EAST LANSING — By restructuring its health care operations, Michigan State University’s medical schools hope to accelerate medical innovations by partnering with the private sector.
The newly formed Michigan State University Health Care has the ability to form joint ventures and partnerships with for-profit businesses. Under the previous structure, MSU could only partner with nonprofits.
The university made the move to broaden involvement in clinical practices and medical innovation and research around the state.
Clinically, MSU plans to form joint ventures with a large group of physicians in the state, increasing the scope and scale of the organization and “offering accessible care to people in Michigan over a much broader region,” according to Norman Beauchamp, dean of the Grand Rapids-based MSU College of Human Medicine and leader of the university’s Office of Health Affairs.
In doing so, MSU can standardize quality, safety and access to patient care with clinical partners.
“The new MSU Health Care can partner with area hospitals, health systems and other health-related entities to more easily foster high-quality, cost-efficient clinical services throughout the region,” MSU Interim President John Engler said in a statement.
On the business and research side of the equation, MSU Health Care gives faculty and clinicians a new conduit to partner and offer their expertise and insight to startup companies working to “create new ways to treat patients,” Beauchamp said. MSU Health Care can provide a startup partnering with the university with faculty experts in an array of disciplines, such as mechanical and biotechnology engineers, social workers, nurses, physicians and physical therapists who can help vet or flesh out an innovation, he said.
Through MSU Health Care, the university takes a “1,000 percent” deeper dive into supporting medical innovation, said Beauchamp, who also chairs the organization’s governing board.
“When you have a network like that and it’s focused on transforming health, you can attract industry partners and innovators that want to be a part of ‘how do we make health care more affordable, how do we make it accessible,’” Beauchamp said. “By having a partnership that brings together the analytic strengths that we have and the educational platform, we can be the place that any innovator in the country says, ‘Where should I go to do this? Well, I want to work with MSU Health Care.’
“I want us to be a magnet for all people who want to do innovations.”
MSU seeks to work with innovators without having to control the resulting intellectual property, an issue that leads some entrepreneurs to steer away from seeking academic assistance, Beauchamp added.
A key component to the innovation push is MSU’s new $88.1 million Grand Rapids Research Center, which opened a year ago in downtown and added a western anchor to the Medical Mile health care, research and education cluster along Michigan Street.
MSU Health Care “strengthens our efforts across the state” and “adds rocket fuel to what we’re doing in the Grand Rapids Research Center,” Beauchamp said. He envisions creating an “amazing hub right here as it relates to what’s possible with the Grand Rapids Research Center,” as well as elsewhere around the state.
“You get that additional gain of creating this innovation ecosystem that will help us move with a sense of urgency to improving health for all of the patients that need to be served,” he said. “We’re not going to get health care right if we don’t innovate faster.”
The College of Human Medicine presently is reviewing proposals submitted through an RFP process to build out property surrounding the research center, including for a business incubator for startups that can work alongside university researchers. The research center also will include the involvement of Spartan Innovations L3C, MSU’s internal technology transfer office that works with faculty and students.
The partnerships formed through MSU Health Care can pay benefits for both the College of Human Medicine and College of Osteopathic Medicine, beyond just the potential royalties generated from an innovation that makes it to market.
“By being an innovation hub, people think differently (and) they’re more excited about work. Patient care is better and student training is better. You have leveraged resources because partners bring in their capabilities and their resources,” Beauchamp said. “Way before there’s any realization of an innovation revenue stream, there’s just a ton of good that comes out of partnering.
“If all we actually did is help people in the community be more effective at innovation, well, that’s kind of serving our mission.”