Zika, Sector67, Video Games, & More: This Week’s Wisconsin Watchlist
Keep up with the latest news from Wisconsin’s innovation community, starting with these recent headlines:
—Takeda, a pharmaceutical company based in Japan, is developing a vaccine for Zika virus at the laboratory it operates in Madison, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. The company is reportedly working on tests that would tell researchers whether the vaccine, which uses an inactivated virus, is safe and effective in clinical studies. Takeda is planning to move the 23-person lab to Boston next year, when clinical trials are expected to begin, according to the report.
—Locally and nationally, shared office spaces are becoming a popular option for entrepreneurs and people who work remotely. 100state, a coworking space in Madison that launched in 2013 and now has nearly 300 members, will move into a new building with a larger floor plan in January. WeWork and Regus are the two largest coworking organizations in the U.S. by leased office space but both have yet to set up shop in Wisconsin.
—Speaking of Madison organizations on the move, the makerspace Sector67 will be moving into a new home not far from its current one, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. Sector67 founder Chris Meyer told the newspaper that it will cost a minimum of $600,000 to buy and renovate the 9,600-square-foot building; the organization reportedly has two-thirds of the total on hand, and will attempt to cover the rest with grants and donations. Sector67 had originally planned to move into StartingBlock Madison, a yet-to-be-built entrepreneurial center near the city’s downtown, but scrapped those plans earlier this year.
—It has been a tough week for Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ARWR), which is based in Pasadena, CA, but houses its research and development teams in Madison. On Tuesday, the company said it canceled the development of three experimental drug candidates for liver diseases. It also said that it planned to reduce staff by 30 percent, and later revealed that it had terminated the employment of chief scientific officer David Lewis, effective Dec. 13. The announcements triggered a mass sell-off of Arrowhead stock. Shares in the company closed the trading day at $1.44 each on Wednesday, down 67 percent from the previous day’s closing price of $4.39 a share.
One company that analysts expect will have a significant bearing on Arrowhead’s future is Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN), which Arrowhead announced a partnership with in September.
—The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s news service profiled Lactic Solutions, which is seeking to commercialize a patented method for getting lactic acid bacteria to produce ethanol, rather than lactic acid, which can be harmful. Just as lactic acid bacteria can contaminate beer and wine by producing lactic acid instead of alcohol, it can also create snags in the ethanol production process. The startup, founded by UW-Madison food science professor James Steele, is currently participating in gBETA, an equity-free accelerator for early-stage companies affiliated with colleges and universities in Wisconsin.
—The Capital Times published a lengthy article examining the past, present, and potential future of electronic gaming companies based in the Madison area. About two dozen video game studios recently formed the Madison Games Alliance, which seeks to turn Wisconsin’s capital city into “an internationally recognized hub of game activity,” the newspaper reported. One of them is the mobile gaming startup PerBlue, which sold one of its games to a Japan-based company for $35 million in October.
—Madison-based Propeller Health announced a partnership with Medical International Research (MIR) that’s aimed at configuring MIR-made spirometers—devices that measure how much air one inhales and exhale—to send data to Propeller’s respiratory disease management platform. Hospitals, clinics, and pharmaceutical partners that have used Propeller’s digital health products to help treat patients with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease will now be able to incorporate information collected by MIR’s spirometers, Propeller said. MIR’s headquarters are in Rome, Italy, but its U.S. operations are based in the Milwaukee area.
—The website Shepherd Express profiled Ideawake, a Milwaukee-based startup that’s developing software to help medium- to large-sized businesses improve employee engagement. The company’s software tools are designed to allow managers to post topics and ideas, and solicit their colleagues’ feedback. Ideawake represents a new spin on a startup that has been around for a couple years. Founder Coby Skonord originally called his company Inventalator, and had sought to create a digital forum where inventors could share concepts for new products, and allow others to comment on them.