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UIowa receives $8.2 million grant for bioscience research, economic development

The University of Iowa has been awarded an $8.2 million grant to enhance the growth of bioscience research and economic development on the campus.

“We recognize the level of in-depth and high-quality, valuable research being conducted at the University of Iowa to further advance the health of the people of our state, our nation and across the globe,” said Gov. Reynolds in a release. “That’s why we’re making this commitment to provide the researchers the solutions they need to excel and continue advancing the future of biosciences.”

“We are deeply appreciative of the support from the governor, and we look forward to getting this project started,” said UI President Barbara Wilson. “Our innovative faculty, staff, and students urgently need more laboratory space to support the growth of drug discovery, biomedical research, and ultimately economic development—all made possible by this grant.”

Once approved by the Board of Regents, the university will renovate space in the south tower of the old College of Pharmacy building to enable faculty from across campus to explore the applications of their research. The funding also will help to build out the top floor of the new College of Pharmacy building. The new top-floor space will allow existing College of Pharmacy research faculty who have labs in the old pharmacy building to be relocated closer to their colleagues.

“Our faculty, staff, and students are ready to unravel the next bioscience inventions, and this investment from the state removes one of the hurdles in their way, which is access to wet lab space,” said Kevin Kregel, UI’s executive vice president and provost.

A wet lab is a laboratory space equipped with appropriate plumbing, ventilation, and equipment to allow drugs, chemicals, or other types of matter to be analyzed and tested.

“Commercial wet lab space for clinicians and researchers is essential to creating a robust pipeline of startup companies that will solve the health care needs of Iowans,” said Jon Darsee, the university’s chief innovation officer. “For example, Digital Diagnostics, an artificial intelligence company founded at Iowa, is pioneering solutions that connect people in rural communities to specialized medicine for treating diabetes and other diseases.”

“This support from the governor will provide the university and its entrepreneurial faculty, staff, and students with a tremendous opportunity to invest in the future economic success of Iowa,” Wilson said.

UIowa receives $8.2 million grant for bioscience research, economic development | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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