Life Sciences Pipeline In The Making

January 12, 2007
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ANN ARBOR — MichBio, the state’s life science industry trade association, has begun construction on a Life Sciences Pipeline that’s expected to promote the growth of the life sciences in Michigan.

The Michigan Economic Development Corp. selected MichBio last July to develop a network linking life science researchers and businesses with vendors of life sciences products and services as a means of accelerating the commercialization of new health-related products and services in the state. The contract is for four years and is valued at $1.4 million over the life of the contract, said Jeff Mason, senior vice president for technology development at the MEDC.

“The pipeline is really designed to provide more services to the companies to help them move to a higher stage of development and growth, so it’s more focused on consulting, technical assistance, information and educational programs,” Mason explained.

As the network’s operator, MichBio will coordinate commercialization of life sciences products and services. MichBio Executive Director Stephen Rapundalo said the pipeline business plan was completed at the end of last year. The organization is now working on the nuts and bolts of the educational programming, which will be followed by a marketing and promotion campaign sometime during the first quarter of this year.

“What we’re proposing is a series of outstanding topics that we’re going to offer from two-hour to half-day sessions to one-day or multi-day workshops. They’re all going to be operationally focused on the ‘how to’ — on walking folks through the various things like clinical development, regulatory compliance, intellectual property issues, manufacturing quality, and all the various  aspects of getting an idea to product launch.”

By and large, most programs and services are going to be available a la carte. Rapundalo said MichBio isn’t tacking on an annual membership fee because the organization wanted to focus on substance rather than bureaucracy.

Another goal of the Life Sciences Pipeline will be to facilitate business activity between network members. If there is a company in St. Joseph that can provide a service to a company in Kalamazoo, Mason said, the Kalamazoo company will be able to connect with that service provider versus going to Ohio or the West Coast to find one.

MichBio believes there are close to 300 true life sciences companies across the state, and it’s targeting about 50 percent of them for participation in the pipeline, Rapundalo said.

“One of the key deliverables we’re going to have are commercialization pathways, which will be populated by the life sciences companies that are willing to disclose who they are and where they are in terms of being on the path to commercialization, so they could talk to one another about common issues and so forth, but more importantly, to overlay the pathways with service resourcing that would be identified for particular stages of commercialization.”

Gov. Jennifer Granholm referred to the Life Sciences Pipeline as a step forward in her plan “to jump-start the next phase of Michigan’s economic transformation.” The pipeline was required as part of the 21st Century Jobs Fund initiative created in the fall of 2005 to push development and commercialization of new technologies.

“By getting research breakthroughs and entrepreneurial innovations into the pipeline leading to commercialization and company formation, we are taking action to help our scientific and technical professionals deliver their products and services to the marketplace,” Granholm said.

MEDC President and CEO James Epolito said the pipeline will create a clearinghouse of information to help everyone in the life sciences industry communicate and benefit from shared experiences and resources.    

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