By Steve Lackmeyer
Copyright © 2013, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
Oklahoma City’s leading economic development and biosciences organizations are banding together to form a new coalition intended to take over the role of recruiting and growing bioscience companies.
The Presbyterian Health Foundation Research Park at NE 8 and Lincoln has served as the main incubator for such efforts over the last 20 years through subsidized rents. The foundation itself was formed with the 1985 sale of Presbyterian Hospital to Hospital Corporation of America.
The $85 million sale of the research park to the University of Oklahoma is set to close on Oct. 1.
The new coalition will consist of the Presbyterian Health Foundation joining with i2E Inc., the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, the University of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma City Redevelopment Authority.
Carl Edwards, chairman of the Presbyterian Health Foundation, said the sale will allow the organization to resume awarding grants, 90 percent of which will be done through the new coalition.
“The Presbyterian Health Foundation made the decision to sell the research park a couple years ago,” Edwards said. “We’ve made a very good deal for both sides. At the same time we are using the proceeds to reload. We took our endowment pretty low while building several hundred thousand square feet of building space.”
In addition to the grants, the Oklahoma City Redevelopment Authority is looking at tapping into the health sciences center tax increment finance district to also assist biotech startups.
The coalition was designed by Dan Batchelor, attorney for the Oklahoma City Redevelopment Authority, and fellow attorney John Michael Williams as a response to concerns the 700,000-square-foot research park would be switching from reduced rent for biotech startups to a market-based rent that will be charged by OU.
Dr. Stephen Prescott, president of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, was among those who worried that as the university expands its health-sciences campus east of downtown Oklahoma City that a space shortage might hurt emerging companies.
“We’re all in,” Prescott said Wednesday as the coalition arrangements were discussed by the Oklahoma City Redevelopment Authority. “The OMRF has 16 spinoff companies in Oklahoma City, most are still here, and many more are in the pipeline.”
Scott Meacham, president of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies, advised such a coalition is necessary to nurture an industry that is tough to start up and maintain.
“If you look at Oklahoma City and what drives this community, it’s energy, aerospace and biosciences,” Meacham said. “For the community to grow and thrive in the future, we have to do what we can to help those industries — and biosciences is the most difficult.”