U.S. Department of Defense awards $87.5 million to create a new Manufacturing Innovation Institute sited at the University of Minnesota
The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has awarded a Cooperative Agreement to establish the Bioindustrial Manufacturing And Design Ecosystem, or BioMADE, as the 16th federally-sponsored Manufacturing Innovation Institute (MII) within the Manufacturing USA network. It will be the ninth such institute sponsored by DoD. BioMADE will be located on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus with satellite offices in Berkeley, CA, and Cambridge, MA.
The institute will be dedicated to boosting nonmedical bioindustrial manufacturing in the United States and will be supported by a seven-year award that includes at least $87.5 million in federal funds and is being matched by more than $180 million in cost sharing from non-federal sources.
“The University of Minnesota is excited to host this major institute, and to support BioMADE in building a new and significant bioindustrial manufacturing innovation ecosystem that will benefit our state, our region and beyond,” said University President Joan T.A. Gabel. “BioMADE will leverage our already thriving life science and medtech industries and our workforce talent to create many new local opportunities for discovery and innovation, as well as for entrepreneurship, investment and employment.”
BioMADE greatly enhances the University’s leadership in developing our future economy, said U of M Vice President for Research Christopher J. Cramer. “The U.S. bio-based economy is thriving at $1 trillion annually and some projections have it growing to as much as $4 trillion in worldwide impact annually over the next 10-20 years. This institute will ensure that this growing national industry is a key part of our Bold North economy. It will accelerate growth of our bioindustrial ecosystem, create jobs for a newly trained workforce, and add to and complement our current industries.”
Bioindustrial manufacturing involves the creation of chemical compounds and materials by engineered microbes such as bacteria, yeast and algae. These processes can yield entirely new products and technologies, and offer sustainable alternatives to legacy production methods reliant on non-sustainable resources such as fossil fuels. For example, University of Minnesota researchers are developing products such as anti-biocorrosion coatings for ships and harbors and enzymes that can purify drinking water and conserve swimming pool water. Bioindustrial companies are developing fire-resistant composite materials for aerospace applications, next-generation biofuels and films for electronic touch screens and circuit boards.
The winning BioMADE proposal, which included more than 30 companies, 33 universities, 24 community colleges, and six nonprofits across 31 states, originated from the Emeryville, CA-based Engineering Biology Research Consortium (EBRC). With the DoD’s specifications for a new manufacturing institute in mind, EBRC created BioMADE as a separate 501(c)(6) nonprofit organization dedicated to creating an end-to-end ecosystem to secure America's future in the bioindustrial manufacturing field through manufacturing innovation, education and collaboration, particularly in fields outside of medicine.
“The University of Minnesota surfaced early as an ideal collaborative partner for BioMADE. Its BioTechnology Institute has been at the forefront of biotechnology R&D for decades and they are ahead of the curve in considering the infrastructure and training needs of the biotechnology industry,” said Douglas Friedman, Executive Director of EBRC and CEO of BioMADE. “Even before the DoD expressed interest in standing up a new institute, the University was already planning to build a new Microbial Cell Production Facility (MCPF) that aligns well with BioMADE’s mission.”
Friedman said the University’s MCPF, which is planned to break ground in September 2021, was key to the proposal’s success, because its infrastructure allows for significant scaling of bioindustrial processing. Those capabilities will help BioMADE support collaborative efforts with industry to span the significant “valley of death” that now exists between laboratory-scale technological advances and corporate investment in bioindustrial manufacturing technologies.
The University’s Biotechnology Resource Center (BRC), which has been producing microbial cells and their products for academic and industry clients for nearly 35 years, will be moving into the new MCPF along with BioMADE. The new facility will grow BRC’s capabilities for modern cell production services, R&D services, consulting and training programs.The co-location with BioMADE will allow for new synergies with industry, both locally and nationally.
“With growing demand for space and facilities, we had planned — and the University’s regents have approved — this new state-of-the-art facility on the St. Paul Campus,” said Valery Forbes, dean of the College of Biological Sciences. “With BioMADE coming to campus, we are now looking at creating even more lab and office space in St. Paul adjacent to MCPF and at an off-campus mid-scale biomanufacturing facility where companies could co-locate for research, pilot scale-up and commercial production.” The University’s Board of Regents endorsed the BioMADE proposal at its October meeting and will consider approving it at a future meeting.
Minnesota-based Cargill was an active participant in BioMADE’s development and looks forward to being a robust partner to the institute, according to the company’s Chief Technology Officer Florian Schattenmann.
“Cargill will bring its longstanding biomanufacturing capabilities to a diverse array of new products and markets being developed by modern engineering biology approaches,” said Schattenman. “We also look forward to working with BioMADE and the rest of the industry to identify and innovate on shared challenges in scaleup and downstream processing to further strengthen the U.S. economy in the production of bio-industrial products.”
By bringing together the collective strengths of government, academic, industry, and nonprofit organizations, BioMADE will be well situated to tackle the manufacturing challenges associated with bioindustrial manufacturing, said Michael Smanski, a professor of biochemistry and the scientific leader of the University’s component of the BioMADE proposal.
“We are confident it will energize the bioeconomy in Minnesota and provide important lessons and models for communities across the U.S. seeking to be a part of this bio revolution,” Smanski said.