Bioscience Vision Summit highlights impact of biotech in Wisconsin

Bioscience Vision Summit highlights impact of biotech in Wisconsin

2014VisionSummit_logoFor Mitchell Gold, cancer is personal. That’s because his mother died from breast cancer when he was 4 and she was just 26. His grandmother also died of the disease at age 31. They both had — along with his sister — a mutation of the tumor suppressor genes known as BRCA that produces a hereditary breast-ovarian cancer syndrome in affected families.

So Gold, a physician, UW-Madison graduate and successful biotech entrepreneur, said he’s looking forward to the day when scientists will be able to “edit” the human genome to snip out mutant BRCA and replace it with a healthy gene.

Remarkably, that breakthrough — dubbed the ‘holy grail’ of medicine — may come within the next quarter century, he said during a luncheon speech at yesterday’s Bioscience Vision Summit conference at the Monona Terrace convention center in Madison

Several hundred scientists and business people attended the gathering, which also featured a talk by Gov. Scott Walker, who praised the biotech industry for creating jobs at a faster rate compared to other industry sectors.

“There’s probably never been a better time to be involved with life sciences, in large part because of breakthroughs in sequencing the human genome,” said Gold, a Chicago native and former president of Seattle-based Denderon Corp.

“Gene editing is going to happen,” he said, urging his audience of audience of researchers to pay attention this segment of the biotech industry and become involved with it. “Someone is going to do this. And when that happens, it will change the way our species exists.”

Wisconsin’s bioscience industry lauded for job creation

Walker lauded the state’s biotech industry for its job-creation prowess in recent years, saying it is now responsible for 1,400 Wisconsin companies and 32,000 jobs.

“Bioscience has been a key employment driver and is ahead of the curve since 2007 compared to other sectors. But we think we’ve just scratched the surface,” he said.

Walker praised UW-Madison for its $1 billion in annual research efforts — some 70 percent of which is spent on the biosciences. Other campuses and institutions are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on biotech research, he said, including UW-Milwaukee, the Medical College of Wisconsin and the Marshfield Clinic. Over time, he said discoveries coming out of those labs will be translated into products, new companies and more jobs.

“There’s now tremendous opportunity to build on all this great research,” he said. “With this new investment by the state and others, we can provide the capital right here in Wisconsin and be the missing link that helps startups get going.”

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