Arrowhead, Microbes, Diabetes, & More: This Week’s WI Watchlist

Stay current on the latest happenings in Wisconsin’s innovation community with these headlines:

Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals, which is based in Pasadena, CA, but houses its R&D operations in Madison, WI, provided updates on some of its drug candidates and development programs at two recent industry conferences.

At one of the meetings, Arrowhead (NASDAQ: ARWR) shared preclinical and phase 1 clinical data on ARC-AAT, the company’s drug candidate aimed at treating rare liver diseases associated with alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency. AAT deficiency is a genetic disorder that involves AAT molecules getting trapped inside the liver cells that produce them; liver disease can result from the buildup of AAT proteins in the organ. “Preclinical data suggest that treatment with ARC-AAT over time may improve liver health and prevent further damage,” Arrowhead said in a news release.

At the other conference, Arrowhead presented information about two preclinical development programs. One of the programs seeks to treat cardiovascular disease by targeting lipoprotein(a), which transports fat molecules. With the second program, Arrowhead is seeking to treat disease-causing blood clots and hereditary angioedema by targeting factor XII, a plasma protein also known as F12.

—Arrowhead was also in the news last week after the FDA placed a hold on a clinical trial of a drug the company is developing that’s designed to treat chronic hepatitis B virus. Arrowhead said it was informed that the agency decided to place the trial on hold following the deaths of non-human primates in a separate study involving an Arrowhead-developed drug delivery vehicle. Shares in the company fell more than 31 percent the day after it announced the clinical hold.

—Milwaukee-based Microbe Detectives announced a multi-year collaboration with River Bend Labs—a nutrient products biotech based in St. Charles, MO—that’s aimed at improving the performance of North American wastewater systems. Microbe Detectives uses DNA sequencing to analyze samples of wastewater, well water, and drinking water to identify different types of bacteria. Under the terms of the agreement, the company will help River Bend Labs identify and quantify microbes, and also permit the Missouri company to resell Microbe Detectives’ analysis services to other organizations.

—StartingBlock Madison received a $471,875 grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration that leaders working to build and open the entrepreneurial center say will help offset some of its operating costs. The grant will pay out over three years and is contingent upon StartingBlock meeting specific programming and mentorship benchmarks, said Scott Resnick, the nonprofit’s executive director. The organization also named its newest “core partner”: Bunker Labs Wisconsin, part of a national organization that helps veterans form and grow companies.

—An undergraduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison built a device that allows diabetics to inject themselves with insulin using only one hand, according to a report from the school’s news service. Shawn Michels, a senior in UW-Madison’s business school who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes several years ago, reportedly came up with the idea for a plastic device that holds an insulin needle in place, and set out to make his vision a reality. According to the report, he used a 3-D printer to create a “succession of plastic prototypes,” and has given himself about 1,000 injections using needles with one of the devices attached. Michels, who is reportedly working to patent his invention and does not allow people to take pictures of it, said he expects to commercialize the device by mid-2017.

—Cellectar Biosciences said it has created multiple novel, tumor-targeting compounds that it made using “cytotoxics,” cancer-killing agents developed by the French pharmaceutical company Pierre Fabre. Madison-based Cellectar (NASDAQ: CLRB) said that it plans to study how effective the compounds are at treating melanoma, as well as cancers of the lung and colon. Separately, the company announced that it had chosen Raleigh, NC-based INC Research (NASDAQ: INCR) to be a contract research organization for an upcoming clinical trial of a Cellectar drug candidate that it has said has the potential to treat multiple myeloma.

Build Madison, a free 24-hour “hackathon” for artists, engineers, software developers, and anyone who enjoys creating something from nothing, will take place this weekend at the maker space Sector67. The event will kick off with some pitches from some of the participants, and that will allow others who aren’t set on projects to find ones that interest them. From there, teams will get to work, then discuss what they accomplished and learned at a wrap-up session on Sunday. For more Build Madison coverage, check out this preview in the Wisconsin State Journal.

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