Stem cell opportunities are multiplying throughout the state
Since the 2008 approval of Proposal 2, which allowed embryonic stem cell research in Michigan, several developments have contributed to expanding efforts in the state.
- The University of Michigan’s Taubman Medical Research Institute, in collaboration with Wayne State University and Michigan State University, has established the Consortium for Stem Cell Therapies with $2 million in outside funding. The consortium is accepting donations of embryos generated in fertility treatments but not needed or not suitable for clinical use. It expects to provide the first of the new stem-cell lines in mid-2010.
- Stem Cell Michigan, a group including researchers and economic development professionals, meets quarterly to share news and ideas. The University Research Corridor, a collaboration of U-M, MSU and WSU, is in the process of taking on administrative duties.
- A six-month-old Kalamazoo firm, RealBio Technology Inc., is marketing licensed cell culture technology. RealBio drew capital from a variety of sources, including Aastrom Biosciences, the Michigan Pre-Seed MicroLoan program as well as Kalamazoo-based First Angels and Southwest Michigan First’s Life Sciences Fund.
- RealBio is poised to become one of the first companies to utilize the Wayne County Stem Cell Commercialization Center, Executive Director Jim Eliason said. TechTown is located in a 43-acre research and technology park near WSU in Detroit. It includes an incubator for start-up and early-stage high-technology businesses, educational programs and Henry Ford Health System’s genetics laboratory in an Albert Kahn-designed former car factory of 100,000 square feet known as TechOne.
TechTown secured a $2 million Brownfield Economic Development Initiative grant from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and a $2.1 million loan to complete the build-out of lab space in TechOne.
With a waiting list of start-ups, TechTown also is expanding with the $1 million purchase of a nearby 130,000-square-foot former Cadillac dealership for additional incubator space. It will be known as TechTwo.
“What we are building is basically going to be a cell culturing center with special expertise in growing pluripotential stem cells. These cells can differentiate into many different types of cells,” Eliason said. The center will work with both embryonic and adult stem cells, he added, and is available to entrepreneurs from throughout the state.
“The Stem Cell Commercialization Center is part of this incubator, therefore the people and companies involved can take part in all of the courses and mentoring programs that are offered here,” he added. “There’s some seed funds that are going to be developed for these companies here. We can provide them not only scientific expertise, but also entrepreneurial business expertise.”
- The Genetics Policy Institute’s World Stem Cell Summit is set for Oct. 2-4 at the Detroit Marriott in the Renaissance Center and will be hosted by U-M, WSU and MSU. GPI Executive Director Bernie Siegel told the Detroit Economic Club last month that as many as 1,500 stem cell scientists from around the world are expected at the event.
The summit is an acknowledgement that with the approval of the constitutional amendment, Michigan now is an important player in stem cell research, said Dr. Eva Feldman, a stem cell researcher at U-M.
“That’s just a huge deal,” added Steve Rapundalo, president & CEO of MichBio. “The whole world is really going to be looking at Michigan. It’s an opportunity for us to show off to the world — not only the stem cell research world, but to the biotechnology world and certainly the investment world — that Michigan is here, it’s a player, and we’re going to continue to be in it.”
“Shame on us if we don’t turn out as a state to sell itself as an opportunity for the global market,” Southwest Michigan First CEO Ron Kitchens added.