Five Ways Michigan Can Make its Mark in Life Sciences


Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor — 

When you hear “Michigan,” the automotive industry and Motown automatically come to mind, much as when someone says “Seattle,” one thinks of software, airplanes and coffee.

That has changed over the years, and Seattle has increasingly gained recognition as a growing leader in the fields of life sciences and global health. And how we’ve done that offers good insight into what entrepreneurs and innovators in Michigan might do.

Look to the future. Michigan obviously has a productive and creative workforce—just look at the history of its automotive industry. But what’s the next big thing? The future is biomedicine and how we improve the health of the world through research, development and manufacturing. The life sciences industry in Washington has provided islands of stability and growth during the recent economic downtown.

Collaborate for success. One of the things that has led to the success of our global health sector in Seattle is collaborations. While many of us compete for funding, we’ve moved beyond the old scientific research model to realize that more progress can be made by working collaboratively and exploiting complementary capabilities.

Form public-private partnerships. Over the past few years public/private partnerships have emerged as important alternatives to large single organization enterprises. Innovative ways of partnering can generate working relationships that can be both productive and efficient, providing a useful economic model and new way to get things done.

Train the next generation. At Seattle BioMed, we start hands-on training with high school students in our BioQuest lab and continue through the post-doctoral level. This ensures a well-trained workforce for the future that will stay in our region to sustain the life sciences industry.

Look beyond the obvious. To make progress, it often takes different skills and abilities—and sometimes going beyond the obvious skill set leads to innovation.

[Editor’s note: To help launch Xconomy Detroit, we’ve queried our network of Xconomists and other innovation leaders around the country for their list of the most important things that entrepreneurs and innovators in Michigan can do to reinvigorate their regional economy.]

Ken Stuart is the founder of Seattle Biomedical Research Institute. His research is focused on unicellular parasites that are estimated to kill around a million people each year. Follow @

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2 responses to “Five Ways Michigan Can Make its Mark in Life Sciences”

  1. Jennifer says:

    Thanks for this article. It’s nice to know that more and more cities are interested in growing their biotech/life science industries. If you’re interested in learning more about BioQuest, Seattle BioMed’s science education program, visit (the link in the article points to the wrong BioQuest).

  2. Jennifer—sorry if there was confusion about the link. I actually didn’t see any link to BioQuest when we first published this, but I just inserted the one you passed along. Thanks—Luke