Two CVM RIR Proposals Selected for University Strategic Plan Funding

June 8, 2023

The spring 2023 Research & Innovation Roundtable (RIR) yielded four projects that have been selected for seed funding support from the Office of the President. Two of those projects are being led by College of Veterinary Medicine faculty and are viewed as investments in the future of Iowa State University, as outlined in the 2022-2031 Strategic Plan.

The RIR program is administered by the Office of the Vice President for Research. Each RIR is structured to bring together diverse disciplines and points of view from around the university in a collaborative environment to surface big and bold interdisciplinary research ideas. Faculty members share their respective interests and areas of expertise then participate in topic-specific breakout sessions. Each breakout group reports their top take-aways and the entire gathering is given time to support formation of self-assembled teams.

The spring RIR focused on the overarching topic of Healthy Iowa – enhancing the health of all that live and grow in Iowa, from plants to animals to people. Ninety-nine Iowa State faculty registered and 75 participated in the Spring event. Nine self-formed teams submitted proposals after the March 10 RIR and four were selected for support. All proposals were evaluated by program facilitators. Those projects selected for funding had to align with the Iowa State 2022-2031 Strategic plan and the teams had to be comprised of members from different disciplines who employ different research approaches and methods.

Peter Dorhout, Vice President for Research, is excited by the faculty’s engagement with the RIR program during the 2023 fiscal year.

“Seven colleges and more than 30 departments participated in each event. The 75 attendees in the spring were up from 48 in the fall. For Iowa State to truly be a trusted partner for proactive and innovative solutions, we must be a university that cultivates a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment where students, faculty and staff flourish,” Dorhout said. “The RIR program has successfully brought together researchers from all four corners of campus with a common goal of sharing their diverse perspectives, expertise and ideas to identify critical areas of need and research-driven solutions that simply can’t come from singular disciplines, approaches or methodologies.”

Here are overviews of the two College of Veterinary Medicine Healthy Iowa RIR research project selected for strategic investment.

Project Title: Developing and Implementing a Web-interface Model for Real-time Analysis and Visualization of Animal Health Threats

Principal Investigator: Giovani Trevisan, assistant professor, Veterinary Diagnostics and Production Animal Medicine


  • Oliver Eulenstein, professor, Computer Science
  • Daniel Linhares, associate professor, Veterinary Diagnostics and Production Animal Medicine
  • Christopher Rademacher, clinical professor, Veterinary Diagnostics and Production Animal Medicine, and interim director, Iowa Pork Industry Center
  • Phillip Gauger, professor, Veterinary Diagnostics and Production Animal Medicine
  • Michael Zeller, postdoc, Veterinary Diagnostics and Production Animal Medicine

Other Investigators Integral to the Project’s Success:

  • Guilherme Cezar, graduate student, Veterinary Diagnostics and Production Animal Medicine
  • Srijita Chandra, graduate student, Computer Science
  • Sriram Vijendran, graduate student, Computer Science
  • Kinath Rupashinghe, software developer, Veterinary Diagnostics and Production Animal Medicine
  • Tina Peterson, technical project specialist, Veterinary Diagnostics and Production Animal Medicine

Proposed Project Summary
Swine, and the pork and pork-derived products that come from these animals, are vital to the Iowa and U.S. livestock economy. Iowa is the largest swine-producing state, with an inventory of 22.8 million head and 5,400 pig farms. Across the state in 2019, more than 147,000 jobs – one in nearly 10 working Iowans – were associated with the state’s pork industry. It comes as no surprise, then, that a major disease outbreak can have a significant impact on not only the swine industry itself, but also the economy and the food supply in Iowa and across the nation. In addition, animal diseases and their impact on the farm economy can inflict stress and take a significant toll on the mental health of farmers and agricultural workers.

Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS), caused by the PRRS virus (PRRSV) is one of the swine industry’s costliest diseases. PRRSV is also the disease agent with the largest number of genetic sequences deposited into a private collective – the multi-institutional Swine Disease Reporting System (SDRS) housed at Iowa State University. Using the data shared with SDRS as a model, the team behind this collaboration will leverage artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and 3D web-based interactive visualization to create a user-friendly system that would alert Iowans to the detection of novel strains, or reemergence of health threats, in the early stages of the disease process. With this information in hand, stakeholders can make better-informed decisions earlier to mitigate the spread of imminent animal health threats such as PRRS.

“Dr. Eulenstein and I are very excited to receive this funding to bring together our highly collaborative, interdisciplinary team,” said PI Giovani Trevisan. “By combining computer science and veterinary expertise, we are well-positioned to apply sophisticated machine-learning methods to deliver novel approaches and information to alert Iowans about arising health threats. The products generated will provide stakeholders a much-needed powerful computational tool to detect new and emerging PRRSV strains coupled with an easy-to-use web-visualization interface.”

University Strategic Plan Aspirational Statement This Plan Advances

  • To be the university that creates opportunities and forges new frontiers

Potential External Funding Partners and Opportunities

This project will lay the foundation for the team to apply for funding from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) programs. The team’s significant ties to the swine industry position it well to apply for private sector funds related to swine health and production. Additional potential funding candidates include: the Swine Health and Information Center (SHIC), Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA), American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV), and the Growing Research and New Technology for Swine (GRANTS) program, sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim.

Project Title: Development of Next-generation Detection and Sampling Platforms for Zoonotic Pathogens in the Food Chain

Principal Investigator: Orhan Sahin, associate professor, Veterinary Diagnostics and Production Animal Medicine


  • Muslum Ilgu, Research Scientist III, Veterinary Microbiology and Preventive Medicine, Adjunct Assistant Prof., Roy J. Carver Department of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology
  • Amanda Kreuder, assistant professor, Veterinary Microbiology and Preventive Medicine at Iowa State University
  • Lie Tang, professor, Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering
  • Meng Lu, associate professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Qijing Zhang, Clarence Hartley Covault Distinguished Professor, Dr. Roger and Marilyn Mahr Chair in One Health, Veterinary Microbiology and Preventive Medicine

Proposed Project Summary
Foodborne diseases, caused by a variety of pathogenic microorganisms associated with food, represent a significant threat to One Health. In the U.S., the CDC estimates foodborne pathogens cause 9.4 million illnesses, nearly 56,000 hospitalizations and more than 1,300 deaths a year. In addition to the health impact, foodborne diseases make an enormous impact on the food industry each year due to product recalls and the need to sometimes terminate animal flocks or herds for safety reasons.

Successful control of foodborne diseases requires sensitive, rapid and reliable detection methods in both preharvest (on-farm) and postharvest (processing plants and the food chain) environments. One of the major challenges in detecting pathogens like SalmonellaE. coli and Campylobacter, is the need to analyze a wide variety of complex samples – from feed, water and feces to air, whole carcass and carcass wash – along the steps of the production system.

The team behind this project will explore developing a platform that uses robotics, machine learning, microbiology and sensor technologies to address the urgent need for developing an automated, rapid and reproducible sample collection and pathogen detection system for the food chain. The platform could be used for multiple purposes: it would drastically improve the speed, accuracy and reliability of pathogen detection; and it could be used for precision livestock farming as it could be easily adapted for real-time monitoring of on-farm health and environmental status. The outcome of this effort will position Iowa State to be a national and international leader in automated pathogen detection and the fight against foodborne diseases.

“The university strategic plan seed funding will enable us to jump start our work to develop practical and sustainable solutions for some of the most critical problems the food production industry has been dealing with for many decades,” said PI Orhan Sahin. “Tackling such complex and multidimensional issues requires a true multidisciplinary approach. Our research team has the capacity and capability for such an effort, as it has diverse and complementary expertise in microbiology, chemistry and aptamer technology, sensor development and robotics.”

University Strategic Plan Aspirational Statement This Plan Advances

  • To be the university that creates opportunities and forges new frontiers
  • To be the trusted partner for proactive and innovative solutions

Potential External Funding Partners and Opportunities

The results from this project will provide preliminary data to seek from funding from USDA-NIFA, including the Sustainable Agriculture Systems and Foundational and Applied Science programs. A multi-institutional effort has already been established to submit a USDA SAS proposal to help the turkey industry address the Salmonella challenge. Co-PI Zhang is leading that effort and all investigators attached to this RIR project will be key players in the SAS proposal. Additionally, the pathogen detection platform can also be used to apply for NIH grants as detection of various pathogens from clinical samples is also challenging and a key NIH priority. In addition, NSF has several relevant programs including Foundational Research in Robotics and Biosensing (Biophotonics and Engineering Biomedical Systems programs) that could be funding options as well.