EVERY DAY COUNTS
Source: UW Office of Corporate Relations (OCR) Annual Report
September 1, 2009
You might expect Paul Radspinner, president, CEO and co-founder of FluGen, to boast about his company’s recent round of successful angel investing, its new labs or its scientific pedigree. After all, FluGen is a prominent startup company built on technology created by UW–Madison researcher Yoshihiro Kawaoka, one of the world’s leading influenza experts.
But Radspinner prefers to focus on the end goal of conquering a world-health challenge greatly reducing the time it takes from identification to availability for an effective influenza vaccine.
“Vaccines are the most effective treatment in human history,” says Radspinner. “From smallpox to measles to polio — nothing has had a bigger impact on human health than vaccines.”
Radspinner points out that if an avian-based pandemic were to arise today, a new approach would be needed to prevent its spread. Current vaccine manufacturing techniques can take up to nine months, and they may not work because the bird flu virus itself may prove lethal to the process used to create the vaccine.
“Every day counts,” he cautions. “Twelve weeks is the so-called ‘magic time’ from identification to availability, and we’re optimistic that FluGen can establish a new model for efficiency and effectiveness.”
Speed … efficiency … efficacy. Welcome to the world of UW–Madison startup companies. It is a world, too, of angel investing, venture capital and technology licensing, one that the Office of Corporate Relations (OCR) has focused on since 2003.
“UW–Madison’s environment of cuttingedge research and innovative ideas provides a fertile ground for the formation of startup companies like FluGen,” notes Charles Hoslet, OCR managing director, adding that angel investors and early-stage venture capital make it possible for startups to develop their technology into viable products and transform into established businesses.
And when you add the capacity of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), UW’s private, non-profit patenting and licensing organization, you have a combination that is hard to beat. FluGen recently signed license agreements with WARF for a technology that has the potential to significantly improve the way influenza vaccines are manufactured.
“This is a great example of how UW–Madison, WARF, the local angel-investment community and the state of Wisconsin are working together to spur economic development,” says Radspinner, pointing out that FluGen was certified to receive investor tax credits from the state. “Our company, like other new biotech ventures, will lead to higher-paying jobs that will help keep more new UW scientists — and graduates — in
Kawaoka is also excited by the prospect of Wisconsin institutions coming together to advance the cause of science.
“Avian influenza is a serious threat to public health around the world,” he says. “We are fortunate to have such world-class facilities to help us address this problem. Now, we also have a way to quickly move our discoveries in the lab into the biotechnology community through FluGen so that others can more readily benefit from them.”
As FluGen addresses the influenza vaccine challenge, Radspinner has to make sure the company meets its milestones and stays ahead of the competition. That’s another area where OCR can assist.
[caption id=”attachment_150″ align=”alignnone” width=”300″ caption=”Gabrielle Neumann (left), Pamuk Bilsel (center), and Yoshihiro Kawaoka represent FluGen