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Bioforward, Wisconsin Biotech Trade Group, Names 2nd CEO in 7 Months

Xconomy Wisconsin — 

Wisconsin’s top life sciences trade group has named its second new CEO in the past seven months.

Bioforward said today that Lisa Johnson, currently the vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. (WEDC), will take over for current CEO Laura Bray in early May. Bray was named Bioforward CEO in mid-September and officially took the helm of the Madison-based organization in November. Bray replaced Bryan Renk, who stepped down from the post last July.

Johnson and Bray couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

Bray previously 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.

While Bray’s hire showed Bioforward was prioritizing economic development and coalition-building experience over a scientific background, Johnson brings a mix of experience both with biotech companies and the state’s flagship economic development agency.

“Lisa’s extensive experience and passion for improving Wisconsin’s life science economy position her well to have an immediate impact,” Bioforward chair Joe Hammer said in a press release. “She brings a deep understanding of Wisconsin’s life science industry, and a strong track record building the industry at its base in Madison, as well as expanding it throughout the state.”

Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson

During Johnson’s tenure with WEDC since 2011, the agency has launched several entrepreneurship initiatives, including programs that provide seed capital for startups, funding for startup accelerator programs, and matching grants for research. Her career also includes 22 years in biotech, including executive business development and operational positions with Novagen, which was later acquired by Merck, and Semba Biosciences.

“I am excited and ready to continue Bioforward’s mission of connecting, educating, and advocating for Wisconsin’s life science economy,” Johnson said in the press release. “A key to our success will be promoting our broad base of industry and university assets and collaborating across our other leading sectors, such as healthcare IT and water. We must demonstrate the power and value of our assets to provide opportunities to our companies and bring investments into the state.”

[Bioforward and WEDC are Xconomy underwriters, but our content is determined independently by our editorial staff.]