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Aldevron founder named as $1 million donor to science museum project

Hiring executive director, establishing traveling van are among first priorities

John Ballaytine.jpg
John Ballaytine
Submitted photo

FARGO — The co-founder and chief scientific officer of Aldevron John Ballantyne has been announced as the donor of $1 million to help kick start the proposed Fargo-Moorhead Science Museum.

Word of the donation was announced last week following an anonymous donation of $225,000, but Ballantyne's name wasn't released then.

FMSM Board President Ken Brazerol said it's "especially important to have a pioneer in the scientific community in the area backing this project. That, I think, is just really, really cool."

In a statement, Ballantyne, who started Aldevron with Michael Chambers on the campus of NDSU in 1998, said "as cliche as it sounds I still feel people don't have an appreciation for just how much scientific development has gone into virtually everything they touch, eat or interact with on a daily basis.

"The concept of the museum and what it means for the area is long overdue and just based on a relatively brief conversation with the board, I know the group has what it takes to make this a reality," Ballantyne said.

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Brazerol said they are using some of the initial funding to hire an executive director for the museum. He said the search is expected to start early next month with the position filled likely by late spring.

The board has also hired JLG Architects of Fargo to help them identify what's needed in a building. For example, he said they will likely need a loading dock for huge trucks for exhibits. All three cities in the metro are being considered as possible sites for the museum.

As that work continues, Brazerol said they are also planning to use early funds for a traveling Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) van to reach out to the community and children as an initial step towards building a permanent museum.

The museum hopes to offer STEM learning through interactive exhibits and programming.

Ballantyne received his undergraduate degree in pharmacy in his native New Zealand before moving from the graduate program at the University of Otago to NDSU where he received his doctorate in pharmaceutical sciences.

Aldevron, which was sold last year to the Danaher Corp. of Washington, D.C., for $9.6 billion, is a leading global provider of high quality plasmid DNA, mRNA producer and antibody developer. The company, with its 14 acre campus in Fargo, has been a major hub for making a key ingredient for COVID-19 vaccines with its 600 employees.

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