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UGA research and innovation to be highlighted at USG economic development forum

Athens, Ga. – University of Georgia researchers, new technologies and programs that impact Georgia’s rural economy and create new industries will be featured Dec. 3 at the Chancellor’s Economic Development Forum: A Celebration of Research and Innovation by the University System of Georgia. The forum will be held at the Georgia State University Student Center in Atlanta from noon to 5:30 p.m.

The forum will include Hank M. Huckaby, chancellor of the University System of Georgia, Chris Cummiskey, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, and panelists from Georgia’s research universities. A reception and exhibit showcasing Georgia research that has moved into the marketplace and programs that help grow Georgia’s economy will follow.

UGA panelists are Nathan Smith, associate professor of agricultural and applied economics in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, based on UGA’s Tifton campus, and Jason Locklin, associate professor of chemistry in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, and a member of UGA’s Nanoscience and Engineering Center.

Smith, a UGA Cooperative Extension specialist, will address the contribution of UGA research to Georgia agribusiness, especially peanuts, one of Georgia’s top five cash crops. Georgia’s peanut farmers grow almost half of the U.S. peanut crop each year, and the crop has an overall economic impact of more than $1 billion on Georgia. UGA-developed peanut varieties account for more than 90 percent of all peanuts grown in Georgia and in surrounding states.

Locklin’s research interests in polymer chemistry and nanoscience led to his invention of two antimicrobial technologies that hold enormous commercial potential for defeating microbes-on everything from medical linens, air filters and clothing as well as on surfaces such as glass, wood and metals. The technologies have attracted wide interest from potential licensees throughout the world, as well as global media because they have commercial applications ranging from textiles to plastics, and in industries as varied as health care, food packaging, medical and dental instrumentation, and consumer products. Georgia’s own carpet and chemical industries have shown interest in the technologies and the potential to increase the competitiveness of their next generation of products.

The forum’s exhibit showcase will feature UGA products successfully commercialized from UGA research, along with innovative programs and partners that support Georgia’s economy.

IS3D LLC, a company founded in 2010 by eight UGA faculty and staff members, develops interactive software that entices students from kindergarten through grade 12 to learn about science, including complex concepts like osmosis and cell signaling. The team of UGA researchers was recently awarded a $500,000 small business grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to develop interactive educational software aimed at teaching high school students how the five senses work in the context of the brain and how neurons work. Its long-term aim is to engage middle and high school students in neuroscience, thereby increasing their interest in possible careers in this area. Another new game, now in prototype, seeks to teach children about healthy choices as a way to prevent obesity. Their first iPhone video game, Osy Osmosis, is available on iTunes.

Two UGA programs that train science and technology graduates for leadership roles in Georgia’s expanding biotechnology economy also will be showcased. UGA’s two-year Master’s of Biomanufacturing and Bioprocessing Program is unique in Georgia. The program focuses on the full biomanufacturing experience, including hands-on training and exposure to industrial grade equipment. Its curriculum includes academic courses in science and business, along with professional training with cutting-edge companies through case study projects and internships.

Since it began in 2010 with a small cohort of National Science Foundation-sponsored students, the program has produced three graduates and two more will graduate in December. “Moreover,” said program director Joy Peterson, associate professor of microbiology, “all five students are employed in biomanufacturing-related companies in Georgia, eight additional students are currently in the program and plans are underway for expansion.” Peterson has 20 years of experience in microbial diversity, biomass conversion and biofuel research and has worked extensively with companies involved in developing clean fuels.

The showcase also will feature three UGA College of Pharmacy graduate education programs that help Georgia bio-pharmaceutical companies fill regulatory and clinical trial positions, helping to increase their competitiveness. The programs-graduate certificates in Bio-Pharma Regulatory Affairs and Clinical Trials Design and Management, and a Master of Science degree in Biomedical Regulatory Sciences-were developed through a partnership with the USG Board of Regents Intellectual Capital Partnership Program and Georgia bioscience companies.

“UGA’s graduate programs in Bio-Pharma Regulatory Affairs educate and train specialists to guide bioscience companies through the complexities of FDA regulatory compliance in order to assure public safety and effectively speed market approval,” said Paul Brooks, assistant dean and graduate coordinator for Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Regulatory Affairs. “And, speed to market results in millions of sales revenue that would otherwise be lost,” he said.

Close to 100 professionals have graduated from the programs, which are designed for busy working professionals needing regulatory and technical expertise to fill positions in manufacturing compliance of health products. All courses are delivered through a combination of web-based content, live class meetings, and interactive project work.

Merial, a world-leading animal health company based in Athens and a partner in UGA’s biomanufacturing and bio-pharmacy programs, also will be featured at the showcase.