University of Minnesota
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    BioTechnology Institute
    University of Minnesota
    140 Gortner Labs
    1479 Gortner Avenue
    St. Paul, MN 55108-6106

    612-625-5780 FAX

BTI History

1983-84   1985-86   1987-88   1989-90   1991-92   1993-94  
1995-96   1997-99   2000-01   2002-03   2004-05   2006-09


The University of Minnesota Biocatalysis/ Biodegradation Database (UM-BBD) was one of the first products of a seed grant. Developed by professors Larry Wackett and Lynda Ellis, the UM-BBD has been an important resource to researchers around the world.

Seed Grants

One of the first things that Ken Valentas did was to make seed grants available to faculty to help them get projects off the ground. A research university lives on grants to support its graduate students and post-doctoral associates. Competition for grants is very keen, and the funds available to the granting agencies have not kept pace with the expanding research base in biotechnology - more people competing for fewer resources. To provide faculty members with a competitive edge, the BPTI began making seed grants available in 1993.

Seed grants were intended to fund one year of research with the goal of generating sufficient preliminary data to significantly increase the odds of success in grant applications. More importantly, seed grants provided encouragement for the faculty to try new ideas and move into areas with potential for seminal discovery.

Biocatalysis/Biodegradation Database

One of the first projects to bearfruit from a seed grant was an online database containing information on microbial biocatalytic reactions and biodegradation pathways for primarily xenobiotic, chemical compounds. The goal of the University of Minnesota Biocatalysis/Biodegradation Database (UM-BBD) was to provide information on microbial enzyme-catalyzed reactions that were important for biotechnology. Prof. Wackett and Prof. Linda Ellis initially developed the concept through a seed grant and then maintained it through grants from the National Science Foundation and other organizations.

In addition to reactions and pathways, the UM-BBD also contained Biochemical Periodic Tables. It has been an important resouce to researchers around the world.

External Review of BPTI

Ken Valentas initiated an external review of BPTI in 1994. The reviews ranked BPTI among the top 5 biotechnology centers in the U.S. The Microbial Engineering Masters program received high marks as well for its inter-disciplinary focus.


  • External review ranks BPTI among the top 5 biotechnology centers in the U.S.

  • First seed money grants established.

  • Profs. L. Wackett, L. Ellis begin development of biocatalysis/biodegradation web database.