Irish biotech company GenCell Biosystems Ltd. has opened a two-person U.S. office in Madison’s University Research Park, with plans to hire a few more people in the coming 12 months.

GenCell, an analytical-instrument maker based in Limerick, employs 30 people in Ireland, where it was formed in spring 2011. It hired Robert Roeven, a former senior manager for diagnostic test maker Third Wave Technologies/Hologic, to run the Madison office, known as GenCell USA, which will provide customer support on technical and sales matters, Roeven said.

Roeven said Madison was a logical location for the company, quickly standing out as preferable for GenCell’s needs to even major bioscience hubs in larger cities on the East and West coasts.

“It’s ideally located,” Roeven said. “It’s central to a number of our customers in the Midwest.”

“University Research Park made the choice fairly easy,” he added. “I would say they’re very helpful in getting a young startup company, as GenCell is, established.”

Greg Hyer, associate director of University Research Park, said GenCell located in Madison largely so it could recruit Roeven, whose expertise in Third Wave’s ag/bio sector gave him complementary expertise.

“That illustrates why it’s important to keep some of this scientific and business talent in the Madison area, even as individual companies go up and down,” Hyer said, in a reference to Third Wave’s pending closure next year, after its purchase by Hologic in 2008.

“It’s important to hold those people here so they can end up being an attraction to these national and international companies,” Hyer said.

Compared to other international biotech companies, GenCell is on the small side, Hyer said.

“But we’ve had a lot of companies start in Madison who were instantly selling internationally,” Hyer said. “What that shows me is the size of the company really doesn’t matter. Even small companies have to have a global presence early on in their lives.”

GenCell developed a fast, automated method of genetic analysis that uses small amounts of oil as the testing medium, housed in a reusable container to reduce waste and expense.

“It allows (clients) to run large numbers of biological reactions while not using any plastic consumables,” Roeven said. “It eliminates that plastic waste and expense.”

The company calls the process it developed Composite Liquid Cell technology.

“It creates small oil bubbles or droplets in which these reactions can be run,” Roeven said. “At the end of your experiment, those droplets are taken out and the chip can be reused for new droplets.”

Roeven said GenCell currently was doing development work on its technology with some early-adopter companies and hoped to start mass production in Ireland early next year.

GenCell USA moved into its 1,000-square-foot suite at University Research Park’s Innovation Center a few months ago, Roeven said

The privately held company declined to provide revenue figures.


Karen Rivedal is the education beat reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.

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