By Don Mecoy
Copyright © 2012, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
The newly launched Oklahoma Bioscience Institute is designed to provide needed resources for those working in life sciences while raising public awareness of state’s bioscience sector, which it hopes to expand.
“I think it’s long overdue,” said Steven Rhines, general counsel for the Noble Foundation in Ardmore and a bioscience institute board member. “This is something this sector really needs with regards to raising its profile.”
The institute’s mission “is to develop Oklahoma’s life science leaders,” said Sheri Stickley, president and CEO of the Oklahoma Bioscience Institute and its sister organization, the Oklahoma Bioscience Association.
“We all have a vested interest in equipping today’s bioscience leaders and developing the leaders of tomorrow,” Stickley said. “These are the individuals we’re depending on to find cures for cancer and diabetes, to develop clean, sustainable fuels, and to find ways to feed an exploding global population.”
The 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization will seek to equip bioscience entrepreneurs and scientists with information to help them succeed, while preparing the next generation of bioscience workers through education and training, Stickley said. The group also wants to boost public understanding of the bioscience sector’s key role in Oklahoma’s economy and quality of life.
The Institute will work to build partnerships between business and education, and will help develop training workshops, events and community building activities targeted toward life science researchers, faculty, students, entrepreneurs and bioscience industry supporters. Those efforts should fill in gaps in resources and knowledge for those working in the biosciences industry or considering it as a career, Rhines said.
The biomedical sector in Oklahoma City, which includes a cluster of operations in and around the Presbyterian Health Foundation Research Park and the OU Health Sciences Center, has a fairly significant profile, Rhines said.
“But probably what’s lost on the majority of the state is the prominence of the other side of the life scientist, which would be the agriculture side,” Rhines said. Another cluster of research organizations, including the Noble Foundation in Ardmore, Oklahoma State University and regional colleges, is doing significant work and providing good jobs, he said.
The Oklahoma Bioscience Institute will focus on the entire spectrum of life sciences, sharing with the public the importance of those efforts to the state’s economy and the jobs they spawn, Rhines said.
The institute also seeks to encourage young Oklahomans to consider biosciences as a career through its education efforts, Rhines said.
The Oklahoma Bioscience Institute will work with Oklahoma educators and bioscience executives to develop programming relevant to the needs of the industry. It will also draw on expertise of similar organizations across the country through its affiliation with the new national Coalition of State Bioscience Institutes.