The Center for Technology Commercialization (CTC) co-sponsored the 2013 BioForward Emerging Technology Showcase, a part of the 2013 Bioscience Vision Summit held in September. Eight winners were selected in a competitive process based on the novelty of their innovation and the state of market readiness:
- ABL Technologies
- Co-D Therapeutics
- Imbed Biosciences
- inseRT MRI
- Microscopy Innovations
- Regenerative Medical Solutions
- Stealth Therapeutics
- XenoGen Biosystems
Winners received complimentary registration to and a chance to exhibit at the Summit. For Ryan Brown, founder of XenoGen Biosystems, the opportunity to present his first minimally viable product at the Summit was a notable achievement. "From that demonstration, we heard how the challenges that we are trying to solve directly impact business' operations and how our solution will have a high impact on enabling solid scientific research,” notes Brown. “Overall it was a fantastic success.”
Emerging Technology Showcase winners received a one-year complimentary membership in BioFoward, a member-driven state association representing Wisconsin’s bioscience industry, and one-on-one technical assistance from the CTC. Other co-sponsors included Exact Sciences, Madison Gas & Electric (MG&E) and the UW-Office of Corporate Relations (OCR).
That assistance will aid Brown as he advances his software tools for life-sciences researchers. “We need to do beta site demonstrations for our initial product set,” says Brown. “We have a few early-stage customers and recently partnered with the Carbone Cancer Center on a SBIR submission assisted by Dave Linz [CTC consultant].”
“That SBIR contract opportunity was born out at the BioForward conference, where I met the program director for the National Cancer Institute,” explains Brown. “She saw our product demo and highly encouraged us to apply for an SBIR contract and pointed us toward a specific solicitation.”
Wally Block, founder of Emerging Technology Showcase winner inseRT MRI, has been working on his minimally invasive, magnetic resonance (MR) image-guided surgical procedure technology for two years. “Our greatest success has been to be able to guide and monitor treatments while being decoupled from the software environment and hardware environment of the MR original equipment manufacturer,” explains Block.
inseRT MR allows interactive imaging without being coupled with MR original equipment manufacturers such as GE, Siemens and Phillips, explains Block. “…so they are able to create a workflow for their image-guided therapy that is tailored to their needs and to their customers’ needs. And we have been able to demonstrate that with MR guided brain treatments.”
InseRT MR has partnered with Madison-based Marvel Medtech to guide its therapies on the brain and robotic in-bore breast biopsy. “And we are working to turn our initial prototype into a finished workflow that a neural surgical team could use to direct the therapy on their own,” adds Block. “We are also working with people in animal research models, so they can use our platform to guide preclinical models of brain treatments on their own.”
InseRT MR is relying on CTC assistance to further advance its innovation. Block notes, “The review process for the SBIR has similarities and some important differences with the peer review process that faculty normally has with NIH, and David [Linz] was able to point those out and help us tailor our story in a way that was meaningful and understandable to people on an SBIR review panel.”
A CTC micro-grant awarded in 2012 helped Showcase winner Regenerative Medical Solutions (RMS) attempt to secure SBIR dollars to advance the development of a successful treatment for diabetes. This bioscience firm produces pancreatic cells derived from pluripotent stem cells for drug testing. “Our cells can be used for drug discovery, toxicity and efficacy testing in candidate drugs related to the pancreas and in progression toward a cell therapy,” notes RMS Vice President Tom Joyce. “These cells provide an early indicator if drug candidates can be effective or hazardous and reduce the reliance on animal models, potentially saving millions of dollars in time and development costs.”
The firm is already working with multiple major pharmaceutical companies and Joyce anticipates that RMS’s revolutionary treatments and application of its pancreatic cell lineage will lead to a cure for diabetes, a disease that affects over 346 million people worldwide.
“Our media formulation was developed by Dr. Jon Odorico at the University of Wisconsin and has been in development for over a decade. We have made great progress and plan to keep progressing toward monohormonal and fully glucose responsive beta cells,” adds Joyce. “These cells will be in high demand for drug toxicity and discovery, and can potentially be used for therapeutic purposes down the road.”
Each of these Emerging Technology Showcase winners demonstrates that biotechnology innovation is alive and thriving in Wisconsin. Allowing the opportunity for these up-and-coming biotech leaders to showcase their innovation promotes investment on the pathway to job creation for Wisconsin. CTC Director Cheryl Vickroy notes that it is important for business resource groups such as the Center, industry associations such as BioForward, and other supporting partners including OCR and MGE to work together on projects such as these to support innovation and entrepreneurs.