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Prune, Swallow Solutions, & Corvisa: This Week’s Wisconsin Watch List

Xconomy Wisconsin — 

After a mild start to winter, snow and freezing temperatures appear to be here to stay in many parts of the Badger State. Set your shovel down and curl up with Xconomy Wisconsin’s final news roundup of 2015:

—Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) named Prune, a game developed by Madison-based developer Joel McDonald, as its iPad Game of the Year. In the $3.99 game, players grow and shape a tree by pruning branches, which exposes them to sunlight that helps them bloom. Additionally, Time named Prune as its best video game of 2015.

—Madison-based Swallow Solutions has raised nearly $450,000 from nine investors, and the total could increase to $750,000, according to an SEC filing. Swallow, which raised $1.1 million in March, is developing a device designed to help patients strengthen the mouth and throat muscles used in swallowing. Company founder JoAnne Robbins referred a request for comment to CEO Eric Horler, who could not immediately be reached.

—Following its $8.5 million sale to Sunnyvale, CA-based ShoreTel (NASDAQ: SHOR), Milwaukee-based Corvisa said it will cut 26 jobs, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. After the acquisition was announced on Dec. 21, ShoreTel said it expected 94 employees of Corvisa to join ShoreTel. The cuts occurred before or around the time of the sale, Corvisa said in a letter to state officials Tuesday. Corvisa develops cloud-based software for call centers and other businesses.

—Rowheels, a startup based in the Madison area, landed an investment of up to $1.5 million from venture capital fund WISC Partners to further develop its technology for physically handicapped individuals. Rowheels has created wheels for manual wheelchairs that allow users to propel themselves by pulling back on the hand rims—similar to the action of rowing a boat—instead of pushing the rims forward. Rowheels CEO Rimas Buinevicius says the new financing will help bolster the company’s sales and marketing efforts, and allow it to continue developing a second wheel model aimed at a slightly older and less physically vigorous demographic.

—The Wisconsin Energy Institute, a hub for energy research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will be able to keep operating for at least one more year after it received a $3.5 million grant from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. The grant is one piece of a $20 million gift to UW-Madison from the foundation, and comes after the state legislature voted to cut funding to the university earlier this year.

—Madison-based Cellular Dynamics International is part of a group that received $1.6 million to improve neurotoxicity tests and lessen the use of animals in experiments, said Netherlands-based Mimetas, which is leading the project. Mimetas, which makes models of human organs on plastic chips, said in a press release that it will use neurons manufactured by CDI to “develop, analyze, and validate high-throughput neurotoxicity models.” The funding comes from the UK-based National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement, and Reduction of Animals in Research.

—GE Healthcare has received $43 million from the U.S. Department of Defense to provide patient monitoring systems and training to military branches and civilian agencies, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The new funding is a modification to an existing contract between the military and GE Healthcare; the agreement is entering its seventh year and can be extended for up to two more years.

—Bridge to Cures, a Milwaukee-area nonprofit accelerator for healthcare companies spun out of local universities, intends to raise more funds and expand the size of its accelerator program. It recently held its first healthcare innovation pitch contest, in which nine teams vied for $110,000. The event attracted investors from the likes of Novartis and OrbiMed.

—Two Milwaukee-based entrepreneurs have teamed up with a manager at an Aspen, CO-based brewery to create a 10-week brewing incubator, the Milwaukee Business Journal reported. The program, called Barley to Barrel, will kick off in February and be held at Company Brewing in Milwaukee. Teams will create business plans, design floor layouts, and perform many of the other tasks required to launch a brewery.

—As many pro football fans and now moviegoers know, research has shown that players in contact sports who sustain repetitive hits to the head face a heightened risk of developing dementia and certain neurodegenerative diseases later in life. Football is arguably America’s new national pastime, making brain injuries a national concern. Wisconsin is no exception: recent research from UW Health physicians links severe head injuries to poor and illegal tackling form; meanwhile, a doctor and budding entrepreneur in the Milwaukee area is developing a helmet using air cell technology he says could help reduce concussions.