Federal funds awarded for biohealth, with UW–Madison leading the way   (2024)

July 2, 2024 By Robyn Perrin

The U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) Tuesday announced $49 million in Phase 2 funding to the Wisconsin Biohealth Tech Hub, a groundbreaking initiative set to drive transformative medical innovation, workforce development and critical job growth across Wisconsin.

The University of Wisconsin–Madison, one of 18 members of the Biohealth Tech Hub consortium, was a key partner in the effort. Selected from a highly competitive pool of applicants, the designation showcased an unprecedented scale of collaboration between industry, higher education, government and other stakeholders.

The effect on the state is expected to be significant. Consortium members estimate that Phase 2 initiatives will directly create up to 30,000 new jobs, with an additional 111,000 indirect jobs.

The initiative has also received broad buy-in, including nearly unanimous bipartisan support from the Legislature for a bill providing 10 percent in state matching funds. The bill authorizing those funds was signed by Governor Tony Evers in February.

“As a university focused on innovating for the public good, we are honored to be a critical partner contributing to the success of this effort,” says Chancellor Jennifer M. Mnookin.

“It’s both thrilling and well-deserved that Wisconsin has received this critical designation, reflecting our existing strengths and future potential as a hub for technological innovation. These projects will allow researchers to identify new treatments tailored to patients, accelerate progress in access to care and health equity, and spark innovation to create state-wide excellence in personalized medicine.”

The consortium previously received Phase I designation as a regional technology and innovation hub by the EDA last fall. Led by BioForward, the state association representing Wisconsin’s bioscience industry, the Phase 2 proposal was recognized by the EDA for its ability to create new workforce opportunities while facilitating access to new medical innovations.

  • One of the three technology projects of the Phase 2 proposal is the Wisconsin Health Data Hub, led by researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. The Wisconsin Health Data Hub aims to create a comprehensive, secure, accessible, and inclusive health data ecosystem that in turn will provide an unprecedented source for research-ready health data that are responsibly sourced and expansive in scope. Scientists, entrepreneurs and biohealth companies will be able to access the Health Data Hub for upstream research and discovery to generate new treatments, and to conduct downstream evaluation studies that assess how existing treatments can be used in the most effective way possible. A key objective is making new clinical research accessible to all.

“Using the Wisconsin Health Data Hub, researchers will be able to mine an incredible source of information to identify new biomarkers, pinpoint previously unknown risk factors for different diseases, and inform prototyping for emerging treatments,” says Jomol Mathew, principal investigator for the project and associate dean for informatics and information technology at the school. “By tapping into the power of real-world health data and advanced analytics that the Wisconsin Health Data Hub will offer, researchers will be limited only by their ingenuity in terms of the questions they can ask to advance health.”

  • The data repository will help inform two other Phase 2 projects. An initiative called CAREScan Mobile Cancer Screening led by Medical College of Wisconsin aims to advance health equity by gathering community insights, building trust, and improving access to screening and care. With participant permission, CAREScan teams will collect valuable biomarker data to facilitate equitable and inclusive data in the Wisconsin Health Data Hub.
  • A third project led by GE HealthCare will focus on streamlining the integration of new technologies into health care systems, supporting the growth of theranostics – which involves combining cancer diagnosis and treatment phases into one step – and driving innovation in personalized medicine.

“This Phase 2 award trumpets something I see every day at University Research Park,” says Aaron Olver, managing director of University Research Park and chair of the Wisconsin Biohealth Tech Hub Consortium Steering Committee. “From the research and innovation springing from the University of Wisconsin–Madison to the ingenuity of our manufacturing base, Wisconsin is poised to lead the globe in biohealth technology.”

The nature of the effort reflects a shared commitment of consortium members to collaborative innovation, according to Anjon Audhya, senior associate dean for basic research, biotechnology and graduate studies at the School of Medicine and Public Health.

“Data flow between each of these three projects will set an unprecedented charter for accelerating discovery and translation of discoveries to care that benefit patients,” says Audhya.

Additional aspects of the Phase 2 effort will include workforce development initiatives led by Madison College and Milwaukee Area Technical College, such as expanded certification programs, apprenticeships and skills-based training.

“Collaboration has been key to success for the Wisconsin Biohealth Tech Hub,” says Kurt Zimmerman, senior director of the School of Medicine and Public Health Office of Biohealth Industry Partnerships. “This unique and multi-disciplinary collaboration is unprecedented, and all consortium members are working together in the best interests of Wisconsin and the world.”

‘From the beginning, when we first launched our exploration work to seek the designation, we stayed focused on not only creating awareness of our rapid growth and national impact, but also identifying resources to invest in talent and workforce development and enhancing our ability to bring solutions to market,” adds Chris Kozina, assistant vice chancellor for industry engagement and an early leader in the initial phase to launch the regional Tech Hubs effort. “These additional resources for growth will accelerate not only research and commercialization, but also build the state’s necessary talent pipelines for the future.”

Tags: biosciences, chancellor, federal relations, School of Medicine and Public Health

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Federal funds awarded for biohealth, with UW–Madison leading the way   (2024)

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