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Perspectives

An incubator for ideas in the animal health industry

 

By Angela Cummins

Establishing its headquarters at Kansas State University Olathe is proving to be a smart choice for SmartVet

The animal health company develops, manufactures, commercializes and markets veterinary medicines and vaccines.

"One of the most compelling features of establishing headquarters at K-State Olathe was having the immediate access to world-class animal health research, facilities, programs and people at Kansas State University," said Randall Tosh, executive vice president of SmartVet and an alumnus of the university.

Through a collaboration that began with expertise from Kansas State University, SmartVet patented its newest product, the SmartVet VetGun™, which is transforming the application of parasite control in cattle — and eventually in the administration of pharmaceuticals. The VetGun system was launched nationally in 2014 through AgriLabs.

"We've had help from K-State Olathe and the university's Advanced Manufacturing Institute in product modifications," Tosh said. "The College of Veterinary Medicine and the animal sciences and industry department assisted in refining product goals, introducing our technology to industry through leaders and identifying new possibilities for collaborative research in vaccine delivery and the potential use of our platform in rapid response to zoonotic disease outbreaks." 

SmartVet

K-State Olathe's location in the heart of the Animal Health Corridor also is a benefit to companies like SmartVet. The corridor is a region stretching from Manhattan, Kansas, to Columbia, Missouri, and has one of the nation's largest concentrations of animal health companies. SmartVet anticipates building a manufacturing facility in Kansas for 50-plus employees at average annual salaries of about $60,000 each. 

"We're solution finders for business," said Prema Arasu, CEO and vice provost at K-State Olathe. "As a business-centric university campus collaborating with companies such as Merck Animal Health and SmartVet, students at K-State Olathe are able to work on real-world challenges in the lab and the field. Our working professional students are learning in actual scenarios they are facing in their careers. Businesses also engage with us to help fill skill gaps in their workforce as we develop 'just in time' courses and enhance our curriculum to meet their needs."

The K-State Olathe campus has a current mandate through the Johnson County Education Research Triangle Authority to promote regional growth and economic development. The collaborations with Merck Animal Health and SmartVet are examples of how the campus is cultivating university-industry alliances that benefit this region and all of Kansas, Arasu said.

"Being beneficiaries of the K-State Olathe experience has accelerated every part of our company's successful establishment, our SmartVet VetGun™, our staff development and future product planning," Tosh said.

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Microbial Surveillance Lab

Kansas State University Olathe is the site of a new Microbial Surveillance Lab, a partnership between Merck Animal Health and the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. The Microbial Surveillance Lab has capabilities for microbiology culture, identification and antimicrobial susceptibility testing.

Here are the focuses of the Microbial Surveillance Lab:

  • Providing diagnostic support services to meet the needs of animal health industry partners.

  • Creating high-quality student educational and training programs.

  • Increasing the visibility of the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Lab in the animal health community and Kansas City Animal Health Corridor.