WED AM News: Lower costs for genetic analysis enabling new research; State's biohealth industry contributes $27 billion to state economy, report shows


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-- Human understanding of genomics is evolving rapidly, as the cost of analyzing DNA falls and the global pool of genetic data grows.

"There's a big race right now to edit immune cells that are used in immunotherapy, and really edit any cell in the body," said Dr. Chris Mason, an associate professor and researcher at the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York.

He spoke yesterday at the Biohealth Summit in Madison, put on by BioForward Wisconsin. He says the past decade has seen an explosion of progress in the field of genomics, which deals with the structure and mechanisms of genetic information.

Researchers can now analyze organisms' entire genomes "at much higher resolution, with far greater depth than we ever could see before," he said.

That progress is largely due to steeply falling costs for genetic analysis. Mason points out that sequencing the human genome used to cost hundreds of millions of dollars, while now it's closer to $1,000. And that cost could be driven down further, he says, as San Diego-based Illumina recently announced plans to introduce a $100 test.

"This has got everyone pretty excited, because this is faster than Moore's Law," he said, referring to the trend of computer processing power steadily increasing. "It's really the fastest pace of any technological change that's ever happened in human history."

See more:

-- Wisconsin's biohealth industry directly contributed $27 billion to the state economy last year, a new report from BioForward Wisconsin shows.

The number for overall economic output activity from direct, indirect and induced sources is even higher -- nearly $48 billion.

The report, compiled by Baker Tilly, was commissioned by BioForward. It updates numbers from a 2015 report on the same subject, which relied on information from 2013. This year's report draws from 2017 data sources.

It shows the state's biohealth industry directly supported over 107,000 jobs last year, up 17 percent from the previous report. Those workers are employed by the 4,320 biohealth companies operating in the state.

And the industry's Wisconsin manufacturing supply chain has an estimated $13.3 billion economic impact each year. Those companies in the state supply products to global health firms.

Those supply chain firms employ about 32,000 in the state, and pay over $2.5 billion in total labor income.

Most biohealth jobs are clustered in Milwaukee and Dane counties, with each having between 8,000 and 35,000. That's where some of the state's biggest biohealth employers are located as well: Promega, in Madison; Aurora Health Care, Milwaukee; and GE Healthcare, Madison.

The report also shows about $43 billion in federal grant money was given to Wisconsin between 2013 and 2017.

It's noted that university-driven research "dominates" federal grant resources in the state, with 12 Wisconsin campuses getting over $3 billion since 2015. About $755 million was divided between five private colleges and universities, and $2.3 billion went to seven UW System campuses.

Meanwhile, businesses received more than $154 million in research grants, and nonprofit research entities got more than $87 million.

A tally of biohealth related patent applications found 3,431 applications between 2013 and 2015, nearly 17 percent of which were related to biohealth.

See the full report here:

-- UW-Madison's Forward BIO Institute has been awarded $5 million from the National Institutes of Health for tissue manufacturing.

The grant was announced yesterday at the Biohealth Summit by Professor Bill Murphy, the institute's director.

"This is a unique public-private collaboration that's committed to advancing the global biomanufacturing industry," he said. "We want to train the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs in biomanufacturing... That includes everything from undergraduate and associate degrees, all the way to the PhD and beyond."

Both the Forward BIO Institute and Forward BIOLABS were recently announced as part of the Forward BIO Initiative, along with the already existing organization BioForward Wisconsin.

"We become more competitive for those kind of grants if we form this kind of initiative, and if we have demonstrated success," Murphy added.

Other panelists included Jessica Martin Eckerly, co-founder of Forward BIOLABS, and Barry Kurokawa, co-founder and CEO of Madison-based Dianomi Therapeutics.

"Instead of going out and buying largely all the same equipment, setting up all these same operations, they can take part in a shared lab," Eckerly said. She says the ultimate goal for these startups is to "graduate" and form their own standalone labs.

Before launching the lab, Eckerly found that nine of the Big 10 institutions had access to a shared lab like Forward BIOLABS.

"It is time for Madison to make a mark. This is what's making it happen," she said.

Dianomi is moving into Forward BIOLAB's small pilot lab space in the coming weeks, joining Gregor Diagnostics, which was founded by former Exact Sciences employee Tobias Zutz.

Kurokawa has spent over 25 years as an investor in the life sciences space, and only became an entrepreneur after being "enamoured" with the aspirations of other venture capitalists. He says having dedicated lab space is "a critical piece of the puzzle."

"If I've got to go out and do it myself, can you imagine the time, the cost, the energy? And then maintenance," he said. "I don't want to focus on that, quite honestly, I want to focus on what I want to develop."

Kurokawa says he's hoping to license technology from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation and close on a round of seed funding this month, before moving in Nov. 1st.

Listen to a recent podcast with Murphy:

See more on Forward BIOLABS:

See a story from late last year on Gregor Diagnostics:

-- Foxconn is seeking design proposals from companies for its planned innovation center in Racine.

In a release, the company says Foxconn Racine Place will be a center for development of smart city initiatives and other high-tech programs.

"Foxconn Place Racine is in a strategic position to help drive smart city pilot programs that enhance how we live, work and play," said Alan Yeung, Foxconn director of U.S. Strategic Initiatives. "We look forward to supporting the city of Racine in becoming a model for how smart city solutions are applied to improve home living spaces, collaborative working spaces, public safety, transportation networks, and environmental sustainability."

The project covers a section of the building with 20,500 gross square feet, "and must be constructed in an occupied building without disrupting activities in adjacent spaces occupied by current tenants," per a Foxconn release.

Respondents to the RFP will need to design, procure and install furnishings at the innovation center. Foxconn says proposals should include recommendations for energy efficiency and sustainability.

Companies with "strong track records in Wisconsin" will get preference in the RFP process.

Proposals are due by 10 a.m. Oct. 25, deliverable to 611 E. Wisconsin Ave. in Milwaukee.

Foxconn is planning to occupy the space by January 2019, or as soon as possible. The company is holding an information session Tuesday at Gateway Technical College in Racine.

See the release:

-- Propellor Health has published a peer-reviewed study suggesting objective digital data can assess asthma control more accurately than patient-reported data.

The Madison-based connected health device company performed the analysis alongside the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children's Hospital Colorado. It was published recently in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice.

"In the past, providers asked patients about their use of rescue medications to determine whether the patient's asthma was well-controlled, partly-controlled or not well-controlled," said David Stempel, head of clinical and medical affairs for Propeller Health and a co-author of this study. "Their understanding was based on recall and affected by patient bias, as few patients remember the number of times they used their rescue beyond the prior few days, at best."

Propellor Health used its digital medicine platform to connect inhalers for 3,373 patients with a sensor for date and time of inhaler use. Using that information, Propellor could track the number of puffs taken from the rescue inhaler, providing more accurate data than patient memory.

See the release:

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- Wisconsin growers among winners in World Forage Superbowl

- State maple syrup producers holding fall tour on Oct. 13

- Biosciences industry had $48 billion impact on Wisconsin in 2017, BioForward study says

- Bear Development pitches hundreds more apartments in Somers

- JPMorgan Chase awards $3.5 million to spur economic growth in Milwaukee

- Madison ranks high globally for startup cities

- Marquette University names vice president for inclusive excellence

- Heavy Rains, Storms Headed For Wisconsin

- JPMorgan Chase grants $3.5 million to Brew City Match

- Pizano's opens today in downtown Milwaukee

- New pizzeria proposed for Greenfield

- Foxconn seeking proposals for Racine innovation center

- Community Memorial Hospital ranked first among nation's complex teaching medical centers

- Report: Emergency physicians seeing higher rates of violence on the job

- Johnson Controls CEO: Milwaukee will benefit from $100M venture fund

- The Tannery in Milwaukee sells to Chicago investor R2 Cos.

LEGAL ^top^
- Lawsuit seeking Postal Service eviction from downtown Milwaukee facility moved to federal court

- Amended American Airlines uniform lawsuit hits at carrier hard

- Leverett stepping down as WEC Energy president

- Allen Leverett resigns executive post at WEC Energy; new president named

- Shur-Line paint and Bulldog Hardware to be combined with New Jersey company

- Kringle from De Pere bakery is 2018 Coolest Thing Made in Wisconsin

- ND Paper announces upgrades at Wisconsin paper mill

MEDIA ^top^
- Journal Sentinel print circulation slides another 27%

- YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee seeks to grow community reach outside its facilities

- Walker taking gas-tax argument to voters at the pumps (UPDATE)

- Tannery buildings sold to Chicago-based owner of downtown post office

- Conversion of once condemned historic Walker's Point warehouse moves forward

- 13-story office tower proposed for 900 block of East Washington Avenue

- With record referendum spending possible in 2018, regulatory fight brewing

- Plan would pay hunters to shoot more deer with CWD

- Silo damaged in explosion at ethanol plant

- Cathy Harvey: Making it count: 5 tips for choosing a health plan

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See these and other press releases:

Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin: Major study ranks Community Memorial Hospital first among nation's highest complex teaching medical centers
Gov. Walker: Highlights state's growing economy and the continued commitment from Wisconsin businesses
Mavid Construction: Named 2018 Minority-Owned Business of the Year
Security Health Plan: Approved to sell on Health Insurance Marketplace
Women in Technology Wisconsin: Features a Rapid Fire Book Review on Oct. 26