UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Three research projects that are demonstrating commercial promise — and have potential to improve lives — have received grants through a Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences program designed to spur innovation.
The Research Applications for INnovation Grants program — known as RAIN grants — provides financial support that enables researchers in the college to realize the commercial potential of ongoing research projects.
Since 2013, the college's Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program and the Office for Research and Graduate Education have awarded more than $1.4 million in RAIN grants to 27 projects showing commercial potential.
The program also offers recipients intensive support from the college’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation professionals, who provide support and project consultation and connect researchers to the innovation network at Penn State, including the Office of Technology Management, the Office of Sponsored Programs and Invent Penn State, and when appropriate, an advisory board of industry leaders.
Awardees for this year demonstrate the breadth of the college’s research, representing projects in cancer-fighting technologies and plant science. The one-year grants can be as much as $75,000.
Following are this year’s recipients and their projects:
— Suresh Kuchipudi, clinical professor of veterinary and biomedical sciences and associate director of Penn State’s Animal Diagnostic Laboratory. Kuchipudi’s research group received a grant to advance his work in oncolytic viral therapy, which is used in conjunction with other immunotherapies to fight cancer.
— Sougat Misra, assistant research professor of veterinary and biomedical sciences. Misra will use the funding to continue development of a small molecule-based therapy that selectively alters redox homeostasis and causes cell death in cancer cells for the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia.
— David Huff, professor of turfgrass breeding and genetics. Huff is working on converting an invasive weed — Poa annua — into desirable putting green material through selective breeding and innovative seed-harvesting techniques. This funding will help support a half-acre plot that will enable Huff to grow seeds, which will be provided to high-end golf courses for trialing.
These awardees join a celebrated list of RAIN grantees, including entomologist Nina Jenkins, whose team created a nontoxic biopesticide effective in killing bedbugs; agronomists Greg Roth, William Curran, Chris Houser and Corey Dillon, who developed equipment that allows farmers to fertilize a corn or soybean crop, spray herbicide and seed a cover crop in a single pass; and food scientists Gregory Ziegler and Joshua Lambert, who developed a range of natural food colorants derived from avocado seeds.
Six College of Agricultural Sciences teams who have received RAIN grants also have taken top honors at competitive pitch competitions, such as the Ben Franklin Technology Partners TechCelerator and the Invent Penn State Tech Tournament. Both TechCelerator and Invent Penn State provide funds to help a startup reach commercialization and realize market success.
More information is available online at https://agsci.psu.edu/entrepreneur.