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Wisconsin gets $49M in federal funds for biohealth tech hub

Credit: iStock

by Erik Gunn, Wisconsin Examiner
July 2, 2024

Wisconsin will get $49 million in federal support to develop a tech hub for biohealth, the U.S. Commerce Department announced Tuesday.

The goal of the state’s tech hub project is to advance technology to improve diagnosis and treatment for illness and centers on personalized health care — tailoring medical care to the distinctive genetic differences among patients.

“Wisconsin’s biohealth tech hub will be an economic driver for the state,” Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) said in a news conference she held Monday to preview the announcement. “It will help entrepreneurs scale up their operations and grow. It will help expand lab space and support new research. It will support people at all educational levels get the skills that they need to land a job in this emerging sector, and it will serve as a central hub for private and public partners in biotech to coordinate and collaborate so that our state can drive innovation that benefits people around the world.”

Wisconsin’s project was one of 12 tech hub proposals in the U.S. selected for full funding, Baldwin said, winnowed from nearly 200 applications initially. The tech hub program was established under the 2022 CHIPS and Science Act.

Baldwin said the Wisconsin project has been projected to create more than 30,000 jobs and spark $9 billion in economic development over the next decade.

Wisconsin’s proposal benefitted from collaboration that brought biohealth companies together with the state’s university and technical college systems as well as training programs in skilled trades, said Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. CEO Missy Hughes.

 “The range of jobs that will be available will be very broad,” Hughes said. “And we are going to provide the training to make sure that those in underrepresented, underserved communities have an opportunity to participate.”

The jobs will range from manufacturing and technical jobs requiring a high school diploma or a post-high-school credential to those requiring degrees from a technical college, a four-year university or a graduate degree.

Lisa Johnson, CEO of BioForward, a trade association for Wisconsin biohealth companies, said the award builds on the state’s history of leadership in the biohealth sector.

“This didn’t happen overnight. This is decades of building this industry,” Johnson said.

“Biohealth is going to be taking off — it is the word of the future,” Johnson  added. It combines work, such as drug development, with diagnostic technologies from companies such as GE Healthcare, which makes X-ray equipment and other diagnostic imaging technologies, and therapeutic technologies.

The primary focus of the work is on the emerging technologies of personalized medicine — customizing diagnosis and treatment to a patient’s individual genetic makeup.

For example, when prescribing a drug to treat cancer, “it used to be one size fits all,” Johnson said. Increasingly it’s becoming possible to adjust the medication based on the patient’s genetic profile, she added, and more ways of diagnosing and treating disease are being made possible by this research.

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