Street Talk

Street Talk: Hill no longer home to some great minds

Gain again.

February 8, 2013
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The Van Andel Institute has been able to bring some of the biggest names in scientific research to the home of Hope on the Hill. George Vande Woude, founding research director at VAI, holds multiple honors and credentials, including Distinguished Scientific Fellow and professor, Center for Cancer and Cell Biology, director of basic research for the National Cancer Institute and director of ABL-Basic Research Program in Frederick, Md.

Vande Woude was able to recruit VAI Distinguished Scientific Investigator Bin Tean Teh, M.D., Ph.D., who has been cited repeatedly for his breakthrough research. Teh has both feet replanted in Singapore now but remains available to the VAI.

Both announced their “retirements,” though Vande Woude stays on; the search for his replacement has not brought results.

The VAI’s first CFO, Jack Frick, also has retired, and management leaders Steve Heacock and Joe Gavan have moved on. But few saw the rest coming: English Wunderkind Craig Webb also has left the VAI, though few are aware of his departure. Webb was a postdoctoral fellow with Vande Woude at the National Cancer Institute-Frederick Cancer Research and Development Center in Maryland. He joined Van Andel Research Institute in October 1999 and was promoted to professor in 2008. He also is co-director of the Pediatric Cancer Translational Research Program. Webb, too, had globally heralded discoveries while on the Hill. Fellow researcher Eric Xuis once again working in China, occasionally touching down in GR.

The co-author of the landmark human genome project, Dr. Jeff Trent, was named president and research director of the VARI while maintaining his position with his company Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) in Phoenix. His research has provided important insights into the genetic basis of cancer. He is the author of more than 300 manuscripts in scientific literature and numerous book chapters. He has received numerous honors and awards and has sat on the editorial boards of a dozen scientific publications.

Trent has parted ways with the VAI and is back in Phoenix leading TGen.

Word on the Hill? It is widely believed the VAI now may focus entirely on Parkinson’s disease, not cancer.Parkinson’s researcher Patrik Brundin, however, remains primarily in Sweden where he maintains a lab at Lund University.

Oops! No comment

As a matter of corporate policy, Stryker does not comment on litigation in which it is involved. So it came as a surprise when a representative from Finn Partners PR firm, part of the global Ruder Finn Group, emailed some good news about the Kalamazoo medical device manufacturer to the Business Journal (and to many other news organizations, as it turned out).

Amy Magro said that one of Finn Partners’ clients, Chicago law firm McAndrews, Held & Malloy, “is proud to announce a complete and resounding jury verdict victory for Kalamazoo-based Stryker in the Stryker vs. Zimmer case. … The technology involved was a battery-powered pulsed lavage used for orthopedic surgery. This case is significant for Stryker because it validates that they are in fact a pioneer in the medical device market. This was a case that lasted for years and this is the culmination of all those efforts.”

She offered to put a Business Journal reporter in touch with one of the attorneys who worked on the case, but before that could happen, Bloomberg.com broke the news: “Zimmer Told to Pay Stryker $70 Million for Surgical Tool Patents.”

Bloomberg reported that Greg Vogler, a patent lawyer at McAndrews Held & Malloy who represented Stryker in its suit against Zimmer, said Stryker “has some pioneering inventions” and “Zimmer just took them recklessly and judgment day came.”

The jury, according to Bloomberg, found that almost $255 million in Zimmer sales were based on the patent infringement. Zimmer, based in Warsaw, Ind., said it would appeal.

At 8:20 the next morning, we called Joe Cooper of Stryker’s communications department and left a message asking for information about the case. About 30 minutes later, Magro abruptly advised the Business Journal via email that she had just been advised that Vogler and other McAndrews attorneys who worked on it “can no longer give interviews about the case.”

Later, Cooper responded by email, saying he was “trying to find more information on this.”

Didn’t you see the Bloomberg report? we asked.

Yes, replied Cooper, he had. “As a matter of company policy, we don’t comment on legal matters,” he said, but linked us to a page on the Stryker website with technical data about the pulsed irrigation device for orthopedic surgery.

Well, anyway, congratulations to Stryker.

King of the roads

With Gov. Rick Snyder’s emphasis on infrastructure in this year’s state budget, combined with the recent snow dump and freeze-thaw-freeze forecasts, it’s a safe bet road conditions will be on the minds of those in West Michigan over the next couple of months.

Now there’s someone in West Michigan who might actually be able to get something done.

Sen. Mark Jansen has been named to a new standing committee that will review and address Snyder’s transportation funding proposals.

“Michigan’s aging roads and bridges are in need of significant improvement to enhance safety and attract new job providers to our state,” said Jansen, R-Gaines Township. “While we all agree there is a road funding problem, there are strong disagreements on how to solve it. As a member of this new committee, I look forward to working together to evaluate ideas and reach a bipartisan, bicameral comprehensive solution to fixing our roads.”

The seven-member panel includes the chairs of the Senate Appropriations and Senate Finance committees and will consider all transportation and infrastructure funding proposals.

“The task given to this committee is substantial and its recommendations will have a broad impact on our economy and residents throughout the state,” Jansen said. “There are many factors to be taken into account and questions to be answered. Road safety and funding are critically important issues facing our state. I am honored to have been asked to help do the hard work to address them.”

Yes, but are you ready to take all the phone calls?

Money ball

The state’s next revenue-estimating conference is scheduled for May, but it’s never too early to look ahead when it comes to money.

Can an improved economy lead to a significant gain in the state’s revenues? That would be good news for governmental entities that depend on funds from the state to enhance the quality of life in their communities.

Well, maybe.

The Business Journal asked the State Budget Office for its take on the situation, and Kurt Weiss was kind enough to respond.

“While it’s too early to say for sure, the budget office believes the revenue figures are conservative, so we would expect that after the May conference that we will have additional revenue to put into the budget, but we will know more in a few months,” he said.

After thinking about it for all of one minute, however, Weiss tempered his response and sent off another email to the Journal.

“Since the economic recovery is slow and steady, probably ‘modest gain’ would be a better description.”

That’s OK. A gain is a gain!

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