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Proposals Requested for MSU MTRAC Program

The MSU Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization (MTRAC) Program for the Bio-Economy requests proposal submissions with an application deadline of Monday, November 16, 2015. This program accelerates commercial development of Ag/Bio science and technology projects, one of MSU’s core strengths.  

With the current MTRAC Program running through 2016, MSU researchers may apply for funding to help drive technology toward commercialization, including support for prototype development, animal trials, scale-up studies, crop trials, and verification studies.  Initial grants range up to $25k for Tier II and up to $100k for Tier I, with competitive renewals possible upon meeting project milestones. Supported by The MSU Innovation Center and the Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies, this is a grant program jointly funded by Michigan State University and the State of Michigan 21st Century Jobs Fund, received through the Michigan Strategic Fund and administered by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

“This program provides much-needed funding to help close the gap between discovery and commercialization,” said Karen Studer-Rabeler, Program Director for MSU MTRAC. “Our goal is to assist in transitioning these discoveries through to implementation, where they can benefit society.”

Ideal candidates are MSU bio-based innovations that have the potential to create superior value-added products or services. Projects will have shown promise in the laboratory, but need further development in order to become successful in a competitive market.  Relevant technology must have an Invention Disclosure filed with MSU Technologies and an identified commercial application.

Proposal forms and requirements may be downloaded here.

For more information, please email MSU MTRAC Program Director Karen Studer-Rabeler (517.884.1824).

Winners of 2015 Tier I grants

Bruce Dale: Commercialization of AFEX-treated biomass as an animal feed for beef cattle

The MTRAC award renewal will allow the team to conduct animal feed trials with beef cattle leading to FDA approval.  FDA approval will enable large scale market tests and decrease the risk involved in market penetration.  This is part of the long-term goal to build 200 ton/day AFEX depot facilities that will be capable of producing enough feed for approximately 50,000 cattle on multiple feedlots.

Gemma Reguera: Microbial electrochemical reactors (MERs)

With the renewed MTRAC funding, Dr. Reguera will further develop the MER to produce the polymer precursor 1,3-propanediol (PDO) using glycerin as a substrate.  1,3-PDO can be formulated into a variety of industrial products including composites, adhesives, laminates, and polyesters.

John Frost: Synthesis of Biobased p-Hydroxybenzoic Acid (pHBA) at Kilogram Scale

Dr. Frost has developed an improved fermentation process to produce shikimic acid, most commonly used as the starting material in the manufacture of the anti-influenza drug Tamiflu.  With MTRAC funding, his lab will be able to scale-up and further improve the microbial synthesis and purification of this specialty chemical for commercial production.

Kyung-Hwan Han:  XERICO Drought Resistance and Elite Tree Technologies

Dr. Han’s XERICO technology enhances the drought-resistance of crops without inhibiting growth during early plant development.  His renewal of a previous Tier II MTRAC award will continue to fund the development of XERICO in maize plants for future field trials.  The 2015 Tier I MTRAC award will also enable preparation for field test confirmation of another technology Dr. Han has developed, known as Elite Tree.  Elite Tree Technology proposes to produce high-density poplar trees at an accelerated growth rate.  The further development of this technology will enable maximized yields of short rotation crops in the forestry industry as well as in agroforestry systems.

Tim Zacharewski: Automated Quantitative Histopathology Tool (QuHAnT)

QuHAnT has been developed by Dr. Zacharewski in collaboration with graduate student Rance Nault to reduce the time and costs associated with quantitative histopathology studies required for safety testing of food additives, nutritional supplements, and food contact substances such as pesticides and packaging materials.  This software has the potential to improve the process of introducing new foods and agricultural products to consumers by providing a more comprehensive analysis, expediting time to market, and reducing product development expenses.   Using Tier I MTRAC funds, Dr. Zacharewski and Nault will further develop the software according to regulatory standards.

Winners of 2015 Tier II grants

In May 2015, eight Tier II (seed grant) MTRAC proposals were received and reviewed by the Oversight Committee.  Final funding decisions in June 2015 awarded the following proposals:

Dr. Amy Iezzoni received MTRAC grant support to generate DNA marker data for her line of dwarfing precocious cherry rootstocks.  This information will allow filing of a patent application to protect the unique rootstocks which will facilitate their commercialization and availability to support the cherry industry in Michigan and beyond.

Dr. Ven Balan was awarded a Tier II MTRAC grant to continue translational research testing of the RaBIT enzyme recycling system for biofuel production.  This project has previously been funded under MTRAC to successfully scale the process up from shake flask to 5L bioreactor.  The current funding will allow Dr. Balan to test the process using other feedstocks common in the biofuel industry and of interest to a corporate partner in Michigan who is providing matching funding.

Dr. Susie Liu developed a method to create an alternative, high-value product from Michigan sugar beets.  Dr. Liu’s innovative one-stage process has the potential to efficiently convert raw sugar crops into a prebiotic product at a reduced cost compared to other methods.  She received Tier II funding for this project to identify key parameters for process optimization and to facilitate patent protection.