Johnson discusses campus research efforts



 Sen. Tim Johnson made a stop on the SDSU campus Wednesday, March 19 to discuss how federal funding is aiding research for the state and the university. 

Johnson has been a large support of the Sun Grant Initiative, a program started at SDSU in early 2001. The grant focuses on research and extension activities, and has been reauthorized in the 2014 Farm Bill. The Sun Grant Initiative is a large source of funding for several of the research projects that are conducted on campus and within Brookings. The grant is good for five years and although it has been included on the 2014 farm bill, the funds still have to be appropriated for the research to be done. 

Through the Sun Grant, three proof of concept projects have been funded. Proofs of concept projects are laboratory experiments to see if research results can become a commercialization opportunity. Since 2010, the grant has also funded 19 invention disclosures. 

“[We’re] expected to get three to five disclosures on that within the next few months,” said William Aylor, director of technology transfer. Aylor said that SDSU is looking to bring other departments to collaborate to use the Sun Grant funds. The grant has traditionally been agriculturally based. 

Through the Sun Grant, the north central region of South Dakota has received an additional $1.7 million to continue feedstock through the Sun Grant DOE Regional Feedstock Partnership, which is a national contract managed by SDSU. 

Other than the Sun Grant, SDSU has received over 10 experiment station grants. Between 400 and 600 thousand samples have been taken at the Animal 

Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory, which is owned by the state and located on campus. Diagnostics and teaching are done from the samples. Jane Christopher- Hennings, the department head of the veterinary and biomedical and sciences department viewed a sample that contained swine flu in 1990, when she first came to SDSU. Since then, the laboratory has helped make anti-body agents and vaccines for the disease. Other projects include looking for salmonella in pet food and testing for salmonella on peppers. 


 At the meeting, Bill Gibbons, a professor in the Department of Biology and Microbiology, passed around a tube of linalool strain, a compound that is derived from blue-green algae. The compound is commonly used in perfumes and can be sold at a value of $10 to $15 per liter.

SDSU and other South Dakota universities have joined to create the Bio SNTR. The Bio SNTR will compete for EPSCoR funds. EPSCoR is a national program that requires agencies to set aside certain amounts of money for smaller states and their research. This prevents larger states from taking all of the funds. Currently, SDSU is waiting to hear if they will receive $20 million from EPSCoR for research. 

Aylor said, “Collaboration with three schools really allows for us to compete for funds that one school can’t do.”