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FUNDING Illinois Makes Noise About Biotech Role

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Shaye Mandle has been president of the Illinois Coalition for two years, and he still gets a kick out of people’s reaction when he boasts about his state’s position in genomics technology. “Most people react to that by saying, ‘You’ve got to be kidding, I had no idea,’” he says.

The difference between Illinois and all those other states scrambling to get a piece of the biotech pie is simple, if you ask Mandle: where the other states are throwing new money at the industry to lure it in, Illinois is steadily gaining ground in a field in which it’s already established.

Sure, states such as Michigan might take issue with that. But more than a year ago, the Illinois governor launched a five-year, $2 billion initiative, and Mandle expects half to two-thirds of that to go toward biotech. The Illinois Coalition, a nonprofit public-private partnership encouraging technology growth in the state, has been around since 1989. And the state’s looking to make the most of various birds in hand: Southern Illinois University’s plant genomics research collaboration with Monsanto, a still-in-construction post-genomics institute at University of Illinois’s Urbana-Champaign campus, the state’s national center for supercomputing applications, and the advanced photon source at Argonne. Additionally, the state depends on its growing number of private-sector genomics residents, including AniGenics, Integrated Genomics, and MediChem, to strengthen its hold.

“This isn’t a new plan to be a biotech leader,” Mandle says. “What we’re doing here is … a better job letting people know what we’re up to.”

— Meredith Salisbury

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