WisBusiness: UW entrepreneur stresses need for long-term outlook on start-ups

By Arthur Thomas

For WisBusiness.com

MILWAUKEE — UW-Madison professor Hector DeLuca says that for Wisconsin to have success with start-ups, particularly in pharmaceuticals, there needs to be investment over more than just ten years.

“We really still need some mechanism for long-term investment,” DeLuca said. “Not just to have the companies bought up, which is what’s happening largely now, by other companies once they see that there is a successful commercialization, but that will allow long-term development of companies that will remain in the state and will contribute to the economics of the state long-term.”

DeLuca, a professor of biochemistry and himself an entrepreneur, made his remarks as part of his keynote address to the MIT Club of Wisconsin’s 10th annual Technology Achievement Awards. DeLuca was honored at the individual level. His address focused on the history of entrepreneurship at universities, charting changes in attitudes towards professors commercializing their ideas.

He did say that venture capital is a good thing, but made the point that in some cases, it is not possible for start-ups to provide a return on investment in a short period of time.

“You require years and years of messing with federal agencies to get your product commercialized,” DeLuca said regarding pharmaceuticals. “That doesn’t sit well with the goals of venture capital.”

DuLuca, whose research focuses on vitamin D, did say that there are also things the FDA could do to improve the testing and trial process, while maintaining safety.

“There’s no doubt there’s tests that are required for all pharmaceuticals that are meaningless,” DeLuca said. “But they are like stuffing in a mattress, they you gotta have it.”

The Technology Achievement Awards were held at the Zoofari Conference Center in Milwaukee. Honored along with DeLuca were Phoenix Nuclear Labs from Madison in the small/medium size category and Waukesha-based Generac Power Systems in the large company category.

Event host and sponsor, BizStarts Milwaukee was also given a special award by the MIT Club of Wisconsin.