F&A funding crucial to success of U research

laboratory with sun shining in through the window

Indirect research costs do more than keep the lights on in labs. These necessary parts of federally funded research projects help maintain high-tech equipment, provide data storage, support administrative staff, and even cover the disposal of hazardous waste.

As noted in a New York Times article, US Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price recently called into question the value of funding indirect costs on grants awarded by the National Institutes of Health, the world’s largest public funder of biomedical research. Price said paring back such funding could bring significant financial savings to the federal government next year.

Federal grants’ support of indirect research costs, often called “F&A” (facilities and administrative), plays an important role in helping universities recover a portion of the administrative and infrastructure expenses that come along with research across all academic fields. F&A helps make research spaces safe, keeps lab equipment running properly, and ensures projects comply with laws and regulations. Continue reading

U startup CEO recognized among “Titans of Technology”

Terri Soutor holding her Titans of Technology award

Photo courtesy of Jen Kelly, KeliComm

Terri Soutor, CEO of University of Minnesota startup FastBridge Learning, received an award last week recognizing her prowess in building a business around emerging technology.

At the 2017 Titans of Technology award ceremony, hosted by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, Soutor received an award for her leadership of FastBridge Learning, which was based on discoveries and innovations by Theodore Christ, Ph.D., educational psychology professor with the College of Education and Human Development. The company was launched with help from the U’s Office for Technology Commercialization in 2015 to provide assessment tools and training for teachers of preschool through 12th-grade students to track and improve their students’ learning. Continue reading

Two U startups named among Best University Startups 2017

U of M flag on a lamppost, surrounded by flowering trees

Two startup companies based on University of Minnesota research discoveries received national recognition today for their potential to create jobs, advance technology and meet societal challenges in human health and the environment.

Photonic Pharma and ThermChem, both launched by the Office for Technology Commercialization’s Venture Center, were named among the 40 “Best University Startups 2017” by the National Council of Entrepreneurial Tech Transfer (NCET2), an association of university startup officers.

The U of M startups were chosen by representatives of leading technology-oriented businesses from a group of 200 startups launched by universities across the U.S. They are among the more than 110 companies launched by the Venture Center since 2006. The two companies will present as part of NCET2’s University Startups Conference and Demo Day in Washington, DC, on April 18-20. Continue reading

Improving nutrition apps with high-quality research data

A young couple looks at an app on a tablet while preparing food

Suppose a team of software developers wants to make a smartphone app that helps people with high blood pressure track the sodium in their meals. Their expertise in coding and design will guide them in making an app that is reliable and easy-to-use.

But when it comes to understanding how to tap research-grade nutrition data for a wide range of foods and ingredients, the developers may lack crucial knowledge in nutrition sciences.

The University of Minnesota’s Lisa Harnack, DrPH, director of the School of Public Health’s Nutrition Coordinating Center (NCC), has an idea that could knock down that barrier. Harnack aims to give app developers packages of code that will help them draw from the NCC’s Food and Nutrient Database, a treasure trove of comprehensive nutrition data, without needing a researcher’s expertise. This resource would bring developers better information to fuel their software—and, in turn, help patients living with nutrition-related chronic diseases. Continue reading

Federal cuts would devastate research, innovation

U.S. flag in front of a federal building

When the Trump administration released its federal budget proposal last month, the plan’s significant cuts to research funding jolted the research community.

In a recently published op-ed, the University of Minnesota’s Interim Vice President for Research Allen Levine, Ph.D., warned of the devastating affect such cuts could have—not just for public research universities, but for US discovery and innovation across the board. Levine wrote in MinnPost that following the path laid out in the Presidential Budget Request would cut short potential discoveries, economic growth opportunities, and improvements to our quality of life.

The budget proposal includes cuts in medical, humanities, arts, energy, and environmental research. U of M researchers rely on resources distributed by nearly every federal agency that supports research—their funding made up 60 percent of the $788 million the U received last year. Continue reading

CTS celebrates 30 years of transportation research, innovation

Overhead view of cars passing through an intersection

In 1987, a new research center opened at the University of Minnesota that would begin a decades-long mission to catalyze innovation in all facets of transportation, from traffic flow and safety to pavements and bridges.

This year, the Center for Transportation Studies (CTS) celebrates its 30th anniversary, capping three decades of developing new tools to help agencies across the US improve transportation systems and provide objective data to inform elected officials on matters of transportation policy.

Over that time, many transportation research projects at the University have served as prime examples of how U of M research meets the practical needs of Minnesotans, in the Twin Cities area and throughout Minnesota, said Laurie McGinnis, CTS director. Continue reading

Recognizing the U’s most entrepreneurial innovators

Photos from four Inventor Recognition Award winners' research

Picture a researcher, and you might think of someone running experiments in a lab, collecting data in the field or piecing together a prototype. But for many researchers, the job doesn’t end when a discovery is made. Increasingly, researchers are helping guide their technologies through development and toward the market.

Last night, the University of Minnesota celebrated the accomplishments of some of these innovative and entrepreneurial researchers. The Inventor Recognition Event, hosted by the Office of the Vice President for Research and the Office for Technology Commercialization, recognized researchers’ breakthroughs and their efforts to bring these innovations beyond the lab to provide growth opportunities for businesses, benefit the public good and improve quality of life in Minnesota and beyond.

The event, held at the McNamara Alumni Center, recognized 220 University inventors whose technology had been licensed or patented between July 2014 and June 2016. During those two years, researchers submitted more than 750 disclosures of new inventions to OTC and filed for nearly 350 patents to protect the intellectual property behind some of these inventions. Continue reading

Matching grad student skills with regional business needs

A group of students works together on a project

Business development, market research, product improvement—these are all top-of-mind for small- and medium-sized businesses looking to grow. And for a few of these businesses, they’re also where teams of University of Minnesota graduate students are lending a hand.

The Economic Development Fellows Consulting Program, sponsored by the Office of University Economic Development with support from the Graduate School, connects groups of four to five graduate student consultants with Minnesota companies looking to overcome business challenges.

Each group of students is led by an economic development fellow—a grad student who has already participated in the program as a consultant and will now help manage one of the projects, provide mentorship and facilitate communication between the students and their business clients. At the end of each eight- to 12-week project, the fellows report on the project’s economic impact, including how it has helped promote economic development. Continue reading

Workshops share best ethics practices around human research

A participant asks a panel of experts a question during the "Research Partners with Community Members" workshop, part of the U's inaugural Research Ethics Day.

A participant asks a panel of experts a question during the “Research Partners with Community Members” workshop, part of the U’s inaugural Research Ethics Day.

Across the U.S., researchers conducting studies that involve human participants must make decisions that advance scientific progress without sacrificing the welfare or freedom of their participants.

Earlier this month, University of Minnesota researchers came together with experts from across the nation to explore a range of ethics questions related to adults, adolescents and children participating in research. For example, past studies have found some research participants do not fully understand that they are signing up for research instead of routine clinical care.

Through a series of workshops and training sessions hosted by the U’s Human Research Protection Program with support from the Office of the Vice President for Research, attendees learned practical skills to help them navigate issues of informed consent while ensuring a high level of ethical conduct. Continue reading

Capacity-building sets stage for international research partnerships

Herd of sheep near mountains

Researchers at the University of Minnesota will soon come together with their counterparts from across Latin America to improve animal, human and environmental health through collaborative research.

This international network, launched through a two-year International Capacity Building grant from the U’s Office of the Vice President for Research and matched by endowed chair funds from the Center for Animal Health and Food Safety, will serve as the framework for forming new research projects around subjects that can benefit both the U.S. and Latin America. The International Capacity Building funding provides for a project manager to support the development of grants and provide administrative assistance for research projects that focus on promoting aquaculture (farming fish or shellfish for food), supporting livestock health, curbing zoonotic (animal-to-human) diseases and preserving ecosystems, as well as addressing the issues that lie where these four areas intersect.

The transdisciplinary effort will bring together U of M researchers from the colleges of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences; Public Health; and Veterinary Medicine, as well as the corresponding experts from these fields in Central and South American research institutions.

Continue reading

Bell Museum’s cooked wood highlights niche industry opportunity

Close-up of wooden planks

A few years ago, architecture firm Perkins+Will came to a conclusion while drawing plans for the new Bell Museum of Natural History and Planetarium on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus: it was time to get cooking.

Now, following the architects’ design, workers are covering nearly half of the Bell’s exterior with Minnesota white pine that has been cooked in a giant kiln. The process, called thermal modification, is a chemical-free way to make wood more stable and water-resistant. Workers will finish installing the specialized wood in March, with the Bell Museum itself reopening in summer 2018.

The Bell project highlights an economic opportunity for Minnesota — and one where the Natural Resources Research Institute at the U of M Duluth plays a crucial role. Researchers involved in NRRI’s Wood Products and Bioeconomy initiative, which focuses on helping strengthen Minnesota’s forestry industry in an environmentally sound way, are leading research into the field of thermally modified wood. Continue reading

Bringing new drug therapies to life

A variety of pills

When the prescription drug abacavir, developed in University of Minnesota labs by Robert Vince, Ph.D., gained federal approval in 1998 and appeared on pharmacy shelves under the brand name Ziagen, it gave new hope to those with HIV. Today, the 1.2 million people the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates live with HIV nationwide have access to this treatment.

Bringing a breakthrough treatment like abacavir to the people who need it takes more than a groundbreaking scientific discovery — researchers must also work to refine their new treatments, bring them through clinical trials and help them reach the market.

Today, the Institute for Therapeutics Discovery and Development (ITDD), founded by the  U’s College of Pharmacy in 2007, provides the expertise and instrumentation researchers need to bridge the gap between a compelling pharmaceutical idea and a market-ready drug treatment. The institute is a resource for the over 1000 biomedical researchers at the U of M and Mayo Clinic whose work may lead to the next breakthrough drug therapies. Continue reading