Mayor David Holt says grant moves OKC towards becoming innovation hub, as the city was one of 21 winners out of 529 applicants.
In what admittedly sounds like one of the least interesting competition shows on television, the Oklahoma Biotech Innovation Cluster (OBIC) is the recipient of a $35 million grant package as one of 21 winners (of 529 applicants) of the Build Back Better Regional Challenge. The program is funded through ARPA, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which allocated $1 billion in funding for the regional challenge.
According to the U.S. Economic Development Administration press release, the “coalition projects include a program designed to address the cluster’s challenge to commercialization, expansion of the region’s clinical trials center, biotech startup support, and a bioprocessing core facility and workforce program to prepare the region for biomanufacturing at scale.”
More specifically, the funds will be used to fund six core projects:
- OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center for Therapeutics
- Oklahoma Biotech Startup Program
- The University of Oklahoma Biotech Core Facility
- OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center Early Phase Clinical Trial Network
- Biomanufacturing Workforce Training Camp
- Oklahoma Bioscience Cluster Initiative
Winners received between $25 million and $65 million to fund a variety of projects in multiple fields. The Tulsa Regional Mobility Corridor was another winner, receiving $39 million in funding for advanced mobility, automation and unmanned aerial systems. In Oklahoma City, the grant was awarded to the Biotech Innovation Cluster, which operates under the umbrella of the Oklahoma City Economic Development Foundation.
According to a release from Greater Oklahoma City Economic Development: “The OBIC coalition is supported by more than 40 partners across academia, tribal nations, government, industry, community, investors and other key stakeholders involved in the continued development of the burgeoning biotechnology cluster in Oklahoma.”
The funds represent another substantial investment in diversifying the state’s economy and encouraging biotech innovation, an area where Mayor David Holt said the state “punched below our weight for a long time.”
Speaking about OKC’s future with innovation, not just biotech innovation, Holt said, “We have the potential to be known as an innovation hub, and the foundation was laid by our investments in the Innovation District. We’ve made moves in the right direction, and to be honest, we punched below our weight for a long time in every category of innovation. That left us a big hole to dig out of, but we’ve made progress. We recognize there is still a lot of work to be done.”
The press release from Greater OKC Economic Development also quoted University of Oklahoma vice president for research and partnerships Tomás Díaz de la Rubia: “We saw this as an opportunity to leverage the strong public and private research assets that exist at the University of Oklahoma, in Oklahoma City and in the region to create a vibrant ecosystem here that not only fuels our economy but supports increased commercialization and U.S. manufacturing for new drugs and therapies …This grant moves us one step closer to realizing our vision of a strong biotechnology and biomanufacturing innovation cluster in Oklahoma.”
Mayor Holt said he is optimistic that Oklahoma City is on the right track to becoming known as a leader in innovation. “I’m not seeing national headlines touting us as the new Silicon Valley,” he said, “but being on the right tracks makes me hopeful that one day I’ll see a national headline that refers to Oklahoma City as ‘the Silicon Valley of the Plains.’”