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News Service:

Annette Hacker, director,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777

7-5-07

Contacts:

Michael Wannemuehler, Veterinary Microbiology and Preventive Medicine, (515) 294-3270, mjwannem@iastate.edu

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

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

Iowa State awards $1 million for research promoting Iowa economic development

AMES, Iowa -- Iowa State University researchers will use $1 million in state economic development dollars to research and develop new technologies that could create or boost Iowa businesses.

The grants will support Iowa State researchers as they develop new single-dose vaccines for humans, study ways to boost ethanol production and sustainability, commercialize 3-D software that helps doctors plan and train for surgery, use laser-based sensors to improve the combustion of alternative fuels, see if a co-product of cellulosic ethanol production can stabilize soil beneath highways and advance five other projects with commercial potential.

"This state funding is helping to move Iowa State University research from the laboratory into the marketplace," said John Brighton, Iowa State's vice president for research and economic development. "The Grow Iowa Values Fund has helped several university researchers develop technologies and establish startup companies. And it has helped Iowa State make progress toward its goal of encouraging university researchers to be entrepreneurs."

In 2005 Iowa lawmakers agreed to appropriate $5 million per year for 10 years to support research projects at Iowa's Regent universities. The money is to be matched by the universities. And the research is to focus on projects with high potential to boost the state's economic development efforts.

This is the third time Iowa State has awarded the competitive grants. The grants in this round of awards total $1,000,050 and range from $150,444 to $18,954.

The largest grant in this round goes to a research team led by Michael Wannemuehler, a professor of veterinary microbiology and preventive medicine. He'll work with Chris Minion, a professor of veterinary microbiology and preventive medicine, and Balaji Narasimhan, a professor of chemical and biological engineering, to develop a protective vaccine against pneumonic plague.

Their research combines two new technologies: the modification of sugars to boost the immune response caused by certain proteins and the use of biodegradable polymer nanospheres to deliver vaccines.

A key advantage of the combination would be a vaccine that only requires a single dose to be effective.

Wannemuehler said the research will focus on a vaccine for pneumonic plague because the infectious agent could be a weapon used by bioterrorists. He said the disease is easy to use as a weapon, can be made resistant to antibiotics and can significantly affect susceptible populations. The research team's vaccine technology could also be applied to anthrax, influenza, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and can be extended to all age groups, including infant vaccines.

All that would add up to good news for public health.

"If we can immunize against viral pathogens so there's a good immune response, we may be better able to control diseases such as avian influenza and SARS," Wannemuehler said.

The other awards in this round of Iowa State's competition for Grow Iowa Values Fund grants are:

  • $149,233 to Jay-lin Jane, a professor of food science and human nutrition; Sathaporn Srichuwong, a post-doctoral research associate in food science and human nutrition; Charles Hurburgh, a professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering; Tony Pometto, a professor of food science and human nutrition; Larry Johnson, director of the Center for Crops Utilization Research; and Jacek Koziel, an associate professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering. They'll develop a technique for converting uncooked dry-grind corn into ethanol. The technique reduces the energy required to produce ethanol while boosting fuel production. Eliminating the heat treatment also allows processors to extract a high-value protein that can be used to make biodegradable plastics.
  • $113,462 to Tong Wang, an associate professor of food science and human nutrition; Johnson of the Center for Crops Utilization Research; and Pometto of the department of food science and human nutrition. They're looking for effective ways to remove oil from the co-products of corn fermentation for ethanol production. The oil could be used to produce biodiesel. And reducing the oil in the co-product would improve the quality of livestock feeds made from it.
  • $109,533 to Eliot Winer, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering; and James Oliver, director of the Virtual Reality Applications Center. They're working to commercialize a software package that uses 3-D visualization to help doctors model, manipulate and manage data. The result should be better surgical planning and training. And that should improve patient care.
  • $100,397 to Johnny Wong, a professor of computer science; and Wallapak Tavanapong, an associate professor of computer science. They have invented techniques and software tools that objectively assess the quality of colonoscopy procedures. This round of funding will help them to improve their measurements and software, test it in several medical facilities and commercialize the invention.
  • $95,001 to Arun Somani, professor and chair of electrical and computer engineering; and Suraj Kothari, professor of electrical and computer engineering. They're working on a tool that will focus software testing and re-testing on the parts of the software code that have been changed. That will improve the efficiency of software testing. It will also be designed to work with another software testing tool developed by EnSoft Corp., an Ames software company.
  • $93,775 to Halil Ceylan, an assistant professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering; and Kasthurirangan Gopalakrishnan, a post-doctoral research associate in civil, construction and environmental engineering. They want to replace chemicals used to stabilize soils beneath road projects with lignin, a co-product of ethanol produced from plant fiber.
  • $86,814 to Terrence Meyer, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering. Meyer will study how laser-based sensors can analyze combustion systems that burn alternative fuels. The sensors allow researchers to peer into combustion chambers for a better understanding of fuel sprays, fuel-air mixing, energy release and the like. The goal is to improve combustion efficiency, encourage the use of alternative fuels and reduce pollutants.
  • $82,437 to Hank Harris, a professor of animal science and veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine; Matthew Erdman, director of research and development for Sirrah LLC, a company in the Iowa State Research Park that's developing vaccines for the pork industry; and Ryan Vander Veen, a graduate student in animal science. They're developing new technology that improves the effectiveness of a vaccine for porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus, an illness that costs the pork industry an estimated $600 million every year.
  • $18,954 to Suzanne Hendrich, a professor of food science and human nutrition. Hendrich will test a new dietary fiber product based on corn bran to see how it affects human digestion.

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Quick look

State economic development grants will support 10 Iowa State research projects that could lead to startup companies or develop technology for existing businesses. The projects include developing human and livestock vaccines, researching techniques to boost ethanol production, commercializing 3-D software tools that improve surgical procedures, studying the combustion of alternative fuels and examining new uses for the co-products of ethanol production.

Quote

"This state funding is helping to move Iowa State University research from the laboratory into the marketplace. The Grow Iowa Values Fund has helped several university researchers develop technologies and establish startup companies. And it has helped Iowa State make progress toward its goal of encouraging university researchers to be entrepreneurs."

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