USDA funds biotech research

Dave Ervin, a PSU professor of environmental sciences and resources, was awarded $2 million by the United States Department of Agriculture to investigate biotechnology in agriculture.

Ervin hopes the project will “enhance Portland State’s research capacity.”

In December, the USDA announced that PSU received the award.

The biotech research will investigate the interactions of universities and private biotechnology companies.

Ervin’s goal is to look at the research to determine “What is really going on, that is our role, we want to try to describe these relationship as honestly and as carefully and objectively as possible.”

Ervin will lead a three-year national research project. During the first phase of the project, Ervin’s research team will interview key people at universities nationwide. In the next phase, they will collect information about industry relationships through surveys. They plan to objectively compile the information during the final phase.

To date, Ervin said there is little information on biotech and university relations but community concern mounts. “The whole ideal is that we can improve how biotechnology works in society and make that as good as it can be and whatever appropriate policies are needed can be passed.”

“It is the role of the universities,” he said, “to be an honest broker.” The public needs to look to somebody who can tell it without bias, what is really going on with biotech companies and universities.

Researchers from five universities, including PSU, will examine the relationships between private biotech companies and public universities.

The team Ervin leads includes twelve other members: four at Oregon State, three at University of California Davis, one from Clarkson University in New York, one from the Wallace Foundation and one from the Farm Foundation.

The team from PSU includes Kristen Kim, a research associate with masters from North Carolina and Beth Minor, a research assistant and PSU graduate with a B.S. in finance. They are both full time employees.