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WMSTI Appoints New Director
GRAND RAPIDS — The West Michigan Science & Technology Initiative gained a new leader on Tuesday with the appointment of Linda R. Chamberlain, Ph.D., as executive director.
Chamberlain has been serving as WMSTI’s commercialization director since 2003, and she’ll continue to serve in that capacity as executive director. Before joining the initiative, Chamberlain owned and operated a successful commercialization consulting practice known as InnoValuation, where she worked with businesses from startups to Fortune 500 companies.
Chamberlain is a researcher and scientist who has been involved in new product development throughout her career with companies such as Shell Development Co., AlliedSignal and Johnson Controls. She has led the development of 19 patents to date. Chamberlain hired on as WMSTI’s commercialization director six months after the organization was formed, and for the past four years has been working in a consultant role for Matt Dugener, the previous director of WMSTI. She has been filling in as interim executive director since Dugener left in April to head a new economic development organization called the Lansing Economic Area Partnership.
Chamberlain said she was originally attracted to the position of commercialization director because it gave her the opportunity to work with small businesses at critical junctures in the development of their products.
“It’s truly exciting to put new product into the market,” Chamberlain remarked. “There are many pitfalls and many opportunities, and you don’t want to miss any opportunities along the way. So helping people work through the process, making sure they bring in expertise when they need to and putting that product on the market — there’s nothing more interesting or exciting in a professional sense for me.”
In her continuing role as commercialization director, Chamberlain works directly with clients and tenants, laying out commercialization roadmaps and business development plans and promoting the product services that WMSTI has to offer. She’s getting an assist in those efforts from Rich Cook, former CEO of X-Rite, who joined the initiative in April as venture center director.
As newly appointed executive director, Chamberlain will determine the strategy and direction of WMSTI’s initiatives and work to increase the organization’s involvement in regional outreach activities. She said in the next three to four years, the organization’s strategic direction is going to be toward medical device and medical products.
“We need to shore up the portfolio,” Chamberlain pointed out. “Between here and Kalamazoo, we have therapeutic development with the Van Andel Institute and the MSU College of Human Medicine. That’s a lot of long-term, higher-risk development. We need the shorter-term return on investments that come with medical product development. We have amazing core competencies in this region for that.”
Chamberlain believes that the many opportunities she’s had to lead product development, new business development and people has prepared her well for the leadership position at WMSTI.
“I have a fundamental passion for the work. It’s interesting, it’s fun and it makes you sweat at times” she said. “There’s nothing more fulfilling to me than to be able to apply my professional experience to the passion I have for community and community development and for making sure West Michigan continues on this path in the life sciences and reaches economic sustainability in this industry.”
WMSTI was jointly founded in 2003 by Grand Valley State University, the city of Grand Rapids, the Van Andel Institute, Grand Rapid Community College, The Right Place Inc. and the Michigan Economic Development Corp., with the goal of growing and diversifying the local economy. Their mission was to create an environment that “inspires innovation” and supports the commercialization of science and technology. Earlier this year, Saint Mary’s Health Care, Spectrum Health, Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital and Grand Angels joined the partnership.
In its four years of existence, WMSTI has assisted more than 70 individual researchers, scientists and startups in commercializing new life sciences products and services. The organization had a hand in the creation of ClinXus, a nonprofit clinical research company that offers access to and use of the clinical research capabilities and emerging technologies of its members, which include Van Andel Research Institute, Grand Valley Internal Medicine Specialists, Grand Valley State University, Spectrum Health, Saint Mary’s Health Care and Jasper Clinic. WMSTI also assisted the development of Grand River Aseptic Pharmaceutical Packaging, which provides fill and finish services for bioscience firms in Michigan.
This summer, WMSTI formed a business collaborative called the West Michigan Medical Device Consortium, which intends to speed the growth and development of the local medical device community by encouraging collaboration among the state’s medical device companies so they don’t have to go outside of the Michigan supply chain for their needs.