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Worthington's bioscience event drawing closer

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WORTHINGTON -- Madonna Carlson is familiar with the area's biosciences industry, having grown up in the region and then working in Worthington from 1979 to 1993.

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That's part of the reason why Carlson, who will be one of several presenters at the upcoming Regional Bioscience Conference -- hosted by the Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp. and scheduled for April 18-19 at Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Worthington campus -- is high on the future of biosciences in southwest Minnesota.

"I was born in Tracy, grew up in Wilmont and in Heron Lake, and worked in the biosciences in Worthington ... so I am very familiar with the area," Carlson said. "In my own lifetime, I have seen a whole array of growth opportunities in bioscience come to fruition in the southwestern Minnesota region. The bone-deep understanding and interest in animal health and in crop science that is found in traditional farming areas such as southwest Minnesota is hard to match elsewhere."

Carlson is now employed as vice president for quality assurance and regulatory at Benchmark Biolabs, which is based in Lincoln, Neb. The company is known for "providing laboratory and clinical testing services, training, consulting and contract manufacturing to the veterinary biologics industry," Carlson explained.

That professional experience in veterinary biologics will be the focus of Carlson's breakout session, "Finding a Path to Commercialization," that will be from 3:15 to 4 p.m. on the opening day of the two-day conference.

"I will talk about some of the most commonly successful strategies for moving an idea forward in the field of veterinary biotechnology -- from the lab to the market," Carlson said.

This year's ninth annual Regional Bioscience Conference has been coordinated through Minnesota West's community development and customized training program. After receiving a proposal from the program's director, Roxanne Hayenga, WREDC opted to contract with the college for the planning of the event.

Carlson is one of five featured presenters scheduled for the conference's opening day. Another is Arvind Raghavan, vice president for business development at Tychon Bioscience of St. Paul, who will speak on "Innovative Nanostructures for Cancer Treatment."

"Today's most commonly used anti-cancer drugs are 30 to 40 years old," Raghavan said in describing his planned presentation. "They kill cancer cells, but are highly toxic to normal cells. I'll be talking about the new generation of 'targeted' anti-cancer drugs that in the last five years have shown remarkable success in extending patients' lives by prodding the body's own immune system to fight back."

Raghavan added that Tychon is a startup biotech looking to commercialize innovative nanostructures invented at the University of Minnesota. The company aims to bring "a personalized' approach" to developing targeted therapeutics and diagnostics for cancer.

"The southwest region has a robust business, student and entrepreneurial community that we would like to get to know better," Raghavan said.

Just as Carlson is confident of the bright futures of biosciences in southwest Minnesota, so is Raghavan.

"There's an amazing confluence of enterprise, talent, resources and capital that can be channeled to form a regional bioscience hub," Raghavan said. "Testing, new product development and commercialization in the biosciences requires more than just cost-saving measures. The engagement of the community is a key to developing a true cluster, and from what I've heard, I think the southwest region has enormous potential in that regard."

"The workforce is highly motivated and well educated overall," Carlson added of the southwest Minnesota region. "The ongoing familiarity of the business and governmental authorities in the region with bioscience issues and bioscience employment advantages also helps give confidence in infrastructure being available to handle new innovations and opportunities as they arise. With these givens in place, thanks to your having a well-established existing base of bioscience companies already working in this region, there seems ample reason for optimism for the future of the industry here."

Individuals interested in registering for the conference may do so through the WREDC website at wredc.com. The early registration deadline is Monday.

Daily Globe Managing Editor Ryan McGaughey may be reached at 376-7320.

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Ryan McGaughey
I first joined the Daily Globe in April 2001 as sports editor. I later became the news editor in November 2002, and the managing editor in August 2006. I'm originally from New York State, and am married with two children.
(507) 376-7320
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