Ulrich Broeckel, founder and CEO of RPRD Diagnostics, returned home recently from a Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.-sponsored trade mission to Japan and South Korea with something that will pay dividends for years to come: a strategic partnership with Orient Bio Inc., a leading South Korean biotechnology company.
The agreement calls for establishing a business plan in which RPRD (Right Patient Right Drug) will expand the availability of its advanced pharmacogenomics (PGx) testing services into new markets and Orient Bio will diversify its business into precision medicine and clinical PGx testing.
“I wasn’t sure we would come home with an agreement, but they had done their homework and were ready to move forward,” said Broeckel, who is also the lead researcher and professor of pediatrics, medicine and physiology at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
RPRD was one of eight companies to go on the week-long trip led by Gov. Scott Walker and included WEDC secretary Mark Hogan and Katy Sinnott, WEDC’s vice president of international business development.
“The greatest benefit that Wisconsin companies receive is the one-on-one meetings they have each day with businesses from that country,” Sinnott said. “It would be impossible for a business to arrange those meetings on their own at the price point we offer. Another benefit from the trip is that the Wisconsin companies on the trip together get to know each other better and may often wind up working together.”
In addition to success in South Korea, RPRD’s Broeckel had several resourceful conversations with pharmaceutical companies in Tokyo. “We have some great discussions to follow up on,” he said.
Matthew Reigle, director of international sales for Regal Ware in Kewaskum, feels the same way.
“The WEDC did a great job of setting up meetings for us and getting us in front of the right people,” he said. “Of the meetings we had, we will be following up on about 40 percent.”
The cookware manufacturer went on the trip to explore opportunities of where it could grow in Southeast Asia, Reigle said. He added the trip opened his eyes about the manufacturer’s growth strategies.
“We learned that while there is a lot of interest in U.S. products, brand is more important so that is something we will look at as we develop and implement our growth plans,” he said.
The trip to Japan and South Korea was the first time Reigle went on a trade mission, and he came away impressed.
“The WEDC organized everything very well and had us meet with people we never could have met on our own,” he said. “They opened a lot of doors.”
Sinnott said preparation for the trips begin two to three months in advance as the WEDC connects its in-country trade representatives with company leaders to learn their objectives. The trade reps then work to find businesses in that country for Wisconsin companies to meet with.
Although RPRD is only a year old, the privately held precision medicine company in Wauwatosa decided to make the trip since its tests can help medical providers use a patient’s unique genetic profile to determine the best treatment option. Using that information will allow doctors to improve patient outcomes and reduce the risk of negative drug reactions while reducing overall costs.
One of RPRD’s tests, the CNT Panel, is highly relevant for patients of East Asian ethnicity who may receive thiopurine drug treatment, which is prescribed for patients with leukemia and other diseases.
“With that test so important for East Asians, we knew the trip would get out the word about what we do and that there would be definitely people interested,” Broeckel said.
Besides the signed agreement between RPRD and Orient Bio, the Wisconsin-based Mid-West Energy Research Consortium (M-WERC) signed an agreement to provide training and mentoring to 10 South Korean technology-based startups.
The deal with the Daegu-Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology means representatives from the 10 startups come to Milwaukee in mid-October to participate in the new Technology Acceleration and Globalization (TAG) Program. Along with M-WERC, Greenpoint Asset Management of Madison and Silicon Pastures, a Milwaukee angel investing group, will also help operate the program.
The entrepreneurs, who all hope to establish operations in the United States, will spend four weeks at the Energy Innovation Center in Milwaukee where they will focus on selling products, finding distribution partners in the U.S., raising venture capital funding for their U.S. operations and develop joint marketing strategies or partnerships with American firms.