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Detroit News: Medical think tank to open in Detroit Clinicians, designers, scientists blend skills

By: Melissa Burden / The Detroit News

Henry Ford Health System on Monday will open its Innovation Institute, a think tank that aims to use research, coupled with creative design, to develop medical products and processes and move them to the marketplace.

"The idea is to merge clinicians, creative design people, and the scientists and engineers at Wayne State," said Dr. Scott A. Dulchavsky, chairman of the health system's surgery department who spearheaded getting the institute off the ground.

Housed in an open and modern renovated space at a 1920s Albert Kahn-designed building on Henry Ford's Detroit campus, the institute includes Henry Ford Medical Group, the College for Creative Studies and Wayne State University's Smart Sensors and Integrated Microsystems Program as partners.

While other innovation institutes exist across the country, Dulchavsky said Henry Ford's is unique because of its ties with the College for Creative Studies. "They don't come in with preconceived ideas," he said.

Fifteen design students from the college spent time scouring Henry Ford operating and emergency rooms, generating ideas such as a chair for surgeons and a cabinet that provides light and aromatherapy, plus plays music — all to help with healing.

Next week, groups working on more than a dozen ideas will meet in the new space.

The hope is products can be spun off into companies or be licensed, helping boost the health system's revenue, Dulchavsky said.

One project is a type of surgical probe that could provide early detection of cancer cells in real time in the operating room.

"In the brain, in particular, when we're dealing with these invasive cancers, every cell matters, every millimeter matters, every day matters as things progress," said Dr. Steven N. Kalkanis, co-director of Henry Ford's brain tumor center, who is working with Wayne State.

Wayne State and Henry Ford have a strong relationship training medical students and plan to build a joint biomedical research facility in Midtown.

Life sciences research at Michigan's largest three research universities — Michigan State University, University of Michigan and Wayne State — surpassed $1 billion in 2010, said Jeff Mason, executive director of Michigan's University Research Corridor.

"That collaboration just reinforces the fact that the state is an important area for life sciences," Mason said of the institute.

The $12 million institute got off the ground with a major donation from William Clay and Martha Ford. Renovation will continue over two years.

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