Teams to provide updates on presidential research initiative

It's been nearly a year since seven research teams received presidential awards to pursue projects of ground-breaking potential. In a one hour-presentation, hosted by President Steven Leath on May 9, the teams will provide brief updates on their progress. The presentation begins at 1:30 p.m. in the Memorial Union Oak Room.

The grants are part of the Presidential Initiative for Interdisciplinary Research, a program launched by Leath to support research efforts that could lead to major advances, discoveries and technologies.


See the Presidential Initiative for Interdisciplinary Research site for more info on the seven projects.

Through the initiative, four teams collectively will receive up to $4.5 million over three years to pursue competitive grants to fund large-scale, multidisciplinary research efforts.  Three teams each received up to $100,000 to pursue funds in emerging areas.

Following are the teams presenting at the forums.

Large-scale projects

  • Crop Bioengineering Consortium: An urgent challenge is providing sufficient food, feed, fiber, biofuels and biorenewable chemicals for the world's growing population. Technologies that complement traditional management and breeding, but dramatically accelerate the production and testing of improved crops, are in critical demand. The Crop Bioengineering Consortium, comprising researchers from several universities, will use a transformative genome engineering technology to build a platform that allows for rapid integration of promising traits into crop plants. The technology generates bioengineered crops that don't contain transgenes, minimizing regulatory hurdles for bioengineered germplasm.
  • Global Food Security Consortium:  This project also tackles the challenge of feeding the world and protecting natural resources -- through advancing  sustainable crop and livestock science and transferring technology to the private sector and communities. The Global Food Security Consortium, a worldwide initiative centered at ISU, brings interdisciplinary, innovative approaches through focused research efforts in five platforms: germplasm and seed systems; climate-resilient healthy crops; climate-resilient healthy animals; post-harvest and utilization; and policies, regulations and trade.
  • Systems design of nanovaccines: Nanovaccines are based on tiny particles that can send pathogen-like signals to immune cells, helping to prevent disease and boosting the immune system. The research team's  "systems" approach integrates nanotechnology, materials science, immunology, clinical science and social science into nanovaccine design, manufacture and commercialization. Investigators from five universities, two national labs, three research institutes and five companies have been assembled to collaborate on vaccine development.
  • Vaccine research against antigenically diverse viruses: Antigenic variation is a defense mechanism that viruses commonly use to evade host immune responses. Viruses such as HIV-1, influenza and porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome are good examples, and they epitomize the next level of scientific challenge in the fight against infectious diseases. Investigators at ISU and other institutions are working to develop new strategies for producing efficacious, cost-effective vaccines against these viruses. The proposal calls for the establishment of two centers -- one for AIDS research and another for influenza research and surveillance -- within several years.

Proof-of-concept projects

  • Computationally Engineered Plant Institute: ISU engineers and plant scientists are joining forces to design better crops that tolerate climate change, produce bigger yields and feed more people. The researchers are developing new science at the interface of plant sciences and engineering. With excellent programs in plant sciences and engineering, Iowa State is positioned to lead the world in interdisciplinary research on crop design.
  • The Language of Writing in STEM Disciplines: This project lays the groundwork for creating a national center of scholarship for the study of language in academic and professional writing in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. The center will conduct research on linguistic practices in STEM disciplines to improve pedagogy of writing and to develop computational methods for assessing discipline-specific writing.
  • Identifying potential RNA therapeutic targets in infectious disease: This research seeks to identify new potential RNA therapeutic targets for treating infectious disease. The team of interdisciplinary researchers is pursuing a strategy for integrating new high-throughput experimental technologies with computational methods to identify and characterize novel targets for RNA-based therapies. If successful, they could be employed widely to treat viral bacterial and fungal infections in both plants and animals, including humans.