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Editorial: Innovators give state’s economy a shot in arm

From therapeutic tape that’s made it to pro sports and the Olympics, to a mobile cleansing system that allows industrial users to recycle and reuse 95 percent of their water, to a vaccine that has reduced the number of precancerous lesions in teen girls by more than 50 percent, New Mexico’s home-grown researchers and entrepreneurs are making a positive name for the state and a positive impact on its health and economy.

In the process, they are establishing a template for the private-sector development New Mexico so desperately needs.

Kenzo Kase, the chiropractor who pioneered Kinesio tape and its application, has moved his business several times over his 35 years in Albuquerque, most recently to a 10,000-square-foot, $1.5 million building in Journal Center.

The building, complete with research and development space, is next to Cre-Med, Kinesio’s manufacturing center. The company has 45 employees in Albuquerque and sells about 180,000 rolls of tape each month.

Albuquerque-based startup SlipStream LLC is deploying its on-site water-cleaning technology to California metal-plating shops this year. Its closed-loop system eliminates contaminants in factory-processed water, saving businesses the hassle and expense of hauling their dirty water to landfills, complying with environmental regulations and allowing them to re-use 95 percent of it. One California company says it “went from $3,500 in disposal fees per month to just $100.”

SlipStream will be relocating from its 1,700-square-foot machine shop near Balloon Fiesta Park to a larger facility in the next few months to build new units for sale or mobile service. Today it will be competing in a $100,000 startup pitch competition.

And the University of New Mexico has found in a new study that since vaccines that target the human papilloma virus, or HPV, have been introduced, the rate of moderate precancerous lesions declined by 54 percent among girls 15 to 19 and 39 percent among women ages 20 to 24.

UNM researcher Dr. Cosette Wheeler says the results show the “chance in the next 20 years of actually eliminating cervical cancer” as well as a solid rationale for scaling back expensive screenings. She and UNM have helped lead the charge – she was a co-leader in the efficacy studies that resulted in a prototype for the HPV vaccine that is used today. Her goal is “to not just remove disease, but save health care dollars.”

Nearly 12,000 U.S. women were diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2013, and 4,217 died from it; cervical cancer screenings cost the U.S. health care system up to $8 billion a year.

This week the New Mexico Legislature has been scrambling to fill a $589 million budget deficit caused primarily by the state’s dependence on the oil and gas industry, which has been hit with falling prices. Innovators like those behind Kinesio and SlipStream are offering the state templates on diversifying the economy, while researchers like those behind the UNM discoveries are offering a template to reduce costs.

And as the current budget crunch shows, both approaches are essential to improving the state’s economic outlook.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.