Posts Tagged ‘RTI International’
As a molecular biologist, Niels van der Lelie has researched microorganisms in different settings – in cheese making, in cleaning up contaminated water and soil and in growing crops on marginal lands. As the director of RTI International’s newest research center, van der Lelie plans to expand on these experiences and help develop technologies that aim at being greener and cleaner.
The Center for Agricultural and Environmental Biotechnology will be operational on RTI’s campus in Research Triangle Park in about two months. Initially, about 15 researchers will work at the center. Construction of a greenhouse, measuring 3,000 square feet to 4,000 square feet, is planned, with room for expansions.
Within a year, the number of researchers working for the center is projected to double to 30 and Lelie plans to establish a computational biology group.
The center will target research that deals with beneficial microorganisms that help clean up persistent contamination and digest municipal or animal wastes into biofuels, as well as with harmful microorganisms, such as bacteria that cause food-borne illnesses. The center also wants to work on making crop plants more drought resistant and produce better tasting. And it will look into domesticating medicinal plants, so natural resources can be protected.
Lelie expects the work to come from government research contracts and collaborations with industry. He has good chances of finding potential research and business partners in or near RTP. North Carolina’s Research Triangle is a hub for agricultural biotechnology. Companies such as Bayer CropScience, Syngenta and BASF CropScience have operations here. (More about agricultural biotech in the RTP area here.)
Lelie talked to Science in the Triangle about setting up the center and getting started:
After a presentation in front of a crowd of about 140, Dr. Robert Gallo sat in an empty auditorium at RTI International and compared the human immunodeficiency virus to Mount Everest.
Gallo, director of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, has studied HIV for nearly 30 years.
In 1983, he was locked in a controversial race with French virologist Luc Montagnier to identify HIV as the cause of AIDS. The research results earned Gallo a 1986 Lasker award, also known as America’s Nobel. Montagnier received the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2008.
The HIV discoveries by Gallo and Montagnier led to an antibody test that helped rid blood banks of the retrovirus and aided in the development of AZT, the first AIDS medicine, at Burroughs Wellcome in Research Triangle Park.
During a presentation Gallo gave Thursday at RTI – during his latest visit to RTP, long a hot spot for HIV/AIDS research – he outlined the clues he followed on the path to identify HIV and the work he’s doing now to develop a vaccine. Read more…
RTI International, a nonprofit anchor in North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park, has taken another cue from the corporate world. Effective Jan. 1, 2011, the research institute named its first executive in charge of mergers and acquisitions.
Michele “Mikki” Leach, 39, is an accountant who joined RTI three years ago.
After moving to Raleigh in 1995 in search for warmer weather, the Michigan native gained deal making expertise at Progress Energy, the only Fortune 500 company with headquarters in the Triangle, and at Waste Industries, where she oversaw financial reporting functions until in 2008 management with the help of investment bankers took the publicly traded company private.
As RTI’s M&A director, her responsibilities are to identify new markets, services and technologies, to evaluate and negotiate deals and then to buy or to sell.
Expect her and her team to step up deal flow in a systematic manner.
“Mergers and acquisitions is a critical component for any company that wants to grow,” Leach said in an interview with Science in the Triangle. “In order to make sure we were doing it in a thoughtful and methodical way and to make sure we were acquiring the right targets for RTI strategically and culturally, we felt that a corporate group would help us do that.”
In the past decade, RTI has increasingly copied from the business world.
Contracts with federal agencies, from the National Institutes of Health to the Department of Defense, still generate about 85 percent of RTI’s annual revenue. But business with commercial customers has risen right along with business with federal customers as the research institute’s annual revenue more than doubled to $718 million from 2000 to 2009.
In 2000, RTI established the first separate business unit to boost revenue from commercial customers. RTI Health Solutions caters to pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device companies. Two years later, RTI made its first acquisition – a Boston company that used health insurance claims data for health economics research purposes.
At least six other acquisitions have followed since then, the last one last year to broaden RTI Health Solutions’ reach in getting federal contracts.
But RTI has also ramped up research into green technology and alternative fuels. (More about that here and here.) Some of that research has resulted in technologies that RTI would like to sell or bring to market with a business partner, a situation where a director for M&A could be of help.
Watch the interview with Leach to find out what she plans to do:
North Carolina’s Research Triangle was bested by California to get federal funding for a solar fuels innovation hub. The U.S. Department of Energy last week awarded the $122 million prize to a group led by the California Institute of Technology.
The news was disappointing for the University of North Carolina, Duke University, N.C. State University and RTI International, which make up the Research Triangle Solar Fuels Institute. That was clear when David Myers, RTI’s vice president of engineering and technology, talked to Science in the Triangle the same day the DoE made the announcement.
RTP-area efforts to develop a liquid fuel from sunlight will continue despite the federal funding setback, Myers said. The solar fuels initiative is one of the most active areas of energy research here and a key ingredient in plans to build the Triangle into an energy research hub.
“The area is vastly underrated in the amount of energy research going on,” Myer said.
Watch more of the videotaped Q&A here:
Bayer CropScience is on the hook for $1.5 million after a jury verdict, former Gov. Jim Hunt tries to stoke the Research Triangle area’s creative juices at this year’s Emerging Issues Forum and RTI International scientists dipped into their nanotech tool box to come up with a better lightbulb. Read more…
RTI Fellows Symposium was a two-day event at the University of North Carolina’s Friday Center in Chapel Hill. This was also the first time I saw the Friday Center from within and I was looking at it with the eyes of a conference organizer. It has a Goldilocks quality to it: not so pleasant, intimate and science-themed as Sigma Xi, and not as big, cold and corporate as the Raleigh Convention Center. Just the right size and feel. But expensive as hell – Sigma Xi has been good to us over the years, not sure if we could negotiate a similar deal with Friday…..though we have definitely grown and a 420-seat main conference room at Friday Center looks good.
College is expensive and about two-thirds of all students who continue their education past high school receive some type of financial aid. This year, the U.S. Department of Education will spend about $116 billion on student financial aid.
The investment reflects how important college degrees are to the economy, the labor pool and the standard of living in the U.S.
But does student financial aid work? What is the taxpayers’ return on the investment?
The U.S. Department of Education has awarded RTI International a $70 million contract to find out.