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ND Centers of Excellence Commission Approves Two New Centers of Research Excellence at NDSU

February 15, 2012 – Fargo, N.D. – The North Dakota Centers of Excellence Commission has approved $1.67 million to fund two new Centers of Research Excellence at North Dakota State University, Fargo.  NDSU will receive $1.35 million to develop a new Center of Research Excellence (CORE) called the Center for Life Sciences Research and Applications. Based at NDSU, the Center will conduct life sciences research with private partners, including Sanford Research and the RJ Lee Group, Inc. The Centers of Excellence Commission also approved $320,000 to establish the Center for Technologically Innovative Products and Processes (CTIPP) at NDSU. Initially, the CTIPP will partner with industrial companies such as Mid-America Aviation, Amity Technology, and Arkema, Inc., assisting with product research, testing, evaluation and analysis.

“These two new research centers are promising economic development projects for the state of North Dakota,” North Dakota Commerce Commissioner, Al Anderson, said. “Centers of Research Excellence projects help us leverage the talent and research expertise that exists in our state.”


Sample DNA test imageSanford Research, headquartered in Sioux Falls, S.D., and Fargo, N.D., plans to partner with the new Center for Life Sciences Research and Applications at NDSU for research on human genomics and bioinformatics. Initial focus is expected to include breast cancer research and research into certain rare diseases in children.

Sanford Research and RJ Lee have committed to contribute cash and in-kind contributions totaling $2.7 million to the Center for Life Sciences Research and Applications over a period of more than four years.

“Sanford Research is pleased to partner with NDSU in this important health research initiative,” Ruth Krystopolski, executive vice president of development & research, Sanford Health said. “We share the belief in and enthusiasm for the application of genomic information toward novel clinical trials, next-generation therapies and cures. Already, advances in clinical genomics have enhanced translational research activities in type 1 diabetes, breast cancer and child-hood rare diseases among other disciplines at Sanford Research. This project will allow for an even greater level of integration between scientific discovery and the doctor's office, and most importantly, improve care for the patients we serve in our region.”

In addition, the RJ Lee Group, Inc., a major supplier of industrial forensic capabilities, plans to work with the Center for Life Sciences Research and Applications at NDSU and the NDSU DNA Laboratory to develop next generation DNA-based identification and forensic tests and methods. Based in Monroeville, Penn., the group was founded by North Dakota native, Richard J. Lee.

The goal of the Center for Life Sciences Research and Applications is to combine the resources and capabilities of multiple private sector partners interested in the life sciences, with NDSU’s research and development capabilities for life science-related technology or product development.

“These Centers will be a significant addition to NDSU’s research efforts benefiting our state’s economy, while leading to opportunities for students, both in their studies and in their future careers. The Centers provide technology-based economic stimulation that can only come from the comingling of research university and business development activities,” said NDSU President Dean Bresciani.

“NDSU’s involvement in these exceptional research partnerships will involve graduate and undergraduate students participating in research activities by the Center and its partners. In parallel with this CORE effort, NDSU also plans to offer additional opportunities for postgraduate studies and research in genetics and bioinformatics,” said Bruce Rafert, NDSU provost and vice president for academic affairs.

"This new Center builds upon NDSU’s expertise in robotics, computational sciences and informatics. It can also serve as another catalyst in the burgeoning life sciences industry cluster in the Red River Valley, further contributing to technology-based economic development,” said Philip Boudjouk, vice president for research at NDSU.

The Center will initially focus on discoveries and technologies generated by NDSU and private sector partners which has the potential to:

  • Encourage growth of the life sciences industry sector in North Dakota and promote technology-based economic development
  • Spur growth of computational research and sciences, particularly in bioinformatics
  • Spur growth of genomics research
  • Spur growth of DNA-based forensics and identification research and applications

Genomics involves studying the function and interactions of all genes in the genome. Such research can involve humans, plants or animals. In the case of human genomics, researchers use biological roadmaps to find which genes might be involved in diseases such as cancer. In the case of plants, it might be which genes play a role in crop disease and performance. In the case of animals, genomics research can lead to a better understanding of disease resistance and susceptibility.

Vast amounts of scientific data are generated in the study of genomics. Bioinformatics uses computational technologies to manage and analyze all the research information that is generated. Computer technology can be used to uncover information hidden in large masses of data, helping to better diagnose and treat diseases in humans, plants and animals.


This new Center at NDSU stems from requests from private sector partners of existing NDSU Centers of Excellence to engage in commercially-relevant research projects involving the entire product supply chain, including:  material design and selection, researching process improvements, testing and evaluating product prototypes, analyzing product failure, and research to improve products. The Center will focus on market-driven research to enhance products, reduce production costs, and improve processes.

Center partners will utilize NDSU’s expertise in such areas as materials characterization, corrosion research, chemistry and engineering. Another goal of the program is to promote the use of technological developments that have a cost effective, but positive environmental effect in the energy industrial cluster in the western part of the state.

Initial partners in this new Center of Research Excellence at NDSU include: Mid-America Aviation, a leader in the aerospace industry based in West Fargo, N.D., Amity Technology, a leader in agricultural equipment applications, in Fargo, N.D., and Arkema, Inc., a global producer of industrial chemicals, performance products and vinyl products, based in King of Prussia, Pa., that is developing products to better serve the needs wind-based energy production, a growing energy segment in North Dakota.

The three initial private sector partners have committed cash and in-kind match contributions totaling $640,000 for the new research Center.

“The Center of Research Excellence program will provide substantial benefit to Mid-America Aviation by enabling us to leverage the great facilities and personnel at North Dakota State University to provide research support for our development of new overhaul and manufacturing technologies,” said Randall D. Herman, chief operating officer, Mid-America Aviation, West Fargo, N.D.  “This partnership with the state of North Dakota, North Dakota State University, and Mid-America Aviation represents the best possible utilization of public and private resources to enhance business opportunities in our region, to grow our business, and to provide better employment opportunities to our workforce.”

CTIPP will also enable NDSU students to participate in industrially relevant research. “This new industrial research Center offers opportunities for both industry and students,” said Philip Boudjouk, vice president for research at NDSU. “It will conduct commercially-relevant research driven by the market, helping companies solve product supply chain problems, while giving students substantial research experience in this business sector.”

The new Center will work with industrial partners from the beginning of the industrial supply chain through to finished products.

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