Health Care, Higher Education, and Small Business & Startups

Biomed idea group lands grant

State supports commercialization initiative from Spectrum, GVSU and GR Current.

January 17, 2014
| By Pete Daly |
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Pulling together the Spectrum Community-T2 team are, clockwise from top left, Brent Mulder, Jeff Royce and J. Kevin McCurren. Photo by Jim Gebben

An innovative technology-sharing project created jointly by Spectrum Health Innovations, Grand Valley State University and GR Current has been awarded a $187,000 grant from the Michigan Initiative for Innovation & Entrepreneurship.

The three organizations created Spectrum-Community T2, a project using a multidisciplinary process that draws on their respective expertise and resources to increase the success of new biomedical product concepts with commercialization opportunities in West Michigan’s growing life sciences corridor.

“This project leverages the unique capabilities and skill sets of each member organization,” said Brent Mulder, senior director of Spectrum Health Innovations. “The goal is to enhance the working relationship between them to accelerate the biomedical tech transfer and commercialization process in West Michigan.”

MIIE was established in 2008 to help jumpstart the Michigan economy by leveraging intellectual resources at the state’s universities. It provides gap funding to speed commercialization of research, helping universities launch start-up companies, promoting an entrepreneurial risk-taking culture, and strengthening ties between small business, industry and academia.

Each of the member organizations provides a distinct area of expertise.

Spectrum Health Innovations, a business venture started several years ago by Spectrum Health System, brings to Spectrum-Community T2 opportunities, clinical knowledge and resources required to develop life science products.

GVSU provides technical expertise and access to a diverse knowledge base within the university, including product design, prototyping and market assessment.

GR Current, formerly known as the West Michigan Science and Technology Initiative, contributes a network, and resources designed to incubate start-ups and accelerate their business growth.

“Each member organization and the community as a whole will benefit from this unique collaboration,” said J. Kevin McCurren, executive director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Seidman College of Business at GVSU. “We foresee the commercialization of ideas, hands-on learning experiences, and ultimately, the creation of new companies and job opportunities arising from these efforts.”

GR Current director Jeff Royce said the MIIE grant “is yet another example of the value added when local organizations work together to reach the same goal. This collaboration will undoubtedly lead to the commercialization of ideas that will be turned into companies and create jobs.”

The project calls for the creation of a GVSU grad student and faculty “Innovation Team” comprised of an industry-based engineering graduate assistant, a full-time integrated MBA grad student and an experienced “entrepreneur in residence.”

The graduate assistant, backed by the full resources of GVSU’s Padnos College of Engineering and Computing, will work at the SHI site at 800 Monroe Ave. NW in Grand Rapids, and will assist with design optimization and the prototyping process.

The integrated MBA grad student, backed by the full resources of the GVSU Seidman College of Business, will also work at SHI and assist in market assessment, prototyping and commercialization.

The entrepreneur in residence is a half-time, experienced start-up executive who will be located at GR Current to provide oversight to the innovation process and manage innovation projects in the commercialization process.

GR Current is located within the Grand Rapids SmartZone, anchored by the Van Andel Research Institute on Michigan Street NE. GR Current has wet lab incubator space at the nearby GVSU Cook DeVos Center for Health Sciences.

Through GR Current, the entrepreneur in residence and Innovation Team have access to the West Michigan incubator, which includes a network of technical and business expertise, early stage capital, equipment and facilities.

“Spectrum-Community T2 provides a high-impact experience with the commercialization process for advanced engineering and MBA students,” said McCurren. “We expect the program to become a feeder system for commercialization talent for West Michigan.”

“Each year, Spectrum Health practitioners conduct research and perform complex procedures to identify and resolve a host of medical issues, generating a wealth of ideas for advancing health care,” said Mulder. “We believe this partnership will streamline and strengthen the commercialization process of promising biomedical device ideas.”

Since initially being launched in 2006 as the “What IF?” program, SHI has worked with more than 225 Spectrum Health physicians and staff members on more than 300 ideas for improving health care, ranging from hospital products and medical devices to software and lines of stem cell research. According to the SHI website, more than 20 patent, copyright and trademark applications have resulted, representing a portfolio of products and technologies available for sale or license. A spin-off company is called Ideomed, which developed an app to help young asthma patients remember to take their medication on schedule.

GR Current helps support high-tech, high growth technologies centering on life sciences, medical devices, software and IT development, advanced manufacturing and homeland security. Supported by The Local Development Finance Authority, and partners including the MEDC, GVSU, The Right Place and Spectrum Health, GR Current helps entrepreneurs with everything from subsidized office and laboratory space to access to state backed investment programs, as well as access to a vast network of local and regional resources.

Funding for the MIIE has been provided by the C.S. Mott Foundation, the New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan and the Dow Foundation. Support has also been provided by the University Technology Acceleration and Commercialization Program of the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

MIIE’s organization and methodology is based on the success of its predecessor program, MUCI, the Michigan Universities Commercialization Initiative. To date, MIIE has awarded more than $7 million to 148 projects at 14 universities, and 81 start-ups have developed out of MUCI- and MIIE-funded technologies.

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