Wal-Mart Foundation Donates $369,000 to ASU's Arkansas Biosciences Institute

Wal-Mart Foundation Donates $369,000 to ASU's Arkansas Biosciences Institute
From left: Robert L. Potts, Elizabeth Hood, Gov. Mike Beebe, Tony Fuller, Laurie Smalling and Glen Jones accept a $369,000 check from the Wal-Mart Foundation to fund research at the Arkansas Biosciences Institute.

The Wal-Mart Foundation donated $369,000 to the Arkansas Biosciences Institute at Arkansas State University today in Gov. Mike Beebe's conference room at the Capitol.

According to a news release, the donation will be used to meet the cost share requirement for a U.S. Department of Energy grant awarded to the university.

"The level of confidence in ASU-Jonesboro shown by the Wal-Mart Foundation is very gratifying," Chancellor Robert L. Potts said. "Dr. Elizabeth Hood's research into new biofuels technology has the potential to contribute to the development of a knowledge-based economy in Arkansas."

The U.S. Department of Energy funding requires a minimum, non-federal cost-share of 20 percent to develop the technology to enable the biomass-to-ethanol industry.

"Wal-Mart has a proven record of making charitable contributions that support initiatives in education, economic opportunity, the environment and health and human services," Les Wyatt, president of the Arkansas State University System said. "These initiatives coincide extremely well with the statewide mission of the Arkansas Biosciences Institute at ASU."

ABI is pursuing the commercialization of biobased product development built upon Arkansas' agriculture and forestry resources.

"ASU is in a position to perform significant research into technology that will benefit biofuel production," said Elizabeth Hood, professor of agriculture. "This could provide farmers with additional income and a further benefit could help the U.S. reduce our dependence on foreign oil."

The Wal-Mart grant will support research focused on making ethanol from plant stalks and leaves, agricultural residues and forestry residues.

"Wal-Mart is committed to exploring innovative fuels and finding viable alternatives to fossil fuels," said Laurie Smalling, Wal-Mart's senior manager of public affairs. "Arkansas State University's research efforts are in line with our commitment to encourage energy independence in our country."

ASU opened the $20 million Institute in September 2004, with Carole Cramer as its executive director.

ASU has the rights to any intellectual property developed at the institute. Annual funding is $3 million-$4 million. ABI was created as the major research component of the Tobacco Settlement Proceeds Act of 2000.

Scientists from the five member campuses-Arkansas Children's Hospital, ASU, the University of Arkansas-Division of Agriculture, the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences-focus on agriculture and basic and clinical science research aimed at health improvement, especially in the area of tobacco-related diseases.