MUSKEGO - If you want to know where the cutting edge of bio science is, look no farther than Janesville Road in Muskego.
In an unassuming building, BioSource Cultures and Flavors researchers are developing strains of bacteria that they hope will eventually combat the harmful bacteria that cause deadly salmonella and listeria that can cause meningitis and encephalitis, a brain infection.
The goal is to use good bacteria to triumph over disease-causing bacteria without the use of antibiotics, said BioSource founder Dr. Narayan Suresh.
With antibiotic-resistant superbugs arising from the overuse of antibiotics in both humans and animals, Suresh said his company is working on getting antibiotics completely out of the food chain, too.
In BioSource labs, bacteria cultures are growing that may keep animals healthy without the use of antibiotics.
'Cutting edge' work
Even now, BioSource research is showing results. For example, every day the Mayo Clinic uses cultures developed at BioSource to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy.
"We're doing cutting edge work here," Suresh said. "It's next generation probiotics."
Guiding that research is Suresh himself. He holds a doctor's degree in microbiology from a university in his native India, and has done extensive post-doctoral studies at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston and at Brandeis University.
"There's no greater feeling than to create something in the lab and seeing it go out into the world," Suresh said.
To that end, he staffs his laboratories and his plant at S66 W14328 Janesville Road with creative people, Suresh said.
"We hire for brains to come up with solutions," he said. "Our assets are our people."
While many other companies export jobs to places like China and India, BioSource exports products made in Muskego to China and India and to customers all over Europe, Canada, Mexico and many other countries. About half its business is exports, Suresh said.
What they buy is bacterial cultures, many probiotic, in freeze-dried powdered form that goes into products in the health food industry, and into products in the dairy, wine and animal health industries, Suresh said.
Walk into any Walgreens and you'll find all kinds of health foods with BioSource probiotics in them, he said, adding that some of the biggest brand names are his customers.
BioSource even ships cultures to Germany to a maker of famous German sausages that puts them into its food products and sells them in the United States, he said.
In fact, the cultures can be found in pepperoni, salami and similar foods, he said.
"We make good bacteria for a variety of uses," Suresh said.
BioSource is one of five primary manufacturers of cultures in the United States and is one of the first in this country, he said. Before that, culture production was exclusively European-based, he said.
Culture production is strictly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, all of which send inspectors regularly, he said.
The company just celebrated its 20th anniversary. All but about four of those years were in Muskego.
He and his wife, Archana, started in 6,000 square feet of space with one employee in Mequon. The company now has nearly 40 employees and has nearly filled its 38,000-square-foot facility locally and is looking to expand to serve its international network of customers.
Muskego Mayor Kathy Chiaverotti, who has visited the plant, can appreciate what BioSource has grown in her community.
" It’s a fascinating business and BioSource takes great pride in their product and service," Chiaverotti said.
Its customers come back and it gets new customers without any additional advertising, she said.
"I’ve had the privilege of touring their facility twice in the past few years to view their operation and modifications made to accommodate their growth," Chiaverotti said. "The city is pleased to have the business in the community."
Only recently, the company renovated its facility, adding 25,000 additional liters of fermentation capacity, research and development laboratories, new offices and employee lounge area, she said.
Suresh chose Muskego to be the new home of his company because a food processing plant was available when BioSource had outgrown its original facility. The choice was a good one, he said.
"The city is very business-friendly, very supportive," Suresh said, noting that his location also is only five minutes from Interstate 43, another asset.
He and his wife arrived from India with just $20 each, so theirs is an American success story. They got jobs, saved money and eventually started their own business.
They came to America with that goal in mind "from day one," he said.
"People don't realize how good it is here," Suresh said. "I travel all over the world and there is no better country in terms of workforce, in terms of work ethics and in terms of regulation."
Suresh said he finds the U.S. even easier to work with than Canada.
Now the couple's son Alap, who is an attorney, is being groomed to eventually take over the business.