Institute waiting to hear outcome of bonding request

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, May 15, 2024

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As this year’s legislative session nears its end, The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota, waits to hear whether a requested $20M in funding from this year’s bonding bill will be approved to support its ongoing Minnesota BioImaging Center (MBiC) project. 

MBiC would expand the Institute’s capabilities, provide essential workforce training that is in high global demand, and offer unparalleled, statewide STEM education opportunities for students from K-12 up to the graduate level.

The entire cost of the MBiC Phase 1 budget is estimated to cost $50 million. 

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One particular piece of equipment that will be installed later this year as part of the MBiC will be the first of its kind in North America, expanding the research facility’s capabilities to include tomography (cryoET). In 2016, the Institute was the seventh in the United States to obtain a Titan Krios Cryo Electron microscope (cryoEM), the Nobel-prize winning technology that helps advance the understanding of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, coronavirus and other viruses, prion diseases like chronic wasting disease, and more. 

In late April, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz visited the Institute to meet with local leaders and learn more about its biomedical research progress, including with MBiC. Walz has been a strong advocate for the Institute in the past having supported its expansions in 2008 and 2016 and securing over $2 million for technology acquisitions when he was a U.S. representative. 

“I think it [the vision of MBiC] fits with where we see ourselves as a state [in the future] … a future around … green energy, sustainable agriculture, and the ability to feed a very hungry world … and the ability to be one of the nation’s designated biotech hubs,” Walz said during the visit. 

“[This isn’t] just an Austin project,”  said Sen. Gene Dornink during a press conference at the Minnesota State Capitol in April. “This is with Mayo Clinic, University of Minnesota, and this is going to impact the state, the nation, and the world, because they are leading in cancer research and treatment.” 

What Institute researchers and experts hope state leaders and the public understand is that to secure Minnesota’s position as a national leader in biomedical research, the time to support MBiC is now. 

“We need to move as quickly as we possibly can. These technologies move quickly. We’re at the forefront. We need to stay there,” said The Hormel Institute Executive Director Dr. Robert Clarke. “We don’t want to take a step back, and then try and play catch-up. We want to [stay] where we are and keep pushing forward.” 

The session comes to an end Monday with several bills yet undecided, including the bonding bill. In a Minnesota Public Radio story earlier this week, it was reported that there was a consensus that general borrowing be kept below $980 million.

Support for MBiC in the 2024 state bonding bill (House Bill #HF566 and Senate Bill SF #SF452) can be made to state representatives and senators. You can find your legislators’ contact information by visiting the Minnesota State Legislature website.