• WisBusiness

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

 4:59 PM 

BIO 2011: Mark calendar for Washington, D.C.

CHICAGO -- Wisconsin will again be represented at the 2011 BIO International Convention in Washington, D.C. The convention will be held June 27-30 at the Washington Convention Center.

The Mid-Atlantic region is a growing center for biotechnology research and pharmaceutical development. The National Institutes of Health is based in nearby Rockville, Md.

Contact Jodi Hoeser, national conference director for the Wisconsin Technology Council, to become a part of the 2011 Wisconsin pavilion or to learn more about other international trade shows where Wisconsin plans a presence.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

 3:48 PM 

BIO: Can renewable fuels meet energy demands?

CHIGAGO -- Scientists for years have shown they can produce liquid fuels from grass, leaves and wood. But the question plaguing the renewable fuels industry has always been “scale.’’

Can anyone out there produce these fuels on a scale needed to cost-effectively power the world’s cars and trucks?

That was one of the central discussions this year at BIO International, the world’s largest gathering of the bio-science industry, the theme of which this year is “Healing, Fueling and Feeding.’’

In short, almost everyone interviewed this week noted many promising technologies that likely will play a role in America’s energy future. But there is still a lot of work yet to do.

“We’ve had a lot of industries tell us: Don’t show tell us you have the perfect molecule. Don’t tell us you can produce it for $1.05 a gallon. Show us you can do it at scale,’’ said Jonathan Wolfson, CEO of Solazyme, a San Francisco area company that has developed a system that uses algae to convert cellulosic materials such as wood and crop waste into “in spec” jet fuel.

“Each technology faces specific challenges to commercialization – and we have a long way to go to get to fuel scale.’’

The problems are well known. Fossil fuels are still plentiful, cheap and contain more BTUs of energy than alcohol fuels. And America uses a lot of energy – about 400 million gallons of gasoline a day just to power cars and trucks.

Dozens of companies at BIO are working on different solutions. Many of companies on display at BIO are focused on making fuel from cellulosic material because it is abundant, cheap and it is material that couldn't otherwise be used for food. At the same time, its sugars are locked tightly within its fibrous membranes so they're difficult to economically extract -- and the alcohol-based fuels from crop "sugars'' are usually blended, not used a stand-alone source of fuel.

Solazyme has a key to solving this dilemma, Wolfson said. Its technology takes wood and crop waste that has been processed to extract its sugars, which are then fed to algae microbes. The microbes produce oil nearly identical to jet fuel, which Wolfson called a “drop-in’’ fuel because it can be used by cars and trucks that won't have to be modified.

While the technology can produce large volumes of fuel, Solazyme does not yet have a pilot plant. And even at full scale, a microbial fuel factory would not produce the amount of fuel in a year what a commercial petroleum refinery would produce in a day.

There are 30 cellulosic "bio-fuel'' plants, built or are now under construction, according to a report on the biofuels industry released earlier this year by Bio Economic Research Associates for the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO). But most are small and many are still part of a research effort to "scale'' a future, larger plant.

“The solutions will likely be regional,’’ said Troy Runge, director of the Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative in an interview at BIO. “You’ll see different technologies in the southeast, such as algae and solar, where they have a lot of sun. In the Midwest, where we have a lot of rain but less light and heat, you’ll see other technologies that utilize grasses and wood which we have in abundance.’’

But “scale’’ is an enormous hurdle, he said “What you see here at BIO is mostly conversion technologies’’ – the latest ideas in how to unlock the sugars from plant material to produce fuels.

“What you don’t see,’’ he added, are the businesses and marketing systems needed to collect, store and process the tens of millions of tons of cellulose feedstock materials that will be needed to produce enough fuels for a modern economy.

Still, there are examples of success. For example, the United States ethanol industry , spurred by enormous government incentives, last year produced 12 billion gallons of ethanol alcohol – and Brazil converted its enormous sugar cane industry to a system that produces all its transportation fuel.

“So it can be done,’’ said John McCarthy, president and CEO of Qteros, a Massachusetts-based bio-science company with a patent on a microbe that its says can more efficiently unlock sugars from cellulosic plant material.

The key to success, he said, will be in a strong, consistent government policy that creates an environment so that investors will put money into these ideas and build the technology and a “scaled’’ renewable energy infrastructure.

“The macro elements are all in place for a system of scaled up production (of renewable fuels,’’ McCarthy said. “The problem is policy. We need an aggressive, consistent national energy policy.''


 3:45 PM 

Doyle meets business prospects during BIO event

CHICAGO -- Gov. Jim Doyle said Tuesday he completed a day of “seven consecutive meetings’’ with national and international companies here that are considering locating in Wisconsin, or investing the state’s businesses and ideas.

“I can’t talk about the details,’’ Doyle said after the meetings at BIO International at the McCormick Place in Chicago. “But they were very substantive meetings. We may have some very exciting news to report.’’

Doyle has been a strong supporter – and a high-profile visitor – every year at BIO International, holding meetings with potential investors, meeting with journalists, and using BIO International as a forum to market Wisconsin and spread its reputation.

“This is my last BIO,’’ he told the crowd gathered at the Wisconsin Pavilion in the enormous McCormick Place convention center. “What is truly remarkable is how much Wisconsin’s profile has grown in the world’s biotechnology industry.’’

Doyle said building the profile has been the result of major increases in public-private cooperation with the state’s universities; strong state and federal support for the growth of state universities’ research capacity; the drive by university researchers to develop new products and companies from that research; and the strong effort to convince investors to place their investment capital in Wisconsin.

“It’s been a lot of hard work,’’ Doyle said after his formal remarks “But we’ve made real progress since my first BIO. There is now a tremendous amount of interest in what is going on in Wisconsin.’’


 3:39 PM 

Genetic crops benefit environment, farm profits

CHICAGO -- A report by the National Research Council released here at BIO International concludes that U.S. farmers are realizing higher profits due to the widespread use of certain genetically engineered crops and are reducing environmental impacts of agriculture – both on and off the farm.

Farmers are realizing “substantial economic and environmental benefits’’ including lower production costs, reduced use of pesticides, and better yields, the report said.

“The NRC’s report acknowledges what we have known all along: That genetically engineered (GE) crops provide significant environmental, economic, and social benefits, and they are an integral tool in achieving sustainable agricultural production,’’ said Sharon Bomer Lauritsen, BIO Executive Vice President for Food and Agriculture, who issued a statement at BIO International responding to the study.

“That means farmers get a greater financial return while using environmentally friendly farming practices products. As the world confronts agricultural challenges such as climate change and a higher-than-ever demand for food supplies, the NRC report assures us that advances in biotechnology are providing the solutions that are desperately needed by today’s farmers.” 


 3:34 PM 

Study: Bio-fuel goal will boost U.S. economy

CHICAGO -- The federal government has set a goal to produce 21 billion gallons of “advanced renewable fuels by 2022 – and a report distributed at BIO International concludes that if America reaches that goal, the economic impact will be enormous.

The report by Bio Economic Research Associates, called “U.S. Economic Impact of Advanced Biofuels Production: Perspectives to 2030,” concluded that if America mades a sustained commitment to produce 21 billion gallons of bio-fuels, including new fuels made from cellulosic materials such as wood and grass, it would create 29,000 new jobs and $5.5 billion in new investment in the next three years.

That figure will grow to 800,000 new jobs and $147 billion in to total economic impact by 2022, the report said, adding that avoiding the economic impact of having to import that much oil would have a positive economic impact of $350 billion between now and 2022.


 2:28 PM 

Federal biosecurity priorities outlined during BIO

CHICAGO -- Senior officials from four federal agencies spoke Wednesday on President Obama's bioscience and biosecurity priorities during the 2010 BIO International Convention in Chicago.

Representatives of the Department of Health and Human Services, the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Council discussed how federal agencies are working closely together to meet man-made and natural threats to food, water and public health.

"On behalf of Wisconsin companies and researchers that work in these sectors, we wanted to learn about federal research priorities and how those companies and researchers can meet federal needs," said Jack Heinemann, director of the Wisconsin Security Research Consortium.

The Madison-based WSRC works with academic researchers and small businesses in Wisconsin, helping them connect with federal science and technology directors.


 12:39 PM 

Signs of biotech industry stress still apparent

CHICAGO -- Has the much-anticipated "BioCentury" ended after only a decade?

That unspoken question has rippled through the 2010 BIO International Convention, where the shock waves caused by the collapse of the financial markets, regulatory issues and even health-care reform have left some observers nervous about what will come next for an industry that had grown accustomed to rapid growth.

The annual BIO convention is traditionally a time when scientists, business leaders, major pharmaceutical companies and investors come together to celebrate what has been another banner year. And, for many of the 15,000 or so participants on hand in Chicago's McCormick Place, that's still true.

But some surveys, reports and regulatory updates at the convention have sounded alarms about specific threats to the biotech industry -- and particularly those segments that are more dependent on venture capital or subject to long regulatory delays.

A paper released by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu went so far as to declare biotech's future "grim" if a convergence of threats continue, not the least of which is a shortage of early stage companies in the pipeline in some sectors. Deloitte also surveyed 281 biotech executives in late 2009, and 70 percent said they feared 20 percent to 40 percent of all biotech companies existing at the time would be gone within five years.

At a Monday news conference unveiling the 2010 industry report by the Battelle Memorial Institute and BIO, speakers and audience members cited a litany of challenges: less venture capital due largely to the collapse of the financial markets, continued patent backlogs, more regulatory delays at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the delay in reauthorizing the federal Small Business Innovation Research grant program, attacks on the Bayh-Dole bill that accelerated transfer of university research, and even some provisions of the health-care reform bill.

That bill could reduce federal reimbursement payments over time to physicians and health-care centers that use newer drugs, medical devices and other products to treat patients. As the government increasingly looks over the shoulders of prescribing physicians, some speakers said, they will be less willing to adopt innovation.

Others think the future remains bright for biotech, especially over the long term. Biotechnology has only begun to search for diagnostics and cures for most major diseases, and opportunities to create more and better foods, fuels and environmental solutions are also relatively new.

One relative optimist is Wisconsin native G. Steven Burrill, who spoke at a Wisconsin reception and also unveiled his 24th annual report on the state of the industry.

"It's a fabulous time to be alive in the industry," said Burrill, founder of Burrill & Co., a merchant bank that has invested heavily in the sector. He said biotechnology is poised to solve some of the world's most pressing problems and its companies are, by and large, adapting to change.

"Many were writing our obits last year and we simply proved them wrong," Burrill said.

The "Bio-Century" marches on, but some of the problems facing biotechnology will continue to challenge the industry it as the decade continues.


 12:07 PM 

Wisconsin flu expert speaks to Swiss trade group

CHICAGO -- Dr. Yoshihiro Kawaoka, a UW-Madison researcher who recently launched the Institute for Influenza Virus Research, Wednesday described how "reverse genetics" procedures are helping scientists crack the secrets of deadly flu viruses.

Kawaoka spoke during a breakfast hosted by Giambattista Mondada, the consul general of Switzerland in Chicago. That office represents Switzerland in 12 states, including Wisconsin, and fosters ties between Swiss and American businesses.

Between 250,000 and 500,000 people die each year worldwide from what might be described as "common" flu strains, but Kawaoka's work centers around learning more about the most virulent strains, such as the H1N1 virus and the avian flu virus. His research on reverse genetics made it possible to reconstruct a Spanish flu virus from the 1918 epidemic that killed about 40 million people worldwide. Learning more about that virus, which long ago mutated itself out of existence, has led to greater understanding of today's potential killers.

On hand for Kawaoka's presentation were a number of Swiss officials and business leaders, including representatives from pharmaceutical companies. Kawaoka is also the chief scientist for FluGen, a Madison company that is working to develop a safe, fat and reliable way to grow vaccine viruses inside vats of cells instead of the traditional method of using fertilized chicken eggs.

The breakfast was held in conjunction with the 2010 BIO International Convention and also included some members of the Wisconsin delegation.


 11:45 AM 

Wisconsin 'drill instructors' key at BIO boot camp

CHICAGO -- An entrepreneurial "boot camp" at the 2010 BIO International Convention featured a number of Wisconsin instructors who offered insights on what it takes to move a company from idea to profit.

The UW-Madison Office of Corporate Relations was one of two regional hosts for BIO's annual bootcamp, which involved about 60 entrepreneurs over parts of two days. Leading panels or serving as panelists were Charles Hoslet, managing director of OCR; Allen Dines, assistant director of OCR; Paul Weiss of Venture Investors LLC in Madison; Laura Strong of Quintessence Biosciences in Madison; Paul Radspinner of Madison's FluGen; and Loren Peterson of Zystor Therapeutics in Milwaukee. Dan Broderick, formerly of Mason Wells in Milwaukee and now of Missouri's Prolog Ventures, was also an instructor.

Hoslet said the bootcamp involved about 30 instructors and engaged entrepreneurs in a "soup-to-nuts" review of technology assessment, intellectual property protection, regulatory planning, building a management team and capitalizing early stage companies.


Tuesday, May 04, 2010

 3:55 PM 

Doyle: Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery set to open this year

Gov. Jim Doyle announced today that the long-awaited Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery -- a projected $375 million public-private bioscience research program first proposed in 2004 -- will open on the west side of the UW-Madison campus for the first time in December.

Doyle made the announcement during an appearance at the BIO 2010 Conference in Chicago. The facility, which first broke ground in 2008, will house the UW's public Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, the private Morgridge Institute for Research nonprofit -- named for former Cisco Systems head and Institutes benefactors John and Tasha Morgridge -- and a scientific collaboration facility dubbed the "Town Center."

“The Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery will bring together the brightest researchers in nanotechnology, biotechnology, engineering and information technology in a public-private partnership to embark on cutting-edge research and create good-paying jobs," the governor said in a statement.

In other announcements tied to BIO:

* Doyle announced that Madison's Monona Terrace will host the 2011 Small Business Innovation Research National Conference, set for April 11-13. Doyle said the conference is projected to draw 850 attendees.

* Doyle announced the foundation of a state Clean Energy Generation, Transmission and Storage Systems Consortium. The initiative will seek to join business and government partners with both public and private higher education institutions throughout Wisconsin.

* Doyle and Manitoban Premier Greg Selinger announced the first two joint bilateral workshops between Wisconsin and Manitoba on building a clean energy economy. The first workshop, focusing on regional climate modeling, will be held in Winnipeg this summer. The second workshop, focusing on the clean energy economy and growing clean energy jobs, will be held in Wisconsin this summer. Further details on the workshops will be announced in the near future.


 2:22 PM 

"Wisconsin Edge' publication debuts at BIO event

CHICAGO -- A major source of information for visitors to the Wisconsin pavilion at the 2010 BIO International Convention is "Wisconsin Edge," a magazine-style publication produced by the Wisconsin Technology Council.

The 12-page magazine includes information on the state's technology profile, not only in biotechnology, but in other sectors such as medical devices, information technology and more. It describes the state's research and development assets, including the $1.2 billion in academic R&D conducted in fiscal 2008 at Wisconsin colleges and universities. The magazine also describes the relationship between interlocking research disciplines, and defines the "I-Q Corridor," a larger region that spans Chicago, Wisconsin and the Twin Cities in Minnesota.

The "I" in I-Q Corridor stands for interstate, innovation, intellectual property and investment, and the "Q" suggests the quality of the region's companies, workers and research.

"We wanted a single publication that introduces Wisconsin to those who want to know more about its tech-based economy," said Mark Bugher, chairman of the Tech Council. "Wisconsin Edge is a 'calling card' that serves that purpose well."

The magazine's resource guide gives readers key contacts for economic development in Wisconsin. To obtain copies, contact Gina Leahy at the Tech Council at gleahy@wisconsintechnologycouncil.com


 1:56 PM 

Intense Engineering to open 'I-Q Corridor' offices

CHICAGO -- Intense Engineering, a company that describes itself as a technology and product design "strike force," is looking to expand beyond Madison into Milwaukee, Chicago and the Twin Cities region of Minnesota, company vice president David McCabe said Tuesday.

Intense Engineering, which has hired two engineers this year, helps companies develop medical devices and other products for the biotech sector. McCabe said the company's "engineering emergency response team" approach is ideal for the I-Q Corridor, a technology zone that stretches from Chicago through the Twin Cities.

"Our natural progress and target market is the I-Q Corridor," said McCabe, who noted the company has begun its search for expansion space in other cities. Intense Engineering is among the exhibitors at Wisconsin's pavilion at the 2010 BIO International Convention.


 1:42 PM 

Exact Sciences moving closer to clinical trials

CHICAGO -- Madison-based Exact Science is nearing a pre-clinical trial of its non-invasive screening technology for the detection of colorectal cancer, CEO Kevin Conroy said Tuesday during the 2010 BIO International Convention.

With a recent stock offering that raised more than $18 million from 25 public company investors, Exact Sciences is poised to move ahead with tests involving 3,000 samples, perhaps as early as this summer. "This will be a really major step for us," said Conroy, who noted that full clinical trials could begin in mid-2011.

Exact Sciences moved from Boston, Mass., to Madison in 2009 to develop its stool-based DNA technology. Conroy is the former CEO of Third Waves Technologies in Madison, which was acquired by Hologic.


 8:47 AM 

Doyle plans 'several major biotech announcements'

The governor's office says Gov. Jim Doyle will make several major biotech announcements for Wisconsin at the BIO 2010 International Convention Tuesday.

He's due to be joined by biotech leaders for the announcement at 4 p.m. at the Wisconsin Booth at the McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago.

Doyle will also be joined by PGA representatives Barry Deach and Steve Crowley to promote the 2010 PGA Championship being held in Wisconsin in August.


Monday, May 03, 2010

 4:51 PM 

Wisconsin, Minnesota ramp up partnership at BIO

CHICAGO -- Wisconsin and Minnesota -- two states that are already forging better ways to coordinate bio science research, development and capital investment -- are joining forces at this year's BIO International to coordinate and enhance their outreach to the world's bio science industry.

Wisconsin and Minnesota are sharing side-by-side pavilions this year on the floor of the enormous McCormick Place convention center, and jointly hosting a number of networking events, including: a luncheon for industry sponsors at a popular downtown Chicago restaurant today; a Wisconsin-Minnesota-Manitoba "Connecting the Corridors'' reception for bio science industry leaders tonight on Navy Pier; and a "Two-State Tailgate'' reception late Tuesday on the convention center floor.

"There is an enormous amount we can achieve together through cooperation,'' said Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. "When we need to compete, we'll compete. But it makes little sense to compete when we don't have to.''

"What we're doing here at BIO is creating more and more pathways for cooperation with Minnesota,'' said Mark Bugher, chairman of the Wisconsin Technology Council board of directors and the head of University Research Park in Madison. "Minnesota has a lot to offer us -- and we have a lot to offer Minnesota.''


 12:16 PM 

Battelle report charts state's biotech industry gains

By Mike Flaherty and Tom Still

CHICAGO – Wisconsin’s growing biotechnology sector was hurt by the recession, and the state’s total of 24,694 biotech industry jobs still only represents a fraction of the nation’s 1.4 million jobs, according to a new report on the state of the bioscience industry Monday at 2010 BIO International, the world’s largest gathering of the biotechnology industry.

But the new “State Bioscience Initiatives” report by Battelle Memorial Institute and BIO noted that Wisconsin’s biotech jobs have grown by nearly 16 percent since 2001 and the state is one of relatively few making headway in all four biotech sectors historically tracked by the report.

The report, which ranked Wisconsin in the top two-fifths of all states in bioscience and biotechnology activity, also credited Wisconsin for its commitment to academic research and a growing venture capital market to help take scientific ideas from the lab bench to the marketplace.

It noted that the Madison metropolitan area is one of only two metro areas in the nation, with Bloomington, Ind., being the other, with “specialization” in all four areas – agricultural feedstock and chemicals, drugs and pharmaceuticals, medical devices and equipment, and research and testing.

“Venture capital invested in state bioscience during the last six years totaled $295 million, led by pharmaceuticals and human biotechnology,” the report noted. “The 2,187 patents issued to Wisconsin inventors over the same six-year period were well diversified, led by surgical, and medical instruments and biotechnology.”

Since 2004, academic research and development funding in Wisconsin has risen by almost 21 percent, with $440.1 million of the state’s biotech research funding coming from the federal government’s National Institutes of Health.

Despite a struggling economy, the nation’s bioscience industry still added 19,000 jobs since 2007, the report said.

“Not every biotech company made it through the storm,” said Jim Greenwood, president and CEO of BIO, noting that 50 publicly traded went bankrupt last year. “But there is much good news. Biotech stocks outperformed virtually every other index in the first quarter of this year. The markets have come back, but biotech has come back faster and stronger.’’

In addition to the Madison area, the report noted that Sheboygan, Oshkosh-Neenah and Milwaukee-Waukesha have strengths in one of the four sectors. It also took notice of Wisconsin’s investment tax credit laws and R&D tax credits, as well as its strong per capita rankings in academic R&D spending (9th) and production of people with bioscience higher education degrees (also 9th).


 9:05 AM 

BIO opens in Chicago; state delegation on hand

CHICAGO -- Under the theme of "Heal, Fuel, Feed," the 2010 BIO International Convention got under way Monday at Chicago's McCormick Place, where the Wisconsin pavilion will be among the 48 states and 60 nations represented.

Some 15,000 convention attendees will choose from 124 breakout sessions in 17 tracks, with topics ranging from discussions of research and development progress to regulatory issues to the business of biotechnology across its major sectors. About 70 percent of those attending the convention are senior leaders in industry, academia and government.

Monday's themes are global health, climate change, intellectual property and annual reports on the state of the industry, including the biennial Battelle report that examines progress on a state-by-state basis.

The Wisconsin delegation will include more than 125 representatives, including those from 51 sponsoring organizations for the pavilion and affiliated events. Wisconsin events Monday will include a luncheon with the Minnesota delegation at Harry Caray's Italian Steakhouse, 33 W. Kinzie St., and an evening "Connecting the Corridors" reception with Minnesota, the Province of Manitoba and other invited guests at the Crystal Gardens on Navy Pier.

Founded in 1993, the Biotechnology Industry Organization has about 1,200 members. About 90 percent of its corporate members have revenues under $25 million per year.



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