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OKBioStart Receives Portion of Oklahoma Biotech Innovation Cluster $35 Million Award

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Nov. 14, 2022

OKBioStart Receives Portion of Oklahoma Biotech Innovation Cluster $35 Million Award

OU’s Tom Love Innovation Hub to lead new program

A view of the Tom Love Innovation Hub in Norman.

NORMAN, Okla. (Nov. 14, 2022) — Oklahoma Biotech Startup Programs, or OKBioStart, is one of the six initiatives that make up the Oklahoma Biotech Innovation Cluster sharing in a $35 million award from the U.S. Economic Development Association’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge.

Under the direction of the University of Oklahoma’s Tom Love Innovation Hub (I-Hub), OKBioStart will bring together key partners across academia, investors, corporate, government, and entrepreneurial support organizations to launch and grow biotech startups across Central Oklahoma.

“While the Central Oklahoma region has benefited from isolated biotech startup successes, the lack of a holistic, integrated approach to launching and supporting biotech startups has constrained Central Oklahoma’s opportunity to equitably scale into a regional hub for biotech,” said Tom Wavering, I-Hub executive director and the principal investigator for the OKBioStart Programs. “Promising startups have left the ecosystem and many more ideas have never moved beyond the lab. With efforts like OKBioStart and the other initiatives of the Oklahoma Biotech Innovation Cluster, we are well positioned to become a recognized national leader for bioscience and biotechnology.”

The I-Hub is Oklahoma’s only Economic Development Administration University Center and is part of OU’s Michael F. Price College of Business.

“Since its launch in 2016, the I-Hub’s local, statewide and regional programs have generated an estimated economic impact of more than $400 million by inspiring, connecting, supporting and launching startups,” said Corey Phelps, dean of the Price College of Business. “This new initiative and award will allow Price College and OU to grow its impact within the biotech industry and fits squarely within our college’s strategic priority to strengthen and expand resources for both OU and the state of Oklahoma’s entrepreneurial ecosystems.”

OKBioStart programs are built upon a foundational coalition of partners from across the Central Oklahoma biotech startup ecosystem, including public- and private-sector entities. The suite of programs offered will accelerate innovation, commercialize research and grow new biotech startups in Central Oklahoma in ways that can easily scale for long-term growth. 

“For decades, Oklahoma has conducted significant biotechnology research and development.  We already have an incredible foundation through academia, our health system and a variety of biotech companies,” said Elizabeth Hutt Pollard, Oklahoma Secretary of Science and Innovation. “Through the formation of OKBioStart, we can build upon that foundation and grow this sector as we elevate new business to diversify Oklahoma’s economy and become a leading state in the biotechnology and life sciences industry. I look forward to seeing the growth that is to come and being directly involved as a member of the OKBioStart Technical Advisory Board.”

OKBioStart consists of four primary efforts: to engage and build a diverse, equitable and inclusive community; to create and implement a concept program that will provide focused entrepreneurial training, leveraging OU’s top-ranked business programs and startup expertise across the entire ecosystem; to create and implement a launch program designed to drive entrepreneurs toward the key milestones to secure investment; and to evaluate and publish findings to allow for the continuous improvement of these comprehensive efforts. 

“The OKBioStart program funded though the Build Back Better Regional Challenge is a key element that will drive the coalition of our biotech entrepreneurial ecosystem in Central Oklahoma,” said Dr. Craig Shimasaki, co-founder and CEO of Moleculera Labs, a biotech company that began from work at the OU Health Sciences Center.

“We have seen the emergence of many supportive entrepreneurial components, but this program is essential to accelerate the synergy and focus on life science and biotechnology innovation in our state,” Shimasaki added. “Often our development stage biotech companies need to look to the coasts for support and growth, but through this program we believe that it will be a transformative investment that sparks further economic growth and diversity in our region.”

“OCAST has been involved with the growth of the Biotech industry in Oklahoma since its inception. Our early-stage funding is an important component for several existing companies.  With the formation of OKBioStart, and the involvement of our partners, we will see better returns on initial investments and more funding for biotech companies in critical stages of their development. Biotech and Life Sciences is one of OCAST’s key technology areas as outlined in the Oklahoma Science and Innovation Strategic Plan. We could not be more excited about this convergence of partnerships and funding opportunities and what it does for the Biotech industry in Oklahoma,” said Jennifer McGrail, executive director of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST). 

The first OKBioStart programs will launch in spring 2023 and the first cohort for the “Concept” phase will be accepted in summer 2023.


More on the Tom Love Innovation Hub

Founded in 2016, the Tom Love Innovation Hub, a part of the OU Michael F. Price College of Business, originated as a cutting-edge facility to foster the creation, development and implementation of innovative ideas. Today, the Innovation Hub stands as a leader in the Oklahoma entrepreneurial ecosystem. Purposed with advancing innovation and entrepreneurship at the University of Oklahoma and across Oklahoma, the Innovation Hub has helped to launch many new ventures and entrepreneurial projects. Its programs have rapidly grown the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Oklahoma by providing top-tier talent and launching promising businesses into the economy. For more information about the Innovation Hub, visit ou.edu/innovationhub.