Experts who have valuable insights for tapping into America’s largest biohealth entrepreneurial seed fund will gather in Milwaukee Nov. 7-9.
The national conference of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services highlights Small Business Innovation and Research and Small Business Technology Transfer grants. More than $920 million is available annually through the congressionally mandated fund.
Around 100 program managers from the two grant programs will descend on Milwaukee for the conference. Conference attendees will be able to meet one-on-one with the program managers to learn how to submit successful applications for Health and Human Services seed funds.
The idea is to increase private-sector commercialization of innovations with the aid of federal funding. The awards through SBIR and STTR range from $75,000 to more than $1 million. The program has helped many companies get off the ground, including Madison-based Stratatech.
Wisconsin entrepreneurs have received $42 million in these funds from HHS since 2012.
Protein Foundry, a startup from the Medical College of Wisconsin, was awarded a SBIR grant for $250,000. Brian Volkman, Protein Foundry’s president and a professor of biochemistry, teamed up on the application with another MCW professor whose research was of specific interest to the National Institute of Health and had been advised to apply.
That money allowed the company to conduct a series of pilot studies on its product.
“There’s a pot of money out there to turn your idea into a commercial product,” Volkman said. “Creating new businesses and getting new inventions into the hands of consumers is a good thing.” The company is waiting to hear if its application was accepted for another round of SBIR funding.
About 600 people are expected to attend the 19th annual conference, hosted by the Clinical and Translational Science Institute of Southeast Wisconsin, which is based at the Medical College. This is the first time the conference will be held in Milwaukee.
The program managers hail from federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.
Beyond the one-on-one meetings and information sessions, the conference will also host two keynote speakers: Walter Koroshetz, director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (Nov. 7) and former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (Nov. 8), who served as Health and Human Services secretary under then-President George W. Bush.
“This is a rare opportunity for our state and the Midwest, researchers and entrepreneurs to showcase our innovative biohealth industry,” said Kalpa Vithalani, the local conference chair. “It is about time that we broadcast our unique Wisconsin and Midwest story, that the country recognizes that we are not ‘fly-over’ territory, we are not simply the ‘Rust Belt,’ but that we are ‘fly-to’ territory, a destination for innovators, and that we are prepared to deliver the integrated health solutions of tomorrow.”
The three-day convention will be held at the Hilton Milwaukee City Center. The full list of events can be viewed on the CTSI website, https://jsonl.in/2yuR5h4. Tickets, on sale through Oct. 31, are $550. Students and post-doctoral scholars can purchase a reduced-price ticket for $250.