Epic, Zuckerberg, Cellectar, & More: This Week’s Wisconsin Watchlist
[Updated 5/3/17 9:53 a.m. See below.] Keep up with the latest news from Wisconsin’s innovation community, starting with these headlines:
—The U.S. Coast Guard submitted a request for information to a government procurement website related to the purchase of electronic health records (EHR) software, Healthcare IT News reported. The Coast Guard had been installing EHR software developed by Verona-based Epic Systems before the military branch pulled out of the agreement in April 2016. A spokesperson for Epic said the company has been paid in full for the work it has done with the Coast Guard, and Epic’s website has a timeline of what it says unfolded after the two sides signed a contract in 2010. [This paragraph has been updated with information from Epic.]
In a separate article, Tom Sullivan of Healthcare IT News wrote that the Coast Guard’s health records system will need to be able to exchange data with the systems at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Defense Department. That has led to speculation that Kansas City, MO-based Cerner (NASDAQ: CERN)—a company many in the industry consider Epic’s biggest competitor, and which won a $4.3 billion contract from the Defense Department in 2015—could be the EHR vendor the Coast Guard ends up selecting.
—In related news, the VA also plans to replace the EHR system it uses to document patient information, according to Black Book Market Research, which monitors trends in the healthcare IT industry. Black Book ranked several records software vendors on 24 key performance indicators, with Cerner coming out on top, followed by Chicago-based Allscripts (NASDQAQ: MDRX) and Epic. The VA is expected to announce a decision around a potential replacement for its current system in July, according to the research firm.
—Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg visited Wisconsin as part of a cross-country tour, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. One highlight was an excursion to a family farm in Blanchardville, a small town in the southwestern part of the state. “I hope you’re hungry for cheese because I’m coming home with a lot of it,” Zuckerberg wrote to his wife Priscilla Chan in a post on the social network he helped create.
—Shares in Exact Sciences gained more than 26 percent in a single day of trading last week after the company reported first-quarter revenue well in excess of analyst forecasts and a smaller-than-expected net loss. The news marked the second consecutive strong quarter for Madison-based Exact (NASDQAQ: EXAS).
—Separately, Exact announced a five-year collaboration agreement with Belgium-based MDxHealth that will allow the two companies to share proprietary molecular diagnostics and epigenetics technologies. Under the terms of the deal, Exact acquired the intellectual property rights around a biomarker used in Cologuard, the company’s flagship stool-based DNA screening test for colorectal cancer, said chief financial officer Jeff Elliott. Additionally, Exact terminated its previous license agreement with MDxHealth, and the $15 million in fees paid by Exact under the terms of the new deal includes money accrued under the prior agreement, Elliott said.
—The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office awarded Cellectar Biosciences a patent on two light-emitting chemical compounds, or fluorophores, the company is developing. Madison-based Cellectar (NASDQAQ: CLRB) said the patent covers the use of the two imaging agents used to detect several types of solid tumors in patients. One of the compounds, which the company calls CLR 1502, could potentially be used in surgeries on breast cancer patients, Cellectar CEO Jim Caruso has said.
—Cellectar also recently shared data from preclinical studies of two drug candidates. One of them, CLR 131, is the company’s lead drug candidate and is designed to treat malignant tumors and certain form of blood cancer, including multiple myeloma. “The data from both of these solid tumor animal studies indicate that multiple doses … resulted in an increased survival benefit over a single dose,” the company said in a press release.
—Madison-based SmartUQ, which is developing software that allows users to test the performance of physical parts and products before manufacturing them on a large scale, raised $1.9 million from 25 individual investors. The startup, which launched in 2014 and counts some of the largest businesses in the U.S. as customers, has now raised more than $4.4 million in outside financing, according to SEC filings.
—A group of neuroscience experts from around the country that includes Justin Williams, a professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will receive up to $9.85 million in funding to develop low-cost device that boosts brain activity by stimulating nerves in the user’s head and neck, according to a report by the university’s news service. The funding comes from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, the secretive government organization whose successes include creating an early predecessor to the modern Internet. According to the report, the researchers will design the device with military personnel in mind, but it could also have potential applications for people with Alzheimer’s Disease and other conditions.