Epic, Astronautics, Virent, & More: This Week’s Wisconsin Watchlist

Keep up with the latest news from Wisconsin’s innovation community with these recent headlines:

—Judy Faulkner, founder and CEO of Verona-based Epic Systems, revealed to Healthcare IT News that half of her company’s operating expenses go toward research and development. That’s ahead of competing electronic health records software vendors such as Allscripts (NASDAQ: MDRX), Athenahealth (NASDAQ: ATHN), and Cerner (NASDAQ: CERN). Unlike those three companies, Epic is privately held, meaning it doesn’t have to disclose financial results to the public.

—Astronautics Corporation of America said the Federal Aviation Administration selected the Milwaukee-based company for a project aimed at assessing cybersecurity threats to aircraft. Under the terms of the agreement, Astronautics will help develop “an efficient, timely, and repeatable process that identifies system security vulnerabilities, threats, and safety risks,” the company said in a news release. All work for the project is expected to take place at Astronautics’ headquarters, said the company, which is part of a group that’s considering building an aviation and aerospace “center of excellence” in southeastern Wisconsin.

—Madison-based Virent said it has established a consortium that will work to complete the development and commercialization of the company’s technology, which is aimed in part at producing cleaner and more sustainable versions of liquid transportation fuels. Members of the consortium include: Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO); Toray, a Japanese chemicals company; Johnson Matthey, a U.K.-based business focused on chemicals and sustainable technologies; and San Antonio-based Tesoro (NYSE: TSO), which earlier this month said it had acquired Virent for an undisclosed amount. Virent said the ultimate goal behind the alliance is to create a commercial facility that will produce bio-based fuels and paraxylene, a plant-derived form of the chemical that can be used to make plastic containers and other goods.

—Milwaukee-based Rent College Pads, which has developed technology to help students find off-campus housing, raised $1 million from investors. The startup, whose website shows it’s active at 46 colleges and universities across 20 states, is seeking to add more than 50 campuses to that total by 2017. Wisconsin Super Angel Fund led the seed round, as it did a $500,000 investment in Rent College Pads last year.

—Another startup that has created digital tools for apartment hunters, Madison-based Abodo, was profiled by Isthmus newspaper. The company’s plans for the next several months include introducing a platform for reviewing properties and groups that manage them, according to the report.

—The University of Wisconsin-Madison said it received a $12 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to study the leading drug candidate of Cellectar Biosciences (NASDAQ: CLRB), which is also located in Madison. The school will study a therapeutic Cellectar is developing that it says could potentially be used to treat tumors and certain forms of blood cancer, including multiple myeloma. UW-Madison said it will examine the drug candidate in combination with external beam radiation. The end goal is to treat cancers of the head and neck, the school said.

—In other news related to Wisconsin’s flagship public university, UW-Madison came in 14th place in a ranking of schools by how many of their alumni became venture capital-backed entrepreneurs. The list was compiled by PitchBook, a Seattle-based firm that monitors investment trends. A year ago, UW-Madison took 16th place in the ranking.

—HealthMyne, a Madison-based startup whose software integrates medical imaging data and information from patients’ digital health records, named Arvind Subramanian as its new CEO. Subramanian succeeds Praveen Sinha, a HealthMyne co-founder who will now serve as vice president of business development. The startup also said it had hired Linda Peitzman as its chief medial and informatics officer; she is a physician who has worked closely with Subramanian for more than a decade.

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