18 Nov Life-sciences conference showcases ‘capital’ ideas of Wisconsin
Angel investors and venture capitalists were treated to an exhibition of Wisconsin’s continually evolving technology culture at the Wisconsin Life Sciences and Venture Conference, held Tuesday and Wednesday at the Monona Terrace.
Biotech companies from Wisconsin and beyond presented their research while expert panels studied the future of the state’s industry.
“This event is like speed dating for biotech companies and venture capitalists, with a goal to build a healthy economy,” Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz said in an address on Tuesday, welcoming attendees searching for funding and investment opportunities.
Following opening speeches by Cieslewicz and Carolyn Clancy of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the company presentations began. 24 life sciences companies gave twelve-minute presentations to attendees, providing an executive overview of their technology research and projected financial growth.
While the majority of companies were from Wisconsin, six other states had representatives giving presentations. Out-of-state companies included Seattle-based ultrasound developer Mirabilis Medica, lysomal storage disease researcher Zystor Theraputics, which has relocated Missouri-based technology to Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania-based drug manufacturer NeuroGenomeX.
Greg Lynch of the Michael, Best & Friedrich law firm said that the quality of the presentations was better than any he had seen at previous conferences, and the networking opportunities expanded beyond financial connections.
“There seems to be a better quality of management teams coupled with better science,” Lynch said. “These managers are more focused on how science is a business rather than how neat their research is.”
Mark Underwood, vice president of product development at QRG Bioscience – one of twelve companies at the conference giving poster presentations – said he saw considerable interest from venture capitalists from both inside the country and overseas.
The conference on Wednesday offered a look at the specific research done on the UW-Madison campus, with presentations given by the university’s medical and biotechnology divisions. Sessions dealt with a range of topics, including advancements by the physics and radiology departments against cancer to the development of personalized medicine through the school of medicine.
Both days of the conference featured panels of experts examining the potential of Wisconsin to become a nexus for research in the biotechnology. A session on Monday moderated by Tom Still of the Wisconsin Technology Council brought together representatives from major Wisconsin institutions such as the Department of Commerce and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, discussing how tech-based investments can continue to prosper in the state. Tuesday featured a panel discussion from members of UW-Madison’s biotechnology center, addressing how the center has handled client problems in areas such as preclinical evaluation.
Robert Pricone, president of the Illinois-based 10X Technology, praised the conference for offering a clear vision of what Wisconsin has to offer. A developer of microfabrication technology, 10X was one of the poster presenters on Tuesday.
“There’s a center for a lot of biotech development, you have good funding, good people, an excellent market,” Pricone said. “It’s very well-organized, they seem to have a good investor network – I don’t think there’s anything like this in Illinois.”
Still said that he felt the conference was successful in moving past Wisconsin’s regional borders, drawing “investors from the region, the coast, and some from beyond.”
“For a long time Wisconsin had a hard time getting noticed nationally, despite the fact we had some superb science and research here.” Still said. “Now it’s getting bigger – investors outside of Wisconsin are really taking note of the advancements, and opportunities for those advancements to hit the marketplace.”
Les Chappell is a staff writer for WTN and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Mike Klein, WTN’s editorial director, can be contacted at email@example.com.