The funding quest

Professors and students at universities along the Front Range and Wyoming work hard to get money for research from any source where they can find it.

Funding from federal institutions such as the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration still dominates the millions of dollars that flow into research institutions in the region. However, private companies, nonprofits and individuals also step up to the plate on a regular basis to give money to targeted research projects.

For example, Colorado State University associate professor Mark Paschke and a team of graduate students are focused on ecological restoration research on the Western Slope as part of a $2 million endowed chair from Shell Oil Co.

The original $18.5 million Engines and Energy Conversion Lab at CSU in Fort Collins also received sizable donations from private donors, including $5 million from the Bohemian Foundation and $2.5 million from Woodward Inc. Other researchers at CSU get funding from Exxon Mobil Corp. and other companies.

“Within our college, the vast majority of the money still comes from the government for sponsored research, but that’s getting smaller, and the amount coming from private industry is increasing,´ said Paschke, who holds the Shell Endowed Chair of Restoration Ecology in the Warner College of Natural Resources.

While sponsored research dollars from private companies and foundations makes up less than 25 percent or so of the total received at area universities, researchers and administrators are working to make the numbers rise.

At CSU, for example, Mark Wdowik, assistant vice president for research and industry partnerships, is responsible for pushing private company proposal agreements up 65 percent to $38 million in fiscal 2012 vs. $23.2 million in 2011.

CSU has long-standing relationships with a wide variety of private-sector entities because of its culture as a land-grant institution, said Kathi Delehoy, senior associate vice president for research administration.

Tuberculosis researchers at CSU recently received $3.65 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In all, Gates has given about $11 million in grants to the CSU Foundation to be used for tuberculosis research projects and others, Delehoy said.

The Gates Foundation also funds research programs at the University of Colorado-Boulder, including a recent $100,000 grant to Mobile Assay Inc. to do research on mobile applications for seed-borne pathogens.

Gates also has been heavily involved in funding for research for a human papilloma virus, vaccine for the developing world. Robert Garcea, a doctor and researcher at the BioFrontiers Institute at CU-Boulder, is working to create an inexpensive version of the vaccine. Garcea also is working with a few as-yet-unnamed Colorado companies to get a vaccine that can be sold commercially.

At the University of Wyoming, Marathon Oil Corp. gave $1 million for research aligned with the state’s energy industry this year. The gift will be leveraged with public funds of up to additional $1 million to help the university pursue partnerships with companies in the industry.

The Marathon Oil announcement is the first of several public-private partnerships expected to total $30 million this year.

A $100,000 award came to CU-Boulder professor Deborah Jin — an adjunct professor of physics and a fellow of the National Institute of Standards and Technology — in the form of a L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science award. Jin was cited by an awards jury “for having been the first to cool down molecules so much that she can observe chemical reactions in slow motion, which may help further understanding of molecular processes which are important for medicine or new energy sources.”

The long-sought milestone was achieved at JILA, formerly known as the Joint Institute of Laboratory Astrophysics at CU-Boulder, in 2008.

Still, an estimated 90 percent of all university research funding continues to come from the public sector, according to people involved with getting research technology commercialized.

If you’re a local company spinning out of research at an area university, you most likely have benefited from a government grant. Of course, sometimes, private money follows public dollars.

For example, InDevR LLC, a diagnostics test company in Boulder, received a $3 million, three-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to work on a flu test.

InDevR more recently received a $5.8 million grant through the federal Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The company leveraged the research grant to collaborate with GE Global Research to develop a device that can diagnose flu and other infectious diseases such as malaria, E. coli and salmonella.

GE Global Research is the central technology development arm of General Electric Co.

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