Driverless Cars, UW Spinouts, & CRISPR: This Week’s WI Watchlist
Stay current on news from Wisconsin’s innovation community with these recent headlines:
—The U.S. Department of Transportation selected the University of Wisconsin-Madison as one of 10 “proving ground” pilot sites where researchers will test and share information on technologies underpinning driverless cars and trucks. Some of the testing will happen in the Madison area, but other parts of the state—including Plymouth, WI, home of the Road America race track—are also expected to get in on the action, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. More than 60 organizations applied in hopes of being selected as a proving ground site, the agency said.
—The price tag on Stratatech, acquired by the United Kingdom-based pharmaceuticals company Mallinckrodt (NYSE: MNK) last year, has now been revealed as $76 million cash, according to a regulatory filing. When Mallinckrodt announced the deal to acquire the Madison-based developer of cell-based skin tissue for burn victims and others, no financial details were disclosed. Filings now also show that Mallinckrodt could be on the hook for up to an additional $121 million in milestone payments under the terms of the deal.
—UW-Madison’s news service wrote about two startups that were spun out of research conducted at the university. One, Pathogenomica, is seeking to launch a product that uses pathogen DNA sequencing to detect what microorganisms are present in a water sample. Companies in the food and beverage industry, for instance, could help prevent the outbreak of disease through use of Pathogenomica’s tools, the company has said.
The second startup, Re Mixers, is seeking to commercialize a nozzle designed for blending epoxy and hardener to produce adhesives. The disposable device, which contains no moving parts and was developed using simulation software to test the efficacy of different part shapes, could be used by manufacturers that sell to general contractors or by groups in the healthcare and dental industries, among others. Xconomy profiled Re Mixers last month.
—Redox, a Madison-based healthtech startup that develops tools to help broker connections to computerized patient records systems at hospitals and clinics, raised $9 million in equity financing. The Series B funding round was led by New York-based RRE Ventures, with participation from other East Coast VC funds as well as Madison-based HealthX Ventures. Redox has now raised about $13 million from investors since launching in 2014.
—More funding news: the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. awarded grants worth a combined $500,000 to 11 nonprofits scattered throughout different parts of the state. The grant winners, which were chosen from 32 applicants, included four organizations affiliated with UW system schools.
—UW-Madison engineers are working to create ways to observe what occurs inside cells when the gene editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 is at work, the school said. CRISPR-Cas9 is a much-buzzed-about biotech discovery that allows researchers to cut out or replace genes in any living organism with DNA—from bacteria to plants to mammals. The lab of Krishanu Saha, an assistant professor of engineering at UW-Madison, has developed a method of labeling cell parts that helps facilitate real-time observation while editing genes.
—HealthDecision, a Madison-based startup developing tools to present medical information to patients and their doctors in a way that helps them make a plan together, introduced its fourth software module. The new module performs an analysis of how likely a patient is to develop breast cancer in the next 10 years, and the potential benefits and risks of getting a mammogram. The company’s other modules are designed to help with decision-making around lung cancer screening, whether to begin treatment with a cholesterol-lowering statin, and caring for patients with an abnormal hearth rhythm known as atrial fibrillation. In July, HealthDecision founder Jon Keevil resigned from his job as a cardiologist at UW Hospital and Clinics to devote his full energies to the startup.
—Xconomy recently spoke with Rebecca Porter, chairwoman of the new VC fund Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures’s investment committee. Porter is also a vice president of corporate strategy at Northwestern Mutual, a Milwaukee-based life insurance and financial services firm. During our interview, she discussed why she feels there’s a connection between financial health and physical well-being, what types of startups and technologies the new fund is likely to invest in, and other topics.