2023 MTRAC Award Recipients Make Their Mark on Bioeconomy
Funded by the Michigan Strategic Fund through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), the Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization (MTRAC) Program was established in 2012 in order to accelerate the creation and transfer of new technologies from Michigan’s institutions of higher learning into the commercial market by way of licenses to existing companies or startups. Four years later, the program expanded statewide to support translational research—and entrepreneurship, innovation, and economic growth—throughout Michigan.
One of five Innovation Hubs across the state (the others include Advanced Applied Materials Innovation Hub at Michigan Technological University, Advanced Computing Innovation Hub at Wayne State University, and Advanced Transportation Innovation Hub and Life Sciences Innovation Hub at the University of Michigan), the MTRAC Innovation Hub for AgBio at Michigan State University (MSU) is home to research projects relating to a wide range of industrial and environmental technologies, but with a core focus on agricultural biotechnology. This is an area of agricultural science involving the use of scientific tools and techniques to monitor, modify, or develop the commercial potential of plants, animals, and microorganisms—that have shown promise in the laboratory but require further improvement to become successful in a competitive market.
“Each Innovation Hub awards ‘translational research’ grants to researchers at universities, public hospital systems, and nonprofit research centers in Michigan who are working on early-stage technologies with potentially strong commercial applications within their target industry,” explains Joseph Affholter, Ph.D., Commercialization Program Director of the MTRAC Innovation Hub for AgBio at the MSU Innovation Center. “The purpose of the funding is to help ‘move the needle’ from laboratory demonstrations toward commercial viability.”
All funding decisions are made by the AgBio MTRAC Oversight Committee, which meets several times each year and consists of academic representatives, industry experts, senior research scientists, startup specialists, and venture capital investors.
So far this year, seven faculty members at MSU have been MTRAC grant recipients. They include:
- Karen Chou, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
- Kyung-Hwan Han, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
- Eric Hegg, College of Natural Science
- Woongkul “Matt” Lee, College of Engineering
- Zhaojian Li, College of Engineering
- Muhammad Rabnawaz, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
- Xiaobo Tan, College of Engineering
- Cholani Kumari Weebadde, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Learn more about these MTRAC grant recipients on the MSU Innovation site.