BioForward is reaching out to members to highlight their organizations through a new member profile feature to tell more of their stories. BellBrook Labs agreed to be interviewed as a part of our efforts to heighten the awareness of our region and integrated health solutions approach.

About BellBrook Labs: BellBrook Labs was founded in 2002 in Madison, Wisconsin, with the mission to develop and commercialize innovative tools to accelerate drug discovery. Since the firm’s inception, its flagship Transcreener® high throughput screening (HTS) assays have been used by hundreds of pharmaceutical and biotech companies around the world to develop more effective drugs for treating cancer, neurodegenerative disorders, and other debilitating diseases. Recently, the company began leveraging its technology and expertise to make a greater impact, both medically and financially, by developing small molecule drugs that they plan to license to pharmaceutical companies at the preclinical stage.

What do you find valuable about being a member of BioForward Wisconsin?

The biotech community is strong in Wisconsin; however, growth of the industry is critical to continued success. Workforce development will help local biotech innovate and grow, leading to a more stable foundation. Bioforward advocates for our industry to foster growth and opportunities, which we feel are essential to the future of biohealth in Wisconsin.

What are the key areas of or achievements by your organization that are impacting the state of Wisconsin and the overall biohealth industry?

BellBrook Labs is a small company with one location in the Fitchburg technology campus, yet our reach is global. Our drug discovery products help accelerate scientific advancement all over the world. Each of those discoveries has a unique benefit to public health, of which we are very proud. The SBIR funding we’ve received has brought federal resources to our local community for research and development, leading to innovation at BellBrook.

What about the future of research, medical, technological innovation excites you the most?

There have been relatively dramatic changes in our industry over the past few years. AI has helped accelerate the discovery of novel drug targets, but it has also led to an overhaul of early-stage small molecule discovery. By using AI, drug screening can be more targeted and focused, and follow-up lead discovery has become more critical than ever. These changes have offered us many challenges but opportunities as well. We have made a strategic move to leverage our assay development and lead discovery expertise to start internal drug discovery programs focusing on innate immunity targets. We feel these advances will lead to more therapeutics for rare diseases in the upcoming years.

Why Wisconsin? What does Wisconsin (and/or Madison/Milwaukee) offer for your company and/or your/its families?  

Wisconsin is home to the entire BellBrook staff. While some of us were born here, others have come from other states and countries to live and work here. Madison offers a vibrant, growing population with many opportunities both culturally and economically. It’s a beautiful place with incredible seasons. The local environment also has a high concentration of excellent scientists, leading to a positive collaborative environment.

What would you recommend about or say to others about Wisconsin’s biohealth industry and research institutions?

Wisconsin has an active biohealth industry that often gets overlooked for coastal hubs. We bring a unique view to the biotech industry with a hard-working Midwestern spirit. There is a strong core of scientists in the private sector and a world-class research institution. We have seen directly how these collaborations between academia and biotech can accelerate research.

What is one thing others may not know about your organization?

We recently formed a spin-off start-up called Nudge Therapeutics. As the drug discovery landscape has changed, there have been opportunities for BellBrook to play more of a direct role in the development of therapeutics. Pharmaceutical companies are moving toward in-licensing preclinical assets instead of internal programs. Nudge has become BellBrook’s drug discovery arm, where we can use our expertise in small molecule lead development to help fill this gap in early-stage drug discovery.