Exact Sciences, D2P, & Bon Ami: This Week’s Wisconsin Watchlist

Stay plugged in on news from Wisconsin’s innovation community with these recent headlines:

—Even though a decision from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force last month improved the outlook for Madison-based Exact Sciences (NASDAQ: EXAS) and Cologuard, its stool-based DNA test for colorectal cancer, there is still disagreement about whether insurance companies will cover the test, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. Patricia Golden, a physician at Wheaton Franciscan Medical Group in Franklin, called Cologuard “an appropriate standard of care.” However, David Feldstein, a physician at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics, aka UW Health, told the newspaper that he doesn’t recommend the test, citing a lack of evidence.

—Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Exact CEO Kevin Conroy was one of about 350 attendees at last week’s Cancer Moonshot Summit in Washington, D.C. The Cancer Moonshot initiative, which is being led by Vice President Joe Biden, is aimed at doubling the scientific community’s rate of progress in the “understanding, prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and care of cancer,” according to a press release.

Conroy, who reportedly considered a run for governor of Wisconsin in 2009, also put to rest any speculation that he might run in 2018. “I’m dedicated to Exact Sciences and the mission that we’re on,” he told the newspaper.

—WISC Partners, a Madison-based venture capital group that supports startups in the Badger State, raised $8.2 million for its first fund. The money came from 29 investors, 15 of whom are Wisconsin-based, said David Guinther, a general partner with the fund. He said that WISC Partners expects to launch a second fund, probably sometime in 2017. That will likely be a larger pool of money, and will come from institutional investors rather than from individuals, Guinther said.

—Discovery to Product (D2P), a program that helps students, faculty, and staff at the University of Wisconsin-Madison turn ideas into companies, graduated its second class of startups, the university said. Among the seven companies in D2P’s latest cohort is Kiince, which is developing a neuromuscular retraining machine to help stroke patients who struggle with walking. D2P is housed at @1403, an on-campus building that during the past year has been rebranded as a hub for entrepreneurs.

—Mequon-based iDAvatars acquired Colorado Springs, CO-based CodeBaby, in a deal between two developers of software that allows users to interact with animated digital characters, or avatars. IDAvatars, which heretofore focused on applications for its technology in the healthcare industry, will likely broaden its horizons following the acquisition, said founder and CEO Norrie Daroga. CodeBaby’s clients also include some healthcare organizations, as well as companies in finance, retail, and mobile communications.

—Ryan Cowdrey and QuHarrison Terry, whose startup 23VIVI involves using blockchain technology to protect digital art, have launched a new project called Bon Ami, the Capital Times reported. Bon Ami is a marketplace of free, original images formatted for the Apple Watch. The images reportedly must “center on themes of nostalgia, pop culture, and anime”; some feature characters from cartoons like Pokémon and Dragon Ball Z. 23VIVI was selected for the most recent class of Gener8tor, a Wisconsin startup accelerator, but decided to withdraw mid-program.

—In the latest installment of Xconomy’s series on physicians at UW Health who have become entrepreneurs, I profiled Fred Lee, a radiologist who over the years has demonstrated the ability to identify specific pain points experienced by clinicians, then assemble teams to engineer and commercialize technologies that address those problems. In addition to his clinical practice, research, and teaching duties at the university, Lee is the co-founder of three Madison-based companies—Cellectar Biosciences (NASDAQ: CLRB), NeuWave Medical, and Elucent Medical—and says he still works closely with the latter two.

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