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InnoVac provides internship opportunity for Dordt biotech major

January 7, 2010

Biotechnology

Team up a local biotechnology firm, a college student with a biotechnology emphasis, and Dordt College’s sophisticated DNA sequencing equipment, and what do you get?

In this case, it’s a win/win situation for everyone involved.

During Dordt College’s fall semester, senior Josh Bowers from Peyton, Colo., was offered the opportunity to intern at InnoVac, a biotechnology firm located in Sioux Center. He devoted two hours a day, 10 hours a week, to an internship project that has led to his senior research proposal, “Culturing Canine Parvovirus In Vitro: Detection of Mutations.”

During the spring semester Bowers will utilize the DNA sequencer in Dordt’s Science and Technology Center to continue his canine antigen vaccine project and complete his biology degree with an emphasis in biotechnology. Basically Bowers is conducting research on an existing dog vaccine, to see if additional batches of antigens can be generated through a method of refeeding after harvest, without danger of mutation.

“We really enjoyed working with Josh,” said Dave Einerwold, business manager at InnoVac, who added that his fresh young set of eyes and excellent biotech background were very helpful. As a college student Josh liked to work at night, which also gave staff people the opportunity to maintain regular daytime hours.

InnoVac LLC is a full service, USDA-licensed contract research laboratory that opened in Sioux Center in November 2008. The facility is within easy walking distance of Dordt College, and employs three professionals with over 50 years of combined laboratory experience. They have recently expanded by adding a research farm facility with animal housing capabilities.

“Innovative research is our specialty,” says Einerwold, who adds that they’re dedicated to improving the science of vaccination thru innovation, exploration, and simplification. InnoVac works with animal health companies to develop and improve their antigens, vaccines, test assays, products and ideas. The work involves bacterial and viral antigen growth optimizations; developing challenge models; diagnostic work; immunogenicity testing; potency test development; prototype generation; pre-licensing serial generation; vaccine improvement/development; and optimizing unique in-process and quality control testing assay methods.

Bowers said because the company is so young, he had the privilege of seeing many aspects of starting up a new company. “I was really fortunate that my internship was not just working in a lab, but also interacting and learning from core team people in the firm.”

That team consists of business manager Dave Einerwold, previously with NOBL Labs and Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica; Regulatory Affairs Manager Gloria Burgers, previously with Grand Laboratories (now Novartis Animal Health), NOBL Labs, and Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica; and Research Manager Wendi Groen, previously with Trans Ova Genetics and Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica.

Einerwold extended a big thank-you to Dr. Tony Jelsma, the biotechnology program advisor at Dordt who facilitated the student intern opportunity. “The whole thing would not have been possible without his assistance and willingness to make it work.”

After completing his degree at Dordt College, Bowers plans to attend medical school, and is currently considering a career in family practice.

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