BioForward is reaching out to members to highlight their organizations through a new member profile feature to tell more of their stories. Diverge TSL agreed to be interviewed as a part of our efforts to heighten the awareness of our region.

About your Organization:

Our mission is to maximize the pace of therapeutic development for genetic disorders by providing expert translational scientific services to industry partners. This mission is motivated by our personal and patient contact experiences. We specialize in advancing and supporting the development of a variety of therapies for genetic disorders of children, including gene therapies and protein replacement strategies. We have traditionally worked on skeletal muscle diseases but have now expanded to work in essentially all other tissue types. Our work also involves supporting therapeutic development and safety programs spanning from the early preclinical to the human clinical trial stage. Our translational science approach is applicable to a broad range of therapeutic approaches, as the techniques and expertise necessary to judge efficacy and safety is not restricted to a given disease state or treatment type.

Our clients are national and international biotech and pharmaceutical companies ranging from startups to “big pharma” companies. DivergeTSL consists of 10 employees who made the leap, and diverged, from academia to industry and are loving the startup life. Together, with our clients, we hope to accelerate therapeutic development and help to bring life-saving medicine to children who need it!

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

We value that BioForward advocates for Wisconsin businesses, and we trust the organization to make responsible state and federal level recommendations and decisions on behalf of area businesses. Since its inception, we have observed BioForward operate as a family and a small but mighty team that relies on each other and makes great progress when doing so. The enthusiasm of the organization is also motivating and infectious. These are important qualities that we value at Diverge and we feel that these commonalities make BioForward more trustworthy and relatable.

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

Our work effects patient populations everywhere, including Wisconsin. Rare genetic diseases not only affect the patient but close families and friends. Life-saving drugs can not only create a higher quality of life for the patient, but also lessens the burden on the family caring for their child. The services we provide accelerate the pace of research and clinical trial development and execution to patient populations who need it most.

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

We’re at an enormously exciting time of rapid discovery and treatment development for genetic disorders. The diagnosis of genetic diseases is much more straightforward with recent advances in testing technologies, and in parallel an array of technologies have been developed that may treat these diseases. For instance, gene therapies are a fascinating, somewhat new, method of curing diseases. This method utilizes a viral vector to deliver a missing protein to specific cells and restore the function that was lost due to the genetic mutation. We have seen several new gene therapies approved by the FDA in the past few years to cure retinal dystrophy and spinal muscular atrophy, and there are numerous active clinical trials that are testing this approach in other disorders. The field is rapidly gaining experience in how to design more effective agents and how to more efficiently run preclinical studies and clinical trials, which will accelerate the rate of development and approval of these treatments in the coming decade.  As Diverge is focused on assisting with this sort of treatment development, we have the potential to affect a lot of lives by providing high-quality services to companies developing these new therapies.

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

Wisconsin is a great place to live. Period. For many of us at Diverge, Wisconsin is home. Most of us grew up here and have family close by. The quality of life is tremendous, especially when compared to more traditional industry hubs. I would encourage anyone to build their company here! We found starting a company here to be straight-forward with plenty of support when needed. The resources in our state are incredible. We found many mentors who are not already experiencing mentor fatigue. And there are many classes, seminars, and networking opportunities in our state. You really get to be a big fish in a small (but growing) pond. In addition, niceness is inherent in Wisconsin and so many people offered to help and advise with no ulterior motives. They just wanted to see us succeed and BioForward leads the way in that regard.

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

Wisconsin’s research institutions are as competitive as any other state. Both the CEO and COO of DivergeTSL hold faculty positions at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Wauwatosa and have done so for the past 10 years. The quality of research is exceptional. We learn everyday about the new opportunities that Wisconsin’s research industry offers. As far as the biohealth industry, it continues to grow, again thanks to BioForward’s efforts who bring visibility to the great work done here.

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

Every team member contributed to our successful transition from academia to industry. Together, we all toured potential lab spaces, packed up the laboratory, moved it to the new space, and even built the furniture – as a team and extended family. Building this company has definitely made us all closer. We not only work together towards the company goals, but everyone enjoys doing things together outside of work. We frequently get lunch, ice cream, go out for drinks and many other activities together. We built the company together and will continue to grow it that way.