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Fund invested $185m in 28 companies

Crain's Detroit reports fund managers at Farmington Hills-based Beringea LLC and Credit Suisse's New York-based Customized Fund Investment Group of Michigan Growth Capital Partners I LP in 2008 have invested the $185 million fund in 28 companies that employ more than 5,000 in Michigan, including University of Michigan spinoff Sakti3 Inc.

"We've had a very robust deal flow," said Charles Rothstein, senior managing director at Beringea.

Read the full story here.

University of Michigan boasts vibrant activity at NCRC as it welcomes 2,000th researcher

The University of Michigan is celebrating the addition of the 2,000th employee to move into its North Campus Research Complex, reports AnnArbor.com:

“How fortuitous and fortunate that the 2000th person to move to the NCRC is a faculty recruit from another great institution,” said David Canter, NCRC executive director, in a statement. “Mixing together biologists and engineers, university research and commercial companies, and established faculty and new blood is the very essence of the NCRC’s mission.”

Read the full story here.

MSU's ITEC empowering youth through computer science

Empowerment is a bold word; it's a dramatic concept. And none of those terms – drama, boldness or empowerment – are ones young students often associate with math or science. They didn't used to, at least. Lansing's Information Technology Empowerment Center, or ITEC, has been working to change all that.
 
"We're all about confidence and competence," says ITEC Executive Director Kirk Riley. "It's not good enough to be able to do but find it boring. We're doing it through innovative, IT-based methods."
 
What that means is fifth graders building robots with Legos, and third graders learning to design video games during a variety of afterschool programs throughout Lansing. Though that may seem nearly impossible to even well-educated adults who view robotics and programming as highly specialized skills, ITEC is defying that mind frame with the help of software such as Kodu, a Microsoft product that allows beginning game designers to create projects through simple coding.
 
Though ITEC doesn't turn away students of any socioeconomic demographic, the program focuses on at-risk students in the Lansing area. All students qualifying as H.O.P.E. scholars are invited to join, with the aim of exciting these young minds in the STEM areas.  
 
"We're setting up a learning environment where kids are free to explore," Riley says. "They are free to explore at their own pace. There is no answer key in the ITEC classroom. Instead there is creativity and ideas."
 
In order to empower kids to love math and science, however, ITEC first empowered themselves by building partnerships with organizations citywide, such as the YMCA, Capital Area District Library, Impression 5 and more.
 
"Partnerships are important be cause we work all over town," says Riley. "Our partners do a lot of what is needed to enable ITEC to succeed. If we had to pay for every computer lab and every snack, our cost would be a lot higher."
 
ITEC, in fact, began as a partnership. The organization launched in 2007 after Michigan State University identified a shortage of qualified computer science applicants. The idea behind ITEC was, instead of retraining college students and professionals in the field, to instill computer science competency and enthusiasm in students from a young age.
 
"These were real issues for [MSU]," says Riley of the talent shortage, "but the real motivator in creating ITEC was to do the right thing by Lansing youth, and that was to give them a leg up in IT and STEM careers. And yet, the economic development portion of ITEC has drawn in a lot of partners."
 
Six years later, about 250 students are enrolled in ITEC courses, and Riley expects 400 to participate in summer programming. For most of that time, ITEC classes have taken place in the venues of their partners, such as the YMCA and Lansing Schools. And though meeting kids where they already are is an important part of ITEC's mission, when the non-profit opened an official headquarters in 2011, it helped to further establish their identity in the community.
 
" We kind of put down roots here," Riley says of the Foster Community Center location. "It helps a lot to be able to have people come here. It's the ITEC."  
 
New digs isn't the only thing changing at the ever-evolving organization. ITEC is constantly developing new partnerships and new programs, such as iMath, a new web-based math-tutoring program rolled out in late 2012, which recently received a $20,000 grant from Jackson National Community Fund and in-kind donations from Hungry Howie’s of Lansing and Dean Transportation.
 
ITEC is clearly growing within Lansing, but the sky is the limit for the organization. ITEC is already active in three Flint locations, and Riley hopes kids elsewhere in Michigan will soon be able to benefit from the innovative programming.
 
"We have a model that works at multiple locations," he says. "We're growing by leaps and bounds. There is a lot of demand for what we offer. Entities approach us, rather than the other way around."
 
The kids really say it best. As Joshua, a 15-year-old ITEC student says in an ITEC video, "Hand-on learning, it's all real and right there, and it's something you can show to another person. You can't show someone your imagination."
 
Joshua is one of all sorts of kids in the video, smiling and showing off what they've made with their newfound knowledge of technology. And while creating a generation of well-prepared engineers and computer scientists was the impetus for ITEC, Riley says true success is measured through the enthusiasm of each student as he or she demonstrates his or her video game or robot.
 
"We can test them to see if they know their times tables or coordinates," he says. "It's another thing to say that, by changing their attitudes, they can then go on to more success."

This piece originally appeared in Capital Gains.

Ancient lamprey DNA decoded at MSU

When it comes to evolution, humans can learn a thing or two from primeval sea lampreys.

In the current issue of Nature Genetics, a team of scientists has presented an assembly of the sea lamprey genome – the first time the entire sequence has been decoded. The data is compelling as the sea lamprey is one of the few ancient, jawless species that has survived through the modern era.

The paper not only sheds light on how the venerable invasive species adapted and thrived, but it also provides many insights into the evolution of all vertebrates, species with backbones and spinal cords, which includes humans, said Weiming Li, Michigan State University fisheries and wildlife professor, who organized and coordinated the team.

“Sea lampreys are amazing survivors,” said Li, whose teammate, Jeramiah Smith of the University of Kentucky, led the analysis of the genome assembly. “Even though they diverged from our lineage 500 million years ago, they give us a template of how vertebrates, including humans, evolved into the modern species that we have today.”

By serving as a bridge to bygone eras, lamprey DNA also provides pathways to many extinct lineages, thus opening the door to decode many prehistoric species, he added.

Based on fossil records, the Cambrian period is cited as a dramatic time when life exploded from single-celled organisms to complex, multicelled creatures. During this time, many species developed jaws and skeletal frames that protected their brain, spine and nervous system. Some, in fact, even had brains that shared the same basic structures and functions as modern humans.

By mapping the sea lamprey genome, scientists may soon better understand how and when humans evolved. Future studies also could answer when humans evolved jaws, matching arms and legs, an adaptive immune system and more.

But understanding sea lampreys to better understand them is beneficiary in its own right. They are an invasive species that feed by attaching themselves to other fish, such as salmon and trout. One sea lamprey can kill more than 40 pounds of fish, and the U.S. and Canadian governments spend $10 to $15 million annually to control them in the Great Lakes.
The team’s research could eventually reveal new and better ways to limit the destruction sea lampreys cause.
Additional MSU team members include Yu-Wen Chung-Davidson, Kaben Nanlohy, Scot Libants, Chu-Yin Yeh and Titus Brown.

Li’s lamprey genome research is funded primarily by the National Human Genome Research Institute and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. In addition, his work is funded in part by the National Science Foundation and MSU AgBioResearch.

MSU study indicates link between Autism, larger brain ventricles

The Detroit News reports that low birth weight babies with a certain brain abnormality are seven times more likely to develop autism, according to research announced by Michigan State University:

The findings, culled from a 25-year study of low birth weight infants who received cranial ultrasounds, showed the heightened autism risk occurred among babies with enlarged ventricles — the brain cavities that store spinal fluid — and may indicate the loss of a type of brain tissue known as white matter.

The study offers evidence that autism, in some cases, is starting early in life, in spite of controversies that vaccines or the environment lead to the disorder, said Tammy Movsas, clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at MSU and lead author of the study.


Read the full story here.

Wayne State OKs $12m tech education center in Warren

Wayne State University is expanding from its urban setting in Detroit, building a suburban campus in Warren and a relationship with Macomb Community College and nearby automotive companies.

WSU's Board of Regents approved a $12 million renovation of an existing building adjacent to MCC on 12 Mile Road. The renovation will turn the building there and surrounding 3.5 acre site into the Advanced Technology Education Center, or ATEC.

ATEC will offer four year degrees in marketable academic programs such as engineering, computer science, business, advanced manufacturing and other areas of study. The degrees will be complemented by the access to collaborations with nearby businesses.

Wayne State and MCC through ATEC will help create an electric vehicle technologies center of excellence where WSU and MCC faculty can research, develop programs and improve delivery of electric and automotive battery technologies. 

“We are excited about implementing this next phase of the university's education strategy in Macomb County, which will serve as a center of excellence and a national model for university–community college partnerships,”  Ahmad Ezzeddine, vice president of educational outreach and international programs at Wayne State University, says in a statement. “We look forward to working with our partners at Macomb Community College and the Macomb business community to develop and offer educational and research programs that meet the talent and workforce needs of Macomb and the State of Michigan.” 

Dates for construction or opening have not yet been set.

Story originally published in Metro Mode.

Wayne State ants featured in Fast Company

Research into any colonies from Wayne State University was recently featured in a Fast Company article about applying lessons from how ants operate to the corporate world:

Ant algorithms
are already a thriving industry in computer science, artificial intelligence, and robotics. But human groups tackling complex problems also face dilemmas similar to ants: how to make efficient, accurate decisions among many compatriots. So scientists at Wayne State University drafted ant-inspired algorithms to find the optimal balance between the time spent on planning and execution when moving a product from concept to market. Kai Yang, a professor of industrial and systems engineering at Wayne State, used mathematical models of ant behavior--"non-discrete ant colony optimization" in the scientific lingo--to model the creation of a mobile phone product on time with the highest levels of quality.

Read the full story here.

WSU opening admission for Detroit Revitalization Fellows

Wayne State's Ned Staebler and the university's commitment to the Detroit Revitalization Fellows program was featured in Bridge Magazine:

Ned Staebler, vice president for economic development at Wayne State University, says making those connections with young would-be leaders is essential.

“Less than 25 percent of Michiganders have a college degree,” he said. “In Minnesota, it’s closer to 35 percent. We have a shortage of talent relative to our peers. And young talent, in particular, is very mobile. ”

To start to address the problem, Wayne State will open admissions for its second class of Detroit Revitalization Fellows, a two-year program largely supported by the foundation community, designed to attract, train and launch high-quality, leadership-ready talent into the city, with an emphasis on revitalization work.


Read the full story here.

U-M grad, animator strikes out solo with Media Academica

Shannon Kohlitz didn't want to move to the coasts to get an job in animation after graduating from the University of Michigan, so she created her own: Media Academica.
 
The Jackson native saw the need for web animation work in Ann Arbor when she was getting ready to graduate a few years ago. Two years ago, shortly after graduation, she and two friends founded Media Academica. Kohlitz recently bought out her two co-founders and is now focused on growing the Ann Arbor-based company.
 
"Before I was just into the animation," Kohlitz says. "Now I have to handle all of the sales and legal stuff. I have been learning about all of that."
 
Her company's first job was creating a logo animation for a hospitality firm. Now it handles animation and video-production work for a number of both smaller and larger clients, including PICpatch and the University of Michigan.
 
"I like to say we make smart videos for smart people," Kohlitz says.
 
Media Academica currently employs just Kohlitz but she would like to expand the staff as her company continues to grow. She hopes to do that by taking on more work in the Toledo and Detroit markets.
 
Source: Shannon Kohlitz, owner of Media Academica
Writer: Jon Zemke

This story originally appeared in Concentrate on Jan. 23, 2013.

University presidents: Invest in Michigan research universities

For every dollar invested in Michigan's three research universities -- Michigan State University, Wayne State University, and the University of Michigan -- the state saw $17 in economic benefit in FY 2010-2011.

That's only one reason why Michigan's research universities are a good investment. Write Mary Sue Coleman, Allan Gilmour, and Lou Anna K. Simon of the URC's $2 billion in annual R&D spending: 

That $2 billion in R&D helps bring talented and creative people to the state, making Michigan a place where people want to live, work and launch new enterprises. Since 2002, the three URC universities have cultivated 149 start-up companies, including 18 in 2011, when the URC ranked behind only Southern California and Massachusetts.
 
Furthermore, the URC is working to expand the economic benefits it brings to the state. The $15.5 billion in state economic activity the URC contributed in fiscal year 2011 was up $2.6 billion -- 20 percent -- over the 2007 report.
Read the full op-ed here.
 

Detroit leads in innovation, tech jobs

Detroit leads the nation in advanced automotive sector employment, agricultural and engineering jobs, and engineering degrees, according to a new report from Automation Alley. The Detroit region is also in the top three nationally for STEM degree completion.

Reports Crain's Detroit Business:

The ranking on tech degrees is important, said Ken Rogers, executive director of Automation Alley, because there isn't an adequate supply in this region.
 
"The demand is increasing, it's not decreasing," Rogers said. "This falls in line with our previous tech reports, (which) illustrates we're a tech center."
 
The Greater Detroit region ranked second out of the nine Midwest regions analyzed in the report for technology industry employment, with 210,984 jobs in 2010. That number represented 12.9 percent of the 1.63 million jobs in the region in that same year, compared with 6 percent of all jobs nationally belonging to the technology industry.
 
Read the full story here.


Delphinus starts $17M fundraising round, adds 5 jobs

Delphinus Medical Technologies has begun raising a Series B round of fundraising, setting a goal of scoring $17 million by this summer.

The Plymouth-based start-up that calls the Michigan Life Science Innovation Center home is spinning out technology for an alternative test to mammography from the Karmanos Cancer Institute. It has already raised $12 million in a Series A round.

"Our current investors are willing to put in a substantive portion of this round," says Bill Greenway, CEO of Delphinus Medical Technologies.

The 2-year-old start-up's principal product is SoftVue, which works to effectively differentiate between benign and malignant masses in breasts. The idea is to help eliminate false positives and reduce unnecessary biopsies. It can also accurately measure breast density, a known risk factor for developing breast cancer, as well as detect many early stages of cancer in women with dense breast tissue, which is often not picked up by mammography.

SoftVue works by surrounding a breast submerged in warm water with an ultrasound ring that captures detailed, three-dimensional images with sound waves. The results are similar to an MRI, but the procedure takes only a few minutes and costs much less. The procedure was the inspiration for the company's name, which is Latin for dolphins.

The first prototype of the technology is currently being used at the Karmanos Cancer Institute. Greenway expects to ramp up commercialization and sales of SoftVue by the end of this year. He points out that St. Mary's Hospital at the University of Toronto is also in line to receive the second one. "We have a number of sites that are interested in a system," Greenway says.

Delphinus Medical Technologies currently employs 19 people after hiring five people in 2012. He expects to hire another five or six people this year.

Source: Bill Greenway, CEO of Delphinus Medical Technologies
Writer: Jon Zemke

This story originally appeared in Metromode on Jan. 17, 2013.

MSU Medical School sending staff and students to downtown Flint

Michigan State University is planning to lease the former Journal building in downtown Flint, Mich. The agreement will send 100 students from MSU medical school as well as faculty and staff and is expected to jump-start Flint's economic revitalization efforts. 

Reports MLive.com: 

The school is a good fit with a downtown Flint clinic Genesys is opening on South Saginaw Street that will provide training for medical students, [Betsy] Aderholdt said.
 
"To have our training site very closely located with the medical students, it really creates a very strong model that demonstrates collaboration between MSU and the health care sector of our economy," she said. "As they move their public school here and really get into the community, I think it's really going to take the community's game to the next level. This will be a world-class public research function located right here in downtown Flint."
 
MSU is expected to move into the building in 2014, after renovations are completed this year.

Read the full story here.

WSU researcher working to make intersections safer

A Wayne State University researcher is part of a federally funded effort that could lead to safer intersections across the country.
 
Timothy Gates, Ph.D., assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering in the College of Engineering, is the lead WSU investigator on a National Cooperative Highway Research Program project that will better illustrate the connection between roadway safety and available sight distance at intersections controlled by stop signs on the minor streets. 
 
Adequate sight distance is necessary at stop-controlled intersections for drivers to assess when it is safe to enter a major roadway. That distance may be limited by objects or roadway features, such as trees, crops, hills, curves, buildings and parked cars.
 
The Transportation Research Board is funding the two-year project; WSU's portion of the work is funded by $75,000. The overall project includes a major nationwide data collection effort and is led by Massachusetts-based traffic services firm Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc. Portland State University also is a major participant.
 
Data will be collected in Ohio, North Carolina and Washington, and study sites will include divided and undivided roadways in rural, suburban and urban settings, and in flat and hilly terrain. Gates and his team will cover 250 locations throughout Ohio, while other project team members will work in North Carolina and Washington.  
 
"Our purpose is to determine if there's truly a relationship between crash occurrence and amount of available sight distance at stop-controlled intersections," Gates said. Such a relationship will be determined using regression modeling techniques that will consider not only the sight distance measured at the intersection, but other factors including traffic volume, area type, topography, speed limit, and visual clutter caused by point objects, such as signs, poles and trees.

U-M endowment invests in Detroit-based Huron Capital Partners

The University of Michigan is putting a little bit more of its money into the local economy, investing $15 million in Huron Capital Partners.
 
The downtown Detroit-based private equity fund recently closed on a $500 million investment fund, the company's fourth and largest to date. The 13-year-old company has invested in 61 companies in its lifespan and was named Private Equity Firm of the Year for 2010 by Mergers & Acquisitions, a leading publication for private equity.
 
Huron Capital Partners specializes in investing $10 million to $70 million at a time into lower middle-market companies with revenues up to $200 million. It targets growing companies looking for sponsor management buyouts, family succession transactions, market-entry strategies, corporate carve-outs, and recapitalizations of niche manufacturing, specialty service, and value-added distribution.
 
The University of Michigan Endowment Fund, worth $8 billion, made the investment in Huron Capital Partners, which was approved by the university's Board of Regents in December. The university has announced that it plans to invest more of its money locally through things like the Michigan Investment in New Technology Startups initiative. The Huron Capital Partners investment isn't part of that initiative, but fits into the university's overall goal of investing more locally.
 
Source: Rick Fitzgerald, associate director at the University of Michigan's Office of Public Affairs & Internal Communication
Writer: Jon Zemke

A version of this story originall appeared in Concentrate on Jan. 16, 2013.
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