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Winter 2002

Gifts support Purdue Agriculture
By Steve Tally and Tom Campbell

Image: Gary Bennett and Abdul Ameen
Purdue urban pest scientists Gary Bennett (left) and Abdul Ameen examine German cockroaches in a laboratory designed to simulate the conditions in an American kitchen. Bennett and Ameen will be testing two agricultural insecticides, donated by DuPont, to determine if they can be used to control non-agricultural pests. (Photo by Tom Campbell)

In a yearlong campaign designed to encourage Hoosiers to "Discover Purdue," the university is unveiling some of the largest gifts in its 133-year history.

"We are inviting people to Discover Purdue, its present greatness and its amazing future potential for economic development, research and education," according to Murray Blackwelder, senior vice president for advancement, during the kick-off celebration last fall.

The gifts will support research, economic development, scholarships, professorships and athletics throughout the university. First to be announced was the lead gift of $51 million to establish the Birck Nanotechnology Center, the initial building in the university's new Discovery Park, which will become a hub for interdisciplinary research and education.

Nanotechnology is an emerging science in which new materials and tiny structures are built atom by atom, or molecule by molecule, instead of the more conventional approach of sculpting parts from pre-existing materials. "This new nanotechnology facility will position Indiana to become a player in the 'Silicon Valley' of the future," says Purdue President Martin C. Jischke.

Purdue Agriculture is the recipient of two of the major gifts announced in the campaign: patents for two agricultural insecticides from DuPont and an estate bequest of $21 million in land and timber from Fred van Eck. The DuPont gift--more than 30 U.S. and foreign patents for the two insecticides--has the potential of being one of the largest gifts in Purdue history.

Gary Bennett, professor of entomology and director of Purdue's Center for Urban and Industrial Pest Management, and entomology research associate Abdul Ameen will investigate these compounds to determine if they are effective against pests such as ticks, fleas, ants, cockroaches and mosquitoes or other household or garden pests.

"Although these insecticides were developed for agricultural pests, because of the way they function, they show great promise to control more familiar household pests," Bennett says. "I'm confident that we will discover new uses for this technology."

The full value of the patent portfolios cannot be accurately assessed because future uses of the products have yet to be determined. However, Bennett says DuPont has made significant investments in these two products during their initial development, in tests of their safety and effectiveness, and in preparing the U.S. and international patent applications.

The donation marks the first time Purdue has received such a gift. In addition to the patent rights, Purdue also is receiving toxicology and field data.

The two compounds--one of which was designed to control beetles and the other to control mites--were found to be safe and effective against agricultural pests, but DuPont determined that the compounds were no longer a part of its strategic business direction, says Thomas Woods, the company's director of intellectual assets management. Rather than entomb the research in a file cabinet, DuPont decided to make the technology available so that it could benefit Purdue and the general public.

© 2005 Purdue University School of Agriculture Link. Purdue University. Link. Agricultures magazine.