Morgan State University receives $352,000 grant from the Abell Foundation for plant science research

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Morgan State University announced today that it has received $352,000 from the Abell Foundation to help fund its state-of-the-art greenhouse facility and enhance training and research in plant science technology.

The funds are expected to help prepare students for jobs with employers such as Vitreon America, a medicinal botanical company that explores how plants can be used to make medicine.

Vitreon disclosed this month that is it moving its headquarters to Baltimore and will be creating about 200 jobs over the next two years. Gov. Larry Hogan and other state officials announced that Vitreon is forming a strategic research alliance with Morgan as part of its move from northern Virginia to 1100 Wicomico Street.

“We are grateful to the Abell Foundation for its investment in the university and for recognizing the critical role that Morgan can play in important research such as the work we will engage in with Vitreon,” said Morgan President David Wilson, in a statement. “As Maryland’s preeminent public urban research institution, Morgan welcomes the opportunity to partner with Vitreon… and we are eager to get to work improving the lives of Marylanders and, of course, our students.”

The funds from Abell will be used to purchase specialized laboratory equipment and to buy, transport, and cultivate plants in Morgan’s greenhouse facility to provide advanced botanical research, testing, and training. Abell’s investment will also be used to help Morgan identify and validate certain plant-based compounds.

In its alliance with Vitreon, Morgan’s faculty and students will collaborate with company scientists to investigate the medicinal properties and commercial applications of botanicals. Morgan’s partnership will optimize its ability to secure new federal agricultural and botanical sciences grant opportunities focused on these research areas.

“We saw this as an opportunity to build on Morgan State University’s strengths in science education and support a new generation of scientists who can leverage the power of plants to secure research funding and create new knowledge,” said Abell Foundation President Robert C. Embry, Jr., in a statement.”Vitreon will catalyze that process with its plant database and ability to generate commercial applications.”

Joseph Whittaker, director of Morgan’s Biomedical Research Center Program, will oversee implementation of the grant and take the lead on the Morgan State University/Vitreon America partnership.

“This partnership will afford significant growth and advancement in research and training … at the university,” Whittaker said. “Faculty and student collaborations with Vitreon scientists will not only expand MSU’s research capacity and skills inventory but also foster the cultivation of a unique, multi-disciplinary training environment that will support the state of Maryland in realizing its [research and development] potential.

  1. Randall Hoggle, chairman of the board of Vitreon America, said he believes moving to Baltimore will also benefit the company.

“Baltimore offers all the business, scientific, and medical attributes that we need in order to capitalize on the vast potential of this industry,” he said in a statement.

Ed Gunts

Ed Gunts is a local freelance writer and the former architecture critic for The Baltimore Sun.
Ed Gunts

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