Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) and The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) Office of the Vice President for Research announce the selection of two new research projects to receive $125,000 each through the Connecting through Research Partnerships (Connect) Program. Funding begins Sept. 1, 2015. The projects will investigate sustainable biofuels and a vaccine to inhibit a sexually transmitted disease.
In one project, SwRI is collaborating with UTSA to develop a supply chain model for the new field of commodity biomaterials and biofuels starting with feedstocks from non-food crop resources and their descriptions and specifications all the way to finished products. SwRI’s role will be to develop a prototype biofeedstock upgrading process using its new fluidized bed reactor pilot plant to supply data to the UTSA model.
SwRI’s Jimell Erwin, Ph.D., and Monica Medrano will collaborate with UTSA’s Krystel Castillo, Ph.D., Sc.D., on the project, “An Efficient Circulating Fluidized Reactor Technology Integrated into a Stochastic Model with Biomass Quality Variables for Sustainable Biofuels and Biobased Products.” Castillo is an assistant professor in the UTSA Department of Mechanical Engineering. Erwin is the director of the Chemical Engineering Department in the SwRI Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Division and Medrano is an SwRI research engineer.
For the vaccine project, UTSA and SwRI plan to develop, test, and evaluate a nasal delivery formulation of an encapsulated vaccine to prevent chlamydia. The vaccine formulation combines UTSA’s vaccine research with SwRI’s encapsulation expertise to formulate an easily administered, safe, stable vaccine that provides potent, long-term protection from the disease.
SwRI’s Xingguo Cheng, Ph.D., and UTSA’s Neal Guentzel, Ph.D., plan to research and develop, “Enhancing the Efficacy of a Chlamydia Subunit Vaccine Through Encapsulation.” Cheng is a senior research scientist in the Materials and Bioengineering Section in the SwRI Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Division. Guentzel is a professor in the UTSA Department of Biology. Since its inception in 2010, the Connect Program has funded nine projects from 49 proposals submitted by teams from SwRI and UTSA.
“The program has exceeded our expectations for stimulating collaboration between UTSA faculty, graduate students, and SwRI staff members,” said SwRI Executive Vice President Walt Downing. “The results of recently completed and ongoing projects include numerous invention disclosures, patents pending, grant applications, peer-reviewed publications, and technical meeting presentations. In addition, the collaborative research has led to scientific discoveries and technological innovations that have advanced the research profile of both institutions and the San Antonio community.”
The Connect program was founded to enhance greater scientific collaboration between SwRI and UTSA and to increase their research-funding base.
“UTSA and SwRI created the Connect program in 2010 to encourage meaningful and impactful collaboration between our two institutions, and the program has been tremendously successful,” said Mauli Agrawal, Ph.D., UTSA vice president for research. “Over the last five years, the Connect program has attracted an increasing volume of compelling research proposals, and the collaborative programs we have selected to receive funding have made significant gains as a result. It will be fascinating to watch how this year’s Connect funding advances our joint work in vaccine development and sustainability.”