MSU awarded additional research funding |

MSU awarded additional research funding

BOZEMAN – Montana State University has received an additional $4.1 million in the state’s first large-scale research initiative, bringing the total research initiative funds awarded to MSU to $8.9 million, officials announced today.

Three MSU research projects that were awarded funds and announced today include a project designed to reduce the impacts of inflammatory and infectious disease on animal and human health; a project designed to improve the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness, dementia and chronic pain; and a project designed to enhance Montana’s energy resources.

The announcement was made during the Montana University System Board of Regents meeting in Butte.

Gov. Steve Bullock said the funded projects will have a “meaningful impact” on the state’s overall economy.

“These projects show the potential to move Montana forward as a state and to move forward in our economy,” Bullock said.

He added that the goal is not only to produce scientific breakthroughs, but also to produce jobs.

Gov. Bullock proposed the $15 million research initiative in his state budget in the fall of 2014. The 2015 Montana Legislature subsequently passed the initiative. It is the first state-funded research initiative of its depth and scope.

Projects were selected through a competitive process. Faculty from MSU submitted more than 150 proposals, which were winnowed down to just six. Of those, several projects were chosen for funding by an advisory panel made up of state legislators, industry and university system representatives. Two additional projects from MSU that were selected for funding were announced last month.

Industry representatives on the panel included Lola Raska, executive director of the Montana Grain Growers Association; Larry Simkins, president and CEO of Washington Companies; and Ron Zook, president and CEO of Swan Valley Medical.

Legislative representatives included: Sen. Llew Jones, R-Conrad, and Rep. Ryan Lynch, D-Butte. University presidents Waded Cruzado and Royce Engstrom rounded out the advisory panel, which made its recommendations to Montana Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian.

Christian called the research initiative “historic” and said the funded projects will add to the state’s economy by converting university-based research into private sector growth and scientific solutions.

“I think the return on investment for the state will be substantial,” Christian said.

The initiative is called the Montana Research and Economic Development Initiative. All of the selected proposals needed to meet one or more of the following criteria: to address a Montana problem; to create Montana jobs in existing economic sectors; or to help spur new companies in Montana.

Many of the funded initiatives involve multiple researchers on multiple campuses in the Montana University System, as well as partnerships with private industry.

Brief summaries of MSU’s funded initiatives announced today are listed below, followed by the amount funded and the project’s lead researcher:

Research into ways to reduce the impacts of inflammatory and infectious disease on animal and human health, with a focus on developing therapies to adjust the human and animal immune responses to reduce the burden on antibiotic use and to develop new treatments for inflammatory disorders: $1,500,000 (Jovanka Voyich).

Medical research into ways to improve the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness, dementia and chronic pain. Per capita, Montana has one of the highest suicide rates in the nation: $1,462,158 (Dr. Matthew Byerly).

Research designed to enhance Montana’s energy resources, including developing technologies to seal small leaks in wells and advance clean coal technologies that help address challenges due to new and emerging federal regulations: $1,200,000 (Lee Spangler).

Two additional funded projects from MSU that were announced in August are listed below:

Optics and photonics research for compact optical sensors that could be used in everything from precision agriculture to advanced imaging for detecting skin cancer: $2,496,513 (Joe Shaw).

Agricultural research into using pulse crops and cover crop mixes to replace fallow acres in rotation with wheat. Well-adapted to Montana’s arid climate, such pulse crops like peas and lentils or cover crop mixes can naturally add important nutrients to the soil and produce revenue. Other aspects of the grant include developing and using new computational tools and ground and space-based sensors to develop field-specific precision agriculture prescriptions for fertility and pest control and to improve durum wheat productivity: $2,276,734 (Barry Jacobsen).

–MSU News Service

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