GRAND RAPIDS — Doug Meijer, the former co-chairman of Meijer Inc., and the Meijer Foundation are giving $19.5 million to Michigan State University for a new facility on the College of Human Medicine’s research campus in downtown Grand Rapids, MiBiz has learned.
The gift will pay to design, construct and equip a radiopharmacy at the planned Medical Innovation Building that will occupy existing green space at the Grand Rapids Innovation Park located at Michigan Street and Ottawa Avenue .
Meeting this morning in East Lansing, university trustees approved resolutions to proceed with the radiopharmacy and name the building after Doug Meijer, who remains on the family-owned supercenter retailer’s board of directors and serves as trustee at the Meijer Foundation. The gift is the largest in the history of the MSU College of Human Medicine.
Norman Beauchamp, dean of the College of Human Medicine who trustees today formally promoted to MSU’s executive vice president for health services, said the radiopharmacy will “allow us to treat cancer better to all people who seek care.” The technology enables doctors to precisely target cancer cells in patients, reducing complications from chemotherapy that treats the cancer “but it affects the whole person.”
“There’s a way actually to create a molecule that you can inject that will go through the body and it will attach to the cancer. Only when it attaches will it then treat the cancer where it exists,” Beauchamp said. “Where will that be possible to get that therapy? In our Innovation Park. This radiopharmacy will make it possible.”
Beauchamp added in an interview withy MiBiz following this morning’s Board of Trustees meeting: “It’s going to make amazing care possible for people and cancer.”
A groundbreaking is set for Nov. 18.
The radiopharmacy holds “incredible” benefits both for MSU researchers and in bringing a new, advanced cancer treatment to Grand Rapids, one that’s presently undergoing clinical trials in the U.S., he said. Beauchamp expects that treatment to earn U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval by the time the Doug Meijer Medical Innovation Building opens in two years.
The Meijer contribution and the radiopharmacy provide a major stride forward in MSU’s vision and goal in Grand Rapids to position West Michigan “and our collaboration with Michigan State and the community to be the leader in transforming health.”
“This is a huge demonstration that that will be the case, and we’re so thankful to Doug Meijer, who really took his experience with cancer and said, ‘It’s not right that people have to travel to another country to get this. We have to bring this here.’ He saw that working with us, Michigan State, we could make that possible,” Beauchamp told MiBiz. “What you love to see is when someone takes what they’re passionate about and say, ‘How do I make this possible for others?’ What Doug Meijer has done serves as a beautiful example of that.”
Doug Meijer is a survivor of prostate cancer, Beuchamp said.
“The Meijer Family has always been passionate about health care and I am thankful to have the ability to carry that passion forward,” Doug Meijer said. “This new Medical Innovations Building will help save lives and improve the quality of life for many people through remarkable cancer fighting technology. Patients will no longer have to travel overseas to receive needed treatment. I am living proof this technology works.”
The radiopharmacy at the Doug Meijer Medical Innovation Building will “serve as the foundation for a new Molecular Imaging and Translational Theranostics program” at the College of Human Medicine, according to a memo from the Board of Trustees’ Committee on Budget and Finance that was sent to MSU President Samuel Stanley and posted online with the agenda for today’s trustees meeting.
“This program will provide groundbreaking, world-class research leading to transformative health care related to oncology, neuroscience, and mental health,” according to the memo.
A radiopharmacy prepares radioactive materials used in nuclear medicine to diagnose and treat patients. Translational theranostics is the blending of medicine and research to enhance disease research and drug development.
“The Meijer family is passionate about increasing access to life-saving cancer treatment and believes Michigan State University is uniquely positioned to deliver this transformative opportunity,” according to a memo to the MSU Board of Trustees. “The family is committed to empowering Michigan State University to build this optimized, dedicated theranostics clinic for precision oncology. The clinic will be dedicated to rapidly developing clinical protocols and applications to efficiently serve the large patient populations in need.”
MSU’s College of Human Medicine will lease an estimated 12,000 square feet of space in the 211,600-square-foot Medical Innovation Building, which is expected to open in October 2021. The medical school would sublease the radiopharmacy to a private partner to operate and to secure needed regulatory approvals and licensing.
“MSU researchers from Grand Rapids and East Lansing will have access to the radiopharmacy to conduct and expand their research,” according to the memo to Stanley.
MSU trustees previously approved a deal for the Medical Innovation Building’s development with Health Innovation Partners LLC, a joint venture between Chicago-based MB Real Estate, Chicago-based Walsh Construction/Walsh Investors and Grand Rapids-based Rockford Construction Co. Inc.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect that the MSU board of trustees approved resolutions to move forward with the project and added comments from Norman Beauchamp, dean of the MSU College of Human Medicine. It was later updated with Beauchamp’s comments from an interview with MiBiz, comments from Doug Meijer, and the correct date of the groundbreaking.