A few weeks ago, the University of Colorado announced with great fanfare that after 10 years as president of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Nobel laureate Tom Cech is returning to work in Boulder.
Cech's work in the RNA field (he's also done groundbreaking work in telomeres) helped create what is now one of the hottest areas of biomedical research and development. And Colorado clearly hopes that recruiting scientists of Cech's caliber will help spark a biotech revolution of its own.
But it takes more than talent to make that happen. And state lawmakers recognized that when they passed a bill last year that will fertilize a nascent biotech cluster with $26.5 million in state money.
Grants of up to $150,000 are available to advance new technologies at the state's research institutions. About a third of the money will go to biotech companies which set out to commercialize home-grown technologies. Companies can gain grants of $250,000 to license research institution tech. And a big chunk of money is reserved for creating the kind of public-private infrastructure needed to commercialize new technologies.
Now, $26.5 million can't compare to the kind of money that California, Massachusetts, Florida and others have already spent fostering biotech. But it is a cleverly designed program that has real potential to help emerging biotech companies--as well as state researchers and institutions--when they need it the most. Combined with a few more scientific recruiting coups, Colorado could start to realize its latent potential.