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Stephen Howell, Plant Sciences Institute, (515) 294-5267
Cheryl Kamman, Innovations Development Facility, (515) 294-3945
Ann Wilson, ISU Foundation, (515) 294-9608
Teddi Barron, News Service, (515) 294-4778


AMES, Iowa -- A new building designed to advance plant biotechnology research and industry in Iowa will be dedicated at Iowa State University, at 8:30 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 18.

The Roy J. Carver Co-Laboratory is a unique facility where university and private sector scientists can work in partnerships that lead to economic development in plant biotechnology. It is the flagship building for the Plant Sciences Institute at Iowa State.

The $17 million building was named for Roy J. Carver, an Iowa industrialist and philanthropist. The Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust, a private foundation in Muscatine, gave the $3 million lead gift through the Iowa State University Foundation.

Speakers during the dedication include Stephen Howell, Plant Sciences Institute director; Gregory Geoffroy, Iowa State president; Owen Newlin, Board of Regents president, state of Iowa; Ericka Havecker, graduate student in genetics; Dan Saftig, Iowa State University Foundation president; and Troy K. Ross, Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust executive administrator. Building tours will follow the dedication. The new building is located in the northwest part of campus, north of the Communications Building.

"Excellence in the plant sciences is critical to Iowa State University and its mission as Iowa's land-grant university," Geoffroy said. "The activities and interactions that go on in the Roy J. Carver Co-Laboratory will have a significant impact on our ability to make important discoveries in the plant sciences, and to turn these discoveries into new economic opportunities for Iowa. It's where the next generation of the biotechnology enterprise will be born."

The 45,000-square-foot building is the administrative home to the Plant Sciences Institute and houses the Innovations Development Facility, the Pioneer Hi-Bred International Genomics Laboratory, a proteomics laboratory and environmentally controlled plant-growth facilities. Four faculty members, along with their laboratories, staff and graduate students also are housed in the building. Three laboratories are available for new faculty.

"Support for the co-laboratory endorses a program of superior educational opportunities and the useful exercise of scientific expertise," said Troy K. Ross, Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust executive administrator. "It is an investment that reflects the trust's longstanding commitment to promoting innovative research, academic excellence and community improvement in Iowa."

The defining feature of the Co-Laboratory is the Innovations Development Facility.

"The Innovations Development Facility is the reason the building is called a co-laboratory," Howell said. "The Innovations Development Facility will promote business development from university research, and bring together scientists from the university and industry."

Cheryl Kamman has been hired as director of the Innovations Development Facility, he said.

The Innovations Development Facility consists of two components: the Co-Laboratory Business Incubator and the Public/Private Partnership Program.

The Co-Laboratory Business Incubator is intended to facilitate creation of start-up plant biotech companies. It provides a transitional setting between the academic research laboratory and established business. Faculty and students interested in developing commercial applications for their research have access to scientific instruments, financial resources and business advising. The Co-lab has six incubator laboratory modules that include offices and conference rooms.

The Public/Private Partnership Program will encourage scientists from established Iowa businesses to conduct collaborative research on site with Iowa State scientists and equipment.

Research facilities
  • The Pioneer Hi-Bred International Genomics Laboratory. The Pioneer Hi-Bred International Genomics Laboratory was established through a gift of $100,000 from Pioneer, a DuPont Company, Johnston, Iowa. A central feature of the lab is a high-throughput microarray facility where gene chips are made--one chip can be stamped with 12,000 genes, allowing researchers to determine the expression patterns of thousands of genes. Iowa State researchers have expertise in making gene chips for corn.

  • Proteomics Laboratory. Proteomics is an emerging technology that enables scientists to analyze thousands of proteins that make up every living cell. The proteomics laboratory features a state-of-the-art robotics workstation that allows scientists to select and identify individual proteins from complex mixtures of plant proteins. The instrument is new to Iowa State and will be made available to interested faculty and private-sector scientists. The new proteomics facility could serve as the analytical arm for the proposed biologics facility at the ISU Research Park, allowing scientists to identify proteins of high value.

  • Fourteen plant growth chambers purchased from the Iowa company Percival Scientific will allow researchers to grow corn, Arabidopsis and other plants under environmentally controlled conditions. Six chambers can accommodate 8-foot-tall corn plants.

  • A high-containment greenhouse will be added onto the building by next summer.
  • Stephen Howell is professor of genetics, development and cell biology, and director of the Plant Sciences Institute. A plant molecular geneticist, Howell conducts basic research on how plants develop and grow. His laboratory investigates how complex gene regulatory networks direct critical developmental events in plants. These developmental events involve "turning on" the expression of hundreds of genes during the development of a plant shoot (stems and leaves) and activating the expression of hundreds of other genes in the development of roots. The major challenge is to identify the key regulatory genes that activate hundreds of other genes in these different developmental processes.

  • Patrick Schnable is a professor of agronomy and of genetics, development and cell biology. He is director of the Plant Sciences Institute's Center for Plant Genomics. Schnable leads a team of researchers and students who conduct genetic research to improve crops, especially corn. They investigate individual genes and processes and conduct comprehensive genomics projects. Schnable has received grants totaling more than $8 million dollars from the National Science Foundation to map and analyze the corn genome. This work will give corn breeders a road map to the genes responsible for the traits they want to optimize or minimize.

  • Dan Voytas is professor of genetics, development and cell biology. A plant molecular biologist, he is developing new ways to introduce genes into plants and to modify plant genes. Building on their discovery of plant retroviruses, which can be used for gene transfer, Voytas and his former graduate student David Wright established Phytodyne Inc. The biotechnology company develops and commercializes proprietary technologies for plant genome modification.

  • Edward Yeung is a Distinguished Professor in liberal arts and sciences and professor of chemistry. One of the nation's top researchers in analytical chemistry, Yeung has received four R&D 100 awards for his innovations. The latest is for a commercial instrument that analyzes complex compounds much more efficiently and hundreds of times more rapidly than current methods. Yeung formed the company CombiSep to develop, manufacture and market this instrument. Yeung's research is stimulated by selected, urgent problems in biology, medicine and materials, for which the proper analytical methodology is the key to their solutions. Many of the technologies he develops are important to genomics and proteomics research. He will have three major laser laboratories in the Roy J. Carver Co-Laboratory.

"The work that will occur in the Roy J. Carver Co-Laboratory will help fuel the development of the next generation of life science industries in Iowa," said Howell. "It's the centerpiece for the Plant Sciences Institute's efforts in strengthening Iowa's economy."

The Plant Sciences Institute is dedicated to becoming one of the world's leading plant science research institutes. More than 200 faculty from the College of Agriculture, the College of Liberal

Arts and Sciences, the College of Family and Consumer Sciences and the College of Engineering conduct research in nine centers of the institute. They seek fundamental knowledge about plant systems to help feed the growing world population, strengthen human health and nutrition, improve crop quality and yield, foster environmental sustainability and expand the uses of plants for biobased products and bioenergy. The institute supports the training of students for exciting career opportunities and promotes new technologies to aid in the economic development of agriculture and industry throughout the state. The institute is supported through public and private funding.


Note to Editors: Downloadable photos of the Roy J. Carver Co-Laboratory are available at

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