Wisconsin Roundup: Promega, Protein Foundry, Orbitec, & More

Xconomy Wisconsin — 

Here are some of the past week’s major headlines from Wisconsin’s tech and innovation community:

—Representatives of an investment bank told Promega shareholders that the offer from activist shareholders to purchase the Madison-area biotech, first reported in August, is lower than similar industry transactions, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The $625-a-share bid is about 12 times Promega’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA), whereas comparable deals have valued acquisition targets at 14 to 20 times EBITDA. In September, six of Promega’s seven board members resigned; founder, CEO, and chairman Bill Linton, then the sole remaining board member, has since given seats to four executives with the company.

—The Medical College of Wisconsin announced Protein Foundry, a biotech spun out of the school, has received an 18-month, $250,000 grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health. Protein Foundry will use the funding to develop a safe, efficient way to deliver therapeutic proteins into nerve cells. This treatment could help in the fight against diseases like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

—On Friday, Apple was ordered to pay $234.2 million in damages for infringing on a patent held by the foundation that manages intellectual property for the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The amount the jury settled on was less than the $400 million the foundation was seeking. An Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) spokeswoman said the company plans to appeal the ruling, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

—A greenhouse for astronauts to grow vegetables in space will get an audience at the White House. Next Monday, Madison-based Orbitec will showcase the greenhouse that it developed at White House Astronomy Night, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. Paul Zamprelli, the company’s business director, will present on the White House lawn before an audience comprising 190 children. In August, astronauts at the International Space Station dined on lettuce grown with an Orbitec-made greenhouse.

—The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. (WEDC) announced it has partnered with Marquette University to create a $600,000 fund to provide early-stage capital to students, faculty, and staff at the Milwaukee school who have started businesses. Marquette will award $25,000 to $50,000 apiece to as many as six eligible companies starting this fall, WEDC said. Depending on the project’s business model and needs, funding may be in the form of grants or investments.

OpenHomes won a three-startup pitch competition hosted by the Madison Club, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. The Madison-based company, which claims its property-listing service can help real estate agents sell five times as many homes per year, is planning to raise $500,000 to expand into Illinois and Minnesota. The prize for winning the contest, which Fitchburg-based Pegasus Sustainability and Sun Prairie-based Chefs for Seniors also participated in, was a year’s membership to the 106-year-old Madison Club.

—Five Madison startups will fly to the San Francisco Bay Area later this week to meet with investors and potential business partners. They will be joined by others, including Wisconsin and Madison-area economic development officials. The purpose of the trip is twofold: to connect promising startups with investors and to “tell the broader story” of entrepreneurship and innovation in the Badger State, said Kevin Little, the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce’s managing director of economic development.