Forward BIOLABS, a co-working life science lab that helps bioscience startups grow, is celebrating early successes and honoring the companies that support the organization. While business incubators are not uncommon, Forward BIOLABS boosts support by providing laboratory equipment and staff to manage safety, training, and other lab operations for entrepreneurs to reduce their initial investment expenses. Currently, 16 startups are utilizing the Forward BIOLABS space, and five have graduated to continue growing their companies in their own spaces. Forward BIOLABS also thrives on the excitement of these startup companies innovating and experimenting under the same roof. Founding sponsors, platinum sponsors, and 10 additional supporting sponsors committed $4.5 million to make Forward BIOLABS a reality, investment that included equipment, in-kind services, and cash.
“These sponsors are pillars in supporting innovation and entrepreneurship, and the foundation of what makes Forward BIOLABS possible,” said Jessica Martin Eckerly, the organization’s CEO and co-founder. “They recognized a unique opportunity to create a valuable asset for our bioscience startup ecosystem by enabling early-stage companies to operate efficiently while advancing cutting-edge technologies.”
Founding sponsors are:
- MGE (Madison Gas and Electric): The MGE Innovation Center at University Research Park has housed more than 70 early-stage companies since 1989. Forward BIOLABS startups have the option to move to the MGE Innovation Center after graduating.
- Promega: A global biotech company founded in Madison, Promega regularly provides biotech startups with core lab technologies and consultative support in both science and business development.
- URP (University Research Park): URP, a University of Wisconsin-Madison affiliate, began in 1984 and has grown into an internationally recognized research and technology park. Four of five Forward BIOLABS startups have graduated to their own independent labs within URP.
- WARF (Wisconsin Research Alumni Research Foundation): Another longtime supporter of scientific research within the UW-Madison community. Several startups at Forward BIOLABS are based on WARF technology.
- WEDC (Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation): Their support of Wisconsin’s biomanufacturing initiative continues to drive industry and workforce development, startup activity, innovation, and much more.
Platinum sponsors are:
- Findorff: The Midwest’s most trusted and experienced contractor, with over 130 years of expertise in planning and constructing research and manufacturing facilities, laboratories, technology, and healthcare spaces.
- Gilson: This international company develops liquid handling, purification, and extraction solutions with a focus on helping life scientists at the bench achieve more productive research and verifiable data.
- University of Wisconsin-Madison: UW-Madison is a prolific research institution that connects many of our partners and startups, ranking as one of the world’s best post-secondary institutions.
- WiCell: WiCell is a world leader in human pluripotent stem cell research support, including cell banking, characterization testing, and distribution of stem cell lines. WiCell utilized excess capacity to initially help one startup in 2016, initiating the idea that expanded to become Forward BIOLABS.
Forward BIOLABS is an important feeder launching emerging growth companies into Wisconsin’s nationally recognized hub for biomanufacturing and expanding technology-based companies. Wisconsin’s collaborative and innovative spirit is achieving major economic and medical impacts, according to the 2020 Wisconsin Biohealth: Industry Landscape and Economic Impact Report. The total state economic impact of the biohealth industry is $28.8 billion and organizations employ more than 46,000 individuals.
“Forward BIOLABS fills a gap in Madison’s startup ecosystem, radically reducing the amount of capital it takes to launch a new life-science company or prove out a new concept,” said Aaron Olver, Forward BIOLABS board president and managing director at University Research Park. “It offers a unique platform in the Midwest.”
About Forward BIOLABS
Forward BIOLABS, based in Madison, Wisconsin, is an 8,700-square-foot, co-working life science lab that helps bioscience startups grow. The flexible, affordable labs are fully equipped and maintained, and provide significant capital efficiencies gained by not spending time and money on lab equipment and setup. The biotech labs include lab benches, cold units, lab equipment, private offices, office desks, conference rooms, and a kitchen. Forward BIOLABS offers equipment, tech support, and maintenance, lab waste removal, PPE, lab coat laundering, monitoring systems, and specialized, user-specific training and networking. Forward BIOLABS’ mission is to make it easier to start a biotech company by providing co-working lab space, training and a community in which entrepreneurship flourishes. Forward BIOLABS and partners BioForward Wisconsin and UW-Madison’s Forward BIO Institute are part of a collaborative initiative launched in 2018 to boost training, technology development and commercialization in biotech.