September 'On the Road' with Stephen Rapundalo
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
The last month has been extremely busy as we put the final planning touches to the 2014 MichBio Expo & Conference and prepared the next issue of BioMatters… more on that later.
In late August I visited Thermo Fisher Immunodiagnostics (i.e., Phadia U.S.) in Portage and met with the Medical Director, Rob Reinhardt, MD. It was a great opportunity to be updated on the company’s integration into the Thermo corporate family and changes in management, organization and operations. Then it was off to MPI Research where I met with CEO Bill Parfet and key members of his management team. We had an excellent discussion about how MPI and MichBio could maximize our engagement and partnership. While in Kalamazoo I dropped by to catch up with Rob DeWit at the Southwest Michigan Innovation Center.
In retrospect I should have simply stayed the night instead of driving back to Ann Arbor, as I turned around the next day and visited Grand Rapids. The main draw was to attend a ribbon cutting ceremony as Grand River Aseptic Manufacturing opened a new 28,000-square-foot facility for its finishing operations, inspection services and storage, as well as housing a substantially larger lab. The expansion comes just a couple of months after the company received an investment of $9.8 million from investors including the Municipal Employees' Retirement System (MERS) of Michigan.
While in the region, I skipped over to call on Michigan State University’s BioEconomy Institute in Holland. The facility provides chemical pilot plant scale-up production and conducts sponsored research and testing for both for-profit and not-for-profit entities of all sizes. I met Tom Guarr, PhD, Director of Research and Development brought me up to date on activities at the Institute. It also houses the BioBusiness Accelerator, a wet-lab incubator for bioscience and other high tech startups, that is operated under contract by Lakeshore Advantage on behalf of Michigan State University. A BioEconomy Institute-led received is one of six "i6 Green Challenge" grant awardees and uses the federal funds to run a Green Proof of Concept Center.
At the end of the Labor Day week, I had one of my monthly meetings with Genesys Health in Grand Blanc as we work together to plan a life sciences cluster concept plan for their campus. The health system, a member of the larger Ascension Health (the largest non-profit health system in the country), is trying to develop its 500+ acre campus and take advantage of its unique integrated healthcare delivery system and strengths in population health.
The following week I met with Bill Domann of the Domann Organization based in the San Fransisco area. Domann is a search firm focused exclusively on recruiting key executive personnel. With four offices and over 25 years of experience, Domann has had great success in identifying and placing top management talent. Bill is a member of the BioForward (our sister organization in Wisconsin) Board of Directors. He visited Ann Arbor to meet with a local client.
Then mid-week I attended in the quarterly meeting of the SmartZone/Support Service Providers that gather from around the state to discuss various ongoing programs and activities. Later that same day, David McGuire (MichBio's director of membership and operations) and I were guests of Bank of America Merrill Lynch for the Detroit Tigers-Kansas City Royals game at Comerica Park. Bank of America Merrill Lynch is the generous sponsor of MichBio U. We had a great time despite the inclement weather that kept most fans away.
Last week got a little more hectic. I traveled to Windsor, Ontario for an all-day meeting with a broad set of stakeholders from their biosciences community. It was good to be back in my homeland and pronounce my words with others who follow the Oxford English Dictionary. But seriously, it was an excellent opportunity for me to introduce representatives from regional higher education institutions and health systems, federal government officials, and medical technology industry groups to everything that is Michigan’s bio-industry. Also participating were Randal Charlton and John Stchur of Everist Health based in Ann Arbor (Randal of course, is the former director of TechTown in Detroit). Stay tuned in the future as we work with Windsor-Essex to develop stronger cross-border initiatives.
On Wednesday I met with Fred Molnar, Biotech Venture Director at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), who also heads up the Michigan Life Sciences Innovation Center in Plymouth. With a strong business and entrepreneurial background in the biosciences private sector, it sounds like he’ll be a great asset for the incubator and its tenant companies. Then on Thursday, I traveled to Cincinnati where I spoke about Michigan’s support service and capital programs at a regional meeting hosted by our sister organization, BioOhio. It was good to hear about best practices and resources being implemented in that state.
So that wraps up the past month’s travels. The rest of time was spent feverishly putting the finishing touches on the upcoming MichBio Expo & Conference. We’re extremely excited at the prospect of hosting the U.S. FDA Commissioner, Dr. Margaret Hamburg. It’s not often that she speaks at regional meetings so we’re extremely lucky to have her. You won’t have another opportunity like this to interface with one of the most influential people in healthcare in a small setting. In addition, Sen. Debbie Stabenow is now confirmed to be the featured guest at the Bio-Industry Town Hall. Don’t wait… register now!