WisBusiness: Stemina receives $1 million from state

By Brian E. Clark

Until now a “virtual” company, Stemina Biomarker Discovery, Inc. will soon enter the world of bricks, mortar and lab equipment – thanks to $1 million in state grants and low interest loans announced this morning by Gov. Jim Doyle.

Doyle used the lab of Dr. Gabriela Cezar, a top UW-Madison stem cell scientist, to make the announcement. She is the company’s chief scientific officer, while the other co-founder is Beth Donley, who is Stemina’s chief executive officer. Until she and Cezar started Stemina earlier this year, Donley was general counsel of WARF and executive director its WiCell Research Institute subsidiary.

Cezar said the company is now in negotiations with the University Research Park and the Fitchburg Technology Park for its lab and office location. Stemina’s goal is to develop better techniques to screen drugs for human toxicity. The company will use two stem cell patents covering Cezar’s work held by WARF and will initially focus on safer and more effective cancer treatments.

In the past year, two other companies that use human embryonic stem cells have been started in Madison. Doyle said he hopes there will be more in the near future. By the year 2015, he said it could become a $1 billion industry with 10,000 jobs in the state.

“Our growing stem cell industry has attracted some of the best and brightest scientists in the world,” said Doyle, who was in Boston last week for the huge BIO 2007 conference.

“This new company has the potential to achieve incredible breakthroughs that could save lives and create jobs. This is a competitive industry and Wisconsin still has a lead, but we need to continue to support these efforts in a significant way at the state level.”