Wisconsin got $49M to invest in personalized medicine. What does that mean?

Forward Biolabs entry

Logos for participating startups are featured on a wall in the entrance of Forward BIOLABS in Madison. RUTHIE HAUGE

With tech hub funding, Forward BIOLABS will expand its Madison labs and bring its model to Milwaukee too. The coalition anticipates the project will support 75 biohealth companies over the next 10 years.

Wisconsin is already a hub for the growing field of personalized medicine, where scientists tailor treatments to a person’s genes. But a range of challenges is holding the industry back. Advocates say it’s hard for researchers to find the workers and data they need, and that the existing health data exacerbates inequalities because it doesn’t include enough people from racial and ethnic minorities.

Now, a coalition of biohealth businesses, colleges and economic development agencies is getting $49 million in federal funds to solve those problems and more. The funds, announced Tuesday, July 2 by the U.S. Economic Development Administration, will create a new shared health database, send a fleet of cancer screening vans to underserved neighborhoods, provide lab space for science startups and help biohealth businesses develop apprenticeship programs.

“This investment will turbo charge our economy and bring opportunity far and wide,” Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin said on a call with reporters.

“The new technologies will allow us to treat individuals in a much more specific and unique and customized way based on their own genetics,” she said. “And in some cases, if we develop the appropriate screening, we may be able to even prevent the onset, to identify people who might be at greater risk of developing some sort of disease.

“The breakthroughs we’re able to pioneer in personalized medicine and biohealth have the potential to revolutionize healthcare as we know it, helping people get the care they need earlier and faster.”

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