IMET Science-Industry Partnerships Awarded for Maryland Research

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IMET Science-Industry Partnerships Awarded for Maryland Research

Sep 05, 2018
Images featuring the labs of Drs. Russell Hill, Vik Vakharia, and Al Place

Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology scientists have received grants from the Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS) program to support new technology product development projects in Maryland. The projects, averaging $90,000 in value, each feature a collaboration between University System of Maryland faculty members and Maryland companies. Projects are jointly funded by both MIPS and participating companies. All funding goes to the university research.

“It is part of the mission of IMET to foster early stage companies and industry partnerships that contribute to economic development in Maryland,” said Russell Hill, director of the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology. “We are excited that our faculty have the opportunity to purse these opportunities for the benefit of Marylanders and the environment.”

Located in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology is a strategic alliance involving scientists at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Scientists are engaged in cutting-edge research in microbiology, molecular biology and biotechnology to develop innovate approaches to protect and restore coastal marine systems and their watersheds, sustainably use resources in ways that benefit human well-being, and to integrate the research with education, training, and economic development.

Grants from the Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS) program include:

Baltimore-based VakSea Corporation and Professor Vikram Vakharia of the Department of Marine Biotechnology, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, are optimizing an oral vaccine for Macrobrachium rosenbergii nodavirus (MrNV) and conducting a challenge study against MrNV in giant freshwater prawns. The company plans to commercialize an oral vaccine for MrNV utilizing its proprietary insect larvae production platform. MrNV infects prawn stocks, including the giant freshwater prawns. 

Baltimore-based Biotrophics LLC and University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Professor Allen Place are measuring the biochemical composition of mealworms that are fed different diets for use in commercial insect rearing. Biotrophics plans to use this data to grow insects for aquaculture and animal feeds in a process that could be more efficient, less expensive, and more sustainable than traditional feeds, while simultaneously yielding higher protein, which in turn leads to better feeds for better meats for consumers.  

Place will also be working with Easton-based Blue Ocean Biosystems Inc. to evaluate the use of oolitic aragonite (OA), a calcium carbonate mineral similar to limestone, as a phosphorus mitigant and recovery solution, as well as identifying beneficial indigenous nitrifying and denitrifying bacteria that can colonize and proliferate in OA. Blue Ocean Biosystems plans to use OA as a potentially safe, natural, and effective agricultural soil amendment that limits phosphorus and nitrogen runoff, but could also be used for applications such as stormwater and wastewater treatment (in current facilities) and sludge digesters.  

Owings Mills-based Manta Biofuel Inc. and University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Professor Russell Hill are developing specific “probiotic” bacterial strains to increase the rate of algae growth and chicken manure digestion in the company’s carbon-neutral algae-to-oil production system. The company plans to use the bacterial strains to more rapidly grow and convert algae into a direct and cost-competitive replacement for crude oil.  

MIPS is a program of the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech) in the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland. MIPS leverages the resources of Maryland’s public universities to bolster the state’s economy by bringing faculty and students into collaboration with companies to develop new technology products and processes. MIPS projects expand the horizons of technology and grow Maryland’s economy by generating new technology-based jobs.