Exact Sciences, Rockwell, & Gender Gaps: This Week’s WI Watchlist

Stay on top of the latest news from Wisconsin’s innovation community, starting with these recent headlines:

—Madison-based Exact Sciences (NASDAQ: EXAS) said that Cologuard, the company’s stool-based DNA test for colorectal cancer, is now included in a set of quality measures for colorectal cancer screening. The group of quality measures, known as the Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set, is published by the National Committee for Quality Assurance. Among other things, it is used in audits of health systems, payers, and clinicians, Exact Sciences said. Cologuard’s inclusion in the set could incentivize more insurers to cover the test, said Kevin Conroy, the company’s CEO and chairman.

—The FDA’s recent approval of eteplirsen (Exondys 51)—a drug for Duchenne muscular dystrophy patients developed by Sarepta Therapetucs (NASDAQ: SRPT)—highlights the growing influence of patient advocacy groups, said Tim Cunniff, executive vice president of R&D at Northbrook, IL-based Marathon Pharmaceuticals. Cunniff’s remarks were part of a panel discussion at the Wisconsin BioHealth Summit, a life sciences-focused conference held last week. Marathon is developing its own Duchenne treatment, though Cunniff said the FDA’s approval of eteplirsen “has no bearing” on his company.

—At another Wisconsin BioHealth Summit panel, William Murphy, co-director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center, said Wisconsin has “more of the ingredients needed to become the next big hub of biomanufacturing” than any other state. Murphy reportedly emphasized the university’s importance during the discussion, as did Phillips-Medisize CEO Matt Jennings, whose company has collaborated with UW-Madison. For more, see Alex Moe’s write-up on WisBusiness.com.

—Madison-based Cellular Dynamics International launched a new venture, Opsis Therapeutics, with the aim of developing therapies for treating retinal diseases. David Gamm, an ophthalmologist and researcher at UW-Madison, will be Opsis’s chief scientific officer; Emile Nuwaysir will serve as president, and will remain president and chief operating officer of Cellular Dynamics. Gamm said that some of his research at the university has involved making photoreceptor cells—also known as rods and cones—from induced pluripotent stem cells, which CDI co-founder James Thomson helped discover.

—Rockwell Automation, which creates software and provides services for customers in manufacturing and other industries, said it acquired Maverick Technologies, of Columbia, IL. Milwaukee-based Rockwell (NYSE: ROK) said in a press release that the purchase supports its “connected enterprise” vision, which involves equipping factory machines with enterprise software to improve efficiency and collect data. According to Maverick’s website, it has customers in industries such as energy, life sciences, and consumer packaged goods.

—The startup accelerator Gener8tor, which over the past four years has held training programs in Milwaukee and Madison, struck an agreement with the University of Minnesota’s tech transfer office. The deal marks a key step in Gener8tor’s expansion into the Gopher State, which was announced in June. Under the terms of the agreement, Mark McGuire, managing director of Gener8tor’s Minnesota programs, will help identify promising startups that could be or have been spun out of university research.

The Capital Times explored whether having more women and people of color in Wisconsin’s angel investor community could make it easier for startups led by members of those groups to raise money. The state is likely not an exception to statistics showing that women make up about 25 percent of angel investors and 6 percent of partners in venture capital firms nationally, the newspaper reported.

—Pasadena, CA-based Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals, which houses its R&D operations in Madison, made two major agreements with Thousand Oaks, CA-based Amgen to develop and commercialize drugs for cardiovascular disease. Arrowhead (NASDAQ: ARWR) will receive upfront cash and equity payments from Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN) worth a combined $56.5 million, and up to $617 million in future milestone payments.

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