Biotech: Prosperous Partnerships

From supplements to skincare, it may be surprising to learn that biotech companies are routinely being sought after to help resolve issues such as taste and sustainability.

By Dominique Cantelme
From the November/December 2020 Issue

Biotech is big business as well as big in business. At almost every turn you’ll see its impact, even where some may have thought it unlikely.

For example, SDC Nutrition, a global supplement manufacturer, will use Hemp Synergistics’ THC-free, powdered hemp oil to meet consumer demand for the inclusion of concentrated, broad-spectrum, tasteless hemp into formulations. Bio-Dri™ is a patent pending hemp powder with 50 percent CBD by weight. This gives SDC the opportunity to include a hemp oil containing ingredient with at least eight times higher potency than past “state-of-the-shelf” extraction technology.

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(Photo: HudsonAlpha)

“Supplements containing hemp are in demand…but two problems have prevented clients from mass production: hemp’s ubiquitous bitter taste and the inability to effectively mix hemp oil with other botanical ingredients,” said SDC Nutrition’s Founder and Chairman Sean Marszalek. “Bio-Dri solves these problems and we view this innovation as a game changer for the supplement and food industry.”

Biotech in the beauty industry might be another surprise.

“Biotech beauty technically refers to ingredients that are generated with DNA editing and the help of organisms like algae, yeast or bacteria,” says Mallory Huron, beauty trend forecaster at Fashion Snoops. “However, I’ve seen the term broadly used to describe lab-made ingredients that either fuse natural ingredients with synthetic chemicals, or create synthetic, sustainable solutions for natural ingredients.”

Huron believes biotech in beauty is a win-win, as it provides the opportunity to create more effective ingredients that are safer, and help reduce overconsumption and resource exhaustion.

Major markets are looking to biotech companies for new formulations of everything from hyaluronic acid to collagen.

L’Oréal signed a leasing deal with Micreos, a biotech firm specializing in bacteria, and partnered with biotech brand LanzaTech to create plastic cosmetics bottles derived from captured carbon, while Estée Lauder Companies announced a collaboration with biotech firm Atropos Therapeutics to explore lab-made ingredients.


W. L. Gore & Associates. Machine Solutions. T-Gen North (Translational Genomics). Poba Medical. Symple Surgical. Axolotl Biologix. Amnyon Biologics. Anuevas. DES (Development Engineering Sciences). These are a few of the biomedical businesses that chose Flagstaff as their home. In a community of 72,000 people at the base of the highest mountain in AZ, they employ approximately 2,800 residents. And compared to the entire workforce, the Flagstaff workforce is 14 percent more specialized in the biosciences than any other city in the nation.

Dr. David Engelthaler
Dr. David Engelthaler, Co-Director and Associate Professor of the Pathogen and Microbiome Division at TGen North (Photo: Courtesy of TGen)

If Flagstaff is new to you, you should know a few things about it. Flagstaff is the county seat to the second largest county in the nation—Coconino County. The city sits in the largest stand of Ponderosa Pine in the world, and as the gateway to the Grand Canyon, is literally a launching point to the Colorado River. As the First International Dark Sky Community, Flagstaff is home to a cluster of other scientific endeavors, attracting the United States Geological Survey (USGS) with their Astrogeology Science Center and their Southwest Biological Science Center among others, the US Naval Observatory Flagstaff (NOFS), the Lowell Observatory and the Discovery Channel Telescope (DCS). This four-season community is also home to Northern Arizona University, which serves as a pipeline for innovative minds to enter all fields of science. All this activity of scientific inquiry, research and development and innovation is celebrated every year in the longest running community-based science festival in the United States: the Flagstaff Festival of Science.

Dr. David Engelthaler, who has been the Co-Director and Associate Professor of the Pathogen and Microbiome Division at TGen North since 2006, said it best: “Because there’s a strong history of science in Flagstaff, building up the MedTech capacity has been an easier fit than it would be in other smaller towns.” “Flagstaff has an incredibly rich science and tech background,” due in part to other great companies like W.L. Gore & Associates, as well as research opportunities at Northern Arizona University.

Education is a priority to residents in Flagstaff as well, with one high school that rates #43 in the country. Per capita, the population has the highest level of education in Arizona. The Flagstaff Unified School district is also recognized by Apple for its award winning iRead program. These types of accolades are very meaningful to the entire community and to those working in the sciences.

“Being tucked away in a large national forest, it’s not an obvious place for a growing MedTech environment,” Engelthaler says. Yet, Flagstaff doesn’t succumb to the competition of a big city, which may make it easier to connect with collaborators around the world. “Once you’re here, a lot of folks realize this is the place they want to live and where they want their families to grow.” Pleasures such as skiing, river running, stargazing, rock climbing, mountain biking and a symphony, are options for all in this mountain community. The Navajo Nation, situated just north of Flagstaff, is home to the largest tribe in the county. The learning and experiences to be had are endless and uniquely Flagstaff.

You will find the logistics of this community meet your needs. Access to west coast ports, the Phoenix metro area to the south, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad and air service provided by American Airlines and United to Denver, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles and Phoenix, Flagstaff can get your products, materials and you anywhere you want to go.

First, learn more about some of these businesses, starting with T-Gen North, also known as Translational Genomics Research Institute, is led by Dr. Paul Keim and, as mentioned above, Dr. David Engelthaler. This non-profit with a mission positively impacts lives through genomic research translation. TGen North focuses on diagnostic, analytic, forensic, ecologic and epidemiologic research of microbes important to medicine, public health and biodefense. TGen North has been the lead on numerous local, national and international infectious disease investigations, using “genomic epidemiology” to help public health and safety officials stop and prevent disease outbreaks. As COVID-19 made its presence known around the world, T-Gen North was able to utilize advanced molecular technology and their existing supply chain to have a test up and running, and was able to set up a clinical diagnostic lab to do testing on patient samples. TGen was the first organization in the state, besides the state lab, to do that.

Machine Solutions, Inc. started in Flagstaff 20 years ago and has grown into a premier provider of advanced equipment and services for the medical device, biopharmaceutical and blood- and plasma-collection industries. Machine Solutions provides proprietary mechanical solutions to a variety of complex process, testing and device design challenges. Their equipment has become the industry standard for balloon catheter pleat and folding, drug coated stent crimping, heart valve crimping medical wire braiding and coiling, catheter lamination, marker band swaging, stent radial force testing, catheter trackability and torquability, stent securement and other medical device manufacturing applications; say that ten times fast. Machine Solutions is a pioneer in radio frequency technology, advancing technology for catheter tipping, bonding, flaring, flanging, hole forming, biopharmaceutical sealing, sterile connecting and disconnecting, along with many other applications.

W. L. Gore & Associates began manufacturing products in Flagstaff in 1967 and has been growing and innovating from day one. Their Flagstaff operations have transformed them into a biomedical powerhouse and the largest private employer in Northern Arizona, employing more than 2,500. The company focuses on medical device research, development and manufacturing to improve the lives of patients worldwide. Known for their innovation and distinctive team culture, they work with healthcare professionals to solve some of the most complex medical challenges with minimally invasive products for a wide range of patients.

Gore Medical produces therapeutic solutions to treat complex vascular, cardiac and general surgery medical conditions such as congenital heart defects, ischemic strokes, peripheral artery disease and aortic aneurysms. Globally, W. L. Gore & Associates also provides solutions to a variety of consumer and industry needs, ranging from GORE-TEX fabrics to cables, electronic components, fabrics, fibers, filtration devices, sealants, venting, pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical products.

Every business starts with an idea, and ideas need places to grow. In Flagstaff, Moonshot@NACET is the team that delivers business services and mentoring to the business incubator and accelerator originally known as the Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology, or NACET. Having existing industries like biotech/sciences, and higher education such as Northern AZ University, are certainly great assets in the community. Having Moonshot@NACET serving as a bridge for any potential start-up or entrepreneur in the region amplifies all assets. Six of the businesses mentioned at the beginning of this article are program graduates. During the days of COVID-19, Moonshot@NACET has been holding remote pitch events for start-ups every week, ensuring that business solutions continue to be developed.

The biomedical industry is strong in Flagstaff. The pipeline to that industry is strong and growing at Northern Arizona University. Moonshot@NACET encourages and grows the new ideas into businesses. The Flagstaff biomedical ecosystem delivers innovation every day. Visit. Discover. Grow. Flagstaff. To Choose Flagstaff for yourself visit


At the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, casual gatherings can lead to incredible research opportunities. A fortuitous encounter at a HudsonAlpha mixer led to a collaboration that is searching for new ways to treat pancreatic cancer. HudsonAlpha Faculty Investigators Sara Cooper, PhD, and Rick Myers, PhD are working together with CFD Research Principal Investigator AJ Singhal on a Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grant from the National Institutes of Health. The group is working to find a more effective target for pancreatic cancer drugs, illustrating the power of the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology’s unique approach to public-private collaboration.

An Idea over Drinks: For this project, collaboration between the Institute’s Cooper Lab and CFD Research started last year at Science on Tap, a monthly campus event sponsored by HudsonAlpha where people get together to talk research over pizza and beer. Singhal spoke at the event, and he told the crowd about strides he and his team were making in modeling and targeting proteins.

They just needed some ideas for new proteins to target.

After his talk, Singhal found Institute President Rick Myers, PhD, who noted there might be an opportunity for Singhal’s group to work with researchers at HudsonAlpha. “It was an incredible moment,” Singhal said. “You could just feel it all coming together. This collaboration will define our research into pancreatic cancer drugs, and one day, it might even lead to a new treatment. A better treatment.”

Myers put Singhal in contact with Cooper, and the collaboration began in earnest.

Cooper’s Lab had a number of novel target proteins identified through their work. CFD Research had the tools to model those proteins and predict drugs that might target them.

A Search for Treatment: Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest cancers in the world. According to Johns Hopkins, more than 44,000 Americans will receive a pancreatic cancer diagnosis this year; more than 38,000 Americans will die from the disease.

While pancreatic cancer is more treatable when found early, most cases are not found until far too late, leaving patients without curative treatment options.

“I study many kinds of cancer,” Cooper said. “Pancreatic cancer is particularly dangerous and cruel.”

The Cooper Lab previously discovered a number of genes were linked directly with patient survival in pancreatic cancer. One example from that study identified a gene that, if it becomes overactive, makes cells more resistant to drugs by limiting normal stress response that would trigger cell death. Other genes studied by the Cooper Lab control different aspects of the body, like how closely packed cells are, or how cells metabolize drugs.

Through its non-profit research work, the Cooper Lab generated a trove of data on genes and proteins related to patient survival for people with pancreatic cancer. The lab’s collaboration with CFD Research allows them to use this knowledge for testing potential treatment options.

A Way Forward: Not only has the Cooper Lab developed a list of potential targets for pancreatic cancer treatment, but they’ve also developed the means to test outcomes for those targets. In this case, Cooper and Singhal have honed in on a particular protein—the one that affects cellular stress response.

Using the three-dimensional structure of the protein determined by the team, they can predict which existing chemical compounds might be able to attach to it and render it non-functional. If the protein can be turned off, it could increase the effectiveness of traditional cancer therapies.

The first stage of the NIH grant focus was on finding potential drug molecules. For the collaboration, CFD Research has tested a variety of molecules that could potentially inactivate the protein in question; the Cooper Lab has since tested those molecules to see if they work on pancreatic cancer cells.

Based on the results thus far, Cooper Labs and CFD Research have a couple of candidates that they are continuing to characterize to determine 1) do these compounds kill cells the way they think (by inhibiting our gene target), and 2) do the compounds kill cancer cells more effectively than healthy cells. This project has been delayed a few months by time away from the lab this spring due to COVID, but they anticipate having answers to these important questions by the beginning of 2021.

“Collaborating with outside experts is an important way to advance our non-profit research,” Cooper said. “We’re lucky at HudsonAlpha that we have highly specialized experts right here on campus with us.”

HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology is a nonprofit institute dedicated to developing and applying scientific advances to health, agriculture, learning and commercialization. Its vision is to leverage the synergy between discovery, education, medicine and economic development in genomic sciences to improve the human condition around the globe. As an active part of Huntsville, the fastest-growing city in the state and one of the most lauded cities in the country, HudsonAlpha strengthens and diversifies the region’s economy and workforce. For its companies’ partnerships or the shipment of their products, HudsonAlpha and Huntsville position their organizations for success. To learn more about HudsonAlpha, visit


When you combine Canada’s smartest workforce, a highly strategic geographic location and thriving innovation ecosystem, the opportunities are endless, writes Donna Gillespie, CEO of Kingston Economic Development Corporation.

Kingston, Ontario, Canada proves that top talent and a thriving health innovation sector can be found in one strategic location.

Kingston offers all the advantages of an urban setting with dedicated resources and support you would expect from a global partner. With a highly skilled workforce and three strong post-secondary institutions, including one of Canada’s top universities, Kingston is a highly educated and rapidly growing Smart City and is fast becoming a favorite for investors seeking to set up shop in Canada. With its proximity to the United States border and major Canadian cities like Toronto and Montréal, Kingston is an ideal location to establish your business.

Considering these benefits, and a local government that is seeking to attract new employers, it is no surprise that the City’s fully serviced business parks are rapidly filling with savvy investors and burgeoning health science businesses taking advantage of the innovation ecosystem in Kingston. Startup Blink ranked Kingston as one of the Top 10 start up ecosystems in Canada, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives ranked Kingston #1 Top City in Canada to be a Woman in 2019 and Financial Times UK named Kingston the top Small City for Foreign Direct Investment in the Americas in 2017.

Health Innovation: Kingston is recognized as a leader in the Health Innovation sector, with local and multinational businesses pioneering new tech ranging from portable chemical detection technology to stem cell research. The burgeoning cluster of companies in the Kingston region includes Cardinal Health, Lonza/ Octane, Kinarm, D2 Innovations, Novari Health, Kings Distributed Systems and many other growth oriented companies.

Kingston-based company Novari Health has made it possible for Ontario-based patients who don’t have a primary care physician, or are unable to see their own physician, to “see” a family physician virtually for non-COVID-19 related health issues. Novari Health was selected to create the virtual waiting room and virtual clinic software in a collaborative initiative of the Ontario Medical Association, OntarioMD, Ontario Ministry of Health and Ontario Health.

“Access to primary care during the COVID-19 pandemic poses a problem for some patients as they follow public health instructions to practice social distancing and staying home,” says Novari Health. “Virtual medical appointments using the Novari eVisit™ technology provide a safe way for patients and physicians to see each other.”

The foundation of health innovation ecosystem is built upon partnerships with Queen’s University, St. Lawrence College, Royal Military College, Kingston Health Sciences Centre, National Health Research Centres, Launch Lab, Southern Ontario Angel Network and a highly skilled talent pipeline. The vibrant health-related research networks include: Canadian Cancer Trials Group, the Canadian Primary Care Sentinel Surveillance Network, the Canadian Frailty Network and the Canadian Institute for Military and Veterans Health Research. This is partnered with a favorable health-related research funding climate with over $159M in research funding for health innovation over the past five years and Kingston being home to 14 Canada Research Chairs. The many assets and strategic partners offered by Kingston provide an ideal opportunity for new business, business expansions and R&D opportunities.

Looking for a place to happen? With Kingston as your home base, you have easy access to global customers and business opportunities.

One of Canada’s busiest highways, Ontario’s Highway 401, passes through Kingston, offering direct routes to major economic hubs like Toronto, Ottawa, Montréal and Detroit. Within an eight-hour drive, businesses can reach up to 25 million North Americans in cities like Boston, New York, Buffalo, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, to name a few. Kingston also sits along a rail corridor which sees daily passenger trains heading between Toronto and Montréal, as well as cargo trains.

If you are heading stateside, the Kingston area offers numerous American border crossings. Interstate 81 provides easy access to New York State with New York City just a six-hour drive.

Delivering value: The City of Kingston is keenly interested in creating the right environment for business success. To that end, the City manages several fully serviced business parks with approximately 100 acres of affordable, shovel-ready industrial land, featuring state-of-the-art infrastructure with easy access to Highway 401 and the city’s downtown core. These employment lands are ideal for industrial businesses, research and development and other business uses.

To help ease the start-up costs associated with establishing a new location, the City of Kingston has waived development charges for industrial uses. Additionally, between the Canadian and Ontario governments, eligible businesses can apply for over $10 million in available incentives, as well as Scientific Research and Experimental Development Tax Credits ranging from 15 to 35 percent.

The complete package: The city proudly promotes the Team Kingston approach, bringing together the partners to support all types of business from start-ups to multinational corporations.

To begin your investment journey in Kingston, please visit


Global leaders in life sciences, pharmaceuticals and healthcare are increasingly looking to Southern Indiana’s River Ridge Commerce Center to support growing operations and their needs to quickly and efficiently reach customers nationwide.

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Earlier this year PharmaCord announced a $56 million expansion that will result in 850 new jobs at River Ridge.

Over the past few years, there has been rising interest among firms locating or expanding manufacturing, processing, distribution and support facilities at River Ridge. To date, nearly a half dozen healthcare, life sciences and pharmaceutical companies have opted to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in their operations—largely as a result of the central location, logistical advantages, strong business climate and the skilled and ready workforce available at River Ridge. And more are on their way.

“It’s been a very telling trend,” said Jerry Acy, executive director of the River Ridge Development Authority. “The investments we’ve made to ready development sites, build roads, create sustainable water infrastructure and add important amenities for businesses have paid off tremendously. Our location and the ease of doing business here are very appealing to many types of companies—especially firms like healthcare and pharmacy-services providers, and life sciences companies.”

The River Ridge Commerce Center is a 6,000-acre business and office park established in 1998 to replace lost economic activity from the closure of the Indiana Army Ammunition Plant. Since that time, the River Ridge Development Authority has invested more than $120 million to redevelop about 35 percent of the Center. The investments in modern roads, utilities and other infrastructure have spurred private development activity and created thousands of jobs in Southern Indiana.

The River Ridge Commerce Center, which sits at the crossroads of four major interstates (I-64, I-65, I-71 and I-265), has become one of the largest magnets for economic growth and job creation in Southern Indiana and the Greater Louisville (Ky.) metro area. Its central location allows firms to reach more than two-thirds of the U.S. population within a day’s drive. The Center is also conveniently located near UPS’ Worldport hub, the center point of the company’ air network providing next-day air service to customers worldwide.

River Ridge currently serves as home to more than 60 companies with over 10,500 on-site workers. The Commerce Center estimated that it produced a total of $2.5 billion in economic output in 2019 and supported more than 16,900 regional jobs. The investments and growth at River Ridge recently earned the RRDA the International Economic Development Council’s Gold Award for Real Estate Redevelopment and Reuse.

River Ridge has for more than a decade attracted many local, national and international employers from major industries, including automotive, aerospace, food and beverage and logistics. The rapidly growing pharmaceutical, life-sciences and healthcare cluster is a more recent trend. Currently, two companies in this space are constructing new facilities and a third recently opened one of the largest operations at River Ridge.

PharmaCord, a firm that connects pharmaceutical companies with manufacturers, doctors and payers, announced a $56 million expansion in June that will result in 850 new jobs at River Ridge. PharmaCord is constructing a new headquarters that will employ customer service representatives, benefits specialists, case managers and specialty nurses.

The company credits River Ridge’s leadership and the state’s attractive business climate as reasons to locate in Southern Indiana.

“It was important to us to find an expansion site that would not only afford us the space to grow and fulfill our potential as a company, but also to expand our presence in the Louisville metro area,” said Nitin Sahney, founder and CEO of PharmaCord. “I believe this new location will give us the space and ability to support future pharmaceutical client programs while creating more jobs in healthcare for the Metro area. We are very excited about this decision and its implications for the continued growth of PharmaCord.”

HempRise is investing more than $70 million to construct a purpose-built industrial hemp processing and innovation facility, under construction on 25 acres at River Ridge and scheduled to open next year.

Meanwhile, HempRise is investing more than $70 million to construct a purpose-built industrial hemp processing and innovation facility, including specialized labs with capacity to produce more than 10 million liters of CBD and hemp extracts. HempRise would employ as many as 75 people at River Ridge. The new facility is under construction on 25 acres at River Ridge and will open next year.

“After a multi-state search, HempRise selected the Southern Indiana region because it provided access to a terrific Indiana/Kentucky labor pool, proximity to an airport with non-stop service to their west coast corporate office and easy access for customers—all critical for their operational needs,” said Scott Kupperman of Kupperman Location Solutions. “River Ridge offered a site which was ideally sized and configured for both their initial construction and growth requirements, along with significant due diligence information to allow for an expedited investigation and confirmation of their development program and site plan. HempRise also found the mix of tenants in the park attractive and reflecting of the type of facility and operation they envisioned for their own operation. River Ridge’s leadership was very helpful with initial project review steps, and incentive assistance that reduced some acquisition and operating costs.”

Last year, Medline, a manufacturer and distributor of products for healthcare companies, opened a $70 million, 1.1 million-square-foot facility. The center is also home to Optum, a national provider of pharmaceutical distribution services, and Knipper & Co., a distributor of medications for the healthcare industry that has expanded operations at River Ridge since it opened in 2015.

New Jersey-based J. Knipper concentrated its business in the Midwest to better serve its distribution needs. “Being central to the majority of the U.S. population, and having such close proximity to interstate access and major UPS and FedEx hubs make Southern Indiana an ideal location for our new DTP fulfillment center,” the company said.


The pre-pandemic strength of the Madison Region’s biohealth sector positioned it to hit the ground running, innovating in collaboration with partners in government, higher education and manufacturing.

In early March, the leaders of three Madison Region headquartered companies came together to address the novel coronavirus. They concluded COVID-19 would make business anything-but-normal for the foreseeable future, and recognized each company had unique capabilities that could help limit the impact of COVID-19 in Wisconsin. With the full weight of the state government and Wisconsin National Guard added to the effort, their teams were able to complete tasks in weeks that would normally take months.

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Much of Promega’s manufacturing capacity takes place at their headquarters in Madison, WI, with additional facilities in California, South Korea and China. In Madison, production lines that were running one shift five days a week are now operating three shifts seven days a week. (Photo: Promega)

Exact Sciences was already well-known for its Cologuard diagnostic testing kits. As the pandemic accelerated, its staff and engineers retrained equipment which looks for DNA associated with colorectal cancer to look for coronavirus instead. The company’s deep scientific and laboratory expertise proved transferable, allowing Exact Sciences to quickly set up accurate, high volume COVID-19 testing. “None of this would have been possible without leadership from the State of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Clinical Lab Network and the herculean efforts of each company’s teams,” said Kevin Conroy, chairman and CEO. “Our employees worked around the clock, knowing the long hours they put in were critical to the community efforts to defeat the virus.” In addition to their Madison Region collaboration, Exact Sciences is also collaborating with Everlywell to offer a Home Collection Kit for COVID-19 testing.

Promega had already been manufacturing the reagents and assays used in COVID testing for decades. Anticipating the increased needs as the coronavirus epidemic emerged in China, they began scaling up manufacturing in January to address needs globally, positioning them to help supply the reagents (ingredients) needed to run COVID-19 tests on Exact Science’s machines. Promega has continued and accelerated production since those early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Compared to a year ago, they have experienced an approximate 10-fold increase in demand for both finished catalog and custom products that Promega manufactures and supplies for COVID19 testing.

“Hospitals, laboratories, researchers, drug and vaccine developers and molecular diagnostic manufacturers around the world are using our products in their efforts to fight this pandemic. We’re honored to support them and their vital work by rapidly scaling our operations to meet unprecedented demand, all while keeping employee safety our top priority. Organizational values of quality, flexibility and long-term thinking are guiding us as we work in new, more effective ways,” said Penny Patterson, Vice President, Corporate Affairs, Promega Corporation.

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Midwest Prototyping partnered with UW-Madison and several companies in the Madison Region to develop the Badger Face Shield. (Photo: Midwest Prototyping)

Epic, led by CEO Judy Faulkner, then layered on software capabilities needed to quickly transfer test results from the lab to state officials and health care providers. Their MyChart software allows patients to stay at home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus but ask their provider questions about their health. To self-triage, patients answer questions about their symptoms and receive tailored instructions for what to do next, such as to self-isolate, schedule a follow-up video or e-visit, call a clinic or support line or seek emergency help. To support the local community, EPIC worked with UW Health and UnityPoint Health-Meriter to transform their old headquarters into a daycare for children of healthcare workers.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison, the eighth leading research university in the U.S., collaborated with industry partners such as Midwest Prototyping and Placon to develop the Badger Face Shield, the open-source design for medical face shields that’s now being used by manufacturers around the country to help combat the national PPE shortage. Midwest Prototyping continues to dedicate several technicians and office personnel to this project, further refining the design and production process.

“We were happy to be able to leverage our manufacturing and logistics expertise to help UW Hospitals and subsequently many other agencies and healthcare systems get the PPE they needed,” said President Steve Grundahl. In collaboration with our long-time Wisconsin vendor partners like Delve, Plastic Ingenuity, Placon and Curt G. Joa, we were able to come together very quickly to make a difference, something that would have been very difficult for any of our companies to do alone. We also received a tremendous amount of manufacturing support from our friends at Sub Zero and Vortex Optics as the demand quickly outpaced what any one company could manage.”

Placon became involved with the project after a call from University of Wisconsin Professor Tim Osswald. He was collaborating and problem-solving with local manufacturers to get personal protective equipment (PPE) face shields to local healthcare workers in need. Once word spread about the project, more requests for the die-cut, plastic sheets started rolling in. “Our designers, tooling, packaging and quality engineers acted rapidly to scale up production,” said Dan Mohs, Chairman and CEO. “We are currently producing the subcomponent plastic face shield for several companies to assemble into the finished PPE product. We hope that our small part in producing PPE helps our community and country overcome the challenges we face together.”

In addition to their work on the Badger Face Shield, UW-Madison is contributing to disease and vaccine research.

“Top public research universities like UW-Madison are uniquely positioned to bring the U.S. (and the world) through this crisis,” said Chancellor Rebecca Blank.

The Madison Region has a diversity of firms engaged in a variety of bioscience niches; a robust innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem; world-class educational institutions; and extraordinary levels of human capital that contribute to a highly skilled labor force. Madison Region Economic Partnership President Paul Jadin confirms, “without these economic assets, such rapid collaborations, strategic shifts and innovations such as the Badger Face Shield would not be possible.”

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