Bioscience industry drives Wisconsin’s health care services

    Wisconsin is home to several top-performing health care systems that, according to a report produced by the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at the UW-Madison/Extension contributed $7.3 billion in total income for the state in 2009, the most recent data available.

    Additionally, the state’s globally-recognized research institutions and the burgeoning biotech industry in Wisconsin continue to revolutionize the industry and help the state’s medical professionals deliver the best quality of care to Wisconsin’s patient population.

    Genetic sequencing: it’s personal
    For many companies in the state, that means shifting to a more patient-centric, personalized model of care that involves an increasing reliance on DNA and genetic profiling.

    “Personalized medicine in Wisconsin has really come full circle,” said Dr. Howard Jacob, director of the Human and Molecular Genetics Center and the Warren P. Knowles Chair of Genetics at the Medical College of Wisconsin.  “We were previously only using genetics in research. Now what we’ve done is bring genetics into a clinical setting; finding a variation in the gene we think may be causing a problem and taking that variation back into the research realm to find a solution.”

    The Human and Molecular Genetics Center at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin serves both children and adults, and is the only center of its kind in Wisconsin, Jacob said.

    Access to genomic sequencing, and the shift towards more personalized medicine has driven the cost of the procedure down to as low as $5,000.

    Currently, many of the cases reviewed in the Center are children.

    “The chances of finding a diagnosis for these children and parents without genetic sequencing is approximately 5 to 10 percent,” Jacob said. “With genetic sequencing, the ability to diagnose the child jumps to 25 percent or more.”

    In 2011, Jacob, with his team of geneticists at the Medical College of Wisconsin, was the first to successfully use genetic sequencing. With it, they were able to diagnose – and save – then-six-year-old Nicholas Volker.

    While insurance companies try to catch up with technology, and decide what should be covered and for whom, Jacob sees the potential for genetic testing to become a standard of care.

    “There’s a fundamental shift in how we practice medicine,” he said. “As genetic sequencing becomes more accessible and less costly, we can utilize the information to prescribe medication, dosages, and even run lab tests based on the person’s medical history.”

    The genome, according to Jacob, is documentation of our family history. Genetic sequencing could identify, without a doubt, what risks patients have.

    The Center is currently servicing more than 500 internal patients and external customers. Jacob expects that number to continue to increase.

    Commercialization: a treasure trove
    Wisconsin has continued to develop as a bioscience hub. The industry landscape includes companies dedicated to personalized pharmaceuticals, genetic sequencing and the manufacturing of medical devices designed to improve the lives of patients.

    In Wisconsin, industry employment grew by 8.2 percent from 2007-2012, a time frame that included the national recession and the early years of recovery.

    Research institutions, including the Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation, the University of Wisconsin Biotechnology Center, the Morgridge Institute for Research at UW-Madison, the Milwaukee Institute for Drug Discovery (UW-Milwaukee) and the southeast Wisconsin Applied Chemistry Center of Excellence at UW-Milwaukee and UW-Parkside are not only driving advancements in the field of personalized medicine, they are spawning innovation, commercializing companies and patents – and creating economic impact in the process.

    According to a 2014 report published by Battelle/BIO, 70 percent of all academic research in the state in 2012 was focused on the bioscience industry. The report also indicated that since 2009, Wisconsin inventors have received more than 3,000 bioscience-related patents – most with a focus on surgical and medical devices, biochemistry, drugs and pharmaceuticals.

    “There is a great appreciation for the value of our research capabilities and how they can be leveraged for economic development in the state,” said Douglas Stafford, director of the Milwaukee Institute for Drug Discovery and the southeastern Wisconsin Applied Chemistry Center of Excellence. “Our goal here is to solve problems of the industry, adjust to new trends in the marketplace and come up with new products that can lead to new businesses for the state.”

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