Science & Technology

Hitting A Milestone — Two USTAR Teams at Once

At Utah State University, USTAR teams have reached new milestones by working together on genomic research projects resulting in two sets of transgenic twin goats. Double the research — double the fun.

USTAR at Utah State University was designed, in part, to foster collaboration between USTAR faculty and core university faculty to build on established university research areas of strength.

Two USTAR teams, represented by Randy Lewis, of the Synthetic BioManufacturing Institute, and Irina Polejaeva, of Veterinary Diagnostics and Infectious Diseases, worked together to design the goats using genomics technology. Both sets of twins were created with different proof of concept milestones in mind.

Lewis, a member of the Synthetic BioManufacturing Institute at USU, uses transgenic goats to produce milk with spider silk proteins. The proteins are purified and spun into fibers that can be used to create technical fabrics as well as artificial ligaments and tendons. Stronger than Kevlar and more flexible than nylon, Lewis’s spider silk has been used to craft a bullet resistant skin ( and can be used to create a next generation solution for parachute cords.

Lewis selected his best spider silk milk producer, Daisy, gave her skin cells to the VDID team and asked it to create the first set of cloned spider goat twins born at Utah State University.

“Because we need large quantities of milk to get large quantities of silk, it makes sense to copy our best producer,” said Lewis.

Polejaeva, a member of the Veterinary Diagnostics and Infectious Diseases USTAR team at USU, is a cloning pioneer. In 2000 as a project manager at PPL Therapeutics, she and her team of scientists cloned the world’s first pig. Now working with goats — as goats that have been extensively used in Atrial fibrillation research — Polejaeva intends to model and answer questions regarding the nature and progression of the disease.

According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, a division of the National Institutes of Health, “Atrial fibrillation affects millions of people, and the numbers are rising. Men are more likely than women to have the condition. … The risk of AF increases as you age. … However, about half of the people who have AF are younger than 75.”

“Our goal is to have a better understanding of the mechanisms of this disease so that effective treatments for humans can be developed,” said Polejaeva. “The A-fib project is part of USU’s and the University of Utah’s USTAR collaboration efforts. This collaboration, with Lewis, moves us along in our collaboration with the University of Utah via the Utah Multidisciplinary Arrhythmia Consortium.”

Robert T. Behunin, vice president for commercialization and regional development at Utah State University, is pleased with the collaboration.

“Through collaborative efforts, both teams have been able to advance their science and achieve milestones more quickly than either team had originally planned,” he said. “The USTAR program at USU focuses on USU’s strength in life sciences. Our core of existing faculty and recent USTAR researchers make projects like this possible.”

About USTAR: The Utah Science Technology and Research initiative (USTAR) is a long-term, state-funded investment to strengthen Utah’s “knowledge economy” and generate high-paying jobs. Funded in March 2006 by the state legislature, USTAR is based on three program areas. The first area involves funding for strategic investments at the University of Utah and Utah State University to recruit world-class researchers. The second area is to build state-of-the-art interdisciplinary facilities at these institutions for the innovation teams. The third program area involves teams that work with companies and entrepreneurs across the state to promote science, innovation and commercialization activities. More information is available online or follow USTAR on Twitter.

Commercial Enterprises at Utah State University works closely with academic and industry partners to take university technologies into the marketplace. Commercial Enterprises protects Utah State University intellectual property and develops industry partnerships to leverage intellectual, financial and creative assets of Utah State University. More information about  Commercial Enterprises at USU is online at the website or call 435-797-9603. For up to the minute news, follow on Twitter.

Writer and contact: Jacoba Poppleton, 435-797-9608,

USTAR researchers Randy Lewis and Irina Polejaeva with transgenic twin goats

Randy Lewis and Irina Polejaeva with the two sets of transgenic twin goats.


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