As we celebrate Forward BIOLABS‘ fifth anniversary and its impact on the biohealth community, we must reflect on a remarkable journey of innovation and growth. From humble beginnings to becoming a cornerstone of Wisconsin’s biohealth community, Forward BIOLABS has consistently demonstrated its commitment to supporting biohealth startups and driving scientific innovation. Let’s take a moment to celebrate their achievements, acknowledge their partners, and look forward to the future of biohealth innovation.

The Past: Building a Foundation for Success

In Fall 2018, Forward BIOLABS took its first steps, opening a pilot lab operating out of WiCell. This initial endeavor laid the groundwork for the establishment of an independent facility in University Research Park in early 2019. With the support of founding partners like Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, Promega, URP, Madison Gas and Electric, Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, and others, Forward BIOLABS completed a remodel and expansion of its facility in Fall 2019, solidifying its position as a cornerstone of Wisconsin’s biohealth ecosystem.

At the heart of Forward BIOLABS is CEO and Co-Founder, Jessica Martin Eckerly, whose visionary leadership has guided the organization from its inception. With a background in bringing academic discoveries to market, Jessica saw an opportunity to create a valuable asset for the bioscience startup ecosystem. Her dedication, along with the efforts of her team, Michael Polewski, Bianca Fung, and Laura Kaiser, has been instrumental in shaping Forward BIOLABS into what it is today.

The Present: Celebrating Five Years of Impact

For the past five years, Forward BIOLABS has been on an incredible journey, bringing its vision to fruition and witnessing the impact of innovation through the science that startup companies have performed within its walls. Some key achievements (read the full Forward BIOLABS Impact Report here):

  • Over 40 startups have resided at Forward BIOLABS, conducting groundbreaking research and development.
  • These companies have attracted over $360 million in investment and grants, demonstrating the value and potential of the work being done within the Forward BIOLABS community.
  • Notably, every company that has graduated into its own space has chosen to remain in the greater Madison area, a testament to the supportive environment and opportunities offered by Forward BIOLABS.
  • Forward BIOLABS has become a case study in turnkey lab success for other regions to aspire to.

“Forward BIOLABS is catalyzing the growth of Wisconsin as a vibrant hub for scientific innovation. This is a testament to the visionary approach of Forward BIOLABS and their understanding of what it takes to nurture and grow a successful startup ecosystem.” – Tom Livelli, Vice President Life Sciences, Promega

The Future: Expanding Horizons and Driving Innovation

Looking ahead, Forward BIOLABS plays a central role in the Wisconsin Biohealth Tech Hub EDA Phase 2 application led by BioForward. This project aims to accelerate innovation to commercialization through proven models and capital efficiency. By expanding laboratory operations in Madison and extending them to Milwaukee via a pilot program, Forward BIOLABS will provide startups with the support they need to de-risk development, achieve milestones, and accelerate growth. You can see BioForward CEO, Lisa Johnson’s partnership announcement here.

The expansion plans encompass both the Madison and Milwaukee MSAs, with a focus on empowering entrepreneurs across the state. Through the launch of partnerships with innovation centers statewide, BioForward, Forward BIOLABS, and the Wisconsin Biohealth Tech Hub aim to provide vital growth resources to early-stage biohealth companies and drive meaningful change within the industry.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. You’ve managed to go fast and go far. To bring Forward BIOLABS from the what if stage, to what will we do without this in the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Madison in just five years is really impressive.” – Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin, University of Wisconsin-Madison

As we embark on this next chapter awaiting news on Phase 2 EDA Tech Hubs Funding, BioForward and Forward BIOLABS remain committed to supporting biohealth entrepreneurs, fostering collaboration, and driving innovation forward. Together, we will continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible, making a lasting impact on human health and the biohealth industry as a whole.

The future is bright, and we are excited to be at the forefront of shaping it.