Rowan announces $5M 'venture fund' to support research

Posted: March 13, 2014

GLASSBORO Months after it became the second state-recognized public research university in New Jersey, Rowan University on Tuesday announced a new effort to connect faculty and student research initiatives with the dollars needed to kick-start them.

The Rowan University Foundation, a fund-raising branch of the university, has allocated $5 million to the new program, called the Rowan Venture Fund.

University officials said that the new fund was unique in the region and that it would help research ideas get started at "their earliest stages," potentially breeding job growth and economic activity. They expressed hope that more donors will help bolster the fund.

"Time will tell where we can take it," Rowan president Ali Houshmand said at a news conference. "If somebody comes and says, 'By my investment, I can create 100 jobs in the future,' that's a wonderful legacy for anybody."

The university says it expects to award up to $1 million a year for five years. R.J. Tallarida, the foundation's executive director, said the committee overseeing the fund was working to establish guidelines for how many projects might be funded in a year.

Kenneth Blank, Rowan's senior vice president for health sciences, said the new program underscores the university's emphasis on increasing research. Last year, Rowan received about $24 million in research sponsorships and grants. Blank is overseeing a goal to bring that total to $100 million annually in a decade.

In addition to applying for traditional grants, such as from the National Institutes of Health, Blank said, the university is trying to work with industries to develop practical products.

"You can then create new businesses around those technologies," he said.

The university said an advisory group was expected to be formed - of business professionals and experts from fields such as biotechnology and engineering - to help guide the committee in awarding money through a "competitive review process."

Rowan pointed to projects already underway as a sure sign of a need to meet - such as chemistry professor Cathy Yang's invention of a patch containing a vaccine to fight the effects of poison ivy upon exposure to the plant. A patent is pending.

Yang said the new fund could help projects like hers receive funding to develop license agreements with prospective companies. She said researchers can continue to meet unmet global medical needs.

She said: "We have a lot of innovation cooking."

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