Media Coverage

Kansas City homecoming sees launch of new service award and 2016 Iron Paw

Sep 06, 2016 - Animal Pharm
By Sian Lazell     
Animal Pharm 
September 6, 2016

This year, the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor has once again seen a record number of attendees turn out for its annual homecoming dinner. Animal Pharm analyst Sian Lazell joined the crowd to hear about the importance of the human-animal bond and how the industry is reaching new heights in the region.

On August 29, animal health experts, industry professionals, service providers and those in between gathered in the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor (KCAHC) for its 11th annual homecoming dinner.

Every year, the event has grown in enormity – this year was no different. Around 1,100 individuals congregated in the Kansas City Convention Center to be welcomed back ahead of the upcoming Animal Health Investment Forum.

Dr Albrecht Kissel, president and chief executive of Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica and chair of the KCAHC, opened proceedings by highlighting the importance of the bond between animals and humans, the new Spirit of Service award to be bestowed later in the evening, and the winner of the 2016 Iron Paw award.

Record-breaking numbers

Speaking at a press conference prior to homecoming, Dr Kissel said: "This year we will have the 11thKCAHC homecoming dinner and again, like practically across all the years past, we have record attendance.

"We will have attendees from countries like China, Japan, Taiwan, India, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Scotland, the UK, France, Germany, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, Israel, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, and from more than 30 US states. I think that really shows how international this event and how big this week is for Kansas City.

"The human-animal bond will be the main theme for the homecoming dinner. The human animal bond is so important, specifically for parts of the population who are physically, emotionally or spiritually in need. Whether it is someone who is visually impaired, a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder, a child with autism, someone who is physically or mentally disabled, the elderly or empty nesters who need connections to their pets. Or as it will appear in the keynote speech on Monday night, for homeless people for whom pets are their best friends.


"The keynote speech will be held by Dr Michelle Lem and it will be around the human-animal bond. Dr Michelle Lem is a veterinarian from Ontario, Canada, and she is the founder of Community Veterinary Outreach. They have a very specific approach to helping homeless people with pets – they not only take care or provide medical care for the pets but they also provide medical care in the same space, at the same time, for the homeless."


Spirit of Service award

To her shock and delight, it was Dr Lem (pictured left) who found herself the first recipient of the Spirit of Service award. Dr Kissel handed Dr Lem a cheque for over $12,000, the total of which was funded by 100% of the proceeds from a market insight seminar, the first of its kind to be held by the KCAHC and one which will be hosted every year going forward. The new award will support organizations that do not have regular funding for their activities.

In her speech, Dr Lem spoke about how animals are sentinels of society, how we can find humanity through animals, the One Health approach and the power of human animal bond.

She explained how through her organization, she had seen how crucial animals are to people and how for many, pets improve wellbeing and give them a reason to live.

Investment forum growth

Speaking about the upcoming investment forum, Dr Kissel explained 2016 had seen more applicants than any other year.

"The investment forum will again have record attendance compared to last year. This investment forum is one of the biggest forums in the world for early- to mid-stage companies in the animal health industry who will present their business plans to investors in a bid to secure funding.

"Approximately 46 financial institutions and 117 animal health companies will attend the forum this year. It is the largest gathering of venture capitalists and venture capital companies in Kansas City.

Dr Kissel said since the inception of the forum in 2008, a total of $170 million has been raised in funding to support up and coming companies. Since the beginning, over 300 companies have applied to the forum, from more than 13 countries internationally and "practically all US states".

"This year, we had 48 companies apply – that was the biggest number ever – and the committee has selected 17 companies to actually present on the day. Those companies are coming from Ireland, Canada and Israel – that's the international component. One company is coming from here in the Kansas City region. The other companies are coming from Illinois, Florida, California, Massachusetts, Colorado, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and Texas.

"That demonstrates the animal health corridor here supports the innovation for the animal health industry and for small and start-up companies to really find money to fund their innovations. You could almost say it is the deal hub for the animal health industry globally." 

Driven by dedication and commitment

Kimberly Young, president of the KCAHC, also spoke at the press conference prior to the homecoming dinner.

She said within the region there are over 300 animal health companies – the largest concentration of animal health companies and service providers in the world. These include biotech innovation laboratories, research firms, manufacturing facilities, service providers, legal companies, advertising agencies and "everything in between", all focused on the animal health industry.

"These companies are responsible for 56% of the $88.2bn animal health nutrition and diagnostic industry – 56% of the global revenues. They employ over 20,000 individuals," she said.


"These companies produce products from vaccines, to flea and tick collars, to research used to detect diseases in food animal populations. The companies within the corridor are doing the work that affects our global food supply and our family pets.


"The KC area is globally unique in its ability to support not only established animal health businesses but the businesses that we are working to relocate to the region. Since inception of the corridor in 2006, 46 new companies have relocated to the corridor and many existing companies continue to expand and invest.

"With industry leaders and expertise from service providers and academic curricula, the corridor is much more than a physical location. The corridor is a place where the global industry comes together. The power of this collective effort is what brings us all together."

Ms Young (pictured left) added: "We are honoured to be hosting over 1,500 animal health executives, service providers, entrepreneurs, universities and financial firms in the corridor this week for the three events that we're hosting for global animal health week, as well as 5,600 individuals who will be in Kansas City for the continuing veterinary education conference CVC Kansas City.

"During global animal health week there are a number of events being hosted. We will have the market insight seminar, the homecoming dinner, and the Kansas City Animal Health Investment Forum, as well as the CVC convention over the next several days."

Building on this sentiment as she took to the stage at homecoming, Ms Young noted the corridor's achievements and continuous growth.

"The corridor works because of the dedication and commitment from everyone. We're working to address One Health issues and improve world health. Recent companies to relocate to the corridor include Tonisty, AGL Technology, Simcro and AgriLabs."

Iron Paw award

One especially touching tribute handed out at the annual homecoming dinner is the Iron Paw award. This year, the honour was bestowed upon Dr William P Duncan.

Dr Kissel said: "The Iron Paw award is the industry's highest achievement. It's given to an individual from research, academia, industry or government, regardless of title or years of service. It's given to an individual that has provided a significant impact on or contribution to the global animal health industry. And this year, we have a wonderful, very deserving recipient – Dr Bill Duncan."


Dr Duncan (pictured left) is a retired president of the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute (KCALSI) who now works on a consulting basis with private companies, academic institutions and research organizations, supporting projects focused on animal health and biotechnology R&D.


Dr Duncan became the first president of KCALSI in 2001 – he held the role until retirement in 2009. During his tenure at KCALSI, he oversaw the institute's regional life sciences initiatives, including the communication of KCALSI's aspirations to a range of community, scientific stakeholder institutions and potential funding organizations.

His leadership extended to administrative and technical support while also growing collaborations within the stakeholder research community. Initiatives included working with civic leadership organizations and stakeholder institutions to build the Animal Health Corridor and pursuing the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility at Kansas State University, which is set to replace the Plum Island facility in New York.

Before joining KCALSI, Dr Duncan worked in various technical and management roles at the MRIGlobal research institute for over 20 years. He was vice president of operations at the firm from 1999 until 2001.

At present, Dr Duncan serves on the board of directors of three animal and/or human health companies and on the advisory board of the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences.

In the past, he was also a board member of KansasBio, MOBIO and other civic leadership organization boards and advisory committees. 

Dr Kissel said Dr Duncan had played a pivotal role in the formation of the KCAHC and had worked closely with key leaders to identify opportunities with the US Department of Homeland Security regarding the new National Bio and Agro-defense Facility.

Dr Duncan 'humbled'

Accepting the 2016 Iron Paw award, Dr Duncan said: "It is indeed a tremendous honour to receive the Iron Paw award as part of this animal health corridor and this homecoming event this evening.

"I am indeed very humbled, and even more humbled, when I reviewed that list of previous recipients. All of them are animal health industry leaders.

"It's incredibly rewarding for me to witness the evolution of the animal health corridor, as evidenced by the number of attendees here tonight and the registration for the investment forum tomorrow.

"However, I must say, it has taken a host of devoted and talented people over the years to move the corridor from the very modest beginning in 2005, to the regional, national and international representation we enjoy today. 

"I want to take this opportunity to collectively thank all of the attendees for your invaluable contributions, and I accept this Iron Paw award in full recognition of those contributions.

"I would like to briefly mention a couple of animal health industry related accomplishments, of which I am immensely proud to say KCALSI was instrumental in initiating. The first of course is the formation of the animal health corridor.

"Second, is the successful pursuit of the Homeland Security-sponsored National Bio and Agro-defense Facility. Of course, we were told that there is no way our region can compete and win such a national laboratory but guess what? We did.

"So today, we have a new $1.25bn facility being built in Manhattan, Kansas, and that laboratory will provide the state-of-the-art infrastructure for developing vaccines, performing diagnostics and developing counter measures against foreign, large animal and zoonotic diseases. That facility construction is well underway, next to the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas City University. The estimated economic impact of that national lab for the region overall, in the next 20 years, is estimated to be $3.6bn.

"I want to conclude by thanking my family for their support over the years. And of course I want to thank, last but not least, my wife Linda. My wife, partner and best friend, and most important person in my life. Frankly I don't remember life without her and tonight, believe it or not, this is the actual 52nd wedding anniversary that we're celebrating.

"Finally, I thank the leadership of all those that are involved in the animal health corridor for the Iron Paw award. The words I came up with simply don't express how much I appreciate the honour. So, thank you very much."

Reprinted with permission of Animal Pharm News 




News Releases

Inside the Corridor

KC Animal Health Blog

Investment Forum