18 Oct URP: WHERE COVID MEETS CUTTING EDGE
By Aaron Olver,
Managing Director – University Research Park, Inc.
University Research Park is full of companies working on cutting edge solutions to the world’s thorniest problems. From eradicating cancer, hepatitis, and influenza deaths to eliminating antibiotic use or fighting climate change through new fuels and technology enabling radical reductions in energy use, University Research Park is the place where solutions are born. Some of the startups may be small, but their ambitions are boundless. So, it’s no surprise that when a new challenge arises, like the COVID-19 pandemic, the researchers and companies at University Research Park swing into action.
University of Wisconsin – Madison researchers with labs at University Research Park have launched a number of new projects. The David O’Connor Lab is developing a saliva-based test offering results in hours which could help employers and schools protect their populations. Yoshihiro Kawaoka’s Influenza Research Institute, located in a BSL-3Ag facility at the park, has partnered with Flugen, a related spinout in the building next door, to develop CoroFlu, a nasal spray COVID-19 vaccine that may also protect against the flu.
Nearby, Nimble Therapeutics is partnering with Roche Diagnostics to help diagnose patients with COVID-19 by leveraging the power and breadth of Nimble’s platform for rapid, light-based chemical synthesis technology that enables the massively parallel synthesis of millions of peptide-based molecules. And across the park, Aldevron, a Fargo-based company with labs in Madison is supporting the development of new vaccines, therapeutic medicines, and diagnostic tests for COVID-19 by working with partners to produce plasmid DNA, proteins, and other critical supply chain elements.
At our incubator, the MGE Innovation Center, two companies have pivoted to include COVID-19 work. GoDX has been working to democratize diagnostics to bring rapid, low-cost diagnostic tests to everyone in the world. Today, the startup is developing a rapid, instrument-free COVID-19 diagnostic that won’t require sending samples to a lab, offering results at the point-of-care in about 30 minutes. And Pan Genome Systems, a UW-Madison spinout, is pursuing a COVID-19 vaccine.
Exact Sciences, the largest company headquartered in University Research Park, is known for cancer diagnostics. But they’ve put their capabilities to work to help screen for COVID-19, launching an ambitious program that has already conducted more than 500,000 tests for the virus, many for patients in Wisconsin.
If you’ve ever wondered what the Wisconsin Idea looks like, visit University Research Park (perhaps after the pandemic has passed). It looks like cutting edge science, research labs, and technology companies collaborating with partners both near and far to turn Wisconsin ingenuity into solutions that save lives and improve our world. We see it every day.