Life sciences trends topic at WMSTI event


    The West Michigan Science & Technology Initiative’s “Life Sciences SUMmIT 2009: Drugs, Diagnostics and Devices,” set for Thursday, is a half-day seminar reviewing trends in those three areas.

    Speaker Mike DeVries, managing director for EDF Ventures, an Ann Arbor venture capital firm, said his message will focus on trends in the medical device sector.

    “We’re really looking at the stuff that’s currently in the pipeline being developed in the private, the smaller companies, or what we know of that’s being worked on in larger public companies,” said DeVries, who is located in Ada.

    “We’ll look probably at the five- and 10-year horizon, for a sense of where the industries are headed relative to demographics and what the government’s doing, where health care reform is going to end up.”

    Technology and demographics will be important drivers for the medical device industry in the coming years, DeVries said. Often devices are invented by doctors and they have a shorter time to market than time-consuming new drugs, he noted.

    “I think the audience will be people looking at where they should invest their time and energy if they want into this space,” DeVries said. “There is a lot of opportunity in the medical technology area. But the drivers of where the new technologies are going are going to push us more and more to the particular areas we’ll discuss. If they want to get their invention into the commercial phase in the medical device space, they need to have a good idea of what are the doctors looking for, what are the patients looking for. … They don’t need better scalpels.”

    DeVries will be joined at the event by speakers Daniel H. Farkas, laboratory director for the Sequenom Center for Molecular Medicine in Grand Rapids, and Shawn Shirazi, senior director of formulation research and development for Perrigo Co. of Allegan. After presentations on advances and technology trends from each speaker, there will be a panel discussion on the current state of the life sciences product development environment, featuring experts on regulatory affairs, insurance and health care compliance.

    The 8 a.m.-1 p.m. event will be at Loosemore Auditorium on Grand Valley State University’s downtown Pew Campus at 301 W. Fulton St. The $50 cost includes lunch. Register at, under the “Events” tab.

    Even though West Michigan isn’t on the radar screen for medical device investments for many of the 2,000 venture capital firms in the U.S., DeVries pointed to the history of Stryker Corp. in Kalamazoo and its nearby competitors headquartered in Indiana. West Michigan’s strength in manufacturing is another plus, he said.

    “We’ve got good people. We’ve got good talent,” DeVries said. “Ideas you can find anywhere in the country. Medical devices are a much more engineering-driven process than drug development. This is a community of engineers and machinists.”

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