Joe Affholter of Michigan State Unversity and Michelle Larkin at the University of Michigan have essentially the same job: get academic research in the life sciences from the laboratory where it is discovered in Michigan’s half dozen largest research universities out to industry. Sounds simple, but it’s anything but. That’s because the MEDC’s Life Sciences MTRAC program is tasked with licensing technology invented in the academic system, mentoring new founders who often did not start in industry, and with helping companies get funded through clinical trials and the push out to the commercial market, which can take years to complete.
We often hear about the tech startups of Ann Arbor, which have experienced quite a bit of long-anticipated growth since recent successes of a number of local infosec and software development firms, but there’s a side to Ann Arbor tech that not many people see: the life sciences. Case in point, fifty companies give or take now reside in the Mi-HQ startup campus west of Ann Arbor, where founder Mark Smith hosts all kinds of life science and tech-enabled startups. A third building is in the process of opening now, keeping Smith busy dealing with HVAC contractors and new companies moving into custom renovated spaces. The original buildings 1 & 2, which sit next to the 2:24 community center and church on Wagner Road, are comprised of 140,000 square feet of specialized lab and office spaces, always expanding and shifting. Smith takes us down the hallways, many blocked off as private labs and office suites for companies doing everything from business development to molecular diagnostics and genetics research.