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Life-sciences conference to feature novel research with clinical potential

Madison, Wis. — What does it mean to the biotech community to have a major research facility in your backyard? That question should be thoroughly addressed at the Wisconsin Life Sciences and Venture Conference program named “Inside the Labs: Where Science Spawns Novel Therapies.” The conference will be held November 16 and 17.

The conference promises to be a biotechnology showcase — about 20 companies, 11 from Wisconsin, will strut their stuff in front of venture capitalists on day one, while day two will highlight select research projects that may someday be developed into therapies to cure diseases.

The conference, an event that has taken place for more than 20 years, is also partly credited for the state’s recent growth in the biotech field. NorthStar Economics Inc. recently issued a report that charts a rising trend over the years for presenting companies successfully securing venture capital. In the conference’s first 10 years, according to the report, 8 percent of the presenting companies attracted investors. That rose to 21 percent in the last decade.

About 196 companies have made at least one conference presentation through the years, with an increasing number from states outside Wisconsin. The conference also reflects the rising tide of tech transfer from UW-Madison. Ten years ago, only four presenters held WARF licenses, compared to 22 today.

Day two will focus on companies creating new therapies for cancer, personalized medicine using gene patterns to predict and control disease, microsystems, stem cell research, and other health-related areas. Two companies that are planning to present are Cellectar, a Madison company that is working on diapeutic agents to detect and treat cancers, and QRG Biosciences, another Madison business that is developing treatments for the diseases of aging.
QRG Bioscience is working with a calcium-blocking agent from jellyfish to fight neuro-degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The company is working in partnership with Jim Moyer of UW-Milwaukee to see how the agent impacts learning and memory.

“We’re excited to grow in 2005,” said Mark Underwood, QRG’s vice president of product development. “We’ve already had some interest in investing in our company.” The company opened its doors at the UW Research Park in Madison last June and employs four people.

The second day will begin with a keynote address by Mark Booth, president of Takeda Pharmaceuticals North America, Inc. of Lincolnshire, Illinois, who will discuss how the evolving needs of the health-care market influence the search for new therapies. Other speakers include Michael Sussman, director of the UW-Madison Biotechnology Center.

Christine Javid is a staff writer for WTN and can be reached at

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