THE YEAR IN REVIEW: Major Achievements of 2023

From homegrown success stories to international reach, 2023 brought significant developments for South Dakota’s biotech industry.

“Our tagline is ‘Connect. Collaborate. Innovate.’ South Dakota Biotech is the catalyst to do just that for the industry. And it’s working,” said Joni Ekstrum, executive director of South Dakota Biotech.

“South Dakota Biotech is growing. The industry in South Dakota is growing.”

And 2023 was a year to celebrate and build on that success.

South Dakota Biotech has grown its membership by 27 percent over the past five years, and more than 500 people attended the organization’s events in the past year – from the annual summit to the BioBreakfast series and networking events.

“We’re also growing our influence nationally and even internationally,” Ekstrum said. “Our presence has been felt at major conventions, and we’ve become an integral voice in the BIO Council of State Biotech Affiliates board of directors.”

South Dakota Biotech also continually keeps an eye toward the future. This year, the organization began a K-12 STEM outreach program, awarding $1,000 grants to deserving applicants to enhance the quality of STEM education within South Dakota schools.

At the post-secondary level, South Dakota Biotech partnered with South Dakota EPSCoR on its Research Undergraduate Symposium, where member companies gave a 10- to 15-minute presentation about their company to a group of top-notch STEM undergraduate students from universities across the country. Members also had booths where the students could talk individually with each company.

“And that’s just a snapshot of our organization,” Ekstrum said. “The achievements within the broader biotech industry in the last year were impressive, and we’re excited to celebrate them.”

Here’s a look at the industry’s top 10 highlights for the year.

Rebranded BioRise
The former South Dakota Biotech Council became BioRise in 2023, with a mission to catalyze the growth of the bioeconomy by elevating innovative South Dakota startups and expanding businesses through a combination of financial, mentorship and networking resources.

BioRise already has demonstrated success, receiving a three-year SBA FAST grant totaling $375,000 and an SBA Growth Accelerator Fund Competition grant totaling $200,000.

USD Discovery District begins
After years of planning, there’s dirt moving at the USD Discovery District in northwest Sioux Falls. McGough, the contractor at risk, has begun construction on the first building.

The current design offers approximately 36,000 leasable square feet, common areas and conference rooms. The building is being designed with the ability to scale HVAC capacity as lab space requires. The USD Discovery District is expected to house early-stage biotech companies and companies that provide wraparound services to support the biotech industry.

POET Bioproducts Center/Dakota BioWorx opens
October was a big month in Brookings with the opening of the POET Bioproducts Center at the SDSU Research Park, a collaboration among SDSU, South Dakota Mines and POET.

The facility and its operating entity, Dakota BioWorx, represent a public-private partnership that will enhance the region’s research, economic development and workforce preparation. The POET Bioproducts Center — the first of its kind in the state — will be an innovative ecosystem to foster collaboration on the next generation of bioproducts. Lead sponsor POET also announced in 2023 that it would grow its bioCO2 capabilities with expansions at two bioprocessing locations, signaling its commitment to providing a renewable CO2 solution for customers while creating more value from every bushel of grain.

Avera lands record research dollars
Avera Research Institute received $58 million in federal grants for improving the health of mothers and their children. The most significant portion is going toward Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes, or ECHO, grant, and the second award will create the Maternal American Indian Rural Community Health Research, or MARCH, Center of Excellence – one of 10 Centers of Excellence funded nationwide.

Prairie AquaTech rebrands, evolves
South Dakota startup success Prairie AquaTech is now known as Houdek, named after South Dakota’s state soil.

Although aquaculture is its lead business, the rebrand opens up significant opportunities with major pet food manufacturers. Houdek is testing its plant-based ingredient Proteger with one of the world’s largest pet manufacturers. The effort resulted in Houdek becoming the state’s first company to be certified as a Safe Quality Food, or SQF, site, an industry designation that allows it to enter the growing pet food marketplace.

Nanopareil completes acquisition
Another incredible startup, Nanopareil, gained a new owner in 2023. After beginning at South Dakota Mines, the company was acquired by Gamma Biosciences, a global life sciences platform formed by KKR, and added to its operating company, Astrea Bioseparations, in September 2020. In February 2023, Swedish life sciences company Biotage AB acquired Astrea Bioseparations. Now, it’s part of a global leader in drug development and manufacturing, bringing high-purity biopharmaceuticals and advanced therapeutics to the worldwide market. Nanopareil’s patented nanotechnology and proprietary functional treatments provide outstanding purification capabilities for biopharmaceuticals, including monoclonal antibodies, vaccines, and cell and gene therapies.

Sanford announces precision medicine partnership, research funding
Sanford Health announced a partnership with Helix to improve preventive care and drive precision medicine for communities in the Upper Midwest. Together, the partners aim to enroll 100,000 participants, providing actionable, early and preventive medical care insights for Sanford Health patients with Helix’s population genomics platform. Sanford Research also was awarded a $6.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for its continued cancer research in the Upper Midwest.

RTI lands global investor
New York-based Clinvet USA LLC, a Clinglobal group company, acquired a stake in a Brookings-based biotech company, Rural Technologies Inc. Early in 2023, RTI rebranded as two separate entities. The clinical operations are RTI LLC, doing business as Clinvet South Dakota; the laboratory is RTI LLC, doing business as RTI Labs. Clinvet has increased the global reach of RTI, making it part of the Clinglobal group and a premier animal health contract research organization in the world. Through the facility in upstate New York and Clinvet South Dakota, they now can support North America’s companion and food-producing species product development.

DSU’s influence grows
Dakota State University established a partnership with the National Security Agency in 2023 through an Educational Partnership Agreement. The purpose of the agreement is to improve STEM education. Through this agreement, NSA innovators can provide training and mentoring to personnel in the science and technology fields. NSA also may transfer or donate laboratory equipment to public and private schools.

Avera, Owens & Minor announce integrated service center
Virginia-based Owens & Minor Inc., a Fortune 500 global health care company, will share a new building in Sioux Falls with Avera Health to create an integrated service center. Owens & Minor designs, manufactures and sources health care products and has provided medical supplies to Avera since 2012. Construction has started on the building at Foundation Park in northwest Sioux Falls, which will serve as a cental hub for managing and coordinating medical supply logistics.

To connect
As a growing industry, there continually are ways to connect to the biotech community – and celebrate your organization’s own success!

“We are ready and eager to share your success to investors, economic developers, elected officials and the broader community,” Ekstrum said.

“We look forward to welcoming more members and sponsors to our organization in the year ahead while building upon our partnerships and leveraging our collective knowledge as we navigate biotech’s changing landscape. The stronger our biotech community becomes, the more we can accomplish together.”

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