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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.

"The Spartan Line" connects Chicago-based MSU alums to East Lansing

The Spartan Line, an initiative of the Prima Civitas Foundation, is a simple idea: Amtrak service from Chicago to East Lansing for  football games and other big events. But it could help keep former Spartans invested in the East Lansing community -- and possibly entice them to return one day: 

The premise of The Spartan Line is that it gives these Chicago-based MSU alumni a convenient and fun way to zip back to East Lansing for events. After all, the longer they stay connected to the Lansing area, the more likely it is that they consider their former home as a possible future home. PCF worked with several partners to make the program happen, including the university, the MSU Alumni Association, MSU Athletics, the Greater Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau, LEAP and other organizations interested in keeping Spartans local.
The inaugural Spartan Line run included a morning tailgate and a private preview of the Broad Art Museum and attracted about 30 Spartan passengers. PCF has future Spartan Line excursions in the works.

Read the full story here.

Michigan Corporate Relations Network accepting proposals for small business research

The Michigan Corporate Relations Network, a collaboration is soliciting proposals for the third round of its Small Company Innovation Program (SCIP) awards. SCIP provides cost-sharing grants to small and medium-sized companies for research projects at MCRN universities.
MCRN is a partnership between six Michigan research universities: Wayne State University, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Michigan Technological University, the University of Michigan-Dearborn, and Western Michigan University.
In promoting university-industry collaboration, SCIP aims to enhance innovation and growth for Michigan's economy by making research affordable for small businesses. The program also helps to stimulate talent retention in Michigan by developing relationships between small companies and university graduate student researchers.
Individual SCIP projects are funded at matches of $20,000 to $40,000. Participating companies must supply a 1:1 match of funds, for a total project budget of $40,000 to $80,000.
The deadline to submit a proposal is May 1. For more information on SCIP, visit www.michigancrn.org/scip. Full story here.

U-M joins international research effort to shape future of Great Lakes

It's as clear as a glass of water: the Great Lakes are central to the economy of our region. They contain one-fifth of the world's freshwater supply and will be the focal point of research, technology, and the environment in the near- and long-term future.

The University of Michigan is among the leaders of a multinational partnership charged with charting the course of the Great Lakes region. The Great Lakes Futures project is an inaugural effort of 18 universities and 29 master's and doctorate students to develop policy recommendations for the next 50 years, and to better guide the application of federal grants to restoration projects.

Reports AnnArbor.com: 

Part of the uniqueness of the project is the interaction and feedback the students get on their work from regional research bodies and representatives of governmental organizations, as occurred at [a recent] workshop U-M hosted in Ann Arbor.
In a room filled with researchers interested in the Great Lakes, some who had been studying the region for their entire lengthy careers, and others that were just beginning in the field, hours of collaborative conversations went by in making recommendations to the students' work. The interaction between the students, members of interest groups and representatives from policy bodies is extremely "uncommon," Scavia said.

Read the full story here.

WSU startup Advaita to participate in NIH Commercialization Assistance Program

A Wayne State biotech startup has received a prestigious award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Advaita Corp., founded in 2005 by Sorin Draghici, Ph.D., professor of computer science in Wayne State's College of Engineering, has been selected to participate in NIH's Commercialization Assistance Program (CAP), a specialized technical-assistance program that helps promising life-science companies accomplish their commercialization goals and transition their small business into the marketplace.

The 18-month program provides individual mentoring and consulting sessions, training workshops, and access to domain experts that enhance the commercialization profile and readiness of participating companies.

With the assistance of a $2.2 million NIH STTR Phase II award, Advaita developed a bioinformatics software solution called Pathway-Guide. Based on intellectual property developed at Wayne State University, the application provides the most advanced gene pathway analysis technology to date. The company is entering the commercialization phase of their development plan.

Read the full story here.

Brief interruptions cause errors, says MSU research team

Short interruptions – such as the few seconds it takes to silence that buzzing smartphone – have a surprisingly large effect on one's ability to accurately complete a task, according to new research led by Michigan State University.

The study, in which 300 people performed a sequence-based procedure on a computer, found that interruptions of about three seconds doubled the error rate.
Brief interruptions are ubiquitous in today's society, from text messages to a work colleague poking his head in the door and interrupting an important conversation. But the ensuing errors can be disastrous for professionals such as airplane mechanics and emergency room doctors, said Erik Altmann, lead researcher on the study.
"What this means is that our health and safety is, on some level, contingent on whether the people looking after it have been interrupted," said Altmann, MSU associate professor of psychology.

The study, funded by the U.S. Navy's Office of Naval Research, is one of the first to examine brief interruptions of relatively difficult tasks. The findings appear in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

Read the full story here.

Michigan research universities boost automotive industry

In five years, Michigan's research universities have produced over 1400 auto-related research projects representing over $300 million in investment in the automotive sector. That translates to countless advances in technology, safety, fuel efficiency and performance, many of which are on display at this year's North American International Auto Show in Detroit. 

Reports the Winnipeg Free Press:

During a tour of the North American International Auto Show, Wayne State University engineering professor Jerry Ku said the gap between academic and industry research has narrowed in recent years.
"We are very, very aligned. Same direction," said Ku, whose research deals in part with electric vehicle battery packs.
Read the full story here.

Novozymes and MBI Partner to Win $2.5M DOE Award

The U.S. Department of Energy announced this month that it has awarded Lansing-based MBI and global biotech company Novozymes up to $2.5 million to develop new enzyme-based technologies to convert corn stover into sugars for subsequent conversion into biofuels.

Novozymes, a world-leading enzyme company, brings its depth of expertise in enzyme screening and development to the partnership, while MBI brings its innovative AFEXTM biomass processing technology.
"There are two major challenges in converting agricultural biomass into biobased products," said Allen Julian, Chief Business Officer of MBI. "One is the challenge of handling, storing and hauling low-density biomass to the refinery, and the other is the challenge of breaking down the biomass cost-effectively into its constituent sugars."
AFEX technology can be practiced in depots close to the farm, allowing dense biomass pellets to be economically stored and shipped to a distant biorefinery. In addition, AFEX alters the biomass structure so that enzymes can more effectively break the biomass down into fermentable sugars.
The Novozymes/MBI collaboration is aimed at tailoring enzymes for AFEX-treated biomass, which will in turn enable the production of low-cost fermentable sugars. Such non-food biomass sugars can be converted into bio-based fuels, chemicals and other products.
MBI previously won a $4.3 million Department of Energy award to develop and scale up its AFEX technology. Under this project, MBI is currently completing the installation of a 1 ton-per-day pilot-scale AFEX reactor at its Lansing, Michigan facility.

Read the full story here.

Top prizes go to water treatment, life sciences firms at Accelerate Michigan

"There is no time like now and no place like Michigan for innovation," says Dave Egner, executive director of the New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan, which has sponsored the Accelerate Michigan Innovative Competition in its first three years.

Winners of the Accelerate Michigan business plan competition were announced Nov. 15 at an event at Detroit's Orchestra Hall.
Plymouth-based Algal Scientific took home the grand prize of $500,000 in seed capital for its wastewater treatment system technology that uses algae to remove nutrients from contaminated water, leaving the raw materials for biofuel production. Livonia-based nanoMAG took home the $100,000 runner-up prize for its work developing a new type of Magnesium compound that can be used for biocompatible stents and implants.
Quicken Loans Chairman Dan Gilbert was also honored with the Spirit of Michigan Award. Josh Linkner, CEO of Detroit Venture Partners, accepted the award on Gilbert's behalf and spoke highly of downtown Detroit's new tech hub that is bubbling out of the M@dison Building.
"We will be studying this stretch of five years for years to come," Linkner says "It's because of the work and dedication of Dan Gilbert."

Accelerate Michigan got its start in Ann Arbor as a way to showcase the cream of the crop of Michigan's entrepreneurial ecosystem and connect them with both local and out-of-state resources and investors. This year it moved to downtown Detroit to show off the Motor City's emerging tech hub and vibrant downtown. That shined through at a kick-off event at the Guardian Building, where attendees walked past office buildings lit up with young people working for the likes of Quicken Loans, GalaxE.Solutions, Compuware and Strategic Staffing Solutions.
Accelerate Michigan offers $1 million in prizes to start-ups based in or looking to move to Michigan. This year the top three finishers will take home $500,000, $100,000 and $50,000.

Read more about Accelerate Michigan at their homepage.

This news item adapted from original reporting in Model D and Metromode.

U-M students launch TurtleCell to solve earbud tangle

Paul Schrems has two ambitions these days. One is to start his own company and the second is to not have to keep untangling the earbuds for his smartphone. He's doing both with TurtleCell, a consumer-electronics start-up he is launching with Nick Turnbull.
Schrems and Turnbull are engineering students at the University of Michigan. They both love their smart phones and the protective cases they are in but hate reaching into the pockets to pull out a tangled mess of earbuds. So the enterprising pair invented TurtleCell, a smartphone case that has retractable earbuds built in.
"I thought: Why couldn't I combine the two and and save myself the time of untangling my earbuds for half of my walk to class?" Schrems says.
TurtleCell has since developed a prototype and is working with mentors from the TechArb student incubator to refine the design and raise funding. The 4-month-old company plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign in January to raise funds to build the first run of products to be sold later this year.
Source: Paul Schrems, co-founder of TurtleCell
Writer: Jon Zemke

This story originally appeared in Concentrate on Nov. 14, 2012.

Michigan to get two advanced battery research hubs

Michigan will get two "advanced battery hubs" as part of a $120 million U.S. Dept. of Energy project to develop advanced low-cost batteries that could make electric cars more affordable. The satellite research centers will be located in Ann Arbor, on the campus of the University of Michigan, and in Holland. 

The hubs will bring university and private-sector researchers together; partners in Michigan include the University of Michigan, Dow Chemical Co., and Michigan Tech. The Michigan Economic Development Corp. has committed $5 million to the program. 

Read the full story here.

MSU gets $25M grant for global food production research

Michigan State University will be home to one of seven development laboratories charged with finding ways to boost crop production and reduce poverty in developing areas around the world.The Global Center for Food Systems Innovation, part of MSU’s International Studies and Programs, will get $25 million over five years from the U.S. Agency for International Development to try to solve problems affecting global food production.
Reports the Battle Creek Enquirer: 

[USAID Administrator Rajiv] Shah said MSU was chosen partly because of its recent successes with climate change and food production in East Africa and other parts of the world.
"We hope to build on that," Shah said. "If we don't have newer crops that can improve productivity, we know the very poorest people will bear the biggest brunt of the effects of climate change."
Read the full story here

WSU researcher joins international effort to understand the ocean

From the middle of the country, a Wayne State University researcher is working to advance understanding of the movement of chemical compounds through the world's oceans.
Mark Baskaran, Ph.D., professor of geology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has received a three-year, $190,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for a project that will follow the pathways and cycling of two trace elements in the Pacific Ocean from Peru to Tahiti.
The project will examine levels of polonium (Po) and lead (Pb) isotopes in water samples from Peru to Tahiti to investigate how much carbon is exported from the upper 100 meters of ocean water to deeper waters, and how hydrothermal waters released from the bottom of the ocean affect the removal of polonium and lead. 
During a two-month cruise beginning in October 2013, Baskaran and WSU student John Niedermiller will collect thousands of liters of water samples from up to 5,000-meter depths for polonium and lead analysis in various types of waters, including those with high biological activity, those with low oxygen, and hydrothermal plumes (areas of warmer water).

Read the full story here

Universities playing a key role in Great Lakes entrepreneurial ecosystem

In a blog post for the Huffington Post about the Midwest emerging as an entrepreneurial "hot spot," John Dearborn, President of JumpStart, Inc., cites the growing influence of research universities in creating a path for entrepeneurs in the Great Lakes region.

Dearborn writes:

In 2011, the Kauffman Foundation reported that 54 percent of Millennials (those ages 18-34) "were either planning to start a business or had already done so." They're finding support from more and more colleges, who are increasingly recognizing entrepreneurship as a viable career path: A separate Kauffman study counted 2,335 full-time undergraduate and graduate entrepreneurship programs. At the same time, schools are realizing they have to work to commercialize their technologies. Universities such as Ohio State, Wayne State University, University of Michigan and University of Minnesota have specialized resources dedicated to facilitating technology commercialization, while the Ohio Board of Regents' 2011 report addressed how the state can improve its commercialization efforts.
Read the full story here.

Grants from U-M, MSU to help Great Lakes region prepare for climate change

Scientists at Michigan State University and the University of Michigan have awarded six grants to organizations across the region for projects that will help decision-makers adapt to climate change and variability in the Great Lakes basin.
The grants were awarded by the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments Center, a federally funded collaboration between U-M and MSU.
"Climate change is expected to have significant impacts on the Great Lakes region, and it's important for us to understand and prepare for them," said GLISA program manager David Bidwell, a research fellow at U-M's Graham Sustainability Institute. "These projects are laboratories for learning best practices for making decisions informed by climate science."
In addition to the grant awards, GLISA researchers recently posted a new set of white papers focused on potential impacts, vulnerabilities and adaptation options related to climate change and variability in the Midwest.
The reports are available at http://glisa.msu.edu/great_lakes_climate/nca.php.
The GLISA grants total about $231,000. Researchers at U-M and MSU will support the projects by providing information about historical climate in the region, as well as projected climate changes and their potential impacts. Social scientists will track the projects to identify best practices for making climate information more usable for decision-makers.

Read the full story and a complete list of grantees here.

U-M begins bold new research funding venture MCubed

A revolutionary research funding experiment begins today at U-M, as faculty members from every school and college start to coalesce into teams of three to embark on visionary projects.
The MCubed program, announced in May, will divvy up $15 million among 250 brand new, interdisciplinary pilot studies. A grassroots endeavor spearheaded by a trio of engineering professors, it empowers researchers themselves -- as opposed to funding agencies -- to decide which ideas are worth exploring.
All 19 schools and colleges at the university, as well as three other interdisciplinary units, have agreed to participate.

Read the full story here.

Construction begins on Wayne State's new Biomedical Research Building

Workers have broken ground on the project that will turn the former Dalgleish Cadillac car dealership into Wayne State University's new Multidisciplinary Biomedical Research Building.
The $93 million project is turning the longtime car dealership at Cass Avenue and Amsterdam Street into 200,000 square feet of research space geared toward life sciences. When the project is done it will become the home of 500 researchers and 68 principal investigators for the university.
While the project is Wayne State University's most expensive to date, it will be less expensive than building a brand new building from a vacant lot.
"That's the primary reason we're refurbishing Dalgleish," says Jim Sears, associate vice president for facilities management at Wayne State University. "It's nice not to start from scratch every time."
Wayne State University is going for LEED silver rating for the Multidisciplinary Biomedical Research Building. One of the green features will include replacing the car ramps with a 3-story atrium.
The Multidisciplinary Biomedical Research Building will have space for both wet and dry laboratories, faculty offices and common areas, as well as clinical space. Faculty members from across the university's School of Medicine, College of Engineering, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, School of Social Work, and Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences will conduct research at the facility. Ninety-three percent of the structure will be occupied by Wayne State University, with the remaining 7 percent housing partners from the Henry Ford Health System, including its bone and joint research program and biomechanics motion laboratory.
Researchers will work on a number of thematic areas, such as cardiovascular disease, metabolic disorders such as diabetes, hypertension & obesity, systems biology, biomedical engineering, bioinformatics and computational biology, and translational behavioral science.
Source: Jim Sears, associate vice president for facilities at Wayne State University
Writer: Jon Zemke

This story originally appeared in Model D on Oct. 30, 2012. 

MSU to lead $1.6 million crop pollination research project

The U.S. Department of Agriculture granted Michigan State University $1.6 million to lead a national research and extension project on crop pollination.

The five-year project will focus on supporting specialty crop yields and profit by supporting wild and managed bees. It is part of the USDA's $101 million initiative to support the nation's specialty crop producers.

The team's findings will support long-term sustainability by increasing growers' ability to better manage pollinators. By working in many different crop landscapes, they plan to develop widely-applicable information for growers, so growers can maximize crop yields. 

Read the full story here

Life Technologies acquires U-M spin-out Compendia Bioscience

Life Technologies has acquired University of Michigan spin-out Compendia Bioscience.
Suzanne Clancy, a spokeswoman for Life Technologies, confirms the Ann Arbor-based start-up will remain in Ann Arbor for the foreseeable future and under its current leadership. The terms of the deal were not disclosed, and Clancy declined to speak about Compendia Bioscience's current employment levels.
Compendia Bioscience specializes in cancer bioinformatics, which is used by the pharmaceutical industry to identify novel gene targets for drug discovery and development. The California-based Life Technologies, a public company listed on the NASDAQ, plans to leverage Compendia BioScience's oncology expertise and proprietary assets to enhance its diagnostic development capabilities across multiple platforms, including next-generation sequencing, qPCR and proteome analysis.
Compendia Bioscience spun out of the University of Michigan in 2006 and has been led by Daniel Rhodes ever since. It received $1.75 million from the Michigan 21st Century Jobs Fund in 2008. It had as many as 30 employees as of 2011, according to the company's website.
Source: Suzanne Clancy, spokeswoman for Life Technologies
Writer: Jon Zemke

This story originally appeared in Concentrate on Oct. 17, 2012.

InPore, MSU spin-off, raises funds

InPore Technologies, Inc., a spin-off of Michigan State University, has raised $2.6 million since 2010, from angel investors, U.S. Small Business Innovation Grants, and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Now, the company is seeking funding from venture capitalists, other angel groups such as the Great Lakes Angels, and high-net-worth individuals to ramp up production and for marketing and sales. 

The company produces two trademarked products made of porous ceramic powders. 

Read more about InPore here.

Advaita scores $125K from Michigan Emerging Technologies Fund

Advaita just secured the final installment of a $125,000 in seed capital from the Michigan Emerging Technologies Fund, which is the latest in large amount of funding the bio-tech firm has secured.
Advaita is leveraging technology developed at Wayne State University. The 7-year-old start-up is developing a bioinformatics software solution called Pathway-Guide that provides gene pathway analysis technology. Pathway-Guide helps researchers trying to understand the data generated by high-throughput experiments, including next-generation sequencing. The technology looks to eliminate many false positives in diagnosis, as well as correctly identify biologically meaningful pathways in a given disease.
"It's a tremendous tool that will help people understand the mechanics of disease," says Sorin Draghic, president, CEO & founder of Advaita. He is also a computer science professor at Wayne State University who discovered the technology.
Advaita secured a $2.2 million Phase II Small Business Technology Transfer grant last year. That seed capital, along with the Michigan Emerging Technologies Fund cash, has allowed the company and its six people to begin commercializing the technology.
"We're selling this," Draghic says. "The product is ready. We have already sold this to a couple of research universities."
Source: Sorin Draghic, president, CEO & founder of Advaita
Writer: Jon Zemke

This story originally appeared in Model D on Oct. 30, 2012.

U-M launches $9 million effort to strengthen Great Lakes restoration

A new $9 million University of Michigan Great Lakes research and education center will guide efforts to protect and restore the world's largest group of freshwater lakes by reducing toxic contamination, combating invasive species, protecting wildlife habitat and promoting coastal health.
With a $4.5 million, three-year grant from the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation, the new University of Michigan Water Center will provide a solid scientific framework for more efficient and effective Great Lakes restoration.
U-M scientists and their partners across the region will use research and on-the-ground collaboration to inform Great Lakes restoration projects. The initiative was announced today by U-M President Mary Sue Coleman, who said the university will add an additional $4.5 million to the project over three years.

Read the full story here.

$2.7 million grant renewal to WSU, U-M continues fight to improve African-American health

The Institute of Gerontology at Wayne State University in partnership with the University of Michigan received a $2.7 million grant renewal from the National Institutes of Health's National Institute on Aging to continue the work of the Michigan Center for Urban African American Aging Research. The center is one of only seven across the country established to improve the health of older minorities through education, scholarship and research participation. This is the center's fourth five-year renewal, which will allow it to continue its work through 2017.
Through scholarship, education and outreach, the Michigan Center for Urban African American Aging Research investigates why older urban minorities suffer from poorer health than their Caucasian counterparts. Center faculty members mentor junior minority scholars to encourage high-quality research into issues affecting aging and ethnicity. The Institute of Gerontology maintains a database of 1,685 older African Americans in the Detroit area who are willing to take part in research projects. This pool of volunteers is highly valuable to researchers because African Americans and other minority groups have traditionally been underrepresented in research. The center also provides free health screenings and community forums to educate more than 1,000 older minority members each year about preventing diseases that are prevalent in certain ethnic groups.  
James Jackson, director of U-M's Institute for Social Research, is the center's principal investigator. WSU Institute of Gerontology Director Peter Lichtenberg is co-director of the center’s administrative core. "We take great pride in the accomplishments of our Michigan center," said Jackson. "To date, 47 minority scholars have completed our program. More than two-thirds of these researchers have received grant funding, many of them as principal investigators on NIH grants. They are working hard to address the health disparities that plague our African American elders."
As they age, African Americans have significantly higher rates than their Caucasian counterparts of diabetes, stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure and certain cancers. Research is focused on why this disparity occurs and methods for reversing it.

"For 15 years, we have partnered with older adults to promote healthier aging," Lichtenberg said. "With this grant, we continue strengthening scholarship and focusing on the health and education needs of Detroit’s elders. It takes time to make a difference that will last."
The National Institutes of Health's National Institute on Aging award number for this grant is 2P30AG-15281-16. 

Register for the Michigan Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference

The 2012 Michigan Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference, Driving Sustainable Manufacturing, will take place on Oct. 26, 2012 at Wayne State University. 

For researchers, chemists, engineers, industry CEOs, students, educators, entrepreneurs, decision makers, policymakers – anyone interested in Michigan's march toward smart, sustainable growth – this conference is the opportunity to hear from leading experts and share innovative ideas on how we can best "green up" Michigan and drive sustainable manufacturing through green chemistry and engineering.

Learn more and register at michigan.gov/greenup

Study at MSU FRIB to track interactions of multiple teams

Here's a new angle on the FRIB at MSU: In addition to creating and studying rare isotopes, researchers will observe how multiple teams of researchers work together. 

Using surveys, interviews and high-tech devices that monitor interaction, a team of MSU researchers will conduct a three-year study on teamwork among the many groups of physicists, engineers and other scientists involved in the creation of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, or FRIB. The three-year study will be one of the first of its kind on how teams work together is funded by a $1.1 million grant from the National Science Foundation.
John Hollenbeck, lead researcher on the study and professor of management, said the research could offer clues on how to better manage multiple teams. Research on this topic is scarce even though today's high-tech, global economy increasingly involves collaboration by multiple teams from different professions and parts of the world.

"More than ever, teams have to work together with other teams, whether it's in business, industry or science," said Hollenbeck, who has studied teamwork in the business world and military for more than 20 years. "In many ways this is rewriting the rules of teamwork, which tend to be written for individual teams, not teams that have to work interdependently with other teams."

Read the full story here.

MSU researcher spies distant infant galaxy

A Michigan State University astronomer is part of an international team of scientists that has discovered a galaxy so far, far away that its light was emitted not all that long after the Big Bang occurred.

The research of MSU's physics and astronomy professor Megan Donahue and colleagues is detailed in the recent issue of the journal Nature. They found that this galaxy began emitting light "just" 490 million years after the Big Bang, when the universe was only 3.6 percent of its present age.
Based on images taken in several colors, or wavelength bands, and using NASA's Hubble Telescope and Spitzer Space Telescope, the measurement is "one of the most accurate estimates ever obtained" for a galaxy from the early universe, Donahue said.

Read the full story here.

TechTown part of Detroit's startup boom

Popular Mechanics has a vision of Detroit in 2025: Downtown is booming, the urban landscape is green with farms and daylighted streams, and the now-defunct City Airport is an autodrome.

What's happening now that promises such a vibrant future? Tech startups, for one -- and TechTown. 

An excerpt: 

"Detroit native Clover McFadden is a TechTown success story. After graduating from college-prep Renaissance High School on the city's northwest side, she earned a degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C., and dreamed of becoming a doctor. But on a return trip to Detroit she discovered Bizdom, which grooms aspiring entrepreneurs at TechTown. McFadden enrolled, developed a business plan, and successfully pitched investors. Her business, Circa 1837, produces and sells clothing adorned with school logos of the nation's traditionally black universities, such as Howard. 

'People told me I was crazy to start a business in Detroit, but I think the exact opposite,' McFadden says. 'There are so many people here who want to see you succeed.'"

Read the full story here.

New U-M program teaches inventors to be entrepreneurs

Innovative technologies could move closer to market thanks to a unique new Master of Entrepreneurship program at the University of Michigan.
The program's rare and immersive curriculum is targeted toward inventors — both current and aspiring ones. It's a joint endeavor between the top-ranked U-M schools of Michigan Engineering and the Ross School of Business.
"This new inventor-targeted program is, fundamentally, a new degree between these two disciplines, and provides the entire range of business and technical skills necessary to commercialize new technologies. It contains more business content than a typical master of engineering and more start up content than a typical MBA," said Bill Lovejoy, program co-director and the Raymond T.J. Perring Family Professor of Business Administration at Ross.

Read the full story here.

New director to lead MSU's Spartan Innovations

Brian M. Abraham has been named to lead Spartan Innovations, L3C, a subsidiary of the Michigan State University Foundation focused on launching sustainable start-up companies from Michigan State University's research innovations.
Abraham, who holds a PhD in chemistry from Tufts University and an MBA from Babson College, is a serial entrepreneur with more than 20 years of experience in founding, shaping and leading successful businesses that range from high-technology defense systems, financial groups, and medical devices, to transportation, environmental, and natural resource companies. He most recently took over as CEO for ProteQ, a defense technology company.  
Prior to ProteQ, he ran Bluefin Robotics, an MIT-founded/affiliated robotic submarine company based in Quincy, Mass. He has also worked with faculty and students to create new businesses and, in that capacity, has served as an adjunct professor at Babson College and The Ohio State University for seven years.

Read the full story here.

Unlocking new energy sources at WSU

A Wayne State University researcher is part of a national project to find accessible sources of natural gas.
Jaewon Jang, Ph.D., assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering in the College of Engineering, recently received a two-year, $178,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to aid in the search for methane hydrates in oceans and permafrost, such as the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska's North Slope.
Methane hydrates are three-dimensional ice-lattice structures with natural gas locked inside, and are found both onshore and offshore -- including under the Arctic permafrost and in ocean sediments along nearly every continental shelf in the world.
The DOE effort, which includes 14 projects in 11 states, builds on the completion of what officials called a "successful, unprecedented test" earlier this year that was able to safely extract a steady flow of natural gas from methane hydrates on the North Slope. Department officials believe methane hydrates are an untapped resource holding great potential for economic and energy security.

Read the full story here.

U-M grads leverage microloan to grow start-up Rippld

Another $200,000 in financing has been dispersed by the Michigan Microloan Fund Program, a large portion of which is helping start-ups run by University of Michigan graduates get off the ground.
The Michigan Microloan Fund Program provides five-figure loans around $50,000 to locally based start-ups in need of seed capital. The funding helps support the commercialization of their products. More than $2.5 million has been loan through the fund since its inception.
Among the most recent recipients is Rippld, a Detroit-based start-up that is creating a connection, collaboration and services exchange platform for creative professionals and the clients that need their talents. Rippld was founded by a trio of U-M grads, Adrian Walker, Wilbert Fobbs III and Lander Coronado-Garcia.
"It's going to help both the tools and the man-hours needed to build it out," Coronado-Garcia says. "Some of those funds are going toward the cost of the independent contractors and employees. It is also going toward the infrastructure cost of hosting the site."
Another recent recipient is Seelio, formerly known as TruApp. The Ann Arbor-based start-up created by U-M alumni provides a stage for college students to distinguish themselves through an online portfolio of work and connect with companies. The microloan is funding Seelio's recent beta launch, and served as a bridge to the company’s recently closed seed funding round.
Source: Lander Coronado-Garcia, co-founder of Rippld
Writer: Jon Zemke

This story originally appeared in Concentrate on Aug. 22, 2012. 

Accelerate Michigan moves to Book Cadillac Hotel in downtown Detroit

The Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition is moving to downtown Detroit this fall, taking advantage of the Motor City's vibrant urban atmosphere and emerging narrative of resurgence.
The annual business plan competition, in its third year, awards $1 million in cash and other prizes to local start-ups or companies looking to move to Michigan. The first two competitions were held in Ann Arbor, but it is moving to the Book Cadillac Hotel this year to leverage the city's cosmopolitan feel and its story of economic resurgence.
"We really are trying to bring the judges and investors into a city that's becoming more vibrant," says Lauren Bigelow, executive director of Accelerate Michigan. "We think Detroit serves as a great backdrop for that."
Accelerate Michigan is one the richest business plan competitions in the U.S. with a top prize of $500,000 in seed capital. The cream of the crop of the Great Lakes State's start-ups apply to compete, along with a smattering of out-of-state firms interested in relocating to Michigan. A wide variety of start-ups make their pitch for the half a million dollars in cash, including businesses specializing in life sciences, alternative energy, advanced manufacturing, software and IT, among many others.
This year 303 start-ups applied to compete. There is also a student portion of the competition that will continue taking applications until Sept. 27. These entrepreneurs also use the competition as a chance to network with angel investors, venture capitalists, corporate investors and potential strategic partners who are judging and watching the competition. This year's competition expects to attract more than 100 investors this year, up from about 60 last year.
Accelerate Michigan will be held on Nov. 13 at the Book Cadillac with the awards gala taking place on Nov. 15 at Detroit's Orchestra Hall. For information on the competition, click here.
Source: Lauren Bigelow, executive director of Accelerate Michigan
Writer: Jon Zemke

This story originally appeared in Model D on Aug. 21, 2012. 

U-M entrepreneurs launch job networking site that 'lets you bring yourself to life'

University of Michigan alumni have launched Seelio.com, a job networking site that claims to combine the best features of LinkedIn, Facebook and Pinterest to create a dynamic "virtual portfolio." 

Employers can also post comments, photos, and videos. The platform soft-launched for U-M students only in January; since then, 40 students and recent grads have found jobs and internships, the school reports. 

Read the full story here.

MSU plays integral role in $9.48M Amtrak station renovations

Michigan State University will play an integral role in the $9.48 million East Lansing Amtrak Station renovation. MSU will contribute a long-term land lease of the property, valued at $3.2 million. According to Fred Poston, MSU vice president for finance and operations, the school wanted to be involved in the project because of its potential to impact transportation options for students. 
“The new Amtrak station will make it more convenient for the students,” says Poston. “They can get on a bus at their residence hall or anywhere in the city or surrounding area to go to the Amtrak station.”
The project will also be funded by a $6.28 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration through Bus and Bus Facilities Program Livability Initiative funds. It will provide connectivity to the interstate, the regional transportation network, as well as bike and pedestrian pathways. The project is also expected to create jobs and improve the vibrancy of the area. 
Poston says student use of mass transit is at an all-time high, and East Lansing is the fastest growing in Michigan. The renovations will improve connections to both Detroit and Chicago. The project will include an expansion of the Michigan Flyer service, increased number of routes between East Lansing and Detroit and Mega Bus service between Chicago and Detroit with stops in Grand Rapids, Lansing and Ann Arbor.

This story originally apepared in Capital Gains on Aug. 1, 2012.

New HIV/AIDS registry to help answer key questions

A new community-based HIV/AIDS registry, one of the first in the nation to include patients from rural areas, will provide a unique opportunity to find answers to myriad medical questions, from the impact of drugs such as marijuana on the virus to why some patients naturally ward off the disease.
The registry is being created by a Michigan State University infectious disease team led by Peter Gulick, an associate professor in the College of Osteopathic Medicine studying HIV for decades and operating three clinics with more than 700 patients.
"Despite some notable successes in recent years, there still is a critical need to address the multiple problems that afflict all HIV infected populations," Gulick said. "While there are many HIV registries across the nation, almost all are university-based in urban settings, providing patient information that is not always diverse or representative, which can limit progress."
Research of HIV patients in rural areas is lacking, said Linda Dale, also with the college and a member of Gulick's team. Additionally, there is a need to study the use of drugs such as marijuana in patients in various settings.
The new registry will draw patients from Gulick's clinic in mid-Michigan, as well as clinics in the Saginaw area and northern lower Michigan. Patient consents are being accumulated and a database soon will be finalized.
"The registry will help us identify groups of HIV patients that have specific characteristics, which allows researchers to investigate populations of patients not previously adequately studied," Dale said.

Read the full story here.

WSU finds hard evidence for the benefit of teen smoking prevention programs

While many might see the case for programs to prevent adolescent cigarette smoking as already made, a pair of Wayne State University researchers believes that due to increasingly challenging economic times, policymakers need to be reminded to continue allocating funding for such programs.
Xinguang Chen, M.D., Ph.D., professor of pediatrics in the School of Medicine, and Feng Lin, Ph.D., professor of electrical and computer engineering in the College of Engineering, have found a way to provide policymakers with some hard evidence.
Most adult smokers in the United States report trying their first cigarette before age 18, according to government statistics, with more than 80 percent of established smokers starting before high school graduation. Earlier initiation has been shown to be associated with greater smoking frequency and number of cigarettes smoked per day.
Only about 5 percent of established smokers ever quit completely, Chen said, making prevention in adolescence a critical and strategic priority for tobacco control.
"The number of smokers year to year at any given time is an accumulation of past experience," he said. "Our methodology has the power to glean that information from one cross-sectional survey, overcoming the limit to track people over time."

Read the full story here.

Flexible electronics technology could lead to new health care, medical uses

A Wayne State University researcher has developed technology that opens new possibilities for health care and medical applications of electronic devices.
Yong Xu, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering in the College of Engineering, has developed a simple technology compatible with silicon-on-insulator (SOI) complementary-metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) processes for making flexible electronics. "A Silicon-On-Insulator Complementary-Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor Compatible Flexible Electronics Technology," published recently in Applied Physics Letters, describes the project, which was part of a National Science Foundation effort.
Xu said his technology could result in retinal prostheses that cause less tissue irritation and therefore work better and longer, as well as more comfortable wearable health monitoring devices. Other possible applications include balloon catheters and stents.
"The ultimate goal is to develop flexible and stretchable systems integrated with electronics, sensors, microfluidics, and power sources, which will have a profound impact on personalized medicine, telemedicine and health care delivery," Xu said.

Read the full story here.

Employer webinar: Retaining immigrant talent for Michigan businesses

At a time when Michigan's economy is diversifying and growing, finding the talent needed to keep up with the surge in the demand for highly educated applicants has been difficult for many employers. This is especially the case for the IT and engineering sectors. Since more than 50% of the PhDs and sometimes as much as 40% of the Masters degrees in these fields are awarded to international students each year, we will continue to have difficulty filling these positions if we don't consider all qualified applicants (domestic and foreign) in our recruiting strategy.

This webinar series will help inform Michigan employers on the value of foreign talent and its impact on Michigan's economy. It will also take you through the immigration process of hiring an international student; from international student work authorizations, to work visa options, to employer-sponsored permanent residency.

Webinars will be recorded, so if you miss one, check the GTRI website after the broadcast. 

Webinar #1: Investing in Michigan’s Economic Future: Closing the Talent Gap with International Students
Tuesday, September 11, 4-5pm

Webinar #2: Hiring International Students: Internships & Full-Time Employment
Tuesday, September 25, 4-5pm

Webinar #3: Transitioning to a Work Visa: H-1B and Beyond
Tuesday, October 9, 4-5pm

Webinar #4: The Path to Employer Sponsored Permanent Residency
Tuesday, October 30, 4-5pm

For webinar descriptions, please visit http://www.MiGTRI.org.  

Deadline for student project submissions for Accelerate Michigan is Sept. 27

The chance at more than $1 million in cash prizes will soon run out for Michigan's collegiate innovators! The Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition student application process will close on Sept. 27, 2012. 
Students with creative and innovative ideas currently enrolled in undergraduate or graduate programs in a Michigan public or private university or college for the fall 2012 semester can apply here. Additional details regarding eligibility can be found on the Accelerate MI website.
Did You Know?
  • Michigan is currently ranked no. 3 in the U.S. in engineering degrees.
  • Each year, Michigan on average is provided more than $1.8 billion in university research funding from the U.S. government.
  • In 2011, the University of Michigan's tech transfer office recorded 101 licenses and options, filed for 122 patents, resulting in the launch of 11 new companies. 
  • According to the AUTM, the University of Michigan ranked among the top 20 U.S. universities in tech transfer performance in both 2010 and 2011. 
  • In the past decade, technologies developed in Michigan-based higher education faculty labs have spawned 92 highly successful startups.
About the Competition

The Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition – North America's largest business competition – is an international business contest aimed at fostering entrepreneurial growth throughout Michigan's vibrant business community. The competition is focused on two tracks: International and US businesses relocating to Michigan and Michigan collegiate students. Eligibility for competition submission must fall under one the following categories:

  • Information Technology (IT)
  • Alternative Energy
  • Advanced Materials
  • Next Generation Manufacturing
  • Life Sciences
  • Medical Devices
  • Advanced Transportation
  • Consumer Products & Services
"We in Michigan take extreme pride in our higher-education system, especially the impact our students are having on driving innovation and entrepreneurship in the state," said Jeff Mason, Executive Director for the University Research Corridor. "Our students are essential to Michigan pushing forward as the driving force behind high-tech innovation in the Midwest. With the help of Accelerate MI, the world's next big entrepreneurial stars may very well rise from the likes of East Lansing, Ann Arbor, and our beloved city of Detroit."
Competition Timeline
  • Submission deadline for established start-ups has passed as of August 15, 2012
  • Applications for student-led projects are due by September 27, 2012
  • Semi-final investor pitches will begin on November 14, 2012 at the Westin Book Cadillac in downtown Detroit.
  • The Competition Finals and Gala Awards Celebration will be held the evening of November 15, 2012 at Detroit's historic Orchestra Hall, where AMIC and its partners will award more than $1 million in cash prizes, along with millions more of in-kind awards, to those businesses showing the most promise.
This year's judging panel will include experts from Michigan-based investment firms, companies and universities, as well as national and regional investors and venture capitalists. In addition to prizes, competition participants will have access to Michigan's entrepreneurial eco-system, including wet labs, incubators and top talent from some of the world's leading research universities. 
The Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition is an international business competition offering more than $1 million in cash prizes, plus thousands in in-kind awards. The Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition is a collaborative effort of the Business Accelerator Network for Southeast Michigan, the New Economy Initiative of Southeast Michigan and Accelerate Michigan. For more information, visit www.acceleratemichigan.org

Wayne State, MIT partner to study how memory works in adults and children

Neuroscientists from Wayne State University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are taking a deeper look into how the brain mechanisms for memory retrieval differ between adults and children. While the memory systems are the same in many ways, the researchers have learned that crucial functions with relevance to learning and education differ. The team's findings were published on July 17, 2012, in the Journal of Neuroscience.
According to lead author Noa Ofen, Ph.D., assistant professor in WSU's Institute of Gerontology and Department of Pediatrics, cognitive ability, including the ability to learn and remember new information, dramatically changes between childhood and adulthood. This ability parallels with dramatic changes that occur in the structure and function of the brain during these periods.
In the study, "The Development of Brain Systems Associated with Successful Memory Retrieval of Scenes," Ofen and her collaborative team tested the development of neural underpinnings of memory from childhood to young adulthood. The team of researchers exposed participants to pictures of scenes and then showed them the same scenes mixed with new ones and asked them to judge whether each picture was presented earlier. Participants made retrieval judgments while researchers collected images of their brains with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Using this method, the researchers were able to see how the brain remembers. "Our results suggest that cortical regions related to attentional or strategic control show the greatest developmental changes for memory retrieval," said Ofen.
Read the full story here.

$53m clinical research grant will help researchers develop new therapies

University of Michigan scientists and doctors do some of the most advanced medical research in the world. But much of it wouldn't be possible without the thousands of people a year who volunteer their time, health information, blood, saliva, DNA or other samples to help those researchers better understand diseases and improve health outcomes. 
Now, a $53 million grant will renew U-M's ability to support such research. The Michigan Institute for Clinical & Health Research has again secured a Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Institutes of Health. The five-year grant renewal will provide U-M researchers with training, tools and services necessary to speed their search for new ways to diagnose, treat and prevent disease – and to involve even more research volunteers in their work. 
Members of the public can help, by joining a registry of people who are willing to be contacted when a U-M researcher needs someone like them for a study. Right now, nearly 11,000 people – including many who have particular diseases and thousands more who are generally healthy – have signed up. 
Anyone can register for free at www.umclinicalstudies.org, and participation in any study is voluntary. That site also contains information about more than 420 U-M studies currently in need of volunteers. 
Read the full story here.

MSU researcher uses Nintendo Wii to help cancer patients recover from surgery

Who said recovering from lung cancer surgery can't be a little fun? Michigan State University College of Nursing researcher Amy Hoffman has found a promising new way to help lung cancer patients reduce fatigue and get more exercise during their transition back home: Nintendo Wii. 
"I always said I wouldn't have video games in my house," Hoffman says, "but when my son fell and broke his arm and had orthopedic surgery, my doctor said, 'Get him a video game.'"
Not only did Hoffman witness the Nintendo Wii help her son's recovery, but she also experienced the fun first hand when a group of colleagues got together to play a bowling game on the system. 
"We know that exercise is the most effective way to treat fatigue," Hoffman says, "After playing I thought, 'You know, this might work.'"
Hoffman was able to find out with a $379,741 grant from the National Cancer Institute. Hoffman organized a pilot study that incorporated the use of the Nintendo Wii-Fit Plus to promote light-intensity, self-paced walking and balance exercise to address cancer-related fatigue. The gaming system allowed patients exercise at home without the barriers of travel or weather.
"The Wii has many different options on it, so it provides for some diversity," Hoffman says. "Some people like snowboarding and some like soccer, but it's all very light activity, and something they feel good about doing."
With positive results from the pilot study, Hoffman will now conduct a larger study. She hopes the new treatment will not only help the patients recover, but also begin a pattern of exercise that will continue their entire lives.

This story originally appeared in Capital Gains on July 25, 2012.

Detroit's Riverfront welcomes 1st regional U.S. Patent Office

The U.S. Dept of Commerce has opened its first regional patent office in Detroit, a move that helps make the Motor City a leader in intellectual property and brings 120 new jobs to the city's riverfront area.
"It will enable our inventors to innovate faster, smarter and more effectively," David Kappos, director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Detroit, during the ribbon-cutting ceremony last week.
Detroit's U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, formally known as the Elijah J. McCoy Office, is the first of four satellite offices. These offices will function as hubs of innovation and creativity, helping protect and foster American innovation by helping businesses cut through red tape. The hope is that these new offices will enable the creation of hundreds of highly-skilled jobs in each of their local communities.
The Detroit U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will employ 120 people in its first year of operations. The intellectual property experts in the office will work closely with entrepreneurs and help further reduce the backlog of patent applications and appeals. Reducing the backlog of patents and simultaneously speeding up the process will allow businesses to move their innovation to market more quickly, saving critical time and resources.
"These new employees are excited about the job of helping these new innovators," says Rebecca Blank, acting secretary of the U.S. Dept. Commerce.

This story originally appeared in Model D on July 17, 2012.

U-M lands I-Corps designation to help researchers become entrepreneurial

The University of Michigan has been selected to become one of a handful of nodes for the National Science Foundation's Innovation Corps.
The Innovation Corps, I-Corps for short, is designed to fast-track more research from the lab to the real world. The 1-year-old program trains National Science Foundation-funded scientists and engineers on how to extend their focus beyond basic research and toward practical applications that have value in the marketplace. I-Corps got its start at Stanford in Silicon Valley.
"This is the first time it has been taught outside of Stanford," says Doug Neal, executive director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan. "U-M is one of three nodes that will be open across the country."
U-M joins Stanford and Georgia Tech in offering the I-Corps workshops for research scientists and professors at top universities across North America. U-M will receive a $1.5 million federal grant to get the program off the ground over the next two years. Those two years have the potential to attract top entrepreneurial innovators at research universities across the country to Ann Arbor to take advantage of this program and the area's other entrepreneurial resources.
"We're not just teaching U-M researchers about entrepreneurship," Neal says. "We're teaching researchers from across the country."

This story originally appeared in Concentrate on July 25, 2012.

WSU President Allan Gilmour on the need for research universities

In an age of scrutiny, science is frequently called on to explain itself in practical terms. What's the value of the space program? Why does the discovery of the Higgs boson matter? 

Wayne State University President Allan Gilmour addresses this fundamental question about research and discovery with eloquence: 

"LEDs, advances in computer and video technology, improved artificial limbs, better tires, memory foam, freeze-drying, better food safety, powdered lubricants and improved firefighting equipment, among many other things, all can trace their roots back to the space program.
We are driven by a need to know, and we benefit in ways we cannot always anticipate. As Stephen Hawking observed, 'The great advances in physics have come from experiments that gave results we didn't expect.'
This is why we need research universities. We are in the business of discovery. Yes, our primary mission is to help students discover and attain their true potential. But we also create new knowledge, new products, and technologies that change the way we live."

Read the full essay here.

Ross School of Business recognized for making impact with research

The Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business is the inaugural recipient of the Academy of Management's research impact award.
The award recognizes researchers or research centers that have had a major impact on management practice in the real world. The Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship was selected as the first winner of AOM Practice Theme Committee's Research Center Impact Award for its work in helping to create purpose-driven organizations and uplifting work environments.
"Producing research that influences academics is rewarding. Producing research that also impacts the world of practice is deeply satisfying," said Bob Quinn, faculty director of the center. "We are grateful to receive this recognition from the Academy of Management."

Read the full story here.

MSU researchers are pursuing a plentiful supply of safe, clean water

We're lucky to be surrounded by grand bodies of fresh water in Michigan. But such plenitude is rare for most the world. About one in eight people on earth lacks access to clean water, and more than 3.5 million die each year from water-related disease.

That's why researchers at Michigan State University are working toward ways to better manage natural resources, prevent pollution, predict the effects of modern-day influences, advance sustainable agricultural production and protect groundwater. 

As shared in an article for MSU's AgBioResearch Futures Magazine, scientists are pooling data on water quality in U.S. lakes, studying the effects of climate change and bioenergy production on water, developing technology that will turn agricultural waste into clean water and clean energy, and more.

"We're always striving to take our research to the next level -- bring it out of the lab and implement it in the real world," says AgBioResearch scientist A. Pouyan Nejadhashemi. "We look at the application and try to develop a scenario to address that possibility or practicality rather than doing research only for the sake of research."

Read the full story here.

Wayne State research team finds possible clue to progression of MS

Wayne State University School of Medicine researchers, working with colleagues in Canada, have found that one or more substances produced by a type of immune cell in people with multiple sclerosis (MS) may play a role in the disease's progression. The finding could lead to new targeted therapies for MS treatment.
B cells, said Robert Lisak, M.D., professor of neurology at Wayne State and lead author of the study, are a subset of lymphocytes (a type of circulating white blood cell) that mature to become plasma cells and produce immunoglobulins, proteins that serve as antibodies. The B cells appear to have other functions, including helping to regulate other lymphocytes, particularly T cells, and helping maintain normal immune function when healthy.
In patients with MS, the B cells appear to attack the brain and spinal cord, possibly because there are substances produced in the nervous system and the meninges -- the covering of the brain and spinal cord -- that attract them. Once within the meninges or central nervous system, Lisak said, the activated B cells secrete one or more substances that do not seem to be immunoglobulins but that damage oligodendrocytes, the cells that produce a protective substance called myelin.
The B cells appear to be more active in patients with MS, which may explain why they produce these toxic substances and, in part, why they are attracted to the meninges and the nervous system.
The brain, for the most part, can be divided into gray and white areas. Neurons are located in the gray area, and the white parts are where neurons send their axons -- similar to electrical cables carrying messages -- to communicate with other neurons and bring messages from the brain to the muscles. The white parts of the brain are white because oligodendrocytes make myelin, a cholesterol-rich membrane that coats the axons. The myelin's function is to insulate the axons, akin to the plastic coating on an electrical cable. In addition, the myelin speeds communication along axons and makes that communication more reliable. When the myelin coating is attacked and degraded, impulses -- messages from the brain to other parts of the body -- can "leak" and be derailed from their target. Oligodendrocytes also seem to engage in other activities important to nerve cells and their axons.
The researchers took B cells from the blood of seven patients with relapsing-remitting MS and from four healthy patients. They grew the cells in a medium, and after removing the cells from the culture collected material produced by the cells. After adding the material produced by the B cells, including the cells that produce myelin, to the brain cells of animal models, the scientists found significantly more oligodendrocytes from the MS group died when compared to material produced by the B cells from the healthy control group. The team also found differences in other brain cells that interact with oligodendrocytes in the brain.
"We think this is a very significant finding, particularly for the damage to the cerebral cortex seen in patients with MS, because those areas seem to be damaged by material spreading into the brain from the meninges, which are rich in B cells adjacent to the areas of brain damage," Lisak said.
The team is now applying for grants from several sources to conduct further studies to identify the toxic factor or factors produced by B cells responsible for killing oligodendrocytes. Identification of the substance could lead to new therapeutic methods that could switch off the oligodendrocyte-killing capabilities of B cells, which, in turn, would help protect myelin from attacks.
The study, "Secretory products of multiple sclerosis B cells are cytotoxic to oligodendroglia in vitro," was published in the May 2012 edition of the Journal of Neuroimmunology and was recently featured in a National Multiple Sclerosis Society bulletin. Other WSU researchers involved in the study include Joyce Benjamins, Ph.D., professor and associate chair of neurology; Samia Ragheba, Ph.D., assistant professor of neurology and immunology & microbiology; Liljana Nedelkoskaa, research assistant in neurology; and Jennifer Barger, research assistant in neurology; as well as researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute and McGill University in Montreal. The research was supported by a National Multiple Sclerosis Society Collaborative MS Research Center Award, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada.

East Lansing's Amtrak station to get $6.28m in federal funding for repairs, upgrades

Robert Rivkin, General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Transportation, was in East Lansing today to announce a $6.28 million grant to the Capital Area Transportation Authority, in partnership with Michigan State University and the City of East Lansing. Funding will be used for the Capital Area Multi-modal Gateway Project to renovate the East Lansing Amtrak Station, which will serve as the transportation gateway to Michigan's capital city region. The project's total estimated cost comes to $10.48 million, with local matches provided by the Michigan Department of Transportation and Amtrak in the amount of $500,000 each, and MSU via a long-term land lease of the property, valued at $3.2 million.
"This station provides a vital link for thousands of students and local commuters who pass through here every day to board a bus, hop a bike, or take a train," said Rivkin. "This is a great win for the Greater Lansing region, bringing an essential facility into the modern age, making it accessible for people with disabilities, improving safety for pedestrians and, above all, restoring a measure of civic pride to all who pass through here."
After six attempts, the project was finally approved by the Federal Transit Administration for fiscal year 2012. 
"This project will provide the infrastructure necessary to create a vibrant community with jobs, improved housing, and an enhanced multi-modal transportation system," said Sandy Draggoo, CATA CEO/Executive Director. "These are long-awaited upgrades for the station. This is very good news for CATA, MSU and the City of East Lansing."

Community leaders echoed Draggoo's sentiments.

"As a community that has a long history of embracing alternative forms of transportation, news of the Capital Area Multi-modal Gateway project funding is extremely exciting," said East Lansing Mayor Pro Tem Nathan Triplett. "This new facility will not only add to the livability in the Greater Lansing region, it will also serve as a catalyst for economic growth in our East Lansing-MSU community. We are pleased to see the positive outcome of this partnership between CATA, MSU and the City of East Lansing."

Fred Poston, MSU vice president for finance and operations, added, "This facility will be a tremendous benefit for MSU. Student use of mass transit is at an all-time high, as evidenced by the fact that this station and this line is the fastest growing in Michigan. In addition, it's particularly important that the MSU community have good connections to both Detroit and Chicago, something this enhanced facility will provide."
The Federal Transit Administration also announced funding awards last week for six other projects in Michigan totaling $46.7 million.

Read more at cata.org.

TechTown, Ford team up to create Motor City Innovation Exchange

Another part of the entrepreneurial infrastructure is going up in Detroit: Motor City Innovation Exchange.
The new entity will capitalize on a partnership between Ford, TechShop, AutoHarvest Foundation and TechTown to create another pipeline of start-ups in the region. The bottom line is to connect people with ideas for new technologies and products with the tools they need to commercialize them.
"This will really accelerate the deal flow," says Leslie Smith, president & CEO of TechTown. "It should really fill up our pipeline of start-ups."
The Motor City Innovation Exchange will build a marketplace for licensing technological innovation from local start-ups across and beyond the auto industry and aspiring entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs will be able to utilize the group in the partnership, like Ford's intellectual property and Detroit-based nonprofit AutoHarvest Foundation. Ford Land is now offering the Jump Start program to provide more affordable work/hacker space along with support to help spur job-creating businesses
"As we pilot through this program we can focus our efforts on our innovation pipeline," Smith says.
Source: Leslie Smith, president & CEO of TechTown
Writer: Jon Zemke

This story originally published in Model D on June 5, 2012.

Entrepreneur working with U-M Office of Tech Transfer to mold more of his kind

Doug Rimatzki knows what it's like to work for big corporations in the bio-tech and life science sectors. Now Rimatzki is helping other Ann Arbor-based entrepreneurs figure out what its like to be their bosses with his own company, EntreMentor.
Rimatzki is working with the University of Michigan's Office of Tech Transfer to help develop bio-tech firms, specifically those in the medical device sector. His brand-spanking-new start-up is the vehicle for that, and also an outlet for Rimatzki's own entrepreneurial ambitions.
"I thought I would give it a shot for a while and see how it goes," Rimatzki says. "More than anything else I want to see these companies I am helping grow."
EntreMentor is currently working with a handful of bio-tech clients that are trying to commercialize technology developed at the University of Michigan. Rimatzki expects to grow his client portfolio in his firm's first year, and add an employee or two.
"I hope to bring on some additional consultants," Rimatzki says. "I have some people in mind."
Source: Doug Rimatzki, director of EntreMentor
Writer: Jon Zemke

This story originally published in Concentrate on June 27, 2012.

Education, business signs of Lansing's brighter future

Things are looking up for Lansing, where a few major developments signaled the strength of the city's higher education institutions and its technological direction. 

The Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) will have federal support, according to U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu. Davenport University will locate a new campus in downtown Lansing. And the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded $220 million to Lansing-based Emergent BioSolutions, Inc., for the development of vaccines against pandemics and chemical agents of bioterrorism. 

Opines the Lansing State Journal: 

"Undoubtedly, the FRIB at MSU will create business technology spinoffs and attract world-class talent.

This is precisely what is happening at Emergent BioSolutions. The contract to produce vaccines involves a partnership with MSU as well as Kettering University in Flint. While much of the work will be done at Emergent BioSolutions' Maryland facilities, a share of the work will come here. It is precisely this degree of partnership with universities like MSU that the heralded University Research Corridor seeks to exploit. The collective brand promotes the extraordinary depth of expertise residing at the universities stretching across southern Michigan — talent in high demand by technology and medical industries."

Read the full story here.

MSU researchers contribute to first microbe census

For as much as medical science has advanced, the amount of information researchers are still learning about the human body is astounding. For example, we know that antibiotics fight bad microbes in the body and probiotics can encourage the good ones to work better, but until recently, no one had a complete picture of all of the microbes – good and bad – at work in the human body.
But they do now. Thanks to the National Institute of Health's Human Microbiome Project Consortium, including Michigan State University Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Tom Schmidt, has created the first census for microbes living within healthy adults. Their research found the human body’s collection of microbes includes 100 trillion good bacteria, creating their own unique microbiome. The project estimates between 81 to 99 percent of all microbial species in the human body have been identified.
According to Schmidt, creating the census is a major step toward truly understanding the inner workings of the human body.

"The first step is just to determine who is there," he says, "[and] what microbes are present consistently in the body at different sites."
The study also found that nearly all humans carry pathogens, or microbes that cause illnesses. In healthy people, they coexist peacefully. The next step for researchers is to determine why some pathogens turn deadly.
"We've just begun to answer the question of who is there," says Schmidt, "now we have to understand what they're doing. We have some general ideas, but when it comes to more specifics, we just don’t know."

This story originally published in Capital Gains on June 20, 2012.

MitoStem's disruptive stem cell tech scores $100K prize at GLEQ

MitoStem took a significant step forward last week when it won a $100,000 prize at the Great Lakes Entrepreneur's Quest business plan competition.
"We're at the stage where we are ready to go to the next level," says Jim Eliason, president & CEO of MitoStem. "This is going to help a lot."
The life sciences start-up is also waiting for approval for the second phase of its Small Business Innovation Research federal grant. MitoStem's approval for the research funding worth about $1 million over two years could could as soon as this summer.
The TechTown-based firm was spun out of Wayne State University. Its developing technology specializes in turning human adult cells into "pluripotent" cells that can be used to replace damaged tissue cells in that same individual. Think of the technology as having the ability to turn regular cells into stem cells.
The $100,000 award will help MitoStem further the development of its technology by buying equipment and paying for intellectual property legal work. It is currently selling some of its services to the likes of Henry Ford Hospital and other local health-care centers as it continues to develop the technology.
"We're not ready to release that as a product," Eliason says. "We're hoping to launch it as a service later this year."
Eliason is a veteran biotech entrepreneur who played an integral role in the start-up success of publicly traded Asterand, the world's largest supplier of human tissue samples and TechTown's first official tenant. He also is the director of the Great Lakes Stem Cell Innovation Center, a novel laboratory in which multiple TechTown life sciences and regenerative medicine start-ups like MitoStem can cost-effectively share space and collaborate to accelerate the pace of technology transfer and commercialization.
MitoStem is four years old and has grown to two employees and five interns. Eliason expects to hire a sales team to help sell the start-up's services a year from now.
Source: Jim Eliason, president & CEO of MitoStem
Writer: Jon Zemke

This story originally published in Model D on June 26, 2012.

U-M teams up with TFA Detroit to teach entrepreneurship to teachers

The University of Michigan's Center for Entrepreneurship and School of Education are partnering to bring a more entrepreneurial mindset to Teach For America's Detroit teachers.
The new partnership will help 20 Master's of Urban Pedagogy students at U-M who are also working as teachers in Detroit for Teach for America think more like small business owners when they return to their classroom this fall. The idea is that a start-up mentality will help bring innovation and problem-solving to urban classrooms.
"The entrepreneurial mindset is how do you approach problems with limited resources and drive change," says Moses Lee, assistant director for student ventures at the university's Center for Entrepreneurship.
Typical problems for Teach For America teachers range from poor communication within the school to lack of parental participation to chronic truancy. The new partnership at U-M will provide a week-long workshop that will focus on the ideas behind social entrepreneurship, such as how to identify problems, assess needs, solicit feedback from customers, solve problems in creative ways and execute a solution with limited resources.
"We're hoping the teachers will feel empowered to bring these methods to Detroit," Lee says. "We hope they will be inspired to try new things.
Source: Moses Lee, assistant director for student ventures at the University of Michigan's Center for Entrepreneurship
Writer: Jon Zemke

This story originally appeared in Concentrate on June 27, 2012.

MSU grads create their own jobs, interactive learning experiences with Adventure Club Games

A year ago, Adventure Club Games set up shop in East Lansing's Technology Innovation Center and started working on small projects for Michigan State University staff and departments to which the four founders and MSU grads had connections. This spring, the startup has launched the first known interactive museum exhibit utilizing the Microsoft Kinect platform for the Union Pacific Railroad Museum located in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
"It's pretty exciting," says ACG co-founder Mike Rossi. "It's a unique exhibit because when they first approached us, they said they’d heard of Microsoft Kinect and would love to utilize it in their museum."
The ACG team had in fact already discussed their interest in creating games on the Kinect platform, and had never heard of it used in a museum exhibit. To their knowledge, the transcontinental railway game now in use at the Union Pacific Railroad Museum is the first. It allows players to experience what it was to build the First American Transcontinental Railroad by performing such tasks as carrying ties and driving spikes. 
"We wanted to make it easily accessible," says Rossi, "but the thing we've seen people do is things like lower their hands all the way down to the floor, even though they don't have to. People are really getting into to it, and learning how it was done."
AGS has already expanded their workspace in the TIC from a small cubicle into a larger area, and foresee continued growth in the future with new projects already underway.

This story originally appeared in Capital Gains on June 13, 2012.

First recipients of Michigan's Small Company Innovation Program grants announced

DeNovo Sciences, a Michigan startup, and PicoCal, an Ann Arbor-based company, have become the first recipients of the state's Small Company Innovation Program (SCIP) grants through the Michigan Corporate Relationship Network (MCRN).
The SCIP was created to help small Michigan companies attack technological and commercialization issues by providing them access to top research university resources and talent that they otherwise would not be able to afford. Through a competitive process, MCRN will award SCIP grants for this round of funding to: 
DeNovo Sciences, In., in the amount of $27,750

SCIP funds will support research at WSU for the development of a leading-edge technology that will provide a less-invasive alternative ti biopsies via a novel microfluidic device to detect Circulating Tumor Cells in blood. 
PicoCal, Inc., in the amount of $40,000 

SCIP funds will support research at U-M to improve the manufacturing process of nano-structured materials and nano devices. This research has potential to benefit nanotechnology-based applications for science, healthcare, energy, and the environment. 
"The Small Company Innovation Program grantees will help to advance research and technology development in our state while building long-lasting relationships with Michigan universities," said Mike Finney, CEo of MEDC. "We look forward to supporting research projects through SCIP that will help to accelerate the business development goals of Michigan companies."
SCIPs next application deadline is November 1, 2012. Learn more here.

URC researchers help find the Higgs Boson

Researchers from Wayne State University, Michigan State University and the University of Michigan were involved in the historic search for the Higgs Boson. The discovery of the particle that gives mass to matter was announced on July 4.

A group of physicists at Wayne State have been involved in the project for 10 years, conducting complementary research at the Collider Detector at Fermilab. Said Dr. Robert Harr, professor in WSU's Department of Physics and Astronomy, in an article for HuffPost Detroit: ""I feel fantastic. To finally convince ourselves that this is the Higgs boson will take more work, but the results themselves are just fantastic."

At Michigan State University, assistant professor Wade Fisher has coordinated the research of the Fermilab Higgs searches through his role directing the DZero team and convening the Tevatron Higgs Working Group where the two Tevatron experiments – DZero and CDF – work to combine search results. (DZero is an international experiment conducted by 446 physicists from 82 institutions in 18 countries.)

More than a dozen University of Michigan researchers and graduate students were involved in the search for the Higgs. Michigan researchers, with help from more than 60 undergraduates, also played leading roles in designing and building components of ATLAS, one of the two detectors used in the Higgs search.

One Michigan professor even won a bet with Stephen Hawking that the Higgs would be discovered. Theoretical physicist Gordon Kane will be $100 richer after Hawking conceded defeat during an interview with the BBC.

U-M professors develop new minimally invasive surgery tech, FlexDex

Minimally invasive surgery done with robotics isn't as simple and cheap as it sounds. It's a quandary the co-founders behind FlexDex are looking to help solve with their new surgical technology.
The University of Michigan spin-out is developing a surgical tool that provides high dexterity, intuitive control and natural force feedback while emphasizing ergonomics and affordability. Its claim to fame is delivering enhanced functionality through a simple mechanical hand-held tool that is significantly more cost effective than the complex, multi-million dollar robotic tools that can work at a similar level of precision.
"FlexDex is a minimally invasive surgical technology that provides enhanced dexterity and surgical control at an affordable price," says Shorya Awtar, who co-founded FlexDex with James Geiger.
The Ann Arbor-based start-up has recently hired a CEO, Rob Barrow, to expand its staff to three people and is starting to raise seed capital to commercialize it technology. It has a prototype but is aiming to have a finished market prototype and begin clinical trials within the next year.
FlexDex recently pitched its technology at the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium. There its executive team also boasted that the new technology leads to less pain in patients, fewer infections and shorter hospital stays.
"The benefits to the patient are significant," Awtar says.
Source: Shorya Awtar, CTO & co-founder of FlexDex
Writer: Jon Zemke

?This story originally published in Concentrate on May 23, 2012.

MCubed set to enable high-risk, high-reward research at U-M

The research community at the University of Michigan has come up with a simple solution to help fund research that is both high-risk and high-reward - MCubed.

The initiative will make $15 million worth of funding available to professors who choose to collaborate. To qualify, at least three researchers from different disciplines need to come up with an idea and agree to work together.

"We wanted something that was very simple and broad so we took this token approach," says Alec Gallimore, professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Michigan and associate dean for research and graduate education at the university's College of Engineering.

MCubed is a first-of-its-kind program that promises to provide real-time research funding through a simple mechanism. The idea is to create a modern alternative to the traditional year-long government grant review process while encouraging bold research.

"We have almost 100 top-10-ranked programs at the university," Gallimore says. "That puts us in a place with only a few other institutions. Few institutions have the breadth and depth we do."

Source: Alec Gallimore, professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Michigan and associate dean for research and graduate education at the university's College of Engineering

Writer: Jon Zemke

?This story originally published in Concentrate on May 16, 2012.

MSU researcher searches for new tuberculosis drug with Gates Foundation grant

Though we don't spend too much time worrying about tuberculosis (TB) here in the United States, its worldwide infection rate of one in three people suggests it’s a disease worth more consideration. In fact, TB kills 1.7 million people every year. What's more, because the drug regimen for treating TB is so lengthy, patients often stop taking their medicine early, resulting in the development of drug-resistant TB.
"We have TB contained here in North America, but if drug-resident TB were to show up here, we'd have a problem,'' says Robert Abramovitch of MSU's Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics. 
Fortunately, Abramovitch does spend a lot of time worrying about TB. He's been working with the disease for about six years, and has now developed an innovative new way to identify possible new treatments.
"I build strains of TB that are biosensors," says Abramovitch. "They glow in response to conditions they would experience during a human infection. If we can find a drug to stop the biosensor from glowing, that compound might have the ability to help treat the disease." 
The glowing biosensor is so promising that Abramovitch was awarded a $100,000 Grand Challenges Explorations grant by the Gates Foundation to continue with his research. He'll now use the biosensors to screen 265,000 chemical compounds. Abramovitch hopes to find 40 to 50 compounds that impede the sensor's glow, on which he would then conduct further research with the goal of developing a new TB drug.

This story originally published in Capital Gains on May 23, 2012.

Isoprene research at MSU could lead to eco-friendly car tires

The world's rubber supplies are in peril, and automobile tire producers are scrambling to seek alternative solutions.
Tom Sharkey, chairperson of the Michigan State University biochemistry and molecular biology department, believes isoprene, a gas given off by many trees, ferns and mosses, could be a viable option. Some plants use it as a mechanism to tolerate heat stress as opposed to most crops, which stay cool through evaporation.
Sharkey's research team already has measured rates of isoprene emission from plants that are used by the Environmental Protection Agency to predict lower-atmosphere ozone levels. His team also has created models to measure how much isoprene plants release on a global scale. Given the amounts of isoprene made by plants, finding a way to produce a synthetic version for the rubber industry seemed like the next logical step, Sharkey said.
"I’ve found that isoprene research is irresistible," he said. "Once it was clear how much isoprene trees and plants produce and how biologically produced isoprene could be a key ingredient in making tires, it was natural to wonder if we could produce isoprene on a commercial scale."

Read the full story here.

Urban Science, Wayne State team up to create Life Beyond Barriers start-up

Downtown Detroit tech firm Urban Science, theRehabilitation Institute of Michigan and Wayne State University are partnering to create a new health-care innovation start-up, Life Beyond Barriers.

The new start-up, which calls the Renaissance Center home, combines health-care, research, engineering and entrepreneurship into sort of clearing house for innovative new technologies for the health-care field. The idea is to help people from around the world overcome everyday physical challenges.

"We're focusing on the health-care industry initially," says Blake Mathie, vice president of operations for Life Beyond Barriers. "The focus is to work with the people working in humanitarian systems. Health-care is one of them."

Life Beyond Barriers allows healthcare providers, caregivers, those with disabilities and others to submit challenges and product ideas for research and development consideration on a rolling basis. The start-up's three-person team will design, engineer and develop a solution for selected submissions, produce it and market the invention.

"We're trying to develop product solutions to help people," Mathie says. "We're also trying to develop companies to help people."

Mathie expects Life Beyond Barriers to deliver its first products next year. It is currently working with local hospitals and research institutions to develop new technologies that help people suffering from diabetes and healing wounds.

Source: Blake Mathie, vice president of operations for Life Beyond Barriers
Writer: Jon Zemke

?This story originally published in Model D on May 15, 2012.

WSU professor making major breakthrough on black holes

Wayne State University has collaborated with an international team of astronomers using data from the European Space Agency's (ESA) XMM-Newton satellite that has identified a long-sought X-ray "echo" that promises a new way to probe supersized black holes in distant galaxies. Edward Cackett, Ph.D., assistant professor of physics and astronomy in WSU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, was closely involved in analyzing data, interpreting results and writing the paper recently released on this discovery. 
Most big galaxies host a big central black hole containing millions of times the sun's mass. When matter streams toward one of these supermassive black holes, the galaxy's center lights up, emitting billions of times more energy than the sun. For years, astronomers have been monitoring such "active galactic nuclei" (AGN) to better understand what happens on the brink of a monster black hole.
"Our analysis allows us to probe black holes through a different window. It confirms some long-held ideas about AGN and gives us a sense of what we can expect when a new generation of space-based X-ray telescopes eventually becomes available," said Abderahmen Zoghbi, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Maryland at College Park (UMCP) and the study's lead author. 
"This is a real breakthrough in the study of black holes at the centers of galaxies," said Cackett. "Just as one can estimate the size of a cavern by listening to sound echoes, here, we can measure the size of the region around the black hole through observing light echoes. This will allow us to map what is happening extremely close to a black hole."

Read the full story here.

June 14: WWJ Business Breakfast on Michigan's place in 21st century auto industry

Michigan is the birthplace of the modern automotive industry, where the automobile was catapulted from a novel product to an everyday necessity. From the beginning, intense competition, increasing consumer demands, governmental safety and environmental regulations constantly posed new challenges.

The way that automakers respond to these challenges is through innovation — improving their designs, manufacturing processes, logistics, or other business practices.? And the world-class research institutions located here have created a pool of talent and know-how that has attracted both domestic and international companies.

Join a panel of automotive industry, economic and university experts as they discuss "the new auto," and how the talent pipeline and cutting-edge innovation happening at our top research institutions can move our state's economy and the industry forward.

WHEN: June 14, 2012 
WHERE: Management Education Center?, The Eli Broad Graduate School of Management?.
811 W. Square Lake Rd., ?Troy, MI 48098

7:30 - 8:45 am - Registration and networking 
8:45 am - Opening remarks 
9 - 10:15 am - Panel discussion 
10:20 - 11:00 am - Chester Elton, motivational expert

Dr. Christopher Borroni-Bird, Director of Advanced Vehicle Concepts and EN-V program, General Motors?
Amy Cell, Senior Vice President for Talent, Michigan Economic Development Corp.?
Garth Motschenbacher, Director of Employer Relations, College of Engineering, Michigan State University?
Peter Sweatman, Director, Transportation Research Institute, University of Michigan?
Jerry Ku, College of Engineering, Wayne State University

This event is free. Register here.

Unsung heroes: URC Presidents speak to WJR at Mackinac Policy Conference

Presidents Mary Sue Coleman (University of Michigan), Allan Gilmour (Wayne State University) and Lou Anna Simon (Michigan State University) spoke with Paul W. Smith of WJR at the Mackinac Policy Conference (May 29 - 31, 2012). 

The Presidents discussed URC's impact on the auto industry as revealed in the automotive sector report released by Anderson Economic Group as well as the history of URC and its importance to Michigan's future in terms of talent development, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

You can listen to the broadcast here.

TechTown helps 647 growing businesses, create 1,085 jobs since 2007

A new report shows that TechTown, the small business accelerator, has helped grow 647 small businesses and create 1,085 new jobs between 2007 and 2011.
"We know that over the course of these 3.5 years we have developed some systems that work very well for incubating companies," says Leslie Smith, president & CEO of TechTown.
TechTown principal feature is 100,000-square-foot small business incubator in New Center. It has a number of other business-building programs that help existing business grow and aspiring entrepreneurs make their business ideas a reality. TechTown currently provides services and office space to about 225 companies.
The new "impact report" was conducted in-house by TechTown. It shows that participating companies and entrepreneurs (about 2,200 people) in its programs have expanded their combined revenues from $41 million in 2010 to $52 million in 2011. TechtTown has also invested $790,000 directly into its client companies through its TechTown Loan Fund.
"Now that some of these companies are two, three, four years old, you will see some significant hob growth," Smith says.
She adds that TechTown would like to narrow its focus a little emphasizing more tech firms. Currently about 20 percent of TechTown's participating companies are tech firms. Smith hopes to expand that number to 35 percent within the next few years. She also hopes to expand the business accelerator's reach further out to the city's neighborhoods by partnering with the local neighborhood economic development organizations.
A key component in making all of this happen are the widely expanded seed capital options in the city. Microloan funds, angel investors and venture capital firms have provided a variety of funding options that helping bring more small businesses online faster.
"There is more entrepreneurial capital in play today than there was even three years ago," Smith says.
Source: Leslie Smith, president & CEO of TechTown
Writer: Jon Zemke

?This article originally appeared in Model D on April 3, 2012.

WSU to build $93M biotech hub

Work will begin this summer on a new $93 million, 200,000 square-foot biomedical research center in Detroit. It will be the largest construction project in Wayne State University history and is expected to create a hub for hundreds of researchers in cardiovascular disease, metabolic disorders, hypertension and obesity, bioinformatics and computational biology and biomedical engineering. 

The complex, close to TechTown, Henry Ford Health System, and the Detroit Medical Center, creates a major tech incubator in Midtown's "innovation corridor" and is designed to establish collaborative partnerships. 

Read more here.

Jeff Mason: What states can learn from Michigan's recovery

Call it a comeback: In three years, Michigan's unemployment numbers have improved faster than almost any state in the nation, and the state's historically strong manufacturing sector has rebounded -- and re-committed to the region, anchored by a major investment from GE, writes Jeff Mason, executive director of the University Research Corridor. 

It's a model that other states can learn from: 
"At the height of this recession in June 2009, when most businesses were shedding workers and many political leaders were not sure which way was up, GE placed a bet on our state. They announced they would not only maintain operations, they would invest tens of millions of dollars in long-term growth and expansion. As CEO Jeff Immelt explained: 'I believe that Michigan can partner with GE to create the next wave of economic progress.'

... Through a combination of resolve, creative thinking and cooperation between public and private entities, GE's leaders not only helped to stop the bleeding, but breathed new life into our future. Michigan's strong education system provided skilled workers ready to stand on the front lines of 21st century industries. Taking a cue from Immelt's mantra that 'companies like GE never travel alone,' state and local governments did everything we could to extend a hand, in changing the narrative and luring investments in-state -- and we were right."

Read the full story here.

U-M "supermileage" team aims to break fuel barriers

Can a car really get 3,300 miles to the gallon? The University of Michigan's Supermileage Team is on its way to proving it can —with a lawnmower engine.

The new student team will compete in its first competition this summer, the SAE International Supermileage Challenge, in Marshall, Mich.The competition challenges student teams to design and construct a single-person, fuel-efficient vehicle with a small four-stroke engine.
The team's goal this year is to beat the North American record of 3,169 miles per gallon, and to better it by reaching 3,300 mpg.
"Fuel efficiency is one of those issues prevalent in society today," said chief engineer and co-founder Brett Merkel, a senior in mechanical engineering. "The technology we're coming up with can have far-reaching effects, and be implemented in just a few years."
In fact, that process has already begun. The fuel injection system, designed by mechanical engineering student and team member Lihang Nong for the team's vehicle, is now the focus of a start-up called PicoSpray. The company won the $20,000 second prize in the Michigan Clean Energy Venture Challenge earlier this year, and it was selected to spend the next term as a tenant in the U-M student business incubator TechArb.

Read the full story here.

STEL Technologies wins SPARK Boot Camp with ACL tissue graft

Sometimes knowing your weaknesses is a strength. That's what the founders of STEL Technologies are finding out after winning Ann Arbor SPARK's Entrepreneurial Boot Camp.
Ellen Arruda and Lisa Larkin, professors at the University of Michigan and co-founders of STEL Technologies, are working to commercialize technology that turns tissue grafts into replacements for the ACL, the central ligament in the knee. Ann Arbor SPARK's Entrepreneurial Boot Camp not only showed the budding entrepreneurs that the technology has a bright future but it needs more than just academics to turn it into a reality.
"It was a complete eye opener for me and my team," Arruda says. "We are not business people. We learned most importantly what a CEO would do for this company."
The 1-year-old start-up spinning out of the University of Michigan is now looking for a CEO-type of business person to help shepherd the technology to commercialization. The company and its team of five people believe they can get their research-proven technology to be used in veterinary care within the next year or two as it works toward approval for using the technology in humans.
"The regulatory path is less arduous for pets," Arruda says. "Dogs are tearing their ACLs to the tune of 1.4 million surgeries per year."
Source: Ellen Arruda, co-founder of STEL Technologies
Writer: Jon Zemke

?This story originally appeared in Concentrate on April 25, 2012.

$5M MSU digester to transform food waste into renewable energy

As of today, about 21,000 tons of manure and 1,500 tons of food waste are generated every year at Michigan State University. Those numbers are likely to stay the same in the future, but what happens to all that waste is about to change. MSU's Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering is about to begin work on a $5 million anaerobic digester, which will not only help re-use waste, but will also create energy for on-campus buildings.

"This really addresses the three main missions of the university: teaching, research and outreach," says Manager of MSU's ADREC, Dana M Kirk, Ph.D. "This system will provide us the opportunity to have a commercial-scale classroom for our students."
Kirk hopes to have the digester up and running sometime in 2013. MSU expects the digester to generate enough energy and revenue to pay for itself in less than 15 years – all the while preventing organic waste from going to landfills.

The anaerobic digester will be a sealed tank that is deprived of oxygen. Organic waste inside will be degraded at a temperature that will allow the waste material to decompose quickly, producing methane that can be used as fuel. Digesters are widely used in Europe, but aren't as common in the US. Kirk hopes MSU's will help to change that.

"It's something that farms or smaller communities in the state could look at and say, 'we could do this too,'" says Kirk. "This is an opportunity to really take a step forward and be a national and international leader in anaerobic research and education."
Kirk estimates one full- and one part-time employee will be required to operate the digester when it is up and running. 

This story originally appeared in Capital Gains on April 25, 2012.

MSU opens $45.3M, 90,000 sq ft plant science building

MSU's new four-story, 90,000-square-foot Molecular Plant Sciences Building isn't just another campus facility; it's a new bridge between the Plant Science and Plant and Soil Sciences buildings that will bring together basic research departments with applied research departments to become the location of some of the world's premier plant-science research.
"To maintain our leadership in the plant sciences, the Molecular Plant Sciences Building will help us recruit top quality faculty to MSU," says Director of the MSU BioEconomy Network Douglas A. Gage, Ph.D., "and we have every expectation that new multidisciplinary grant activity will be created from the faculty interactions that will occur in the new space."
The grand opening for the $45.3 million development was held last week. The building includes a teaching auditorium, an atrium, a bioinformatics suite, as well as offices, conference rooms and flexible laboratory space. The building's lower level will contain space for state-of-the-art growth chambers.
"Plant Science at MSU is one of our most nationally and internationally prominent research areas, with over eighty faculty in ten departments," says Gage. "The MPSB is the first research building on campus with an open, flexible architecture designed to promote interaction. The initial ten faculty labs that will occupy the building come from six departments and two colleges  representing  a variety of laboratory-based plant science disciplines."
Work on the Molecular Plant Sciences Building Michigan-based architecture and engineering firm, SmithGroup, and the construction was managed by the Lansing firm, the Christman Company.

?This story originally appeared in Capital Gains on April 18, 2012.

Research funding spurs innovation across the state, writes Coleman

"Go State," writes University of Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman in an op-ed for the ?Lansing State Journal. 

No, really. Michigan State's win of federal funding for FRIB (Facility for Rare Isotope beams) is a win for all of Michigan's research universities -- and for the entire state.

"MSU's proposal for FRIB had the full support of Wayne State and U-M, and that the facility is being built in East Lansing is a major coup for our state. There was intense national competition for this project, and we threw ourselves behind Michigan State, because this facility will benefit our entire region.
Basic research of the type that FRIB will undertake — and which researchers carry out every day on our campuses and beyond — expands the frontiers of science. It is the stuff of important breakthroughs, some with commercial value, others answering deep intellectual inquiries about the nature of the universe."

Read the full op-ed here.

MSU center to be site of 'green' chemistry scale-up

A consortium between Michigan State University, Lakeshore Advantage, Prima Civitas Foundation, and the NewNorth Center will collectively receive $580,000 in EDA funding plus $500,000 from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to create a "Proof-of-Concept Center for Green Chemistry Scale-up."
The proof of concept center, one of six winners of the EDA's i6 Green Challenge, will be located in MSU's Bioeconomy Institute in Holland. The center will help support the i6’s mission of driving technology commercialization and entrepreneurship in support of a green innovation economy, increased U.S. competitiveness, and new jobs.
The center will support emerging technology-based ventures as they mature and demonstrate their market potential, making them more attractive to investors and helping entrepreneurs turn their ideas and innovations into businesses, said MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon.

Read the full story here.

MSU names R&D director for Holland Bioeconomy Institute

Thomas F. Guarr, Ph.D., has been named research and development director for Michigan State University's Bioeconomy Institute in Holland, Mich. Guarr, formerly vice president of chemical research for Gentex Corporation and a faculty member at the University of Kentucky, will work to build a vibrant research portfolio at the institute to assist Michigan's economic diversification and attract both private sector and government collaboration and funding.

The R&D director's position will be supported by the interest income from a $5.2 million endowment fund raised and administered by the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area. A selection committee comprised of MSU and Holland community representatives and chaired by Michael F. Thomashow, an MSU University Distinguished Professor and member of the National Academy of Sciences, chose Guarr after a national search. In the general leadership of the institute, Guarr will work with Operations Director William Freckman, who oversees pilot plant operations, tenant relations, and infrastructure development.

Read the full story here.

West Mich. i6 Green consortium offers scale-up, business support services

Entrepreneurs and small businesses can now apply for a range of subsidized business support and chemical production scale-up services from the MSU Bioeconomy Institute in Holland, Mich. The support and services are funded through an Economic Development Administration i6 Green "Proof of Concept Center" grant.

Companies may apply for support in developing a broad spectrum of emerging "green" technologies, including those using bio-based starting materials, those using less energy or producing less environmental impact, those creating environmentally useful or more benign end products, and those enabling enhanced recycling of products and wastes. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is providing supplemental support specifically for water purification efforts within the project.

Learn more about i6 here.

MBI announces successful scale-up of OPXBIO's BioAcrylic process

Michigan Biotechnology Institute (MBI) announced a successful pilot campaign for the BioAcrylic process created by OPX Biotechnologies Inc. (OPXBIO), demonstrating successful scale upof the fermentation process at the 3,000-liter scale.
BioAcrylic is a renewable alternative to petroleum-based acrylic acid, for which there is a $10 billion market, including in such products as diapers, detergents, paints and adhesives. OPXBIO has partnered with The Dow Chemical Company to bring BioAcrylic products to the market.

Read the full story here.

U-M human embryonic stem cell line placed on national registry

The University of Michigan's first human embryonic stem cell line will be placed on the U.S. National Institutes of Health's registry, making the cells available for federally-funded research. It is the first of the stem cell lines derived at U-M to be placed on the registry.
The line, known as UM4-6, is a genetically normal line, derived in October 2010 from a cluster of about 30 cells removed from a donated five-day-old embryo roughly the size of the period at the end of this sentence. That embryo was created for reproduction but was no longer needed for that purpose and was therefore about to be discarded.

Read the full story here.

New federal rankings: U-M again tops in research spending at public universities

For the second straight year, the University of Michigan ranks first in research and development spending among the nation's public universities, according to the latest numbers from the U.S. National Science Foundation.
The annual rankings, released by the federal agency this week, show U-M atop the R&D expenditures list for public universities and behind only Johns Hopkins University on the list of all U.S. universities and colleges. The latest NSF rankings cover fiscal year 2010.
R&D spending at U-M increased 18.3 percent between fiscal years 2009 and 2010, up from 14.9 percent growth the previous fiscal year. For comparison, Johns Hopkins' research spending grew 8 percent between 2009 and 2010, while the third-ranked university, University of Wisconsin-Madison, grew 8.6 percent.

Read the full story here.

Report reveals TechTown's economic impact on metro Detroit

TechTown, Wayne State University's business incubator and research park, continues to play an important role in Detroit's economic revitalization, according to a new report issued by the organization this month. The "impact report" highlights milestone achievements in entrepreneurship and economic activity between 2007 and 2011 in and around the City of Detroit.
TechTown currently supports 250 companies in industries ranging from the life sciences and advanced manufacturing to the arts and alternative energy through its 100,000 square-foot facility.
Active and graduate clients generated a combined total of $52 million in revenue in 2011 and $41 million in revenue in 2010. Since 2007, TechTown has provided support to 647 companies, which have created 1,085 jobs. And TechTown has invested $790,000 directly into client companies through the TechTown Loan Fund and its Thrive One Fund for minority- and women-owned businesses. 

Read the full results of the report here.


Michigan Corporate Relations Network connects companies to university talent

The Michigan Corporate Relations Network (MCRN) is a statewide university network designed to create partnerships that will connect companies to university assets including talent connections, research discoveries, new technologies, continuing education and library resources. 

Visit michigancrn.org to learn more about how the MCRN can help your business!

Pre-seed venture fund for students launches at Wayne State University

When the next breakthrough technology is conceived on a university campus, pondered over in a late-night study session or discovered in a laboratory, its inventor will have a better reason to stay connected to the Detroit area.
The Warrior Fund, a new pre-seed investment fund launched this month at Wayne State University with backing from the Michigan Initiative for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (MIIE), is poised to spur innovation among Wayne State University students.
The fund aims to support student start-ups and nurture novel technologies created at Wayne State. It will attract student entrepreneurs of varying backgrounds and empower them to build bold ideas and explore technology-based business opportunities. The $25,000 fund will invite WSU student teams to pitch their business ideas to a panel of judges. The result will be five to 10 teams of students being awarded up to $5,000 in startup capital.

Read the full story here.

Jeff Mason: Funding cuts for isotope research could hurt state's economic future

In an op-ed for the Detroit Free Press, ?Jeff Mason, Executive Director of the University Research Corridor, writes about the effect funding cuts at MSU's Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) could have on the state's economic future.

The FRIB project is expected to generate over $1 billion in economic activity and create 791 construction jobs. (Long-term, the project will employ 120 people full-time, with the potential to create hundreds of spin-off jobs.) 

But President Obama's proposed 2013 budget cuts funding allocated to FRIB by more than half. 

Writes Mason:  

"Even though the auto industry is recovering, we know that our state cannot rely on one industry to sustain us long term. Having a strong economy means being able to bring to market innovations that will allow us to hold a leadership position in the global marketplace, particularly with regard to science and technology.
The Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) at Michigan State University is an important part of Michigan's future, and that future is being threatened.

President Barack Obama's 2013 budget proposal slashed the $55 million allocated for the facility by more than half. Even that proposed funding is in question, as the department is planning a review of its entire nuclear physics program over the next nine months and may decide to back out from the project entirely.
That would be yet another huge blow to our state, not only because of the resources already invested in the program, but, more important, because of what we stand to lose."

Read the full op-ed here.

BioPhotonic Solutions wins midyear GLEQ top award

The Great Lakes Entrepreneur's Quest presented awards last month to the mid-year winners. The first-place award in the Emerging Company category went to East Lansing-based BioPhotonic Solutions, a developer of ultrafast lasers founded by MSU Professor Marcos Dantus. The lasers have applications in a wide variety of markets, including biomedical imaging, corrective eye surgery, and mass spectrometry. 
More than 200 Michigan-based entrepreneurial ventures were registered for the competition, which attracts a wide-range of innovation-base businesses in fields such as alternative energy, information technology and software, advanced manufacturing, homeland security, medical devices and life sciences. The competition's twice-annual, two-track program accommodates both idea-stage ventures and companies with up to $3 million in cumulative sales.
Read the full story here.

Winners of Clean Energy Venture Challenge announced

A team of Wayne State University graduate students and their unique energy-harvesting technology has won the $50,000 first prize in the Michigan Clean Energy Venture Challenge, judges announced on Feb. 17.
The annual challenge, established by the University of Michigan (U-M) and DTE Energy, encourages students from Michigan colleges and universities to grow clean-energy solutions into thriving businesses. Pitch videos from many of the teams are posted at this YouTube playlist.
Bob Lutz, retired vice chairman of General Motors, spoke at the awards ceremony at U-M. He encouraged students to innovate, in the purest sense of the word.
"Sometimes the best innovation is the simplest and most cost effective," Lutz said. "You have to make sure the drive to innovate doesn’t provide answers to questions nobody asked."

Read more here.

Pipeline to progress: URC boasts growing number of tech startups

An article in the latest issue of Crain's Detroit Business profiles the University Research Corridor and its role in the growing number of tech startups founded in Michigan. 

"Today, the University Research Corridor has increasingly become responsible for the state's growing pipeline of high-tech startups, and it ranks among the country's top university research regions. 
Michigan ranks fifth compared to seven similar states, regions and cities in terms of invention disclosures, third in patents, and fifth in startups, said Jeff Mason, URC executive director. The other regions are Boston, Pennsylvania, Southern California, North Carolina, Silicon Valley and Chicago. 
The URC invested more than $1.8 billion in research and development in 2010, an 8 percent increase over the previous year's, resulting in 14 startups. The number of high-tech degrees awarded has also increased, from 6,993 in 2006 to 8,000 in 2010, representing a 14 percent increase."

Read the full story here.

U-M spin-off 3D Biomatrix adds to team

Last year was all about the development and launch of 3D Biomatrix's principal product. This year it's all about gaining traction and generating revenues.
"This is the year we get all of the adapters rolling," says Laura Schrader, CEO of 3D Biomatrix. "This is a real turn-key year for us."http://www.3dbiomatrix.com/
The University of Michigan spin-off (it calls the university's Venture Accelerator in Ann Arbor home) develops and makes 3D cell matrices for cell growth in testing. These small scaffoldings provide small dips for the cells to develop. Most of the current products on the market offer flat surfaces, such as slide or Petri dishes.  
3D Biomatrix launched in 2010 and introduced its product late last year. That process allowed the company to hire one employee and bring on two independent contractors. The start-up expects that this year of evangelizing its product and going for global sales will allow it to add one or two more jobs to its team of three employees and two independent contractors.
"It has been an impressive launch so far," Schrader says.
Schrader recently won the Elevator Pitch contest at the ACE event earlier this month. She hopes to build a lot of little wins like that and new clients to build up 3D Biomatrix this year.

U-M launches Venture Shaping Program to turn ideas into startups

Business ideas don't always make profitable businesses. A new program at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business hopes to make that transition more commonplace in Ann Arbor.
U-M is launching the Mayleben Family Venture Shaping Program through the Zell-Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies. The new program is being funded by a gift from Aastrom Biosciences president & CEO Tim Mayleben (a U-M graduate) and his wife, Dawn Mayleben. The grant program will teach student teams from across the University how to transform identified opportunities into businesses.
"It takes an idea and transforms it into a business structure," says Tim Faley, managing director of the Zell-Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business. "We see a lot of ideas."
The U-M Venture Shaping Program will provide teams of student entrepreneurs with guidance from faculty while going through a three-part process. That process includes directed discovery, value system synthesis, and profiting from capabilities framework evaluation. The idea is to prove that the startup meets a validated market need and will provide a cash prize so they can take the business to the next level.
Breaking through that key wall of building a business (taking it from an idea to a reality) is the major constraint that has been identified by U-M officials. The Venture Shaping Program hopes to help 25 student-led business each year.
"We see it as the big bottleneck in the process," Faley says. "We're happy to have a program to handle that program."

MSU FRIB project moves forward with $20M site prep

Michigan State University officials are looking forward to kicking off the building of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams after the MSU Board of Trustees approved $20 million for site preparation at the future FRIB site.
"In addition to the ongoing utility relocation," says Alex Parsons, Communications Manager for FRIB. "additional site preparation began this week that will make the site ready for construction of the conventional facilities upon approval from the U.S. Department of Energy."
The FRIB facility will be a world-class nuclear research facility that is expected to create more than $1 billion in economic activity over ten years and 400 jobs. About 100 new scientists, engineers and support personnel have already been hired.
"The next steps in moving the project forward include reviews by Michigan State University in March and DOE," says Parsons. "The DOE review is scheduled for April, and approval of Critical Decision 2/3A following that review will allow construction of conventional facilities for FRIB to begin."
Construction on the project is expected to begin in 2012 and will continue through 2020.

This story originally published in Capital Gains on Feb. 8, 2012.

WSU research could help paramedics stop prologned seizures

Drug delivery directly into muscle using an autoinjector is faster and may be more effective in stopping prolonged seizures, according to a study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and conducted by a Wayne State University School of Medicine researcher.
The trial compared the effectiveness of two Federal Drug Administration-approved anti-seizure medications and how they are administered to patients suffering prolonged seizures before they arrive at hospitals.
The Rapid Anticonvulsant Medication Prior to Arrival Trial, or RAMPART, was designed to determine whether midazolam or lorazepam are safer and more effective when paramedics are called to treat patients whose seizures aren't stopping. The study was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, part of the NIH.

Read the full story here.

Commentary: New patent office signals region's role in innovation

A new patent office may not have the glitter of a high-tech firm relocating to the state, but having one here is vital, and a barometer of our Michigan's creative potential, writes Mary Sue Coleman in an editorial for The Detroit News.

An excerpt: 

"University researchers are creating, and patenting, biomedical devices, nanoemulsion vaccines, solar cells, biosensors, Web-based writing tools, and hybrid seeds and plants. Some 135 patents are issued annually to University Research Corridor inventors, and the activity is trending upward.
For scientists and inventors across our state, a local patent office assists with technology transfer, helping to commercialize discoveries and inventions, move them into the marketplace and spur economic development.
In addition to our region's manufacturing heritage and strong universities, the federal government selected Detroit for its satellite patent office for a third reason: the high-tech talent necessary to review patent applications. More than 100 jobs come with this new office, examiner positions that require expertise in engineering, science, math and technology."

Read the full story here.

MSU invention plays key role in award-winning product

 A new forage boost product - containing a revolutionary microbial fertilizer developed by a team of Michigan State University researchers - has been selected as one of the top products of the year by Popular Science magazine.
Forage Boost, from Bio Soil Enhancers, Inc. is the recipient of a 2011 "Best of What's New" Grand Award. It earned top honors in the Green Technology Category from the magazine for its positive environmental impact.  A key ingredient in Forage Boost is SumaGrow, which was invented by lead researcher C.A. Reddy, MSU professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, and Lalithakumari Janarthanam, a visiting microbiologist and plant pathologist. 
SumaGrow is different from common fertilizers because it harnesses the power of non-genetically modified living microorganisms to improve the productivity of forages, hay crops and a broad spectrum of grain and vegetable crops, Reddy said.  
Reddy said SumaGrow reduces the need for chemical fertilizers by fixing atmospheric nitrogen, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions and lowering chemical pollution of soil and water. Benefits also include improved disease resistance and increased phosphate availability.

Read the full story here.

Chemists unlock potential target for drug development

A receptor found on blood platelets whose importance as a potential pharmaceutical target has long been questioned may in fact be fruitful in drug testing, according to new research from Michigan State University chemists.
A team led by Dana Spence of MSU's Department of Chemistry has revealed a way to isolate and test the receptor known as P2X1. By creating a new, simple method to study it after blood is drawn, the team has unlocked a potential new drug target for many diseases that impact red blood cells, such as diabetes, hypertension and cystic fibrosis.
Researchers can evaluate the receptor not only in developing new drugs but also re-testing existing medications that could work now by attaching to the receptor.
"Scientists are always looking for new ‘druggable' receptors in the human body," Spence said. "This receptor, P2X1, has long been viewed as not important in platelets; our studies show that is not necessarily true. The receptor is very active; you just need to be careful in working with it."
The research is published in the current issue of Analytical Methods, a journal from the Royal Society of Chemistry in London.

Read the full story here.

WSU welcomes Harl R. Tolbert as associate vice president of technology commercialization

Wayne State University announced the appointment of Harl R. Tolbert of Pittsford, N.Y., as associate vice president of technology commercialization in the Division of Research. Tolbert began on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012.

Tolbert joins Wayne State from his most recent post as associate director for biological sciences in the University of Rochester (N.Y.) Medical Center’s Office of Technology Transfer. He has extensive experience leading academic and business commercialization programs, and has created substantial partnerships that have sparked innovation and the commercialization of discoveries. In addition, he worked in in sales at Abbott Laboratories in North Chicago, IL and in business development at Pierce Chemical in Rockford, IL.

"With his background as a seasoned technology transfer champion, Harl will be a great asset as he builds on the great momentum we have created in the technology commercialization area over the past year," said Hilary Ratner, vice president for research at Wayne State. "He will spearhead WSU’s goals of bringing the university’s most promising technologies to the marketplace, creating startup companies that generate new jobs, products, service innovations and economic opportunities that will benefit our community and beyond."

Read the full story here.

Wayne State University to convene childhood epilepsy training in sub-Saharan Africa

A Wayne State University School of Medicine physician and researcher will convene a vital training workshop on childhood epilepsy in sub-Saharan Africa next month.
Harry Chugani, M.D., the Rosalie and Bruce Rosen professor of neurology and chief of pediatric neurology for the School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital of Michigan, has organized "Epilepsy in Children in Developing Countries." The training will take place Feb. 1-4 in Entebbe, Uganda.
The attendees will be physicians primarily from sub-Saharan countries, with a few from North Africa. Their airfare and accommodations are provided pro bono. The speakers who will present at the workshop – "true volunteers," as Chugani called them – are paying their own way and for their own accommodations.
"We will teach them about basic diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy in children," said Chugani, who also serves as director of the Positron Emission Tomography Center for the School of Medicine and Children's Hospital of Michigan. He will give opening and concluding remarks, as well as a lecture on the role of neuroimaging in epilepsy. 

Read the full story here.

Are You a Human hires 4 downtown, looks to add web developers

Are You a Human, a 2-year-old start-up, has landed a sizable venture capital investment, hired a handful of people and is continuing its business plan competition winning streak. Now the firm is looking to hire a few more people as it works to create traction for its technology.
Are You a Human is reinventing CAPTCHA technology, the squiggly letters used for verification on websites, with simple games. The idea is to make it impossible for computer programs to beat these games so they can't buy bulk items of things, like concert tickets. 
Are You a Human can grow its team thanks to a six-figure investment that was led by Detroit Venture Partners. It has also raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in business plan competition wins. The company, started by a small group of University of Michigan graduates, recently won the student portion of the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition ($25,000) that it plans to put toward development of its technology.
Read the full story here. 

Michigan Business Challenge Competition attracts 45 teams

The Michigan Business Challenge, a business plan competition at the University of Michigan, is entering its second of four rounds this week, judging 14 student-led start-ups that span a wide variety of industries.
The Michigan Business Challenge attracted 45 teams, comprising 145 students interested in starting their own business. They are competing for $60,000 in cash prizes, including the grand prize of $20,000.
"We have a number of web-based businesses," says Anne Perigo, program coordinator for the Zell-Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business and the manager of the Michigan Business Challenge. "We have a number of student teams that are looking at medical devices or assistive technologies."
The student-led start-ups complete an executive summary for their proposed business. Those that make it to the later rounds of the competition write a marketing and financial overview for their company and finish a complete business plan. These teams also pitch their businesses to a panel of judges comprised of entrepreneurs and investors. The competition will wrap up by Feb 17.

Read the full story here.

Congenital heart patients to benefit from wireless, battery-free cardiac implant

A miniature, battery-free, wireless, cardiac implant being developed by a U-M researcher and the Ann Arbor company Integrated Sensing Systems, Inc. (ISSYS), has received important funding that could get it to patients more quickly.
A $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), will help a research team, led by Martin Bocks, M.D., and ISSYS, Inc., to complete the final preclinical testing required before seeking approval under Food and Drug Administration’s Humanitarian Device Exemption pathway. Bocks is a pediatric cardiologist with the University of Michigan Congenital Heart Center and the U-M C.S. Mott Children's Hospital.
"We are extremely excited to continue working with ISSYS to develop a wireless, implantable pressure sensor for our patients with complex forms of congenital heart disease," says Bocks, the project's medical principal investigator. 

Read the full story here.

New U-M 'Flume Room' contains 150 mini-Huron Rivers

More than 3,000 gallons of Huron River water were trucked to the University of Michigan campus recently to create 150 mini-Hurons that are used to study how environmental changes affect freshwater habitats like rivers and streams.
The artificial streams are called flumes, and U-M's new $1 million "Flume Room" is in the basement of the Dana Building, home to the School of Natural Resources and Environment. The U-M flume lab is the largest facility of its kind in North America, and possibly the world.
"We're taking little pieces of the Huron River – the water, the rocks, the bacteria, the algae, the insects and other small invertebrates that inhabit the stream – and we're placing them into these 150 small flumes. We try to mimic all the river conditions we possibly can," said Bradley Cardinale, an assistant professor at the School of Natural Resources and Environment and principal investigator of the flume project.
Running an experiment 150 times in 150 identical flumes provides what researchers call high replication, which enables them to precisely estimate how different environmental stresses – such as pollution, species invasions and extinctions, climate change and erosion – affect the river's health.

Read the full story here.

XG Sciences creates $4M partnership with international firm

?MSU spin-off company XG Sciences continues its pattern of growth with the announcement of a $4 million agreement with global performance materials company, Cabot Corporation. Under the agreement, XG Sciences will provide the Boston-based Cabot Corporation with non-exclusive rights to their production technology for the manufacture of graphene nanoplatelets.
''I think it’s a natural stage in our business progress,'' says XG Sciences CEO Mike Knox. ''It’s a great validation of our technology, both on the manufacturing side and the scientific side.''
The agreement is the result of conversations between the two companies that began a couple of years ago. Cabot Corporation has sponsored research at Michigan State University to investigate XG Sciences' materials. 

The announcement comes as the XG Sciences continues to grow its operations and staff. The firm began the year with eight employees and is now up to 23. The company plans to grow to a staff of 50 in the next 5 years. 

A version of this story originally appeared in Capital Gains on Dec. 7, 2011.

WSU research team receives NIH grant to study diagnosis of fetal alcohol disorders

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) are one of the most common causes of birth defects worldwide and are particularly prevalent in some South African communities where heavy drinking during pregnancy is a major public health issue, particularly in the wine-growing areas of the Western Cape.
FASDs have long-term, significant effects on neurocognitive and behavioral development, including problems with attention, learning, memory and social skills. They can also cause heart defects, facial dysmorphic features, poor growth, and decreased muscle tone and coordination. A team of researchers led by Sandra W. Jacobson, Ph.D., and Joseph L. Jacobson, Ph.D., professors of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences in Wayne State University's School of Medicine recently received a $413,440 grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health to conduct a new study designed to improve the diagnosis of FASDs. Improved diagnosis can lead to the development of better-targeted treatments for specific deficits found in children with these disorders.
According to S. Jacobson, infants as young as 5 months of age can look at a display of stimuli that involve simple numbers and mentally manipulate them. However, alcohol-exposed infants do not show the same ability to process this numerical information when shown the same stimuli.
"Infants exposed to heavy prenatal alcohol exposure do not exhibit the same response as non-exposed infants," said Jacobson. "In the newly funded study, we will use event-related potentials (ERP) that measure brain waves to examine the time course and specific components of information processing in alcohol-exposed and non-exposed infants. We then can specify which components of number processing are affected by fetal alcohol exposure." 

Read the full story here.

U-M, MSU business schools launch Michigan Entrepreneurship Education Leaders Forum

The Samuel Zell and Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business has joined forces with Michigan State University's Institute of Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Broad College of Business to create the Michigan Entrepreneurship Education Leaders Forum.

The forum brings entrepreneurial educators from the top MBA programs across the state together to identify opportunities for improvement and collaboration, with the ultimate goal of advancing entrepreneurship among students and alumni in Michigan.

Read the full story here.

Physicists' 'light from darkness' breakthrough named a top 2011 discovery

They shook light from darkness. They coaxed something out of what we normally think of as nothing—the vacuum of space. And now their work has been named one of the top 10 breakthroughs of the year by Physics World, the international magazine announced today.

University of Michigan physics researcher Franco Nori is involved in the work, which was published in Nature in November.

The physicists directly observed, for the first time, light particles that flicker in and out of existence in the vacuum. They witnessed the long-predicted quantum mechanical phenomenon known as the dynamical Casimir effect.

"One of the profound consequences of quantum mechanics is that we know that something can come from nothing," Nori said. "The vacuum is actually teeming with activity, the question is how to harness it and observe it because the particles move in an out of existence in the blink of an eye."

Read the full story here.

WSU professor receives award for pioneering work helping high school students embrace math

The Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS®) has awarded Kenneth R. Chelst, Ph.D., professor of industrial and systems engineering in the College of Engineering at Wayne State University and resident of Southfield, Mich., the INFORMS® President’s Award. This annual award is made for contributions that benefit the welfare of society.
Chelst was selected for his pioneering work in developing a unique educational curriculum that introduces young Americans to operations research, and for his public safety policy and operational analysis that has guided city leaders and police, firefighter and emergency service executives through challenges they face in towns and cities across the United States.
Chelst is one of a handful of operations researchers who has realized that the study of applied mathematics should be made widely accessible and enjoyable for high school students interested in exploring less theoretical aspects of math that apply to their everyday lives. Over the course of more than 15 years, he has collaborated with colleagues to write individual lesson plans and entire courses that have intrigued high school teachers and students alike with mathematical methods unique to operations research. 

Read the full story here.

MSU research aims to improve computer security

Michigan State University researchers are using a pair of National Science Foundation grants totaling nearly $500,000 to look for ways in which home computer users can increase security.
Emilee Rader, assistant professor of telecommunication, information studies and media, and Richard Wash, assistant professor of journalism, are studying ways to help home users better understand security issues.
The vast majority of computer owners have little computer security knowledge or training, and many users avoid making security decisions because they feel they don't have the knowledge and skills to maintain proper security, the researchers said.
''We are interested in where people are obtaining their security advice when they don't necessarily have a computer security expert in their home,'' Rader said. ''Some people may listen to a computer-savvy cousin, while others could turn to something they read online, but what sources do people trust most and do they actually practice these security precautions regularly?'' 

Read the full story here.

Accelerate Michigan attracts international interest this year

The second annual Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition is getting more attention from investors outside of Michigan this year.
The business plan competition has attracted some representatives from big-name venture capital firms to judge and work with the Michigan-based start-ups competing in this month’s event. Among those big names are Boston Millenia Partners and Masdar from Abu Dhabi.
"We were able to recruit more coastal and international venture capitalists to help judge this year," says Lauren Bigelow, executive director of the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition. "Last year we only had four months to prepare. It didn’t give people a lot of time. This time we did a lot of outreach during the spring."
The Accelerate Michigan competition got its start last year with a goal of showcasing the start-ups and entrepreneurs in Michigan, along with the entrepreneurial resources available to them. It also aimed to make connections between those start-ups and other companies and investors to create more investments and strategic partnerships.
This year organizers are also working to create more synergies between larger out-of-state VCs with local venture capitalists. The idea is that it will facilitate more out-of-state money investment into local start-ups without forcing those start-ups to move.
Source: Lauren Bigelow, executive director of the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition
Writer: Jon Zemke

This story originally appeared in Concentrate on 11/9/11.

Software firm Cataphora opens office in Ann Arbor

Cataphora, a Silicon Valley-based software firm, is opening up an engineering center in downtown Ann Arbor to take advantage of the talent pool at the University of Michigan.
"We recruit nationwide but some of our best employees have been coming from the University of Michigan," says Chris Kurecka, manager of Michigan engineering for Cataphora.
The nine-year-old firm employs 37 people, including one employee and two interns at the new Ann Arbor office. A number of Cataphora's executive team members also have Ann Arbor roots. The company's CEO, CTO, and Kurecka all graduated from U-M.
Cataphora plans to grow its new office to 10-20 people within the next 12-18 months. It chose the new office, with the help of Ann Arbor SPARK, at 500 E Washington because of the vibrancy and walkability of downtown, plus its close proximity to U-M's Central Campus.
"It's nice to be within walking distance of everyone," Kurecka says. "We're also trying to attract students so being within walking distance of the university is great."
Source: Chris Kurecka, manager of Michigan engineering for Cataphora
Writer: Jon Zemke 

This story originally appeared in Concentrate on 11/2/11.

Diabetes drug shows promise in reducing risk of cancer

An inexpensive drug that treats Type-2 diabetes has been shown to prevent a number of natural and man-made chemicals from stimulating the growth of breast cancer cells, according to a newly published study by a Michigan State University researcher.
The research, led by pediatrics professor James Trosko and colleagues from South Korea's Seoul National University, provides biological evidence for previously reported epidemiological surveys that long-term use of the drug metformin for Type-2 diabetes reduces the risk of diabetes-associated cancers, such as breast cancers.
The research appears in the current edition of PLoS One.
"People with Type-2 diabetes are known to be at high risk for several diabetes-associated cancers, such as breast, liver and pancreatic cancers," said Trosko, a professor in the College of Human Medicine's Department of Pediatrics and Human Development. "While metformin has been shown in population studies to reduce the risk of these cancers, there was no evidence of how it worked."

Read the full story here.

'U' launches venture to commercialize writing instruction software

Effective writing has never been more important to learning and career opportunities in this 21st century-knowledge economy. But teaching it well challenges schools and universities.  
Drawing on its educational research expertise, Michigan State University is partnering with software company Red Cedar Solutions Group of Okemos to commercialize a writing instruction platform known as Eli. With two patents securing the technology, Eli is offered through a joint venture called Drawbridge, LLC.
Eli was developed by Jeff Grabill, Bill Hart-Davidson and Michael McLeod, all faculty in MSU’s Department of Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures department and researchers in MSU’s Writing in Digital Environments Research Center.
"We know that Eli can move the needle in terms of writing proficiency," Grabill said. "Eli promises to help America’s students become better writers and our nation’s teachers to become better writing instructors."
Eli is a web service that improves writing by helping teachers and students quickly conduct reviews, see and assess feedback, and learn from the revision process.  Eli is designed for use in K-12 schools, colleges and in professional or continuing adult education.  
"Like any good company, Drawbridge is built on a societal need, such as the need to improve writing skills," said MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. "Writing is identified in most every employment circumstance as one of the biggest challenges, particularly as students are becoming more oriented toward the language of hand-held devices." 

Read the full story here.

Record number of student-run ventures moves into TechArb

A record 19 new companies founded by young University of Michigan entrepreneurs will share space in the TechArb student business incubator for the next six months.
Students are commercializing low-cost medical tools that could save lives in developing nations. They're creating apps that inspire dieters to lose weight, or help you organize to-do lists and other quick notes. They're opening a prep school in China. And more.
Organizers received more applications than ever this session. Thanks to an expanded space down the street from TechArb's previous location, they were able to accommodate more companies.
"Today we have more student entrepreneurs than ever in TechArb pursuing their dreams to impact our world," said Moses Lee, the new assistant director of student ventures at the College of Engineering's Center for Entrepreneurship.
Now in its seventh session, TechArb has nurtured more than 80 fledgling firms since it began in 2008 with a little Ikea furniture and some big ideas. A group of students launched it. The university adopted it in fall 2009.

Read the full story here.

WSU researcher receives $1.9 million from NIH to create novel cystic fibrosis treatments

Cystic fibrosis, one of the most common chronic lung and digestive system diseases in children and adults, is caused by a defective gene encoding the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR). The most common mutation is the deletion of the phenylalanine amino acid residue at position 508 that leads to a defect in the protein transport to the cell surface, resulting in premature digestion of the protein.
A Wayne State University research team led by Fei Sun, Ph.D., assistant professor of physiology in the School of Medicine, recently received a grant with an anticipated amount of nearly $1.9 million from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health to better understand how this defective protein in cystic fibrosis patients is prematurely digested.
"We aim to develop a roadmap for identifying novel therapeutic targets to restore function to this mutation, ultimately alleviating much pain and suffering for many who suffer severe lung and bowel problems because of cystic fibrosis," said Sun.
Nearly 30,000 Americans have cystic fibrosis and another 10 million are carriers of the defective gene, which causes the body to produce a thick, sticky mucus that clogs the lungs and leads to life-threatening lung infections, and obstructs the pancreas and stops natural enzymes from helping the body break down and absorb food. There is no cure for the disease.
"Dr. Sun's research shows great promise in targeting the cystic fibrosis gene that attacks the digestive system," said Hilary Ratner, WSU's vice president for research. "If successful, it may lead to the development of new treatments that ultimately may change this from a life-threatening disease to one that is manageable or even eliminated someday. His research is a great example of the high impact research Wayne State University faculty are engaged in." 

Read the full story here.

TechTown a hub of creativity, innovation

?Miller-McCune ?declares Detroit's TechTown a hub of creativity, innovation and revitalization in Midtown in an in-depth profile. Writes Paul Vachon:

"Detroit, the buckle of the "Rust Belt," is also a city of paradoxes. In the city's midtown, an innovative project, Tech Town, stands out as living up to its motto, 'Reigniting Detroit’s Entrepreneurial Culture.'" 

Read the full story here.

MSU to host Graduate Academic Conference in March

The 4th annual MSU Council of Graduate Students Graduate Academic Conference (GAC) will be held on Friday, March 30th from 11am – 7pm. The GAC is a forum for graduate and professional students to present their academic work to the larger MSU community and a network of peers from the University of Michigan (U of M) and Wayne State University (WSU). This is the first year students from U of M and WSU are being invited to participate in this unique conference run by graduate students.
The GAC provides a way for graduate and professional students from different disciplines to share ideas and practice presentation skills. Already completed and ongoing research projects will be presented in poster and short oral presentation format at the conference. Students are challenged to translate what might be highly technical language into a description that is easily understood by members of the general public who may be less familiar with their research area. The GAC awards several monetary prizes based on the graduate student’s success at this translation.
All MSU, U of M, and WSU graduate and professional students are welcome to present and attend. Presentations can be individual or group submissions.  Benefits of participating in the GAC include:
• Increasing professional presentation and communication skills 
• Identifying potential inter-university and interdisciplinary collaborations
• Building your curriculum vitae for future career opportunities 
• Competing for monetary prizes 
For more information and to apply, please visit www.msugac.com.

Michigan Solar Car Team places third in the world

Through a smoldering brush fire, past wind-shearing road trains, across the Australian continent, the University of Michigan's Quantum was the first American car to finish the World Solar Challenge today. The Solar Car Team placed third overall in the international competition. 
No other U.S. team has had back-to-back top-three World Solar Challenge finishes.
After driving for 35 hours and 33 minutes over five days, the U-M team crossed the end-of-timing line in Angle Vale, South Australia at 3:55 p.m. race time (2:25 a.m. U.S. ET).
U-M placed third in the World Solar Challenge in 2009 as well. This is the fifth time in the race's 20-year history that the U-M team has placed third. Reigning national champions, the team has finished first in the North American Solar Challenge three times in a row and six times total. 

Read the full story (with video!) here.

U-M licenses a record number of inventions

In Michigan and across the globe last year, more University of Michigan technologies were licensed to companies than ever before. U-M Tech Transfer recorded 101 licenses and options in fiscal year 2011, which ended June 30.
"We exceeded the century mark for the first time," said Ken Nisbet, executive director of Tech Transfer. "This number of agreements is an important metric of success and places us again within the top 10 universities in tech transfer performance."
Researchers reported 322 inventions and filed for 122 patents. And in these challenging economic times, the university helped launch 11 companies with technologies developed in campus labs. Eight of these companies have opened operations in Michigan.

Read the full story here.

MSU to lead pioneering economic development effort

As Michigan attempts to transform its manufacturing-based economy, Michigan State University will create a pioneering economic development center that focuses on new ways of generating businesses and jobs.
The project, funded by a $915,000 grant over five years from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, involves partnering with other colleges, local and regional governments, private businesses and other groups to produce or identify innovative ideas and practices that can be shared.
Rex LaMore will oversee the MSU University Center for Regional Economic Innovation, which is the first university-based center in Michigan to support research in economic development innovation in a collaborative manner. 
LaMore, a veteran economic developer and director of MSU's Lansing-based Center for Community & Economic Development, or CCED, said many economic development practices have become outdated in what has become a knowledge-based economy.
"Essentially, the economic development profession is still using a 20th-century toolbox," LaMore said. "What we’re trying to do is produce a 21st-century toolbox that will help it create jobs in our communities." 

Read the full story here.

URC Presidents panel airs on TV, available to watch online

Reporter Carol Cain moderated a discussion at the Detroit Economic Club on Oct. 4 with URC Presidents Mary Sue Coleman, University of Michigan; Lou Anna Simon, Michigan State University; and Allan Gilmour, Wayne State University. 

If you missed it, you can watch the discussion online as part of the Michigan Matters series on WWJ-TV. 


MSU College of Engineering's 'Transportation Commons' to open

A new collaboration between Michigan State University's College of Engineering and General Electric was celebrated on Nov. 1, with the official opening of "Transportation Commons."
Located on the third floor of East Wilson Hall, the space includes video and design elements focusing on transportation, including signage that uses QR codes to engage students and others in interactive learning.
The GE-MSU collaboration will provide engineering undergraduate students with the opportunity to learn about advanced and clean technologies. It will support lab enhancements, student design competitions, mentorship and tutoring programs, field trips to GE facilities, and other activities designed to enhance classroom learning and prepare students to solve the world's toughest challenges. 

Learn more here.

$1.7 million NIH grant for WSU to prepare girls for health-related disciplines

Wayne State University faculty are collaborating on a federally funded effort to minimize health disparities nationwide by increasing the number of local high school girls, particularly those of color, who enter college prepared to study health-related science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.
Leading that effort is Sally K. Roberts, Ed.D., assistant professor of mathematics education in the College of Education, who recently received a $1.7 million, five-year grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health. She is planning a three-pronged approach that aims to increase the interest of metropolitan Detroit area girls in health-related STEM disciplines.
The intervention will comprise summer academies; academic year cafes for girls and parents; and continuous mentoring support by WSU undergraduate women students through social networking sites and other technology. 

Read more here.

RetroSense Therapeutics signs license agreement with WSU for new approaches to vision restoratio

RetroSense Therapeutics, LLC, a Michigan-based company, announced that it has executed its exclusive, worldwide option and signed a license agreement for novel gene-therapy approaches for treating blindness developed at Wayne State University’s School of Medicine.
Zhuo-Hua Pan, Ph.D., professor of anatomy and cell biology in the School of Medicine, along with colleagues at Salus University in Pennsylvania, developed the breakthrough therapy and follow-on approaches that offer promise to people suffering with incurable blindness caused by age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and retinitis pigmentosa (RP) – retinal degenerative disorders that are currently incurable.
Pan’s novel strategy focused on genetically converting light-insensitive inner retinal neurons into photosensitive cells — thus restoring light-sensitivity to retinas that lack photoreceptors.

Read more here.

Michigan Strategic Fund and MEDC investing $6.8M in university-business partnerships

The Michigan Strategic Fund and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation today voted to invest $6.8 million in university-business partnerships focused on collaboration, commercialization, economic growth and job creation.
"Michigan is one of the top states in the nation for research and development with more than $16 billion in industrial R&D and close to $2 billion in university research," said Michael Finney, CEO and President of the MEDC, who chairs the MSF. "Companies like Google, Facebook and Dell were born on college campuses and we want to keep helping our leading universities turn the latest developments into jobs."
In July, the MSF established the University Technology Acceleration and Commercialization (UTAC) program through the 21st Century Jobs Fund. The goal: partnerships between Michigan universities and the private sector focused on collaboration and commercialization of technologies. The board is investing: $1.8 million to build a Corporate Relations Network for Michigan’s Research Universities. Six public universities and the University Research Corridor are partnering with the private sector to connect business relationship offices at Michigan Technological University, the University of Michigan, UM-Dearborn, Western Michigan University, Michigan State University and Wayne State University.
The network will support university projects that work with companies, provide university interns to companies, develop a database of faculty expertise, provide university library resources to small companies, and convene innovation sessions where university experts meet with companies to solve company problems. 

Read more here.

Now hiring: MichAGAIN Career Opportunity event in San Jose, CA

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation invites you to rediscover the bright future awaiting you during the next MichAGAIN Career Opportunity event. Connect with employers that are hiring and mingle with fellow Michigan alumni as you hear the latest buzz about our great state.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Loft Bar and Bistro
90 South 2nd Street
San Jose, CA  95113 

More information and registration available here.

Accelerate Michigan innovation competition announces 53 semi-finalists

Semi-finalists have been selected for the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition. The 53 semi-finalist companies will deliver their business pitches to investors on November 16-17 at the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti Marriott at Eagle Crest for the chance and win cash and prizes. The Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition will award more than $1 million in cash winnings, plus in-kind awards to top entrepreneurial businesses.
"More than 300 companies registered for the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition and it was a tough challenge to select semi-finalists," said Skip Simms, senior vice president of Ann Arbor SPARK, on behalf of the Business Accelerator Network for Southeast Michigan, a sponsor of the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition. "The majority of the companies are based in Michigan, but we also had applications from California, Illinois, Iowa, Ohio, Kansas, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington as well as international companies from Canada, the United Kingdom, India and the Ukraine."
"The competition in each of the nine sectors is going to be fierce," Simms added. "Thirteen of the 2010 semi-finalists are returning to the competition. Three of the companies competing this November won their sector prize at the 2010 competition: Accio Energy, The Mackinac Technology Company, and ENRG Power Systems."
The Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition focuses on nine sectors that highlight key areas of opportunity for entrepreneurial growth and success: advanced materials, advanced transportation, alternative energy, IT, life science, medical devices, next generation manufacturing and products and services. The 2011 semi-finalist companies are located in a range of areas across the state such as Ada, Ann Arbor, Detroit, East China, East Lansing, Farmington Hills, Grand Rapids, Grosse Pointe Woods, Lake Linden, Lapeer, Livonia, Midland, Northville, Plymouth, Port Huron, Royal Oak, Saline, Sterling Heights and Ypsilanti. Three companies from out of state round out the contingent, traveling in from Chicago, Il; Fall River, MA and New Rochelle NY for the competition.
The semi-finalist companies:
Advanced materials
Blue Water Bioproducts
InfiChem Polymers, LLC
InPore Technologies, Inc.
The Mackinac Technology Company
Vinci Technology Corp
Advanced transportation
Current Motor
ENRG Power Systems LLC
Alternative energy
Accio Energy
Advanced Battery Concepts
Arbor Wind
Climate Technologies Co.
Grid Logic
Metro Ag Services
Defense and homeland security
Emitech, Inc.
Information technology
Are You Human
GPX Software
i3D Technologies Inc.
Practical EHR Solutions
White Pines Systems
Life science
BioPhotonic Solutions
DeNovo Sciences
NEXTGEN Metabolomics 
ONL Therapeutics
Phrixus Pharmaceuticals
RetroSense Therapeutics
Syzygy Biotech
Medical devices
Advanced Cooling Therapy
Blaze Medical Devices
Retia Medical
Shoulder Innovations
Next generation manufacturing
Fusion Coolant Systems
North Coast Industrial Imaging
Products and services
Algal Scientific Corporation
Applied Engineering Technologies
ArtJen Conplexus
To qualify for the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition prize monies, businesses must make a commitment to locate and grow in Michigan. These companies must also be past proof of concept and in the commercial stage of business development.

Three U-M researchers named 2011 MacArthur Fellows

Three University of Michigan researchers—a historian, a chemist and a stem cell biologist—are among the 22 new MacArthur Fellows announced today by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Each will receive $500,000 in "no strings attached" support over the next five years from the MacArthur Foundation.
This year's U-M winners are:
Tiya Miles, director of the Department of Afroamerican & African Studies in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. Miles is a public historian who is reframing and reinterpreting the history of our diverse nation in works that illuminate the complex interrelationships between the African and Cherokee peoples in colonial America. Her studies tease evidence from census records, legal petitions, missionary reports, newsprint, and oral histories and span territories east and west in the South, before and after the Trail of Tears (1838-1839) and up to the Civil War.
Melanie Sanford, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Chemistry in LSA, is an organometallic chemist reigniting research on an important chemical pathway and developing a method to enable modification of complex molecules with important products we use every day. Her research focuses on using metal-based agents, primarily palladium, to catalyze reactions that substitute hydrogen in carbon-hydrogen bonds with other atoms or functional groups.

Yukiko Yamashita is a research assistant professor at the U-M Life Sciences Institute and an assistant professor of cell and developmental biology at the Medical School. The stem cell biologist is elucidating the process of stem cell division and its role in age-related decline in organ repair and in the onset of some cancers and other proliferative disorders. She studies the division of stem cells to establish which ones go on to replace differentiated cells and which ones maintain the pool of stem cells for future division. 

Read more about the winners and their research here.

MSU researchers honored by President Obama

Elena Litchman, associate professor of ecology, and Tonghun Lee, associate professor of mechanical engineering, were among 94 researchers honored by President Barack Obama as recipients of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers.
PECASE is the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers. Litchman and Lee were nominated from a pool of the most meritorious scientists and engineers whose early accomplishments show the greatest promise for assuring America’s preeminence in science and engineering and contributing to the awarding agencies' missions. Winning scientists and engineers have received research grants for up to five years to further their studies in support of critical government missions.
The awards, coordinated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the President, honors individuals for their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education or community outreach.
"It is inspiring to see the innovative work being done by these scientists and engineers as they ramp up their careers – careers that I know will be not only personally rewarding but also invaluable to the nation," President Obama said. "That so many of them are also devoting time to mentoring and other forms of community service speaks volumes about their potential for leadership, not only as scientists but as model citizens."

Read the full story here.

WSU opens new $76 million research facility

This article originally published in Model D on Sept. 20, 2011.

The second phase of the A. Paul Schaap Chemistry Building and Lecture Hall opened last week at 5101 Cass Ave. on Wayne State's campus, expanding and renovating the school's chemistry laboratories and classrooms to state-of-the-art levels. The $76 million project, which began in 2004, was funded by Wayne State University and a $10 million donation from A. Paul Schapp (a former chemistry professor at WSU) and his wife Carol through the Community Foundation of Southeastern Michigan.
New updates include a four-story glass atrium, a new 150-seat lecture hall, and renovations to the building's 96,000 sq. ft of laboratories and lab-support areas. The Schaap building's labs were expanded, and all feature brand-new case and fume hoods.
Attracting the nation's top chemistry faculty and graduate students is the aim of the Lumigen Instrument Center, which redesigns the Schaap building's basement lab into a cutting-edge machine hub for nanotechnology, drug delivery systems and novel molecule research. The Chemistry Department has "something of an entrepreneurial spirit," says WSU Chemistry Dean Jim Rigby, producing three spinoff entrepreneurial ventures from the WSU labs in recent years. He says the facility modernization have the ability to create new economic activity. "There is substantial opportunity, and in the case of our department, the reality of converting intellectual property into something commercial that provides jobs, creates wealth in the state, pays taxes and all of these things," Rigby. "Really it's only the research universities (University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University) that can lead to that kind of commercial development." 
Rigby says achieving silver LEED certification was also a priority for the department. Chemistry buildings, Rigby says, "move either warm air or cold air out of the building; so by definition, it’s a little less efficient than most. But we have aggressively pursued the LEED certification." Two sloped "green roofs" cool the building during the warmer months; all electrical systems were also modernized for additional long-term savings.
A. Paul Schaap was Professor of Chemistry at WSU before leaving to found Lumigen, Inc., after a discovery he made in the very laboratories his gift has funded. Lumigen, recently acquired by Beckman Coulter, discovered a light-emitting molecule, now used in a compound that's used to diagnose AIDS, cancer and hepatitis. "He's one of the ideal donors because he knows what is needed and to move in that particular direction so it's worked out very well for our department," says Rigby.
Find out more here.

URC names director for Global Detroit International Student Retention Program

The University Research Corridor (URC) has named Athena Trentin as the Project Director to implement the Global Detroit International Student Retention Program which is a three-year program funded by the New Economy Initiative to retain international students in the region. Athena joined the URC effective Monday September 12th and she was previously with the International Center at the University of Michigan. Athena will work out of the MSU Detroit Center located on Woodward Avenue in Detroit.
With nearly 20 years of experience in the field of International Education, Athena Trentin specializes in helping international students and scholars succeed in every aspect of their lives while studying and/or performing research at U.S. universities. She has worked as an international student and scholar advisor at Tier I research institutions such as the California Institute of Technology and the University of Michigan. She began her career at Michigan State University teaching U.S. culture, English language, and teaching assistant training classes for the Teaching Assistant Program and the Visiting International Professionals Program (VIPP). Most recently, she is a part time lecturer for the Global Scholars Program at the University of Michigan, teaching a class on global understanding and competency. In 2008, Athena received her Doctorate of Education from the University of Southern California where her research focused on how culture influences teaching style and perceived teaching effectiveness in the U.S. classroom. Her Masters in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages and Bachelors in International and Social Relations (James Madison College) were both awarded by Michigan State University.
The Global Detroit International Student Retention Program is designed to implement a wide range of activities to welcome and retain foreign-born residents and investments into the state, and to capitalize on the talent represented in the 16,000 international students studying at Southeast Michigan universities (often in high tech/STEM fields). Foreign-born talent already has a profound impact on Michigan’s tech economy with more than 30 percent of all high tech firms created in the state between 1995 – 2005 having at least one immigrant founder, according to one study. Immigrants file nearly 50 percent of Michigan’s international patents and are three times as likely to start a business. The Global Detroit International Student Retention Program is a partnership with the three URC universities along with Eastern Michigan University, Lawrence Technological University, Oakland University, University of Michigan – Dearborn, the Michigan chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the Detroit Regional Chamber, and Ann Arbor SPARK. 

U-M annual research spending grows 8.5 percent to $1.24 billion

Research spending at the University of Michigan in 2010-11 grew 8.5 percent over the previous year to $1.24 billion, continuing the long-term trend of steady growth in the university's research enterprise.
"University research is a key driver of innovation in the U.S.," said Stephen R. Forrest, vice president for research. "This continued growth in funding shows the commitment of the federal government, industry, and other sponsors to investing in the future."
Federal research spending at U-M rose 9.8 percent over the previous fiscal year, accounting for 66.7 percent of total research expenditures.
Funding from the National Institutes of Health, the largest federal sponsor of U-M research, increased 12.6 percent. National Science Foundation research spending at U-M was up by 10.3 over last year. And although Department of Defense research expenditures dropped by 4.9 percent, Department of Energy research funding rose by 30.4 percent.
Research expenditures from industry grants and contracts rose by 4 percent to $40.8 million, recovering in part from a 9.3 percent drop the previous year.

Read the full story here.

Strong student interest in entrepreneurship, internships

Students are coming into college with new career attitudes as interest in entrepreneurship rises and internship experiences are viewed as a greater necessity.
Those are early indications from this year's undergraduates at Michigan State University, where record applications and enrollment are swelling the ranks of prospective entrepreneurs.
"I'm seeing it all over state of Michigan," MSU internship programs director Paul Jaques said. "The students are interested in entrepreneurship, working in co-work spaces and incubators. Some don't want to go the traditional route of working for corporations. A lot them have said to me, ‘I don't want to work in a cubicle the rest of my life.'"
Some 8,500 undergraduates have indicated that entrepreneurship is their chief interest among seven career options put before them on the myspartancareer.com website survey in the past three years, Jaques said.
Student and community entrepreneurship organizations are starting the school year on a vibrant note, faculty sponsors said. Those include the MSU Entrepreneur Association and the Mid-Michigan Innovation Club for Entrepreneurs.
"Internships are on a huge uptick," Jaques noted. "Parents are getting involved and students are coming in understanding that it's something of a necessity. Employers are looking for experience, and they're getting students with four or five internships.
"The students are going out trying internships to find out what they would like to do and not like to do for the rest of their lives."
Post-graduation internships also are increasingly part of the hiring process, Jaques said.

Read more about MSU's entrepreneurial ecosystem here.

Wayne State researcher developing treatments for Parkinson's with aid of $2.15 million NIH grant

Aloke Dutta, professor of pharmaceutical sciences in Wayne State University’s Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, is leading research efforts to develop new treatment options to slow the progression of Parkinson's disease, a neurodegenerative disorder that affects nearly six million people around the world, with 50,000 to 60,000 new cases diagnosed in the United States alone each year. Currently no ideal therapies are available for slowing the degeneration process while relieving symptomatic abnormalities associated with Parkinson's disease. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health awarded a $2.15 million research grant to Dutta and his team.

Read more here.

MSU to help develop climate risk assessment tools for growers in $5M study

While the impact of climate change and climate variability is often discussed in terms of future effects, Michigan State University associate professor and Michigan's state climatologist Jeff Andreson and his colleagues have noticed some very real effects happening now in the agricultural industry. 
"Producers of corn and soybeans in the Midwest are just faced with a very large amount of risk associated with climatic variability and, ultimately, climate change," says Andreson. "We went from an unusually cool year in 2009 to one of the warmest growing reasons on record in 2010." 
That variability makes grower decisions on what seeds to plant and when very difficult and risky. Thanks to a $5 million grant from U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Andreson and his colleagues across 10 Midwestern universities, including the University of Michigan will be taking part in a large study in an attempt to develop tools to manage that risk. 
"It's a challenge," says Andreson. "We feel that this is something that really needs to be tackled. I think there is a lot of hope that we can come up with some results that will be helpful." 
MSU's contribution to the study will be Andreson's use of computer simulations to measure the impact of the weather on corn and soybean development and yield. Other components of the study include social science studies on how growers currently manage risk. 
The study is currently getting underway and is set to last for five years.

This story originally appeared in Capital Gains on Aug. 24, 2011.

Metro Detroit's watery future

It took an economic drought to discover water. And it was all around us.
Founded because of its strategic waterways, cultivated because of its fish, wildlife and other natural resources, and industrialized because of the abundance of water for coolant and transportation, this Great Lakes state is only beginning to tap the potential of the largest body of fresh water in the world as an energy source, as a lesson in environmental management, and as a corridor for maritime commerce and leisure.
"We're at the center point of being experts on how we treat the water," says Kent Anderson, a landscape architect and principal of the Detroit firm Hamilton Anderson Associates. The firm has done considerable work in waterfront landscape design. "As we deal with the economic issues (in Michigan) how we treat water issues feeds into attracting the next generation of leaders. Water and access to water is a tremendous recreational tool."
He notes that aquaculture, specifically fish farming, offers potential. Anderson is hopeful that Michigan will assume a leadership role in water development, but "we should be a lot bolder and smarter."
Water, water everywhere...
Having the longest coastline of any state other than Alaska is a "huge resource," says John Kerr, director of business development for the Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority, which oversees 29 ports along the Detroit River. "Are we really maximizing this resource?" he asks.
The Port Authority is one of eight ports in the nation to receive special project status within a Maritime Highway Corridor, which provides technical assistance for developing channels of tourism and commerce on the lakes. Initial development will examine the feasibility of a Detroit to Windsor ferry. Eventually, Kerr sees the possibility of Detroit to Toronto and Detroit to Montreal connections, given that the Port of Detroit has a U.S. Customs station.
There are also smaller "port-to-port" cruise initiatives under discussion, notes Mary Bohling, extension educator, Urban Southeast District, Michigan Sea Grant. "Economic development authorities are refocusing people on coastal tourism," she says.  
The Lake St. Clair Water Trail, a 45-mile kayak and canoe course developed by Michigan Sea Grant, will be inaugurated on Aug. 30 in New Baltimore. Sam Lovall, a landscape architect and environmental advocate who designed the course, says Southeast Michigan waterways are becoming far more user-friendly.
Landscaping and re-engineering shorelines in Southeast Michigan has given firms like Hamilton Anderson an edge on international business, notes Lovall, a onetime employee of the firm. Two years ago, while working for the firm, he went on a trade mission to China. Hamilton Anderson took second in an international competition to design a project on the Pi River in Lu'an City.
Michigan is poised to achieve prominence as an innovator with water-related innovation, but it remains "somewhat of an underground effort," Lovall says.     
Watering our entrepreneurial opportunities                                                             
Anyone who has experienced the Great Lakes waterways is well-aware of their powerful currents. Michael Bernitsas, Ph.D., a University of Michigan researcher, developed VIVACE, a hydrokinetic device that converts water current into electric energy. He is testing it in the St. Clair River and hopes to eventually market the device for fresh water applications.
"Developing something in the marine environment is pretty challenging," notes Bernitsas, an expert in offshore engineering. "The motion environment is really harsh."
Why isn't there more water-based technological research? Bernitsas says that despite waves of energy crises, "We have enough relatively inexpensive energy at this point, or maybe we don't appreciate how expensive it is in some ways to use fossil fuels."
Carol Miller, Ph.D., one of the organizers of "MIH20bjective: Research Shaping Michigan's Water Future," a conference at Wayne State University on Sept. 29-30, says scholars in Michigan are making original and impactful contributions to understanding and maximizing the potential of the water resource. The H20 conference is designed to promote collaboration among the three major state universities in the University Research Corridor for developing more national and international water initiatives.
What distinguishes Southeast Michigan research is that many of the technologies are being tested in the environment. "There are a lot of universities doing fundamental investigations in these areas, but there are far fewer universities doing the piloting and application of new technologies. Here in Michigan there's a real aggressive attitude toward piloting and putting to market."
Dr. Miller's research is focused on the interrelationship between water and energy: how to distribute fresh water to people while minimizing energy use, and how to manage the extensive water needs of industry. She also researches the impact of land use on water quality.
According to the State of Michigan Water Technology Initiative, there are six major water and wastewater projects in Michigan and 75 active academic research projects under way involving water, about half at Southeastern Michigan universities. A new water technology research center is under development at Detroit's TechTown. The New Economy Initiative just made the midtown incubator the administrator of a $30,000 planning grant.
The Water Technology Initiative hopes to meet the entrepreneurial needs of business while protecting the natural resource, notes Gil Pezza, sector development director for water technologies at the MEDC. "By focusing on the technology side, we distinguish ourselves from our competition -- the other states on the Great Lakes and the Canadian province of Ontario."
"Our initiative leverages the state's extensive R&D and advanced manufacturing capabilities and, specifically, the Michigan academic assets in water/wastewater research."
Because of the natural abundance of water and the need to manage industrial wastewater, Michigan is an ideal place for applied research and new development, he says. "You talk about economic gardening. This is a garden that can grow without water."
Pezza cites three innovative local companies working with water technologies: Miya, an Israeli company in Farmington Hills, works with urban water efficiency; Ambient Energy, a Birmingham company, is building a prototype to extrapolate water from air; and Zeroplex, a Norwegian company also in Birmingham, generates power by converting the pressure of water flows into electrical power.
In addition, H2Opportunites, a statewide water business accelerator, has been established in Oakland County.
Row, row your boat ...
A state known for being a national leader in boat ownership is just beginning to experiencing kayaking. Eight years ago, kayaking in the Detroit River was for eccentrics, and there wasn't a shop to buy kayaks or gear. Tiffany and Peter VanDeHey established Riverside Kayak in Wyandotte, began providing guided kayak tours of the lower Detroit River, and eventually expanded to Trenton and the east side of Detroit.
"The Great Lakes are inland seas," Tiffany VanDeHey says. "They have a lot of conditions the oceans would have."
Demand has grown considerably since starting the business, she adds.  From selling 35 kayaks a year, they now sell as many as 350. And they provide guided river tours for nearly 500 people per year. "When we first opened people didn't think you could kayak on the Detroit River. There was a lot of fear. ... It's amazing, paddling in the Detroit River, the nature that you see, the industry, the historical aspects of certain areas. I've paddled all over the world and this is one of the top places to paddle."
The lower Detroit River represents some of the most progressive public-private environmental restoration projects in the world; much of it under the auspices of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, including the 5,763-acre Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, which includes a 50-mile greenway trail to Lake Erie Metropark.
"Water is going to be the new oil," predicts Refuge Manager John Hartig. He has supervised 41 projects along the river. He contends that there is significant water innovation in the region's urban areas, particularly along the Rouge River, which he says is the first urban river in the nation to have all of its bordering communities required to have storm water permits.
Are we a leader in water innovation? "In general, we are not," says Hartig. However, the region is well-known for soft-shore engineering, converting industrial land to natural habitat, restoring riverbeds and wetlands, and reconstructing fish habitat.
From harnessing the power of water, to preserving it and playing in it, the state once known as the "water wonderland" is poised to become the "water innovator."
But folks are still testing the waters. 

This story, by Dennis Archambault, originally appeared in Metromode on Aug. 25, 2011.

U-M launches collaboration to help Great Lakes cities adapt to a changing climate

Faced with increasing risks of intense storms, heat stress, clean water availability and economic hardship, municipal leaders are seeking high-quality, location-specific analyses to help plan for climate change impacts.
That is the focus of a new $1.2 million University of Michigan research project called the Great Lakes Adaptation Assessment for Cities.
Led by U-M's Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute and supported by The Kresge Foundation with $600,000 in matching funds, the three-year project seeks to strengthen the science and decision-making necessary for more effective urban climate adaptation in the Great Lakes region, in both Canada and the United States. Researchers, staff, students and stakeholders from across the region will collaborate to make this happen.
"While there is abundant research on climate change at national and global scales, there is a gap in regionally focused adaptation planning for effectively addressing this pressing issue," said Arun Agrawal, professor of natural resources and environment and co-principal investigator for the project. "The Great Lakes project is helping to fill this gap by providing the place-based information needed for developing and improving policy decisions and infrastructure investments."
Don Scavia, director of the Graham Institute and co-principal investigator on the project, concurred.
"Every day, city administrators, land-use planners, mayors, and other key decision makers face questions about to how to better prepare for, and deal with, the impacts of climate change in our region," he said. "This project will generate datasets, tools, and a network of stakeholders that will be extremely useful for decision makers in private and government sectors." 

Read the full story here.

WSU wins $3 million grant to foster science, research careers

The National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has announced a five-year grant of more than $3 million to support the Wayne State University Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) program.

WSU's IMSD program, established in 1978 as the Minority Biomedical Research Support program with NIH support, aims to provide undergraduate and graduate students with a more personalized experience to foster career development while enhancing persistence and success in science majors. The program provides undergraduates with opportunities to maximize academic and research skills, and helps graduate students gain experience in teaching, mentoring and course development.

At Wayne State, the program has supported more than 700 students. As of 2010, 390 of undergraduates in the program have gone on to complete bachelor's degrees, 64 have obtained master of science degrees, and 68 have gone on to complete doctorates.
"We're pleased that the NIH has seen fit to continue our efforts to support the research efforts of students who otherwise might not be able to take part in such activities," said Joseph Dunbar, Ph.D., WSU associate vice president for research and IMSD program director. "In line with its mission as an urban research university, Wayne State has a long tradition of offering research opportunities to underrepresented students, and this renewed support will allow us to continue to do so."
Students like Tamaria Dewdney have benefited from the IMSD program. "I fell in love with research, and that probably wouldn't have happened if I hadn't had that initial exposure to a research lab," said Dewdney, who completed her undergraduate work in 2009 and now is in the second year of a doctoral program in biochemistry. "Coming out of high school not a lot of people know about research, and I definitely was one of them." 

Read the full story here.

U-M's Venture Accelerator signs 3 new start-ups, to hit capacity by year-end

The Venture Accelerator at the University of Michigan's North Campus Research Complex is filling up fast. Three more start-ups have signed leases, bringing the incubator to 60-percent capacity.
"By the end of the year we will be at capacity," says Jim O'Connell, director of the University of Michigan Venture Accelerator. "Since it's an accelerator we won't have 100 percent usage. It will be at 85-90 percent capacity." He adds that a consistent rotation of growing start-ups receiving incubation services will keep the accelerator filled.
U-M opened the Venture Accelerator in the North Campus Research Complex, formerly Pfizer's Ann Arbor campus, seven months ago with the idea of providing space, services and mentoring for start-ups commercializing university technology and research. Those start-ups include life sciences, clean-tech, software and other technology ventures with anywhere from 3-15 employees. When the accelerator is full it will provide space for up to 15 emerging companies.
Among the new start-ups are Wolverine Energy Solutions and Technology (an alternative energy and defense firm), Reveal Design Automation (a software start-up) and Edington Associates (a consulting company). 
"We have 4-5 other leases in the works that should put us at capacity by December," O'Connell says. 

This story originally appeared in Concentrate on Aug. 10, 2011.

Student entrepreneurs to present business models Nov. 15 at Wayne State University

Students from the Blackstone LaunchPad, Wayne State University's student entrepreneur program, and other colleges around the Metro Detroit area will showcase their business models at Wayne State's Get Launched! event, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011, in the Student Center Ballroom, 5221 Gullen Mall, Detroit.
Also at the Get Launched! event, Hatch Detroit will reveal the winner of their contest for the next great Detroit-based retail business idea. The prize is $50,000 cash and a suite of donated professional services. The Hatch Detroit contest is open to the public and the deadline for submission is Thursday, Sept. 1; visit http://www.hatchdetroit.com for more details.

During the event, the students with the most innovative business models will have the opportunity to pitch them before a panel of Detroit business leaders, "Shark Tank" style. The panel will include Rishi Jaitly of the Knight Foundation, Hatch Detroit founders Ted Balowski and Nick Gorga, Slow's Bar-B-Q owner Phil Cooley, and Dan Izzo of BizdomU.
There also will be opportunities during Get Launched! to win cash and prizes. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, call Aubrey Agee, senior program administrator for Blackstone LaunchPad, at 313-577-1533.

Read the full story here.

MSU professor launches new field of water research

Lakes, streams and wetlands are not isolated ecosystems, and a Michigan State University professor and her colleagues are pioneering a new field of research to show just how interconnected they are to their surroundings.
Patricia Soranno, associate professor of fisheries and wildlife, has netted a $2.2 million National Science Foundation grant to gauge land use and climate change’s impact on freshwater ecosystems, and in the process, pioneer the research field of landscape limnology.
Soranno is leading a team of researchers from three universities who have been awarded a five-year grant from macrosystem biology, a new program studying ecosystems at the continental scale. They will use landscape limnology as the foundation of their work, which is the study of bodies of water as they interact with one another as well as with natural and manmade features to learn how all these factors affect freshwater processes.
"Traditionally, bodies of water have been studied as isolated ecosystems," said Soranno, an MSU AgBioResearch scientist. "Our research uses landscape limnology to study freshwaters as integrated elements in the landscape to improve our understanding and develop approaches needed for multi-ecosystem management."
For example, a lake in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters faces different influences – both natural and manmade – than a body of water near a large urban setting, such as Detroit.
"Our goal is to create a new understanding so tools can be made for natural resource managers to address their unique freshwater resources in a landscape context instead of simply viewing them as single entities, disconnected from all that surrounds it," Soranno added.
Soranno and her interdisciplinary team of researchers, including MSU professors Kendra Spence Cheruvelil, fisheries and wildlife, and Pang-Ning Tan, computer science and engineering, will collect data on lakes, nutrients and watersheds from more than 5,000 lakes in more than 10 states. Thanks to the Clean Water Act and the wealth of data it has generated, they have more than 30 years of data to analyze, using the latest statistical modeling and geographic information system tools and eventually, made available to the public.
The results will help communities and states to better manage the impact of urban and suburban development, fish stocking and regulations, herbicide applications and water withdrawal policies.

Read the full story here.

Register for MI H2Objective Conference: Research shaping Michigan's water future

Make plans to attend the MI H2Objective conference where the latest water-related topics and innovations will be at the forefront of discussion. This two-day conference aims to connect scientists and researchers in academia and industry from across the state of Michigan to explore and discuss the areas that bring together Water and the Landscape, Water and Health, and Water and Energy. The conference will feature plenary sessions on models for research and development partnerships, break out discussions for building collaborations, a student poster session, and technology demonstrations. 

Available tours include a Conservation Tour of Milliken State Park, an Urban Farm Tour focusing on access to water, a Detroit River Cruise Tour, and a Ford Factory Environmental Tour with an emphasis on sustainable design.

More information and conference registration available here. 

Detroit Economic Club luncheon to feature the 3 URC Presidents

Wayne State University President Allan D. Gilmour, Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon and University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman will speak at a luncheon hosted by the Detroit Economic Club at the Westin Book Cadillac on Tuesday, Oct. 4 at 11:30 a.m. 

The topic of the conversation will be "Creating a Dynamic 21st-Century Business Model for Economic Recovery." 

The program is as follows: 

11:30 a.m. - Network cafe
11:30 a.m. - Speaker's Reception: Open to Board, Life and Sustaining Members 
12:00 p.m. - Luncheon
12:30 p.m. - Program
1:30 p.m. - Adjourn

Register for the luncheon here.

Vortex Hydro Energy harnesses river power, adds jobs

Vortex Hydro Energy has one alternative-energy-generating prototype out of the water and is preparing to sink another one soon.

The University of Michigan spin-out is developing a device that harnesses the power in river currents through a physical phenomenon of vortex-induced vibration. Water current flows around cylinders, inducing transverse motion, which is then turned into electricity. It doesn't have propellers or other traditional water-harnessing technology. The six-year-old start-up tested a prototype of its technology in the St. Clair River last year.

"It went pretty well," says Gus Simiao, CEO of Vortex Hydro Energy. "We're in the process of developing our next generator. We're shooting to put it in the water sometime next year."

Vortex Hydro Energy is aiming to commercialize this technology by 2014. It has recently hired two employees to push it closer to that goal, expanding its team to five people. The Ann Arbor-based firm conducts its research at the U-M Marine Hydrodynamics Lab and has also recently taken up office space in Dexter.

This story originally appeared in Concentrate on July 27, 2011.

Researchers find potential key for unlocking biomass energy

Pretreating non-edible biomass – corn leaves, stalks or switch grass – holds the keys for unlocking its energy potential and making it economically viable, according to a team of researchers led by Michigan State University.

Shishir Chundawat, a postdoctoral researcher, and Bruce Dale, professor of chemical engineering and materials science, of MSU led a team of researchers in identifying a potential pretreatment method that can make plant cellulose five times more digestible by enzymes that convert it into ethanol, a useful biofuel. The research was supported by the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, a partnership between the University of Wisconsin and MSU and published in the current issue of Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Currently, ethanol or other biofuels can only be produced in usable quantities if the biomass is pretreated with costly, potentially toxic chemicals in an energy-intensive process. The new discovery could change that.

"What we've discovered is something like a cost-effective switch or a lever," Chundawat said. "By using an ammonia-based solvent, we were able to pull a lever and flip the entire cellulose crystal from one structure to another, one that's much easier to break down."

Biomass is a desirable renewable energy source because fermentable sugars within the cellulose network of plant cells can be extracted with enzymes and then converted into ethanol. Unfortunately, it's a very complicated process, and one of the big difficulties in creating biofuels from plant matter is that cellulose tends to naturally orient itself into a sheet-like network of highly ordered, densely packed molecules.

These sheets stack upon themselves and bond together very tightly due to strong interactions between molecules – somewhat like sheets of chicken wire stacked together and secured by loops of bailing wire. This stacking and bonding arrangement prevents enzymes from directly attacking most of the individual cellulose molecules and isolating the sugar chains within them.

During pretreatment, researchers removed water and increased the ratio of ammonia. The result was seeing the so-called bailing wire being replaced with loose thread, which made it vulnerable to conversion into sugars. The end result is a potentially less costly and less energy intensive pretreatment regimen that makes the cellulose five times easier to attack. While increasing the rate of enzyme success improves biomass conversion, this research also opens the door for future improvement of cellulose-degrading enzymes.

Chundawat and Dale worked with researchers from the GLBRC and the U.S. Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory. The GLBRC is one of three Department of Energy Bioenergy Research Centers funded to make transformational breakthroughs that will form the foundation of new cellulosic biofuels technology. The GLBRC is led by the University of Wisconsin, with MSU as the major partner. Additional scientific partners are DOE National Laboratories, other universities and a biotechnology company.

For more information, visit www.glbrc.org. LANL is a multidisciplinary research institution engaged in strategic science on behalf of national security. For more information, visit www.lanl.gov.

Blackstone LaunchPad turns students into entrepreneurs at Wayne State

Last year, the Blackstone LaunchPad took off at Wayne State University with the goal of growing the entrepreneurial ecosystem throughout the school. One year later, the program is well on it way to developing that ecosystem touching students of all concentrations, ages and interests.

In its first year, Blackstone LaunchPad has accommodated 170 participants, 45 of which have submitted business ideas. Of those 15 visit the LaunchPad's office in the undergraduate library multiple times and 10 are consistent users. Of all of those people, the program is currently helping four businesses either get started or grow.

"To be an entrepreneur you have to want it," says Aubrey C. Agee II, the senior program administrator for Blackstone LauncPad at Wayne State University. "We try to put those opportunities in front of them."

Those going concerns receiving help from Blackstone LaunchPad are Static Force, a graphic artist firm; Project Footprint, a non-profit that provides water filtration systems and books to villages in Africa; PayItForward, a nonprofit that places formerly at-risk teens into internships with nonprofits; and Bierut Baker, an existing business that needed help to grow.

These ventures have come from a variety of students, ranging from freshmen to a 3rd year medical resident to teens to middle-aged students. Blackstone LaunchPad plans to significant increase but not quite double its participation next year, welcoming in new businesses and helping the existing one it has grow. 

"They are all real positive people," says Bill Volz, executive director of Blackstone LaunchPad at Wayne State University. "Nobody is like, 'don't do that.' If we can put a positive spin on a conversation, we will do it."

The Blackstone LaunchPad is funded by $2 million donated by the Blackstone Charitable Foundation.

This story originally appeared in Model D on July 26, 2011. 


U-M biz, engineering schools create graduate entrepreneurship program

The University of Michigan is creating one more synergy to help spin out more of its research into successful companies by having the university's College of Engineering and Stephen M Ross School of Business partner to offer a masters degree in entrepreneurship.

"This will provide not only an entrepreneurial mindset but will enable more tech transfer from the university to the private sector," says Doug Neal, managing director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at the U-M College of Engineering.

The university already has a strong pipeline for turning cutting-edge technology into promising start-ups. Last year, almost 300 discoveries made at U-M went through the university's Office of Technology Transfer. That led to 153 patent applications and 10 spin-out companies. On top of that, 50 student-run companies have utilized the TechArb student business accelerator.

U-M officials would like to strengthen this pipeline with the new dual-school degree. The hope is that the new course of study will continue to create more synergies between the engineering and business schools, thus inspiring more entrepreneurs to spin out U-M technologies into companies.

"There has always been a close relationship between the College of Engineering and the Ross School of Business," Neal says. "We have had a number of partnerships in the past." 

This story originally appeared in Concentrate on July 27, 2011.