Epic, Wellbe, WARF, & Arrowhead: This Week’s Wisconsin Watchlist
Lots of recent news from Wisconsin’s innovation community to catch up on. Let’s get to it:
—Healthcare IT News spoke to leaders at Verona-based Epic Systems, including founder and CEO Judy Faulkner, about the ability of hospitals and clinics that use Epic’s patient records software to exchange data with other organizations. Faulkner told the blog that Epic clients can customize their record-keeping systems based on organizational wants and needs. However, this flexibility can create hurdles when it comes to sharing information with other healthcare providers.
—Staying in healthcare IT, Madison-based Redox struck an agreement with Kinvey aimed at simplifying the process of turning a concept for a mobile health application into a viable product. Redox’s digital tools help software developers get data in and out of healthcare organizations’ records systems. Kinvey, based in Boston, specializes in providing backend services, a category that includes things like user authentication, libraries, and analytics.
—Inc. magazine ranked Madison-based Wellbe as the 322nd fastest-growing private company in the U.S. as part of the publication’s annual Inc. 5000 List. Wellbe has developed a set of digital forms, checklists, and surveys designed to help guide patients through medical treatments and procedures. Wellbe’s total revenues for 2015 eclipsed $2.1 million, up 1,201 percent from 2012, according to the ranking.
—The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, which manages intellectual property for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was issued 161 “utility” patents in 2015, seventh-best among the world’s universities. That’s according to a ranking by the National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association. Utility patents include “materials, processes, functions, and devices,” while “design” patents relate to appearance and other “nonfunctional elements,” UW-Madison said.
—gBETA, a free, six-week accelerator for early-stage companies affiliated with colleges and universities in Wisconsin, capped its latest two classes with a pitch event in Milwaukee. One of the pitches came from Drive Assured, which is developing an in-car device that the startup believes could help healthcare providers assess whether seniors are safe to drive. Gener8tor, which manages gBETA and has also run 12-week accelerator programs in Milwaukee and Madison, announced that this fall it will for the first time hold a gBETA program in Beloit, WI.
—Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ARWR), which is based in Pasadena, CA, but houses its R&D operations in Madison, said it raised $45 million in a private stock offering. In a press release, Arrowhead said a group of investors—including Orbimed, RA Capital Management, Perceptive Advisors, and RTW Investments—bought 7.6 million shares of common stock at $5.90 per share. As of 3:58 pm in New York Wednesday, Arrowhead’s stock was trading at $6.34 a share.
Last month, Xconomy spoke with Chris Anzalone, Arrowhead’s president and CEO, about current clinical trials involving the company’s drug candidates and other topics.
—The Badger Fund of Funds, a state initiative aimed at pumping more venture capital into Wisconsin startups, has raised $10 million from private investors, according to an e-mail from partner Ken Johnson. That was the amount the central Badger Fund said it would attempt to raise when it proposed the fund of funds to the state, in 2014; the state has pledged to commit $25 million to the program. Earlier this week, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the central fund committed $4 million to the Neenah-based Winnebago Seed Fund, one of two “recipient” funds that have been launched as part of the initiative.
—Madison-based Stratatech, which is developing cell-based human skin tissue for treating burn wounds, was purchased by U.K.-based Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals (NYSE: MNK) for an undisclosed sum. Stratatech said its core skin replacement product, StrataGraft, is in late-stage clinical trials, though an approval decision may not come from the FDA until 2020. Mallinckrodt spokeswoman Rhonda Sciarra said in an e-mail that the company currently expects Stratatech, which has about 50 employees, to continue operating in Madison.
—Researchers at the UW-Madison’s nursing and medical schools plan to conduct a pilot study on how concussions affect the academic performance of young athletes, the university said. Traci Snedden, a postdoctoral fellow at UW-Madison who is co-leading the study, says that compared to the pro and college levels, there’s relatively little attention being paid to head injuries in youth sports. Last October, Greg Landry, a physician at UW Hospital and Clinics, co-authored a paper from the American Academy of Pediatrics that addressed the relationship between tackling and head injuries in youth football.
—Mequon-based Smart Choice MRI, a chain of imaging centers that charges patients a flat rate of $600 or less for scans, said it plans to open its first location outside of the Midwest next year. The news comes amid an aggressive growth period for Smart Choice, which just this year announced plans to move into Illinois and Minnesota. The company has been raising money to fund the expansion, including rounds of $3 million in February and $7 million in May.
Smart Choice also said that it has brought on Roland Wikstrom to serve as its president and chief operating officer. Wikstrom’s career has included stops at Citigroup and BMO Harris Bank, Smart Choice said.
—NASA has selected Sierra Nevada Corp.—which is based in Sparks, NV, and is the parent company of Madison-based Orbital Technologies, aka Orbitec—to design and develop a prototype for a “deep space, long-duration, human habitat” that could go to Mars and other space destinations, the company said in a press release. The habitat will likely include Orbitec-developed systems for propulsion and environmental control, said Mark Sirangelo, Sierra Nevada’s vice president of space systems, in the release. Sierra Nevada acquired Orbitec in 2014 for an undisclosed amount.
—Zurex Pharma, which is developing antimicrobial products for hospital-associated infections, raised $6.2 million from 26 investors as part of a Series C funding round. The equity financing will be used in part to support a late-stage clinical trial of a pre-surgical skin preparation, which the company calls ZuraPrep. Zurex has raised more than $16 million since 2012, according to documents filed with federal securities regulators.
—More funding news: Madison-based EyeKor raised $600,000 in equity financing from five investors. EyeKor’s flagship product, known as Excelsior, is cloud-based software intended to assist researchers with collecting and interpreting ophthalmic data. One source of that information is clinical trials of therapeutics for ocular diseases, according to company materials. Chief operating officer Gary Leatherberry says EyeKor plans to use some of the money to add staff and further develop its software platform.
—Rabble, a Madison-based startup that’s seeking to turn libraries into hubs for local music, teamed up with the Seattle Public Library to launch a collection called PlayBack, Rabble co-founder and CEO Kelly Hiser wrote in an e-mail. PlayBack, the third service using Rabble’s open-source MUSICat software that’s gone live, debuted with 50 albums from Seattle-area musicians, Hiser wrote. Rabble plans to co-launch more new sites this year, including one with the Nashville Public Library.