Skip navigation links

June 1, 2017

Research universities power state life science

Michigan’s University Research Corridor conducted $1.2 billion in research and development in the health sciences and is a key source of talent, deliverer of care and economic driver in Michigan, a new report says.

The URC, comprising Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University, worked with Lansing, Michigan-based Public Sector Consultants to create the report, “Leading Discovery: URC Contributions to the Life, Medical and Health Sciences.” It was released this morning at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference on Mackinac Island.

The sciences make up an important and stabilizing part of Michigan’s economy, being one of the only sectors that grew during Michigan’s long economic downturn of the 2000s. The URC universities continue to push the boundaries of possibility, striving to find cures for debilitating diseases; develop new pharmaceuticals; leverage new technologies to develop innovative treatments; increase the security of the food supply; and ultimately, improve the health and quality of life for people in Michigan and across the globe.

Michigan State is recognized for development of Cisplatin, one of the first, widely prescribed and highly effective cancer drugs that has helped lower the rates of death from several cancers. The University of Michigan played an important role in the development of the polio vaccine. A Wayne State doctor was the first to successfully employ a mechanical heart pump.

“The URC is a national power and an important source of talent when it comes to the life, medical and health sciences,” said URC Executive Director Jeff Mason. “There are few places in the world able to conduct the types of research that occur at our institutions and we are proud to support the continuation of such groundbreaking and historically important studies.”

While Michigan’s economy is still recovering from the sharp employment declines of the 2000s, employment in the life sciences is up 18.9 percent, compared to 2000 levels. The sector added 21,000 jobs between 2011 and 2015.

The report also found the three universities are responsible for 95 percent of all academic R&D in Michigan within the life, medical and health sciences. URC research dollars also are converting into commercialization success. From 2012 to 2016 within the sciences, the URC had 1,348 inventions reported by researchers; 380 U.S. patents issued; 433 new license agreements; 32 new startup companies; and $142 million in royalties earned.

Additionally, the URC ranks first in degrees awarded in the life, medical and health sciences fields – with 44,422 graduates from 2011-2015 – against seven other leading United States university clusters. The URC ranks first among these in the number of bachelor’s, master’s and medical doctor degrees awarded in the sciences.

The diversity of what the URC universities offer in terms of research, medical training and the delivery of care has a profound impact on the state, as well as the world. The MSU College of Human Medicine – one of the nation’s first community-based medical schools – played a crucial role in detecting elevated levels of lead in Flint’s children.

URC research has led to cures that have saved countless lives. As science advances, the future for research in the life, medical and health sciences will include tackling challenges related to aging, cancer, genetic disorders, health disparities and food supply safety.

“Every day MSU researchers and health care professionals strive to tackle those big challenges, which require diverse perspectives and expertise, harnessed through partnerships and collaborations,” said MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. “It's a privilege to collaborate with the URC universities to ensure we are making a significant difference within the sciences locally and globally.”

The full report is available and can be viewed at

By: Mark Fellows