Life Science Seminar
Osaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Japan External Trade Organization
July 27, 2005
I want to thank the Osaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Japan External Trade Organization, for making us feel so welcome in your community.
Today’s seminar provides us with the opportunity to continue a relationship between the University of Michigan and Japan that began nearly 135 years ago, when the first students from this country arrived on what was then our small campus in Ann Arbor.
One of those students was Toyama Masakazu, who studied philosophy at Michigan and returned home to become president of Tokyo Imperial University, and then Japan’s first Education Minister. When the University of Michigan later awarded Toyama-san an honorary degree in 1886, it marked the first time an American university had bestowed such an honor upon a Japanese citizen.
Our communities have since undergone dramatic changes over the course of a century, but we continue to have a shared interest in bettering ourselves through research and education.
The University of Michigan is a place of many “firsts,” and I want that to include partnerships with your businesses.
Just as the greater Osaka region is looking to the life sciences to revitalize and expand its economy, the University of Michigan is investing heavily in nanotechnology, biomedical engineering, and other promising fields of human medicine to position our institution — and our state — for the challenges of the 21st century.
We are one of the world’s great research universities. Michigan is consistently in the top five nationally in research spending, and our campus is one of the very few that can claim top 10 programs in medicine, engineering, pharmacy, business, public health and law — all disciplines that are critical to a robust life sciences environment.
In the past five years, we have committed more than $1 billion to the life sciences. It has been an investment in remarkably talented people, in the most advanced of facilities, and in curricula that prepare our graduates to be leaders in all aspects of biotechnology.
This tremendous outlay is the most important initiative of the University of Michigan in the past 50 years, because absolutely no other aspect of research and technology will so dominate, and shape, our future.
I trained as a scientist, and I know how essential it is to have the best equipment and the brightest colleagues. More importantly, I know the value of an environment that encourages initiative and risk-taking.
That is the University of Michigan. What we do best is find ways for our scientists and researchers to experiment and collaborate in ways never before considered. Every day, we see innovation and exploration between pharmacists and engineers, biologists and epidemiologists, chemists and oncologists. Collaboration is part of our heritage at Michigan, and it is what has made us the world-class research institution we are today.
This mindset of synergy and energy extends well beyond our campus. We are committed to working with entrepreneurs, government officials, venture capitalists and community leaders in seeing that the discoveries we make in our laboratories can be easily transferred to business and industry.
The University has three missions: teaching, research and public service, and I believe strongly that the work conducted in our labs have practical applications for doctors, engineers and others in the marketplace.
My background is in cancer research, and I know how the public looks to our university researchers for answers to diseases. At Michigan, we are pushing our scientists and they are responding at an amazing level. We are now among the top 10 universities in the United States for receiving patents for our inventions. In the past five years, we have created 47 startup companies, 600 patents, and 1,100 disclosures.
But we want to do more, and one approach we are taking is to form an organization we call SPARK, an economic development and marketing group. We are teaming up with government officials, business leaders, venture capitalists and others who are located in the southeastern region of our state. Working together as SPARK, we will double the number of technology companies and triple the number of tech jobs in our region in the next five years.
And our collaborative approach stretches across our state, to our peers at Michigan’s other research universities and institutes. As the Life Sciences Corridor, we offer tremendous talent and expertise, and we continually draw upon each other to improve our state’s environment for businesses eager to take advantage of our resources.
Few regions in the United States can claim major research institutions of our caliber and commitment — and our willingness to work together.
We have the talent.
We have the resources.
We have the ideas.
And we are ready to work with you.
Two of our campus leaders are with me today — Dr. Robert Kelch, executive vice president for medical affairs, and Dr. Alan Saltiel, director of the Life Sciences Institute. They will share with you some of the exciting developments unfolding at Michigan, and some of the areas of research and development that we see as most promising.
I believe that, together, we can do great things for our communities and for the world.
Thank you again for inviting us, and I look forward to more conversations with you.