By Claudia Capos, Guest Editor
Leveraging the high-powered resources of Michigan’s statewide entrepreneurial ecosystem ─ supported by the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Michigan Venture Capital Association and University Research Corridor ─ has enabled Stephen LeBeau to jump-start the growth of his medical materials manufacturing startup company, nanoMAG.
“Once you plug into that ecosystem and start working with the MGCS, SPARK and MEDC-sponsored initiatives, you find numerous programs that offer substantial training, tech support and commercialization strategy,” LeBeau explains. “For the most part, the ecosystem is fairly heavily subsidized by the state of Michigan, so you can get a great deal of support, advice and counsel from people who are in the business or have been through a startup or an FDA experience.”
Livonia-based nanoMAG has developed a patented bioabsorbable material that can be used in many different orthopedic applications around the body. Screws and plates made from the company’s magnesium alloy are strong enough to support broken bones during healing, but then safely get absorbed by the body while providing nutrients to promote bone regrowth. This precludes the need for multiple surgeries and leads to better patient outcomes over the long term.
“What’s very exciting is that we have multiple opportunities to impact many different market segments in the medical space,” says LeBeau, who is the company’s president and technical director. “Currently, with our strategic partners, we are running pre-clinical large animal studies on four different applications for our new materials.”
A U-M Medical School surgical team is working on one of those applications through the Small Company Innovation Program, which provides matching funds to Michigan small businesses to help cover the cost of research projects at many of Michigan’s public universities.
Last May, LeBeau made a presentation to investors at the 2017 MGCS and expanded his network in the investment community. “Surrounding yourself with several hundred people who are all pumped up about Michigan and innovation is like an infusion of adrenalin when you are an entrepreneur,” LeBeau remarks. “Besides, ‘warm market’ prospecting [in person] is far better than cold calling on prospective venture capital firms.”
During the 2017 fall term at Michigan Ross, LeBeau was matched with a team of students in Professor David Brophy’s Financing Research Commercialization course. “The students helped me rewrite my business plan and beef up our company’s marketing and promotion on social media,” he reports. “They also made suggestions about entering new markets.” The company has hosted 14 interns from the U-M and other colleges and universities.
Last year, nanoMAG negotiated its first license with Magnesium Development Company, a Michigan-based, medical-device-development firm, which will utilize nanoMAG’s magnesium alloy technology in its orthopedic products. In the future, nanoMAG has the unique opportunity to develop additional strategic partnerships in multiple fields of use.
Through the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and state of Michigan matching grants, nanoMAG has leveraged approximately $4.5 million of funding to support its development activities, including a recent NIH $1.7 million grant that is currently underway. The company is in the midst of raising a $2 million Series A round of financing to take it through its first FDA approval of a device.
“The state of Michigan is an incredible place to launch a startup,” LeBeau says. “You need to tap in and take advantage of all the resources the state is offering to entrepreneurs.”