UM Conflict-of-Interest Items OK’d

At its May 17, 2012 meeting, the University of Michigan board of regents authorized 16 items that required disclosure under the state’s Conflict of Interest statute. The law requires that regents vote on potential conflict-of-interest disclosures related to university staff, faculty or students.

One conflict-of-interest item that had originally been on the agenda for approval – involving a contract with Ann Arbor-based NanoBio for consulting services – was pulled. Regent Larry Deitch recused himself from the vote on that item, and there were not enough remaining regents to vote on it. Of the eight regents, Martin Taylor and Libby Maynard were absent. Regent Kathy White participated by speaker phone.

According to a staff memo, the university plans to contract with NanoBio for consulting services in support of the Michigan Advanced Development and Manufacturing Center. MADMC is an entity created by UM to seek public-private partnerships to develop a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility at the North Campus Research Complex (NCRC), the former Pfizer site.

The term of the agreement with NanoBio was from Feb. 10, 2012, through June 30, 2012, with a value not to exceed $53,250. Disclosure was required because James Baker, owner of NanoBio, is a UM medical professor and director of the Michigan Nanotechnology Institute for Medicine and Biological Sciences. Baker is providing “technical expertise in vaccine development, regulatory and clinical study planning in support of MADMC’s proposal to the federal government,” according to a staff memo. It’s expected that regents will vote on the item at a later date.

In general, these conflict-of-interest items often involve technology licensing agreements or leases. This month, the items related to the following businesses: Ambiq Micro Inc., Phrixus Pharmaceuticals Inc., Silicium Energy Inc., Civionics LLC, 3D Biomatrix Inc., Michigan Interiorscaping LLC, Cornell Farms LLC, ArborMetrix, Arborlight, LLC, ImBio LLC, JV BioLabs LLC, Rhythm Solutions, SenSigma Inc., Silicium Energy, Structured Microsystems LLC, and Wolverine Energy Solutions & Technologies Inc.

As another example, the item involving Ambiq Micro related to financing agreements of up to $2.5 million of potential investments by UM in the Austin-based semiconductor firm, as part of the Michigan Investment in New Technology Startup program (MINTS), which regents approved in December 2011. Plans for the initiative had been announced in early October by UM president Mary Sue Coleman in her annual address to campus.

Two faculty members in the College of Engineering – David Blaauw and Dennis Sylvester – are affiliated with Ambiq, which triggered the conflict-of-interest disclosure. Blaauw and Sylvester developed the technology for energy-efficient microcontrollers that’s licensed by Ambiq. Scott Hanson, who helped develop the technology while earning a doctorate at UM, is now CEO of the firm.

This brief was filed from the Fairlane Center at UM’s Dearborn campus, where regents are holding their May meeting.