Gov. Doug Burgum on Tuesday touted North Dakota’s recent efforts to not only slow what had been a surge of COVID-19 cases, but also the state’s work to begin the process of vaccination.
And, during his annual State of the State address, he didn’t miss an opportunity to tie it together with the importance of research and startup businesses.
To us, it also highlights the importance of funding that can help boost research at the state’s two research universities.
“We’re off to a great start in saving lives with the vaccine,” Burgum said, noting the state ranks No. 3 in the nation, per capita, in residents who have received the COVID vaccination. The number of residents who have received the first dose is around 24,000.
Along with health care and other frontline coronavirus workers, “these are all real heroes,” Burgum said. The efforts, he said, are moving North Dakota toward re-opening, even as cases surge elsewhere.
“We are so fortunate in North Dakota to be going the opposite direction,” he said. “The battle is far from over, but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel and we have the tools to get there.”
Burgum praised the federal Operation Warp Speed and the current White House administration, as well as the biosciences industry. Combined, he called it a “decades-accelerating” effort against all sorts of diseases – not just coronavirus.
And here’s the governor’s tie-in to research and startups: “In the coming years, we’ll see dramatically better tools and solutions, thanks in part to biosciences research development and manufacturing that is happening right here in North Dakota.”
He highlighted the rise of Aldevron, a company that according to its LinkedIn site “serves the biotechnology industry through clinical and commercial production of plasmids, mRNA, and proteins.” Today, Burgum said, it’s a global leader in its field with “hundreds and hundreds of team members.” It has been “a key partner in speeding up the development and production of vaccines.”
And its beginning was in a 400-square-foot lab at NDSU. In Burgum’s words: “Home-grown talent.”
The governor is predictable in his interest in entrepreneurship and startup businesses. After all, he is an entrepreneur himself and created one of the state’s most successful businesses from a startup. Considering North Dakota’s potentially unhealthy reliance on a commodity-based economy, he’s right to push for growth in innovative new fields.
Last month, when he presented his pre-session budget, he suggested using 10% of future Legacy Fund earnings for research and innovation both in the higher education system and throughout the private sector. Burgum said the funds should be used to “embrace bold ideas that will solve major problems the world currently faces, such as carbon capture and utilization, drive commercialization of products and discover opportunities for the future.”
His Aldevron reference this week serves as an example of what can come from dollars dedicated to research and entrepreneurship.
Research funding proposals have generated controversy in recent sessions and likely will again this year. Too often, they become territorial arguments. Lawmakers – all North Dakotans, really – must remember that research dollars can create businesses that benefit the entire state and, as Aldevron has shown, the world.