About Forward BIOLABS
Forward BIOLABS is a co-working life science lab ideally suited for start-up companies. Labs are fully equipped, maintained, and supported, and offer regular interaction among startup teams, between companies and industry sponsors and investors.
Native of northeast Wisconsin, after completing her bachelor’s degree at UW-Stevens Point, Eckerly moved to Madison where she worked closely with a variety of biotechnology startups, many of which were started through UW-Madison. From there, she co-founded Forward BIOLABS and earned an MBA and MS in biotechnology from UW-Madison.
CAN YOU TALK BRIEFLY ABOUT YOUR ROAD TO WISCONSIN? HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN OUR STATE?
When images come to mind of an idyllic small town, that is where I grew up – a small farm town in northeast Wisconsin. The town of Seymour has great schools and parks, a summertime festival with a parade, and a pond where we spent all our summer days. After completing a bachelor’s degree at UW-Stevens Point, I moved to Madison to join PPD, a pharmaceutical product development firm. One of my clients, a startup company working on an exciting new medical advancement, invited me to work for them in Boston but I loved Wisconsin too much to leave! That experience piqued my interest in startups. I joined Stratatech when it was a young startup working on a technology developed at UW-Madison, then helped biotech WiCell grow its business, and from there co-founded Forward BIOLABS. Along the way I became a double Badger, earning an MBA and MS in biotechnology from UW-Madison.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART ABOUT BEING A WISCONSIN RESIDENT?
I love the four seasons and the ability to get out and enjoy pristine nature. My husband, three children, and I fill our summers with camping and swimming. In the fall, we enjoy apple picking and hiking in the crisp, colorful woods. During winter, we like sledding and snowshoeing activities. And as spring arrives, we eagerly plant the garden and embark on bike rides along the trails. Wisconsin’s State Parks are frequent destinations for our outdoor adventures – we have favorite spots and continue to find new ones! We also love Madison. It’s brimming with everything larger cities are known for but without the drawbacks. There is great food, music, and a thriving art scene, diversity, a top-notch university, fantastic k-12 schools, and abundant career opportunities.
BRIEFLY EXPLAIN WHAT FORWARD BIOLABS DOES AND WHAT IT OFFERS TO EARLY-STAGE COMPANIES.
Forward BIOLABS is a non-profit co-working life science lab for early-stage startup companies. With more than 400 pieces of shared equipment and operational support, startups are launched here with immense capital efficiency. Additionally, when a startup joins Forward BIOLABS, they are joining a nurturing environment where they receive mentoring, cultivate relationships, and collaborate with other companies. Startups served come from a wide variety of industries, from medtech and biohealth related to water tech, agriculture and food tech, to clean tech and energy.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE WITH WEDC?
Forward BIOLABS was a recipient of the Center of Excellence grant from WEDC which was pivotal in our early stages. I credit WEDC with the foresight of the impact Forward BIOLABS would have when they awarded the grant.
Another experience was the opportunity to attend a large international conference with WEDC this past spring. I was impressed with their team; these folks love Wisconsin and know so much about our state!
WHAT EXCITES YOU THE MOST ABOUT THE WISCONSIN BUSINESS CLIMATE GOING FORWARD?
There has never been more support for entrepreneurs and startups, and this support comes from such a wide variety of Wisconsin stakeholders. At least once a week someone tells me “I just want to help, what can I do?” There is also an increasing recognition of the favorable economics and talent pools Wisconsin has from more mature companies headquartered out of state. Companies that once thought to grow in other states are not only staying in Wisconsin but building here. It is a great time to launch, move, or establish a site for your company in Wisconsin.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO SEE IMPROVE IN THE WISCONSIN BUSINESS CLIMATE GOING FORWARD?
While the startup ecosystem has grown substantially, there is still more that can be done. From working with more than 35 startups, we know what Forward BIOLABS can do to be even more impactful in increasing startup success. I’m hopeful the state will provide more capital to venture funds supporting local entrepreneurs. The startups we invest in today will become the large employers of tomorrow; it’s like Lincoln said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”