Exact, WARF, Murfie, Microbes, & More: This Week’s WI Watchlist
Keep up with the latest news from Wisconsin’s innovation community with these recent headlines.
—Madison-based Exact Sciences (NASDAQ: EXAS), whose flagship product is a stool-based screening test for colorectal cancer, issued a recall of 15 pieces of equipment used to mix stool samples in preparation for testing at the company’s lab. According to the FDA, the defect posed no immediate danger of death or other serious injury.
—Exact also announced that it is selling 7 million shares of stock at $35 per share. The underwriters of the stock offering have the option to purchase up to 1.05 million additional shares, Exact said, bringing the total potential cash haul to more than $281 million. The company plans to use some proceeds from the offering to fund product development, add more laboratory space, and increase manufacturing capacity.
—The Neenah-based Winnebago Seed Fund raised $11 million from investors. The fund is part of the Badger Fund of Funds, a public-private program aimed at supporting startups in the state.
Another “recipient” fund created under the fund-of-funds program, the Idea Fund of La Crosse, raised an additional $4 million from investors, according to a press release. That comes on top of the $8 million that the fund said it had raised in February.
—A federal judge upheld a 2015 ruling from a jury that ordered Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) to pay $234 million in damages to the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation for infringing on a patent held by the foundation. WARF, which manages patents and licensing of intellectual property for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said Apple may appeal the decision. WARF had filed its own post-trial motion requesting that U.S. District Judge William Conley consider changing a ruling—and in effect triple the award amount—but Conley rejected the request.
—Separately, WARF was granted 168 “utility” patents in 2016, sixth-best among the world’s universities. That’s according to a ranking by the National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association. Utility patents include “materials, processes, functions, and devices,” WARF said.
—Madison-based Stratatech, which is developing cell-based human tissue for treating burns, enrolled the first patient in a Phase 3 clinical trial of its flagship product, StrataGraft. The announcement came about a month after the company said it had begun enrolling patients in a Phase 2 clinical study of StrataGraft that’s targeting a slightly different patient population.
—Serial entrepreneur Matt Younkle and Adorable founder Jim Remsik have joined forces to launch Cardigan, a digital business card app. It took less than a year for the co-founders of Madison-based Cardigan, with help from Adorable employees, to create software that allows users to exchange contact information using their smartphones.
—One of Younkle’s previous ventures is Middleton-based Murfie, an online music marketplace that turns users’ collections of compact discs and vinyl records into a digital music library accessible from anywhere. Murfie recently raised about $660,000 in equity funding, said David Guinther, a general partner at WISC Partners, which led the round.
—Milwaukee-based Health Snaps is one of five startups currently participating in the NMotion accelerator program in Lincoln, NE, according to the entrepreneurship blog Nibletz. Health Snaps, which was previously known as Health Connection, makes software that lets healthcare providers send instructional videos, messages, and other media to their patients. The NMotion program reportedly kicked off on May 8 and will end Aug. 10.
—Health Snaps was one of 13 startups that gave pitches on Tuesday as part of the Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest. The contest’s overall winner was Eau Claire-based Northern Star Fire, which has developed an electronic compass designed to help firefighters find their way through—and out of—burning buildings.
—Madison-based Asto CT performed the first test of its computed tomography (CT) device for imaging animals on a live horse. CEO David Ergun said his company expects to have four to six of the machines built and ready to ship by the end of the year.
—Milwaukee-based Microbe Detectives was part of a team that analyzed puddle water on Bourbon Street in New Orleans and found it likely contained “the aftermath of some horse manure.” That’s according to a report from the New Orleans Times-Picayune, in which Microbe Detectives CEO John Tillotson is quoted. The company uses DNA sequencing to analyze samples of wastewater, well water, and drinking water to identify different types of bacteria.
—We profiled Madison-based Cellara, which is developing software for researchers who work in stem cell culture laboratories. Users of the company’s digital tools can document information such as the steps they’ve taken within a particular scientific experiment. Recording this data electronically, rather than in paper notebooks, could make it easier for scientists to collaborate and reproduce each other’s experiments, leaders at the company said.
—AARP and MedCity News named James Dias, co-founder and CEO of Wellbe, to their list of 50 healthcare leaders at organizations developing consumer-focused products. Madison-based Wellbe has created software to help guide patients through medical treatments and procedures, via a series of electronic forms, checklists, and surveys.
—The “gig” economy—a reference to the ability to earn money through on-demand services such as Uber and Airbnb—appears to be on the rise in Wisconsin. Still, not everyone in the state has a positive view of ride-hailing companies and other technology-enabled services that have entered the mainstream in recent years. Part of the debate involves the fact that many of these companies classify gig workers as independent contractors, which can limit their access to the benefits and legal protections that full-time employees enjoy.