As Wisconsin continues to establish its role as a nationwide leader in biomanufacturing, the Forward BIO Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison continues to grow, with the addition of Philip Keegan as its public-private partnership lead.
Keegan comes from a background of commercialization and project management, having worked in the medical device industry and on platforms to improve drug therapies.
“Phil provides a big boost to our Forward BIO Institute efforts,” says Bill Murphy, the Harvey D. Spangler Professor of biomedical engineering and director of the Forward BIO Institute. “He has the ideal background and mindset to connect innovative technologies with significant industry needs. His efforts will provide more frequent collisions with industry and accelerate practical technology development.”
As a graduate student at Georgia Institute of Technology, Keegan spent a lot of time thinking and talking about the clinical impacts of his research. But he didn’t have a clear roadmap of how to directly translate his insights.
“It never really made much sense to me that commercial and clinical technology development were siloed away from where the discovery was happening,” he says.
Having subsequently worked across the spectrum of technology development—from pre-clinical development of the Hemanext device to overseeing a suite of technologies aimed at disrupting early-stage drug discovery—Keegan found himself progressively drawn toward the early innovation and thinking about how to get investigators over the chasm between discovery and commercialization.
Coordinating a team of scientists and engineers working jointly between Draper and Pfizer taught him the importance of integrating diverse perspectives.
“The common lesson of my career thus far is the need to communicate across the entire spectrum of entrepreneurship,” he says. “It takes business development, finance, market analysis, clinicians, regulatory, design engineers and others working alongside the ideators to fully realize the technology that they have imagined.”
As the Forward BIO Institute’s public-private partnership lead, Keegan will use this expertise to direct industry engagement within the institute via collaborations with biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies.
Keegan is especially passionate about working with the community to engage industry early and often, and, reciprocally, through programs such as sponsored research.
“Sometimes in academia ‘industry’ can be treated like a bad word,” he says. “I want our students to understand that there are a whole host of ways that our trainees can contribute to healthcare innovation, and I am proud to contribute to a department so supportive of those efforts.”