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News and Press: MichBio News

November 'On the Road' with Stephen Rapundalo

Thursday, November 19, 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Kate Oesterle
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Sorry for the lapse in communication since mid-September. However, MichBio has been without a Marketing & Communications Director over the last 8 weeks following the departure of Katie Trevathan. It has taken all my skills to maintain a bare minimum of announcements flowing. The good news is that we’ll be back to normal within a week’s time as a new staff person begins.


The remainder of September was a mixture of visits, events and activities. The Michigan House Health Policy Committee took up biosimilar substation legislation at its hearing on September 22nd. That began an almost six week lobbying roller coaster effort just to get a bill passed out of the committee for full House consideration – see more in the “Biosimilar Substitution Legislation Clears Michigan House” article.


At the end of that week, MichBio hosted Sandbox Industries at the Michigan Life Sciences Innovation Center as one of our BioConnections Partnering events. A number of Michigan bioscience start-ups were able to meet with Sandbox, present their business models, and pitch for investment from the Chicago-based VC firm that manages the Blue Cross Blue Shield Venture Funds. That same day, I participated in a 4-hour national meeting of a National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute (NHLBI) SBIR Review Committee that considered a little over a dozen company finalists for a pitch presentation spot in the NHLBI Innovation Conference.


I closed out September with a meeting of the co-chairs of the Bioscience Legislative Caucus – we discussed the types of activities that would be of greatest interest and value for legislators while promoting the bio-industry. In addition, I attended the MSU Science Connect’s Career Health Fair Reception. It was a great opportunity to meet some really talented graduate students and postdoctoral fellows keen on pursuing bio-industry careers. In addition, October turned out to be an extraordinarily busy out-of-state travel period.  While much of my sojourns are within the state usually, the first few weeks of the past month saw me in and out of Detroit Metro airport more often than I cared for.


First up was the annual AdvaMed Conference, held this year in sunny San Diego, where about 2500 medical device professional gathered to hear speakers across multiple tracks – business development, compliance, emerging company growth, diagnostics, health policy, technology regulation, payment and healthcare delivery, and others. In addition, I joined about a dozen of my peers from state medtech associations (AZ, CA, CO, FL, IL, MA, MI, MN, OH, PA, SEMDA) to catch up on the latest in legislative policy issues (e.g., medical device tax) and compare notes on our respective operations and activities.


No sooner back, than I took in the U-M Celebrates Invention event that showcased the record year in terms of number of spin-out companies, option and license agreements, issued patents, licensing revenues and reported new inventions.


Immediately thereafter I drove to Detroit for TechTown’s “Toast of the Town” and their annual fundraising gala that celebrates entrepreneurship. It was a jam=packed party that showcased a number of life science companies and their technologies.


David McGuire and I began the second week of October by calling upon Paradigm Dx and CEO Robert Penny, MD, PhD, and COO Joe Paulauskis, PhD. Paradigm offers doctors and health care organizations access to cutting-edge molecular testing including next-gen sequencing and molecular diagnostics. Paradigm’s analysis characterizes the underlying molecular pathways of the disease and derives what therapies will most effectively be paired with those pathways.


Then I traveled to Winston-Salem, NC for a three-day meeting of the National Advisory Council of the Consortium of Community College Consortium on Bioscience Credentials. I co-chair the group along with Steve Dahms, PhD at SoCalBio. The Council oversees progress of a federal Department of Labor grant that funds a multistate consortium of 12 community colleges engaged in a bioscience educational and training initiative, as well as how the grant’s deliverables may be incorporated into workforce development activities by companies.


Upon my return I visited with Alex Howarth, new CFO at Lycera, based at the U-M North Campus Research Complex (former Pfizer facility). The company is developing new small molecule immunomodulatory medicines for the treatment of autoimmune diseases and cancer.


The following week it was back to Lansing to attend a meeting of the House Health Policy Committee. In addition, a small cadre of bio-industry representatives visited several legislators to educate them on the pending bills and science behind biologics and biosimilars.


Continuing on the advocacy front, I made a quick trip to DC, ostensibly to attend the 17th Annual Leadership Awards Reception hosted by the Friends for Cancer Research. This year they honored our own Rep. Fred Upton, along with Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), both of whom led the successful development and bipartisan passage of the 21st Century Cures legislation. 



Friends for Cancer Research Leadership Awardees, Rep. Fred Upton
 (R-MI) and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) with MichBio CEO, Stephen Rapundalo, PhD at the Hay-Adams Hotel on October 22, 2015


The Hay-Adams Hotel (across the street from the White House) provided a phenomenal venue for networking. And the crowd didn’t disappoint as the crème de la crème of VIPs were there – NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, FDA Commissioner nominee Robert Califf, MD, Interim FDA Commissioner Stephen Ostroff, MD, NIH-NIAID Director, Anthony Fauci, MD, were just some of the luminaries that I had a chance to speak with.


I took the opportunity of catching up with several groups while in DC – PhRMA, BIO, AdvaMed, HDMA, NAM and more – to talk about both legislative, policy, and membership matters.


The last week of October was hectic. It was off to Cleveland on Sunday 25th to attend the Cavendish Global Investment Forum (co-hosted with the Cleveland Clinic) and its kickoff black-tie reception at the Cleveland Art Museum. Talk about a rich (pun intended) crowd that made for incredible networking. The next day I juggled the Cavendish event, as well as the BioOhio Annual Conference and the Cleveland Clinic’s Annual Innovation Summit. Stryker CEO, Kevin Lobo was a featured keynote on Day 1 of the latter program. A dinner event featured a fireside chat between Toby Cosgrove, MD, CEO of the Clinic and guest, Elizabeth Holmes, Founder and CEO of Theranos. I had the opportunity to speak with both of them prior to their session.


Following the Summit dinner, I raced back to Michigan late that night, as I had to testify before the House Health Policy Committee early the next morning in opposition to HB 4437, a competing biosimilars substitution bill that had no requirement for pharmacist notification to the physician – see the separate article on our advocacy efforts on regarding biosimilars.


Then David McGuire and I hosted representatives from BIO Business Solutions and VWR. We had a bull session on company recruitment and savings, as well as enhancing marketing and branding, and cross-promotion with other preferred providers. If you’re not taking advantage of cost-savings through our group purchasing program then you’re leaving good money on the table. Check them out!


I ended October by attending the 2015 Great Lakes Biorepository Research Network Annual Meeting at Meadowbrook Hall, Oakland University. The Network is comprised of primarily academic/clinical institutions with active tissue procurement and banking programs. The group gathered to discuss various aspects of their programs, share best practices and plan further growth/governance of the initiative.


November began on a bit a lighter note. I participated in a ReBUILD Advisory Board meeting at the University of Detroit Mercy. The institution is partnered with Marygrove College, Wayne State University and Wayne County Community College in a NIH-sponsored grant meant to implement a program encouraging more undergraduate students from underrepresented and economically disadvantaged backgrounds to pursue careers in biomedical research.


The next day found me back at the House Health Policy Committee as they finally took action on a biosimilars substitution bill. Fortunately for us, HB 4812, the bill we supported was voted out of committee by a 18-1-2 vote. The bill was quickly taken up by the full House two days later. I joined representatives for Amgen and Novartis at the Capitol to lobby legislators for their support – ultimately the House approved the measure by 101-5.


On Wednesday of that week, MichBio co-sponsored a national webinar presented by the Canada Consulate on programs and support services available to companies, especially entrepreneurial ventures, wishing to expand activities in that country.


Nov. 3-5 was the annual Accelerate Michigan event and I attended the final day’s gala reception and finalist pitches. Bioscience companies were very well represented – Genomenon (2nd Place winner; $100,000 prize), Ackervall Technologies (Advanced Material category winner), WorkIt Healt (Information Technology category winner), QTEK (Life Science category winner) and FlexDex (Medical Device category winner). Congrats to all!


The next day, I participated in a Career Development Forum sponsored by the Cell & Molecular Biology Program at the University of Michigan.


Last week, I attended the annual CEO Summit hosted by Business Leaders for Michigan at the Detroit Westin Book Cadillac. As usual, the program featured great speakers, including Barry Broome, CEO, Greater Sacramento Area Economic Council, who kicked off the morning program. Barry led Kalamazoo’s Southwest Michigan First during the period after Pfizer shuttered the human health R&D operations in 2003. His bullish efforts resulted in the community coalescing around a life science focused economic development plan that was successful in not only retaining great talent and jobs, but put Kalamazoo on a firm base to continue a strong economic concentration in the bio-industry.


I ended the week with my monthly advisory committee meeting at Genesys Health in Grand Blanc. Their efforts to develop an integrated health technology innovation concept for their campus continue to evolve and are now including conversations with external investment and innovation partners.


Lastly, MichBio just finished hosting Three Leaf Ventures in a BioConnections Partnering Day. The family investment office, based in Denver, CO, now has a formal presence in Ann Arbor. Sean Kearney, Managing Director, and Kiki Broe, Senior Associate, met with eight bioscience companies that pitched their technologies and product commercialization plans.


Also this week MichBio welcomed Kate Oesterle as its new Director of Marketing & Communications. She’s off to a great start - this newsletter is her first product – and trying to familiarize herself quickly with Michigan’s bio-industry. Kate comes to MichBio most recently from The Heat and Warmth Fund (THAW), a statewide non-profit provider of utility assistance for Michigan residents in need. Attendees at the next BioArbor on December 3 will have a chance to meet her in person. In the meantime do make a point to interact with her – she can be reached at or 734-527-9147.


That’s it for now…have a great Thanksgiving holiday and we’ll catch up in December.



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