• WisBusiness

Friday, June 20, 2008

 12:08 PM 

Guest column: Breadth and depth of state's bioscience industry on full display

By Jim Leonhart

SAN DIEGO -- A notable carry-over from last year's BIO conference in Boston is a vigorous discussion about stem cell research leadership. In 2007, it was Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick who announced the creation of a $1-billion stem cell initiative. This year, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley unveiled his plan to invest $1.1-billion in that state's bioscience industry, with a strong emphasis on the growth of what he called the nation-leading Maryland Stem Cell Research Fund. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in this year's conference keynote address touted his state's $3-billion stem cell program, created through passage of Proposition 71 in 2004.

Gov. Jim Doyle throughout BIO 2008 has hailed Wisconsin's selection as host for the World Stem Cell Summit in September and taken advantage of the platform BIO provides to reinforce the state's international leadership in stem cell research.

One of the most striking takeaways from this year's conference, though, is the remarkable breadth and depth of Wisconsin's bioscience industry. Everyone in the Wisconsin contingent is rightfully proud of the state's preeminence in stem cell research. As we continue to compete against the likes of California and prepare for the summit in Madison this fall, it is also important to remind ourselves of the broader industry in which Wisconsin's stem cell efforts occur.

A terrific example of our industry's breadth was on display yesterday at Wisconsin's BIO Theater. Dr. Juliette Schick, co-founder and chief executive of Madison's SciLog Inc., a developer and marketer of novel liquid-handling equipment, announced that her company recently signed a worldwide licensing agreement with global giant and hometown hero GE Healthcare.

The agreement gives GE Healthcare worldwide rights to make and sell automated single-use systems based on SciLog's technology for use in biopharmaceutical production. The technology's cost-effectiveness, performance and scalability could revolutionize the production of biotechnology products around the world.

Further proof of the breadth and depth of the industry in Wisconsin can be found in a Battelle study of state bioscience initiatives, employment and growth trends during 2001 to 2006. The study was released jointly Wednesday by BIO and Battelle, the world's largest non-profit independent research and development organization.

Madison, Wis., the report said, is the only U.S. metropolitan area in 2006 with a specialized job concentration in all of the four sub-sectors of the biosciences -- agricultural feedstock and chemicals, drugs and pharmaceuticals, medical devices and equipment, and research, testing and medical laboratories. "In the previous version of this report using 2004 data, Madison also achieved this distinction in broad by deep industry concentration," the report said.

It is a distinction we should always keep in mind.

-- Leonhart is executive director of the Wisconsin Biotechnology and Medical Device Association.

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