MTRAC is designed to bridge the gap between successful academic results and the point at which an innovation is sufficiently developed, scaled-up, and de-risked to enable it to be transitioned to commercial development. This is a grant program jointly funded by Michigan State University and the State of Michigan under Grant Case-48166 of the 21st Century Jobs Trust Fund received through the Michigan Strategic Fund.
The MSU MTRAC Program focuses on one of the University’s core strengths: Ag/Bio Science and Technology. This can include research in areas from Animal Science to Chemical Engineering. Some examples of the areas of translational research that may be eligible for funding include: Bio-based Chemicals or Biofuels Synthesis, Livestock Health and Nutrition, Plant Traits and Crop Improvements, Consumer Food Products and Agriculture Production Tools.
Tier II funding was developed to provide resources for initial testing as part of the early stages of commercialization such as the generation of data for a prototype that would provide a strong foundation for a Tier I MTRAC proposal. These grants do not exceed $25,000, and are considered for projects requiring finite achievements that can be attained in less than six months. As with Tier I MTRAC grants, the research must relate directly to applications in agriculture and/or the bio-economy. In May 2015, eight Tier II (seed grant) MTRAC proposals were received and reviewed by the Oversight Committee. Final funding decisions in June 2015 awarded the following proposals:
Dr. Amy Iezzoni received MTRAC grant support to generate DNA marker data for her line of dwarfing precocious cherry rootstocks. This information will allow filing of a patent application to protect the unique rootstocks which will facilitate their commercialization and availability to support the cherry industry in Michigan and beyond.
Dr. Ven Balan was awarded a Tier II MTRAC grant to continue translational research testing of the RaBIT enzyme recycling system for biofuel production. This project has previously been funded under MTRAC to successfully scale the process up from shake flask to 5L bioreactor. The current funding will allow Dr. Balan to test the process using other feedstocks common in the biofuel industry and of interest to a corporate partner in Michigan who is providing matching funding.
Dr. Susie Liu has developed a method to create an alternative, high-value product from Michigan sugar beets. Dr. Liu’s innovative one-stage process has the potential to efficiently convert raw sugar crops into a prebiotic product at a reduced cost compared to other methods. She received Tier II funding for this project to identify key parameters for process optimization and to facilitate patent protection.