18 Oct Annual biotech conference highlights regional success stories
Madison, Wis. — Success stories played a big role at the Wisconsin Biotechnology and Medical Device Association‘s annual conference on Thursday.
The association called out numerous Wisconsin companies during the conference, held at Madison Area Technical College. The choice of location was also thematic – the association is also working with MATC to develop new curriculum for biotechnology that can help funnel new employees into biotech companies. “We’re anticipating a workforce need,” said Jim Leonhart, president of the WBMA.
That need is driven by an increasing number of biotech firms regionally that are achieving financial success. Leonhart called out firms such as Third Wave Technologies, which recently presented in New York to a group of 60 investors, TomoTherapy, whose recent IPO raised $223 million, and Quintessence Biosciences, now in a new investment round to fund clinical trials.
These days, Leonhart hears much less talk about the region being a “fly-over zone” than in previous years. “When there are exciting things going on in an area, people will make it here,” he said.
Some of the conference’s topics included partnerships — of which GenTel CEO Alex Vodenlich said that it’s not whether a biotech firm will partner, but when and how — the role of information technology in life science research, and industry growth through investment and workforce development.
TomoTherapy CEO Fred Robertson told the story of the firm’s entry into China, working closely with a local partner that now employs about 25 people and was essential in helping U.S. executives work with differing cultural norms. He described emerging markets such as China and India as essential for a firm like TomoTherapy, for which the United States is largely a replacement market.
Conference presenters also named five recipients of a “rising star” award from the association, recognizing entrepreneurship, business leadership, innovation and sales accomplishments. The award recipients were:
• Bob Lowery, president of Bellbrook Labs, which is develops technology for high-throughput drug screening. He was cited for helping to secure $5 million in financing for the company, which has grown to 18 employees and $2 million in revenue.
• David Mead, founder of Lucigen, which develops gene cloning and genomics products. Lucigen has 25 employees, and it launched 12 products and made more than $1.5 million this year.
• Eric Steffen, who took over leadership of Aberdean Consulting while principal Jim Blair, an officer in the Army Reserve, was in Iraq for more than a year. Aberdean grew 35% and gained 26 new clients in that time.
• David Casimir, recent co-founder of the Casimir Jones law firm. In his previous work with Medlen & Carroll, Casimir was involved in prosecuting more than a thousand patent applications and litigated more than 20 patent disputes.
• Laura Strong, president and COO of Quintessence Biosciences. Laura secured early angel funding and a technology license from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation and oversaw the development of the firm’s lead drug candidate from technology transfer through its application to begin human clinical trials in 2008.
• Quintessence Biosciences advances cancer drug
• Higher clinical revenues don’t prevent Q2 net loss for Third Wave Technologies
• TomoTherapy forecasts 61 percent Q3 revenue surge
• Wisconsin venture picture tied to Midwestern neighbors