VanCamp lived by the quote: “In the fields of observation chance favors only the prepared mind.” – Louis Pasteur
A new incubator for research-based startups in the sciences opened its doors in September, less than a mile away from Michigan State University.
A partnership, between the University Corporate Research Park, a subsidiary of the Michigan State University Foundation, and businesses in their early stages allows academia and business to work together to cultivate research and development, scale up their projects and, ultimately, bring those goods to market.
UCRP’s mission is to bring MSU and corporate partners together for research, technology, knowledge and intellectual property commercialization.
Innovation on a mission for good
The incubator is named VanCamp Incubator + Research Labs, after the late microbiologist Loretta VanCamp. As a researcher at MSU VanCamp co-created cisplatin, a drug that has been described as the “gold standard” for cancer drugs.
UCRP Director Jeff Smith said VanCamp’s research “resulted in the saving of countless lives.” Smith said the VanCamp Incubator will have a positive impact on life, physical and biological sciences.
The incubator hopes to continue Loretta VanCamp’s legacy by conducting research that could help the world.
A state-of-the-art facility
The two-story VanCamp Incubator is 22,000 square feet and features a tissue culture room; a freezer; an environmental health and safety room; nine wet labs; 42 office spaces; as well as shared equipment storage, conference rooms and a café area.
Companies can use these resources and services to grow before moving into the greater community. Startups also benefit from lower-cost rent due to tax breaks from zoning laws.
Currently, the incubator is 60% full.
Projects taking shape
“The growing number of startup companies coming out of MSU in areas like quantitative health, imaging and structural biology now have an off-campus incubator with full wet-lab facilities, instrumentation and services,” said Gabriela Allum, project manager for the MSU Foundation and UCRP.
Criteria for businesses
According to Smith, the criteria for startups to work in the VanCamp Incubator is that they must be life, bio or physical science companies and conduct advanced research. The business can be at the early stage or more established, but growing, with the goal of bringing its intellectual property to market.
Applications for startups to join the incubator also require companies to include a staffing plan that addresses how they will recruit local workers.
David Washburn, executive director of the MSU Foundation, said startups benefit in myriad ways. “Our rates are fair market for tenants. The complex, technical building with shared equipment is of value to tenants, while the proximity to MSU’s campus is a value to our faculty startups because they don’t have to move to another community,” he said.
The incubator partnership is designed to be mutually beneficial to both the university and local businesses. Students can transition from the classroom into career-transforming jobs. Businesses can use laboratory equipment that would be cost prohibitive as a startup trying to raise capital from scratch. Having multiple startups allows for capital investment in laboratory equipment to be shared among the group of businesses.
Smith envisions the incubator as a “hiring conduit” for MSU students to get internships and jobs at the startups.
It’s also providing local residents job opportunities.
“It is creating jobs in the Greater Lansing area, not to mention that it’s deepening connectivity between MSU and the community,” said Allum.
Ultimately, the MSU Foundation and UCRP want to create a future where Lansing residents and students don’t need to leave their hometown to achieve startup success.
Photo Caption: Loretta VanCamp’s family from left to right: Tommy VanCamp, Kayla VanCamp, Tom VanCamp, Janet Weber, Jenn VanCamp, and Jodi Weber celebrating the official grand opening of VanCamp Incubator + Research Labs.