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Monday, October 22, 2012

Recap: Life Science Information Exchange Event in SW Michigan

Recap: Southwest Michigan Life Science Information Exchange 10-18-12

The first southwest Michigan Life Science Information Exchange event held in Kalamazoo at the SW Mich Innovation Center (SMIC) last week was very much like a TEDx event, or rather it was more like at TED event (wonder if I can trademark that?).  The audience ranged from life science manufacturing, to biotech, to pre-clinical, and on to life science business support arenas. 
Ben Culp

Everyone in attendance, including late arrivals, were provided with the opportunity to give their personal “elevator speech” so that they had a head start during the many opportunities at the event for expanding their network. 

               Yours truly started off the event describing the many opportunities for life science companies who want to expand their client portfolio to include the government sector.  The National Institutes of Health, Department of Defense, the Office for Biological Defense, the VA, EPA, and the Navy’s Bureau of Medicine and Surgery are among just a few of the branches of government which award many millions of dollars in R&D, life science equipment, and safety evaluation studies (as well as many, many, more services).  The government sector is not necessarily an easy customer when compared to a commercial client as there are many qualifications and hoops to jump through.  Fortunately, the local Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) provides free training, guidance and follow-up to support the life science client.  Because there are many hurdles, those life science companies who are not fully on board (lack commitment) are predictably less successful in this arena.  Conversely, those companies who have developed a systematic approach to the proposal/bid process achieve more successful shots on goal.  Also described was the NIH RePORTer online research tool.  This government-transparency tool provides a great deal of information for researching topics, forecasting, and competitive surveillance.

Brian Knapp of MPI Research

               MPI Research Study Director Brian Knapp showcased the Quantitative Whole Body Autoradiography (QWBA) capabilities that he developed.  Mr. Knapp explained that his methods resulted in the reduction in the number of animals used on study vs. n=3 for traditional tissue excision, allows for multiple data points within the same tissue or organ, and that QWBA can be run in conjunction with other ADME portions or as a standalone tissue distribution study.  Brian also displayed the robust tumor mapping capabilities in their molecular imaging department.

Dr. Andrea Johanson

               Dr. Andrea Johanson from BBCetc based out of Ann Arbor, MI enlightened the entire group with the requirements and intricacies involved in securing SBIR/Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR)   grants. While her presentation was an overview of the program, it was ripe with enough detail to provide a life science entity as to whether to pursue such a grant.  I am certain that Dr. Johanson will be receiving several follow up phone calls.

               Rounding out the speaker line up were John Underwood and Kevin Marcial from Performance Validation.  Performance Validation supports companies who need to prove that their facility/equipment compliance standards are met. John explained that Kevin’s extensive experience in life science systems validation has actually expanded their company’s service offerings.  Definitely value-added.  I am certain that Performance Validation will get some calls as a result of their presentation.

Kevin Marcial and John Underwood

             The atmosphere at the event was comfortable for people to ask questions during the presentations and engage in a hearty dialog.  Before the event, during the break, and afterwards, the room was quite animated with these professionals connecting to both new acquaintances and familiar faces.

The feedback that we received has been only positive with every respondent asking for this to be a continuing event.  Once the finally tally has been made we will determine if this will be quarterly or semi-annually. As I stated in my first article regarding Life Sciences in West Michigan:  It’s part of our DNA!