Bitcoin, Johnson Controls, WARF & More: This Week’s WI Watchlist

This week’s 70-degree temperatures have brought many Wisconsin residents out of hibernation, and they’re now flocking to bicycle trails, restaurant patios, and other favorite springtime spots. With 2018 now one-third complete, take a few minutes to catch up on news from Wisconsin’s innovation community with these recent headlines:

—Politicians in Wisconsin might soon be able to accept campaign donations paid in Bitcoin and other digital currencies, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The Wisconsin Ethics Commission held a hearing last week on the topic, following a request from the state’s Libertarian Party in February that the commission give guidance on handling contributions donors make using so-called cryptocurrencies. Phil Anderson, who chairs the Libertarian Party of Wisconsin, reportedly told the commission that the party and some of its members have been offered donations in Bitcoin. The currency is a type of blockchain technology—a way to create a public record of transactional data so that those transactions later can be authenticated, but which also allows the parties involved to keep certain information private by encrypting it.

The federal government, as well as Montana and the District of Columbia, reportedly already allow transfers of digital currency to political campaigns; however, Montana, for one, requires campaigns to immediately convert such payments to U.S. dollars. In addition to concerns over the ability to verify a donor’s identity, the volatility of digital currency values against the dollar and other fiat currencies could make it hard to enforce campaign contribution limits.

—Paul Radspinner, co-founder and CEO of Madison-based FluGen, said his company will consider applying for some of the funding the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation plans to award to influenza researchers as part of a new initiative. The foundation will provide scientists and companies with up to $12 million in coming years to support the development of a universal flu vaccine. FluGen’s lead vaccine candidate RedeeFlu, which is currently in early human trials, is designed to protect against multiple flu strains, putting it into the category of universal vaccines.

—Radspinner is one of the biotech executives headlining a two-day “exchange” event next week that’s intended to help members of Madison and Milwaukee’s startup communities size each other up. On May 8, Radspinner will discuss his company’s mission and path to commercialization at the law firm Foley & Lardner’s Milwaukee headquarters. The following day, Dan Lawton, president of Milwaukee-based Promentis Pharmaceuticals, will travel to Madison and give a talk at the offices of The QTI Group, a human resources firm based in the city.

—Johnson Controls International (NYSE: JCI) announced a partnership with, China’s largest online retailer, as measured by yearly sales. The tie-up is focused on selling high-tech vehicle batteries to consumers and auto dealerships in China. Johnson Controls was founded in Wisconsin over a century ago, but is now headquartered in Cork, Ireland.

—Fifteen organizations—a mix of tech startups, venture capital firms, consultancies, and more—are getting set to move into the new entrepreneurial hub StartingBlock Madison, which opens next month. StartingBlock, a project more than five years in the making, will occupy 50,000 square feet in a building nicknamed “The Spark” that Madison-based American Family Insurance is developing in the city’s downtown.

—The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, which manages patents and the licensing of intellectual property for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, struck a licensing agreement with Revive Therapeutics (OTCMKTS: RVVTF), the Toronto, Canada-based company said. Revive said its agreement with the foundation involves cannabinoid delivery technology … Next Page »

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