Bioscience president takes tough questions from legislators

The state ranks fifth in the nation for biotechnology, the president and CEO of the Kansas Bioscience Authority told state senators today.

The Senate’s commerce committee is hearing an update from Tom Thornton this morning. Sen. Ty Masterson asked Thornton for more information about the rankings, saying he had seen other publications that ranked Kansas lower.

Thornton told committee members that for each $1 invested in the authority, $9.41 has been returned as an investment in the form of jobs and capital expenditures.

A group of Wichita scientists has said that the KBA promised $20 million, but Thornton has said the authority never promised that much money.

The scientists, who include specialists from Wichita State University and Via Christi, say they were told in 2009 they’d get $20 million over five years.

Paul Wooley, the chief scientist with the Wichita group known as the Center of Innovation for Biomaterials in Orthopaedic Research, or CIBOR, said the money is vital to its future.

Questioning of Thornton about how the KBA spends its money has started.

State legislators say the scientist group has been telling them, publicly and privately, that the KBA has not given them the money they promised, and that the lack of money is damaging the scientists’ ability to invent the new industry and create the jobs and the revenue.

Stay on for more updates.