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Michigan life science innovators: Apply now for funds to kickstart an idea or get it across the valley of death

U-M’s MTRAC Life Sciences Hub accepting applications from around the state

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Many medical research teams around Michigan have ideas that hold real potential to help patients and generate jobs. Some have already shown promise in early testing.

Now, there’s a new way for those teams to receive funds to get those ideas going, or get them across the ‘valley of death’-- the stage after most funding ends and before commercial backing usually kicks in.

As of this week, they can apply for up to $30,000 to get a new idea off the ground, or up to $200,000 to help them cross the treacherous middle stage of testing a promising new drug, device, or diagnostic tool. It’s the first round of funding from the new Michigan Translation and Commercialization (MTRAC) for Life Sciences Hub.

The competition is open to teams from any Michigan public university, and any nonprofit research institute or health system based in the state. With a focus on medical devices, diagnostics, therapeutics and health-related information technology, it will provide “kickstarter” funds to early-stage ideas, and mid-stage funding for translational projects that have high potential to become commercial products.

Full information and secure application forms are available at for new ideas, and for ideas that have already shown promise. The deadlines for the first round of funding are December 31 and September 26, respectively.

The $4.05 million statewide MTRAC Life Sciences Hub was announced last week by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation after being approved by the Michigan Strategic Fund in July. It’s based at U-M with co-management by the U-M Medical School’s Fast Forward Medical Innovation (FFMI) Program and the U-M Office of Technology Transfer.

Kevin Ward, M.D.

“Our previous three-year experience and success with the current MTRAC program at the U-M Medical School informs us that this new Hub opportunity could be a game changer in biomedical innovation for the state of Michigan,” says Kevin Ward, M.D., Executive Director of FFMI and co-principal investigator for the new MTRAC Life Sciences Innovation Hub.

The new hub is an extension of the existing U-M-focused MTRAC program, which launched in 2013 with $2.4 million from MEDC to foster innovation and entrepreneurship as a dynamic catalyst for economic growth.

As of April 2016, the U-M MTRAC program has funded 79 U-M projects, helped develop 13 start-up companies, created 33 jobs, secured $21.4M in follow-on funding, and licensed technology to three Michigan companies.

As with the U-M initiative, the researchers’ institution in the statewide competition is expected to contribute half of the costs of the award, with the rest coming from U-M and the Michigan Strategic Fund.

“As a statewide Innovation Hub, FFMI can now service innovators from across Michigan with support processes and resources to expand the capabilities of our current health system to prevent and treat more diseases and reach our ultimate goal: saving more lives,” said Bradley J. Martin, Ph.D., FFMI Commercialization Program Director for the MTRAC for Life Sciences Innovation Hub. “The great recognition and impact the FFMI program has already experienced here at U-M Medical School, in partnership with U-M Tech Transfer, helped inspire the decision to expand our program statewide.”

“Translational research funds are essential for developing promising technologies into attractive licensing opportunities that can provide life-changing health advances and economic opportunities,” said Ken Nisbet, U-M associate vice president for technology transfer and co-principal investigator for the MTRAC for Life Sciences Innovation Hub. “Tech Transfer and FFMI will partner to provide the regulatory guidance, technology development, and mentorship needed to advance promising projects through the commercialization pathway.”

“Along with advancing the research and commercialization potential of the current health system, leveraging collaboration among industry, the venture capital community, higher education, hospital systems and non-profit research centers will help increase the number of start-ups, jobs and industry licenses for the state of Michigan,” said Denise Graves, MEDC university relations director.

For more on MEDC Entrepreneurship & Innovation visit

For more on the U-M Medical School’s FFMI, visit

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