Translational research is an important driver of economic activity. Commercialization of research not only benefits the public through life-changing products and technologies, but also creates thriving business and job opportunities. However, translating research into commercial products requires entrepreneurs and innovators to first demonstrate for potential investors that their products can be produced on a large scale.

In an effort to bring the groundbreaking research happening at the University of Wisconsin out of the labs and into the marketplace, WEDC has awarded a $750,000 grant to BioForward Wisconsin to establish the Forward BIO Initiative, a new center of excellence for biomanufacturing that aims to lower the barriers to commercialization by connecting research discoveries with the resources needed to translate them into products.

Lisa Johnson, executive director of BioForward, at the Forward BIO Initiative announcement in September 2018

This new center of excellence is committed to advancing Wisconsin’s position as a national leader in the biomanufacturing industry, and consists of three components, each with a specific purpose:

  • The Forward BIO Institute, based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will support transformative research in this emerging field and establish public-private partnerships to connect UW inventors and researchers with industry leaders. The institute will also serve as a feeder of startups by providing a workforce skilled in both biomanufacturing and relevant business concepts. As part of this initiative, the institute will establish a new master’s degree program at UW-Madison in biomanufacturing innovation.
  • Forward BIOLABS will be a new, nonprofit shared laboratory facility that will provide fully supported lab and office space. The availability of the shared space will free up capital for startups by eliminating the need to spend their limited resources on leasing space, purchasing equipment and setting up a lab. The 8,700-square-foot facility will be in the University Research Park in Madison, with lab space for up to 20 scientists and common co-working space to allow members to collaborate.
  • BioForward Wisconsin will facilitate partnerships among government, academia and private industry, as well as marketing the economic impact of local biomanufacturing companies and Wisconsin’s biohealth industry. The organization will connect industry partners to the Forward BIO Institute and Forward BIOLABS to ensure corporate engagement with entrepreneurs.

WEDC’s investment in the Forward BIO Initiative is part of the organization’s long-term strategy of advancing targeted, high-growth business clusters to develop high-quality jobs and significant job growth in Wisconsin. WEDC-supported centers of excellence – including the Global Water Center and the Energy Innovation Center – serve as cluster “anchors” around which educational R&D, corporate R&D and commercialization, external investment and company attraction connections are made.

Wisconsin is home to 1,900 biohealth companies that employ more than 44,000 people. In 2017, state exports of medical and scientific instruments totaled $2.2 billion. The Forward BIO Initiative will play a key role in building on the success Wisconsin has already achieved in the biomanufacturing industry.

The collaboration guides projects from pre-incorporation within the Forward BIO Institute to the facilitation of efficient startup launches by Forward BIOLABS, with assistance and guidance from BioForward Wisconsin’s industry partners.

To learn more about the Forward BIO Initiative and its partner organizations, please visit www.forwardbioinitiative.org.

INsource newsletter
October 2018