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Iowa Prime Region for Bioeconomy

James Q. Lynch

The Gazette

February 15, 2006

[Note: This material is copyright by The Gazette, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of The Gazette.]

   DES MOINES — Iowa can be the ‘‘epicenter’’ of the emerging bioeconomy, but a leader of a Cedar Rapids bioindustry isn’t sure Iowans understand the wealth of opportunity to be found in the state’s core strengths, such as crop and animal production and food processing.
   ‘‘I know a lot of the legislators get this and are very interested in where we’re going,’’ said George Anderl, director of operations at Genencor International and a member of the BioScience Alliance of Iowa, after meeting with the House Economic Growth Committee Tuesday.
   The alliance is advising Gov. Tom Vilsack and the Legislature how to implement recommendations of the Battelle Memorial Institute that Iowa focus on opportunities in seven areas of the biobased economy: drug discovery, genomics, biodefense/biosecurity, advanced foods, animal systems, bioeconomy and imaging.
   The alliance has a goal of developing 100 new bio-based businesses in Iowa in the next five years.
   ‘‘We think the scientists with the ideas for those businesses already are in Iowa,’’ Chris Nelson, president of Kemin Industries of Des Moines and chairman of the alliance, told the committee.
   Most Iowans are unaware of that, however, Anderl said, and it will take time for them to understand the potential to raise livestock that produces less manure, that Iowa farmraised shrimp could be a byproduct of the ethanol industry and steps to combat obesity may be as near as Iowa cornfields and regent university labs.
   Anderl said the bioeconomy has accounted for 5,400 new jobs and $3.4 billion in sales in the past five years. It could potentially add 13,500 jobs in the next five years and achieve sales of $51 billion by 2015.