Bioscience Innovation Ecosystem

$4 million (joint request with University of Iowa)

Iowa has a strong interest in accelerating the pace of economic development related to the biosciences. The Iowa Governor’s office, Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) and Iowa Innovation Council worked with TEConomy to identify four bioscience platforms that take advantage of Iowa’s commercial advantages, extensive research and development competencies, and offer a strong potential for market growth. 

The bioscience platforms are: precision and digital agriculture, biobased chemicals, vaccines and immunotherapeutics, and medical devices. Iowa State University has significant strengths in the first three platforms and University of Iowa in the fourth. In response to the state’s TEConomy report, we are submitting a joint economic development request with the University of Iowa to support the four biosciences platforms identified in the report.

ISU’s faculty expertise in biobased chemicals, precision and digital agriculture, and vaccines and immunotherapies present exciting economic growth opportunities for the state.

Biobased Chemicals
Biobased chemicals from biorenewable sources offer the potential for next generation chemical products with improved performance properties over current products made with petroleum-based chemicals. Shifting to products made with biobased chemicals will diversify and increase the value of products derived from agriculture. Paired with the biobased tax credit, accelerating the rate of technology transfer for biobased chemicals is a natural choice for Iowa. ISU is already developing new products through the Center for Biobased Chemicals (CBiRC), a nationally renowned center for creating novel biobased chemicals. Technologies being developed at CBiRC include novel insecticides that represent the first advance in pesticide technology in 20 years and replace current products that insects are becoming resistant to; biobased flame-retardant nylons that can enhance the safety properties of these chemicals; and biobased preservatives for consumer products that replace petrochemical-derived preservatives.

Precision and Digital Agriculture
Production agriculture is already benefiting from the first wave of precision and digital agriculture technologies, which currently represent a $3.3 billion market, with the potential to grow to $5.9 billion by 2021. These technologies integrate novel sensors and data analytics to create responsive and target management strategies aimed at increasing profits and sustaining natural resources. For example, Iowa State’s Plant Sciences Institute researchers are working to reduce inputs needed in crop production through new sensors for agricultural applications that specifically detect nitrate in soil, crops, and water. This technology can assist farmers with decisions about fertilizer applications, and is being commercialized via a start-up company to offer a low-cost, instant readout, high-performance, field-deployable nutrient sensors for agriculture.

Vaccines and Immunotherapies
The vaccines and immunotherapeutics market is currently $33 billion, and projected to reach $45 billion by 2021. A significant market segment includes animal vaccines that directly impact Iowa’s animal production. Iowa State University has long excelled in vaccine therapies for animals through its Veterinary Diagnostic Lab and R&D efforts. Products such as the kennel cough vaccine and vaccines for production animal agriculture have already had a significant impact. Building on these strengths, new advances in the ISU Nanovaccine Institute, supported by Merck and by federal investment, are developing a universal influenza vaccine that can replace seasonal flu vaccines and protect animals and humans against multiple influenza strains. The novel nanovaccine formulations are also field-deployable and needle-free, and have already been shown to protect chickens, ferrets, pigs, and horses from multiple influenza strains. These developments will positively impact the swine and poultry industry in Iowa and provide important animal study data for developing a universal influenza vaccine for humans.


Learn more about Iowa’s bioscience platforms.