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$100 million for Wisconsin start-ups: how the money could benefit the state's growing biotech field

Charles Benson talked with two Madison entrepreneurs in the medical field about starting a biotech business, and how the new funding could help.
Posted at 10:07 AM, May 30, 2024

Start-up companies in Wisconsin know to dream big, you need big dollars.

Wednesday, they got some very good news. $100 million dollars in private and public money.

Charles Benson talked with two entrepreneurs in the medical field about the challenges of starting a biotech business and how Wednesday's announcement will help.

Faraz Choudhury has spent countless hours inside this Madison research lab developing what he hopes will be a new cancer-fighting drug.

He knows creating his own research lab would be financially impossible. That's where Forward BIOLABScomes in.

"The infrastructure cost is extremely high. So having access to an incubator and a space like this really allowed us to hit the ground running and work on a project with very low capital requirement," said Choudhury, CEO of Immuto Scientific.

The PhD Wisconsin graduate has since graduated from this facility to his own place in Madison with 15 employees.

He says his biotech company needs to raise $5 million this year from investors and another $40 million next year to get through more research and expensive drug testing. It's a competitive environment for scarce resources.

"In Wisconsin, we need more of that because there are a lot of good ideas that come out of the university, Choudhury said, unfortunately, due to lack of capital - a lot of companies move out to the east or west coasts where the capital is more available."

That is why announcements from Governor Tony Evers on Wednesday are important to start-ups starved for money.

A $100 million fund from the state and private investors will help biotech companies get off the ground and help Wisconsin grow as a biotech hub.

"The Wisconsin Investment Fund will be the biggest public and private investment in Wisconsin start-ups and entrepreneurs in our state's history," Gov Evers said.

Guelay Bilen-Rosas is in the early stages of her dream to create a new wireless medical device that will help detect early breathing failures to allow doctors to intervene sooner.

She compares the Madison research facility to the comfort of a home.

" A home where we are all safe and believed in. Where we can be heard and seen," said Bilen-Rosas, Founder and CEO of AYRFLO.

The trained anesthesiologist has raised about 1.2 million dollars but knows more needs to be done to get her company up and running.

Would she be where she is today without Forward BIOLABS?

"Absolutely not," said Bilen-Rosas." Apart from all the support we get materialistically from Forward Biolabs, it is an intangible support that is not measured in dollars and figures."

And more BioHealth funding may be on the horizon for the state.

Wednesday's announcement comes at a time when Wisconsin has been designated by the federal government as a regional tech hubin BioHealth and is now in a closely watched competition with other regional tech hubs around the country for an additional $40 to 70 million dollars in funding.

An announcement on that is expected to come sometime this year.