• WisBusiness

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

 6:32 PM 

Guest column: Wisconsin at the forefront of infectious disease

By Jim Leonhart

Wisconsin's BIO Theater opened today with a number of fascinating presentations by some of the state's bioscience leaders. Two of the presentations -- one by InViragen and the other by FluGen -- spotlighted Wisconsin's leadership in infectious disease prevention and treatment. These two exciting companies are at the heart of an emerging infectious disease cluster in the Madison area.

InViragen, headquartered in Fort Collins, Colo., announced earlier this year that will expand its presence in Madison with a 4,000-square-foot laboratory and office. The lab will be used for research and pre-clinical testing of the company's life-saving vaccines to protect against dangerous emerging diseases like the avian flu, dengue fever and the West Nile virus. InViragen's Wisconsin expansion will create up to 10 new positions.

During the company's presentation at the BIO Theater, Chief Executive Dan Stinchcomb highlighted InViragen's commitment to international collaboration. InViragen's work with partners around the world serves as an outstanding small-company model for attacking public health issues of global importance.

InViragen's presentation was followed by FluGen and its founder, president and chief executive, Paul Radspinner. After service at Deltanoid, WARF and Eli Lilly, Paul is leading efforts to commercialize technologies created by Dr. Yoshihiro Kawaoka, a UW-Madison professor and one of the world's leading influenza experts, and Gabrielle Neumann, a virologist at UW-Madison. The company will collaborate with the new UW-Madison Influenza Research Institute, which is being led by Dr. Kawaoka.

Radspinner described his company's efforts to develop better influenza vaccines and create new influenza treatments. FluGen's unique, industry-leading efforts are aimed at both seasonal and pandemic influenza around the world.

(See more on FluGen in an earlier BIO blog post)

The work of InViragen and FluGen, when coupled with the infectious disease diagnostics being developed and marketed by Third Wave, EraGen, Prodesse and others, has created a substantial infectious disease footprint in the state that covers the entire spectrum of the discipline. Wisconsin's leadership in infectious disease prevention, detection and treatment received the spotlight at today's BIO Theater. The state's position as a world leader in infectious disease can only grow from here.

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

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