VAl: What medical, clinical research means for Grand Rapids

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

For 40 years, there was talk among Grand Rapids business and economic leaders of establishing a medical school in the city. But it wasn’t until the  Van Andel Institute broke ground in 1998 that the corridor, soon after to be named the Medical Mile, would begin to evolve and eventually attract a medical school.

That was part of VAI Chief Administrative Officer Steve Heacock’s message to the University of Michigan Land Use Institute Real Estate Forum attendees on Wednesday, Oct. 15. Since the VAI opened in 2000, other medical centers have sprung up, expanded or are under construction, he noted. Those include Spectrum Health, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, the Fred and Lena Meijer Heart Center and the Lemmen-Holton Cancer Pavilion. Now, just eight years and billions of dollars later, the MSU College of Human Medicine has relocated from East Lansing to Grand Rapids, bringing its physicians and instructors, and what will eventually be nearly 400 students.

“We see ourselves as part of the nucleus to bring together new technologies,” Heacock said. “We have the medical school now, we have ClinXus doing Phase One clinical trials, and Sequenom purchased the Center for Molecular Medicine.”

That $4 million purchase could create hundreds of jobs. In addition, Sequenom will enter into collaborative agreements with Spectrum Health and VAI, bringing a $10 million capital investment and some $20 million in tax incentives.

“When Phase Two of the Van Andel Institute opens in 2009, the medical school will have one floor of the building to work alongside researchers at the Institute,” Heacock said. “Education lights the flame for life sciences, and we are convinced we will make a difference in the lives of people here in Kent County.”

Source: Steve Heacock, Van Andel Institute

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Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at 

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