Penn State Harrisburg to build greenhouse, phase I of biotech facility

Middletown, Pa. — Penn State Harrisburg has begun construction of a specialized 3,500-square-foot greenhouse complex, the first phase of a planned $1.6 million biotechnology research and teaching facility. A Sept. 16 groundbreaking ceremony marked the start of the greenhouse project, which is expected to be completed late this year.

Supported by $800,000 in donations from private industry, the greenhouse will be built using exacting USDA and National Institutes of Health safety standards, qualifying it as a Level Two facility and enabling the study of genetically altered plants. The greenhouse also will include a head house, a room used to prepare plants for research and classroom use.

Donors to the greenhouse include Ernst Seeds; Kadam Biogene; Keystone Biofuels Inc.; Kunj Associates LP; and UGI Utilities Inc.

Having the greenhouse on campus will bolster the campus’ ongoing research and teaching in plant biotechnology and other areas. Currently, faculty and students are working on the development of second and third generation biofuels, with an eye to bringing environmentally-friendly energy alternatives to the marketplace. Penn State Harrisburg researchers also are working on ways to improve the cold and drought tolerance of plants, create healthier food supplies and find clues for treating human disease.

“The new facility, both the greenhouse and the technologically advanced laboratories planned for phase two, will be useful to faculty and students working in plant sciences and to environmental engineering faculty who collaborate with those in life sciences,” said Interim Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Omid Ansary. “It will enable us to foster new research and teaching opportunities and to prepare students for new employment options.”

The facility’s second phase, the Central Pennsylvania Laboratory for Biofuels, will involve renovating an existing campus building to create a 3,000-square-foot biotechnology development and deployment laboratory. Penn State Harrisburg has received an $817,000 grant through the state Department of Community and Economic Development’s (DCED) Alternative and Clean Energy (ACE) Program. The grant and an additional match from the campus have provided funds to create the lab. Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern PA and the Innovation Transfer Network helped to facilitate the grant.

“We are very thankful for the external support the campus has received. With this partnership between the business sector, state government, and higher education, Central Pennsylvania will become a regional center for research and training in biotechnology,” said Mukund Kulkarni, interim chancellor at Penn State Harrisburg. “The facility will be a boon to the region, providing educational and research opportunities to faculty, staff and students at numerous academic institutions, while also offering the promise of economic development through new products and enhanced quality of life through answers to key environmental concerns.”

To view photos from the groundbreaking event, visit http://live.psu.edu/stilllife/2326 online.

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Last Updated November 18, 2010