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USDA-ARS Employees Receive Top Technology Transfer Awards

— April 29, 2024

In partnership with Aimmune Therapeutics, Maleki and Cheng developed an oral immunotherapy treatment to gradually desensitize peanut allergic individuals to peanut.

Researchers from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) received awards during the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer (FLC)’s 2024 National Meeting on April 10, 2024, in Dallas, Texas.

The FLC Awards honor the nation’s top scientists, researchers, and professionals working in federal technology transfer, which turns cutting-edge research into impactful products and services.

Research Engineer Daniel Martin of the ARS Aerial Application Technology Research Unit in College Station, Texas, received the Excellence in Technology Transfer Award. Martin partnered with the Texas Weather Modification Association to develop the Aerial Electrostatic System for Weather Modification, an innovative and safe way of seeding clouds without using chemicals.

The system involves fitting aircraft with a specialized spraying system that releases positively charged water droplets to bind with negatively charged water molecules in the clouds. These droplets bind to positively charged water droplets, which increases rainfall. This technology not only helps save crops during extreme drought seasons but also has many other applications, such as improving air quality.

Research Geneticist Brian Bosworth and Research Molecular Biologist Geoff Waldbieser of the ARS Warmwater Aquaculture Research Unit in Stoneville, Mississippi, received the Impact Award. To help catfish farmers breed more genetically improved fish with desirable traits, Bosworth and Waldbieser used sophisticated genetic and genomic selection techniques to produce a line of channel catfish called Delta Select.

Bosworth and Waldbieser developed the Delta Select catfish to have a 25 percent increase in growth rate and 0.9 percent greater carcass yield. Growth rate and carcass yield are two of the most important factors in making catfish farming more economically efficient. In March 2020, ARS released 180,000 pounds (90,000 head) of Delta Select channel catfish to 12 commercial catfish producers. The release of the Delta Select channel catfish line provides U.S. catfish farmers with a product with better performance and increased profitability.

Research Chemists Soheila J. Maleki and Hsiaopo Cheng of the ARS Southern Regional Research Center’s Food Processing and Sensory Quality Research Unit in New Orleans, Louisiana, received the Outstanding Research Team Award. In partnership with Aimmune Therapeutics, Maleki and Cheng developed an oral immunotherapy treatment to gradually desensitize peanut allergic individuals to peanut.

Their collaboration led to the pharmaceutical Palforzia®, an oral immunotherapy treatment for peanut allergy sufferers – Palforzia is the first food to ever be characterized as a pharmaceutical and the first food-allergy treatment approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Research Leader David Suarez of the U.S. National Poultry Research Center’s Exotic and Emerging Avian Viral Disease Research Unit in Athens, Georgia, received the Interagency Partnership Award. Suarez was part of an interagency team for the “Protecting Wildlife: The California Condor Project.” The interagency team developed and implemented a historic vaccination plan to protect the endangered California condors from Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI).

Researchers plan to continue vaccinating all wild and captive condors against HPAI. Through the determined efforts of the interagency team members, the unique program is helping prevent the extinction of a critically endangered species. The HPAI vaccine also holds the distinction of being first in the U.S. to protect against HPAI and the one of the firsts to protect an endangered species.

USDA ARS logo courtesy of USDA-ARS.
USDA ARS logo courtesy of USDA-ARS.

The Agricultural Research Service is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific in-house research agency. Daily, ARS focuses on solutions to agricultural problems affecting America. Each dollar invested in agricultural research results in $20 of economic impact.

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