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State Fund Advances Seven Iowa State Projects

A grant from a state economic development fund will help Iowa State University researchers develop and evaluate a vaccine designed to protect swine from novel H1N1 and other strains of influenza.

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A grant from a state economic development fund will help Iowa State University researchers develop and evaluate a vaccine designed to protect swine from novel H1N1 and other strains of influenza.

And that could help protect the health of people who work on hog farms.

The State Board of Regents this week approved $679,663 in competitive grants from the state's Grow Iowa Values Fund for seven new Iowa State research projects. The goal of the grants is to support development of technologies with commercial potential and to support the growth of companies using those technologies.

Iowa lawmakers agreed in 2005 to appropriate $5 million per year for 10 years to support economic development programs and research projects at Iowa's Regent universities. This is the fifth time Iowa State has awarded competitive grants from the state fund. This year's grants range from $31,426 to $146,610 for the swine vaccine project.

The research team working on the swine vaccine includes Brad Bosworth, an affiliate associate professor of animal science; Ryan Vander Veen, a doctoral student in immunobiology; and Mark Mogler, a doctoral student in veterinary microbiology. They're working with Hank Harris, a professor of animal science, and his startup company, Harrisvaccines Inc. (doing business as Sirrah Bios) at the Iowa State University Research Park.

Sirrah Bios has licensed a vaccine technology that relies on molecular biology rather than the traditional method of growing, killing and processing a virus, Harris said. The researchers take a backbone or vector virus, remove components from it and replace those with genes from the targeted virus. The resulting replicon particle and replicon subunit vaccines trigger an immune response against the disease.

Bosworth said one strength of the technology is its ability to rapidly turn around a new vaccine in response to an outbreak.

"That's really important for the flu," he said. "Flu strains change a lot. And this technology can quickly respond to those changes."

Vander Veen said researchers have found the technology effectively protects pigs from the H3N2 flu virus. The Grow Iowa Values Fund grant will allow the researchers to test the technology against other strains.

"We've got to make sure this protects pigs," said Harris. "And we have to determine the effective dose to protect pigs."

The other six projects winning Grow Iowa Values Fund grants from Iowa State this year are:

  • $128,100 to Anumantha Kanthasamy, a Clarence Hartley Covault Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Sciences; and George Kraus, professor of chemistry and director of the Institute for Physical Research and Technology. They're working with PK Biosciences Corp. at the Iowa State Research Park to develop an effective neuroprotective drug for treatment of Parkinson's disease.
  • $107,680 to Bryony Bonning, professor of entomology; and W. Allen Miller, professor of plant pathology and director of the Center for Plant Responses to Environmental Stresses. They'll work with Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. to test a new transgenic technology designed to protect plants from insect pests.
  • $106,690 to Byron Brehm-Stecher, an assistant professor of food science and human nutrition. He'll work with Advanced Analytical Technologies Inc. at the Iowa State Research Park and Gary Procop, chair of clinical pathology at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, to develop tests that use an instrument developed at Iowa State to rapidly identify bacterial pathogens such as salmonella on farms, in food processing facilities or in a clinic.
  • $89,657 to Jesse Goff, professor of biomedical sciences. He'll work with GlycoMyr Inc. of Ames and Heartland Assays Inc. at the Iowa State Research Park to test synthesized vitamin D compounds as a treatment for inflammatory bowel disease.
  • $69,500 to Patrick Halbur, professor and chair of veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine; Rodger Main, director of operations for the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory; Marianna Jahnke, a research associate for the College of Veterinary Medicine's Embryo Transfer Unit; Paul Plummer, a clinician for veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine; and James West, director of Food Supply Veterinary Medicine. They're working with the Ames Center for Genetic Technologies at the Iowa State Research Park to develop and commercialize an innovative genetic testing platform that uses biopsies from embryos and other tissue samples to check for inherited bovine diseases.
  • $31,426 to David Grewell, an assistant professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering. He's working with the Grain Processing Corp. of Muscatine and the Emerson Electric Corp. of Danbury, Conn., to characterize, demonstrate and scale-up the use of high-powered ultrasonics to make new starch-based food products.

Source: Iowa State University