Countdown to Michigan 2031: Will Medical Devices Lead the Way?

3/28/11Follow @xconomy

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the big guys. If I had a lot of money, I would do whatever I could do to have Medtronic have [more of] a presence here. We need that anchor.”

Could Stryker be that anchor? The life science community in western Michigan certainly hopes so.

The region, including Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids, is already home to a strong cluster of medical device and drug companies. With 1,947 people working in medical devices in 2008, the Kalamazoo-Portage area boasts the second highest concentration of medical device employment in the country for medium-sized metropolitan statistical area, according to the Battelle Report.

In Kalamazoo, Styker has provided significant support, including capital, talent, and expertise, to the medical device community, says Pat Morand, managing director of the $50 million Southwest First Life Sciences Fund (SWMF). The fund is bankrolling Monteris Medical, a Kalamazoo-based device startup that uses thermal energy to destroy tumors from the inside out.

Kevin McLeod, a former Stryker executive, now runs the nascent Michigan Medical Device Accelerator in Kalamazoo, which currently is developing four device startups.

And last week, Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo said it received a $100 million cash donation to establish a medical school, an institution that will further strengthen the local medical device industry, Morand says.

The state still has some highly organized neighbors to contend with.

In Minnesota, the quasi-public BioBusiness Allliance of Minnesota recently commissioned an exhaustive strategic plan called Destination 2025. The report painstakingly detailed all of Minnesota’s life science-related companies, research institutions, and organizations, recommended specific ways for them to collaborate, and set clear goals for the state to accomplish by 2025.

Ohio, Wisconsin, and Illinois, for their part, have been more far more aggressive at growing local startups and attracting outside capital and companies than Michigan has been.

For example, Michigan lacks a strong public-private entity to market and bankroll lifescience companies the same way Third Frontier and Ben Franklin Technology Partners does for Ohio and Pennsylvania respectively.

“Michigan has the elements,” Rapundalo of MichBIO says. “We just need to fill in the gaps and integrate them.”

With any luck, Michigan 2031 will spark ideas for doing just that, so I hope you’ll join me at TechTown on April 14. To register now, click here.

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