SDSU researchers make direct impact on biotech industry

Research expenditure at South Dakota State University saw a 6.5 percent increase during the 2019 fiscal year — a $4 million growth that proves researchers across SDSU’s departments are putting in work and effectively driving economic growth for the state of South Dakota, said Daniel Scholl, vice president for research and economic development.

The research efforts at SDSU are especially useful in providing South Dakota’s biotech industry with new ideas, new technologies and a trained workforce, Scholl said.

“If there’s going to be growth in biotech, it needs new ideas,” Scholl said. “You can get those from universities all around the country, even the world, but we’re right here. So the South Dakota biotech industry has the advantage of being close to South Dakota State University researchers and their students.”

Federal funding made up more than 45 percent of the research spending this past year, while state funding sources accounted for 23 percent. The remaining expenditures included university investments, industry and company investments and numerous other nongovernment grants and partnerships.

Highlighting the increase was research conducted universitywide under the umbrella of the Division of Research and Economic Development and the College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions. Each increased its research spending by more than 10 percent.

That supports work done in labs such as the one Adam Hoppe runs. Hoppe, an associate professor in chemistry and biochemistry, oversees a research lab that specializes in cell biology and immunology. The work he and his student researchers do directly impacts the private biotech sector through work with companies such as Sioux Falls-based SAB Biotherapeutics.

Students who work in labs like Hoppe’s gain overall research skills and prepare themselves for successful careers in the biotech field. Thanks to increased spending on research, the students in Hoppe’s lab use cutting-edge technology like they would in a private enterprise research setting.

“The research engine in the university is the backbone of a high-tech industry sector,” Hoppe said. “We’re training the students and generating ideas with a common goal of producing better therapeutics but from a different perspective.”

The North Central Regional Sun Grant Center, a consortium of land-grant universities in 10 states working to establish a bio-based economy, showed a significant increase in spending in the past year of more than $3.5 million.

SDSU serves as the lead university for the region, while the Sun Grant Initiative has five regional headquarters throughout the United States. Funding for the center’s research comes from the U.S. departments of Agriculture, Energy, Transportation and Defense.

Sun Grant initiatives included collaborations with other institutions and regions, primarily working on feedstock development and production through enhancing and developing new conversion technologies for production of biofuel, bioenergy and bioproducts; the development of efficient logistic systems; modeling to quantify the environmental and economic impact of land conversion; and educational programs online and through Extension offices.

“Funding sources for research projects are generated from multiple sources, whether that includes federal grants, state grants, programming fees, private investments in research and internal university funds,” Scholl said.

“Success is generated by identifying the opportunities through each source and conducting high-quality research that addresses each need. That is a result of everyone who has worked diligently in the past year to capitalize on each of these opportunities.”

Both Hoppe and Scholl said a healthy biotech industry depends on grant-funded research and growth at the university level.

“When you expand the capabilities of universities, those opportunities radiate out and help the overall industry,” Hoppe said.
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