Forward BIOLABS brings the perks of co-working to the lab

In 2019, as John Pattison and Ian Johnson prepared to leave their San Francisco jobs to launch their own company producing meat from cell cultures, the big question was where. They weighed a number of cities before settling on a choice some might find surprising: Madison, Wisconsin.  The deciding factor? A new co-working laboratory called Forward BIOLABS that would substantially reduce the company’s startup costs. At the shared facility, Pattison and Johnson could pay lower rent, avoid a lengthy lease and forgo purchasing costly equipment. Pattison was familiar with the model, as such co-working labs, whether private or nonprofit, are......

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Investment in Forward BIOLABS paying off for bioscience startups

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......

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UW–Madison’s $30 Billion Impact on the Wisconsin Economy

UW–Madison, UW-affiliated organizations and UW-related startups contribute $30.8 billion per year to the Wisconsin economy, according to a February 2021 report issued by Northstar Analytics, LLC. This economic activity supports more than 232,000 jobs and generates $1 billion in state and local taxes. This includes consideration of the direct activities of the university and UW-affiliated organizations as well as the economic activity generated by UW students and visitors. The study also reports on the growing economic impact from UW-related startups that originate from UW research and/or are created by UW faculty, staff, and alumni. This area of economic impact was......

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UW retains top 10 national research ranking

The National Science Foundation has released its 2019 fiscal year Higher Education Research and Development Survey, or HERD, data, showing that the University of Wisconsin–Madison ranked 8th place in the national research rankings for public and private universities. UW–Madison also ranked 8th in the last survey covering the 2018 fiscal year. Among public universities, UW–Madison ranked 6th, the same ranking as in fiscal year 2018. Data on UW–Madison’s 2019 expenditures for research show the university increased its annual expenditures over the previous year, reporting nearly $1.3 billion in annual expenditures for research across all fields, about half of which comes from federal......

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Forward BIOLABS leverages coworking to support biotech startups

As coworking becomes more popular among freelancers and small business professionals, the biotechnology industry is also seeing new opportunities to leverage the model. Madison-based Forward BIOLABS is a biotech coworking space that allows biotech startups to get off the ground without the overhead and supply cost. On average, Forward BIOLABS helps reduce the time to startup by six to nine months without the hefty overhead price tag of getting a lab up and running. The coworking space includes offices and a fully equipped life sciences lab. Most of the equipment in the lab is used sporadically, explained founder Jessica Martin Eckerly.......

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WARF announces 2020 WARF Innovation Award winners

Selected from more than 400 innovation disclosures, two University of Wisconsin-Madison teams working at the frontiers of cancer immunotherapy and bioengineering have taken top honors from WARF. The 2020 WARF Innovation Award winners are: Jenny Gumperz and Dana Baiu (medical microbiology & immunology) for their work, Killer Combination: Multicell Conjugates for Activating Antigen-Specific T Cell Responses. By combining two kinds of cells found in the body, their technology could open up a potentially transformative new approach to treating cancer, one that is faster and more specific than current methods. The other winning team is Randolph Ashton (biomedical engineering), Gavin Knight,......

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Imbed Biosciences chases nasal spray to combat Covid-19 spread

Imbed Biosciences Inc., a closely-held biotech that makes a product for pain and infections in complex wounds, says a reformulation of its biggest product as a nasal spray could help prevent the spread of Covid-19. The Madison, Wisconsin-based company says it has developed an antiviral formulation of silver nanoparticles, based on its already U.S. approved Microlyte Matrix wound therapy, which could be used to prevent the early spread of Covid-19. The company hopes to start testing the spray in patients soon. “We have collected data from an independent viral lab that shows it has efficacy against not only Covid but......

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Spotlight Therapeutics closes $30M series A led by GV to advance pipeline of non-viral CRISPR gene editing biologics

Spotlight Therapeutics, Inc., a biotechnology company developing non-viral gene editing therapeutics for direct in vivo editing of target genes, closed its Series A financing bringing the total raised to $30 million. The financing was led by GV, formerly Google Ventures, with participation from additional undisclosed investors. Realizing the full revolutionary potential of CRISPR genome editing requires the ability to edit target genes directly in the right cells of the human body. Spotlight's proprietary technology platform develops programmable CRISPR ribonucleoproteins (RNPs) optimized for in vivo cell-targeted delivery. The modular biologics approach is designed to avoid the complexity and toxicities associated with......

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Dianomi Therapeutics’ presentation at the International mRNA Health Conference highlights strategies to improve mRNA-based therapies

Data presented indicates delivery and improved the efficacy of mRNA-based therapeutics in animal models Dr. William Murphy, Chief Scientific Officer of Dianomi Therapeutics and Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin, recently presented at the International mRNA Health Conference. Murphy discussed how mineral-coated microparticles (MCMs)–or bioengineered materials mimicking human bones and teeth and archaeological fossils–can stabilize, protect and effectively deliver mRNA-based therapies. Dr. Murphy addressed the importance of a safe and efficacious delivery system, an area under heavy investigation and of great clinical need. Recent data from his lab showed that MCMs can both deliver and improve the efficacy......

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2020 WARF Innovation Award Finalists

Recognizing High Potential Disclosures Each fall the WARF Innovation Awards recognize some of the best of inventions at UW-Madison. WARF receives hundreds of new invention disclosures each year. Of these disclosures, the WARF Innovation Award finalists are considered exceptional in the following criteria: Criteria Has potential for high long-term impact Presents an exciting solution to a known important problem Could produce broad benefits for humankind Each of the two Innovation Award winners receive $10,000, split among UW inventors.2020 WARF Innovation Award Finalists Bridging Biology and Electronics for “Hybrid” Biosensing | Watch Video Bhuvana Krishnaswamy (Electrical & Computer Engineering) Megan McClean (Biomedical Engineering) High-Energy......

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Study points way to possible new treatment for ligament injuries

Each year ligament injuries sideline thousands of athletes and regular citizens. Recovery is long and painful, and sometimes a return to full function is never realized due to scar formation—a factor that makes ligament injuries prone to further damage. A new exosomes study released today in STEM CELLS may lead to a welcomed solution in the future. This study demonstrates how exosomes—sacs of cell membrane in the body that shuttle proteins and genetic information between cells—and exosome-educated macrophages (EEMs)—a type of white blood cell that typically kills microorganisms and removes dead cells, but also could stimulate the action of other immune system cells—can......

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Women in Science: How COVID-19 is impacting the burgeoning biohealth sector

The work Cathy Rasmussen does at Forward BIO Institute can’t be boiled down into a neat, cocktail-party answer. And yet, the effects of her work have the potential to touch millions of lives. As assistant director at the Forward BIO Institute, Rasmussen is part of a team helping guide academic innovations into pharmaceutical realities. The Forward BIO Institute works alongside academic researchers, helping them structure their work in such a way that it will be primed for FDA approval and acceptance into the private sector. In that way, they bridge the gap between discovery research happening in academia and development work more......

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New report puts statewide biohealth industry economic impact at $28B

Wisconsin Biohealth: Industry Landscape and Economic Impact ReportToday, BioForward Wisconsin, the collective voice of Wisconsin’s robust and comprehensive biohealth cluster representing more than 220 member organizations, shared results of the Wisconsin Biohealth: Industry Landscape and Economic Impact Report which highlights the statewide biohealth industry as a leading economic growth and innovation driver for Wisconsin. According to the report, prepared by TEConomy Partners, LLC, a global leader in research, analysis and strategy for innovation-based economic development, Wisconsin’s biohealth industry is outperforming most major state industries in terms of job growth and wages. Among the highlights within the third-party report are: Economic Impact: The total state......

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Shaping the Endless Frontier: How the Midwest Can Spark the U.S. Economy

Part Two: How the Endless Frontier Act Will Catalyze Innovation and Economic Growth This 60-minute discussion will include congressional co-sponsors and advocates of the Endless Frontier Act who will explain why now is the time, and the Midwest is the place, for bold investments in science, technology and innovation. For the last century, the United States had been the undisputed, global leader in university and industry research. Our panelists will explain how targeted federal investment in emerging growth centers focused on quantum computing, artificial intelligence, biotechnology and manufacturing can extend and expand U.S. leadership into the twenty-first century and beyond.......

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Badgers vs. The Pandemic

Louis Pasteur pioneered the rabies vaccine, and Jonas Salk the polio vaccine. By contrast, conquering coronavirus has been a team effort. UW–Madison faculty, staff, and alumni are playing a part, and not just in the laboratory. Badgers have joined the fight across a range of professions, whether treating patients on the front lines or delivering food to grocery stores. Here are eight heroes who’ve stepped up during the pandemic, determined to put the Wisconsin Idea into action. Hats off to them and countless others who will — with courage and creativity — help us through this crisis. Dr. Hau Le, a......

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UW researchers devise approach to treat rare, incurable form of blindness

Scientists at the University of Wisconsin‒Madison have published a proof-of-concept method to correct an inherited form of macular degeneration that causes blindness, and that is currently untreatable. Best vitelliform macular degeneration, or Best disease, is an inherited eye condition that typically leads to blindness over the course of a few decades. The disease can be caused by more than two hundred mutations in the BEST1 gene. The researchers were able to correct the disease in stem cells from patients with BEST1 mutations by overwhelming broken copies of the gene with many functional copies of BEST1. This approach worked for most, but not all, of the BEST1 mutations that......

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Label-free autofluorescence imaging method differentiates between active, and off-duty T cells

Researchers headed by a team at the University of Wisconsin (UW)-Madison, and the Morgridge Institute for Research, have developed a novel label-free imaging technique that exploits autofluorescence in cells to differentiate between active and off-duty T cells, at the single cell level. They suggest the technology, known as autofluorescence lifetime imaging, could be used to help evaluate T cell involvement in immunotherapies for cancer treatment or autoimmune diseases. “It’s super novel,” said the Morgridge Institute’s Melissa Skala, PhD, who is also an associate professor of biomedical engineering at UW-Madison. “Most people aren’t using these techniques—you don’t see a lot of......

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Tiny mineral particles are better vehicles for promising gene therapy

University of Wisconsin–Madison researchers have developed a safer and more efficient way to deliver a promising new method for treating cancer and liver disorders and for vaccination — including a COVID-19 vaccine from Moderna Therapeutics that has advanced to clinical trials with humans. The technology relies on inserting into cells pieces of carefully designed messenger RNA (mRNA), a strip of genetic material that human cells typically transcribe from a person’s DNA in order to make useful proteins and go about their business. Problems delivering mRNA safely and intact without running afoul of the immune system have held back mRNA-based therapy,......

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New tool for assessing heart muscle cells helps unlock their potential

Heart muscle cells made from stem cells could be used to screen drugs or develop cell-based therapies for heart disease. But these cells, called cardiomyocytes, are often immature, disorganized and unable to behave together like working muscle tissue. University of Wisconsin–Madison researchers have created a new way to study how fully capable heart cells organize themselves into muscle with rod-like units called myofibrils which can contract together to pump blood. What they learn could help them steer cardiomyocytes into more useful stages of development. “We want to produce mature cardiomyocytes with internal structures that are nicely organized and aligned, which......

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Versatile nanoparticle offers targeted transportation to cells

University of Wisconsin-Madison engineers have developed a nanoparticle that could safely carry a variety of payloads into targeted cells, giving researchers a versatile, nonviral option for delivering drugs, gene-editing tools, DNA and more. Shaoqin Sarah Gong, a Vilas Distinguished Professor of biomedical engineering and faculty member at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, and collaborators across the UW-Madison campus have detailed their work in a paper that’s published online and slated to appear in the August 2020 issue of the Journal of Controlled Release. The group created a hybrid nanoparticle that features a silica-metal-organic framework—built within a water droplet—that allows it to transport a range of cargoes......

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An exciting development, CRISPR lets UW-Madison researchers edit genes

In Last 7 Years, CRISPR Research Goes From Infancy To Core Part Of Science Curriculum At UW-Madison. On a crisp, sunny February afternoon in Kris Saha's lab in Madison, doctoral candidate in biomedical engineering Nicole Piscopo put a petri dish of cells underneath a high-powered microscope. The cells, which were gene-edited to include a gene from sea anemones, were glowing red. "So these cells are human melanoma and then the part of them that glows red is the nucleus ... these are a human cancer line that have been gene-edited to fluoresce red," Piscopo said. Engineering these cells to light up enables Piscopo to more easily count......

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BioForward Wisconsin: Steps up to provide eye protection and gloves to agencies serving people with disabilities and seniors

This week, eight Madison-area community provider agencies will receive critical personal protection equipment (PPE) to help meet immediate needs thanks to the efforts of BioForward Wisconsin, the leading advocate for the biohealth industry in the state. BioForward worked with The Center for Patient Partnerships at UW Madison which helped facilitate the donation. BioForward Wisconsin, which advocates for and unites biohealth companies to develop integrated health solutions that define the future of healthcare, announced it had secured and would distribute more than 1,100 pieces of protective eyewear and 7,000 pairs of gloves to local organizations that serve people with developmental disabilities and......

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Biotech startups share space, services at Madison’s Forward BIOLABS

After Tobias Zutz raised $900,000 for Gregor Diagnostics, his Madison startup developing a new test for prostate cancer, he didn’t want to spend a big chunk of the money on lab equipment right away. He moved into Forward BIOLABS, a biotech incubator at University Research Park on Madison’s West Side. At the nearly 10,000-square-foot facility, where users pay rent month to month, Zutz and his four employees share microscopes, biosafety hoods, plate readers, pipettes and office space with 10 other small companies. “If we would have had to set up our own lab, it would have cost $200,000 or $250,000 to......

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WARF Accelerator Chronicle: Quality Control

Emerging cell therapies are giving hope to cancer patients. But to guide the process new analytical tools are desperately needed. Melissa Skala and her team are going all in. There was a time when biomedical engineer Melissa Skala dreamed of becoming an astronaut. But at a young age a fascination with physics, and then with light, emerged. It was Lake Mendota that first drew Skala – a skilled sailor – to Madison. Today, Prof. Skala leads the Optical Microscopy in Medicine Lab at the Morgridge Institute for Research. Her program is among the most diverse and dynamic on campus, bridging fundamental......

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Dianomi Therapeutics exclusively licenses nucleic acid technologies from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation

Dianomi Therapeutics Inc. today announced that it has licensed a second suite of intellectual property (IP) from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), expanding the use of its Mineral Coated Microparticle (MCM) technology into nucleic acid therapy. Dianomi's core MCM technology mimics the natural, inherent properties of mineralized tissues to stabilize and control the release of active drug molecules and improve their therapeutic function, thus addressing common limitations of artificial polymer-based drug delivery systems.  The newly acquired IP covers compositions and methods for delivering nucleic acid-based therapies and has broad utility across nucleic acid fields, including DNA, mRNA and RNAi......

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Accelerating UW-Madison discoveries on the path to commercialization: The WARF Accelerator Program

As part of their ongoing mission to support scientific research within the UW–Madison community, and translate innovation to the marketplace, WARF manages a technology development program called the WARF Accelerator Program. This program invests in proof-of-concept milestones that validate market potential, demonstrate commercial value, and de-risk technology to attract industry partners or investors. In 2018-2019 alone, the program awarded over $2.4 million to help inventors bridge the oft-described “valley of death” through developing prototypes, executing critical field trials, assessing markets, determining customer requirements, and identifying collaborators and potential investors. The program market focus areas include computer science and engineering, clean technology, food......

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Anne Smith to accept Excellence in Entrepreneurial Education award

Anne Smith, Founder of the UW-Madison Law and Entrepreneurship Clinic and Director of Legal Strategy for the Forward BIO Institute, has been announced as this year’s recipient of the “Excellence in Entrepreneurial Education” award. Sponsored by the Wisconsin Technology Council, the “Triple E” award was launched to highlight the importance of teaching and mentoring entrepreneurs. Smith’s selection was based on: Delivering outstanding quality in teaching entrepreneurship and/or mentoring entrepreneurs, in or out of the classroom Stimulating innovative methods for teaching or mentoring entrepreneurs Promoting entrepreneurial education and mentorship among scholars, policymakers, practitioners and others Providing a significant contribution to the......

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Nano-sized solution for efficient and versatile CRISPR gene editing

If used to make non-heritable genetic changes, CRISPR gene-editing technology holds tremendous promise for treating or curing a wide range of devastating disorders, including sickle cell disease, vision loss, and muscular dystrophy. Early efforts to deliver CRISPR-based therapies to affected tissues in a patient’s body typically have involved packing the gene-editing tools into viral vectors, which may cause unwanted immune reactions and other adverse effects. Now, NIH-supported researchers have developed an alternative CRISPR delivery system: nanocapsules. Not only do these tiny, synthetic capsules appear to pose a lower risk of side effects, they can be precisely customized to deliver their......

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Search moves forward for vice chancellor for research and graduate education

A search for the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s next vice chancellor for research and graduate education is moving forward. A 15-member search-and-screen committee, chaired by Bill Murphy, professor of biomedical engineering and orthopedics and rehabilitation, will conduct a nationwide search to replace Marsha Mailick, who retired in 2018. Norman Drinkwater, professor of oncology, served as interim vice chancellor before his retirement in August 2019, and Steve Ackerman, atmospheric science professor and former associate vice chancellor for research in the physical sciences, is currently in the interim role. A position description can be found at  “This is a tremendous opportunity and really an......

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Forward BIOLABS quickly outgrows its capacity

Within seven months of receiving a $750,000 Targeted Industry Project Grant from WEDC and $200,000 in seed funding from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, Forward BIOLABS had already maxed out its capacity and begun gearing up for expansion. This is evidence of the rapid and visible growth taking place in Wisconsin’s biomanufacturing sector—growth that Forward BIOLABS is playing a critical role in supporting. A fully equipped, maintained and shared life science lab, Forward BIOLABS gives early-stage companies breathing room and resources to transition research into successful commercialization. Based in Madison’s University Research Park, Forward BIOLABS operates a small laboratory and common office......

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Institute fostering the next generation of innovators

With UW - Madison ranking second in the total number of doctorates awarded in the United States, and Madison being nationally ranked among top tech cities, there is a significant opportunity to supplement the technical education of our trainees to promote and foster the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs. As part of its ongoing workforce development efforts, the Forward BIO Institute has launched the Innovators in Training program, targeted to existing doctoral candidates or post-doctoral trainees with an interest in biohealth and biomanufacturing technology. The core elements of the new program reflect the need for interdisciplinary training spanning business,......

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Building a biomanufacturing hotbed

To Bill Murphy and the other leaders of the Forward BIO Initiative, Wisconsin possesses all the elements to become a hub of biomanufacturing in the United States, the Midwest’s version of Boston or San Francisco in this rapidly expanding industry. “Our established, statewide excellence in research, technology development and workforce development make Wisconsin a powerhouse,” says Murphy, the Harvey D. Spangler Professor of biomedical engineering and orthopedics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the chair of the Forward BIO Initiative. “What we need is to coordinate and amplify the ingredients that are in place here. That is what Forward BIO is doing.” The initiative, which......

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D2P enriching campus entrepreneurial ecosystem through partnership with the Forward BIO Institute

Discovery to Product (D2P) serves as the front door to UW-Madison's entrepreneurial ecosystem, coordinating the new Innovate Network to connect faculty, staff, and students across campus with the right commercialization and entrepreneurship resources at the right time. They also provide direct mentoring and education to help campus innovators get their idea or invention to market. “We are pleased to collaborate with D2P, integrating their exemplary education and mentoring resources into the Institute’s existing programs,” states Forward BIO Institute’s Director Bill Murphy. “D2P’s experienced staff of technical and business experts will augment our staff’s expertise in biomanufacturing product development and project......

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Robust assembly of human tissues for disease modeling and discovery

Forward BIO Institute’s Director Bill Murphy recently gave the Plenary talk, entitled Robust Assembly of Human Tissues for Disease Modeling and Discovery, at the Society of Toxicology 2019 Annual Meeting in Baltimore, MD. Click here to view the presentation. The need for human, organotypic culture models coupled with the requirements of contemporary drug discovery and toxin screening (i.e. reproducibility, high throughput, transferability of data, clear mechanisms of action) frame an opportunity for a paradigm shift. The next generation of high throughput cell-based assay formats will require a broadly applicable set of tools for human tissue assembly and analysis. Toward that......

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Keegan to lead Forward BIO Institute’s public-private partnerships

As Wisconsin continues to establish its role as a nationwide leader in biomanufacturing, the Forward BIO Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison continues to grow, with the addition of Philip Keegan as its public-private partnership lead. Keegan comes from a background of commercialization and project management, having worked in the medical device industry and on platforms to improve drug therapies. “Phil provides a big boost to our Forward BIO Institute efforts,” says Bill Murphy, the Harvey D. Spangler Professor of biomedical engineering and director of the Forward BIO Institute. “He has the ideal background and mindset to connect innovative technologies......

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Stem cells, lab to clinic

In the fourth and final video of our stem cell series, Forward Bio Institute director Bill Murphy and David Gamm, director of the McPherson Eye Research Institute, where stem cells are being turned into retinal cells to try to find cures for blinding disorders, explain how stem cell scientists are working with industry to put scientific breakthroughs on the path to helping patients. February 7, 2019...

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Rasmussen joins Forward BIO Institute as assistant director

Cathy Rasmussen, an accomplished regenerative medicine and biomanufacturing researcher, has joined the recently established Forward BIO Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison as assistant director. Rasmussen, who holds a PhD from UW-Madison in cellular and molecular biology and is an inventor on four U.S. and numerous international patents, was previously part of the pioneering team at Madison biotechnology firm Stratatech, which was acquired by Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals in 2016. Her work was integral to developing the company’s technology and advancing its products toward commercialization. Rasmussen will work in partnership with William Murphy, director of the Forward BIO Institute and professor of biomedical engineering and......

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Biomanufacturing projects stepping out at UW-Madison

A series of projects aimed at advancing the human-health and economic impact of biomanufacturing is already benefiting from a new University of Wisconsin–Madison institute aimed at making the state a Midwestern hub of the ongoing merger of pharmaceuticals, medical devices and cutting-edge tissue engineering. The Forward BIO Institute, announced last month, intends to accelerate UW–Madison’s existing expertise in the next wave of biomedicine. William Murphy, a professor of biomedical engineering and orthopedics at UW–Madison, directs the Institute. Three associate directors have been named to the Institute. Sean Palecek, a professor of chemical and biological engineering, is director of research innovation. “Sean is......

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Initiative focuses on advanced technology innovations in biomanufacturing

A $750,000 grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. announced today (Sept. 6) establishes the Forward BIO Initiative, a collaborative effort to make Wisconsin a recognized center of excellence for biomanufacturing. The new initiative “leverages one of our key long-term strengths at UW, which is working at the crossroads where multiple disciplines connect,” UW–Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank told state and university leaders at the MG&E Innovation Center in University Research Park. “The Forward BIO Initiative will have everything it takes to amplify the impact of Wisconsin’s innovations in biomanufacturing,” said William Murphy, a professor of biomedical engineering and orthopedics at......

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