Research and innovation continues to grow at Fresno State. For the fourth consecutive year, the University received a record amount in research grants and contracts to fund projects across campus: from Alzheimer’s research to energy innovations, from public health needs to the support of dairy businesses.

Fresno State received 418 grants or contracts for a total of $54.7 million during the 2021-22 academic year. That’s a 13.4% increase in funding over the previous year, when the total was $48.2 million.

“The phenomenal growth and success of research grants on our campus reflect the synergy between faculty, staff, administrators and our grant managers in the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs,” said Dr. Joy Goto, interim dean of the Division of Research and Graduate Studies. “The sustainability of Fresno State research relies on a comprehensively supported plan at all levels of pre-awards, post-awards and facility resources. This growth and sustainability benefit our graduate and undergraduate students, along with the community, the region and beyond.”

The grants varied in amounts and were awarded by nationally-known science and agricultural institutions, state agencies and local organizations looking to collaborate on projects that can benefit the related industries and the Central Valley. Here is a look at some notable grants and contracts from the past year:

  • $5 million from the California Energy Commission to Helle Petersen of the Water, Energy and Technology (WET) Center for The BlueTechValley: Central Valley Regional Innovation Cluster. The initiative aims to spur entrepreneurship in the areas of water and energy management.
  • $1.8 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to Dr. Carmen Licon in the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, to create a “Pacific Coast Coalition” in support of dairy businesses in California, Oregon and Washington in the development, production, marketing and distribution of dairy products. 
  • $576,114 from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory to Dr. Peter Kinman in the Lyles College of Engineering to support communication networks for spacecraft missions.
  • $557,014 from the National Institutes of Health to chemistry professor Dr. Santanu Maitra for research in the discovery of Alzheimer’s disease drugs.
  • $1.5 million California Department of Public Health contract to Donna DeRoo, assistant director for the Central California Center for Health and Human Services. The project, San Joaquin Valley Public Health Consortium Equitable Response and Recovery, will analyze racial/ethnic health equity issues in the San Joaquin Valley.

The grant from the National Institutes of Health will fund Alzheimer’s drug research on the Fresno State campus.

“We are trying to make small molecules, like medicine, that will get into your brain and reduce the production of ApoE,” Maitra said . ApoE, or apolipoprotein, is the gene most commonly associated with Alzheimer’s disease. About 15% to 25% of the general population carries an ApoE e4 allele, which is associated with getting the disease at an earlier age.

It has been a long road for Maitra, who has tried to get funding for his idea for the past 12 years. 

“Getting this grant seems like a miracle,” he said. He added that his idea is “high-risk and unusual,” but that sometimes, “strange and crazy ideas can work.”

Maitra also hopes this grant will lay the groundwork for something much bigger.

“I am hoping this grant can be used as a seed grant to attract more funding for memory studies,” he said. “This grant can be the gateway to a really successful future.”