Exact Staff Cuts, NorthStar, & New Fundings: This Week’s WI Watchlist
Job cuts, expanded radioisotope production, and several new funding rounds are among these recent headlines from Wisconsin’s innovation community:
—Exact Sciences (NASDAQ: EXAS) recently eliminated 29 employees, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. The Madison-based biotech’s growth has been brisk in recent years; Exact’s current headcount is reportedly about 750, up from 110 in early 2014. Shares in the company cratered last October after a federal guideline proposed identifying Exact’s colorectal cancer diagnostic product as an “alternative” screening method, rather than including it in a group of recommended tests.
—In other Exact Sciences-related news, the company faces new competition from LabCorp, which announced the launch of a blood-based test for colorectal cancer. Burlington, NC-based LabCorp (NYSE: LH) is working to commercialize the test—known as epi proColon—in North America through a partnership with Germany-based Epigenomics and Polymedco, of Cortlandt, NY. The test has yet to be approved for insurance reimbursement by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which can be a lengthy process.
—Four early-stage companies pitched to an audience of more than 500 at “Premiere Night,” an event that marked the startups’ graduation from the Wisconsin-based accelerator Gener8tor. One member of the class is New York-based Behold.ai, which is developing software that uses machine learning algorithms to look for abnormalities in medical images. During the event, Gener8tor announced that gBETA—its shorter, no-strings-attached accelerator for startups affiliated with colleges and universities in the Badger State—will hold its first program in Milwaukee this summer. It is set to run concurrently with gBETA’s fourth Madison-based program.
—NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes is quadrupling its production capacity at a nuclear reactor in Columbia, MO, where the Madison-based company is planning to make a crucial medical radioisotope, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The radioisotope NorthStar plans to produce, molybdenum-99, is the material that decays into technetium-99m, the most widely used radioisotope in medical diagnostic imaging. One of NorthStar’s competitors is Shine Medical Technologies—also based in Madison—which in February received a permit to build a manufacturing facility in Janesville, about 40 miles southeast of the company’s headquarters.
—Stemina Biomarker Discovery, a Madison, WI-based startup that’s developing a blood-based test for diagnosing autism spectrum disorder (ASD), announced a trio of updates this week. First, the company has enrolled more than 200 patients in its study of its experimental autism test that measures residues in the blood known as metabolites. Second, Stemina has rebranded its diagnostics division, which will henceforth be called NeuroPointDX. Third, Kevin Krenitsky has joined Stemina’s board; he is currently the present of OpGen (NASDAQ: OPGN), a genome mapping company based in Gaithersburg, MD.
—Silatronix raised nearly $4 million from investors in Japan and the U.S. as part of a funding round that could climb as high as $7 million, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The Madison-based startup is developing electrolytes that wold be used to make safer, better-performing lithium-ion batteries. Silatronix is shifting its focus from research and development to commercializing its battery technology, the newspaper reported. The company has now raised nearly $7.7 million in outside financing, according to SEC filings.
—Madison-based SmartUQ, whose software allows users to test the performance of parts and products before manufacturing them on a large scale, raised $750,000 from 20 investors. Peter Qian, SmartUQ’s founder and chief scientist, said his company will use the new equity financing for product development, sales and marketing efforts, and adding staff. Reached by phone, Qian declined to reveal the names of any of the organizations that use SmartUQ’s software, but said they are Fortune 500-sized companies in industries such as aerospace, semiconductors, automobiles, and defense.
—Insulete, a Madison-based company that’s seeking to develop a cure for Type 1 diabetes using gene therapy, raised $300,000 from one investor, according to a regulatory document. Hans Sollinger, a transplant surgeon at the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics, co-founded Insulete and serves as the company’s president. It’s the first outside financing Insulete has raised, according to SEC filings.
—Simplifide, a Madison-based startup whose software helps protect businesses from identity fraud, raised $260,000 from seven investors, according to a securities filing. The three Simplifide executives listed on the filing are Prathit Bondre, Nick Fuhrman, and Jeff McAllister. According to Bondre’s LinkedIn profile, he is a former employee of Tascet, another company in Madison that helps shield clients from identity fraud.