Ensure CIBOR's future

Good for members of the area legislative delegation for fighting to see that Wichita's Center of Innovation for Biomaterials in Orthopaedic Research gets funded appropriately by the Kansas Bioscience Authority, beyond the $5.5 million it's given CIBOR since 2009.

Gov. Sam Brownback also should intervene personally and insist that CIBOR, which has the potential to transform the Wichita and Kansas economies, gets the funding it needs.

This initiative is too important to be allowed to wither on the vine.

According to lawmakers and CIBOR scientists, in 2009 the authority not only granted $4 million to CIBOR but said it would provide $20 million over five years, drawing from its pool of state income-tax withholdings of employees at designated bioscience companies.

That's how The Eagle reported the news at the time. But until last week's grant of $1.5 million, the funding had amounted to $4 million, prompting talk of broken promises by CIBOR's legislative proponents and vows to pass a bill giving CIBOR direct funding.

Ideally, lawmakers should work through the authority, not bypass it. But their frustration is justified.

Authority president and CEO Tom Thornton has denied that there was ever a long-term commitment of $20 million, citing a press release and board minutes about the 2009 funding decision. But it is difficult to believe that lawmakers, CIBOR officials and the media all got this wrong.

The friction isn't new, unfortunately. There was the bickering two years ago about the authority's efforts to force a partnership between the University of Kansas and Wichita State University in launching the center.

In any case, the past matters less than ensuring CIBOR's future performance is all it can be.

And it was worrisome that Paul Wooley, CIBOR's chief scientist, told The Eagle, "we are being hindered by our inability to complete the renovation of our building and to purchase the needed equipment."

Funding issues must not jeopardize the realization of CIBOR's potential to invent a new generation of medical devices using aerospace composite materials.

As the authority, CIBOR, legislators and Brownback work through the money and communication issues, all parties need to focus on the shared goal of a new cutting-edge industry for Wichita and Kansas.