27 Jun The Scientist magazine names Madison "hotspot" for biotechnology
Madison, Wis. – The June 20 issue of The Scientist, named Madison, “the Midwest’s low-key hotspot” for biotechnology. The publication reported that the city’s research facilities and open community make it one of the best climates for starting or continuing a biotech and life sciences company.
Jim Leonhart, executive vice president of the Wisconsin Biotechnology and Medical Device Association said that the magazine, which was released during the BIO 2005 conference this week in Philadelphia, was an excellent promotion for the state. He said The Scientist’s circulation of thousands of researchers and academics is the ideal audience for Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin delegation at BIO made it part of their presentation.
According to the article, the strongest asset to the state’s biotech industry was the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which ranks among the top three public universities for research spending. UW-Madison was the first university to isolate human embryonic stem cells and has strong ties in oncology, cardiovascular and respiratory sciences, neuroscience and regenerative medicine.
This research strength is backed up by what the article calls an “unabashedly entrepreneurial” attitude, which encourages researchers to start new companies from their inventions. It is easier to get a company started through UW-Madison since they allow researchers and faculty to maintain ownership of their discoveries unless federal funding is involved.
The article also noted that Wisconsin offers 25 percent tax credits to investors who are funding new technology companies, and the city provides several bridge grants and development loans for transplanted firms to get started.
“Wisconsin seems to have an interest in fostering biotechs,” said Tom Primiano, president of Clonex Development, a producer of therapeutic proteins which moved its operations into the T.E.C. Center at Madison Area Technical College last month from Chicago. “Illinois was behind in helping small communities get what we need.”
The article said companies such as Third Wave Technologies, NeoClone Biotechnology International and Quintessence Biosciences are some of the strongest emerging companies in Madison. These companies are able to flourish thanks to strong leadership from founders like Hector DeLuca of Deltanoid Pharmaceuticals and Mike Sussmann of NimbleGen Systems, as well as continuing support by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.
While Wisconsin has a strong base of university researchers and spin-offs, the article said that it still has not given the state what it really needs: a large pharmaceutical or biotech firm to attract interest outside of the state. While life science companies like Promega and Covance recruit many scientists and professionals from the city and UW-Madison, the industry does not have the big names necessary for major attention.
This lack of recognition means that outside funding is hard to get, a shortage that extends to the whole Midwest region. According to a MoneyTree survey quoted in the article, the Midwest received only $198 million in venture capital in the fourth quarter of 2004, less than 4 percent of the total US venture investments at that time.
Madison recognizes these problems with developing its biotech industry further, the article said, and is looking to develop further. By promoting the rapidly developing companies, as well as the high quality of life, low property costs and talented population, Madison’s experts hope to push their city into the national spotlight.
“We have technology, an abundance of talent and diversity reflecting the world,” Leonhart said in the article. “We only lack attention from the moneyed people, and we are working hard to attract them now.”