Iowa State University
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News Service

News Service:

Annette Hacker, director,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777

10-3-06

Contacts:

John Brighton, Vice President for Research and Economic Development, (515) 294-6344, brighton@iastate.edu

Ruth MacDonald, Nutrition and Wellness Research Center, (515) 294-5991, ruthmacd@iastate.edu

Mike Krapfl, News Service, (515) 294-4917, mkrapfl@iastate.edu

Iowa State awards $3.69 million for technology and commercialization research

AMES, Iowa -- Iowa State University researchers will use $3.69 million of state funding to advance research in the biosciences, information technology and advanced manufacturing.

The research projects include establishing a pilot facility to make flammable synthesis gas from Iowa crops, studying ethanol production by fermentation and chemical synthesis, determining how flaxseed lignans can reduce cholesterol, investigating antimicrobial molecules that could help the meat industry improve food safety, establishing an Information Science Technology Institute, and assisting companies with training that improves manufacturing efficiency.

The research supports the Iowa Department of Economic Development's efforts to enhance the state's biosciences, information technology and advanced manufacturing industries. The department asked the Battelle Memorial Institute's Technology Partnership Practice to recommend strategies for developing the industries. As part of that effort, the Legislature appropriated $8.2 million to Iowa's three Regent universities for research related to the industries. The Board of Regents, State of Iowa, approved Iowa State's plans for its share of the research money on Thursday, Sept. 28.

"These research projects will help the state reach its goal of creating high-wage, high-growth industries," said John Brighton, Iowa State's vice president for research and economic development. "The projects also help Iowa State achieve its vision of putting science and technology to work. One of the university's priorities is to translate discoveries into economic impacts for the state and the world."

Iowa State will send about $1 million of the Battelle research money to its new Nutrition and Wellness Research Center. The money will support five projects focused on developing special carbohydrates from Iowa crops that can help improve health. The projects are expected to lead to several patents, a startup company and industry interest.

"This research funding will build our capacity to do research," said Ruth MacDonald, interim director of the center and professor and chair of food science and human nutrition. "What we want to do with the center is try to find ways to prevent chronic disease through food. We're also hoping to develop relationships with companies and help them develop new products."

One of the projects the state funding will support is MacDonald's study of how different soybean components can prevent inflammatory bowel disease, a condition that can increase a person's risk for colon cancer. MacDonald said preliminary results are promising. And she said the project reflects the center's focus on improving the health of the human digestive system.

MacDonald said the center's research projects will take a multidisciplinary approach. The projects will involve food scientists, nutritionists, plant scientists and even some taste tests. After all, she said, if the center develops healthier foods and food ingredients, "But nobody eats them, what's the point?"

Here's a summary of the other Iowa State research projects funded by the state's Battelle initiative:

$1.006 million to advanced food projects.

Researchers will develop corn containing starch that resists digestion and can be used to produce healthy ethnic foods, quantify the impact of flaxseed lignans on cholesterol reduction, use a new processing technology to develop digestion resistant starch from corn starch, and use biotechnology to develop new digestion resistant starch from corn.

$910,000 to bioeconomy projects.

These projects are focused on producing new fuels, lubricants and other biorenewable materials from crops grown in Iowa. The projects include ethanol production by combining fermentation and chemical synthesis, a fermentation pilot facility to produce synthesis gas from biomass, synthesis gas production and clean up, genomics for synthesis gas fermentation, development of stable bio-oils, and enhancement of the mass transfer of gas-liquids.

$650,000 to information technology projects.

The funding will create an Information Science Technology Institute at the Iowa State University Research Park. The institute will focus on developing collaborative research and development projects with private industry. Research to apply virtual reality technology is expected to be a major focus of the institute. The institute is expected to spin off as many as six startup companies within five years.

$573,000 to animal systems projects.

The projects will focus on creating large animal models for disease research. Researchers will develop enzyme, gene and animal stem cell treatments for animal and human diseases, screening technologies for transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (such as mad cow disease) and animal models that will aid in the understanding of fat cell physiology in humans.

$450,000 to biosecurity projects.

The research focuses on protecting plant, animal and human health. Projects include developing natural antimicrobial molecules that control listeria bacteria that can be transmitted on food and cause infections. Another project will develop software and electronic tracking devices that would improve the meat industry's ability to trace the origin of animals.

$100,000 to advanced manufacturing projects.

The projects will help companies improve supply chain logistics and provide training about new ideas in product design and production.

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Quick look

Iowa State University will use $3.69 million in state funding to establish a pilot facility to make flammable synthesis gas from Iowa crops, determine how flaxseed lignans can reduce cholesterol, establish an Information Science Technology Institute and advance many other research projects in the biosciences, information technology and advanced manufacturing.

Quote

"These research projects will help the state reach its goal of creating high-wage, high-growth industries. The projects also help Iowa State achieve its vision of putting science and technology to work. One of the university's priorities is to translate discoveries into economic impacts for the state and the world."

John Brighton, Iowa State's vice president for research and economic development