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Nevada Needs More Labs Stat, According To New Study


Dr. Buddha Dawn, UNLV School of Medicine professor of internal medicine, works in a lab. Las Vegas Councilman Brian Knudson says the medical school can be a catalyst to bring more commercial and research lab facilities to Southern Nevada.

Nevada and the Las Vegas Medical District need additional laboratory infrastructure, and such investments would grow and diversify the economy, a new report concludes.

Las Vegas Councilman Brian Knudsen, whose ward includes the medical district, commissioned the study that says Nevada lags the bulk of the states in medical and research lab space. This even though bioscience research and development in Nevada grew by almost a third since 2016.

“From our research, over the past two-year period, we saw that Southern Nevada’s bioscience and medical research community grew by 32 percent, adding over 2,00 jobs,” said Andrew Woods, founder of WS Nevada, which prepared the report. 

Woods said only Utah outpaced Nevada in the growth of bioscience and medical research fields. 

The research also found there is a correlation between bioscience research and the amount of lab space available.

He said other states like Utah, Arizona and Oregon are investing in laboratory infrastructure.

“We kind of found that Nevada is a bit of an outlier, especially when you look around us and look at all the states around us and that they’re investing in this, but we’re not,” Woods said.

WS Nevada looked at other cities that had invested in lab space, like Temple, Texas and Aurora, Colorado. Woods said by looking at those test cases he estimates investment in lab space could bring 15,000 jobs to Nevada in just 10 years.

“We believe this could be a real game-changer in terms of scaling up our bioscience industry and research capabilities and really changing the face of Southern Nevada,” he said.

In addition, setting up the lab space can be done relatively quickly. In Montreal, Quebec, they were able to put up lab space in just a matter of months.

The report from WS Nevada encourages collaboration among state and municipal governments and private entities to promote the development of additional labs, something that could create thousands of well-paying jobs.

Knudsen told State of Nevada this would build on things such as the UNLV Medical School under construction in the medical district and ongoing road and other infrastructure improvements in the area.

“I think it creates a door opening for us to say: Maybe Nevada is not just gaming. Maybe it's not just professional sports, maybe we’re the biomedical research capitol of the world,” the councilman said.

He said there is no reason that Nevada could not be the home for the coronavirus vaccine or the cure for cancer. 

“What I see is that we’re grossly underestimated in our ability to create space and secure federal funding,” he said.

Knudsen would like to see if money from the recently signed pandemic relief bill could help in efforts to create the much-needed lab space. He does admit that it is a complex problem because it involves private enterprise and the possibility of funding through state or local bonds.

The councilman said he realized the potential the city had to become a bioscience hub after talking with Dr. Martin Schiller, the CEO of the bioscience firm Heligenics.

Dr. Schiller told the city council that lab space was needed, and if they built it, people would use it.

“To me, that was a cue that I need to do more in making sure that we’re being responsive to an industry that needs to grow here,” he said.

Knudsen said his next step is to talk to the city about finding available land and to the state about the potential use of bonding power for financing.

Brian Knudsen, Las Vegas councilman, Ward 1; Andrew Woods, founder, WS Nevada

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With deep experience in journalism, politics, and the nonprofit sector, news producer Doug Puppel has built strong connections statewide that benefit the Nevada Public Radio audience.