iNetworksMichigan To Bring Detroit $10M, Plus Lessons Learned From Pittsburgh’s Economic Revival

When Charlie Schliebs looks at Detroit today, he sees his hometown of Pittsburgh about 30 years ago, when the steel industry collapsed. Then, Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh helped turn things around by stepping up to the challenge of redefining themselves as a training ground for a new, tech-based economy.

That’s why Schliebs, a managing director at iNetworks, a health-care/life sciences venture capital firm headquartered in Pittsburgh, believes that creation of a new $10 million to $20 million iNetworksMichigan Fund, vetted by a top researcher at Detroit’s Wayne State University, is a perfect fit for his company.

“We’re not afraid of the Rust Belt,” Schliebs says. “I mean, we’re from Pittsburgh. So, we’ve looked at Detroit as a city that’s had its kick in the gut 30 years later than Pittsburgh…So, Detroit’s a kind of natural thing for us.”

The new fund, which Schliebs says has a target of $10 million, with a maximum of $20 million, will be run by Greg Auner, director of the Smart Sensors and Integrated Microsystems (SSIM) program at WSU.

Auner’s SSIM program includes five interconnecting laboratories with about 100 participating faculty, graduate students, undergrads, and staff scientists. Their goal is to take their research—approximately 80 percent of it biomedical—and translate it into real clinical settings as well as private companies.

For example, SSIM has produced a hand-held probe that can determine during surgery whether tissue is cancerous. A prototype is being tested and evaluated at Children’s Hospital in Detroit.

Auner says that despite “many, may offers” to take his talents elsewhere, he made a decision long ago to remain in Detroit, where his roots run deep. He believes he can help establish Southeast … Next Page »

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