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WI Watchlist: Northwestern Mutual, Epic, Exact Sciences, Propeller

Xconomy Wisconsin — 

It’s time to catch up on notable headlines from Wisconsin’s innovation community:

—Northwestern Mutual, the Milwaukee-based insurance and wealth management services giant, has hired Souheil Badran as chief innovation officer. Badran was previously president of the Americas region for Alipay, the online payments platform operated by Ant Financial, the Alibaba-owned fintech firm.

Badran’s new role was previously held by Alexa von Tobel, the well-known fintech entrepreneur who left Northwestern Mutual this month to become managing partner of Inspired Capital, an early-stage technology venture firm based in New York that is raising $200 million for its debut fund, according to an SEC filing. Von Tobel joined Northwestern Mutual when it bought her New York-based fintech startup LearnVest in 2015.

—Exact Sciences’ (NASDAQ: EXAS) share price surged nearly 15 percent to close at $75.36 per share on Monday, the day after the Madison-based diagnostic test developer reported preliminary financial results for the fourth quarter and all of 2018. When Exact delivers final results next month, the company said it expects to report revenue between $454 million and $455 million for 2018, a 71 percent year-over-year increase. The projected 2018 revenue range is higher than the previous projection of $435 million to $440 million in 2018 revenues, which was shared at the end of October. That month, Exact began co-promoting Cologuard—the company’s flagship diagnostic test that screens patients for colorectal cancer—with sales representatives from pharma giant Pfizer (NYSE: PFE).

As of Friday morning, Exact’s shares were trading at $77.93 apiece.

—Propeller Health, the Madison-based developer of Internet-connected inhaler products for patients with respiratory conditions, added features that enable users of its mobile app to connect directly with pharmacy services. The first pharmacy partner is Walgreens, one of Propeller’s early investors. Patients will be able to use Propeller’s app to order prescription refills at nearby Walgreens pharmacies, chat with pharmacists, and check the points they have on their customer loyalty account with Walgreens.

Propeller announced last month it agreed to be acquired for $225 million by San Diego-based ResMed (NYSE: RMD).

Epic Systems, the Verona-based maker of electronic health records software, is reportedly being sued by the National Federation of the Blind for employment discrimination by allegedly not making its software compatible with tools that communicate words on screens to people who are visually challenged, such as through Braille or software programs that read the words aloud. A federation spokesperson told The Cap Times that the group is suing because Epic isn’t doing enough to make its software accessible to blind healthcare workers, such as transcriptionists. In a statement shared with the publication, Epic said it works with customers “to tailor specific workflows and integrate with existing and emerging assistive technologies that support their employees with disabilities.”