One year ago, we opened our doors to the VanCamp Incubator + Research Labs – the first wet lab incubator in the Lansing area. We invited over 50 guests to tour the 22,000ft2 multi-tenant facility for the grand opening on September 12th, 2019.  

The MSU Foundation team welcomed each person with mini glass beakers packed full of Spartan green and white M&M’s. Guests moved throughout the building, browsing newly renovated conference rooms, cutting-edge lab equipment, and even a spacious walk-in freezer, all for new tenants to utilize. In the lobby, each guest stopped and marveled at the art dedicated to the late microbiologist and researcher, Loretta VanCamp.

Loretta was best known for her work at Michigan State University (MSU). Her research efforts alongside Dr. Barnett Rosenberg and his team contributed to the development of the world’s leading anti-cancer drug, Cisplatin. The words by Louis Pasteur carried her: “In the fields of observation, chance favors only the prepared mind.

“Loretta VanCamp was essential to the discovery of Cisplatin,” said Gabriela Allum, University Corporate Research Park (UCRP) Project Manager. “The space intends to ignite ideas and encourage collaboration, all while honoring Loretta’s legacy.”

“Loretta VanCamp was essential to the discovery of Cisplatin,” said Gabriela Allum, University Corporate Research Park (UCRP) Project Manager. “The space intends to ignite ideas and encourage collaboration, all while honoring Loretta’s legacy.”

Incubators provide an ideal environment for early-stage startups. Entrepreneurs can take their idea to the next level with access to low-cost space, shared resources, and community. Each piece in the space is intentional and functional, designed to support diverse researchers and entrepreneurs with their growing companies. “Since the number of MSU’s intellectual property in life sciences and other related industries was increasing, we saw the high potential and demand for lab space in the area,” Allum continued. “We’ve already seen success with our tenants. The space is very much active and alive.”

Currently, the incubator houses 15 tenants committed to research in the life and physical sciences as well as advanced technology. Iaso Therapeutics – a startup dedicated to saving lives through the development of next-generation vaccines against cancer and infectious diseases – was one of the first companies to rent space at VanCamp Incubator + Research Labs. “Our company spun out of MSU, so we needed access to a research facility for our day-to-day experiments and data analysis,” said Herbert Kavunja, Iaso Therapeutics Chief Scientist. “VanCamp Incubator + Research Labs was an automatic choice for us.  Our lab was fully furnished with equipment to jumpstart our research, including tailor-fit lab equipment for conducting chemical biology-related research. We do some of our experimental analysis at MSU, so it’s convenient that our office is less than a mile away from campus.”

Kavunja and his team plan on sticking to their mission of developing next-generation vaccines. “We are hoping for two things in the future,” explained Kavunja. “One is to de-risk our technology to attract investment and continue product development, and the other is to sub-license our technology to potential investors.”

The coronavirus (COVID-19) has impacted many researchers and startup companies this year. At the start of the pandemic, Iaso Therapeutics had to suspend operations but has since been able to resume research. VanCamp Incubator + Research Labs remains open for tenants with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines in place.

As we celebrate VanCamp Incubator + Research Labs’ first year anniversary, our team reflects on the purpose of this building. “I think VanCamp opened at a critical time,” concluded Allum. “By providing lab resources, we’ve allowed companies to create solutions to some of the world’s most pressing issues. We’re proud that it’s all happening right here in East Lansing.”

Grand Opening of VanCamp Incubator + Research Labs held on September 12, 2019.