Roundup: U-M “Me-Search,” Zoetis, Rockwell Medical in China & More

Here’s a look at startup and innovation news from around Michigan:

—Multiple departments across the University of Michigan and its medical school are participating in the Michigan Microbiome Project, with a mission to study the structure, functions, and dynamics of the human microbiome, as well as how the microbiome can be managed to improve a person’s overall health.

Students in some introductory biology classes will have the opportunity to study their microbiome structures by extracting DNA from their own fecal samples and sequencing the species of their gut microbial community. They will also link the DNA information to data about themselves: height, weight, gender, daily diet, and other relevant stats. They will then use that data to test hypotheses about how their gut microbiome affects their health.

This alternative hands-on approach will hopefully produce insights about the gut microbiome that can have an impact beyond the classroom, university officials said in a press release. Ideally, the “me-search” of labs like this one will keep students engaged with STEM majors and help improve public health around the world. Grants from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, National Institutes of Health, Burroughs Wellcome Fund, U-M’s Fast Forward Medical Innovation, and Procter & Gamble have supported the development of the research project.

Rockwell Medical, the Wixom, MI-based biopharma startup targeting end-stage renal and chronic kidney diseases, has received approval from the China Food and Drug Administration for the submission of its lead product. That approval is the first step in getting Triferic to market in China. Triferic is Rockwell’s proprietary iron replacement and hemoglobin maintenance drug for treating anemia in dialysis patients.

On February 16, Rockwell signed exclusive licensing and manufacturing supply agreements with Wanbang Biopharmaceutical, a subsidiary of Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group, for the rights to commercialize Triferic and Calcitriol for patients with end-stage renal-disease. (Calcitriol is Rockwell’s generic vitamin D injection for treatment of secondary hyperparathyroidism in dialysis patients.) In exchange for the exclusive rights, Wanbang will pay Rockwell regulatory and revenue milestone payments totaling $39 million.

EPIC Translations, a Detroit company offering document translation, website localization, and other services, will join the largest-ever U.S. business delegation to Hannover Messe, the world’s biggest industrial technology trade fair. For the first time in the fair’s history, America will be the partner country, a status that provides the U.S. delegation an unprecedented opportunity to be highlighted throughout the event. President Obama will also participate in this year’s fair. Hannover Messe typically attracts at least 200,000 attendees from more than 70 countries, including global investors, buyers, distributors, resellers, and government officials.

—The City of Detroit’s planning department and the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation are currently accepting proposals from qualified teams to renovate and develop a city-owned site in Detroit’s Eastern Market. The site will be developed as Detroit’s Regional Food Accelerator, featuring a food-related tenant mix and transparent building design that will give the public the opportunity to interact with the food production process. The accelerator will also drive the growth of food-related startups by providing ready-to-occupy spaces for companies that need to quickly expand their production capacity.

The complete Detroit Regional Food Accelerator RFP can be downloaded by clicking this link. The submission deadline is April 29, 2016.

Zoetis, the animal health company with research operations headquartered in Kalamazoo, has been named one of the country’s top employers by Forbes magazine. Zoetis was ranked 81 out of 250 on the list of top midsize businesses in America. Zoetis is the only pharmaceutical company focused solely on animal health to make the list.

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