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New lab touted for Worthington at BiO Conference

WORTHINGTON -- The Worthington BiO Conference drew to a close Friday afternoon with a look at an exciting prospect for Worthington in the field of science. Harold Stanislawski, program development director of the Agricultural Utilization Research...

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Harold Stanislawski, program development director of the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI), speaks Friday at the Worthington BiO Conference.

WORTHINGTON - The Worthington BiO Conference drew to a close Friday afternoon with a look at an exciting prospect for Worthington in the field of science.
Harold Stanislawski, program development director of the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI), Rod Larkins, Senior Director of Science at AURI and Goutham Vemuri of GeneSys Consulting spoke to attendees about the establishment of a wet laboratory in Worthington. The laboratory would be one of the few in the state of Minnesota and the only one in the region.
Larkins shared Friday that the next closest laboratories are in Marshall and the Twin Cities, all of which are at capacity. The laboratory would allow budding science entrepreneurs like Vemuri to have a place to rent lab space in which to work.
Vemuri said it is crucial for new entrepreneurs to have a space to test their ideas before presenting them to potential investors.
“There’s precious few opportunities to access wet lab space in the Twin Cities and elsewhere,” Vermuri said. “... It’s very hard to get any more access to a lab space, so there is clearly a need for the lab space.
“AURI has been very gracious to open their doors to people like me. ... It’s allowed me some progress into the proof of concept and allowed me to walk in front of investors and say my concept works,” he added.
AURI has partnered with the University of Minnesota and Southwest Minnesota State University to have laboratory space available for smaller scientists to use. The startup costs involved in a laboratory would be prohibitive for many that are new to the industry to afford.
Unlike other markets, those in chemistry and biology must work in a laboratory. Vemuri estimated the materials for a 2,000- to 2,500-lab space would be close to $100,000.
“The expense is too great for individuals to do it themselves,” Larkins said.
Larkins said the laboratory partnership has also offered the ability for students to serve as interns at the labs, a possibility for Worthington in the future with Minnesota West Community and Technical College.
Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Abraham Algadi said the WREDC and the city of Worthington have been in discussions about building a laboratory space at the Biotechnology Advancement Center. Algadi said he’d recently visited the Iowa Bio Conference in Des Moines, Iowa, and had spoken previously with people in Sioux Falls, S.D., about possibly having a future laboratory be one that would serve not only Worthington and the immediate surroundings needs, but those of the tri-state region.
Algadi added that he’d received support from the city on the project, including from Worthington Mayor Mike Kuehle.
“Last time I heard the mayor talk to me and Jason (Vote) and a couple of others, basically he said, ‘Get it done. … Get the lab done,’” Algadi said. “We have a mandate. We’re going to do the right thing.”

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