PRRS researchers given assistance, but economic focus lies elsewhere

US - Iowa State University researchers have been awarded $1 million of state economic development money to research and develop new technologies that could boost Iowa businesses. Health and vaccine development topped the list, but not for the pig sector.
calendar icon 9 July 2007
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The lion's share of the funds went to a research team led by Michael Wannemuehler, a professor of veterinary microbiology and preventive medicine. His research team was awared $150,444 for its work on developing a protective vaccine against pneumonic plague.

Research into PRRS vaccines was given a grant, but it was slim compared with those awarded to other agri-based projects. The largest share of agricultural development money went to biofuel production and related projects.

It seems that pig health issues are less significant and contribute less to the Iowa economy even though PRRS continues to costs the US pork industry an estimated $600 million every year. The grant for PRRS vaccine research was $82,437 and was awarded to three scientists: 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 are developing new technology that improves the effectiveness of a PRRS vaccine.

Economic relevance
"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."

This is the third time Iowa State has awarded the competitive grants. The money offered in this round of awards totalled $1,000,050 and ranged from $150,444 to $18,954. The funds are aligned to research that is focused on projects with a high potential to boost the state's economic development efforts.

The grants will support Iowa State researchers to fund a range of new developments including: single-dose vaccines for humans, studies into ways to boost ethanol production and sustainability, commercialisation of 3-D software that helps doctors plan and train for surgery, laser technology to improve the combustion of alternative fuels and commercial uses and viability of cellulosic ethanol production.

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