Why pay attention to animal health

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Lesa Mitchell

I am often asked about collaborations across disciplines and whether these result in real economic impact.  I was recently reminded of not only how powerful this work can be but that it takes time to bloom. One such collaboration across a community that was born in 2004 took time to bloom, but the economic gain it brought the region was very visible in September of 2013 to the animal health community around the world.

In 2004 the President of the Kansas City Area Life Science Institute launched a new future for KC when cross-community teams were initiated, and we spent months talking about potential collaborations and defining next steps. In 2006, the KC Animal Health Corridor was launched to leverage “the single largest concentration of animal health interests in the world,” all located between Columbia, Missouri, and Manhattan, Kansas. Two weeks ago the Animal Health Corridor hosted its third annual global conference that drew to the Kansas City Convention Center attendees from all over the world. 

The Kauffman Foundation and the Greater Kansas City Life Science Institute held a dinner meeting before the conference to introduce the keynote speaker and co-author of Zoobiquity, Kathryn Bowers, to entrepreneurs and scientists in the community. As Kathryn shared with us the next day – animals and humans get the same diseases. How might we better understand human health and illness if we harness knowledge from veterinarians, the doctors who take care of other animals? Zoobiquity explores how jaguar breast cancer, dolphin diabetes, flamingo heart attacks, canine PTSD – and more – are transforming human medicine. Steven St. Peter and Lisa Stenno-Bittel are two entrepreneurs in Kansas City who have launched companies (Arantana is now a publicly held firm) based upon their life-long experiences in health care fields and understanding the impact their work could have in animal health.

It is entrepreneurs who are realizing the opportunities presented by taking a “Zoobiquitous” approach to health care – where connections between humans and other animals can lead to new products and therapies that benefit patients around the world. I am confident that the Zoobiquitous notions left with us by Kathryn will inspire new ideas for entrepreneurs around the world.

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