WMSTI hits milestone; early achievements touted

November 24, 2008
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Dinner speakers, attendees toast unifying effort.

Over the past five years, the West Michigan Science & Technology Initiative has grown into a comprehensive entrepreneurial support system, assisting more than 300 entrepreneurs every year in bringing their new life science and technology products to the market. Wednesday evening WMSTI and its supporters came together at the JW Marriott Hotel to celebrate those achievements.

In a taped interview, Van Andel Institute Executive Director David Van Andel said WMSTI has pulled together the life science efforts throughout Michigan, particularly West Michigan. It’s one thing to have an idea or to have made a discovery, but it’s quite something else to take that idea or discovery and commercialize it, he said.  

“WMSTI has the unique ability to bring all the different players to the table that are necessary to take a discovery and commercialize it,” Van Andel said. “Without WMSTI, I’m not sure where an entrepreneur would go to find all the resources he needed to find in order to do the things that have to be done.”

Mike Jandernoa, general partner in Bridge Street Capital Fund, said the vision WMSTI had can be appreciated now in terms of the momentum it has built up over the last five years. He lauded Executive Director Linda Chamberlain and her staff for having helped drive meaningful returns on investments.

“The returns include new investments, new jobs, new energy injected into the community, and new connections and collaborations in the life science, health care and business community,” Jandernoa said. 

Chamberlain said there are several features about West Michigan that give WMSTI a competitive edge: entrepreneurial thinking; regional collaboration; clinical expertise; an engaged and purposeful research environment; and a compliant, untapped patient population.

Nonprofit recognition

GVSU’s Johnson Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership has joined with two partners and a foundation to recognize outstanding cooperation among nonprofits across the nation.

GVSU and its partners in the Arizona-Indiana-Michigan Alliance — Arizona State University and Indiana University — are working with the Lodestar Foundation of Phoenix to present the first-ever Collaboration Prize, a cash award of $250,000, in March. The prize is meant to encourage collaboration and merger as a way of maximizing resources for nonprofits.

Some 30 nonprofits from across the nation (none from Michigan) were chosen as semi-finalists. Eight finalists will be chosen, and the winner picked by a selection committee headed by W.K. Kellogg Foundation President & CEO Sterling Speirn.

Designs on the media

On Dec. 2, Design West Michigan will hold its second gathering of designers and design students at Steelcase University. The event will include a discussion on the topic of media coverage of design and economic evaluation. The discussion will feature Julie Lasky, editor-in-chief, I.D. magazine, and Nancy Miller, senior editor, WIRED magazine, and will be moderated by Peter Lawrence, chair of the Corporate Design Foundation and editor of @issue magazine.

“I certainly hope that it’s an additional opportunity for the multiple design disciplines from the region to interact. There was an amazing amount of positive energy the first time we did this, an opportunity for people to come together in a design social networking kind of way,” said John Berry, director of Design West Michigan. “The dialogue I’m expecting from the three editors (will center) around what are the things that get in the way between design and economic growth, and how can all the constituents, design media, business media and the designers themselves help to continue to reinforce and evaluating this soft asset of design.”

Following the discussion there will be an audience Q&A session. After the event, Steelcase representatives will conduct tours of the company’s new Exploration and Learning Center, which highlights a rich history of design in West Michigan.

“The design heritage of West Michigan is something to be very proud of,” said Berry. “I think the more we are collectively aware of the design heritage, the more we are able to consistently express that to those outside of West Michigan.”

The free event is open to designers and design students only and runs from 5:30-7:45 p.m., with the tour immediately following. To RSVP, contact Amanda Chocko with Lakeshore Advantage at Amanda.chocko@lakeshoreadvantage.com

Cooley enrollment rising

Thomas M. Cooley Law School’s fall enrollment at its Grand Rapids campus has increased by 115 students, or 26 percent, over fall 2007. A total of 560 students are now taking classes at the downtown Grand Rapids location.

“Our Grand Rapids campus is experiencing tremendous growth,” said Nelson Miller, associate dean of Cooley’s Grand Rapids campus. “The quality, hands-on legal education that we provide here combined with our vibrant downtown attracts many individuals from outside of Michigan to study in Grand Rapids. Add in the many West Michigan residents who are able to earn a law degree close to home, and we have a situation in which enrollment continues to grow.”

Williams’ achievement ‘remarkable’

A Van Andel Institute investigator has been named Senior Scientific Investigator. Bart Williams, Ph.D., head of Van Andel Institute’s Laboratory of Cell Signaling and Carcinogenesis, has been named to a post on a National Institutes of Health Study Section. Williams will be a member of the Skeletal Biology Development and Disease Study Section, Center for Scientific Review, for a term ending in June 2012.

According to Toni Scarpa, M.D., Ph.D., NIH Director, Center for Scientific Review, membership on a study section represents a unique opportunity to contribute to the national biomedical research effort. Study sections review grant applications submitted to the NIH, make recommendations on these applications to NIH national advisory councils and boards, and survey the status of research in their fields of science. Members are selected on the basis of demonstrated competence and achievement in their scientific discipline.

“This is a remarkable achievement and reflects the high recognition Dr. Williams is receiving from the research community in which he participates,” said VAI Research Director George Vande Woude, Ph.D.

Home on the stage

Katie Brown, author, syndicated columnist and host of "Katie Brown Workshop" on PBS, is partnering with Meijer Inc. to serve as the company's "home solutions adviser."

"Katie Brown brings such an appealing and engaging approach to everything from holiday entertaining to backyard gardening that we felt she was the perfect fit for Meijer," said Dave Clark, vice president of brand and product development at Meijer.

In her new role, Brown will help develop new product lines for Meijer and help spearhead a number of efforts designed to “provide Meijer shoppers with practical and easy-to-follow solutions to projects in and around the home.”

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