New South Dakota biologics center to improve animal, human health

Treating and preventing gastrointestinal disorders by developing probiotics and nutraceuticals that improve bacterial balance in the digestive tract is one of the goals of the new South Dakota Center for Biologics Research and Commercialization. 

Other goals of the center are to develop vaccines, immunotherapies, diagnostic reagents and tests that aim to improve overall health, according to SD-CBRC administrative director Jane Christopher-Hennings, head of the SDSU Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences.  

The SD-CBRC brings together researchers from two universities—South Dakota State University and the University of South Dakota—and four departments, veterinary and biomedical sciences, health and nutritional sciences and biology and microbiology at SDSU and basic biomedical sciences at the USD Sanford Medical School. In addition, two industry scientists, Stephen Herrmann, director of Profile by Sanford, and Hasmukh Patel, a senior principal scientist at Land O’Lakes in Minnesota, are part of the team.

“We’re covering human health and nutrition as well as value-added agriculture and agribusiness,” explained Christopher-Hennings. The center will receive more than $3.8 million during the next five years from the Governor’s Research Center Program.

Biologics is a general term for products developed from living organisms such as probiotics and nutraceuticals, explained Christopher-Hennings. In the long run, these new products will give physicians and veterinarians options that may help reduce reliance on antibiotics.

“The multipronged approaches that we are exploring make the team strong,” explained team member Victor Huber, a USD associate professor in basic biomedical sciences who works on antibody therapeutics, vaccines and secondary infections. “In developing next-generation therapies, we cannot rely on just one pathway to deal with microbial populations and disease.”

Through seed monies used to develop the grant application, SD-CBRC researchers published 23 articles and filed four invention disclosures and two patents, one of which is provisional. The center also secured $3.2 million in external agency grant funding and $1.7 million in sponsored research agreements from 12 industry partners.

“These researchers have good productivity and a good track record on extramural funding,” Christopher-Hennings said. The goal is to develop products that can be licensed to and commercialized through industry partners.

SDSU Distinguished Professor Kendra Kattelmann, director of the SDSU dietetics program, will be working with assistant veterinary and biomedical sciences professor Joy Scaria, whose research focuses on the gut microbiota. 

Complex carbohydrates from foods, such as whole grains, are not fully digested in the small intestine and subsequently support beneficial microorganisms in the large intestine or gut, explained Kattelmann. “My portion of the project will be working with humans who could be potentially consuming products that support these good microorganisms.” 

Specifically, she and Scaria will identify healthful probiotics that can potentially enhance Sanford Profile products. “This research will provide evidence-based support regarding the efficacy of incorporating these microorganisms into food products,” Kattelmann added. The data generated will also be used to apply for external grant funding.

“Overall, the center will provide enhanced research infrastructure and high levels of collaboration within the universities, departments and industries through the development of human and animal health biologics,” noted Christopher-Hennings.


About South Dakota State University
Founded in 1881, South Dakota State University is the state’s Morrill Act land-grant institution as well as its largest, most comprehensive school of higher education. SDSU confers degrees from six different colleges representing nearly 200 majors, minors and specializations. The institution also offers 35 master’s degree programs, 15 Ph.D. and two professional programs.

The work of the university is carried out on a residential campus in Brookings, at sites in Sioux Falls, Pierre and Rapid City, and through Extension offices and Agricultural Experiment Station research sites across the state.