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COE researchers are part of PanVera Corporation's success

Photo of Daniel van der Weide.
Daniel van der Weide Larger Image

PanVera Corporation, a University Research Park company that turns genetic information into tools for drug discovery, is a textbook example of how university-industry partnerships can be vital to a company's success.

PanVera announced recently, it was being acquired by pharmaceutical industry leader Aurora Biosciences Corporation, a publicly traded company based in San Diego. The merger will help put both companies at the leading edge of new drug development made possible by the Human Genome Project.

PanVera, founded in 1992, has many close collaborations with UW-Madison faculty, including two recent additions from the university's strategic hiring program, Biomedical Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Daniel van der Weide and Biomedical Engineering Professor David Beebe. With Beebe, PanVera is partnering on research to develop microfluidic systems, or "laboratories on a chip," to enhance biomanufacturing. They are also working with Beebe on biosensing systems that may provide advance warning of environmental toxins.

Photo of David Beebe.
David Beebe. Larger Image

One of PanVera's platform technologies, called flourescence polarization, was pioneered by former UW-Madison pharmacy Professor Catherine Royer and is now licensed to PanVera. The company also assembled a scientific advisory board of UW-Madison researchers to help steer its development of drug discovery tools.

Other PanVera technologies are built around the research advances of biochemistry professors Jack Gorski, Alan Attie and Hector DeLuca, on the expression of various medically important genetic receptors in humans.

"The PanVera relationship is an excellent example of UW-Madison and small Wisconsin manufacturers working together on a broad front of mutual interests in research and education," says Lawrence Casper, assistant dean of engineering and associate director of University-Industry Relations.

"The university is constantly looking to expand these partnerships which contribute to the development of the Wisconsin economy," Casper adds.

The partnerships are mutually beneficial. For example, PanVera CEO Ralph Kauten has been a key resource for the UW Technology Enterprise Cooperative, a program that helps students and faculty develop and hatch technology-based businesses. And Kauten also serves on the Board of Visitors for the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and is a guest lecturer.

PanVera is one of more than 170 Wisconsin technology-based companies that have strong ties to UW-Madison people or research, according to a 1999 study by University-Industry Relations. More than 100 of these firms have started in the last 10 years alone, reflecting the increased emphasis at UW-Madison on technology transfer.