New Bioforward CEO Touts Gov’t, Economic Development Background

Bioforward, Wisconsin’s top life sciences trade group, has hired a new CEO with significant experience in local government and business-development posts.

Laura Bray was named to the post today, succeeding Bryan Renk, who stepped down from Madison-based Bioforward in July. Bray spent a decade as executive director of the Menomonee Valley Partners, a nonprofit organization aimed at economic development and ecological restoration in Milwaukee’s Menomonee River Valley. She will start her new position Nov. 17.

Bray’s hire shows Bioforward is prioritizing economic development and coalition-building experience over a scientific background. Bray’s resume also includes a three-year stint in economic development with the city of Milwaukee. She hasn’t held any science-related jobs, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Renk led Bioforward for five years, after four years running agtech firm Aova Technologies in nearby Fitchburg, WI. He has also served on the boards of Madison-based flu vaccine developer Flugen, Maple Leaf Farms, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has since taken a consulting job with the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), Renk told Xconomy.

“I am honored to join Bioforward to work with life science companies, entrepreneurs, researchers, university partners, civic leadership, and the public sector to advance Wisconsin’s position as a leading life science community,” Bray said in a press release. “Wisconsin has a tremendous base of assets to build upon to achieve this vision.”

In addition to Bioforward’s office in downtown Madison, the organization said it wants to add an office in the Milwaukee area.

“A broad coalition of stakeholders from Madison and Milwaukee, as well as strong relationships throughout the state, will be essential to strengthen Wisconsin’s position as a life science industry leader,” Bioforward board member Joe Hammer said. “Laura’s skill set will be invaluable as we look to implement and enhance our five-year strategic plan.”

[Bioforward and WARF are Xconomy underwriters.]

Jeff Engel is a senior editor at Xconomy. Email: jengel@xconomy.com Follow @JeffEngelXcon

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