WisBusiness: Doyle to unveil plan to boost biotech, health sciences

By Brian Clark

Gov. Jim Doyle is set to announce a move tomorrow afternoon to invigorate the state’s biotech and health sciences industries. Capitol sources said one of the components will be the announcement of a new campus building project related to stem cell research to make sure scientists have access to top-notch facilities and equipment.

Sources at the Capitol and the university said the new building and its labs could cost as much as $50 million or more. The structure would be in addition to a $134 million UW research center, which is part of the state’s "Healthstar" initiative.

In Janesville yesterday, Doyle said the university would focus resources to maintain its national leadership in stem cell research. He said then that the state would invest several million dollars in the plan, but he did not discuss any plans for a specific facility.

At the Life Sciences and Venture Conference at Madison’s Monona Terrace today, one of the main topics of discussion was what the governor will announce tomorrow.

Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, said the state needs to respond to California’s initiative. But he said it should not focus simply on stem cell research, but on other forms of "regenerative" medicine.

The governor’s office was tight-lipped about the announcement, saying that Doyle would reveal his plans at 1:30 p.m. at the Genetics/Biotechnology Center on campus. He appear with media-shy UW biologist Dr. James Thomson, who six years ago isolated the first embryonic stem cell lines. UW-Madison Chancellor John Wiley and a host of other scientists, researchers, entrepreneurs, and biotech stakeholders will also attend the announcement, which is aimed at expanding Wisconsin’s leading role in stem cell, nanotechnology and biotechnology fields.

A statement from the governor’s office said the initiative he will unveil will “help Wisconsin expand upon its leading role in the stem cell, nanotechnology, and biotechnology fields by ensuring that UW-Madison has the most modern laboratories possible and by encouraging more scientific collaboration across multiple disciplines.”