State awards University of Iowa $8.2M for bioscience research, economic development

State awards University of Iowa .2M for bioscience research, economic development

Ben Krog, scientist/engineer at SynderBio, in 2018, demonstrates a test with a product under development in their lab in the Medical Laboratories Building on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City. (The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Among their many discoveries, University of Iowa researchers have created new disaster response models, artificial intelligence diagnostic tools, telemedicine tactics and COVID response measures. Gov. Kim Reynolds this week awarded UI $8.2 million to continue expanding its bioscience research and the economic development opportunities it generates.

UI will direct the millions toward infrastructure needed to boost the campus’ entrepreneurial skills — renovating space in its old College of Pharmacy building to enable faculty from across campus to “develop the applications of their research to explore.”

The grant will also go toward building out the top floor of UI’s three-year-old, 228,371-square-foot new College of Pharmacy building to allow pharmacy faculty with labs in the old building to move closer to colleagues.

“Our faculty, staff and students are poised to unravel the next bioscience discoveries,” UI Executive Vice President and Provost Kevin Kregel said in a statement. “This investment from the state removes one of the obstacles in their way, which is access to wet lab space.”

A wet lab is laboratory space equipped with the plumbing, ventilation, and other equipment necessary to test and analyze drugs, chemicals, and potentially hazardous substances.

UI has wet labs across its campuses — including in the BioVentures Center at its Coralville-based research park. But UI Chief Innovation Officer Jon Darsee said, “Commercial wet lab space for clinicians and researchers is essential to creating a robust pipeline of startups that will solve the healthcare needs of Iowans.”

As an example of what bioscience investment can mean, Darsee cited Digital Diagnostics — a UI-founded and research park-based artificial intelligence company formerly known as IDx that developed a system to detect diabetic retinopathy.

As the first autonomous diagnostic system approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to use artificial intelligence to make diagnostic assessments, Darsee said, Digital Diagnostics is “pioneering solutions that connect people in rural communities with specialized medicines for the treatment of diabetes and other diseases.”

“We recognize the level of deep and valuable, high-quality research being conducted at the University of Iowa to further advance the health of the people of our state, our nation and around the world,” Reynolds said in a statement Friday. . the allowance.

“That’s why we’re making this commitment to provide researchers with the solutions they need to excel and continue to advance the future of biosciences.”

In airing specific plans for the $8.2 million, UI officials said they plan to renovate space in the south tower of the old College of Pharmacy building for faculty research, exploration and investigation.

By expanding the top floor of the new pharmacy building – which opened in January 2020 and almost doubled the size of the old one – the pharmacy faculty can improve collaboration.

By improving existing research and lab space, officials said, they will avoid building a new building — although the medical campus has many projects in the works, including a new academic building on the West Campus.

“We are very grateful for the governor’s support, and we look forward to starting this project,” UI President Barbara Wilson said in a statement. “Our innovative faculty, staff and students urgently need more lab space to support the growth of drug discovery, biomedical research and ultimately economic development – ​​all made possible by this grant.”

In the budget year that ended June 30, Iowa’s three public universities combined for more than $1.5 billion in sponsored funding — including $617 million through competitive federal grants and awards. The total includes research funding records for both UI and Iowa State University, according to a new Board of Regents report.

“The regent universities are working diligently to develop breakthroughs that help improve Iowa’s economy through economic development, technology transfer and commercialization of research,” according to the report, which found UI has its highest ever external funding for research, scholarships and creative activities in fiscal 2022 at $867.2 million.

Its royalty and royalty income from intellectual property and patents also exploded from $1.8 million in fiscal 2021 to $3.7 million last year.

Vanessa Miller covers higher education for The Gazette.

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