Forward BIOLABS is the only coworking life science lab of its kind in Wisconsin that helps biohealth startups get off the ground without the typical overhead and supply costs, thanks to its state-of-the-art space and lab equipment.
On average, Forward BIOLABS, a private nonprofit located in University Research Park, helps reduce the time it takes fledgling biohealth companies to launch by six to nine months and is instrumental in keeping biohealth talent in Wisconsin. Many of those companies are based on UW–Madison research, and involve graduates or faculty.
“That’s the goal: to help more companies get started, do as much as we can to help them while they’re here, and then help them transition to their own independent labs,” said Forward CEO Jessica Martin Eckerly. “The more startup companies there are, the more opportunities for big success stories, like Promega, Exact Sciences, and Fujifilm CDI to get started. We have the ability to help create more of those locally grown companies.”
Forward BIOLABS is a member of BioForward Wisconsin, which serves as a collective voice for Wisconsin’s’ biotech cluster. The organization’s 2020 report, Wisconsin Biohealth: Industry Landscape and Economic Impact Report, found that the total state economic impact of the biohealth industry is $28.8 billion, with biohealth organizations employing more than 46,000 people in Wisconsin.
“In a state known for agriculture and traditional manufacturing, biotech has grown immensely, and now, we are also gaining recognition for that,” said Martin Eckerly. “Hopefully, there will be a growing recognition of that more broadly. This is a new era; we have the opportunity to grow the next generation of manufacturing companies, and it’s happening already in biotech, biohealth, and biomanufacturing. At Forward BIOLABS, we want to help more of those companies get started here.”
As the biohealth ecosystem matures, and more companies have successful exits or IPOs, teams from those companies who enjoy working together and prefer early-stage startups often stay in Madison and join or start new companies together.
“The question used to be whether you could have a career in biotech in Wisconsin,” said Martin Eckerly. “You can, and you can have a career in biohealth startups in Wisconsin.”
UW–Madison plays a vital role in providing technologies that can be spun out into new companies.
“UW–Madison is a key source of research that leads to new discoveries and technologies that then form new companies,” said Martin Eckerly. “There are countless examples in Madison and surrounding cities and counties, of the ripple effect that it creates.”