Statewide effort launches bioscience planning process


Organizations representing the bioscience sector across Michigan are participating in an initiative to develop a strategic plan to guide the industry’s growth.

MichBio, the Michigan bioscience industry trade association based in Ann Arbor, announced at the end of January the launch of a collaborative statewide effort to develop a five-year strategic plan for the growing bio-industry in partnership with Business Leaders for Michigan and the University Research Corridor.

As a substantive statewide strategic plan, the Michigan Bio-Industry Roadmap 2015 is meant to guide and facilitate industry growth over the next three to five years and identify key strategies with defined goals and metrics, according to the press release.

Not only will the plan focus on areas such as innovation, business climate, capital access and talent development, but it will also assess needs and opportunities in the Michigan market.

Stephen Rapundalo, president and CEO of MichBio, said the organization felt a state-level report was long overdue and has received interest from the industry for a number of years for a strategic plan.

“If you look around the country at some of the successful bioscience hubs, really most of them have developed, at least in no small measure, based on the fact they had a game plan on how they wanted to grow their bio-industry — who the accountable parties would be and what their priorities and actions would be,” said Rapundalo.

“Michigan really hasn’t had one of those, at least in about a dozen years — and even that one, quite honestly, collected a lot of dust.”

Doug Rothwell, president and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan, said as the demand for life sciences solutions grow, Michigan will benefit from utilizing the bio-industry to its full potential.

“Growing Michigan’s strengths in the area of life sciences is key to growing a new Michigan economy,” said Rothwell in the press release. “Developing such an industry pillar for Michigan’s economy will make us more competitive globally and increase opportunities for job growth.”

To launch the effort for a cohesive plan, MichBio teamed up with BLM, the University Research Corridor and Data Consulting Group based in Detroit, according to Rapundalo.

Michael Kruczek, life science practice leader at Data Consulting Group, will serve as the project manager of the initiative, and an executive steering committee comprised of industry experts across the state will oversee the effort.

Members of the steering committee include: Linda Chamberlain, venture fellow at the Michigan Accelerator Fund I; Rob DeWit, director of the Southwest Michigan Innovation Center; Michael Hagen, chair of Ash Stevens; Jeffrey Mason, director of University Research Corridor; Ken Massey, venture director of Wayne State University’s Office of Technology Commercialization; Fred Molnar, from Michigan Life Sciences Innovation Center; Andrea Dickson, president and CEO, ENT Biotech Solutions; and Dean Knuth, director of Jasper Clinic/MPI Research.

As a member of the committee, Knuth said his role is principally to be a spokesperson for the clinical research and life sciences community, which includes a broad continuum from early drug discovery through hospitals and education.

“We are just one step in that continuum. The state has a lot of talent in a lot of places, and a lot of that is not recognized or coordinated,” said Knuth. “To make Michigan more competitive and have our capabilities stand out from any other place that has good universities, good hospitals and good industry, there has to be some sort of way to work together. Working together effectively requires some sort of map or plan.”

Knuth said one priority he would like to see included is leveraging the state’s educational asset.

“I think the important part is to continue to articulate and develop the ways that one of our great assets — the colleges and universities — can be integrated into the whole life sciences sector,” said Knuth. “Between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, we have some excellent institutes of both undergraduate and higher learning. It needs to be lifted up and harnessed.”

As part of the planning process for the Michigan Bio-Industry Roadmap 2015, new and existing MichBio workgroups will assist the steering committee in developing the new strategic plan. Other outreach efforts designed to gain feedback from stakeholders and bio-industry leaders include focus groups, online surveys, one-on-one interviews and marketplace analysis, according to Rapundalo.

The marketplace analysis includes reviewing other state plans relevant to Michigan’s bio-industry with instances of assessing impact and pulling pertinent strategies and priorities from reports and assessments developed in the last three to four years.

“Over the years there have been various other attempts to get a little bit of a handle on the industry, particularly in the last three to four years. We found at least the ones in the last few years actually were a very good foundation from which to build a new plan,” said Rapundalo. “By far the largest effort has been in terms of data gathering — going out and not only validating some of what we have uncovered from the last few  years but also gathering new information and perspective from folks.”

The strategic plan not only incorporates a perspective that focuses on the five major sectors — agricultural-industrial bio, medical devices and equipment, pharmaceuticals, research and development, and biosciences distribution logistics — but also assesses the niche and specialty markets where the state may excel.

Potential niche markets include clinical trials, research, contract research organizations and manufacturing suppliers, according to Rapundalo.

“On the growth side, certainly we see clinical trials as a big growth area. Michigan already has considerable strength in that. We think we can do more and should do more to grow it and bring more sponsored research into the state,” said Rapundalo.

“Certainly, we have seen plenty of organic growth in the medical device sector. The question is, what can we do there to make us more visible? What can we do there to make sure our device companies are, in fact, utilizing the strengths of what is here in the state?”

The third vantage point considers functional areas, such as technology transfer and commercialization, state-funded programs and resources available, and economic development practices. The last functional theme involves access to capital, which remains a challenge for the industry, according to Rapundalo.

“Plenty of people still bemoan the difficulties in getting capital investment at whatever stage of the business lifecycle, but certainly the early- to mid-stage companies are still finding it quite difficult to do so,” said Rapundalo. “The challenge for us is to not only bring capital investment here but keep it here and keep those companies and talent here.”

After finalizing the data-gathering phase in the next couple of weeks, Rapundalo said the steering committee will review the information and begin to organize strategic priority areas.

“We will hopefully have something in early draft form sometime by the end of April or early May,” said Rapundalo. “We might then go out and flesh it out, do some limited selected dissemination of it as a discussion draft and get further comment. The idea is, by early fall, we would pull together some sort of bio-industry summit where we would unveil the full plan.”

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