Biosciences Alliance of Iowa funds ISU research

AMES, Iowa -- The Biosciences Alliance of Iowa (BAI) has awarded funding to two projects at Iowa State University designed to advance the state's bioscience industry.

BAI was formed by the Iowa Department of Economic Development to focus state efforts in key agricultural, medical and plant-life bioscience areas.

BAI awarded $700,000 to Iowa State to establish the Human Nutrition Wellness Research Center. The center will evaluate the safety and efficacy of new foods, food ingredients or dietary supplements developed by Iowa-based companies. Funding will be used to purchase equipment and complete minor renovations to a building in the ISU Research Park.

"The funding and creation of this center will give ISU researchers and Iowa-based companies focused on food and nutraceutical production an expanded capability to conduct human nutritional research studies and test new foods and supplements," said Paul Flakoll, who will lead the new center. Flakoll is professor of food science and human nutrition and director of the Center for Designing Foods to Improve Nutrition.

"Not only will this establish an excellent model for university-industry collaboration, but experts in nutrition from the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa also will make contributions to the research center, creating a model for collaboration between the three state institutions," Flakoll said.

A second project is a joint effort between Iowa State and University of Iowa researchers to create a high-throughput facility to develop animal models of human diseases. Iowa State's Max Rothschild, Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor in Agriculture and director of the Center for Integrated Animal Genomics, and colleagues, received $100,000 of the $500,000 that BAI committed to the project. Rothschild will work with researchers in the colleges of Veterinary Medicine, Liberal Arts and Sciences and Human Sciences.

The researchers will focus on potentially blinding eye diseases such as glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration. Rothschild said Iowa State researchers will develop models of ocular disease in large animals, while University of Iowa scientists will create small animal models. Both small and large animal models are needed by pharmaceutical companies interested in producing new therapies for humans.

"In order to fully take advantage of the power of the human genome project and other sequencing projects to develop new treatments for human disease, animal models are necessary," Rothschild said. "Any group of corporate or academic institutions that has ready access to such models will have a significant advantage in the development and testing of new treatments."

The initial funding is for one year. If state funding is available, the grants may be renewable.

In 2003, the state commissioned the Battelle Memorial Institute, Columbus, Ohio, to conduct a study on areas of university research that would provide opportunities for economic growth for Iowans. Their study, published in 2004, emphasized significant promise for Iowa's dominance in seven areas of plant, animal and human bioscience, and the potential of developing the research into goods and services. BAI -- representing science, industry, education, medicine, agriculture, economic development and government -- was formed to steer development of the economic potential. BAI will be the focal point for determining priorities for state funding of university bioscience initiatives and coordinate university and industry approaches to the development of the biosciences specific to economic opportunities.