"I saw this as another way of creating a bridge between IT and CBS. I thought we ought to promote the connection institutionally. Thus the idea of providing an academic home in Chemical Engineering for people primarily at the BPTI. I think we also wanted something that would be closer to the application end and that would interact with local business."
- KENNETH H. KELLER, UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT, 1985-88
Above: Deans and directors who have guided the BioTechnology Institute from its inception. From left to right are Michael Flickinger, Bob Elde, Ken Valentas, Pete Magee, Richard Caldecott and Victor Bloomfield.
The idea of a biotechnology initiative at the University was first proposed by Biochemistry Department head Prof. Victor Bloomfield and CBS Dean Richard Caldecott in the early 1980s. After much preliminary discussion within a core group of planners and with corporate supporters from Control Data, Land O'Lakes, Domain, Pillsbury, Diagnostic, and Honeywell, the concept was presented to the Minnesota State Legislature where it won approval as a special appropriation beginning in 1983.
An annual appropriation of $300,000 was initially used to remodel space for Institute offices and for a central fermentation facility in Gortner Lab. The Biological Process Technology Institute (BPTI) was thus chartered by the state as its initiative to help catalyze the development of a biotechnology industry in Minnesota.
A joint venture of the College of Biological Sciences and the Institute of Technology, a Biotechnology Management board was set up and a High Tech Council of community business leaders established to oversee initial development of the BPTI. In the search for a director, priority was given to selecting a relatively young to mid-career but well-established biotechnologist, someone who would have a vigorous individual research program but who was well-known and well-connected in the biotech community. Michael Flickinger of the National Cancer Institute fit the bill very well. Flickinger was selected as first director of the BPTI in 1984.