Biotech Industry Honors Giant Vision Program

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October 16, 2023


The South Dakota Chamber of Commerce & Industry’s Governor’s Giant Vision Program was honored recently by the biotech community.

Following a nomination process, the South Dakota Biotech Board of Directors selected the program as the 2023 recipient of the SD Biotech Distinguished Collaborator Award, an award that was established “to recognize those advancing biotechnology by building effective collaborative relationships with academia, government, and industry and contributing to the biotechnology sector in South Dakota.”

The Giant Vision competition has been a tremendous ally to the joint program of SD Biotech, SD EPSCoR and Dakota State University called FAST Launch, which is funded by an SBA grant. The purpose of FAST Launch is to help people develop their business ideas through the lean launch methodology by engaging in customer discovery and business model validation. FAST Launch is also designed to prepare people for the Governor’s Giant Vision Competition. Giant Vision prize money is used as match for the SBA grant.

Brad Wheeler, Vice-President, Wheeler Manufacturing in Lemmon, past board chair of the South Dakota Chamber and program chair of the Governor’s Giant Vision Competition accepted the honor from Eddie Sullivan, PhD, Co-founder, President and CEO, SAB Biotherapeutics, and representing SD Biotech.

In his acceptance remarks, Wheeler thanked the many individuals and partnerships that have led to the success of the program and recognized the important role played by then Governor, US Senator Mike Rounds who in 2005, supported the idea. Wheeler thanked Senator Rounds, who was present, for his willingness to partner with Giant Vision by his presence at awards ceremonies and his offer to match funds raised for Giant Vision. Rounds also supported the student competition that was added in 2007. Prize money is provided by the business community through sponsorships. Matching funds continue to be provided through the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

Since 2005, the competitions have drawn 900 applications and have paid nearly $1.1 million in prize money to promising startups.

A survey of past competitors in 2021 identified the creation of 867 jobs reported by 60 companies that responded. The survey also sought to track investment dollars, SBIR funding and GOED/REDI funding. Our research shows nearly $19 million in SBIR funding awarded to 13 companies; 19 of the 60 companies represented in this survey raised equity and 10 received GOED REDI or POC funds.

The 2023 student competition sponsors were Citi and SD EPSCoR. The open competition was supported by Black Hills Energy, Christiansen Land & Cattle, Dacotah Bank, First PREMIER Bank/PREMIER Bankcard, MidAmerican Energy, NorthWestern Energy, Valley Queen Cheese Factory, Wheeler Manufacturing and Xcel Energy.

The Giant Vision program is gearing up for the 20th anniversary competition in 2024.