Roundup: OptimizeRx, Parabricks, URC, Startup Detroit, ACM and More

The weather is finally starting to cool—I’m a fan of fall —but Michigan’s tech startups and entrepreneurs are still red-hot: they’re raising money, buying competitors and complementary companies, launching new products, and more. Read on for recent news about the state’s innovation community.

—Rochester’s OptimizeRx, a digital health company focused on facilitating digital communication between doctors and the pharmaceutical industry, last week acquired Somerset, NJ-based CareSpeak Communications, a patient engagement platform.

OptimizeRx paid $9 million to buy CareSpeak, and the company says it will help OptimizeRx “expand its reach to communicate directly to patients, resulting in greater medication adherence, persistence, and affordability.” According to a press release, CareSpeak will maintain its New Jersey staff and headquarters.

—The University Research Corridor, a partnership between Michigan State University, the University of Michigan, and Wayne State University, has released its 2017 economic impact report. According to the report, the three universities contributed $18.7 billion to the state’s economy last year, up from $16.5 billion in 2015. The organization says that marks a 46 percent increase since 2007, the year it was formed and began benchmarking its impact on the state of Michigan. The URC also reported that it generated 78,845 jobs in 2017.

Last year, the report says, the URC spent $2.3 billion on research and development, an increase of 54 percent since 2007. The URC also attracted 94 cents of every federal dollar spent on academic research in Michigan, and accounts for 92 percent of all R&D conducted at higher education institutions in the state.

—On September 4, Damian Porcari was sworn in as the new director for the U. S. Patent and Trademark Midwest Regional Office. The Detroit office was one of three satellite USPTO offices made possible by a 2011 Congressional act; in 2012, it was the first of the three to open. The Elijah J. McCoy Midwest Regional Office is located in the Stroh’s Building along Detroit’s riverfront, and it helps tech startups and inventors in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin apply for patents.

A2 New Tech is a well-known meet-up group in Ann Arbor that regularly attracts hundreds of participants, serving as fertile ground for cross-pollination among the region’s tech entrepreneurs. Now, thanks to the tireless folks at Bamboo Detroit, there is a Motor City version called Startup Detroit. Organizers say anyone new to the community can go to the accompanying online hub and join the Slack channel. Startup Detroit meet-ups are held the second Thursday of every month; the next one will be on Nov. 8. The meetings are free of charge and open to all.

—The Zell Founders Fund, a venture fund led by students at the University of Michigan, has invested $100,000 in SMPL, a startup founded by a U-M alum. SMPL makes a line of vegan, gluten-free, organic snacks loaded with superfoods. The company, founded by Ellis Fried in 2016 during his junior year in college, came about after he tested hundreds of recipes for energy bars in his kitchen. Ellis said in a press release that he plans to use the money to expand SMPL’s distribution and refine branding.

Parabricks, the Ann Arbor startup using “proprietary high-performance computing techniques” to speed up analysis of genomic data, has received a $748,104 Phase II SBIR grant from the National Science Foundation. The company said in a statement that it planned to use the funding to commercialize its technology and conduct further research. The Michigan Emerging Technologies Fund matched the grant with $125,000 to support commercialization efforts. The company presented its latest product advancements at the annual meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics last week in San Diego.

—The American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti Township has launched a project to research and test automated convoy platooning. The two-year study will involve both commercial and military-grade trucks, and “aims to autonomously control an entire fleet of vehicles—throttle, brake and steering—while optimizing fuel efficiency and safety,” the ACM said in a statement. The organization also says that if completed, it will be the … Next Page »

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