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Can Wisconsin become a global tech hub for biohealth? Experts weigh in.

Can Wisconsin become a global tech hub for biohealth? Experts weigh in.

A consortium of Wisconsin academic medical centers, manufacturers and workforce development organizations are eagerly awaiting word on whether President Joe Biden’s administration will award them up to $75 million to grow the region’s personalized medicine and biohealth industries.

The administration expects award winners to use the funding to create a global tech hub within the next decade. Wisconsin Health News assembled a virtual panel of experts this week to discuss what that will take.

Edited excerpts from the discussion are below.

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Jay Hill, vice president of advanced technologies at GE HealthCare: When it comes to imaging and medical physics, we are a global tech hub. And when it comes to many areas of molecular and genetic diagnostics and electronic medical records, this is the place to go. But, breaking down those barriers between different specialties and different interests to create personalized medicine that reaches across all the different disciplines, that’s going to be a key thing to success here.

Mara Lord, senior vice president of university engagement and strategic planning at the Medical College of Wisconsin: The entrepreneurial opportunity in Wisconsin is so immense. We have the assets. We have the infrastructure. We have to believe in ourselves … And we need the rest of the nation to know it. I truly believe that within 10 years, we will become the entrepreneurial hub. Because innovation can happen fast here. And it can happen collaboratively and with Wisconsin kindness behind it.

Lisa Johnson, CEO of BioForward Wisconsin: We’re here. You just haven’t heard us enough … To be a global tech hub, you have to be able to market yourself, and that’s what we’re doing. If you go and look at a lot of the other tech hubs, you will see Wisconsin has been very aggressive on the marketing front. We are going all over the place talking about Wisconsin and our designation as a tech hub.

Daniel Biank, vice president of regulatory and government affairs at Accuray: Even before the federal investment, Accuray chose to move its headquarters here to Wisconsin. And that’s because we understand it’s a hidden gem. For a company that had its roots in (the University of Wisconsin) and TomoTherapy, this became the place to manufacture cutting-edge radiation therapy equipment, building on the supply chain that GE HealthCare established … This is the outcome of Wisconsin’s existing strengths, and Accuray made this as a business decision to plant here and grow our manufacturing here and our (research and development) here. We look forward to other companies discovering those things and expanding with that foundation.

Nathan Franklin, vice president of external affairs and sustainability for Bellin Health and Gundersen Health System, also known as Emplify Health: The whole state is a resource for this opportunity. To really become a global hub, we’re going to have to take advantage of everybody who’s interested to be involved in every corner of the state. Advanced manufacturing exists across the state. We’ve got a hardworking, highly skilled workforce. We have great technical colleges across the state, and just about every community of any size either has a main college or one of their satellite locations. To really succeed, we’ll have to take advantage of every one of those opportunities.

This article first appeared in the Wisconsin Health News daily email newsletter. Sign up for your free trial here.


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