WisBusiness: the Podcast with Lisa Johnson, BioForward Wisconsin

This week’s episode of “WisBusiness: the Podcast” is with Lisa Johnson, CEO of BioForward Wisconsin. 

The Madison-based organization leads the Wisconsin Biohealth Tech Hub initiative, which this week received official Regional Technology Hub designation from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. 

It’s one of 31 such efforts selected by federal officials, putting it in the running for up to $70 million in funding in the next phase of the program. The Wisconsin-based effort is centered around personalized medicine, drawing on the state’s health care, biotechnology and advanced manufacturing industries. 

“That’s from the strength we have in biosciences, biotech, but then you get into the health area with diagnostics and digital health and [medical] devices, and all combined, it’s biohealth,” she said. “And it really differentiates us from many other places.” 

Johnson says the designation sends a message to the rest of the country that Wisconsin excels in these areas, and recognizes the potential for the state to become a global center of expertise in precision medicine. 

Of the designees, up to 10 will be chosen for between $40 million and $70 million, Johnson explained. 

“That’s what we’re vying for … We would go after different areas,” she said. “Workforce will continue to be a focus if we do get that phase two. Education would be a focus. We would also go after the entrepreneurial startup space.” 

In the coming months, the Wisconsin Biohealth Tech Hub will be working on an application for that second phase while using its $350,000 strategy planning grant on workforce initiatives. That application is due Feb. 29, giving the team about four months to put it together. 

“It’s very creative, that’s what I like … It’s an experiment,” she said. “Can this really help ignite other areas of the country? Let’s give other areas of the country a chance, because we’ve always funded the coasts. And that excites me.” 

Listen to the podcast below, sponsored by UW-Madison: