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Wisconsin Responds to California Stem Cell Commitment

November 22, 2004

Just as SSTI and other post-election analysts predicted, California’s recent passage of a $3 billion commitment to stem cell research is triggering responses from across the country. Wisconsin is the first to outline a specific, strategic reaction to the California referendum in an effort to retain or regain momentum in the race to encourage bio-based economic growth.

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle announced last week his plans to invest nearly $750 million in state funds to support biotechnology, health sciences and stem cell research. According to Gov. Doyle, the two states are not in competition; rather, he suspects there will be a synergy between them.

"Wisconsin can’t match California dollar for dollar, but California can’t match what Wisconsin already has - including the best scientists in the world and first class research institutions," Gov. Doyle said.

The Wisconsin strategy re-emphasizes several elements of the “Grow Wisconsin” plan (see the Sept. 19, 2003 issue of the Digest) and legislation passed last year to increase venture capital investments. Key, new elements include:

  • Funding a Wisconsin Institute for Discovery with state and private funds expected to total $375 million over 10 years. The state's initial investment of $50 million was appropriated last year as BioStar IV. The institute will include specialists in biochemistry, nanotechnology, computer engineering and bioinformatics and will afford researchers the chance to convert their discoveries into commercial ventures.
  • Encouraging passage of legislation to remove bureaucratic hurdles to faculty start-ups, including legislation to change state law allowing University of Wisconsin faculty and staff to more easily engage in commercial activities that utilize university research;
  • Asking the State Building Commission, which Gov. Doyle chairs, to approve $134 million to fund a HealthStar Interdisciplinary Research Complex near the UW hospitals and clinics. The facility will be dedicated to innovation and the rapid transfer of medical science discoveries into clinical applications; and,
  • Launching a Wisconsin Initiative for Alzheimer’s Research, including a $1.5 million annual commitment to fund key research on Alzheimer’s disease. Key components of the initiative include research into the prevention of the disease, evaluation and development of new treatments, and identification of the neuropathological basis for the disease.

In addition, Gov. Doyle is directing the state Department of Commerce to draw upon legislation signed earlier this year leveraging more than $250 million in venture capital to be made available to companies emerging from new research efforts, including those made at the state's Institute of Discovery. The Commerce Department also will be asked to qualify the emerging companies for angel tax credit and seed-stage VC tax credits.

More information regarding the initiative is available from the governor’s office website: http://www.wisgov.state.wi.us/index.asp