoming officials have an option to buy about 23 acres of the parcel.

Companies that graduate from the Wyoming Technology Business Center incubator may someday have homes in the new research park, said Christine Langley, chief operating officer at the incubator, which has been operating since 2006.

“Hopefully, we’ll spin out companies into the possible future research park,” Langley said, “but right now our graduates spin out into the local community.”

Until then, interest is growing from high-tech companies in the region in the new park, said Gaye Stockman, president and chief executive of the Laramie Economic Development Corp. Economic development officials want to move quickly on the project. Construction could start in March, if everything goes as planned with funding, Stockman said.

“It’s a quick process,” Stockman said. “It won’t be years in the making.”

A recent study in Laramie found the city houses more than 60 technology firms, several of which are expected to move to the new Cirrus Sky Park. The Laramie Economic Development Corp. has asked the Wyoming Business Council for $5.4 million to help buy the land.

The potential for success is there.

In Fort Collins, the 60,000-square-foot Research Innovation Center was built in 2010 with more than $50 million in bonds on Colorado State University’s Foothills campus. It quickly attracted eight startup companies, said Rick Lyons, director of the Infectious Disease Research Center. Lyons also oversees the building.

Those tenants include CHD Biosciences Inc., which develops sterilization products, Prieto Battery, which has an innovative new battery product, Advanced MicroLabs, which is developing sensor technologies, and Vivaldi Inc., a vaccine lab specializing in influenza.

With the incubator on the top floor of the building and academic labs on the first floor, the companies are “very much embedded into the university culture,” Lyons said. “The whole point is to enhance collaborative interactions between the private sector and the academics here.”

In one such collaboration, CHD Biosciences workers needed some help with some animal experiments and were able to get it from CSU faculty working nearby, Lyons said.

The building’s annual operating budget is $2 million. Millions of dollars more in funding is generated from the incubator every year, Lyons said.

In addition to the Infectious Disease Research Center, the building houses a National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases office, a division of the National Institutes of Health that has funding of $25 million to $35 million over a five-year period, Lyons said.

The facility has several special biosafety labs to support the infectious-disease research as well as a 7,700-square-foot vivarium, an enclosed area used to study organisms.

Elsewhere, the nonprofit Innovation Center of the Rockies in Boulder now has relationships with the University of Colorado, Colorado School of Mines, Colorado State University and the University of Denver’s Office of Technology Transfer.

Executive Director Tim Bour oversees an incubator in Boulder as well as related programs involved with helping universities commercialize inventions and intellectual property. Client companies work with the incubator for about three or four months before “graduating” into the market, Bour has said.

The incubator has had clients in a wide variety of industries, including natural and organic, software, renewable energy/clean tech, bioscience, nanotechnology, optical-products and engineered-products. The incubator gets money from the public and private sectors as well as from client fees.

Another piece of the “research park” puzzle in Boulder is in the Jennie Smoly Caruthers Biotechnology Building, a 336,800-square-foot research and teaching facility on CU-Boulder’s East Campus. More than 60 faculty and 500 researchers and staff are housed in the building.

Research space in the new building was designed specifically to create an environment that promotes collaboration between scientists, according to people involved with the building. It was funded by $65 million in private support as well as public and university support.

In Aurora, more than 100 companies have passed through the Fitzsimons Research Park on the $1.5 billion Anschutz Medical Campus.

Several collaborations are going on at the research park.

• Researchers at the Charles C. Gates Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Biology have a new technique to cultivate red blood cells, which can be used to make blood. The technique would need to go through human clinical trials to get necessary U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval before being commercialized.

• Researchers in a separate project developed a biofeedback device to help promote weight loss. The device is enabled to work with Bluetooth and tracks the calories a user burns.

• Researchers at the University of Colorado Cancer Center discovered a new diagnostic biomarker for colon cancer.

Some well-known local bioscience companies passed through the Anschutz campus as well.

Myogen Inc. was one. The company created a hypertension drug based on research from CU-Boulder, the CU Health Sciences Center in Aurora and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Myogen Inc. was sold for $2.5 billion in 2006 to Gilead Biosciences Inc. in Foster City, Calif.

Arca Biopharma Inc. in Boulder also came out of the Anschutz incubator. The company makes drug treatments targeting heart disease.

The incubator is governed by the Fitzsimons redevelopment authority, representing the city of Aurora and the University of Colorado.

Universities and laboratories in Colorado and Wyoming are teeming with great ideas. Some could change the world — and be worth millions.

Whether they’re full-blown business incubators and just a cluster of buildings, research-park complexes are serving as focal points for drawing research funding to the Front Range and Wyoming.

And now, construction may soon begin on what is perhaps one of the more ambitious research park projects in the wider region.

The Cirrus Sky Park planned in Laramie could encompass 150 acres on land in a $7 million transaction. University of Wyoming officials have an option to buy about 23…

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