Partnerships Offer Important Domino

July 31, 2006
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No matter where in the country one might travel, what has most impressed those who’ve been here, stay here or come back here are the partnerships created in the GR metro area.

Case in point this week is the life sciences industry, which joined six public and private not-for-profit organizations to form a critical cluster for clinical research, research which could be assigned by the National Institutes of Health, or any other group in the world. The group formed ClinXus, which is given leadership by GrandValleyStateUniversity’s West Michigan Science & Technology Initiative Executive Director Matt Dugener and Craig Webb, Ph.D., a principal investigator at the Van Andel Research Institute. The group quickly aligned to take advantage of new federal Food & Drug Administration guidelines designed to accelerate approval of drugs, diagnostics and therapeutics. Participant Jasper Clinical Research and Development CEO Dean Knuth told the Business Journal, “There’s a pipeline forming already, because there are not many places in the United States that are doing clinical research according to that new initiative.”

It must be said, too, that knowledgeable individuals within the Grand Rapids life sciences cluster had identified the weak points or potential barriers to this industry’s rise in Michigan, compared to other more advanced programs in other parts of the country. But it obviously never occurred to those individuals to give in to the status quo, proceed with second-class status or give up, but instead to simply and exactly target those weak points with ways and means to overcome them now and in the near future.

The Wall Street Journal staff two weeks ago published its list of 20 U.S. cities among 12,000 considered to be the rising stars of innovation. Grand Rapids was on that list. The ranking was based on the number of patents filed in any given city (and though the VAI has a few dozen pending, those are not yet counted). The WSJ list is history, and does not speak to the inventiveness of the community in creating partnerships that domino to create dozens more, which is not unlike a bursting seed pod.

The string of economic influences extends to critical partnerships with area colleges and universities. Students in this region and state are indeed lucky to be able to take part in the programs that are likely to be modeled across the country (or are given model by the kingpins in Boston, New York City and Berkeley). Such experience within the industry and the ability to use it on a resume hold unique opportunity — especially to this community as the industry grows. The supply of an educated work force is critical, and endowed, too, by the Van Andel Education Institute Science Academy, now teaching 21 elementary school students “real life” science.

Very similar action is being taken in the sustainable business and technology industries in this region, also garnering national recognition.

The real story here is not so much about what is invented; it is very much about the inventiveness of the community and the willingness to share it for the region’s economic gain.    

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