Make your home page

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Farmer sentiment about the agricultural economy took a nosedive last month, according to the latest survey data from the Purdue University-CME Group Ag Economy Barometer. The monthly reading plummeted to a reading of 99, down from 121 in April. Purdue ag economists say it was the weakest farmer sentiment reading since April 2020.

The Purdue Center for Commercial Agriculture, which conducts the survey, says this month saw a rise in the percentage of respondents who feel their farm is worse off financially now than a year earlier, an indication that escalating production costs are troubling producers.

“The percentage of people responding worse off jumped from 38% last month to 54% in May, while the percentage saying that they were better off declined from 23% in April to just 14% in May,” explained Jim Mintert, director of the Purdue Center for Commercial Agriculture.

Mintert says the deep dip in May was just the ninth time the barometer fell below 100 since the launch of the monthly survey in the fall of 2015.

Despite strong commodity prices, producers are very concerned about their farms’ financial performance in 2022. Mintert says weakness in producers’ sentiment appears to be driven by the rapid rise in production costs and uncertainty about where input prices are headed.

“43% of producers in this month’s survey said high input prices is their number one concern followed by availability of inputs. Their third concern was lower crop or livestock prices. But it’s interesting to note that high input prices is much higher ranked by producers than lower crop or livestock prices,” said Mintert.

The Purdue University-CME Group Ag Economy Barometer sentiment index is calculated each month from 400 U.S. agricultural producers’ responses. Click here to view the full report.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — For nearly a half century, Purdue University researcher Dr. Philip Low has worked in his laboratory in West Lafayette, testing and developing therapies for a range of human maladies and pathologies. Most recently, one of his discoveries for the treatment of advanced prostate cancer was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. His legacy in Indiana’s life sciences sector is well-noted, having sold his biopharmaceutical company Endocyte in a $2.1 billion deal in 2018.

Even though he has started seven companies and has been successful in getting several of his life-saving treatments approved by the FDA, Low told Business of Health reporter Kylie Veleta he is not ready to retire.

“I’ve thought often about retirement. As a matter of fact, I speak with my wife often about it. But in all fairness, ideas come to me very easily and very rapidly,” said Low.

Low is not a pharmaceutical scientist by training. He uses his expertise in chemistry to approach and address medical conditions.

Low says he has “many, really good ideas” for treating such diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s, influenza, and COVID 19. While many of his ideas are at molecular level, some of his concepts even address bone fractures.

“I would feel that almost negligent of me to retire now and not do what I can do for people that are still suffering from these various pathologies and maladies,” said Low, the Ralph C. Corley Distinguished Professor of Chemistry in the Purdue University College of Science.

Last month, the FDA approved the drug marketed as Pluvicto for the treatment of advanced prostate cancer. Low says the therapy offers newfound hope for men who have run out of treatment options.

Pluvicto is based on a molecule that Low discovered in his Purdue lab years ago. The precision treatment offers targeted therapy in searching and destroying cancer cells.

“[It] simply concentrates radioactivity only in cancer cells and avoids the uptake by adjacent healthy cells,” said Low. “And by increasing their concentration in these malignant cells, it leads to the rapid death of the malignant cells and preservation of the life of the adjacent healthy cells.”

The technology is marketed through Switzerland-based Novartis Inc. The healthcare giant picked up the therapy when it purchased Low’s Purdue-based startup Endocyte five years ago.

In a Phase III study, the targeted treatment along with the normal standard of care had a 38% reduction in the risk of death compared with the standard of care alone.

The Pluvicto support is the second FDA approval for Low in the past six months. In November, the FDA approved a new imaging drug called Cytalux that was also developed by Low. The innovation helps to assist surgeons in identifying ovarian cancer lesions during surgery with the use of fluorescent technology.

“It’s been very rewarding to finally see a few of these drugs that we’ve been optimizing in the pipeline for many years, make it through the very arduous process of FDA approval and finally being approved for distribution to people,” Low said. “And what’s even more rewarding, frankly, are the emails that I frequently received from patients that benefit from these medicines. They acknowledge how much it has helped their health and how happy they are and how it enables them to be with their families longer and enjoy a greater, better quality of life. So that’s extremely rewarding.”

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Farmer sentiment on the agricultural economy ticked higher in April, but farmers are still showing less confidence than last year. The monthly Purdue University/CME Group Ag Economy Barometer improved eight points in April, however it remains 32% below its reading April 2021.

“Rising prices for major commodities, especially corn and soybeans, appear to be leading the change in producers’ improved financial outlook,” said Jim Mintert, director of Purdue University’s Center for Commercial Agriculture. “However, it’s hard to overstate the magnitude of the cost increases producers say they are facing.”

The Purdue Center for Commercial Agriculture says Eastern Corn Belt cash prices for corn in mid-April rose more than 10% above their mid-March levels.

Even as commodity prices have strengthened, Mintert says 42% of producers surveyed say higher input costs are the top concern for their farming operation. And the future does not bode well either. The barometer reveals 60% of survey respondents say they expect input prices to rise by 30% over the next 12 months.

Despite an overall improved financial performance outlook, Mintert says many farmers feel now is not the right time to make large investment in their farming operations. Some of that is due to low machinery inventories.

“The rising cost of all inputs, including machinery, buildings, and grain bins, is likely another factor causing producers to say now is not a good time for large investments,” said Mintert.

The barometer is calculated each month from 400 U.S. agricultural producers’ responses.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — West Lafayette-based Novilytic LLC has completed a $1.6 million seed round with support from the Purdue Foundry and Elevate Ventures. The biochemistry analytics company, which is headquartered at the Purdue Research Park, says it protects and secures lifesaving drugs through the use of nanotechnology.

The company says its technology is used by pharmaceutical chemists to test antibody quality in-process to ensure there are not structural problems with drugs being developed.

“Novilytic’s innovative solution and expanding product suite for pharma manufacturing have the potential to significantly change the value stream,” said Mark Gramelspacher, entrepreneur-in-residence at Elevate Ventures. “The company’s technology can ultimately improve patient safety, increase efficiency and improve quality, a triple win in the supply chain. We’re thrilled to continue our support of Novilytic as they enter its next phase of growth.”

Novilytic says it has added nine new employees within the last year and will be expanding within the next several months.

“Momentum fosters success, and the support from investment partners like the Purdue Foundry and Elevate Ventures allows Novilytic to stay ahead of our road map while scaling our organization,” said Paul Dreier, the company’s CEO. “We are thankful for the support from the private sector and federal government grants, which will expedite our growth and allow us to continue to get our name out in the market.”

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – West Lafayette-based startup Adranos Inc. has closed on a $20 million Series A funding round to help the company continue development of solid rocket fuel and motors for long-range missiles and space systems.

The company says the funding will allow it to grow staff and further-scale its manufacturing capacity. Adranos founders developed a proprietary aluminum-lithium alloy fuel called ALITEC that they say significantly increases the range, payload performance, and speed of defense and space systems.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Chris Stoker and Vice President of Space Systems and Government Relations Michael Grasso said the technology is what their customers, U.S. government and defense contractors, are looking for.

“You have an incredible product that we’ve established in the past and you need people in process to be able to provide that product to the world and that’s what the raise (Series A funding) is really all about,” said Stoker. “[That] is to help us obtain the capital, to provide our products to our customers…so that we can be more competitive in the changing landscape of the world.”

In an interview with IIB, Chris Stoker explains growing demand for the technology from the defense sector.

Co-founded in 2015, Adranos manufactures solid rocket motor propulsion systems for hypersonic boosters, tactical missiles, space launch vehicles, and other platforms.

The Series A funding round closed after Adranos successfully completed a test campaign of ALITEC-fueled tactical missile-sized solid rocket motors for the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force. In 2019, Adranos conducted similar testing for the U.S. Army, and this recent testing revealed exponential power growth.

“To put that campaign in context, we built and tested solid rocket motors that were about 10 times larger than what we had built in the past. That was a significant step up in capability,” said Grasso. “With this funding, we’re going to be able to scale and meet all sorts of new and interesting opportunities as they come our way.”

Participation in this round of funding came from Impala Asset Management LLC, Explorer1 Fund, Elevate Ventures, and Specific Impulse Capital.

“We see significant market potential for Adranos in defense and space,” said Bob Bishop, chief information officer and founder at Impala Asset Management. “It’s apparent to me that Adranos directly addresses the needs of the U.S. Department of Defense as well as defense and commercial space launch entities.”

The company currently employs about two dozen workers between its headquarters and manufacturing facility at the Purdue Research Park in West Lafayette and its research and development and primary production operations in southern Mississippi. Stoker expects the staffing size will double by the end of 2023.

“I’m not at all surprised by the traction we’ve gotten from customers, or that the interest we’ve gotten from investors, because I’ve known for years that we have a phenomenal product that can have a huge impact on the world,” Stoker said. “National security and commercial space customers want substantially more performance from solid rocket motors, and that is exactly what we offer them.”

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — For the second time in less than six months, cancer-focused medical innovation based on work by Purdue University researcher Dr. Philip Low has received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The new precision treatment is used on patients with advanced prostate cancer, one of the most common cancers among American men. In a Phase III study, the targeted treatment along with the normal standard of care had a 38% reduction in the risk of death compared with the standard of care alone.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Low said the FDA gave the treatment higher classification.

“After demonstrating a remarkable benefit to prostate cancer patients, the FDA actually assigned it breakthrough status, which is unusual,” said Low, the Ralph C. Corley Distinguished Professor of Chemistry in the Purdue University College of Science. “And then after that, they ushered it through the approval process as quickly as possible. And now it’s available.”

The technology will now be marketed through Switzerland-based Novartis Inc., which in 2018 acquired Low’s biopharmaceutical company Endocyte in a $2 billion deal.

Low says this treatment gives certain prostate cancer patients with advanced cases new hope when there are no other options.

“Metastatic castration resistant prostate cancer is a late stage of the cancer that no longer responds to essentially any drug. When they [FDA] saw that this actually reduced the probability of mortality and improved progression free survival, and the quality of life of these patients, they recognize that this was a significant benefit to this population and elected to move it forward rapidly and make it available.”

In November, the FDA approved a new imaging drug called Cytalux that was also developed by Low. The innovation helps to assist surgeons in identifying ovarian cancer lesions during surgery with the use of fluorescent technology. That technology is marketed by West Lafayette-based On Target Laboratories Inc.

After his initial research, Low disclosed it to the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization.

“The Office of Technology Commercialization receives over 400 invention disclosures from researchers each year and licenses over 200 technologies annually. We continue to search for commercialization partners for these technologies and work closely with them to support their efforts to translate the technology to the market to improve the world,” said Brooke Beier, senior vice president of commercialization at the Purdue Research Foundation.

The icon of Indiana’s life sciences sector says he’s proud of both and would not rank one accomplishment over the other.

Looking ahead, Low says the same Cytalux fluorescent dye technology used in spotting ovarian cancer tumors is also being tested for prostate cancer. He says it is currently in Phase II clinical trials and will hopefully and eventually get FDA approval.

“I just feel blessed to have had an opportunity to work on meaningful projects throughout my career and even more blessed to have had an impact on one unnecessary source of pain and morbidity,” Low said. “I suspect that almost everyone knows someone who has suffered with prostate cancer, and it has been very rewarding to finally be able to impact this horrible disease.”

Low explains in an interview with Inside INdiana Business reporter Wes Mills the significance of the FDA approval

INDIANAPOLIS (Inside INdiana Business) — Agriculture is big business in Indiana, measuring more than $31 billion in cash receipts each year. But there is a new effort to support small businesses and entrepreneurs that want to take advantage of the agricultural sector. The state Tuesday announced the launch of the Agribusiness Initiative.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Indiana State Department of Agriculture Director Bruce Kettler explained the program will be able to help producers that may be looking for new opportunities.

“There are resources that these companies want, and these companies need. In some cases, it could go from a farmer that’s looking for a way to maybe take a crop or livestock that they’re producing and figure out a way to be able to get into new markets,” said Kettler. “That’s what we can do.”

Kettler explains how agripreneurs can benefit from the program.

The ISDA is partnering with the Indiana Small Business Development Center, Purdue Center for Regional Development, and Purdue Extension to launch the effort. The partners say the initiative will help businesses that range from producers and processors of agricultural commodities to manufacturers of value-added products.

Kettler says the economic disruption of the pandemic and the assorted challenges has also led to innovation and business opportunities.

“I think anybody that’s looking to become an entrepreneur or is growing and expanding a business that’s already there, sometimes those difficult times. Sometimes those things that squeeze a business forces us into looking at innovation and finding ways to do it better to do it quicker to do it more efficiently,” said Kettler.

The program will offer a variety of business advice and training, product development and access to U.S. Department of Agriculture loans. The organization says Indiana’s agricultural prowess is also driving exploration, experimentation and innovation.

“Entrepreneurs and small businesses are fundamental to the future growth and sustainability of communities across the state, and this partnership will focus on providing small Hoosier agribusinesses with the tools, resources and training they need to start, grow and innovate,” said David Watkins, Indiana SBDC state director and Indiana Economic Development Corporation vice president of small business.

The Purdue partners will offer their combined expertise, research, and outreach efforts to help drive the Indiana SBDC’s goals to better serve developing agribusinesses and farms.

“Over the past few decades, the needs of Hoosier agribusinesses have rapidly evolved,” said Bruce Kettler, director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture. “This initiative recognizes the critical role agribusinesses, supply networks and distribution channels play in helping to ensure a strong Indiana economy.”

Click here to learn more about the Agribusiness Initiative.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Purdue University is continuing to build upon its foundation as a leading research institution for the U.S. armed forces and national security. It is one of two universities recently selected by the Air Force Research Laboratory to serve as lead academic partner and headquarters for the just-formed AFRL Regional Research Hub. The AFRL says the program will help create a science and technology ecosystem.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Jeff Rhoads, director of Herrick Labs at Purdue, said the collaboration will help expedite the development of quickly advancing technologies.

“Fundamentally, I think the Air Force is looking at how they can better engage their stakeholders, but also look at how they can vertically integrate not only the really interesting research and workforce development activities happening in universities… but small, medium and large sized businesses…as well as folks like venture capital.”

Purdue will lead the AFRL Regional Research Hub – Midwest, which covers 15 states, more than a dozen research schools and 50 industrial partners.

“With fresh, synergistic thinking and joint action with our partners across academia, industry and government, we will create an agile ecosystem that builds upon recent advancements and can respond at speed and scale to the increasingly complex national security landscape,” Rhoads said. “By having all partners in the technology supply chain from the onset, we have the ability to more rapidly transition critical technologies to the United States Air Force and Space Force, as well as commercial markets.”

The formation of the AFRL Regional Research Hub network is a pilot initiative, with the first part of the pilot covering the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions, with expansion to other regions possible in the future. Cornell University will serve as academic lead in the Mid-Atlantic hub.

“The hope is that more technologies can transition not only to the warfighter, but also the commercial market where there’s a clear dual use,” said Rhoads.

The Air Force Research Lab, which is headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, says through the new network, it will be able to share costs and risks of technology innovation. It can also provide experiential learning opportunities.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business reporter Wes Mills, Rhoads explained the need to protect intellectual property while collaborating on technology.

Rhoads says landing the hub notches another win for the state.

“This gives the Air Force One more foot in the state of Indiana and so we’re super excited to say this is actually making Indiana State where there’s a AFRL presence and we think that can only help the state,” said Rhoads.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — A monthly survey conducted by economists at Purdue University shows farmer sentiment about the agricultural economy continues to fluctuate, as farmers worry about costs associated with the upcoming planting season. The February Purdue/CME Ag Economy Barometer rose six points from last month’s reading.

Purdue says the shift in sentiment was primarily attributed to producers expressing a bit more optimism about the future than in January because of improving grain prices. Still, the survey shows deep concerns about the growing cost to farm.

“These survey responses suggest that concerns about the spike in production costs and supply chain issues continue to mostly outweigh the impact of the commodity price rally that’s been underway this winter,” said Jim Mintert, director of Purdue University’s Center for Commercial Agriculture.

Higher input costs have consistently been the number one concern identified by farmers over the past six-months, according to the survey.

Mintert points out the survey was conducted several days before Russia invaded Ukraine. That’s relevant because Russia ranks number one and Ukraine number 5 in global wheat exports, accounting for 30% of all wheat shipments.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Purdue University Professor Mark Lundstrom says almost every week he is talking with technology companies that are considering building a plant in various states, including Indiana, to manufacture microchips and other advanced systems. He spent a career working and teaching in the field of electrical and computer engineering and is a leading expert in semiconductor devices and nanoscale transistors. Lundstrom says the microelectronics industry is quickly changing and a global shortage of microchips is just a part of the puzzle.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Lundstrom said the manufacturers always seem to ask the same question. “The first thing they always talk to us about is ‘can we get the talent we need,’” said Lundstrom.

Lundstrom says there are projections that the microelectronics industry will need 100,000 new workers over the next 10 years. Some of those jobs will be in neighboring Ohio.

California-based Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) recently announced it would invest more than $20 billion in the construction of two microchip factories in Licking County, Ohio, which is just east of Columbus. The company says the investment will help boost production to meet the surging demand for advanced semiconductors and powering a new generation of innovative products.

Intel says at full buildout, the total investment in the site could grow to as much as $100 billion over the next decade, including additional buildings, making it one of the largest semiconductor manufacturing sites in the world.

“There are only a few companies in the world that can produce the leading-edge chips. Intel is one of them,” said Lundstrom. “It will create a lot of jobs and just know they have to pull from all across the Midwest for that.”

Lundstrom believes that will mean job potential for Purdue graduates. He says Purdue is working with students beginning at the undergraduate level to show them the possibilities of careers in microelectronics and advanced packaging technologies to get them involved in related research as early as possible.

“We have one of the largest engineering and STEM programs in the nation. We’ve been a major supplier of talent to the microelectronics industry for decades. And we really have made a commitment to step up,” said Lundstrom.

Between smartphones, cars and computers, appetite for microchips is nearly insatiable. Lundstrom says the U.S. consumes 47% of all semiconductors produced globally, but it manufactures only about 12%.
Last week, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said manufacturers had less than five days’ supply of some chips on hand late last year, leaving the companies vulnerable to any disruptions in deliveries.

“The United States faces both an immediate supply shortage that’s driving up prices and a long-term threat to America’s economic and national security if we don’t increase domestic supply of chips,” said Raimondo. “As demand for semiconductors will only increase, we need smart, strategic investments to shore up our domestic supply chain – and we need it now.”

In September, the Commerce Department conducted a survey of 150 companies and it revealed manufacturers’ median chip inventory levels have plummeted from about 40 days’ supply in 2019 to less than a week.

“This is a challenge for the country to bring micro electronics manufacturing back to the US. I think you’ll see it much more broadly distributed across the country. And we’ll see this coming to the Midwest as well. And Purdue has made a commitment to play a major role in developing the talent that workforce needed for this industry.

Lundstrom says projects, like Intel’s, will also create demand for not only engineers, but skilled technicians. He says those positions may only require two years associate degree, which Lundstrom says will create an opportunity for partnerships with Ivy Tech Community College.

“This is the question they always ask us, ‘how can you work with Ivy Tech and community colleges like that because that is really the largest number of jobs are those skilled technician type of jobs. And these are really well-paying jobs,” added Lundstrom.

Construction on the 1,000-acre Ohio Intel project is expected to begin late this year. Production is expected to come online in 2025.