WMU News

$10 million BRCC funding gets final approval

Dec. 2, 2003

KALAMAZOO--State funding for Western Michigan University's Biosciences Research and Commercialization Center cleared a final hurdle in Lansing Dec. 1 when the Technology Tri-Corridor Steering Committee signed off on the center's five-year business plan and released $10 million for use in launching the effort.

"We are delighted that the committee has approved the plan, and we can now move forward quickly to begin the work of this important center," said WMU President Judith I. Bailey, who is a member of the committee but abstained from voting on the issue. "It's astounding to see how far we've already come since June. "In six months time, we've gone from the BRCC as a dream to it being an actual funded entity. This has worked because it is a regional initiative that combined local and state government, the university and local economic development supporters. It's a regional initiative with the potential to benefit the entire state. Gov. Granholm and the Legislature have our gratitude for their support and foresight."

A Kalamazoo delegation presented the plan to the committee, formerly known as the Life Sciences Steering Committee, and won the group's unanimous support. Dr. Jack Luderer, WMU vice president for research, has led the University's planning for the center. He was accompanied on the trip to Lansing by Kalamazoo businessman William Johnston, president and CEO of Greenleaf Trust, and Dr. Douglas Morton, CEO of the Southwest Michigan Innovation Center. The BRCC will be located at the Innovation Center, which is part of WMU's Business Technology and Research Park.

Overseen by an independent board, the BRCC will be staffed by scientists with a particular expertise in the commercialization process, many of them former Pfizer Corp. researchers. With the committee's approval now in hand, University officials say they will move rapidly to put the business plan in motion, and many critical parts of the effort are already under way.

Among the most important first steps will be choosing someone to lead the center, says Luderer. A formal search committee already is in place and reviewing credentials for the position.

"This is a critical position, and we really want to find the right person," Luderer says. He notes an interim director may be appointed to serve until the search is completed.

Other immediate steps will be finalizing the membership of the governing board of directors; formation of a WMU Research Foundation, which the University's Board of Trustees is expected to address at its Dec. 12 meeting; finalizing legal contract with the Michigan Economic Development Corp. for release of the funds; finalizing equipment donation arrangements with Pfizer; making definitive plans for space utilization at the innovation center, where the BRCC will serve as the anchor tenant; and issuing a request for proposals as a mechanism to begin supplying support for scientists and companies expected to be involved with the BRCC.

"Things have moved at an incredible pace already," Luderer says. "Over the past few months, the innovation center has opened, more than a dozen new companies have been formed and the University has laid the groundwork for establishing a research foundation--a process that might ordinarily take 18 months."

The Michigan Legislature approved the funding in June. The legislation required approval of the business plan by the Technology Tri-Corridor Steering Committee as well as evaluation by an outside panel of experts. The American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C., was selected to provide external evaluation.

Media contact: Matt Kurz, 269 387-8400, matt.kurz@wmich.edu

WMU News
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
269 387-8400