In scientific research, funding often serves as the driving force that turns visions into reality. The Purdue College of Agriculture recently illustrated the potency of this principle by securing a record-breaking $106 million in grants. This is an impressive leap from the $85 million raised last year.
Bernie Engel, the Glenn W. Sample Dean of Agriculture, emphasizes the significance of this achievement, noting that these funds are paramount to expanding the college’s impact on agriculture and beyond. Given the stiff competition – with only 10 to 20 percent of proposals securing grants – this feat also highlights the quality of Purdue’s research personnel.
But what are the projects these funds are being channeled to? Let’s delve deeper.
Kurt Ristroph: Revolutionizing mRNA Vaccines & More
Assistant Professor Kurt Ristroph’s lab at the Agricultural and Biological Engineering department is harnessing the power of nanotechnology. One of his projects, backed by a $2.7 million FDA grant, seeks to develop lipid nanoparticles for mRNA vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna that don’t require ultra-cold storage. This endeavor could be revolutionary for global vaccine distribution.
Beyond human health, Ristroph is also combatting citrus greening disease, which has plummeted Florida citrus production by 90% since 2008. Using a $1 million grant from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, his lab is developing nanocarriers to deliver antibiotics to infected citrus trees effectively.
Mohit Verma: Defending Animal Health
Associate Professor Mohit Verma is setting his sights on animal health. With a $1 million backing from the National Animal Health Laboratory Network, Verma is pioneering a rapid test for African swine fever. Given the disease’s near-total fatality rate in pigs, a swift diagnosis is crucial.
Furthermore, Verma is addressing food safety. His lab has developed technology that detects DNA from fecal microorganisms, indicating possible food contamination. This tool could be invaluable for farmers to assess risks and adopt necessary precautions.
Kyle Cottrell: Deciphering the Enigma of Breast Cancer
Kyle Cottrell, an assistant professor in biochemistry, is making strides in breast cancer research. With the support of a MOSAIC R00 grant from the National Institutes of Health, Cottrell focuses on the RNA-editing enzyme ADAR1. This enzyme offers promising therapeutic opportunities, especially for the challenging triple-negative breast cancer variant.
Ankita Raturi: Innovating Agriculture through Informatics
Assistant Professor Ankita Raturi is weaving informatics into agriculture. From aiding farmers in choosing the most effective cover crops to developing tools that encourage climate-friendly farming practices, Raturi’s projects are a fusion of technology and farming.
Raturi praises Purdue’s supportive ecosystem, emphasizing the institution’s unique position that permits a harmonious marriage between agriculture and engineering.
An Investment That Pays Forward
Considering that every dollar invested in public agricultural research results in an estimated $20 in economic benefits, Purdue’s recent funding stands to generate over $2 billion in economic impact. As Engel aptly puts it, the potential influence of these research projects on local, regional, national, and global scales is “amazing.” The future of agriculture looks promising, with institutions like Purdue leading the way.
Image provided by Purdue University