Gov. Reynolds awards UI $8.2 million for bioscience research, economic development

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has awarded an $8.2 million grant to the University of Iowa to enhance the growth of bioscience research and economic development.

“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,” Gov. Reynolds said in a Dec. 16 news 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.”

The UI plays a key role in advancing the bioscience industry in Iowa. Building the infrastructure needed to boost the entrepreneurial skills of the campus and its student body is a priority of both the state and university, according to a release sent by the university.

“We are deeply appreciative of the support from the governor, and we look forward to getting this project started,” UI President Barbara Wilson said, in the release. “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 state Board of Regents, the UI will collaborate with the state and 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. 

According to the release, the funding will help build out the top floor of the new College of Pharmacy building. The new space will allow College of Pharmacy research faculty who have labs in the old pharmacy building to relocate closer to their colleagues.

The new pharmacy building completed construction in 2019 and opened its doors to students in January 2020. The old building was built in 1961 and stands across the street from the new facility. 

“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,” Kevin Kregel, the UI’s executive vice president and provost, said in the release.

Laboratory space equipped with appropriate plumbing, ventilation, and equipment to allow drugs, chemicals, or other types of matter to be analyzed and tested — known as a wet lab — will use part of the funding. 

Jon Darsee, the university’s chief innovation officer, said in the release that the commercial wet lab space will be for clinicians and researchers to create a pipeline of startup companies to solve Iowa’s health care needs.

 “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,” he said. 

The $8.2 million from the state will be used to enhance existing space, avoiding the construction of a new building. The UI will minimize the need for new operational costs while creating commercial wet labs and innovation spaces for economic development.

 “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,” Ms. Wilson said.