MichBio Expo displays life sciences

October 30, 2009
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KALAMAZOO — The annual MichBio Expo opens this week in Kalamazoo in an economy in which the life sciences sector is “holding its own.”

West Michigan Science and Technology Initiative Executive Director Linda Chamberlain, a MichBio board member, offered that assessment in advance of the state’s largest bio-sciences conference, scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday at the Radisson Plaza Hotel in Kalamazoo. Some 500 participants are expected for two days of exhibits, presentations, information and networking.

“I think the life science industry has held its own in Michigan,” said Chamberlain, whose organization offers two laboratory locations for life sciences start-ups.

“The start-up activity, certainly what we’ve seen through the West Michigan Science and Technology Initiative, has increased. And I believe that our fellow SmartZones across the state would echo that sentiment of seeing increase in early state activity in the life sciences.

“I think investors over the last 18 months have become much more cautious,” Chamberlain added. “However, they do invest when the investment is a good one, and there have been opportunities within the state where there has been investment. There is activity in the life sciences industry in this state.”

Among conference highlights:

  • Tours of Kalamazoo-area businesses.

  • A session on the industry in Israel. Economic development group Southwest Michigan First has been courting Israeli start-ups recently.

  • Meetings with big companies in the sector, including Stryker, Johnson & Johnson and GE Healthcare, which last week announced the formation of the GE Healthymagination Fund, a $250 million equity fund to back innovative companies in health care information technology, diagnostic medicine and life sciences.

  • Exhibits from 57 companies, including 10 emerging companies.

  • A keynote speech by Dr. Robert Fischell, who has a long biography of space and medical engineering inventions, including work on spacecraft, implantable heart pacemakers and coronary stents. Named Inventor of the Year in 1984, he received Discover magazine’s annual Technology for Humanity award in 2004. His donation was instrumental in establishing the Fischell Department of Bioengineering at the University of Maryland, his alma mater. Fischell’s son, Dr. Tim Fischell, is a cardiologist and researcher with Borgess Health in Kalamazoo.

Exhibitors with Grand Rapids ties include: Grand River Aseptic Pharmaceutical Packaging; Grand Valley State University; Science Direct, a sister company to CPM Resource Center under parent company Elsevier; The Right Place; and Intertek, which has a location in Kentwood. Law firms Dykema and Miller Canfield, which have Grand Rapids offices, also will be on hand.

At-the-door cost for MichBio Expo is $375 for members and $475 for non-members. Various other charges apply. For more information, see www.michbio.org/expo

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