South Dakota Biotech announces annual award, education grant winners

South Dakota Biotech, the state affiliate of the international BIO organization, has recognized two industry leaders with its annual awards and presented five grants to support K-12 STEM education. 

The awards were announced this week at the organization’s annual summit, which drew a sellout crowd.

“We’re fortunate to have so many contributing members supporting the growth of this industry,” said Joni Ekstrum, executive director of South Dakota Biotech. “It’s a privilege to be able to annually recognize some who have truly shaped biotechnology in South Dakota today and helped position us for tomorrow.”

The LIVE and Distinguished Collaborator awards were established in 2014 to recognize individuals or organizations with exceptional dedication to advancing biotechnology.

The LIVE Award recognizes leadership, innovation, vision and entrepreneurship of individuals or organizations contributing to South Dakota Biotech and furthering bioscience to heal, fuel and feed the world.

The 2023 LIVE Award recipient is Steve Statz, senior vice president of business development at Avera Health.

Statz has been an integral part of South Dakota Biotech, serving on its board of directors from inception until last year. He served as treasurer of the board from 2013 to 2015 and president from 2015 to 2018.

“Steve consistently demonstrated exceptional leadership, offering valuable insights, thoughtful perspectives and innovative solutions to help grow South Dakota Biotech to the place it is today,” Eddie Sullivan, CEO of SAB Biotherapeutics, said in presenting the award.

“Steve’s legacy within the organization has left an indelible mark on our mission and the biotech industry in South Dakota.”

The South Dakota Biotech Distinguished Collaborator Award was established to recognize those advancing biotechnology by building effective, collaborative relationships with academia, government and industry, and contributing to the biotechnology sector in South Dakota.

This year’s Distinguished Collaborator is the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

For the past two years, South Dakota Biotech has partnered with the South Dakota Chamber Governor’s Giant Vision Competition to increase the number and quality of competitors in the student and business plan competitions with funding from an SBA FAST grant.

“Since we have partnered, there has been an increase in both the student competition and open business applications, with a majority of the finalists having gone through the South Dakota Biotech FAST Launch program,” said Brad Wheeler, chair of the Governor’s Giant Vision committee.

“In the last few years, both groups report high satisfaction with the finalists, their business plans and presentations. The connection between training through the South Dakota Biotech FAST Launch program and assistance from agencies like the Small Business Development Centers and Enterprise Institute is clear. The South Dakota Chamber’s dedication to supporting entrepreneurs through the Governor’s Giant Vision Competition makes this organization deserving of this award.”

In addition, South Dakota Biotech presented its inaugural K-12 STEM outreach grant winners.

In coordination with Fisher Scientific, South Dakota Biotech gave out five $1,000 grants to support K-12 STEM outreach efforts in South Dakota.

The primary purpose of the grant is to enhance the quality of science, technology, engineering and mathematics education within South Dakota K-12 schools.

South Dakota Biotech received 34 applicants, which included science or math teachers at public, private and tribal K-12 schools, university faculty and nonprofit organizations interested in increasing their K-12 STEM outreach efforts.

The grant winners are:
  • Allison Sinning, EmBe/First LEGO League of South Dakota.
  • Lisa Bahe, Brookings High School.
  • Mazhar Sher, Department of Ag & Biosystems Engineering at SDSU.
  • Jamie (Scholl) Bushman, Center for Brain & Behavior Research at USD.
  • Molly Moore, South Dakota Mines.
“The future demands a skilled workforce proficient in STEM, capable of tackling complex global issues, driving innovation and sustaining economic growth,” said Kate McCormick, South Dakota Biotech board member and chair of the outreach committee.

“Without the tireless dedication of organizations such as these, these students might not become excited about STEM. They are true heroes, and we applaud their work.”
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