MichBio industry expo starts Wednesday in East Lansing
CEO Stephen Rapundalo of the Ann Arbor-based advocacy group said people often don’t understand that the bioscience industry is about more than just basic biotechnology research and devices.
“We cover agriculture sciences and food, nutrition, small biotechnology firms to big industrial biotech industries, renewable fuels and biofuels, and an assortment of medical technologies and new equipment. We also delve all the way over to clinical research, really everything that leads up to healthcare delivery.”
The conference, an annual event that MichBio started running in 2005, has four tracks for participants: devices, pharmaceuticals, agriculture and emerging businesses. Participants in the emerging business category will be able to attend panels and sessions focusing on the legal and financial obstacles that can arise when starting a new company.
Rapundalo said he expects approximately 300 attendees at the conference, which is co-sponsored by Michigan State University, including college students who will be able to hear industry leaders speak about career opportunities in the biosciences sector.
The conference includes an emerging companies showcase in which 10 startups get the opportunity to pitch their ideas to investors.
The bioscience industry in Michigan is concentrated in the southern portion of the state. Rapundalo said two thirds of the companies associated with MichBio are either in the “96 corridor” or south of it, including major hubs in Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Washtenaw County and metro Detroit. He also said that most of the association is companies with 100 employees or less.
“We don’t have too many of the big boys here,” he said. “Pfizer is still in Kalamazoo, and you have Stryker, Terumo, and Kellogg, but it drops off after that.”
Rapundalo said the industry has been robust and weathered the storm of the economic downturn fairly well. But his optimism was tempered by the fact that venture capital is still far more difficult to come by in the Midwest than on the coasts.
“We’re still small potatoes compared to the coastal regions,” he said. “There aren’t enough funds active, let alone how much money is available for the amount of development we have going on.”
The conference runs Wednesday and Thursday at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center in East Lansing.