2018: A Retrospective

2018 represented an impressive year for the MSU Foundation, its subsidiaries, and the East Lansing entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem as a whole with significant milestones for MSU collaboration efforts, student startups, and more.

McLaren Health Care broke ground on its new, state-of-the-art hospital, which will finish construction in 2022. Located in MSU’s Corporate Research Park, which is run by the MSU Foundation, the $450 million health care campus will serve as a focal point for MSU and McLaren’s partnership, which will benefit both patients and MSU researchers. The groundbreaking marked the start of construction for the acute care hospital while design and development of the medical services and cancer center buildings will begin before the end of 2019.

The Princeton Review named MSU among the top 25 undergraduate entrepreneurship programs in the United States. One of the fastest growing minors in MSU’s history, the Undergraduate Entrepreneurship and Innovation minor launched in 2016 with the goal of fostering a culture of entrepreneurship at MSU. 681 students were enrolled in the program at the time of the announcement with 4,500 students participating in academic entrepreneurship courses across 129 unique majors during 2018. The Princeton Review’s rankings are based on surveys of over 300 colleges and universities and take major factors like scholarships and grants, faculty support, and alumni entrepreneurial success into account.

Similarly, the 2018 Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers (GCEC) awarded MSU its Outstanding Contributions to Venture Creation prize. GCEC’s awards recognize the top university entrepreneurship programs across seven categories each year at its annual conference. Its 225 university-based entrepreneurship centers range from new and emerging to established and nationally-ranked, but MSU beat out all other competition to receive the 2018 prize at the Chicago conference in October.

MSU celebrated the 40th anniversary of the FDA’s approval of Cisplatin, an anti-cancer drug discovered by MSU’s Department of Chemistry in the late 1960s and approved by the FDA in 1978. Cisplatin, known as the “penicillin of cancer drugs,” represented a significant breakthrough in cancer treatment, especially testicular, bladder, lung, and stomach cancers. It is one of the most effective and widely-prescribed cancer drugs, has saved countless lives, and has raised millions of dollars that MSU has utilized to fund research projects.

The MSU Foundation appointed Janice Stipp and Stan Sokolowski to its board of directors. Stipp recently retired as an executive of the Rogers Corporation while Sokolowski held significant roles at CIFC Asset Management before accepting their appointments. Both are MSU alumni who the MSU Foundation’s leadership team believe will be assets to the board.

The MSU Foundation named Jeff Wesley as the new executive director of Red Cedar Ventures, charged with the growth and management of its investment portfolio, which is made up of companies that commercialize MSU’s intellectual properties. Prior to his appointment with Red Cedar Ventures, Wesley performed the roles of CFO and CEO at Two Men and a Truck. During his tenure, the company became one of the fastest growing franchises in the U.S. Over the past year, he has aided in strategic planning and provided executive coaching for all companies in Red Cedar Ventures’ portfolio, his efforts have helped to raise outside funding for the MSU-based companies. CiBO Technologies, co-founded in 2014 by MSU professor Bruno Basso, raised $30.25 million from investors. An agricultural technology startup, CiBO Technologies develops data analytics software for improved agricultural decision-making to maximize crop yields, reduce environmental impact, manage crop insurance risk, predict price fluctuations in commodities, improve crop testing, and value farmland. The company intends to use the equity funding raised to grow and develop its technologies.

VADE Nutrition, co-founded by former MSU athlete Joe Johnson, presented their nutrition company’s business plan on ABC’s hit show Shark Tank and received $700,000 from two of the show’s “sharks,” Mark Cuban and Alex Rodriguez. The company sells easily-transportable protein packets, which are encased in a special coating that dissolves in liquid. Before the investment, the Smart Health Conference named Johnson one of the top 10 CEOs in healthcare.

Golfler, a part of Conquer Accelerator’s first cohort in 2016, accepted an acquisition offer from Dallas-based Supreme Golf. Golfler designs golf course management software that helps courses cater to their customers. Supreme Golf, which allows golfers to compare prices and tee times across 40,000 golf courses, intends to continue Golfler’s growth and revolutionize the golf industry.

Student startups AgileCare Solutions and BRITE bites competed in the student portion of the GreenLight East Jordan Business Model Competition. AgileCare Solutions, founded by MSU finance major Bailey Paxton, ultimately won the $1,000 prize. The startup provides an online platform for in-home healthcare providers. BRITE bites, founded by MSU kinesiology major Brianna Makaric, sells healthy, probiotic protein snacks.