West Michigan is a magnet for collaboration in medical research, innovation and care. This is the second of two articles that take a look at what’s happening now and what’s on the horizon.A Grand Investment logo

Setting a course for discovery

With the fall 2019 groundbreaking of the Doug Meijer Medical medical Innovation Building, Michigan State University and Health Innovation Partners – a real estate development joint venture between MB Real Estate, Walsh Construction/Walsh Investors and Rockford Construction – set the stage for a new era of medical innovation in Grand Rapids.

The 205,000-sq.-ft. seven-story facility will be part of an expanding university-led Innovation Park that began with the opening of the MSU Grand Rapids Research Center in 2017 and now anchors the city’s Medical Mile.

Opened in 2022, the Medical Innovation Building will house to a mix of industry and health care partners eager to tap into research, patient care and education underway at the innovation park, at the neighboring Michigan State University College of Human Medicine and at a network of clinical providers statewide.

A bioinformatics core built on research

Research is the foundation for the concept. Upon its opening, the MSU Grand Rapids Research Center housed nearly 175 research faculty and staff – 28 principal investigators and their teams, with future capacity for 44 teams – working on research into Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, women’s health issues, autism, pediatric cancers, inflammation, transplantation and genetics.

A Grand Investment- Medical Innovation Built on Big Data Norman J. Beauchamp Jr., MD, MHS, is Michigan State University's executive vice president for health services. Prior to that, he served as dean of the MSU College of Human Medicine, headquartered in Grand Rapids, and associate provost and assistant vice president for health affairs at MSU.

Beauchamp also headed up the MSU Grand Rapids Research Center when it opened in 2017. During his tenure, he pointed to a by-product of research -- big data -- as a key driver in attracting tenants to the facility. Bioinformatics -- an interdisciplinary field that develops methods and software tools for understanding biological data -- is a thrust of MSU's work here.

"Think about over 200 people on-site engaged in medical research. The data coming out of that research is incredibly valuable," said Beauchamp. "By creating a bioinformatics core connecting biomedical entrepreneurs, start-ups, OEMs and investors to clinical operations, medical education and research, MSU will support discovery and help bring effective treatments to market."

In part one, we talked with Dr. Beauchamp about the university’s vision for the Medical Innovation Building.

In part two, we take a closer look at some of the tenants that will populate the facility and drive discovery, improve patient outcomes, enhance access to care, lower costs and speed cures.

The innovators

Entities eyeing Innovation Park range from multinational OEMs to West Michigan-based manufacturers to a local start-up that has attracted a German physician with a novel approach to cancer diagnostics and treatment.

One of the innovation Building's first tenants is BAMF Health, a Grand Rapids-based second stage life science company founded by former Van Andel Institute scientist. BAMF (an acronym for Bold Advanced Medical Future) is a groundbreaking medical startup using artificial intelligence and other state-of-the-art technologies to diagnose and treat cancer. It is, in the words of the company, the world's most advanced dual-cyclotron radiopharmacy, molecular imaging and theranostics clinic.

Other companies that have expressed interest in locating their operations here include a pair of medical device manufacturers -- one working to refine and better connect consumer-focused health technologies such as wearables, sensors and apps -- and a technology provider focused on home monitoring of individuals who have health care needs but don't require hospitalization. Another potential tenant has developed a cloud-based diagnostic tool that uses augmented information to compare brain images from millions of patients to allow physicians to more quickly and accurately diagnose stroke and determine the most effective treatment protocols.

A Grand Investment- Medical Innovation Built on Big Data

A group picture of the Grand Rapids Research Center team that currently houses nearly 175 research faculty and staff– 28 principal investigators and their teams, with future capacity for 44 teams – working on research into Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, women’s health issues, autism, pediatric cancers, inflammation, transplantation and genetics.

Photo by Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

An 18,000 sq. ft. incubator being built on the 4th floor of the Innovation Building is also aimed at leveraging big data to drive innovation. This public/ private partnership will provide a world class environment, comprehensive startup services and direct opportunities for collaboration with high-tech companies.

A third Innovation Park building opened in summer 2022 -- a 10-story building whose top three floors serve as the world headquarters of Perrigo, a leading provider of consumer self-care products. Perrigo is now able to pursue collaborative efforts with other Innovation Park tenants focused on breakthroughs in life sciences.

When complete, Innovation Park will comprise four buildings and about 675,000 sq. ft. of space.

Why here? Why now?

The Michigan State University Innovation Park – and specifically the Medical Innovation Building – opens the door to develop collaborations between basic science research, statewide health partners and, most importantly, a bioinformatics core that can help medical innovators more quickly bring discovery to market.

The need has never been greater to increase access to care and lower health care costs – and the opportunity has never been better to harness the power of big data to improve patient outcomes.