Bioeconomy leadership

Bioeconomy leadership

The University of Minnesota is a bioeconomy leader, generating bio-based innovation in areas from genome editing for potential cancer cures to fighting crop disease with designer microbes in the soil. 

As a comprehensive Land Grant research institution, the University of Minnesota is able to foster cross-disciplinary work that draws on emerging biotechnologies as well as engineering design principles. This work includes:

World-class facilities

The Minnesota Supercomputing Institute provides computing infrastructure and expertise to foster innovation through advanced computing technologies, scientific computing services, and more.  

The University of Minnesota Genomics Center offers an array of sequencing and analysis services, including genotyping, epigenomics, single-cell genomics, metagenomics, and related support services such as nucleic acid extraction and quality control. 

The Natural Resource Research Institute is an applied research facility focused on minerals and metallurgy, forest and land, materials and bioeconomy, water, and energy management. They provide pilot facilities that can scale up innovations in renewably sourced products, biomass, renewable plastics and polymers, bio-based chemical feedstocks, and advanced biofuels.

The Biotechnology Research Center, under construction in 2021, provides cell and recombinant protein production and process development services to the University community and external partners. 

Treating cancer 

The University of Minnesota is a historic and current leader in cancer treatments, having pioneered bone marrow transplantation and now unlocking genomic and immunological treatments for a variety of cancers. 

Some examples:

  • A recently acquired U of M startup, B-MoGen, is developing human cell gene targeting and non-viral gene delivery methods to be  less expensive and more efficient in disease treatment. 
  • U of M researchers at the Masonic Cancer Center have developed tri-specific killer engager antibodies—now in clinical trials—that activate a patient’s natural immune cells and target tumors.

Manufacturing medicines

The University’s BioTechnology Institute is developing methods to efficiently grow microbes used in the manufacturing of drugs and using synthetic biology for the development of other medications and  nutraceuticals. 

The Molecular and Cellular Therapeutics facility develops and manufactures pharmaceuticals and next-generation cell- and tissue-based products, monoclonal bodies, and other therapeutic proteins for human clinical trials across the country.

Manufacturing sustainable materials and consumer products

Researchers with the MnDRIVE Environment program have helped University researchers develop an enzyme-based biofilm that shows great promise as an anti-biocorrosion agent for sea infrastructure. 

The University of Minnesota also hosts the National Science Foundation Center for Sustainable Polymers, which is focused on:

  • the efficient and sustainable conversion of biomass to polymer ingredients
  • the creation of high-performance sustainable plastics for a wide range of advanced applications

Our commitment to innovating through all phases of food production is evident at the first-in-the-nation Plant Protein Innovation Center (PPIC). The PPIC brings together interdisciplinary researchers and industry partners to produce and study nutritious and functional plant protein ingredients and products, working all the way from breeding and genetics to processing, formulation, and marketing.

Creating solutions for agriculture

As the alma mater of Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution, the University of Minnesota has long led in advancing the understanding of crop genetics/genomics and crop disease organisms such as wheat rust and oat crown rust. 

Today, the University is home to the NSF Agricultural Microbiomes Research Coordination Network, a growing international network of agricultural microbiome researchers. 

Driving the convergence of biology and other disciplines 

Researchers  in genomics and computer science have commercialized a successful platform called CoreBiome for handling and analyzing the massive datasets generated by microbiome studies. Other U of M scientists are profiling genomic information in lakes to monitor water quality and preventing invasive fish and mosquitos from breeding. 

Using data informatics in the bioeconomy

With support from NSF, University researchers are developing machine learning techniques to better monitor global agricultural and environmental change—a practice that can help society address the challenges of adapting to a changing climate, managing land use and natural resources, and sustainably feeding a growing population.