UWM's Innovation Campus lands major office project; 350 jobs planned

Privately financed building adds momentum to satellite campus in Wauwatosa

By Tom Daykin of the Journal Sentinel

When University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee officials began working on plans for a satellite campus in Wauwatosa, they pitched the idea as a way to create partnerships between academia and business.

On Wednesday, four years of work led to an announcement of the first privately financed development at Innovation Campus. And that news could help attract more projects.

ABB Inc. plans to develop its new Milwaukee-area headquarters at Innovation Campus, bringing 350 jobs to that location. The three-story, 95,000-square-foot building will be located on three acres in the western portion of the business park, which is east of Highway 45, between W. Watertown Plank Road and Swan Blvd.

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The Wisconsin Biotech Story: Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Luke Timmerman

They say you can’t go home again. But sometimes you can go home after a few years and notice that your home has changed quite a bit.

This past week, I went back to Wisconsin, where I’m originally from, to visit family and do some reporting. I stopped by the capitol, Madison, to take stock of what’s happening in Wisconsin biotech, and maybe come away with a story idea or two.

My bias coming into this visit was bi-coastal: Most of the action in biotech happens on the East and West coasts. Wisconsin, like several other Midwestern states, has a great research university, but hasn’t quite been able to leverage that asset into a thriving commercial biotech cluster. Like a lot of states and regions around the world, Wisconsin officials have worked hard to create a biotech hub, without making it into the major leagues. There’s a lack of venture capital, and the business culture doesn’t really support super-speculative biotech startups. When I left Wisconsin a dozen years ago, it was famous for its work in human embryonic stem cell research, but many people were moaning about how the commercial rights were licensed to a company in the San Francisco Bay Area (Geron).

Those perceptions, as I soon realized on this trip, are out of date and only half-true.

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Payoff may be near for Exact Sciences

By Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel

Exact Sciences Corp. was one of the top-performing stocks in Wisconsin over the last year.

And that was despite reporting losses totaling $60 million over the 39 months ended March 31.

Analyst John Collopy uses just one word to describe the Madison biotech company's losses: "Awful."

The dismal financial results didn't stop Exact's stock from rising 39% so far this year. The company also was the sixth-best performing Wisconsin-based stock for the 12 months ended June 30, according to a Bloomberg Financial Markets report provided by Landaas & Co. A $1,000 investment in Exact at the beginning of June 2011 would have grown to more than $1,246.51 by the end of the month,

Exact also has raised $117.4 million in stock offerings in the last three years.

"Despite all the travails they have gone through from a profit-and-loss standpoint, some pretty sophisticated investors are willing to put money into this company," said Collopy, director of research for Oshkosh-based brokerage firm Carl M. Hennig Inc.

The losses, and the cash infusions from investors, are part of the well-worn pathway biotech companies follow.

Biotechs must raise enormous sums of money to develop, clinically validate and win regulatory approval for their products. Sales and profits come later.

Exact has been on that pathway longer than most.

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Biofuels patent marks milestone for Madison research hub

By Thomas Content of the Journal Sentinel

C5-6 Technologies of Middleton and the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center in Madison are celebrating a milestone - the awarding of the first patent from the center's next-generation biofuels research.

The patent covers research into a heat-resistant enzyme that is well suited to break down the sugars contained inside the cells of plants.

C5-6 is the renewable fuels arm of the Middleton biotech firm Lucigen. The Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center was founded in 2007 as one of three national centers created by the U.S. Department of Energy to focus on research and development for bioenergy. The center was awarded $125 million over five years.

"It's a good technology and, as much as anything, it makes an important milestone in terms of the center," said David Pluymers, the center's intellectual property manager. "We've been at this for about 4½ years now. We went through a start-up phase and moved to a point where our labs really got rolling."

The Madison center's mission is to find and develop breakthrough technologies that can enable transportation fuels to be made affordably from plants that aren't also food sources. Examples of these nonfood biofuel sources, known as cellulosic biomass, include the corn stalks and switch grass.

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Mequon company - Endece LLC - may be on the verge of CURING MS

By Alysha Schertz

Multiple sclerosis is a debilitating, often deadly disease that attacks the body's central nervous system. It can devastate a victim's brain, spinal cord, optic nerves and vision.

Approximately 400,000 people in the United States are living with MS. Worldwide, more than 2.1 million people are afflicted with the disease, many with different symptoms and levels of severity.

The disease is unpredictable. While treatments and medication currently on the market can help slow down the attacks, there is no cure.

Yet.

But the cure for MS just might be sitting right in southeastern Wisconsin's backyard.

Endece LLC, a Mequon-based drug discovery company, recently formed Endece Neural, a subsidiary company focused on neurological drug development. More specifically, Endece Neural is pursing the development of a drug that could help repair and even reverse the damage caused by MS.

Endece's work is getting some attention in the world of MS research.

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UW scientists grow neurons that integrate into brain

By Mark Johnson of the Journal Sentinel

Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have grown human embryonic stem cells into neurons that appear capable of adapting themselves to the brain's machinery by sending and receiving messages from other cells, raising hopes that medicine may one day use this tool to treat patients with such disorders as Parkinson's and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

Researchers inserted the human cells into the brains of mice where they successfully integrated themselves into the wiring. Then the UW team applied a new technology, using light to stimulate the human cells and watching as they in turn activated mouse brain cells.

In a lab dish, the brain cells or neurons began firing simultaneously "like a power surge lighting up a building," said Jason Weick, an assistant scientist at UW who worked on the study published online Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Weick said the use of light stimulation, called optogenetics, raises the possibility of modifying transplanted brain cells, in effect turning them up or down like the dimmer control on a light.

"You can imagine that if the transplanted cells don't behave as they should, you could use this system to modulate them using light," said Su-Chun Zhang, a UW professor of neuroscience and one of the authors of the new study.

For years, scientists have talked of the possibility of growing neurons in a dish to replace damaged cells in the brain, but there always have been questions about whether the transplanted cells could become fully functional.

But the new work at UW suggests the idea may be poised to make the transition from theory to reality.

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Institutions need to collaborate to turn research into jobs, report says

By Karen Herzog of the Journal Sentinel

Institutions must work together to transfer technologies from academic research laboratories to those who will use them to create businesses and jobs, and ultimately boost southeast Wisconsin's economy, says a report released Monday by the Public Policy Forum.

"It is clear that the region's academic research institutions have yet to capture the full economic development potential of their research," says the report by the nonpartisan, nonprofit group. "By collaborating more closely to identify local discoveries that fill gaps in the global market, and by working together to help create or grow local players in that market, academic leaders could take better advantage of their rapidly emerging research prowess."

Academic researchers seeking to bring new technologies to market may or may not get assistance from their institution, if the institution doesn't have a strong entrepreneurial climate, the report says. The greatest opportunity for economic impact comes from start-ups and spin-outs, which tend to be local, it says.

"There is consensus that the quality of the research is high, but that there is more potential for economic impact in these discoveries than is currently realized," the report concludes. "The regional data, as compared to national averages, seem to bear this out."

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Legislation to fund biotech firms introduced

Bill would invest bioscience payroll taxes in growth

By Kathleen Gallagher and Mark Johnson of the Journal Sentinel

With a venture capital plan still being debated, two Republican legislators have introduced a bill that would use payroll taxes from biosciences firms to fund Wisconsin companies in industries ranging from drug development to soybean processing.

The Next Generation Jobs Reserve bill would divert payroll tax revenue from jobs added by bioscience companies into a fund that would provide grants, loans and direct investments to selected companies in the industry.

"If this bill does what we think it will do, you'll have legislators champing at the bit to do it for information technology, 3-D printing - whatever the next industry cluster is in Wisconsin," said Scott Kelly, chief of staff for Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine), one of the bill's sponsors.

The Assembly sponsor is Rep. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green). Reps. Louis Molepske Jr. (D-Stevens Point) and Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) also signed onto the bill.

If the measure had been passed a year ago, the fund would be receiving its first injection of cash, about $15 million, based on the state's bioscience job growth of about 3%, said Bryan Renk, executive director of BioForward, the trade organization for Wisconsin's bioscience industry. BioForward worked with legislators to develop the bill and will support it, Renk said. Money for the bioscience fund would be capped at $50 million a year, or $500 million in total.

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Tech trend brings growth for start-up

By Guy Boulton of the Journal Sentinel

When Jim Prekop joined TeraMedica Healthcare Technology as president and CEO in 2005, the Wauwatosa company's investors asked him first to determine whether closing the start-up would be the best course.

The company opted to push ahead, and its investors now may be rewarded for their patience as the market recognizes the need for TeraMedica's software.

TeraMedica sells software for managing the millions of diagnostic images stored throughout health care systems.

The size and number of those images - digital X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, mammograms, ultrasounds - have grown exponentially with advances in technology.

They typically are stored on different systems in various departments and locations throughout a health care system. Yet they need to be accessible through the electronic health records now taking hold throughout health care.

TeraMedica's software enables those images to be stored and managed - more efficiently and for less money - from one central repository. That repository, in turn, can be linked to an electronic health record.

The company, founded in 2001, knew that image storage would become a headache at some point for health systems. But it acknowledges that it was a bit ahead of the market.

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