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MSU Partnership Awards Three BioAg Translation Grants

First round of MTRAC acceleration awards help move bioeconomy projects to market

EAST LANSING, MI – The Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization (MTRAC) Program for the Bio-Economy, launched by Michigan State University and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), announces the first three BioAg projects selected for grants to help make them broadly available for consumer use. MSU MTRAC awards a total of $268,841 to the 2014 series of projects this month.

Supported by The MSU Innovation Center and the Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies, MSU MTRAC was established through a grant from the MEDC 21st Century Jobs Trust Fund, with matching funds from MSU for a total of $2.4M. These funds are focused on one of the University’s core strengths: Ag/Bio science and technology, and will be used to accelerate commercial development on bio-based projects over the next three years. 

“This new partnership allows us to translate lab technologies into commercial products that can help solve global problems. It delivers much-needed support to close the gap between discovery and market accessibility,” said Andrew McColm, Program Director for MSU MTRAC. “Our goal is to help transition these discoveries through to implementation, where they can grow Michigan’s economy, help consumers, and serve communities around the world.”

Bruno Basso – GeoYields
GeoYields is a comprehensive crop yield model system, enabling higher crop production with more efficient use of inputs, such as fertilizers and irrigation. Building on 40 years of research at MSU, the grant will upgrade the scalability of existing models to allow their use in precision agricultural applications, along with the integration of unmanned aerial vehicle(drone) telemetry data. This technology will allow farmers a “bird’s eye view” of their fields in HD, to realize the potential of precision agriculture with the use of “big data” analytics.

Dr. Bruno Basso is an associate professor in the Department of Geological Sciences at Michigan State University. Basso's research deals mainly with water, carbon, nitrogen cycling and modeling in agro-ecosystems, and spatial analysis of crop yield.

Bruce Dale – AFEX Pretreatment Technology
This project demonstrates the large scale production of bio-based chemicals using MSU’s patented Ammonia Fiber EXpansion (AFEX) pretreatment technology for cellulose-based feedstocks.  The ability to process cellulosic feedstocks in a cost-effective way has long been the limiting factor in using non-food crops and crop residues to produce biofuels and other useful chemicals. AFEX pretreatment solves this technology challenge by enabling farmers to realize a new revenue stream from previously unused crop remainders, and for consumers to benefit from reduced renewable fuel costs.

Bruce Dale,Ph.D., is a professor of Chemical Engineering at Michigan State University, University Distinguished Professor; MSUAgBioResearch. Dale is the Associate Director of the University's Office of Bio-based Technologies, and the principal investigator at the Biomass Conversion Research Laboratory.

Gemma Reguera – Electrochemical BioReactor
Dr. Reguera has developed a novel electrochemical bioreactor design which can convert low-cost pretreated feedstocks, such as corn stover, into useful end products such as ethanol and biobutanol.  The microbial catalysts allow for simultaneous digestion and fermentation of the cellulosic feedstocks in a “one pot” reactor, thereby reducing both the cost and complexity of the bioprocessing plant.  If successfully developed to full industrial scale, these electrochemical bioreactors could significantly reduce the cost of bio-based industrial chemicals.

Gemma Reguera, Ph.D., is the Principal Investigator at the Reguera Lab in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at Michigan State University. The Reguera lab studies the adaptive responses of microbes to their natural environment and exploits this knowledge to find novel biotechnological applications for microbial processes.

Ideal candidates are MSU biotechnology and bioprocessing innovations that have the potential to create superior value-added products and materials. Projects will have shown promise in the laboratory, but need further development in order to become successful in a competitive market. The goal of the MTRAC program is to assist in transitioning these discoveries through to implementation where they can benefit society.

Through 2016, MSU researchers can apply for funding to help drive laboratory technology toward commercialization, including support for scale-up services in fermentation technology, proto-biochemical synthesis, separations and purification, through MSU’s affiliated process and scale-up facilities. The 2015 award cycle will begin November 2014. For more information about the MSU MTRAC program, visit http://www.technologies.msu.edu/msu-mtrac-program

The MSU Innovation Center combines innovation, technology transfer, start-up support, and a portfolio of dedicated business and community partnerships to bring cutting-edge ideas to the marketplace. Composed of MSU Technologies, Business-CONNECT and Spartan Innovations, the MSU Innovation Center stewards ideas from concept to product, launching more than 130 discoveries into patented products and start-up businesses annually. Learn more at http://innovation.msu.edu.