Archive for Thursday, June 21, 2007

State bioscience board looking for new chairman

June 21, 2007

OLATHE -- The transition period has begun for the Kansas Bioscience Authority following the resignation last week of its chairman, Clay Blair.

A bare majority of the state-appointed board -- five of its nine voting members -- met earlier this month for the first time since Blair's resignation. The board had been scheduled to elect a new chairman for the group that oversees a multimillion-dollar budget designed to spur bioscience investment in the state.

But the board pulled that item from the agenda, and President and CEO Thomas Thornton said the election of a new leader would best be handled at the board's annual meeting July 10.

Instead, board members spent most of the meeting discussing written documents that formalize how the authority operates a variety of its incentive and assistance programs that it offers to businesses. Thornton said it was time for the nearly three-year-old board to begin putting more of its practices in writing.

"I've been here seven months now, and I now have a better understanding of what the stakeholders' expectations are," Thornton said. "I believe we're refining, delineating and clearly articulating what those things are so that the process isn't a mystery."

Some board members expressed concern that the process the authority has been using to make investments in companies wasn't set up to keep all board members adequately informed.

"By the time a decision gets to the full board, it seems like the votes are already there to pass it many times," said former Gov. John Carlin, who is a member of the authority.

Blair resigned Tuesday following criticism from a handful of his fellow board members and some state legislators that the board's dealings were not transparent enough. Others on the board defended Blair, who did not give a reason for his resignation. Many of those members were not present at Friday's meeting.

Blair's spot on the board was filled Friday by Angela Kreps, president of the Kansas Bioscience Organization, which is a trade association that represents bioscience companies in the state.

Kreps was appointed to the board by Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton. Her appointment will need to be confirmed by the Senate, but she's allowed to serve without confirmation until the Legislature comes back into session in January.

In addition to Kreps, voting members on the board are:

  • Bill Sanford, president and CEO of Nanoscale Materials. He serves as the authority's vice chairman.
  • Carlin.
  • David Franz, vice president of Midwest Research Institute.
  • Former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman.
  • Sandra Lawrence, executive vice president and chief financial officer for Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics.
  • Ed McKechnie, executive vice president and chief commercial officer for Watco Cos.
  • Dolph C. Simons Jr., chairman of The World Company of Lawrence, which owns The De Soto Explorer.
  • Ray Smilor, executive director of the Beyster Institute, Rady School of Management at the University of California, San Diego.

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