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21st Century Jobs Fund supports WMU initiatives

Sept. 7, 2006

KALAMAZOO-- Western Michigan University research initiatives came up on the winning side of the equation Sept. 6 when Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm announced the names of 61 awardees selected to share more than $100 million from the first round of the 21st Century Jobs Fund initiative to create jobs in Michigan's emerging technologies.

More than $3 million will come directly to WMU, and additional funding will come to projects with strong WMU connections. WMU's Downtown Science Center, a state-of-the-art pharmaceutical research facility will receive a minimum of $1.8 million for wet lab redevelopment, with another $200,000 for the center still pending. In addition, a project directed by Dr. Margaret Joyce, professor of paper engineering, chemical engineering and imaging, will receive $966,000 for work aimed at bolstering homeland security through improvements to technology that allows manufacturers to identify products with tags that use RFID--radio frequency identification.

A number of other successful proposals announced Sept. 6 involve projects that have strong WMU ties. They range from a $3.3 million award to ProNAi Therapeutics, a company that has received funding from WMU's Biosciences Research and Commercialization Center, to a Michigan State University nanotechnology project co-directed by WMU's Dr. Sherine Obare, an assistant professor of chemistry, which will bring $307,614 to WMU. Other successful proposals with WMU ties include the following.

A $2.9 million award went to WCare LLC, an Ann Arbor life science firm that has an unspecified funding commitment from WMU's BRCC that was contingent on the company receiving funding through the 21st Century Jobs Fund.

In a separate proposal process, but through the same funding source, a $1.4 million award went to a consortium involving MichBio, a life sciences non-profit organization based in Ann Arbor; WMU's BRCC; Biotechnology Business Consultants LLC; and Biosciences Marketing Partners, a Kalamazoo-based group of marketing executives. The funding is to operate the Michigan Life Sciences Pipeline. The pipeline will promote Michigan goods and services related commercialization of life sciences.

The competitive award process was coordinated by the Michigan Strategic Economic Investment and Commercialization Board with a fund designed encourage the development of four cutting-edge technologies in Michigan: life sciences; alternative energy; advanced automotive, manufacturing and materials; and homeland security and defense.

"Today, we are creating the 21st century jobs of tomorrow," Granholm said as she announced the funding decisions. "These awards recognize some of the most promising and innovative job creating ideas Michigan has to offer."

The 21st Century Jobs Fund is a $2 billion, 10-year initiative proposed by Granholm, approved by the Michigan Legislature and administered by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to accelerate the diversification of Michigan's economy. The commercialization component of the initiative devotes approximately $800 million for competitive-edge technologies in the targeted business sectors.

The funding process began eight months ago. The original field of 505 proposals was narrowed to 179 finalists by an independent peer-review process conducted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The 179 finalists recently underwent intense, individual interviews by AAAS experts who then made final recommendations to the SEIC board.

"I was delighted to see WMU so well represented among the successful awards," said Dr. Diether H. Haenicke, who by gubernatorial appointment sits on the Michigan Strategic Economic Investment and Commercialization Board. "This was a tremendously competitive process and the University's success in this arena is truly reflective of the caliber of our faculty and staff and the expertise we have developed in some of the disciplines that will be most important to Michigan's future."

For more information about the MEDC and the Jobs Fund, visit www.michigan.org. The complete list of awardees is available at www.michigan.org/21stcentury.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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