Kansas Wheat spearheads j.v. for innovation center

by Eric Schroeder
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MANHATTAN — Kansas Wheat (a cooperative agreement between the Kansas Wheat Commission and the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers), Kansas State University and the University of Kansas have formed a voluntary alliance under the guidance of the Kansas Bio Science Authority to develop plans for a joint venture called the Innovation Center for Advanced Plant Design: "Plants for the Heartland." According to Kansas Wheat, the center will focus on emerging commercial opportunities for wheat, sorghum, small grains, and native plants and grasses.

In forming the venture, the University of Kansas’ expertise in extracting value from numerous natural materials will be combined with K-State’s ability in plant-breeding technology to develop new methods of scientific discovery and ultimately, commercial release of cutting-edge technology that has a positive impact on human health, plant science and food and fuels.

The three groups first began working together last year, and recently received support from major private plant science industries, several of the state’s most innovative farmers and ranchers and other private institutions. The Center for Advanced Plant Design is working to secure up to $50 million in startup funds from the Kansas BioScience Authority; funding that would be used to build a research facility near the K-State campus in Manhattan.

"The Center for Advanced Plant Design is unique in that it combines major, private plant science companies that have committed to being a part of this endeavor," said Dusti Fritz, chief executive officer of Kansas Wheat. "We’ll take new discoveries and technologies, extract the value from them and in turn, create new businesses and jobs for Kansas.

Some of the things Kansas Wheat said it would like to see achieved through the Kansas Innovation Center for Advanced Plant Design include commercialization of sustainable, drought-tolerant, high yielding varieties; foods with reduced allergenicity; new food products that are rich in anti-oxidants, cancer fighting components; plant-derived medicines for preventing and curing human disease; high bio-mass plants for bio-fuel production; high starch content for animal feeds; and ethanol with less wastes and environmental impacts.

"The center will position Kansas as the global leader in plant genetics by translating innovative research into value-added agricultural products delivered to the market place," Ms. Fritz said.

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