New Program Director Will Market BTI Research
A key to future success for the University of Minnesota BioTechnology Institute (BTI) lies in the expansion of its ties with faculty of various disciplines and in the marketing to industry of it's facilities and the exciting advances being made there. New BTI Program Director Tim Tripp understands this paradigm for success.
"BTI is a terrific example of where cross-disciplinary work comes together to unite different ideas," says Tripp. "This will be the key to creating new technologies and new opportunities."
Tripp brings a business background as well as a local perspective to the job of BTI program director. Born and raised in Minnesota, he earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Minnesota and completed a master's degree in microbiology working under former BTI faculty member Pat Schlievert, who now heads the University of Iowa Microbiology Department. After finishing his master's degree and teaching in Prof. Schlievert's medical microbiology lab, Tripp went on to earn an MBA from the Carlson School of Management. He feels this dual-track focus on both science and business set the tone for his career in biotechnology and prepared him for his role at BTI - a role he sees as one of marketing the Institute's facilities and services to industry.
"The thing I'd really like to do is strengthen industry connections by encouraging more interaction," says Tripp. "I have the industrial and commercial awareness necessary to see that lab space is fully utilized and to promote what BTI has to offer."
That awareness comes from industry experience at multiple lifescience-based companies - one example being Lifecore Biomedical, where he became Manager of Technical Development after several years of consulting with the company as a graduate student. The focus of Tripp's work with Lifecore was the production of Hyaluronic Acid through an extremely efficient microbial fermentation process. As an important component of joints and connective tissues in the human body, Hyaluronic Acid is used in Lifecore biomedical applications such as Lurocoat, a kind of 'goo' used for surgical procedures on the eye, and Ortholure, a supplement used in the treatment of painful joints. The microbial fermentation process through which Tripp helped Lifecore refine Hyaluronic Acid of a high molecular weight began with his consultations with the company as a graduate student at the University.
"There are companies who want "wet lab" space to try things out - especially "green tech" companies and those working with revolutionary new fuels," explains Tripp. "We want to make that space and our resources available to them."
BTI is currently the site of efforts to biologically engineer the production of liquid hydrocarbon transportation fuels from sunlight, water and carbon dioxide using bacteria. Another new fuels research effort that utilizes BTI space and resources is the hydrothermal carbonization process being adapted to convert algae to a char product similar to coal.
As president of the University of Minnesota Biological Alumnus Society, Tripp is a big fan of the University. As Program Director of the BioTechnology Institute, he is excited to build new and strengthen old connections to industry.
- Tim Montgomery