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About Us

Dakota Research and

Consulting Organization

We are a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation that works to fulfill the unmet needs of the growing entrepreneurial and biotechnology sectors in South Dakota and the surrounding region.

Our business model focuses on providing cost-effective services to our industry partners, regardless of size, aiding them in making data-driven business and technical decisions.

Our assertive graduate and undergraduate student professional members are knowledgeable about the latest advances in their respective research and business areas.  DRACO members are capable of assessing recent developmental trends and applying this knowledge to real-world solutions. Whether our clients require support when fulfilling a specific objective or advice regarding their next experimental step, we strive to provide them with data-driven services that facilitate their next strategic move.

Ultimately, DRACO aims to help bridge the gap in South Dakota by serving as a workforce developmental pipeline for upcoming professionals, aspiring entrepreneurs, and growing businesses.

  1. Cost-effective services for advancing our client’s technical and business development objectives


  2. Promotion, implementation, and further development of our student professionals’ skillsets

  3. Outreach for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education and community-centered learning opportunities based on client projects

“DRACO is a fantastic resource! This organization provides valuable services to USD’s Technology Transfer Office by helping to guide our inventors and technologies through relevant commercialization and development milestones. DRACO helps to provide a tailored “roadmap” for moving early-stage discoveries through technology readiness levels. The DRACO team is also an excellent source for connecting to and collaborating with a strong network of other statewide resources working to advance South Dakota innovations.”

– Beth Lambeth, USD Technology Transfer Officer

Meet Our Leadership

Eric Sandhurst Ph.D. – DRACO Co-Founder & President

Eric obtained his Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering at the University of South Dakota. His research is focused on tissue engineering, biomaterials development, stem cell biology, and creating organoids for high-throughput drug screening. Through his research at the University of South Dakota, Eric has developed and filed for a patent for his Multifunctional Microspheres – biodegradable, porous polymer microspheres that act as a local drug delivery platform and a three-dimensional cell culture system. His academic research advisors include Dr. Hongli Sun, Dr. Kevin Francis, Dr. Dan Engebretson, and Dr. Keith Baumgarten.  Prior to pursuing his Ph.D., Eric received his B.S. in Biology and his M.S. in Biomedical Engineering from the University of South Dakota.

Jevin Meyerink Ph.D. – DRACO Co-Founder & Vice President

As a Ph.D. graduate of the Biomedical Engineering Program at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology (SDSM&T), Jevin’s research involved developing and characterizing Ti-based nanoscale surfaces for orthopedic implants. His goal is to use these nanomaterials to better understand the complex relationships between nanoscale geometries and biological responses. Ultimately, the aim of his work is to improve bone-implant integration by defining this relationship. His academic research advisors include Dr. Grant Crawford, Dr. Scott Wood, Dr. Robert Anderson, and Dr. Timothy Brenza. Jevin received his B.S. in Applied Biological Sciences and M.S. in Biomedical Engineering from SDSM&T in 2015 and 2017, respectively.

Thomas Vierhout MD, M.S. – DRACO Co-Founder & Secretary

Thomas is a first year surgical resident at the Sanford USD Medical Center. Before medical school, Thomas received his Bachelor’s in Biology from USD. He then worked as a senior laboratory technician in a microbiology lab. He then decided to apply these laboratory skills to a new field by attending graduate school. Thomas received his Master’s in Biomedical Engineering from USD for his research on cardiovascular biomaterials.

Manaal Ali – DRACO Director Of Communications

Manaal Ali is a recent graduate of Augustana University with majors in Government & International Affairs and Sociology along with a minor in Biology. During her time at Augustana, Manaal gained experience in communications and engagement as an intern for the nonprofit Leaders Engaged and Determined (LEAD) and later as an intern for the Zeal Center for Entrepreneurship.  She also spent time at the University of Oslo in Norway to study conflict resolution and effective dialogue skills. Before graduating, Manaal interned for a legislative affairs firm and an international affairs firm in Washington, D.C., where she had the opportunity to work directly with ambassadors, Congress members, and leaders in both the private and non-profit sectors.

Meet Our Collaborators