West Michigan Regional Lab, on-campus biomedical research lab, dissolved due to financial issues

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Spectrum Health closed the West Michigan Regional Lab due to budget cuts

The West Michigan Regional Lab is a biomedical research lab that has been operating out of Calvin’s DeVries basement for the past 20 years. WMRL has left Calvin and will not be moving to another location. 

“Financial difficulties from COVID-19 have affected many institutions, including health care,” said Cheryl Brandsen, Calvin’s Provost of Academic Affairs and the Institutional Officer for WMRL. Financial challenges led to Spectrum Health closing the facility, according to Brandsen.

Brandsen stated that Calvin could have continued operations without the lab in place, but “the costs of running a research lab are prohibitive, and our own faculty’s use of it has been minimal.”

Calvin has been part of this partnership with Spectrum for 20 years, according to Brandsen. The WMRL was started in 2000 by Spectrum and had a combined board with Calvin and Spectrum employees. 

“DeVries Hall was built with the WMRL in mind,” said Christino Romero, a student who worked in WMRL. Calvin is still determining how to use the space in the future.

“There are a number of possibilities being discussed,” said Biology professor and WMRL governing board member William Miller. “The space is being evaluated for research purposes and specialized lab uses.” 

Miller also mentioned that, as far as he knows, Calvin itself will use the space instead of a partner institution.

Students and faculty alike were grateful for the partnership and sad to see it go. 

“I had a really positive experience working with WMRL,” Romano said. “I learned a lot more about what happened behind the scenes in biomedical research.” 

Miller echoed Romano. 

“WMRL provided not only Calvin students but students from other institutions with really important training. There were a number of research papers that came out of that space, and they were also a source of student employment,” said Miller.

“WMRL has supported 163 animal use protocols for research and training, [and] trained over 100 student interns in basic husbandry and facility maintenance,” said Provost Cheryl Brandsen, “They have also hosted numerous residency training programs for hospital, college, and industry partners,” along with a host of other accomplishments.

Brandsen noted that WMRL’s closure does not mean Calvin is not seeking out partnerships with outside institutions.

“The closure is not a sign of bad faith between the institutions,” she said. “Going forward, these sorts of partnerships are going to be something we want to do more and more.”