Exact Sciences, Generic Drugs, WEDC & More: This Week’s WI Watchlist

Catch up on news from Wisconsin’s innovation community with these recent headlines:

—Citron Research published its second report in the past 12 months arguing that prospective investors should think twice before buying stock in Madison-based Exact Sciences (NASDAQ: EXAS). The company’s flagship product is a non-invasive, stool-based DNA test for colorectal cancer called Cologuard. In the latest report, Los Angeles-based Citron writes that Cologuard faces the long-term threat of a competing liquid biopsy test for colorectal cancer receiving FDA clearance and reaching the market. The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) published the results of a study evaluating such a test earlier this month, though several analysts who follow the diagnostics industry were quick to point out what they saw as flaws in the study’s methodology.

Citron—which was founded and is led by Andrew Left, a well-known short-seller—also notes in its new report that late last month, Anthem BlueCross BlueShield issued a notice that said beginning in 2018, Exact would no longer be an in-network provider for the insurer in Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. That decision could slow test volume growth for Cologuard, according to the Citron report.

Last May, when Exact’s stock price was trading in the range of $30 to $35 a share, Citron issued a report stating it believed a share of stock in Exact was actually worth around $20. Since then, the company’s stock has since continued to tick upward, closing at $50.26 a share on Thursday.

—SSM Health and Ascension, which each operate dozens of hospitals and clinics in Wisconsin, are two of five U.S. healthcare providers seeking to create a nonprofit generic drug company. The five-organization consortium, which also includes Intermountain Healthcare, Trinity Health, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, aims to create a new business entity because it could “help patients by addressing the often unwarranted shortages and high costs of life-saving generic medications,” SSM Health said in a press release. The organizations said they have yet to determine whether the new company would produce generic drugs itself or contract the work out to an existing licensed manufacturer.

—The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. awarded grants worth a combined $500,000 to 11 Wisconsin-based organizations that focus on improving the state’s early stage business climate. One of the grant recipients was the BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation, which invests in startups through an unconventional venture philanthropy model. Another was BizStarts Milwaukee, a nonprofit that connects local startups to business resources.

—Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) said the latest version of its Health app for iPhone will allow users to download parts of their medical records from hospitals and clinics where they’ve received care. Verona-based Epic Systems, along with rival electronic health records software developers Cerner (NASDAQ: CERN) and Athenahealth (NASDAQ: ATHN), are reportedly among the companies working with Apple to help patients access their personal health data using their smartphones.

In a note sent to Xconomy Friday, Matthew Gillmor, a senior research analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co., wrote that he and colleagues “believe this functionality could improve [interoperability] challenges.” However, he added that large IT companies have a poor track record gaining traction in health IT. Gillmor cited GE (NYSE: GE) and McKesson (NYSE: MCK) as examples, along with Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOGL), which shut down its Google Health initiative in 2011.

—A sensor co-developed by a researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a startup headquartered in the city is a finalist in a technology competition organized by NASA, the school said. The sensor, which can rapidly and inexpensively measure viruses and other contaminants in water, was a collaboration of UW-Milwaukee environmental engineer Marcia Silva and David Rice, the founder of Rice Technology. Silva and Rice will, along with the other nine finalists in NASA’s iTech competition, demonstrate their products on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, according to the agency. NASA said it will select three winners and honor the researchers behind them at a “non-monetary awards ceremony” next month.

—NeuroPointDX, a business division of Madison-based Stemina Biomarker Discovery that concentrates on developing diagnostics for neurological disorders, is seeking to raise $50,000 or more through a crowdfunding campaign. Money raised through he campaign would support a study of NeuroPoint’s experimental autism test, which measures residues in the blood called metabolites. The company said it expects the test will become available by the end of the year.

—Northwestern Mutual, a life insurance and financial services provider headquartered in Milwaukee, will invest up to $85,000 in Socialeads, a local startup the insurer selected as the winner of a “reverse” pitch competition, BizTimes Media reported. Socialeads is reportedly developing technology that would comb through the social networks of Northwestern Mutual salespeople and suggest friends and business associates to contact. The competition kicked off in November, when leaders at Northwestern Mutual provided information to startups about areas the insurer was seeking to improve in, such as acquiring sales leads.

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