Wisconsin is not a state that makes a lot of relocation short lists in the biotech field, but the governor has given every indication that he intends to change that. Just weeks ago Governor Jim Doyle outlined ambitious plans for the life sciences sector totaling $750 million.
The bulk of that money is headed to the University of Wisconsin-Madison for new facilities and research in drug development and stem cells therapies. A whopping $375 million is earmarked for the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, a public-private research institute that will occupy a full city block (it will support private biotech researchers as well). The Biostar Initiative--a building program started several years ago--has already pushed development of new facilities on the UW campus.
Just weeks ago Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle outlined ambitious plans for the life sciences sector totaling $750 million.
There are also new funds earmarked for life science companies. Most of Wisconsin's biotech companies have spun off from the University of Wisconsin in Madison or Milwaukee (there's a lot of competition between the two), and the state is clearly interested in leading with its strongest player in the field.
But the state offers more than just improved access to its university facilities. Wisconsin recently approved new tax credits for tech companies with an eye to fostering development of its biotech industry. There's grant money for targeting federal research funds and early-stage investments. Cash-strapped biotechs struggling to stay afloat between Phase I and Phase II can qualify for bridge grants, and low-interest loans will be available to help start-ups. The State of Wisconsin Investment Board, armed with billions in pension cash, has also committed to investing another $50 million with venture funds on top of the $135 million it's already channeled in that direction.
Within an hour of hearing about FierceBiotech's interest, Wisconsin Secretary of Commerce Mary Burke was on the line to underscore the state's commitment. She was quick to mention the NIH's National Stem Cell Bank--awarded to the WiCell Research Institute in Wisconsin last October--and UW-Madison's international rep in research. Some venture fund groups have even been suggesting their young biotech companies in California should move to Wisconsin, asserts Secretary Burke.
Even the weather this winter, which has been balmy by the state's frigid standards, has been helping her make her case. "People were out golfing last weekend," she says.