MSU

Russia
Russia
SEARCH FILTERS
Time filter
Source Type

News Article | May 24, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Providing answers -- or at least more information -- to the most difficult medical questions is the aim of medical scientists. And how research findings are translated and made available can be as important as the discoveries themselves. In recent years, one area of medical research receiving increased attention is mitochondrial disease -- a group of disorders caused by dysfunctional mitochondria. DNA polymerase gamma is the enzyme responsible for duplicating and maintaining mitochondrial DNA. Disorders related to its loss of function are a major cause of mitochondrial disease. Michigan State University biochemist Laurie Kaguni and her team have created a new tool -- the POLG Pathogenicity Prediction Server - to help clinicians and scientists better diagnose POLG disorders and more accurately predict their outcomes. The tool is featured in BBA Clinical. Because of their central role in cellular energy production and multiple metabolic processes, mitochondrial diseases can affect organs, motor function and the nervous system. The wide spectrum of symptoms presented by these disorders poses significant challenges to their diagnosis. The database contains 681 anonymous POLG patient entries gathered from publicly available case reports. Each patient entry includes data on age of diagnosis and symptoms present. "POLG disorders, largely neurological and muscular, range from prenatally fatal conditions and severe infantile onset disorders, to milder, late onset conditions," said Kaguni, University Distinguished Professor at MSU and director of MSU's Center for Mitochondrial Science and Medicine. To date, 176 unique POLG missense mutations in mitochondrial patients have been reported in the literature. "POLG syndromes are largely multi-system, so it is often difficult to identify them as such," said Kaguni, who has also held a joint appointment at the Institute of Biosciences and Medical Technology at the University of Tampere in Finland while pursuing this study. "And most of these syndromes are complicated by what is called compound heterozygosity, which means there is a different mutation in each of the two chromosomes in a pair. That presents a huge problem for pathogenicity prediction, and one that we decided to tackle." Kaguni and her team approached this problem initially as a collaboration between her two labs and the group of Professor Anu Suomalainen at the University of Helsinki by studying Alpers syndrome -- a severe form of POLG syndrome that has an onset of infantile to two years of age and, frequently, leads to death by age two. Because the symptoms (epilepsy, loss of brain function, liver failure) are clinically nearly unmistakable, they decided to use the 67 known Alpers mutations instead of all 176 POLG mutations to initiate the work. What they discovered when they mapped the variants on a crystal structure of POLG modeled with the DNA substrate was that the mutations fall into five distinct clusters. This led to the conclusion that if an individual is identified as having a mutation in a given cluster and a second in another cluster, one can predict what their combination would do. Building on this finding, Kaguni's team, which included graduate students from MSU and Tampere -- Greg Farnum and Anssi Nurminen -- then added the rest of the known POLG mutations to their study and found that all but two of them fell within the same clusters they made for Alpers syndrome. "These findings show us that we can predict -- for any given mutation -- what impact it will have on the biochemistry of the enzyme," Kaguni said. "When we consider pairs of mutations in the context of all of the collected patient data, we can now predict with reasonable confidence whether the disease is going to be early, mid-life or later-life onset -- and what the symptoms are likely to be." The server features a mutation query interface so that the user can enter the POLG mutations identified in a patient. Based on this information, the server displays the cluster mapping of the input mutations and shows any existing patient cases. Using existing cases with similar cluster-mapping mutations, the server displays an indicator of the most probable age of onset, which can be used as the basis for a diagnosis/prognosis for a patient. "If someone has been diagnosed with a particular mutant pair and there is published data on it, you can find out quite accurately what is likely to happen," Kaguni said. "You can also look at what the symptoms are for other patients with that pairing. Notably, there are a number of common mutations in the global population, so that we have substantial data that will allow us to predict the outcome of new mutations within those clusters, or of new pairs of mutations. "Our aim is to extend the use of the server and database to enable early diagnosis, because there are many deleterious combinations that we would expect to be developmentally lethal," Kaguni continued. "On the other end of the spectrum, for late-onset disorders, early diagnosis will aid in intervention with dietary and physical therapy regimes." Michigan State University has been working to advance the common good in uncommon ways for more than 150 years. One of the top research universities in the world, MSU focuses its vast resources on creating solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges, while providing life-changing opportunities to a diverse and inclusive academic community through more than 200 programs of study in 17 degree-granting colleges. For MSU news on the Web, go to MSUToday. Follow MSU News on Twitter at twitter.com/MSUnews.


News Article | May 25, 2017
Site: www.biosciencetechnology.com

Providing answers -- or at least more information -- to the most difficult medical questions is the aim of medical scientists. And how research findings are translated and made available can be as important as the discoveries themselves. In recent years, one area of medical research receiving increased attention is mitochondrial disease -- a group of disorders caused by dysfunctional mitochondria. DNA polymerase gamma is the enzyme responsible for duplicating and maintaining mitochondrial DNA. Disorders related to its loss of function are a major cause of mitochondrial disease. Michigan State University biochemist Laurie Kaguni and her team have created a new tool -- the POLG Pathogenicity Prediction Server - to help clinicians and scientists better diagnose POLG disorders and more accurately predict their outcomes. The tool is featured in BBA Clinical. Because of their central role in cellular energy production and multiple metabolic processes, mitochondrial diseases can affect organs, motor function and the nervous system. The wide spectrum of symptoms presented by these disorders poses significant challenges to their diagnosis. The database contains 681 anonymous POLG patient entries gathered from publicly available case reports. Each patient entry includes data on age of diagnosis and symptoms present. "POLG disorders, largely neurological and muscular, range from prenatally fatal conditions and severe infantile onset disorders, to milder, late onset conditions," said Kaguni, University Distinguished Professor at MSU and director of MSU's Center for Mitochondrial Science and Medicine. To date, 176 unique POLG missense mutations in mitochondrial patients have been reported in the literature. "POLG syndromes are largely multi-system, so it is often difficult to identify them as such," said Kaguni, who has also held a joint appointment at the Institute of Biosciences and Medical Technology at the University of Tampere in Finland while pursuing this study. "And most of these syndromes are complicated by what is called compound heterozygosity, which means there is a different mutation in each of the two chromosomes in a pair. That presents a huge problem for pathogenicity prediction, and one that we decided to tackle." Kaguni and her team approached this problem initially as a collaboration between her two labs and the group of Professor Anu Suomalainen at the University of Helsinki by studying Alpers syndrome -- a severe form of POLG syndrome that has an onset of infantile to two years of age and, frequently, leads to death by age two. Because the symptoms (epilepsy, loss of brain function, liver failure) are clinically nearly unmistakable, they decided to use the 67 known Alpers mutations instead of all 176 POLG mutations to initiate the work. What they discovered when they mapped the variants on a crystal structure of POLG modeled with the DNA substrate was that the mutations fall into five distinct clusters. This led to the conclusion that if an individual is identified as having a mutation in a given cluster and a second in another cluster, one can predict what their combination would do. Building on this finding, Kaguni's team, which included graduate students from MSU and Tampere -- Greg Farnum and Anssi Nurminen -- then added the rest of the known POLG mutations to their study and found that all but two of them fell within the same clusters they made for Alpers syndrome. "These findings show us that we can predict -- for any given mutation -- what impact it will have on the biochemistry of the enzyme," Kaguni said. "When we consider pairs of mutations in the context of all of the collected patient data, we can now predict with reasonable confidence whether the disease is going to be early, mid-life or later-life onset -- and what the symptoms are likely to be." The server features a mutation query interface so that the user can enter the POLG mutations identified in a patient. Based on this information, the server displays the cluster mapping of the input mutations and shows any existing patient cases. Using existing cases with similar cluster-mapping mutations, the server displays an indicator of the most probable age of onset, which can be used as the basis for a diagnosis/prognosis for a patient. "If someone has been diagnosed with a particular mutant pair and there is published data on it, you can find out quite accurately what is likely to happen," Kaguni said. "You can also look at what the symptoms are for other patients with that pairing. Notably, there are a number of common mutations in the global population, so that we have substantial data that will allow us to predict the outcome of new mutations within those clusters, or of new pairs of mutations. "Our aim is to extend the use of the server and database to enable early diagnosis, because there are many deleterious combinations that we would expect to be developmentally lethal," Kaguni continued. "On the other end of the spectrum, for late-onset disorders, early diagnosis will aid in intervention with dietary and physical therapy regimes."


News Article | May 25, 2017
Site: www.biosciencetechnology.com

Providing answers -- or at least more information -- to the most difficult medical questions is the aim of medical scientists. And how research findings are translated and made available can be as important as the discoveries themselves. In recent years, one area of medical research receiving increased attention is mitochondrial disease -- a group of disorders caused by dysfunctional mitochondria. DNA polymerase gamma is the enzyme responsible for duplicating and maintaining mitochondrial DNA. Disorders related to its loss of function are a major cause of mitochondrial disease. Michigan State University biochemist Laurie Kaguni and her team have created a new tool -- the POLG Pathogenicity Prediction Server - to help clinicians and scientists better diagnose POLG disorders and more accurately predict their outcomes. The tool is featured in BBA Clinical. Because of their central role in cellular energy production and multiple metabolic processes, mitochondrial diseases can affect organs, motor function and the nervous system. The wide spectrum of symptoms presented by these disorders poses significant challenges to their diagnosis. The database contains 681 anonymous POLG patient entries gathered from publicly available case reports. Each patient entry includes data on age of diagnosis and symptoms present. "POLG disorders, largely neurological and muscular, range from prenatally fatal conditions and severe infantile onset disorders, to milder, late onset conditions," said Kaguni, University Distinguished Professor at MSU and director of MSU's Center for Mitochondrial Science and Medicine. To date, 176 unique POLG missense mutations in mitochondrial patients have been reported in the literature. "POLG syndromes are largely multi-system, so it is often difficult to identify them as such," said Kaguni, who has also held a joint appointment at the Institute of Biosciences and Medical Technology at the University of Tampere in Finland while pursuing this study. "And most of these syndromes are complicated by what is called compound heterozygosity, which means there is a different mutation in each of the two chromosomes in a pair. That presents a huge problem for pathogenicity prediction, and one that we decided to tackle." Kaguni and her team approached this problem initially as a collaboration between her two labs and the group of Professor Anu Suomalainen at the University of Helsinki by studying Alpers syndrome -- a severe form of POLG syndrome that has an onset of infantile to two years of age and, frequently, leads to death by age two. Because the symptoms (epilepsy, loss of brain function, liver failure) are clinically nearly unmistakable, they decided to use the 67 known Alpers mutations instead of all 176 POLG mutations to initiate the work. What they discovered when they mapped the variants on a crystal structure of POLG modeled with the DNA substrate was that the mutations fall into five distinct clusters. This led to the conclusion that if an individual is identified as having a mutation in a given cluster and a second in another cluster, one can predict what their combination would do. Building on this finding, Kaguni's team, which included graduate students from MSU and Tampere -- Greg Farnum and Anssi Nurminen -- then added the rest of the known POLG mutations to their study and found that all but two of them fell within the same clusters they made for Alpers syndrome. "These findings show us that we can predict -- for any given mutation -- what impact it will have on the biochemistry of the enzyme," Kaguni said. "When we consider pairs of mutations in the context of all of the collected patient data, we can now predict with reasonable confidence whether the disease is going to be early, mid-life or later-life onset -- and what the symptoms are likely to be." The server features a mutation query interface so that the user can enter the POLG mutations identified in a patient. Based on this information, the server displays the cluster mapping of the input mutations and shows any existing patient cases. Using existing cases with similar cluster-mapping mutations, the server displays an indicator of the most probable age of onset, which can be used as the basis for a diagnosis/prognosis for a patient. "If someone has been diagnosed with a particular mutant pair and there is published data on it, you can find out quite accurately what is likely to happen," Kaguni said. "You can also look at what the symptoms are for other patients with that pairing. Notably, there are a number of common mutations in the global population, so that we have substantial data that will allow us to predict the outcome of new mutations within those clusters, or of new pairs of mutations. "Our aim is to extend the use of the server and database to enable early diagnosis, because there are many deleterious combinations that we would expect to be developmentally lethal," Kaguni continued. "On the other end of the spectrum, for late-onset disorders, early diagnosis will aid in intervention with dietary and physical therapy regimes."


News Article | May 25, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

EAST LANSING, Mich. - New Michigan State University research is the first to help a professional race car driver with diabetes improve his performance during competition, helping him capture two top-5 finishes at the Indianapolis 500. The study focused on 31-year-old race car driver Charlie Kimball, but the implications could extend well beyond racing and help other elite-level athletes with the disease compete. "Our research focused on tracking all the health variables of Charlie related to his diabetes in order to help him become a more powerful athlete," said David Ferguson, lead author of the study who has worked with Kimball for the past six years. "Even though our study was tailored for racing, the idea of optimal blood sugar could really extend to any athlete with diabetes and help lay the foundation for all diabetics to engage in competitive sports based on our data." Kimball, one of two IndyCar drivers with Type 1 diabetes and one of four in elite-level racing overall, has to consider a lot more safety precautions than most other drivers when he gets behind the wheel. "Monitoring blood sugar is one of the most obvious precautions someone like Charlie needs to consistently keep track of before getting on the racetrack," Ferguson said. "If his blood sugar is too low, it may take him too long to make the right decision. If his sugar is too high, his reaction time may be fine, but the likelihood of him making the wrong choice increases." Ferguson's research-based regimen has Kimball's physical composition and health fluctuations down to a science, indicating optimum glucose levels for the professional driver at race time, as well as knowing how his body will respond to extreme forces and movements that occur while in the car. In addition to identifying blood sugar levels, the study monitored other physiological factors including body composition, strength, cardiovascular fitness and how much G-force his body could handle. "Drivers are subjected to an increased gravitational force while racing," Ferguson said. "Blood can pool in the legs on a high G-force track and impair performance." By helping Kimball manage his health and monitor many of the environmental factors he faces while racing, Ferguson said the research has put Charlie in the top 10 percent of physical fitness of the athletes he has tested. It's also given him the ability to compete equally with others. "Technically, since Charlie doesn't have a functioning pancreas, all the other drivers have had an advantage over him," Ferguson said. "We simply put him on a level playing field." Ferguson is presenting the study at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine on May 31. Michigan State University has been working to advance the common good in uncommon ways for more than 150 years. One of the top research universities in the world, MSU focuses its vast resources on creating solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges, while providing life-changing opportunities to a diverse and inclusive academic community through more than 200 programs of study in 17 degree-granting colleges.


News Article | May 26, 2017
Site: www.prweb.com

The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI), in partnership with Michelman and other key IACMI consortium members, has announced a project focused on the optimization of vinyl ester resins and fiber sizings for the fabrication of carbon fiber composites. The effort will identify styrene-free prepreg formulations with longer room temperature shelf life, shorter cycle times, and reduced cost. Advancements in these areas will increase productivity, decrease scrap and material costs, and enable adoption into the automotive industry. The IACMI is a Manufacturing USA institute driven by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and the U.S. Department of Energy. The team on this key project includes Michelman, Ashland, Zoltek, University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI), JobsOhio, and Michigan State University (MSU). As part of this technical collaboration, researchers at MSU and UDRI will identify cost-effective combinations of fiber sizings from Michelman, resins from Ashland, and carbon fibers from Zoltek that can be used to fabricate prepregs that can be compression-molded into composite parts. The goal is to develop vinyl ester resin / fiber sizing / carbon fiber combinations that are styrene-free and that have room temperature storage capability of at least three months and cure times less than three minutes. The success of this IACMI project will help catalyze the adoption of carbon fiber and vinyl ester composites into automotive applications by producing a more cost- effective technology with lower material costs, a more productive technology with reduced cure time and reduced scrap, and a safer technology with the elimination of styrene. These technology innovations should prove to be an attractive value proposition for the multibillion dollar automotive industry and help it to meet its targets for lightweighting of vehicles. Michelman manufactures a versatile line of fiber sizings and resin modifiers that are used by fiber producers and composite manufacturers to produce stronger, lighter and more durable composite parts. The company’s broad portfolio of products allows customers to tailor the surface chemistry of reinforcement fibers to the chemistry of the matrix resin, thereby optimizing the interface adhesion between the polymers and fibers. About Michelman Michelman is a global developer and manufacturer of environmentally friendly advanced materials for industry, offering solutions for the coatings, printing & packaging and industrial manufacturing markets. The company’s surface additives and polymeric binders are used by leading manufacturers around the world to enhance performance attributes and add value in applications including wood and floor care products, metal and industrial coatings, paints, varnishes, inks, fibers and composites. Michelman is also well-known as an innovator in the development of barrier and functional coatings, as well as digital printing press primers that are used in the production of consumer and industrial packaging and paper products, labels, and commercially printed materials. Michelman serves its customers with production facilities in North America, Europe and Asia, product development and technical service centers in several major global markets, and a worldwide team of highly trained business development personnel.


News Article | May 16, 2017
Site: www.cemag.us

A paper-thin, flexible device created at Michigan State University not only can generate energy from human motion, it can act as a loudspeaker and microphone as well, nanotechnology researchers report in Nature Communications. The audio breakthrough could eventually lead to such consumer products as a foldable loudspeaker, a voice-activated security patch for computers and even a talking newspaper. “Every technology starts with a breakthrough and this is a breakthrough for this particular technology,” says Nelson Sepulveda, MSU associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and primary investigator of the federally funded project. “This is the first transducer that is ultrathin, flexible, scalable and bidirectional, meaning it can convert mechanical energy to electrical energy and electrical energy to mechanical energy.” In late 2016, Sepulveda and his team successfully demonstrated their sheet-like device — known as a ferroelectret nanogenerator, or FENG — by using it to power a keyboard, LED lights and an LCD touch-screen. That process worked with a finger swipe or a light pressing motion to activate the devices — converting mechanical energy to electrical energy. The current breakthrough extends the FENG’s usability. The researchers discovered the high-tech material can act as a microphone (by capturing the vibrations from sound, or mechanical energy, and converting it to electrical energy) as well as a loudspeaker (by operating the opposite way: converting electrical energy to mechanical energy). To demonstrate the microphone effect, the researchers developed a FENG security patch that uses voice recognition to access a computer. The patch was successful in protecting an individual’s computer from outside users. “The device is so sensitive to the vibrations that it catches the frequency components of your voice,” Sepulveda says.


News Article | May 10, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

As nearly 75 percent of the nation's largest dams approach the high maintenance years, safety and economics figure large in decisions to fix or replace. A recent study by Michigan State University (MSU) researchers makes a case to consider how those dams affect the streams and fish that live in them. Big dams -- many approaching 50 years old -- span the United States. In some areas, like the northeast, there are many and close together. In other areas like the southwest, dams are sparser and further apart. It's not just the presence of a single dam that can affect streams by increasing or decreasing flows or fragmenting streams and creating dead ends for fish. The group showed that multiple dams throughout watersheds can have cumulative effects on a stream and its fishes. This underscores the fact that effects of dams could affect habitats and fish miles away from a single dam. The report, published in the May edition of the journal Science of the Total Environment, also shows how several aspects of streams and dams must be examined and considered to understand a dam's role in an ecosystem, said Arthur Cooper, the paper's primary author and a research assistant in the Aquatic Landscape Ecology Lab. "This study advances our ability to understand the effects of dams as a landscape-scale disturbance, providing information vitally needed to prioritize dam removal and management, informing policy and decision-making to improve and conserve the nation's stream resources," Cooper said.Barton Dam in the Huron River in Ann Arbor, Michigan The group scrutinized 49,468 of the nation's dams - those considered the largest and used for a wide variety of purposes, like hydropower, flood control, water supply and irrigation. By looking at how those dams affect different groups of fishes, it became clear dams benefit certain types of fishes while negatively influencing others. In particular, some trout and darter species that prefer fast-flowing streams and streams lined with gravel, or that are considered generally intolerant to human disturbances, decline in numbers with dams. But the widespread changes in stream flow and the creation of lake-like environments formed by reservoirs above dams are associated with more sunfish in some regions of the U.S. And Cooper said this isn't just about streams closest to the dams. Dams and their reservoirs deliver a cumulative effect, leaving their mark on streams further upstream. "Dams have not only fragmented large rivers themselves, but their main tributaries are also truncated by dams," Cooper said. "This is analogous to a tree having its trunk cut in half and many of its main branches removed." Cooper said this information has been used in a national assessment of stream fish habitats conducted in support of the National Fish Habitat Partnership. Along with other disturbances to stream habitats such as urban and agricultural land use, mines, and point-source pollution, the group is working to identify the condition of and threats to streams nationally. Besides Cooper, "Assessment of dam effects on streams and fish assemblages of the conterminous USA" was written by associate professor Dana Infante, the leader of the aquatic lab and a member of MSU's Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability; Wesley Daniel, Kevin Wehrly, Lizhu Wang and Travis Brenden. "This study offers new insights into the variable effects that dams can have on stream fishes," Infante said. "This information is important for stakeholders who may be working to conserve stream habitats, considering dam removals, or planning development of new dams. So that others can benefit from the tremendous amount of information assembled for this project, all dam metrics that we calculated are publically available through this publication." Partners are using this information to prioritize where and how to protect or restore streams. Managers involved in dam removal decisions throughout large regions could also use this information to compare locations for dam removal that would have the greatest ecological benefits. The work was funded by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Geological Survey Aquatic GAP Program with support from MSU and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.


News Article | May 10, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

EAST LANSING, Mich. - If you show up at work tired, you may want to focus strictly on your own tasks. New research suggests helping coworkers in the morning can lead to mental exhaustion and self-serving behavior in the afternoon that ultimately can create a toxic work environment. The study builds on the previous work of Michigan State University's Russell Johnson and colleagues that found helping others at work can be mentally fatiguing for employees. Turns out, that helping behavior can be particularly harmful when it's done in the morning hours. "The increase in mental fatigue from helping coworkers in the morning led employees to reduce their helping behaviors in the afternoon and, perhaps more interestingly, they engaged in more self-serving political behaviors in the afternoon as well," said Johnson, associate professor of management in MSU's Broad College of Business. "They switched from being other-oriented in the morning to being selfish in the afternoon." Johnson and colleagues studied 91 full-time employees over 10 consecutive workdays (participants completed two surveys a day - morning and afternoon - on their workplace experiences). While previous research has noted the "dark side" of helping others on an individual's well-being and performance implications, Johnson said, this study is the first to explore the downstream effect on political behavior. Helping others may not only harm the well-being of the individual, but through the subsequent increase in political behavior may harm others in the office as well, the study says. "Although we did not identify the consequences of these political behaviors, research has established that political acts from employees can culminate into a toxic work environment with negative well-being and performance consequences." The authors aren't suggesting workers never help their colleagues in the morning, of course, but that they show discretion, particularly when they start the day already tired or mentally fatigued. When they do help coworkers in such circumstances, employers can make sure they get work breaks and lunch periods to help them recover. If breaks aren't possible, managers should make sure they encourage proper separation from work once employees return home. The study appears online in the journal Personnel Psychology. Johnson's co-authors are Allison Gabriel from the University of Arizona, Joel Koopman from Texas A&M University and Christopher Rosen from the University of Arkansas.


The MSU Foundation's ongoing economic development initiatives focus on taking Michigan State University's faculty and researcher technologies to market, investing in MSU student entrepreneurs, and working with area partners to build and grow the region's robust, thriving culture of innovation. "Our mission at Renaissance is to serve as a bridge between researchers, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and major corporations in Michigan," said Chris Rizik, chief executive officer of Renaissance Venture Capital Fund. "We are impressed with the growth of innovation efforts at Michigan State University and are excited to extend our presence and network in the region." The TIC, managed and operated by the MSU Foundation, offers its tech-based members office space, programmatic support, and resources aimed at helping startups and early-stage companies flourish. The TIC is adjacent to the MSU Innovation Center. About the Renaissance Venture Capital Fund The Renaissance Venture Capital Fund is a fund of funds that supports the growth of venture capital in Michigan while serving as a bridge between Michigan's emerging innovation company community and its strong industrial and commercial base. Formed by Business Leaders for Michigan, the Renaissance Venture Capital Fund boasts as its members many of Michigan's most important organizations. It has become a national model for strategic, financially successful regional investing. Through its investment in top tier venture firms that are active in Michigan, as well as its own co-investments in emerging Michigan companies, the Renaissance Venture Capital Fund is helping to drive forward both innovation and growth of emerging companies in the region. And it is again proving that Michigan, with its unique combination of scientific, engineering and business talent, is a great place in which to invest. For more information, please visit: www.renvcf.com. About the Michigan State University Foundation Established in 1973 as an independent, non-profit corporation, the Michigan State University Foundation fuels economic development initiatives through the commercialization of cutting-edge technologies invented by Michigan State University faculty, staff, and students. At its core is an extensive program, focusing on the support of research, invention, and entrepreneurship. The Michigan State University Foundation operates Michigan Biotechnology Institute, Red Cedar Ventures, Spartan Innovations, and the University Corporate Research Park. Further, the Foundation manages and operates the East Lansing Technology Innovation Center. More information on the Foundation's notable achievements, provided services, key leadership, and history are available at www.msufoundation.org About the East Lansing Technology Innovation Center Founded in 2008, right in the heart of downtown East Lansing, the East Lansing Technology Innovation Center, also known as the TIC, became the first business incubator in the region. Today, the space continues to be home to technology startup companies, offering them support and space to grow their ideas. Members have direct access to resources within the MSU Innovation Center, as well as Michigan State University's campus. Connecting members with a vast network of area professionals, community resources, and venture capitalists, the TIC offers the space for tech entrepreneurs to explore their ideas, take creative risks, and grow their networks. For more about the East Lansing Technology Innovation Center, please visit: www.eastlansingtic.org. To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/renaissance-venture-capital-fund-expands-to-east-lansing-technology-innovation-center-300454760.html


News Article | May 9, 2017
Site: www.fastcompany.com

It’s a Friday afternoon, and Andrew Hull, the founder and president of marketing consulting firm Elixiter, is still hard at work in his Bozeman, Montana, office. But soon–insanely soon–he’ll be setting up camp with a troop of local Boy Scouts. When he finally ducks out of the office at 4 p.m., he, the scouts, and four other chaperones are at a trailhead within the hour, ready to backpack three miles. Camp is set before nightfall. “You can get anywhere in Bozeman in 15 minutes,” says Hull, whose 40-employee company’s clients include Fitbit and Aetna. “Where Elixiter is, we have access to trailheads within 15 minutes. Skiing is 25 minutes.” Bozeman (pop. 43,405) has long been a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts; count Hull, an avid cyclist, among those ranks. But the small city has also earned another reputation as a boomtown for entrepreneurs, many in high technology. Thanks in part to its natural amenities, the presence of a university, and an embrace of the digital economy, Bozeman is turning into a startup hub in the middle of nowhere. The place is incomprehensibly scenic, even by Montana standards, situated in a spot where four mountain ranges decide enough is enough and relax into a fertile valley. Yellowstone National Park is a 90-minute drive. A River Runs Through It was filmed on the nearby Gallatin River, so trout fishing is a given. Like many places in the state, the local economies were driven for years by tourism and agriculture. But unlike many, this city in the southwestern corner of Montana started to diversify its economy in the 1980s when photonics companies started to build lasers, and manufacturing and outdoor-gear firms also settled in. A conservationist might bump into a think-tank economist at one of the local breweries. Montana State University (MSU) provides both thousands of jobs and an annual batch of new employees. The real major transformation in the town’s economy began in 1997, when Greg Gianforte founded RightNow Technologies, a customer relationship management firm. Gianforte had previously started a company in New Jersey, and after selling that one to McAfee, he set his sights toward Bozeman to raise a family. “We had this idea that the internet removed geography as a constraint,” Gianforte says. “When we started, that was a theory; it wasn’t a fact.” RightNow eventually grew to 1,100 employees, and Oracle bought it for $1.5 billion. Some 500 RightNow employees worked in Bozeman, and the Oracle acquisition seeded a new class of entrepreneurs. Gianforte founded a startup incubator and entered politics; the Republican is following an unsuccessful 2016 run for governor with a bid for the House of Representatives seat vacated by Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. Sixteen other RightNow alumni have since started companies in Montana, many in Bozeman. In the five years since the Oracle deal closed, this wave of founders is reshaping the state economy. According to a University of Montana survey, the state’s high-tech sector in 2016 paid 14,500 employees a median wage of around $60,000. Both are sums a single West Coast company could top, but those are significant totals in a state with barely more than 1 million people where the median household income is about $50,000. “One problem we’ve had is that, historically, graduates from Montana colleges have been told to leave the state,” says Christina Quick Henderson, executive director of the Montana High Tech Business Alliance. “With the growth of the industry, that’s no longer true.” Among the 25 least-populated states, Montana has topped the Kauffman Foundation’s rankings of startup activity for four years running. Indeed, the 138 members of Quick Henderson’s trade organization added more than 900 jobs in 2016, and nearly 1,000 are expected to be added to payrolls in 2017. Odds are that those employees will remain in those jobs, too. Montana employers enjoy preposterously high retention rates compared with their counterparts in larger metros. “They don’t want to leave,” says Hull. “We have a 75% lifetime retention rate. That’s pretty crazy in the tech and marketing industry.” It’s not a phenomenon exclusive to Elixiter. The Kauffman Foundation recently studied the startup scenes in Bozeman and Missoula, home of the University of Montana, and found a similar result. “It’s a big contrast: People in Silicon Valley are always looking for better job opportunities . . .  [but] people in Montana are a lot more laid back,” says Yasuyuki Motoyama, the Kauffman Foundation’s former director of research, now incoming assistant professor at the University of Kansas. “They don’t constantly seek other opportunities or counteroffers. They are happy with the company where they are working.” One reason for the high retention rates is that work-life balance, the subject of many a Silicon Valley manifesto, is manifest in Bozeman. Single-minded careerism isn’t really a thing in Bozeman–folks come to work and participate in the area’s copious outdoor activities. That notion is baked into company cultures. “When we do our team-building activities, if we can incorporate river rafting or hiking or doing something outside, that’s one of our big goals,” says Daren Nordhagen, president of Foundant Technologies. Keeping employees in Bozeman may be easy, but finding them is a challenge. Instead of competing with other companies amid a large talent pool, Montana firms for years had to fill the pool themselves. Gianforte’s bait of choice was home-state pride. Twice a year, RightNow would send postcards to MSU computer science grads who had left the state, and the company erected billboards on highways leading to Big Sky ski resort and Yellowstone. He says 80% of his employees in Bozeman were born in Montana, and the rest were “hunting and fishing fools” who wanted the Montana lifestyle and a good wage. Subsequent entrepreneurs have followed suit, though they aren’t having to work quite as hard as RightNow did to lure folks to Bozeman. MSU is churning out more graduates–it is now the largest college in the state–and Bozeman’s growth has made it more palatable for many incoming residents. The downtown is densifying and adding amenities. Some remain astonished that the town is now home to a wine bar. “Most of [our employees] had already made the choice to live in Bozeman,” Nordhagen says. “There are people that move here because they want the outdoor lifestyle, or they want to get out of the big city and have a more rural area to raise their families, yet still have access to decent jobs, decent restaurants, and an airport. There are tons of people who are moving to Montana, and then figuring out the rest once they get here.” That’s not to say workforce development isn’t a critical element of business. MSU is not MIT, and the Bozeman metro area holds 100,000 people, not 1 million. Thus, extensive employee training programs are in order. Elixiter, for its part, runs one akin to a vocational apprenticeship. All new employees undergo three months of classroom-style training–homework included–taught by fellow employees, followed by three more months of shadowing a coworker. The pace of training fits with the overall growth model of most Bozeman companies. This is a population of founders comfortable with 20% growth and the addition of just a handful of staffers each year. (Not that there aren’t fast growers–five Bozeman firms, including Elixiter and Foundant, made the Inc. 5000 list in 2016.) One reason for this is a lack of venture capital. Aside from Next Frontier Capital, a local VC firm with a $21.5 million fund, substantial funding is virtually nonexistent in Montana. Most company founders bootstrap, so growth is curtailed by the available resources. Entrepreneurs in town feel the fiscal reality suits the rancher-and-miner culture of the state and helps yield resilient companies. “There’s this attitude of, ‘We’re going to figure this out.’ If you grow up on a farm or ranch, if something breaks, you have to fix it. There’s nobody else to do it for you,” says Hull. “So, there’s this spirit of ingenuity, of figuring things out, and that translates well to the tech world.” A reliance on hiring and training locals has its drawbacks. An obvious one is a lack of diversity. Hiring from the state workforce essentially means hiring white–87% of Montanans are Caucasian–and few founders are actively broadening their recruiting pipelines. Multiple executives labeled their applicants a “self-selecting” group, meaning folks turned off by the Montana lifestyle don’t bother applying. There are perks to this approach. A lifelong New Yorker would find Bozeman severely lacking in cultural amenities, while someone already living in Bozeman likely values fly fishing more than access to, say, international eateries. The latter person is more likely to fit in with these companies. It’s also more likely that person is white. It’s not just racial diversity that’s affected. Montana lacks statewide nondiscrimination policies based on sexual orientation or gender. When Bozeman passed its own nondiscrimination policy in 2014, a major opponent was the town’s tech figurehead–Gianforte. Buzzfeed reported in 2016 that Gianforte lobbied against an LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance, and his family trust has given $1.1 million to groups that fight against reproductive rights and LGBT equality. The lack of diversity could affect the bottom line as companies’ ambitions shift. “Some companies want to hire dozens of people a year, and that means you have to recruit people from the outside,” says Motoyama. “In IT-related jobs, you may need to find people from India, people from China. You don’t find those kinds of software engineers in Montana.” The job-hoppers some Montana entrepreneurs dread often are some of the most talented employees, are diverse, and sometimes come from far-off places. Matt Fulton would like some of those folks to find their way to Montana. During a five-year stint with Palo Alto-based Medallia, Fulton worked remotely from Bozeman for an 18-month period. After briefly returning to Palo Alto, he and wife Abby Schlatter moved back to Bozeman and started a company called commonFont in 2013. Fulton enjoys the familiar Bozeman perk: His employees love the town, and they want to stick around. But if he interviews a candidate whose primary motivation is to live in or move to Bozeman, rather than work at commonFont, he won’t extend an offer. “That’s one of the things that I like least about Bozeman. I wish there was more moving around, more competition for top talent,” Fulton says. “Retention is high because there’s not enough choice, and not enough competition. . . . If there was more of a culture of people looking around and evaluating other opportunities, I think that would be helpful and healthy. It would help us attract and retain a higher caliber of workforce.” If that lack of competition is simply a volume problem, then it could be solved by a continued surge in startup activity. Marty Ostermiller was RightNow’s director of finance until he left town in 2012, after the Oracle acquisition; he now works in Salt Lake City. “That’s the peril in Bozeman–your options are limited, and they were especially limited then,” he says. “But I think that’s part of why Bozeman became an entrepreneurial place. People wanted to stay there, and it wasn’t completely obvious where to work.” Founders who have stuck around share a considerable collective accomplishment: Few Western towns as small as Bozeman provide so many middle-class jobs for locals. Professionals from Idaho or Wyoming or New Mexico often face dichotomous choices: Either flee your home state for better-paying jobs in a coastal metro, or stick around and weather the boom-bust cycles of extraction-based economies and commodity agriculture. Someone entering the Bozeman job market today won’t face such polarizing choices. Intelligent planning and a bit of luck have stoked the boom. Proximity to Yellowstone is the reason its airport exists, but adding direct flights to spots such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Dallas gave entrepreneurs and a contingent of remote workers better access to coastal markets; Bozeman’s is now the busiest airport in the state. The city has zoned areas of downtown for multistory, mixed-use development–a rarity in many scenic Western towns–and it laid the first phase of a fiber-optic network last October. Chris Mehl is a Bozeman city commissioner and works for Headwaters Economics, which researches the economies of the rural West. His firm has documented a trend in Western urbanization that exacerbates the economic gap between small cities–think Bozeman and Bend, Oregon–and the truly rural places surrounding them. A major determinant is infrastructure. If a town has access to transportation and high-speed internet, then it is easier for new companies to locate there. Remote employees, of which there are many in Bozeman, typically command high wages and can settle in any burg with internet access. “Why rural communities aren’t demanding broadband, I don’t know,” Mehl says. Bozeman’s growth has its downfalls. A robust startup scene, well-paid remote workers, and scenic beauty are a recipe for swelling housing costs. According to Zillow, the median list price of a house in Bozeman is north of $420,000 compared with $250,000 in Billings, the state’s largest city. But if wages and job numbers continue to flourish, it’s a problem numerous Western towns envy.

Loading MSU collaborators
Loading MSU collaborators