Biotech is Growing from the Ground Up
That patch of crabgrass next to your driveway or the algae floating next to your boat may soon be powering your vehicles, as the race to produce next-generation biofuels kicks into high gear.
Every year, Business Facilities takes an in-depth look at the perennial growth sector of biotechnology. Usually, this takes us into the realm of high-tech labs: who is building them, where they are locating and how these locations are laying the foundation for impressive biotech hubs.
This year, the most compelling biotech developments are not confined to the labs. An entire growth sector in biotechnology literally is springing forth from the grassy fields that surround many of these labs. The past few months will be remembered as the period in which biotech-driven alternative energy moved front and center on the economic development stage.
While the global discussion about climate change still is shifting unpredictablyâ€”much like the weatherâ€” the progress on biofuels is marching steadily ahead. Bioenergy no longer is consigned to a wish list with vague commercial potential. Even the most exotic formulas for cellulosic ethanol now are being pulled out of research papers and small incubators and ramped up into massive new production facilities.
The causes of global warming may still be fodder for debate, but the debate is over regarding the viability and urgency of bioenergy development. Biofuels are coming and they are coming fast. A sampling of recent headlines from the Breaking News section of our Web site, www.BusinessFacilities.com, illustrates this point:
â€˘ One of the worldâ€™s first cellulosic ethanol demonstration plants has opened near Vonore, TN. The $50 million facility is expected to have an output of 250,000 gallons of ethanol annually and serve as a test-bed for large-scale production. A partnership of DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol (DDCE) and the University of Tennessee (UT), the 74,000-square-foot plant already has started producing ethanol from corncobs and switchgrass.
â€˘ Exxon Mobil Corp. is making a $600-million investment in algae-based biofuels, following recent announcements from BP and Shell, among others, that they were speeding up commercial development of cellulosic-based biofuels. Exxon is partnering with biotech firm Synthetic Genomics Inc., to develop next-generation biofuels produced from sunlight, water and waste carbon dioxide by photosynthetic pond scum. The joint venture will create a new test facility in San Diego to study algae-growing methods and oil extraction techniques. Industry analysts said the research facility could lead to scale-up to commercial production within five years.
â€˘ Algenol Biofuels Inc. has formed a partnership with Dow Chemical Co. to develop a $50-million, algae-to-fuel pilot plant employing Algenolâ€™s technology near Bonita Springs, FL. Algenol has applied for a $25-million grant under the DOEâ€™s grant program for integrated pilot- and demonstration-scale biorefineries, with Dow Chemical signing the grant application as a collaborator. Dow will contribute land, engineering and water-management expertise, its advanced materials technology and a main feedstockâ€”carbon emissionsâ€”to the project.
An Animal Health Juggernaut Gets Bigger in Kansas
Kansas snared one of the biggest biotech prizes in recent years when Manhattan, KS was selected by the Department of Homeland Security as the site of the $650-million National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF), a project that will have an estimated $3.65-billion economic impact on the region.
But the Sunflower State is not resting on its laurels. Two recent announcements have placed the NBAF in the center of a trifecta of government biotech research facilities. In November, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said it would relocate the Arthropod-Borne Animal Disease Research Lab from Laramie, WY to Manhattan, KS. This was followed by news from DHS that it has awarded $12 million to Kansas State University to create the Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (CEEZAD). CEEZAD will use K-Stateâ€™s expertise and infrastructure to develop technology and train a specialized workforce to defend the nationâ€™s agricultural economy against agro-terrorism and emerging animal pathogens. The center will develop and validate vaccines; create innovative devices to detect and diagnose diseases; and implement a system to curtail human and animal disease threats.
Commercialization of products from these labs will bolster the burgeoning Animal Health Corridor that stretches through Kansas and into Missouri. The Corridor is home to 34 percent of the $16.8-billion global animal health industry.
Spearheading the cascade of biotech initiatives in Kansas is the Kansas Biotech Authority (KBA), a $581-million effort created by the Kansas Economic Growth Act of 2004. Through 2009, KBA investments have included $111.3 million in capital investment, $45 million in new research funding and $30.4 million in equity investment, spawning 1,169 new jobs. KBA recently announced plans to invest $50 million in eight private venture capital funds, with a requirement that fund managers each raise a minimum of $25 million, leveraging the stateâ€™s biotech investment to $250 million.
KBAâ€™s commitment of $4 million to the Center for Innovation for Biomaterials in Orthopaedic Research (CIBOR) in Wichita, KS, recently was expanded by a $2.1-million grant from the Knight Foundation. The grant aims to accelerate the development of bioscience applications for composite materials traditionally used in aerospace, with the goal of diversifying the Wichita areaâ€™s aircraft manufacturing economy into the medical device industry. CIBOR is expected to create 2,600 jobs during the next 10 years.
According to KBA president Tom Thornton, the $2.1-million grant was a strong validation of the authorityâ€™s effort to create industry-led centers of innovation in the stateâ€™s areas of bioscience strength. â€śKansas wins big when we focus on areas in which we have a running start, in this case composites and biomaterials, and then strive for nothing less than national leadership,â€ť Thornton said.
Wichita is a national leader in aerospace composites manufacturing. Partners in the CIBOR facility include Wichita State University, the National Institute of Aviation Research, the Wichita Composites Advisory Board, Kansas State University, Pittsburg State University, and Via Christi Health System.
Other recent KBA investments have included the following:
â€˘ The University of Kansas will receive $1.8 million over five years to support research into the molecular mechanisms of cancer cell growth, and development of novel drugs that treat and prevent cancers. UKâ€™s Cancer Center is a candidate
for National Cancer Institute (NCI) funding.
â€˘ TVAX Biomedical of Lenexa, KS was awarded a $600,000 convertible note to support an FDA approved phase I safety study for a patented brain cancer treatment that uses a patientâ€™s own immune cells to fight the disease. The investment is expected to attract an additional $2 million in private capital investment.
â€˘ Lawrence-based ReLive for Kids will receive $50,000 as a partial match to a $106,000 Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institutes of Health to further develop a cognitive-behavioral headache management
system for teens.
â€˘ A research team led by Kansas State Universityâ€™s Dr. Jishu Shi was approved for $500,000 from the KBAâ€™s Collaborative Biosecurity Research Initiative to develop novel vaccines to combat a serious viral disease threatening swine and swine
production globally. The researchers will focus on the host immune response that protects some pigs from multiple strains of the disease.
â€˘ The product development group of AGCO in Hesston will receive $1.5 million as a partial match of a $5 million renewable energy R&D grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. The projectâ€™s focus is to provide feedstock economically and reliably to cellulosic biorefineries, an essential, next-generation component of the biofuels supply chain in which technology and equipment is sorely lacking. AGCO estimates it will spend $10.2 million on the effort.
Iowaâ€™s Growing Commitment to Biotechnology Innovation
Through funding and incentives for companies, Iowa has staked a claim as the ideal place for start-up and established biotechnology companies. With an aggressive business climate, world-class research institutions and an established agricultural base, the state leads the nation in biofuel output accounting for 26 percent of U.S. ethanol and 12 percent of biodiesel production capacity.
Among recent initiatives in the Hawkeye State is Project LIBERTY. The Iowa Power Fund Board approved a $14.75 million contract with POET for development of a commercial cellulosic ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, IA. POET Biorefining, located in Hanlontown, IA, produces 56 million gallons of ethanol annually at 17 ethanol plants across the state. POET began building ethanol plants in 1983. POETâ€™s Project LIBERTY will add 25 million gallons per year of cellulosic ethanol production capacity and is expected to begin production in 2011.
The Iowa Power Fund Board also recently approved a $3.9 million grant and final contract terms with Elevance Renewable Sciences to build a $15-million plant in Newton, IA, said to be the nationâ€™s first biorefinery demonstration facility which uses plant oils and poultry fat to make jet fuel, lubricants, adhesives and even cosmetics and candles.
â€śThe collaborative effort between Elevance, the Renewable Energy Group, and Technochem will demonstrate the ability to convert existing biodiesel facilities with bolt-on technology to produce diversified bio-chemical product streams with feedstocks largely sourced in Iowaâ€ť, said Iowa Office of Energy Independence Director Roya Stanley.
â€śFrom feedstock delivery to production and future integration potential, the project being demonstrated first in Iowa is a strong continuation of the stateâ€™s commitment to remaining on the cutting edge in the development and continued improvement of biofuel and other bio-product production.â€ť
The Power Fund grant provides incentives for the Newston project, which will enable it to create 40-50 skilled positions in 2010. The biorefinery will be based on Elevanceâ€™s novel technology, olefin metathesis, which won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2005 and converts soybean oil, inedible corn oil, animal fats and other raw materials into jet fuel, high-value specialty chemicals and biodiesel. The plant will be used to evaluate a variety of renewable feedstocks and produce products for market development; it also will develop data which can be applied in the design of a commercial-scale unit.
â€śThe Iowa Power Fund has played a key role in bringing together the parties involved with this biorefinery. Their support is expediting commercialization of industry-leading biorefining technology in Iowa, building new specialty chemicals demand for Iowaâ€™s products and creating new jobs in a growing industry,â€ť says Elevance Renewable Sciences Inc.â€™s CEO, Kâ€™Lynne Johnson. â€śThis investment enables use of existing biodiesel plant infrastructure which allows for expedited commercialization versus building brand new facilities. We look forward to completing the contracts, beginning construction of the plant in Newton and bringing these products to market as quickly as possible. The Power Fund Board approval is a key step forward in that process.â€ť
Genencor recently invested $4.4 million in the Grain Processing Applied Innovation Center in Cedar Rapids, IA, a world-class facility for grain processing innovation. The Genencor Grain Processing Applied Innovation Center is a hub where grain processors can develop novel products and resolve challenges from optimizing operations to improving co-product value and environmental sustainability. The center is adjacent to Genencorâ€™s Cedar Rapids enzyme manufacturing facility.
Genencorâ€™s continued investment in its Cedar Rapids operations is part of a commitment to helping fuel ethanol and carbohydrate processing customers achieve the best possible outcomes. The facility was drawn to Iowaâ€™s strategic location in the middle of the U.S. corn belt, close to many of the countryâ€™s ethanol producers and major grain processors.
Iowaâ€™s community colleges also are joining the stateâ€™s push for biotech leadership. Industry-driven programs including the Iowa Bioprocess Training Center in Eddyville are designed specifically to meet biotechnology training needs. This unique facility is operated by Indian Hills Community College (IHCC).
From Bourbon to Biofuels in the Bluegrass State
Gov. Steve Beshear recently announced funding from the Kentucky New Energy Ventures Fund for Southeast Biofuels, which is developing a portable system to convert sweet sorghum into ethanol for use as a fuel additive. The modular fermentation system will produce the liquid fuel at sites where the sorghum feed stock is grown and harvested. Sweet sorghum is similar to corn and grows well in Kentucky, even on marginal lands. The stalks and leaves can be processed in ways similar to sugar cane, with the juice pressed out so it can be fermented into ethanol.
â€śWe plan to initially focus on expanding existing sorghum crops, and then later extending our production onto marginal lands,â€ť said Stephen Popyach, president of Southeast Biofuels. â€śOur crops will help keep money within the Kentucky economy that is currently flowing out to pay for petroleum fuels. Weâ€™ll also help existing farms earn an income by paying to use their land to grow our crops.â€ť
The Kentucky New Energy Ventures Fund provides one-time grants of $30,000 that must be matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis. Equity investments by the fund typically range from $250,000 to $750,000 and are matched through qualified financing or stand-alone investment by the company. The fund is managed by the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, through its Department of Commercialization and Innovation (DCI), and is administered under contract to DCI by the Kentucky Science and Technology Corp.
Lexington, KY in particular is committed to fueling the growth of biotech in the Bluegrass State. Calling Central Kentucky home are Alltech, Coldstream Laboratories, Neogen Corp. and a host of other major biotech players.
Commerce Lexington Inc. and the Greater Lexington Chamber of Commerce partner with the University of Kentucky (UK) and the DCI to grow, recruit and retain biotech companies. Commerce Lexington, UK, and Lexington Fayette Urban County Government formed the Bluegrass Business Development Partnership (BBDP), which is funded by the city of Lexington. The BBDPâ€™s goal is to be a one-stop service provider, linking entrepreneurs with financial planning, business plans, funding sources, and real estate services.
Lexington is home to the only research and development business park in the state of Kentuckyâ€”UKâ€™s Coldstream Research Campus. Coldstream, a 735-acre office park, was designed for recruiting high-tech and biotech companies, as well as university centers and start-ups. Coldstream offers intellectual capital and resources from UK, as well as infrastructure for existing and new companies.
Bexar, Brooks are Blazing a Path to Biotech Growth in TX
Bexar County, TX is home to a thriving biotechnology and pharmaceuticals sector. Pharmaceuticals and medical equipment (manufacturing and wholesale distribution) contribute more than $3 billion to the Bexar economy. Biotech firms who locate in Bexar County benefit from world-renowned institutional and academic research facilities, such as the University of Texasâ€™ Health Science Center in San Antonio; access to the nationâ€™s only privately-owned maximum containment laboratory; access to a skilled workforce from a large number of local educational institutions; and a low cost of doing business combined with a low cost of living to attract and retain top talent.
The impact of the healthcare and bioscience industry in the San Antonio area is approaching $20 billion. The industry already paid nearly $4.8 billion in wages and salaries to 116,417 employees in 2007. One of every seven San Antonio employees works in these sectors, which have added more than 23,000 net new jobs over the past decade, fueling San Antonioâ€™s growth.
Currently, 2,983 uniformed military medical personnel are assigned to Wilford Hall Medical Center. An additional 1,462 unformed military medical personnel are stationed at Brooke Army Medical Center. Together they earn a payroll of approximately $353 million per year. In addition, these two facilities also have 2,434 contract employees who together earn almost $93 million.
The 5,035 faculty and staff employed by the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio earn approximately $329 million.
Brooks City-Base, an innovative public-private partnership at the former Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio, boasts an ideal environment for biotech and biomedical R&D and manufacturing. Brooks City-Base is home to two Level 3 bio research labs; additional space is available for laboratory development opportunities to meet the specific needs of current and future research and technology tenants. In 2006, DPT Laboratories, a contract development and manufacturing organization specializing in semi-solid and liquid dosage forms, opened leading edge research and development facilities and approximately 500,000 square feet of manufacturing, packaging, and distribution space at Brooks City-Base. DPT Laboratories, which sits on 37 acres of land in the southeast quadrant of the campus, is Brooksâ€™ largest commercial tenant. Others include Earth Tech, Frontline Systems, Wiley Labs, Karta Technologies and Proxtronics. Mission Trail Baptist Hospital, the newest in the local Baptist Hospital System, broke ground in January at Brooks City-Base.
Before making the move to Brooks, DPT looked at a dozen sites for its expansion, half of them outside of San Antonio. But company officials said they chose Brooks because it provides the best environment for its pharmaceutical research and development efforts.
Earth Tech, a global provider of environmental services as well as engineering, architectural and construction services and infrastructure development, occupies a 26,000-square-foot facility that formerly housed the Base Exchange.
Photon8 Inc., a startup company leading the development of algae biofuel technology in partnership with The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College, received a $1 million grant last month from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund (TETF). The company will use the award to genetically enhance the performance of the algae and advance its extraction technology.
â€śTexas is a leader in the energy sector and a leader in research and use in alternative energy,â€ť Gov. Rick Perry said, announcing the grant. â€śThrough the help of Photon8 we hope to spur innovation in biofuels that does not interfere with our food supply.â€ť
The partnership between Photon8 and UTB/TSC is leading research in algae-based biodiesel fuel. Photon8 is housed at the ITEC Center.
â€śPhoton8 and UTB/TSC are charting new pathways and together making unanticipated breakthroughs,â€ť said Brad Bartilson, president and CEO of Photon8. â€śWe are committed to making Texas the leader in sustainable energy.â€ť
Since August, Photon8 Inc. moved its headquarters from New Jersey to the UTB/TSC campus and has begun working with professors and students in the chemistry, environmental science, molecular biology, MEMS and electro-magnetics departments.
Photon8 Inc.â€™s technology will eventually use regional sea water and non-arable land, and will recycle wastes from other sources as feedstock for the algae.
â€śPhoton8 represents the next stage in our efforts to promote regional economic development through research collaborations with private companies, particularly in the renewable energy area,â€ť said Irv Downing, vice president for Economic Development and Community Services.
ScanTech Sciences Inc. is receiving $2 million from TETF for the development and commercialization of food sterilization technology that uses electronic pasteurization to ensure the safety and freshness of food. The technology will allow for safer food imports by removing more insects, bacteria and toxins without using chemicals.
Biotechnology Leaders: Indiana Wants You
Earlier this month, Dow AgroSciences announced plans for a $340 million expansion of its Indianapolis headquarters that is expected to create 577 high-paying jobs over the next five years. The investment will greatly expand the companyâ€™s research and development capacity.
The company expects most of the positions to pay between $65,000 and $95,000 annually. Dow AgroSciences, a subsidiary of Midland, MI-based giant Dow Chemical Co., produces agricultural products including seeds and pesticides. It has made a major push into biotechnology, and plans to roll out five products by 2012 that could generate $800 million annually in new sales.
The first phase of Dow AgroSciencesâ€™ expansion will be the addition of a 14,000-square-foot greenhouse and a 175,000-square-foot research and development facility at its corporate campus on the cityâ€™s northwest side. The greenhouse should be finished by yearâ€™s end, according to the company, while the R&D facility is slated to open in early 2012.
The Indiana Economic Development Corp. gave Dow AgroSciences $12.5 million in performance-based tax credits and another $205,000 in training grants to encourage the companyâ€™s expansion. The city of Indianapolis will kick in another $500,000 from its Industrial Development Grant Fund to help pay for road, sewer and water improvements related to the project.
Indianapolis has also committed to establish a property tax increment financing, or TIF, district to help Dow AgroSciences defer $20 million in project costs. The TIF district must be approved by city and state officials. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and Mayor Greg Ballard joined Dow AgroSciences CEO Antonio Galindez to announce the expansion.
â€śR&D leadership in the life sciences is a dream of every state in the union,â€ť Daniels said. â€śHere in Indiana, itâ€™s not a dream, but a vibrant reality, and Dow AgroSciencesâ€™ steady growth is a major reason why. This expansion makes Indiana a true world capital of agricultural science.â€ť
Dow AgroSciencesâ€™ expansion announcement follows two expansions last year. In July, the company signed a 15-year lease resulting in construction of an 80,000-square-foot R&D building adjacent to its headquarters. In September, Dow AgroSciences said it will expand its presence in Purdue Universityâ€™s West Lafayette Research Park, adding up to 30 jobs.
Representatives of two Purdue Research Park-based companies launched from research developed at Purdue University will travel to Californiaâ€™s Silicon Valley on May 18 to make formal presentations to venture capitalists. The companies, Intelliphage Inc. and Matrix-Bio Inc., were selected during a competition last October at the Company Fundraising Boot Camp held on campus at Discovery Parkâ€™s Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship. The event, sponsored by Lonergan Partners, is held annually to help entrepreneurs develop fundraising strategies for their companies. Purdue Provost Randy Woodson, and Leah Jamieson, dean of the College of Engineering, will speak in California, along with Mark Lonergan, founder and managing partner of Lonergan Partners.
Intelliphage, founded by Purdue food sciences professor Bruce M. Applegate, has created a method to detect and capture foodborne bacteria such as E. coli faster and less expensively than technology currently used in the market. A modified virus identifies a bacteriumâ€™s presence by turning it red or making it luminescent, allowing food companies to detect potentially contaminated food before it goes to market.
â€śVenture capital provides biotechnology startups the time they need to turn discoveries in the lab into products that save lives,â€ť said Brian P. Phillips, CEO of Intelliphage.
â€śThe venture capitalists who fund Intelliphage will be invaluable partners in accelerating the companyâ€™s efforts to meet the urgent market need for safer food and water through our breakthrough, simple-to-use, quick and cost-effective pathogen detection technologies.â€ť
Matrix-Bio, founded by Purdue chemistry professor Daniel Raftery, has developed â€śmetabolite profilingâ€ť technology that can help improve early cancer diagnosis. Researchers analyze multiple metabolite biomarkers present in blood and urine. By detecting cancer at earlier stages, more treatment options can be considered.
â€śVenture capital firms play a very important role in commercialization of new discoveries for companies like Matrix-Bio,â€ť said CEO Oscar Moralez. â€śA solid venture capital firm will bring capital, industry and management experience, and strategic relationships. They will be actively engaged with the company throughout its continued development. These are invaluable resources that will significantly improve the chance of success for Matrix-Bio.â€ť
Three Purdue Research Park-based companies won the 2008 competition to travel to Silicon Valley: Events 180Â° LLC, Moerae Matrix LLC and Kylin Therapeutics Inc.
California: Still the Reigning King of Biotechnology
Although California still is digging out from the impact of the economic downturn and a severe budget crisis, biotech continues to boom in the Golden State. The nationâ€™s largest state, widely known as the â€śbirthplace of biotech,â€ť remains the leading region for bioscience, particularly genomics.
The University of California, San Francisco recently signed a partnership agreement with Genentech, Inc., a wholly owned member of the Roche Group, to discover and develop drug candidates for neurodegenerative diseases. Through the agreement, Genentech will provide funding and its research acumen in neuroscience and will collaborate with UCSF to identify small molecules.
Genentech will support the work of several researchers at the UCSF Small Molecule Discovery Center (SMDC), which is administered by the UCSF School of Pharmacy and located in the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3) on the UCSF Mission Bay campus. QB3 is a cooperative effort among private industry and more than 200 scientists at UCSF, UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz. The institute harnesses the quantitative sciences of information technology, imaging and engineering to integrate and enhance scientific understanding of biological systems at all levels, enabling scientists to tackle problems that have been previously unapproachable.
A research team at Genentech will work closely with UCSF to develop a drug candidate based on prior academic research conducted at the SMDC and discoveries at Genentech. In addition to receiving financial support from Genentech for its research function, UCSF has the potential for further funding in excess of $13 million, if certain development and commercial milestones are met, plus royalties.
This is the first major collaboration the SMDC has formed with an industry partner, according to Jim Wells, PhD, who founded the center in 2005 and serves as its director.
â€śWhat is transformative about this agreement from the Universityâ€™s perspective is that it is a true collaboration between UCSF and Genentech scientists with the intent to generate drug candidates. This is different from a standard out-license or simple research collaboration,â€ť said Wells, who is also chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry in the UCSF School of Pharmacy and a faculty affiliate of QB3.
â€śFinding targeted compounds is a major obstacle in the drug discovery process, in part because most academic researchers donâ€™t have access to this type of facility,â€ť Wells said. â€śThis collaboration shows how a center like the SMDC can help support the path from new biology into therapeutic products to help improve patientsâ€™ lives.â€ť
This collaboration builds upon the existing master agreement between Genentech and UCSF, which allows the two to collaborate in a streamlined manner.
â€śWe are very pleased to enter this agreement and are hopeful that together we can develop new treatments to help people with neurodegenerative diseases,â€ť said Marc Tessier-Lavigne, PhD, executive vice president, research and chief scientific officer of Genentech. â€śTo date we have entered into more than 15 research collaborations with UCSF, across several therapeutic areas. We believe that this latest agreement with SMDC enhances our relationship with the University and creates a new model for important industry-academic drug development partnerships.â€ť
The SMDC offers all UC biomedical researchers access to modern small-molecule discovery technologies, including high-throughput screening and follow-up medicinal chemistry. The center performs biochemical and cell-based assays using liquid handling robots and a screening library of more than 180,000 compounds. It also houses a group of medicinal chemistry researchers who optimize screening hits into drug leads. Over the past four years, the center has grown to 18 biologists and chemists, many with pharmaceutical experience.
The University of California has established a system-wide biotech research and education program that is closely tied to partnerships with industry. UC Discovery Grants, awarded by an industry/university cooperative and matched by state funding, are fueling growth in a wide spectrum of biotech initiatives, including agriculture, biomaterials, medicine, engineering, genomics, veterinary science, and environmental and marine sciences. More than 300 companies participate in the Discovery program. With genomics-based discoveries accelerating at an exponential pace, the Riverside Institute for Integrative Genome Biology at UC Riverside is bringing a multidisciplinary approach to generate innovations geared to improving quality of life, from expanded agricultural productivity to environmental benefits. The institute supports advanced studies in genomics, gene expression, proteomics, microscopy and bioinformatics, and also includes the Center for Plant Cell Biology and the Center for Disease Vector Research.
The institute has more than 100 participating faculty from approximately 20 academic departments.
The institute supports collaborations among researchers on campus and in the scientific community, develops novel approaches and technologies to solve complex biological problems, and explores the translational development of potentially commercial technologies and projects.
Riverside also is developing a technology transfer center/incubator to spur the development of bioscience initiatives. The Riverside Innovation Center (RIC) will serve as an innovation hub and launch pad for emerging life science and software companies. By attracting entrepreneurs developing life science and software solutions and providing them with wet-lab space, business mentoring, domain expertise, a network of contacts, and business assistance programs, the RIC will become a center for innovation and will help foster the growth of the biotechnology and software sectors in the region.
Riverside County, CA is home to leading companies in the manufacturing of coronary and endovascular products, mechanical ventilators, respiratory care products, imaging, and diagnostic products. Biotech players include Alliance Environmental; Opto 22; Chemicon, International; Boston Scientific; Rama Corp.; Viasys Healthcare, Inc.; Biotron Diagnostic, Inc.; Luxfer; Tellus Medical Products, Inc.; PCI; Ziehm Imaging; FFF Enterprises; Steris Isomedix Services; Medical Extrusion Technologies, Inc.; Nutrilite; and Winslowe Environmental, Inc.
Genome research centers also have been established at UC Merced, UC Berkeley, and UC Irvine, among other locations. The Joint Genomics Institute is a U.S. Department of Energy-funded collaboration between Berkeley, Livermore and Los Alamos. Taking this research a step further is the San Diego Biomedical Genomics Microarray Facility, which applies microarray technology to the science of genome sequencing.
Algae Grows in Coyote Gulch
Solix Biofuels, Inc. a Fort Collins, CO-based alternative energy technology company specializing in large-scale commercialization of microalgae-based fuels and co-products, a few months ago completed construction and start of algal oil production at its Coyote Gulch Demonstration Facility. Algal oil production began in July following the inoculation of the facility with microalgae. The Coyote Gulch Demonstration Facility ramped up to full-scale commercial operation in September.
The Coyote Gulch Demonstration Facility is producing the equivalent of 3,000 gallons per acre, per year of algal oil. During the peak growth season, microalgae can be harvested every 5-7 days. The total facility is located on a two-acre site in southwestern Colorado, on land provided by Solixâ€™s partner, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, and is fully integrated with an industrial plant producing CO2 and water as waste products. Solix has plans to expand to more acres of production at the Coyote Gulch location in the near future. In addition, as the site expands, the Coyote Gulch Demonstration Facility will provide new jobs to the Durango area in southwestern Colorado.
Rich Schoonover, Solixâ€™s chief operating officer, oversaw the inoculation phase of the project.
â€śThe inoculation was an exciting moment for Solix, the state of Colorado and our country. We are ready to prove to the world the viability of algae as an alternative to petroleum-based fuels,â€ť Schoonover said.
â€śThe inoculation of the Coyote Gulch Demonstration Facility marks a major milestone for the algal fuel industry,â€ť said Doug Henston, chief executive officer of Solix. â€śWe are proud to contribute to this new era of algal fuel production, making Solix an alternative energy industry leader.â€ť
â€śSolixâ€™s technology responds to the strategic imperatives of the new energy economy, namely renewable sources of energy, diversification from petroleum-based fossil fuels and job creation. We are excited to be creating a viable alternative energy source to petroleum-based fuels and new jobs in the process,â€ť Schoonover added.
Start-ups and Students Join Arizonaâ€™s Biotech Bandwagon
Tucson, AZ-based Salutaris Medical Devices Inc. (SalutarisMD), a start-up medical devices firm, recently announced it has received $1,500,000 in Series A financing by Arizona venture capital firm Translational Accelerator LLC (TRAC).
TRAC, a private, Arizona-based $20 million bioscience venture capital group, is Arizonaâ€™s first venture fund established to target early-stage bioscience companies. TRAC investments only support firms located in Arizona or those planning to move to the state.
â€śWe are excited to support the development of an innovative life science venture in Arizona. SalutarisMD fits our objective to invest in early stage bioscience companies with real commercial potential,â€ť said Richard Love, managing director of TRAC.
â€śThis financing is a win for Tucson and Arizona. SalutarisMD is excited about the opportunity to build a world-class medical device company here. The support we have received, both locally and statewide, has been tremendous,â€ť said Michael Voevodsky, CEO of SalutarisMD. â€śWe are pleased that we can do our development work right here in Arizona with our community partners.â€ť
Also co-investing in SalutarisMD is Tucson Desert Angels, bringing the total start up investment to over $2,000,000. â€śThe Desert Angels is committed to helping turn promising technologies to real scientific breakthroughs,â€ť said Darryl Dobras, a Desert Angels member.
â€śThe SalutarisMD management team chose Tucson for a variety of reasons, including the strength of University of Arizona research, potential collaborations and a pioneering, innovative attitude in the biosciences community,â€ť said Harry George, managing partner of Solstice Capital, Desert Angels member and SalutarisMD investor.
Joe Snell, president and CEO, Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities, Inc. (TREO) noted that â€śin this sharp economic downturn, itâ€™s important that we diversify our economy by growing our own. SalutarisMD is just the type of firm we need doing innovative work, right here in Tucson.â€ť
SalutarisMDâ€™s other community partners assisting in startup efforts include the University of Arizona Department of Radiation Oncology, UA Office of Technology Transfer and TREO.
Helios Education Foundation has awarded a $750,000 grant to the University of Arizonaâ€™s Jr. BIOTECH program, a project that connects middle school science teachers with the resources and training necessary to lead hands-on, inquiry-based science activities in the classroom.
Jr. BIOTECH is being introduced at middle schools in Tucson, Yuma and Flagstaff with the ultimate goal of offering the program statewide. The three-year pilot project, operated by the University of Arizonaâ€™s BIO5 Institute, is an expansion of the highly successful BIOTECH program currently offered at Arizona high schools. Research shows that engaging middle school students in science-related activities increases the likelihood of them pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math, known as the STEM fields.
â€śCreating opportunities for students to achieve postsecondary education success starts early and itâ€™s tied to supporting programs that help increase curriculum rigor and relevance in middle school classrooms,â€ť said Helios Education Foundation President and CEO Paul Luna.Â â€śHeliosâ€™ $750,000 investment in Jr. BIOTECH will help teachers increase their skills and knowledge in the science, technology, engineering and math areas and in return, help motivate students to explore opportunities in those fields.â€ť
â€śAmerican teenagers currently rank 25th in math and 21st in science relative to their international peers,â€ť said Dr. Fernando D. Martinez, director of the BIO5 Institute. â€śJr. BIOTECH is an investment in building the highly skilled workforce Arizona needs to compete globally and to expand the stateâ€™s biotech industry.â€ť
The Jr. BIOTECH project provides professional development workshops for teachers, classroom visits for modeling hands-on biotechnology activities and extensive materials support to help teachers conduct biotechnology experiments independently.
Helios Education Foundation is the largest nonprofit organization serving Arizona and Florida focused solely on education, and is dedicated to enriching the lives of individuals by creating opportunities for success in postsecondary education.
The BIO5 Institute was designed to capitalize on the UAâ€™s history of interdisciplinary collaborative research. This emphasis on collaboration is an integral part of BIO5â€™s education outreach programs as well.
Collaborative partnerships with Jr. BIOTECH include Tucson Unified School Districtâ€™s Regional Science Center; Northern Arizona Universityâ€™s Center of Science Teaching and Learning; Arizona Science Teacher Advancement and Research Training (AZ-START); the Crane School District; and UA Cooperative Extension.