• WisBusiness

Monday, June 25, 2012

 3:39 PM 

Next year: Chicago

By Mike Flaherty

BIO International returns to Chicago's McCormick Place next year -- and that's good news for Wisconsin's bio industry, the industry's leaders said last week.

This year's Wisconsin delegation at BIO was smaller than in past years, but that's partly because of the expense of traveling to places such as Boston and San Diego, said Bryan Renk, executive director of BioFoward, which represents Wisconsin's 600-plus bioscience.

Chicago is an excellent venue for Wisconsin because it's a lot easier – and less expensive – for industry members to attend, he said. Next year's attendence should be "excellent," he predicted.


 3:02 PM 

Small companies benefit from BIO trip

By Mike Flaherty

As a trade convention, BIO International remains an excellent platform for Wisconsin's small companies to expand their customer base, network with clients, and explore partnerships and alliances, several Wisconsin-based executives said last week.

One of those executives was Deven McGlenn, the CEO of NeoClone in Madison, which develops and manufactures monoclonal antibodies (copies of disease-fighting cells naturally produced in the body). McGlenn said he had a number of very substantial meetings, several of which could produce "intriguing" partnerships or cooperative agreements -- and three of which are potentially "huge" opportunities for his small company.

"They reached out to us," said McGlenn whose company has 700 clients in 30 nations. "There is no way this happens unless I'm physically here."

McGlenn said he had 25 meetings, about a third with current customers. There's nothing like meeting them, shaking their hands. That's business 101."

Other meetings provided a forum to grow business and explore opportunities around the world that would be nearly impossible for a small company like Neoclone with 15 employees, McGlenn said.

It can only happen in an efficient way if the industry gathers in one spot. Being at BIO, McGlenn said, "is an excellent investment for us. "

Some of our Wisconsin companies had 40 to 60 meetings lined up at BIO, noted Kathy Collins, head of business development for BioForward, which represents Wisconsin's Biosciences industry.


 2:10 PM 

No "patent drug cliff" for Wisconsin

By Mike Flaherty

The pharmaceutical industry is taking one on the chin this year. That's one reason biosciences as a sector of the U.S. economy didn't grow faster last year – and a key reason why Wisconsin's biotech industry was a stronger perform that those of other states.

Major drug companies are in the process of falling off a "patent drug cliff" as the patents expire on several highly popular prescription drugs, drugs that will soon be sold as generics that are lower cost – and a far lower profits, according to EvaluatePharma, a research organization that monitors the performance of 3,500 drug and biotech companies around the world.

More than $290 billion worth of sales are at risk over the next six years as these companies fall off the cliff – and the sales revenues from prescription drugs will actually drop by nearly 1 percent this year after decades of growth, Evaluate Pharma announced at BIO International.

Wisconsin won't be following many other states over that cliff because the state's biotechnology sector is diverse and doesn't rely heavily on "big pharma," noted Lisa Johnson, the vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.


 1:45 PM 

Biotech industry coping with changing capital landscape

By Mike Flaherty

The largest convergence of the world's biotechnology business leaders, scientists and government leaders concluded last week on a note of high optimism, but with an acute awareness that this enormous group of intellectuals, entrepreneurs, researchers. small companies and multinational corporations need to work together to stay competitive in the white-hot marketplace of the world's bioscience marketplace of ideas and world biotechnology market.

Net income of companies in established countries in the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe had a collective increase of 30 percent, a total of $4.7 billion, a record year, according to Ernst and Young.

But finding the financing and investment capital to move forward isn't what it used to be. Investors are shying away from biotechnology, which is expensive to fund and which has long lead times between the discovery of an idea and the commercialization of products, according to a report by Ernst & Young's "Beyond Borders Report." That's a chief concern in Wisconsin as well, noted several of the industry's leaders gathered in Boston last week.

To help address the issue, E&Y proposed a program to BIO called Holistic Open Learning Network, a worldwide "pre-competitive" information-sharing system of data that would allow large and small companies to pool important information in order to speed clinical trial research, build more efficiencies into the regulatory approval of products, and attract investors.

The program is critical for the United States and Europe biotech industries because "we have to do things differently in order to compete in an increasingly competitive worldwide industry in which investment capital is declining," said Glen Giovannetti, Ernst & Young's global biotechnology leader and an author of the firm's "Beyond Borders" report.

"HOLNet would engage pharma companies, investors, heatlh care providers, payers and policy makers … and share data openly in precompetitive spaces," Ernst & Young's report said.

Will it happen? "We'll see," a number of speakers said. This sort of cooperation isn't about winners and losers, they said. "It's about enlighted self-interest."


Friday, June 22, 2012

 3:37 PM 

Column: Wisconsin execs see promising future for women in biotech

By Jeanne McCabe

This year’s BIO International Convention shows the face of the world’s biotechnology industry hasn’t changed much.

The cavernous halls of Boston’s international trade center are a vast conglomeration of people, cultures and nationalities from around the world.

Attractive women dominate many of the convention’s trade pavilions. But it is clear that the decision-makers for most state and international delegations here are men.

Wisconsin, however, appears to be an exception.

The senior state official leading Wisconsin’s delegation is female: Lisa Johnson, the vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., not only led the delegation, but has previous experience in senior executive roles for a number of biotechnology companies in the Madison area.

Several of the major presenters at the Wisconsin pavilion were also women, including Laura Strong, president and COO of Quintessence Biosciences in Madison and a former president of BioForward, and Marsha Barwick, assistant director of applied research for Marshfield Clinic.

In fact, more than half the Wisconsin delegation is female, including several senior city and state economic development specialists.

And female executives in Wisconsin say the future for women in the state’s biotechnology industry looks promising.

Nationally, that’s not the case, said Phyllis Dillinger, president of the national Women in Bio organization, which held two seminars for women at BIO International this week. She noted that women are certainly more prominent in the industry than they were two decades ago, but that progress seems to have stalled in the last decade.

“We don’t have good data on this because the industry is so diverse. It includes bench scientists, intellectual property lawyers, regulators, educators on top of the business owners and executives," she said.

“But my gut feeling is that the progress of women in this business has stagnated. Women who leave academic research for the private sector rarely progress at the same rates as men when it comes to moving up in corporate leadership. That’s not just a lack of diversity, that’s a loss of talent."

Fortune 500 statistics bear out Dillinger’s observation. Female leaders in “C suite" positions and serving as board members has been stuck at about 15 percent for the last several years. And biotechnology companies are no different, according to the statistics.

In Wisconsin, however, anecdotal evidence shows that women leaders in bio-related companies are more prevalent.

Laura Douglass, president and CEO of Next Generation Clinical Research in Madison, said she definitely sees growing numbers of women in executive positions in the companies she does business with -- and vastly more than when she started her career 25 years ago.

Wisconsin may have larger numbers of female-led and female-owned biotechnology companies, added Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council.

"One reason is Wisconsin has a disproportionately high number of female investors," Still noted.

Finally, the number of women involved in biotechnology in Wisconsin may also stem from the UW System, where growing numbers of women are pursuing careers in science-related professions.

UW-Madison’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, for example, now has an enrollment that is 57 percent female -- substantially greater than the 51 percent university-wide female enrollment -- and more than half of its graduate students are female. In 1970, only 12 percent of CALS undergraduates were female.

University officials also note that not only has the increase in female interest in science been impressive, but women enrolled in CALS today are focusing less on “soft” subjects -- such as landscaping which was the case 20 years ago -- and much more on “hard” sciences such as biochemistry and genetics.

Dillinger noted there are also a growing number of resources to help women reach the “C suite,” including relatively new organizations such as Women in Bio and Springboard Enterprises, which educates, sources, coaches, showcases and supports women-led high-growth companies seeking equity capital for expansion -- including a major effort in Madison.

The programs are popular, Dillinger said. When WIB started chapters in Seattle, 210 women attended the initial meeting. In San Francisco, 175 women attended the initial meeting. Men are also interested in joining WIB as a means of helping their daughters learn more about the biotech industry through WIB’s Young Women in Bio effort, Dillinger said.

“We’ve made a lot of progress and the interest is high," Dillinger said. “But we’ve got a long way to go.”

-- McCabe is president of JZB Solutions, which specializes in grant applications and management. She is former COO of the Morgridge Institute for Research and a veteran member of the Wisconsin delegation at BIO International.


 8:24 AM 

Global competition could change state's biotech landscape

By Mike Flaherty

BOSTON – The theme of this year's Wisconsin display at the world's largest biosciences convention is "Wisconsin is Changing the World." A major report issued this week at BIO International here suggests the reality might be the other way around.

The world may be changing the way Wisconsin's biotechnology industry performs and competes in the future.

A "scorecard" of the world's top 50 nations in bioscience by "Scientific American World View" shows the United States is still the world leader in bioscience research, development, new business start-ups and biotechnology products and sales. But that lead, it concluded, is rapidly diminishing as a number of countries around the world are investing heavily in biosciences to grow their economies.

"The world of bioscience is flat – and it's getting a lot flatter," said Jeremy Abbate, the publishing director of Scientific American Worldview.

And it's not just the traditional competing nations such as Sweden and the Netherlands that are showing increasing strength, he said. China announced its new five-year plan that will invest $600 billion in seven industry sectors, including bioscience research and commercialization.

And that's just one country.

"Biotechnology is one of the strategic sectors that many nations have targeted as part of their economic growth plans," said Joe Damond, senior vice president of international affairs for BIO International. "Larger, more mature countries are looking at biotech for new sources of growth, including India, Brazil and Russia."

The BIO convention itself is evidence of the change, he added, noting the conference started as a small gathering of domestic companies. Today, a third of the 15,000 participants at BIO are from 65 countries. And they're all competing heavily to develop new products, capture market share and attract talent.

Brazil is building 50 research institutions – and that country is already the world's leader in biofuels research and development, for example. China held two full days of sessions explaining to investors and potential partners its plans for biotech in the next five years.

A poll of business executives at BIO this year showed that more than half had been approached during the conference by other countries asking them about moving their operations abroad.

For perspective, the United States' huge bioscience industry still invests about $100 billion a year in biotechnology research and business development, Damond said. And the United States has an enormous, well-funded infrastructure of education, intellectual property protections, investor channels and government assistance in helping move new ideas into commercial markets.

"But it is clear that the rest of the world is aggressively investing in this sector as well," Abbate said. At the same time, it is also clear that the world of venture capital financing is changing in the United States and in Europe.

So while many large countries are targeting biotechnology for investment, the United States biotech industry is struggling for its place among venture capitalists' investment priorities, he noted.

The growth of international competition doesn't necessarily mean that Wisconsin's biotechnology industry is threatened, said Bryan Renk, executive director of BioForward.

"It means we're going to have to continue to work harder to compete," he said. "But for every emerging nation that enters this industry, that's also a market for our products as well."

"As states and regions learn to cooperate, that can help counter foreign competition," said Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. "Also, bear in mind that these consortia can lead to sales and distribution partnerships, as well."

One disturbing trend. Abbate noted, is the behavior change among foreign nationals studying biosciences in the United States. Where they used to study here – and stay to help build the U.S. biotechnology industry, they're now returning home to help build new businesses there. And they're taking their ideas and business contacts with them, he said.

"There will always be an exodus of a certain number of foreign-born scientists, probably even most," Still said. But that's a policy area that should be addressed.

"We need smarter immigration policies to help more of them stay. Every Ph.D awarded here to a qualified immigrant should come with a green card tucked inside. Even those scientists who return home are not lost to us. Many will retain their American ties and relationships."


Thursday, June 21, 2012

 2:09 PM 

Wisconsin firms make connections at BIO 2012

By Bryan Renk

BOSTON -- BIO 2012 recently completed its conference and trade show in Boston - it is billed as the world's largest meeting of its kind for the biotechnology industry.

With more than 15,000 attendees representing 48 states and 65 countries meeting over a four-day span there is a always a lot of activity generated and this year was no exception.

One of the Wisconsin delegation businesses had more than 60 partnering meetings; this was typical of the Wisconsin-based bio-businesses that attended.

The delegation was led this year for the first time by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and the Wisconsin pavilion had a modern, high-tech look coupled with cutting-edge technology.

Also, for the first time in cooperation with BIO, the WEDC was able to put together remote partnering meetings within the trade show using Cisco's "TelePresence" system for companies not able to attend in person. Both of these activities were very successful in supporting business development in Wisconsin.

Over the last few years we have continued to see growth in our industry. Even in tough economic times, our industry's average salary was close to $70,000. The economic impact of these businesses on Wisconsin is nearly $7 billion and the taxes they pay totals more than $614 million.

The world is paying attention to what we're doing in Wisconsin. The June issue of Genetic Engineering News listed Wisconsin in the top 15 for U.S. biotechnology clusters. Another June report, sponsored by PhRMA on clinical trial research, concluded that Wisconsin is doing 9 percent of all clinical trials in the United States.

CTEN (Clinical Trials Education Network of Wisconsin) also attended BIO to promote this new data as part of its mission of to educate the public on the role of clinical trials and their importance. This network is one of only two in the nation.

BIO's annual report, compiled by the Battelle research group and released Tuesday, reinforced what we already know here in Wisconsin: the biosciences industry is doing well and growing.

BIO has now been doing this for 10 years and was able to look at the trends from 2001 to 2010 in addition to focusing on what has happened to the industry since the recession. Wisconsin was one of the states that grew in jobs for the biosciences during the recession years, with job increases in the sectors of drugs and pharmaceuticals, medical devices and equipment, and research, testing, and medical laboratories. The state has an above average concentration in medical devices and equipment in addition to bioscience-related distribution.

The report noted that direct employment by the bioscience industry is close to 31,000 jobs with growth of 10.8 percent from 2001 to 2010, and 5 percent growth during the recession years of 2007 to 2010. All this, while Wisconsin's total private sector lost jobs at a rate of 6.5 percent during the same period.

What this means is that Wisconsin has a true intellectual and economic engine here that is capable of creating new ideas, new businesses, new jobs and new economic growth – not growth in our state at the expense of attracting jobs away from another state.

All of the above supports the continued need to have all the stakeholders in Wisconsin support an industry that is based on innovation: trying to derive new cures for some very difficult diseases, improving the way we produce food, and searching for new ways to power our economy.

-- Renk is executive director of BioForward, a state association that represents Wisconsin's bioscience industry, which includes 600 bioscience-related businesses.


 12:09 PM 

Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery draw big crowd to state's pavilion

By Mike Flaherty

BOSTON – The most popular presenter from Wisconsin wasn't even present at the world's largest biotechnology conference here. In fact, the science topic that drew the biggest crowd at the Wisconsin pavilion during BIO International this week was a building -- the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery on the UW-Madison campus.

"We consider the Institute itself a scientific experiment,'' said WID Director David Krakhauer, speaking from Madison via the Wisconsin Pavilion's "TelePresence'' system on loan from Cisco Systems.

The institute, he told a standing-room-only crowd gathered in the pavilion, is taking a scientific approach to developing new ways to generate creative ideas – and the world is watching.

Krakhauer said he has been contacted by several countries, including India and Brazil, to help show those countries how to duplicate the WID model of intellectual creativity and the development of new ideas.

"I'm traveling to Brazil next month. That country wants to build 50 institutes like this. India is the same way,'' he said.

The Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery is the large, modern building in the heart of UW-Madison's engineering and life sciences research portions of campus. The Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, which Krakhauer leads, is devoted to looking at new ways to combine scientific research from many disciplines to create ways of thinking about problems and the science that can solve them.

WID, he said, is home to new forms of scientific research with a primary criteria that each one "doesn't have a name.''

The "Institutes'' also include the Morgridge Institute for Research, which uses the same collaborative model for biomedical research; and the "Town Center'' which is designed as a gathering place for scientists of many disciplines to meet and interact. Classic university structures, he said, result in most scientists "spending time with people who are exactly like they are."

Alternatively, the Institutes intentionally bring scientists from different disciplines together in an attempt to disrupt that norm, he said.

Krakhauer said the setup is drawing young, highly creative scientists from all over the world in engineering, mathematics, health sciences and computer systems who joint together at WID to study cutting edge research.

"The key is spotting talent and giving them the freedom to look at things differently. We're the quirkier younger brother."


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

 5:36 PM 

Wisconsin joins with 40 other states for biotech advocacy group

BOSTON – Wisconsin bioscience leaders announced today that Wisconsin has joined 40 other state bioscience organizations to build a national coalition that can speak with one voice in advocating for education, workforce and investment policies to strengthen America's lead in bioscience research, development and business creation.

Wisconsin's BioForward is a new member of the new Coalition of State Bioscience Institutes that will lead a nationally coordinated effort to help promote the strength of one of America's growing industries in an increasingly competitive world marketplace, said Lance Hartford, the coalition's acting co-chair and the executive director of MassBioEd.

"This is a national, coordinated effort to make sure we have the educational resources and talent we need to grow this industry," said BioForward Executive Director Bryan Renk. "We're obviously involved because Wisconsin is a 'tier one' state went it comes to bioscience research and education. So anything we do to help bring more resources to education nationally will obviously benefit Wisconsin."

The effort will include more than just education, Hartford said, adding that the industry needs to cooperate in areas such as workforce development and entrepreneurship.

"To continue innovation we need to attract excited, bright young people to biotechnology, as well as train American workers for life science careers and support biotech entrepreneurs," said Angela Kreps, KansasBio CEO and a founding CSBI member.

"By bringing our individual state-level programs into CSBI, we are building a stronger, collective reach - on behalf of and to benefit the life science industry - to students, teachers, workers and entrepreneurs."


 4:43 PM 

Report: Bioscience faces unclear future after rebounding from recession

BOSTON -- The bioscience industry has financially rebounded from the 2008 recession. But the industry, which requires huge financial investments in research, development, and clinical trials in order to bring new products to the marketplace has an unclear future, according to the 26th annual Ernst & Young financial analysis of the bioscience industry in the United States and Europe.

The report, issued this week at the BIO International Convention, shows that the bioscience industry's revenues in the United States and Europe is up 10 percent, research and development spending is up 9 percent and the number of employees in the industry has increased 4 percent.

Merger and acquisition activity also rebounded with 37 deals last year compared to 26 the year before. And financing has also rebounded with bioscience business activity drawing $29.8 billion in funding, the second most in the history of the 26-year-old report.

But the positive report overshadows some troubling trends, the report added.

Net income dropped from $5.2 billion in 2010 to $3.3 billion last year, which is one reason investors are shying away from biotechnology which is expensive to fund and which has long lead-times between the discovery of an idea and the commercialization of products.

In addition, it said, more than half of that "financing'' wasn't used to fund new ideas, it was funding that went to several very large corporations that were taking advantage of lower interest rates to refinance or take on new debt.

"That lack of mid-stage investments, such as venture capital, is one of the major challenges in getting promising discoveries from the initial investment stage to commercialization in Wisconsin,'' said Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. "We have to address it. We have a lot of great ideas and products that will prove to be very successful. We need the capital to help these companies succeed.''

The industry needs dramatic new ways to streamline the expensive process of developing new products, testing them, and winning regulatory approval, the report said.

For more info: http://www.ey.com/lifesciences


 2:00 PM 

Burrill: Wisconsin has solid foundation for healthcare innovation

Wisconsin has a solid foundation of its science research and investment to bring innovative healthcare solutions to the market, according to Steve Burrill, CEO of Burrill & Company, speaking at a Wisconsin delegation VIP dinner Tuesday night at the BIO International Convention in Boston.

Burrill is a 1966 graduate of UW-Madison and has his own global financial services firm serving the life sciences industry. He said Wisconsin's angel investment in health care innovation is something few states have. But he said Wisconsin needs to do even more in early stage and venture capital to deal with the challenges in our health care system.

Burrill said Wisconsin needs to do more work in technology transfer and venture capital and discovery funds to get the "disruptive" health care technology to the market, as the U.S. grapples with challenges and costs in health care.

"We have a system that can't afford increased health care costs," Burrill said. "It's not just a U.S. problem, it's a global problem."

He said the U.S. spends $3 trillion annually on health care, with the cost expected to rise to $5 trillion in the next five years, consuming 20 percent of the country's GDP.

"We have some interesting decisions to make in the future, especially when it comes to the aging population," said Burrill.

He said that includes financial as well as moral issues. For example, he said society will have to decide on whether to spend limited health care dollars on end-of-life care for an 85-year-old person or for prenatal care of a newborn.

"We have a health care system that's really a sickness care system, and that's dysfunctional," Burrill said.

He said in the next 10 years new innovations, especially in the areas of patient-controlled information, will convert the model of sickness care into one of preventative health care. As an example, he cited ECG readers on smartphones that a cardiologist can read in real time,

He also said companies are finding ways of saving money on health care by providing employees with wellness incentives, not only reducing the cost of employee health plans, but also encouraging healthier lifestyles.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

 2:26 PM 

Column: As pace of cancer drug approval quickens, Wisconsin companies stand to benefit

By Tom Still
MADISON – Society is ever-so-slowly winning its war against cancer. That's due in part to better health habits, such as not smoking, but it's also because diagnostic and therapeutic technologies are advancing at an accelerated pace.

Thanks to the mapping of the human genome, and the related explosion of knowledge about proteins, enzymes, genetic markers, targeted therapeutics and "personalized medicine," researchers are making headway along many fronts. There won't be a single cure for cancer – but there may be a number of diagnostics and therapies that will help detect cancers sooner and fight them more effectively.

Look for Wisconsin companies to be a part of increased hope for patients and their families worldwide.

As the 2012 BIO International Convention opened Monday in Boston, attention was focused on the recent burst of activity around cancer drug approvals by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the rise in cancer drug applications.

The FDA expects about 20 cancer drug applications this year. In 2011, 10 of 30 new drugs approved by the federal government's drug regulators were for treatment of cancer.

As the head of the FDA's office of oncology products explained, the rise in applications and approvals is all about the science: A better understanding of the molecular makeup of the disease has led to new treatments.

The pace of drug approvals is never fast, given the need to test for safety and effectiveness in large clinical trials, but some cancer drugs have been cleared ahead of schedule. So far this year, cancer drugs approved by the FDA include Roche's Erivedge for basal cell carcinoma; Pfizer's Inlyta for kidney cancer; GlaxoSmithKline's Votrient for soft-tissue sarcoma; and Leo Pharma Picato for actinic keratosis.

Among those on stage in Boston was Exact Sciences, a Madison-based firm that has developed a colon cancer screening test that utilizes slight changes in DNA. Because it's non-invasive, relatively inexpensive and fast, it could become a preferred screening method. Company CEO Kevin Conroy believes the test could "eradicate" colon cancer over time because so many people are screened too late in the process.

Other Wisconsin companies marketing or developing cancer treatments or tests include:
* Quintessence Biosciences, which is focused on development of protein-based therapeutics as anti-cancer agents. Quintessence will also present its technology in Boston this week.
* Centrose, which is targeting late-stage cancers, including lung cancer, using cellular binding technologies.
* Endece, which has focused on key biological switches – called estrogen receptors – that can affect cancer cells.
* ProCertus BioPharm, which is developing products that prevent the common side effects of cancer chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
* Novelos Therapeutics (formerly Cellectar), a clinical stage radiopharmaceutical company.
* NeuWave Medical, which has developed a device that attacks tumors with microwave energy.
* SHINE and NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes, separate companies that are pursuing new technologies to produce radioactive isotopes used 50,000 times per day in the United States to diagnose many diseases.
* Accuray, formerly known as TomoTherapy, which is producing specialized radiation machines for treating cancer. A related company, CPAC, is developing a next-generation technology that promises to be even more targeted and effective.

These companies are emerging at the right time. Not only is the FDA pursuing more cancer drugs and devices, but major pharmaceutical companies are hoping to refill their research pipelines. Sometimes, Big Pharma finds that kind of innovation in smaller R&D companies.

Although at different stages of research, development, clinical trials and product approval, these companies are all pulling in roughly the same direction – disease diagnosis and treatment. Along with the state's major research institutions, they're in the front lines in the fight against cancer.

It may be years before blockbuster results can be delivered. In the meantime, however, Wisconsin companies and researchers are generating hope and even excitement. For people who are fighting cancer, or might be in the future, that's heartening news.

-- Still is president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. He is the former associate editor of the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison.


 12:27 PM 

Video: Wisconsin's bioscience industry is sizable and growing

Wisconsin's bio industry is sizable and growing according to the BIO/Battelle State Indsustry Development Report released today. In this video, Lisa Johnson with Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and Bryan Renk with BioForward talk about the good news for Wisconsin's bioscience sector.


 12:02 PM 

National report has good news for Wisconsin's biotech industry

By Mike Flaherty

BOSTON – Wisconsin's biotechnology industry is still small but is one of the nation's healthiest, growing faster than any other state during the recession, according to a new report released today on the economic health of the nation's biotech industry.

The annual Battelle/BIO State Bioscience Industry Development report released today at the BIO International Convention showed that, nationwide, the sector added 96,000 jobs over the past decade, indicating the importance of the biosciences as an economic driver for the nation. But in most states that growth lagged, or even dropped during the recession in 2008.

   * Download the full report
   * See the executive summary

The report's state-by-state analysis of the bioscience industry showed Wisconsin was an exception. When Wisconsin's economy followed the rest of America into a recession, Wisconsin's biosciences and medical device manufacturers continued to grow.

In fact, the growth of the biotechnology sector compared to the rest of the state's economy "was the widest spread in the country," said Lisa Johnson, vice president for entrepreneurship and innovation at the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. "That's a strong statement. It shows that our biotechnology industry isn't just growing, it's also diverse."

"Our biotechnology industry is broader than most, so we're not as reliant as other states on single industries such as pharmaceutical manufacturers," added Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. "We have our eggs in a lot of baskets."

The fifth biennial report by Battelle, one of the nation's largest research and development companies reveals that during the 2001 to 2010 period, the U.S. bioscience industry added jobs, despite losses in both the overall U.S. total private sector industry employment and other leading knowledge-based industries. It also analyzes the current position and recent trends in national and state bioscience employment, establishments and wages.

The report showed that Wisconsin's biosciences industry's 1,366 businesses employed nearly 31,000 people in 2010, with annual average wages ranging from $54,822 in agricultural feedstock and chemicals, to $79,409 in the medical devices and equipment sector. That's compared to average wages of $36,796 for Wisconsin's total private sector, which covers 149,573 business establishments, according to the report.

Unfortunately, the report did not include the economic impact of clinical trial work being done nationwide, said Bryan Renk, president of BioForward, the trade association representing Wisconsin's biotechnology industry. Wisconsin last year was home to 9 percent of all the nation's clinical trials, Renk noted.

"We actually did much better than the report showed," Johnson added.

While the latest report details positive job growth in the industry, the broader economic and regulatory environment for the biotechnology industry remains challenging, said Jim Greenwood, president and CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), which sponsors the annual convention. According to the National Venture Capital Association, U.S. venture capital funding for biotech was down 18 percent, he said.

Renk said that's a big problem in Wisconsin as well, but noted that a number of legislative proposals are still circulating to help improve the availability of venture capital for new and growing biotechnology companies.

The big problem in Wisconsin is that many companies can draw the start-up capital they need, but lack the ability to attract the second round of funding needed to take products from the laboratory bench to the marketplace – usually a $2 million to $5 million investment, Still said.

Renk and Johnson also noted that Wisconsin's agricultural sector didn't rate as well as the rest of its bioscience industry. "But we'll have to study that more closely," Renk said, noting that he wasn't sure what it is Battelle was measuring.

Complicating matters nationwide, Greenwood said the federal regulatory review processes are not keeping up with rapidly advancing science and are making it a more difficult environment to develop new treatments and products. A 2011 NCVA survey shows investors pulling out of certain areas of biotech, primarily due to the tough regulatory climate.

"Biotech holds great promise to help jump-start our nation's economy and continue to add high-wage jobs," noted Greenwood. "In order to help drive economic growth, and continue to help feed, fuel and heal the world, we need public policies that encourage investments in biotech innovation and a more transparent, science-based regulatory environment."

For Wisconsin, the Battelle report also reinforces the lesson about encouraging the sector that includes biotechnology, medical devices and biosciences, Johnson said.

This is a sector in which many of the jobs created are new jobs, not jobs Wisconsin attracts by encouraging companies to relocate here -- and some of these firms can add jobs quickly.

"I know because I came from that world," said Johnson, who was a senior executive at a number of area biotech companies, including Novagen in Madison. "When we started, we had four people and grew to 85 people. There are companies like this all over the state."

"This was a very good report for Wisconsin. It shows the importance of what we're doing here."


 10:32 AM 

Medical imaging market could be big business for SHINE

By Mike Flaherty

BOSTON -- The fledgling company created to manufacture radioactive isotopes for medical imaging could be producing up to half of the United States' medical imaging materials at its proposed manufacturing plant near Janesville within four years, the company’s CEO told an audience here today.

SHINE Medical Technologies CEO Greg Piefer and Rock Mackie, scientific director for medical devices at the Morgridge Institute for Research, told a small group of potential investors at BIO that the company's new technology will produce radioactive materials for medical imaging “faster, safer and cheaper’’ and that its proposed Janesville plant could be up and running by 2016.

SHINE is currently seeking a second round of investors -- and is awaiting approval by the federal government for its technology, which uses a particle accelerator to produce the materials instead of relying on extracting them from aging nuclear plants in Canada, the Netherlands and South Africa.

Several of those nuclear plants are 50 years old and close to being permanently shut down, so the supply of this radioactive material, called molybdenum-99, will be limited, Piefer said. In only a few years, the world could see severe shortages of the imaging material as has happened in the past when some of the reactors were closed for repair, he added.

“This is a potential $600 million a year market,’’ Piefer said. The product is in high demand, the profit margins for the product is relatively high, and SHINE has a way to produce the material safely and efficiently.


 7:13 AM 

Team effort leads to new vitamin D company

By Mike Flaherty

A new Wisconsin company announced Monday that it will soon be capitalizing on one of the University of Wisconsin’s most successful commercial biotechnology discoveries.

Vitamin D.

D3 for Me, a new company based in Eau Claire, announced Monday at BIO International that it is ready to start manufacturing and selling a “vitamin D’’ patch that will be able to deliver the vitamin to more than 4 million people around the country who currently cannot absorb the vitamin orally, including many senior citizens and cystic fibrosis patients.

“There’s nothing like this on the market,’’ said Ted Schwarzrock, the president and COO of D3 for Me. Based on the number of people who could benefit from this new product, he said, “This could be a $4 billion market.’’

The small company has already begun the process of manufacturing, packaging and marketing the product with sales to begin as early as this fall, Schwarzrock said.

The company’s genesis is in part the result of an enormous team effort that included the Chippewa Valley Technical College, UW Eau Claire, the Eau Claire Area Economic Development Corporation and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, he added.

“These Wisconsin people were incredibly helpful in creating and launching our company. I’ve never seen anything like it,’’ Schwarzrock said during a presentation at the Wisconsin Pavilion at BIO International, the world’s largest gathering of biotechnology researchers, investors, and government officials.

Ninety years ago, Harry Steenbock, a UW-Madison biochemistry researcher discovered Vitamin D, and that the vitamin could prevent – and eliminate – childhood rickets. The lease of that patent to Quaker Oats, which Steenbock turned over to UW-Madison, became the foundation for the University of Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation which today funds more than $45 million in UW research every year.


 7:12 AM 

Video: UW-Madison's involvement at BIO

Allen Dines, assistant director of the Office of Corporate Relations with UW-Madison, gives an overview of UW-Madison's involvement at BIO and the key bioscience players connected to UW-Madison.


Monday, June 18, 2012

 4:04 PM 

Video: How Wisconsin's resources are being promoted at BIO

Sarah Bownds with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and Michael Zimmerman with the city of Fitchburg talk about how Wisconsin's biosciences resources are being promoted in the Wisconsin pavilion at the BIO 2012 Convention.

See a pamphlet about Wisconsin's bioscience industry that's being distributed at the convention:


 3:19 PM 

Exact Sciences anticipates 'hundreds' of new employees if FDA approves its cancer-detection test

Kevin Conroy, Exact Sciences CEO
BOSTON -- One of the Madison area's most promising biotech companies could see its cancer-detection test approved next year, and could become a major Wisconsin employer shortly after that, the company's CEO told an audience at this year's BIO International.

Exact Sciences has developed an colon cancer screening test that utilizes slight changes in DNA, a fast, inexpensive, safe test that could rapidly become the preferred method doctors use to screen people for colon cancer, said Kevin Conroy, the company's CEO.

"That's a huge market opportunity," Conroy said. "It's a $3 billion global market."

Once the test is approved, he said, Exact Sciences could be employing hundreds of people in the Madison area because the worldwide demand for the test will be enormous.

"Colon cancer is the most preventable type of cancer that is the least prevented," Conroy said, noting that an accurate, fast, inexpensive test means many more people will be tested – and many more cases of colon cancer will be prevented.

Colon cancer kills a lot of people because most people are never screened for colon cancer until the disease has already reached the stage where it is difficult and expensive to treat, Conroy said.

Ultimately, he said, this test could "eradicate" colon cancer, which right now affects 1.2 million people worldwide, and 143,000 people a year in the United States, a third of whom die from the disease.

Exact Sciences is in the process of an enormous study, testing 10,000 volunteers with the new screening process. Once the study is completed, the FDA could approve the test by the end of next year – and Exact Sciences will have an exclusive product sought around the world.

"We've gone from a company with two employees to one with nearly 70 full-time employees today," Conroy said. "Once this test is approved, we could be employing hundreds of people."


 12:51 PM 

State pavilion features advanced 'tele-presence' technology

By Mike Flaherty

BOSTON -- Wisconsin's presence at the world BIO International this year will have a "tele-presence" that could ultimately bring up to 48 people from around the world at one time to visit Wisconsin's small pavilion on the crowded floor of the world gathering of biotechnology leaders.

The "presence" is new teleconferencing technology on loan from Cisco Systems that provides the pavilion with a conferencing kiosk where potential partners and researchers can meet with companies and researchers in Wisconsin without leaving the state.

The Cisco "TelePresence" System will bring full-sized images of people into a conferencing booth at the pavilion.

"It's such high quality that it gives you the illusion that you're sitting across from that person," said Zack Robbins, the associate director of development for the Morgridge Institute for Research, who worked with Cisco to lend the equipment and the support needed to make it work.

The Cisco "TelePresence" system will be linked to a second unit outside the booth so that companies in Wisconsin can make near-real-life presentations on the floor of the pavilion without the expense of having to travel to Boston, he said. The technology is so advanced that it can link 48 units simultaneously with the cameras automatically switching to the person who is speaking.

"We already have one at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery and one in the new education building on campus. Eventually we'll be also be linking up the state's technical colleges as well. This will enable companies around the state -- especially small start ups -- to offer presentations of their products and ideas around the world in real time, life-size images," Robbins said.

The Wisconsin pavilion on the huge Boston trade center floor will also be "paperless."

It will feature two iPads that visitors will use to sign in and ask questions. To help attract visitors, the pavilion features two video games developed by researchers at the Morgridge Institute.

One is a game called Virulent, a game in which players pose as viruses attacking a cell, attempting to overcome the cell's natural defenses, said Robbins, noting that the game teaches players how viruses spread and infect people.

The other is called "Progenitor X," a role-playing game which requires the players to develop stem cell therapies to stem the threat of a disease plaguing the Earth, he said, noting that the game teaches how stem cells function. "They're very cool," Robbins said.


 11:00 AM 

Wisconsin looks to draw attention of biotech leaders

By Mike Flaherty

BOSTON -- The largest convergence of the world's biotechnology business leaders, scientists and government leaders launched at noon today in the cavernous halls of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. And Wisconsin's biotech leaders say they're hoping again this year to draw the world's attention.

"It's the biggest gathering of biotech executives in the world. Just being here is a statement that you're a player in this industry," said Bryan Renk, president of BioForward, an association that represents the state's biotechnology and medical device companies.

And Wisconsin, he said, is a player.

The title of this year's conference is "Healing, Fueling and Feeding the World'' – and Wisconsin is heavily involved in all three areas of biotechnology research, development and commercialization, Renk said.

Wisconsin's official delegation of two dozen leaders is somewhat smaller this year, representative of all participation at the world conference, which is a third smaller than the 22,000 visitors it drew five years ago.

But to expand Wisconsin's presence this year, the Wisconsin pavilion is going high-tech, Renk said.

The pavilion this year features two large, 3-D Cisco Systems "TelePresence'' systems -- tele-conferencing stations so that the leaders of biotech companies who couldn't make it to Boston can still present themselves to the world conference. Some will even hold business partnering meetings with potential investors, partners and research collaborators using the system, Renk said.

The conferencing centers are extremely important this year because, for the first time, official "partnering meetings'' can be held on the convention floor, not just in pre-arranged meeting sessions, Renk noted

"We're going all out to the tell the world what's happening in Wisconsin,'' said Lisa Johnson, vice president for entrepreneurship and innovation for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. who is serving as the highest ranking state official at the conference.

"Our theme is 'Wisconsin is Changing the World' and we want to show the world's biotech companies looking to expand or locate new businesses that they should come here as we have the talent, low costs and a high quality of life."

"Some companies already have 40 to 60 meetings already set up for partnership discussions,'' said Kathy Collins, head of business development for BioForward.

"I have five meetings scheduled this morning even before the conference opens,'' said Deven McGlenn, chief executive officer of of NeoClone, in Madison.


 7:00 AM 

Column: For Wisconsin's biotech industry, a mix of encouraging and challenging news

By Tom Still
As Wisconsin's delegation of biotech executives, researchers and others arrive in Boston for this year's BIO International Convention, they will enter an industry setting that has changed for the better in some ways, for the worse in others - or simply just changed.

Learning how to better manage regulatory, financial and research challenges to biotechnology - an industry that extends to health care, food, renewable fuels and more - is why some 15,000 people from 65 countries and about 30 states will gather for the June 18-21 convention. About two-dozen people from Wisconsin will attend.

On the plus side for the industry, the past year has included some major victories in Congress.

The Senate and the House of Representatives have agreed to raise user fees paid by affected industries to the Food and Drug Administration for safety and efficacy reviews. Drug-makers and device companies agreed to about $2 billion in higher payments in exchange for a promise of faster reviews of products they are trying to bring to market. The bill also speeds approval of treatments for life-threatening conditions, enhances safety monitoring of devices after clearance and addresses spot drug shortages.

The biotech industry also cheered the passage of the American Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, which changes federal rules related to "crowdfunding," general solicitation and initial public offerings. Known as the JOBS Act, the law could make it easier for some companies to raise money - and to begin the process of becoming a publicly traded company.

Also, efforts are underway to resurrect the Therapeutic Discovery Project that supported medical discovery and job creation by life sciences companies in 2009 and 2010. The program in 2010 provided $1 billion in grants and credits to nearly 3,000 small U.S. companies.

The legislative progress comes at a time when the American biotech industry, long the dominant force in the world, is being pressured from abroad.

Countries in the Pacific Rim, as well as European powerhouses such as France and Germany, are adopting biotech-friendly policies in an attempt to lure companies away from the United States. The Battelle Technology Partnership Practice recently released a report, commissioned by the pharmaceutical industry, which charted how other nations are upping the ante.

The American edge is still large - but rising costs in some regional biotech centers, such as Massachusetts and California, have opened the door for other nations. It's also an opportunity for smaller U.S. regions such as Wisconsin and the Upper Midwest to pitch the fact that lower costs can be achieved close to home - without going overseas.

Biotech's biggest hurdle is competition for private capital. Investment figures from 2011 and the first quarter of 2012 show the number of biotech deals financed by institutional investors, such as venture capitalists, on the decline. All life science investment (biotech and medical devices) dropped by 22 percent in dollars and 11 percent in deals in the first quarter, according to the National Venture Capital Association.

"The biotech and life sciences community is wrestling with a dearth of capital, which is being directed increasingly toward IT and Internet-based applications," said Pete Shagory, a partner with Baird Venture Partners. Among Baird's recent deals was its part in a $6.2 million investment in Zurex Pharma, a Madison-based firm.

Competition from Internet and mobile application deals is crimping biotech investment, Shagory explained, because IT deals mature faster.

"Capital goes to where the returns are highest and the risk is lowest," he said. "The question for life sciences is how to mimic the speed of IT from an investment standpoint. On the IT front, the companies are not only able to advance more quickly, but they're taking less capital."

Larger biotech deals continue to hold up, Shagory said, but "the early stage category is suffering the most." Those are companies seeking to raise roughly $2 million to $7 million, a range that represents the first institutional financing a company receives after angel investments.

That's troubling for Wisconsin biotech companies because so many fall into that category.

"That funding dynamic raises the bar and makes it more challenging for the companies we find in our region," Shagory said.

Potential offsets to that trend, he added, are the rise of more sophisticated angel groups that can co-invest in larger deals; individual "super-angels" who see private equity as an alternative to public markets; and corporate venture capital firms, especially in the pharmaceutical industry.

Wisconsin has a story to tell at BIO: First-rate research and technology, a strong talent pool, emerging companies, lower costs and a culture that values innovation. In biotech's increasingly competitive environment, that story bears repeating.

-- Still is president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. He is the former associate editor of the Wisconsin State Journal.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

 10:42 PM 

Column: Wisconsin biosciences -- changing the world

By Lisa Johnson

One of Wisconsin's hidden secrets is the strength of its biosciences industry. During the week of June 19-22, representatives from Wisconsin bioscience companies, research entities and industry representatives will be telling the world how Wisconsin is "changing the world" at the BIO 2012 International Convention in Boston.

Wisconsin is changing the world through its strength of Wisconsin's biosciences research, development and commercialization in the areas of personalized and regenerative medicine application, cancer detection and treatment, pharmaceutical manufacturing, human identification, agricultural genetics and energy technology.

During this convention, it's the goal of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to showcase the resources Wisconsin has in research and collaboration to advance technologies and products. We're going all out to tell the world the power of biosciences Wisconsin has to offer.

Not only is Wisconsin's bioscience industry a world leader in significant breakthroughs, but it is providing new opportunities for business and job growth in state.

Wisconsin was recently ranked as the nation's 14th largest biotech cluster in the country, taking into consideration the combination of academic research and development expenditures, employment in bioscience-related occupations and bioscience venture capital investments in Wisconsin.

Bioscience is a $6.8 billion sector in Wisconsin, with more than 640 companies and 24,000 workers directly employed in medical devices, healthcare, industrial and environmental biotechnology, agriculture and energy. Wisconsin's biosciences are looking to double the number of high-value jobs over the next several years.

Wisconsin research institutions, like UW-Madison, conduct more than $1.23 billion per year in academic research and development. Wisconsin has strong research centers including Wisconsin Institute of Discovery, Marshfield Clinic, and Medical College of Wisconsin, just to name a few.

Here are the life-changing advancements coming through some of Wisconsin bioscience companies that will be present at BIO: Super Vitamin D in Eau Claire is working on ways for people with difficulty absorbing vitamin D3; Exact Sciences in Madison has developed non-invasive colorectal cancer screening and Quintessence Biosciences of Madison is developing drug technology that targets the RNA of cancer cells.

The Wisconsin Medical Entrepreneurship Foundation is bringing together Marshfield Clinic, Aurora Health Care, Baycare Health Care and WiSys Technology Foundation to jointly develop healthcare solutions and accelerate medical innovations. The Clinical and Translational Science Institute of Southeast Wisconsin, which includes Concordia University, Medical College of Wisconsin and UW-Milwaukee, is working to accelerate the translation of research discoveries into new and improved medical treatments.

Those and hundreds other Wisconsin companies and research entities are not only finding solutions and innovations for the health, energy, environmental and agriculture world, they are providing economic growth opportunities for Wisconsin.

With such a strong network supported by industry organizations like Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, BioFoward and Wisconsin Technology Council, we're able to keep our innovations in the state. And we're able to keep our best and brightest in Wisconsin to grow our economy, while changing the world.

-- Johnson is vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, Wisconsin's lead economic development entity. Lisa was one of the founders of Novagen-EMD Biosciences, Madison, and Chief Business Officer for Semba Biosciences, Inc. in Madison.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

 4:00 PM 

Company presentations to emphasize technology breakthroughs

Wisconsin is featuring its biotechnology resources and innovations at its pavilion (Booth #205) during the 2012 BIO International Convention in Boston June 18-21.

Wisconsin companies giving presentations in the state pavilion have an emphasis on breakthroughs in health technology.
* InvivoSciences, Madison, will feature its technology to screen compounds for identifying efficacy and safety.
* Quintessence Biosciences, Madison, will give a presentation on the company’s drug technology that targets the RNA of cancer cells.
* Exact Sciences, Madison, will showcase its advancement in diagnosis of colorectal cancer.
* Super Vitamin D, Eau Claire, will feature its advancement for delivery of Vitamin D through the skin.
* Marshfield Clinic Applied Sciences will feature the research collaboration that is accelerating medical advancements through Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation and other areas of intellectual property commercialization in the Marshfield Clinic system.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation is coordinating the Wisconsin BIO pavilion, with key support from BioFoward, UW-Madison Office of Corporate Relations, Marshfield Clinic Applied Sciences, Morgridge Institute for Research, Scientific Protein Laboratories and Medical College of Wisconsin.

Visitors to the Wisconsin pavilion will be able to interface with a resource database to download information on the state’s biotechnology companies, research capabilities and institutions, service providers and economic development resources.

Follow news about Wisconsin at BIO on Twitter @WisconsinatBio.

Read more about Wisconsin's plans in a press release from WEDC


 2:00 PM 

Schedule of presentations in the Wisconsin pavilion

See below for a list of the scheduled events for the Wisconsin pavilion at this year's BIO Convention in Boston.

Monday, June 18

2:00 p.m., Exact Sciences, Kevin Conroy, CEO Advancement in non-invasive colorectal cancer screening.

3:00 p.m., InvivoSciences, Tetsuro Wakatsuki Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer, Co-Founder Technology of tissue constructs fabricated using human cells to predict compound response in clinical trials.

4:00 p.m., Super Vitamin D, Ted Schwarzrock and John Stapleton Advancement for delivery of Vitamin D through the skin.

Tuesday, June 19

10:00 a.m., Shine Medical Technologies and Morgridge Institute for Research, Dr. Greg Piefer, founder and CEO of SHINE Medical Technologies and Thomas Rock Mackie, Director of Medical Devices at the Morgridge Institute for Research Partnership to develop a new production technology for a medical isotope commonly used to diagnose heart disease and cancer and in short supply for tens of thousands of U.S. patients.

4:15 p.m. Quintessence Biosciences, Dr. Laura Strong and EVade™ Ribonuclease Technology which allows for the engineering of human proteins for the treatment of human diseases. http://www.quintbio.com

Wednesday, June 20

11:00 a.m., Marshfield Clinic Applied Sciences, Marsha L. Barwick, Assistant Director, with a presentation on the Wisconsin Medical Entrepreneurship Foundation business model that allows partners, Aurora Health Care, Baycare Health Care, Marshfield Clinic and WiSys Technology Foundation to collectively leverage extramural funding and resources towards technology advancement.

4:30 p.m. The Computational Genome: Informational Insights into the Cell, David Krakauer, Director, Wisconsin Institute for Discovery



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