26 Jan Leonhart resigns as director of Wisconsin Biotech Association
Madison, Wis. – Saying it’s time for a change, Jim Leonhart has resigned as executive director of the Wisconsin Biotechnology and Medical Device Association after eight years at the helm.
Reached by phone Monday evening, Leonhart confirmed that he would like to pursue opportunities that blend his interest in biotechnology and education. He declined to acknowledge that teaching college students would he part of his future, saying only that there are “various options.”
“What I’d like to do is get closer to young people in the professional time that I have left,” he said.
Leonhart said his decision was influenced by Sir Ken Robinson, who was a keynote speaker at the association’s annual conference in 2006. Robinson, who Leonhart caught up with at a recent Wisconsin Arts Board event, has written two books, “Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative” and more recently, “The Element.” Leonhart said both works have had a profound impact on him.
“He talking about the point at which natural talent meets personal passion,” Leonhart said. “It’s caused me to think about things a little differently.”
The WBMDA, formed in 1987, provides its member companies with entrepreneurial education services and legislative advocacy. In 2004, the association was expanded to include medical device companies.
Leonhart said the biotech association has consistently met its membership targets and has become more active on the advocacy front, citing the creation of the Act 255 investor tax credit program and proposed improvements to it. The law receives a good deal of the credit for increasing the amount of angel capital invested in Wisconsin.
Leonhart also said the association soon would unveil a new, more interactive website to serve members. He had mentioned at the association’s 2008 annual conference that a name change was in the offing, but the re-branding has yet to be made official.
“It’s been a great run at the Wisconsin Biotech and Medical Device Association, and we’ve put the association in a position to do greater things in the future,” he said.
The association said its board of directors already has begun a search for a new executive director.
Asked if he would prefer that the association conduct a national search or focus on someone inside the state, Leonhart deferred to the board. However, if it wanted to conduct a national search, he said the association enjoys a strong reputation nationally, thanks to recognition as one of the seven strongest state associations at the annual BIO conference.
“People know about this association,” he said. “They should be able to attract some real talent.”
He called the state’s biotechnology industry, a “real keeper” for Wisconsin.
Laura E. Strong, president of the association’s board and an executive with Madison’s Quintessence Biosciences, said in a release that the association is grateful to Leonhart, whose tenure was marked by the organization’s transition to a free-standing, independent organization.
“Moving forward, the association has a strong foundation to support all of our members,” Strong said. “We wish Jim all the best in his new endeavors.”