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March 5, 2021
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Business Review Western MI
Business Review Western MI
Life Sciences Report
(2007-08-15)
(wgvu) - A new report lays the foundation to lift western Michigan's
life-sciences industry to its full potential and back to global
prominence.

Doing so would require additional private and public investment of some
$1 billion, resulting in a reasonable return on investment of $5
billion within a decade and directly generating 1,100 jobs, according to
modeling done by consultant Ed Bee, president of Taimerica Management
Co.

Although western Michigan has important challenges to face, its talent
pool of graduate students and the dollar value of sponsored research are
comparable with several competitors, the report stated. Many of the
assets in place will serve it well as it moves forward.

Commissioned by economic developers the Right Place Inc. in Grand Rapids
and Kalamazoo's Southwest Michigan First, Bee's report provides a view
of the present state of life sciences in western Michigan as well as the
region's advantages and disadvantages.

Taimerica offers 16 strategies to pursue to further build the industry
in western Michigan over the long term and compete with other regions of
the United States and around the world that are life-sciences hubs, such
as Boston; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Houston; and Dublin, Ireland.

It gives us a road map to relevancy as a region so we're as important
as any region on the face of the earth, Southwest Michigan First CEO
Ron Kitchens said.

It gives us a sense of urgency to invest and why it is important, he
said. Now all we have to do as a region is to commit the resources in a
concentrated manner and do that with an abundant mentality.

The report noted western Michigan in 1980 ranked among the 10 most
prolific regions in life-sciences patents. It has fallen to 30th in
biotech and 16th in drug patents in the past five years, a period in
which developing life sciences has become far more challenging.

Right Place President Birgit Klohs emphasizes the long-term aspect of an
endeavor that represents a 10- to 15-year economic development strategy.
The infrastructure now developing today in Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo
positions the region well for the task ahead.

A new strategic push is needed to take life sciences in western Michigan
to the next step and set the table for the next generation, Klohs
said.

We have the resources, we have the building blocks. What's the next
building block and how do we build onto the blocks? she said. If you
don't dream big and go for the moon, you won't go anywhere.

Among the financial needs the report identifies:
$200 million of venture capital to triple intellectual property
generated or captured by the region
$370 million in state investments and tax credits to achieve
sustainability and leverage private investments
$1.12 million in annual spending by economic developers to market and
promote the region.

Given the potential return, the investments needed to further develop
the industry seem reasonable, Bee concluded.

Piecemealed or poorly funded efforts will fail, Bee wrote in the report,
and publicly driven initiatives often make investments that are too
small to yield desired results.

Key to the future is intellectual-property generation, which can help to
lure much-needed talent and capital. The report suggests the possibility
of forming a venture to buy and commercialize idle patents owned by drug
and medical-device companies.

Research suggests that regions that are not in the top 20 percent of
life-sciences IP are unlikely to succeed, the report stated.

A minimum threshold of investment is needed to ensure success. Scale is
a critical ingredient in the success of this strategy, the report
noted.

Of particularly need is greater venture capital for late-stage research
companies.

The report cited the progress the region already has made in building
the life-sciences inAmong its key assets, Taimerica noted, is the Van Andel Institute in
Grand Rapids and the development of Michigan State University's West
Michigan Medical School.

Research at the VAI and MSU's new medical school campus will generate
significant flows of new patents, but the numbers can only be estimated
at this stage, the report stated.

The VAI will begin stimulating patent flows in 2008 and MSU in 2011, at
the earliest. The report estimates that the VAI will generate 15 patents
a year in biopharma and 10 in medical devices. MSU will generate around
15 biopharma patents annually and three in medical devices, the report
estimated.

If western Michigan's life-sciences industry is to grow into global
prominence, the MSU medical school must become a research anchor on par
with the University of Michigan, the report said, or top tier such as
the University of Washington or University of California-San Francisco.

Western Michigan will not become globally relevant in life sciences if
MSU fails to become a top-tier research institution, the report stated.

In Kalamazoo, key assets include Southwest Michigan First's Innovation
Center, the $50 million Southwest Michigan Life Sciences Venture Fund,
Western Michigan University's Biosciences Research and Commercialization
Center and the growth of contract research organizations (CROs), some of
them formed in the wake of Pfizer Inc. cuts, have helped to push the
industry.

Western Michigan probably has one of the two most comprehensive CRO
infrastructures in the U.S., thanks to the Pfizer downsizings,
Taimerica said, citing interviews with industry sources. Among the
consulting firm's recommendations is formation of a consortium to market
the region's CRO capabilities internationally.

There really is, going forward, momentum, Klohs said, though there is
still so much more to be done.
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