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Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service, Published June 06 2010

MSUM labs key for area economic development

New Minnesota State University Moorhead laboratories will play a role in attracting bioscience and vaccine companies to the region.

Work starts this summer on the MSUM Biotech Wet Lab, which will help train the skilled work force needed for economic development in the biosciences area.

The new facilities will provide space to train students to work in a regulated laboratory environment, skills that many science graduates are lacking, said biosciences professor Mark Wallert.

The wet lab is a complement to other economic development going on in Fargo-Moorhead, including the new North Dakota State University Center for Biopharmaceutical Research and Production that will focus on developing DNA vaccines.

“There’s a lot of exciting things happening scientifically and industry-wise now,” Wallert said. “This is just one small piece that should help the whole community be stronger.”

The two new laboratories will occupy about 3,600 square feet in the basement of MSUM’s Science Lab Building.

MSUM faculty will use the facilities to teach courses that are part of an undergraduate and graduate certificate program for people who want to work in the biotech industry.

It is designed for undergraduate students, people working in the industry who want to advance, or people with a science background who want retraining, Wallert said.

The facilities also will be used for specialized training for businesses.

Claire Vigesaa, interim president of the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corp., said the MSUM project fits right into the region’s economic development growth plan.

“It’s just exciting to see that these things are getting built because they’re a key element in growing the economy in the area of the sciences and technology,” Vigesaa said.

Construction is scheduled to begin in late June or early July. The labs are expected to be ready for spring semester.

The project is funded with a $350,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development and $350,000 from the city of Moorhead.

Moorhead City Manager Michael Redlinger said the project will help put MSUM and Moorhead on the map.

“It’s a rather unique arrangement with the city, state and the university all making it happen,” Redlinger said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590