Wisconsin: The Core of Biotech Discovery
31 Dec, 2006By: Jim Doyle
From the development of the Babcock Milk Test in the late 19th century to the isolation of human embryonic stem cells in the late 20th century, the State of Wisconsin has a long and successful tradition of supporting the research, development and commercialization of ideas – and transitioning them into real world solutions and profitable life science ventures.
Wisconsin offers comprehensive resources for biotechnology and medical device businesses seeking to expand in the state, investors looking for a return on their investment and people seeking fulfilling employment in the life sciences. Wisconsin is an emerging and exciting location for the life sciences with half of our companies less than 10 years old and two-thirds of them less than 15 years old.
Wisconsin’s life sciences success story includes more than 300 companies in industrial and environmental biotechnology, bioinformatics, medical devices, healthcare, and value-added agriculture – not to mention a commitment to technology transfer that has resulted in numerous scientific discoveries and milestone sover the past 115 years.
No wonder that Fierce Biotech, a leading life science industry bulletin, named Wisconsin one of the five places in the world best-positioned to be a hotbed of biotech innovation. No wonder that the National Institutes of Health chose Wisconsin as the location for the one and only National Stem Cell Bank.
A Commitment to Research, Education and Technology Transfer
While Wisconsin’s life science companies are relatively young, our commitment to research is definitely not. Wisconsin has its own “triangle” and it includes the three “M’s”: Madison, Milwaukee and Marshfield.
Madison. The University of Wisconsin-Madison is one of the most prolific research universities in the world, placing third among American public universities for research expenditures. It’s one of the few campuses in the U.S. that has all five biology-related schools or colleges: medicine, pharmacy, veterinary medicine, agriculture, and letters & science. UW-Madison has over 800 biosciences faculty across these units and 10,000 ongoing research projects.
The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) and its affiliate WiSys, has licensed more than more than 3,000 technologies from campus discoveries across the University of Wisconsin System in its 80 plus years of existence. The WiCell Research Institute, another WARF venture and the caretaker of the National Stem Cell Bank, supports embryonic stem cell research. The University Research Park is home to dozens of life science firms and includes The MGE Innovation Center, a thriving biotech incubator. Many start-up companies utilizing UW-Madison and WARF-licensed technologies locate in the Park.
Milwaukee. Wisconsin’s largest metro area also contributes greatly to our state’s life science research capabilities. The Medical College of Wisconsin ranks in the top third of all U.S. medical schools in life science research funding and houses one of the largest bioinformatics research centers in the country. The Blood Research Institute, a division of the Blood Center of Wisconsin, is the third largest biomedical research institution in the state. Marquette University has influential research programs in biomedical engineering and bioinformatics, while UW-Milwaukee features premier programs in the health sciences and nursing.
The southeastern Wisconsin research institutions already mentioned – and several other colleges – have partnered to form TechStar, a tech transfer group working to commercialize technology in the region. Recently, TechStar and its founders created the Biomedical Technology Alliance to facilitate joint research among members. The Milwaukee County Research Park is home to many start-up firms spun outof southeast Wisconsin research institutions.
Marshfield. The final “M” in the Wisconsin triangle – Marshfield – is located in central Wisconsin. Marshfield Clinic and the Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation, the Clinic’s research arm, is one of the largest private group medical practices in the U.S. The Clinic is involved in key research projects including a personalize medicine research effort that is the largest population-based genetic research project in the nation.
Statewide. Traveling throughout the state, the University and Technical College Systems and the state’s private colleges are excellent sources for doctoral students in the biological and computer sciences as well as for laboratory technicians and alumni wanting to return to Wisconsin. UW-River Falls and UW-Platteville also have a strong legacy of agricultural biotech research.
Wisconsin has the resources to meet the needs of life science professionals, whether they are starting a company or a career. The Wisconsin Department of Commerce has early stage investment tax credits, technology assistance grants, technology bridge grants, technology matching grants and technology venture fund loans available to encourage entrepreneurial growth.
A Strong Network of Partners and Supporters
The Wisconsin Angel Network is a public-private initiative created with bipartisan support from Governor Jim Doyle and the Legislature. The Network provides services and support to angel networks and early-stage investors, including deal flow, administration, education and networking events. The Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Network provides integrated statewide support to entrepreneurs in all industries and developmental stages. It features 50 access points across the state and offers entrepreneurial assistance.
The Wisconsin Biotechnology and Medical Device Association, founded in 1987, is a statewide coalition of business, science, education and government leaders dedicated to promoting the growth of the life science industry in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Technology Council is a science and technology advisor to the Governor and Legislature, as well as a catalyst for technology development in the state. The University of Wisconsin Biotechnology Center, located on the UW-Madison campus, provides research, education and information services to the life sciences community.
An Investment Plan for Future Life Science Growth
Wisconsin is investing in the future of the life sciences and here are just a few examples of the exciting projects underway.
The Wisconsin Institute for Discovery in Madison will include specialists in biochemistry, nanotechnology, computer engineering, and bioinformatics. It will be built and financed over 10 years, with support from state and private funds totaling $375 million.
A $134 million Health Star Interdisciplinary Research Complex is being built near the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics in Madison. It will be dedicated to innovation and rapid transfer of medical science discoveries into clinical applications.
A planned $9 million Institute for Influenza Viral Research includes the development of 20,000 square feet of new research space for flu research, including specialized lab facilities, in existing space at University Research Park in Madison.
The Medical College of Wisconsin and Children’s Hospital in Milwaukee have broken ground on a $132 million research facility that will focus on infectious disease control, cardiovascular illnesses, and bioengineering.
A Vibrant Life Sciences Cluster
From scientists in their labs, to the entrepreneurs with an idea, to the CEOs that want to invest, to the teachers and professors educating our young minds, Wisconsin is leading the way in the life sciences. The life sciences in Wisconsin contribute over $6.9 billion to the state’s economy and Wisconsin researchers attract $582 million annually to the state’s economy from non-Wisconsin sources, primarily through competitive grants. Over 22,000 people are employed in Wisconsin’s life science sector across the state.
A Wonderful Quality of Life
While Wisconsin is home to world-renowned bioscientists, academic and research institutions, teaching hospitals and breakthrough life science companies, Wisconsin is also a great place to live. Natural beauty and outdoor recreation abound in our great state and it doesn’t take hours of drive time before you can unwind. You can be sailing, fishing or boating on one of our 14,000 lakes, swinging a club on any of Wisconsin’s 425 golf courses, sitting in a theater or sporting event, or simply picnicking, biking, hiking, camping or rock climbing within minutes of leaving the office.
Family living or single life is affordable, safe, and as relaxing or as action-packed as you want it to be. Wisconsin’s secondary and post-secondary educational is among the tops in the country, housing costs are very reasonable compared to the coasts and large metro areas, and crime rates are among the lowest in the nation.