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WI Watchlist: FluGen, Propeller Health, Gener8tor, EnSync

Xconomy Wisconsin — 

Here are some of the latest headlines from Wisconsin’s innovation community:

—FluGen, a Madison-based company trying to develop a universal influenza vaccine, announced topline, preliminary data from a Phase 2 study that demonstrated its M2SR vaccine proved effective in countering a “mismatched” flu virus.

The flu virus that makes its rounds each year doesn’t always match the viral strain contained in the annual vaccines administered to people, reducing their effectiveness. FluGen is trying to commercialize a vaccine that would work even if the virus strain it contains doesn’t match the strain affecting people. In the Phase 2 study, the M2SR vaccine, which is based on a 2007 flu virus, was tested on people exposed to a strain from the 2014-2015 flu season. In the randomized, placebo-controlled study involving 99 patients in Belgium, FluGen said more than half of the participants that received M2SR demonstrated a serum antibody response to the vaccine, and those participants showed a 34 percent reduction of “viral load,” compared to those who received a placebo.

FluGen is still analyzing the results, and it plans to present more data in a “peer-reviewed forum.” Click here for more details about the study’s preliminary results.

Gener8tor, the Wisconsin-based venture investor and operator of a network of startup accelerator programs, will soon begin building companies from scratch. Through the organization’s new “studio” initiative, it plans to invest $100,000 and provide other support to one brand-new startup during each of Gener8tor’s core, 12-week accelerator programs in 2019, starting with this spring’s session in Madison. The newly hatched startup will participate in the accelerator session alongside five existing startups selected for the program. Business ideas for the studio startups will come from Gener8tor staff and corporations that are part of Gener8tor’s Project North group.

The studio program was first reported by BizTimes Media.

—Propeller Health formed a partnership with Finland-based pharmaceutical company Orion, through which Orion’s line of Easyhaler inhalers for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients will be connected to Propeller’s online software platform that tracks medication use and provides personalized feedback. This year, Propeller and Orion will begin jointly developing a small, custom sensor for Orion’s inhalers, which would link them with Propeller’s online software. After that, they plan to test the connected inhalers in clinical trials before rolling them out commercially.

Propeller inked a deal in December to be acquired by San Diego-based ResMed (NYSE: RMD) for $225 million, the largest reported exit for a Wisconsin startup since 2011.

—EnSync (NYSE: ESNC), a Milwaukee-area maker of energy storage and power control products, said that if it’s unsuccessful in attempts to secure additional financing, the company will likely cease operations and file for bankruptcy, according to an SEC filing. The firm, which said in January that its stock was in danger of being delisted from the NYSE American stock exchange, said that its current financial predicament was caused in part by a customer in Hawaii sending a letter “purporting to terminate” a power purchase agreement it had made with EnSync. The company claims that although the termination was “without basis” and was “subsequently retracted,” the letter triggered a series of negative events, including preventing the company from completing negotiations over the sale of the power purchase agreement, losing out on the expected upfront payments, delaying or canceling equipment orders, damaging relationships with suppliers, and hampering the company’s ability to secure financing.

EnSync also said that on Jan. 23, CEO Bradley Hansen resigned his position and resigned from the company’s board. The next day, Novo Advisors principal Sandeep Gupta was appointed interim CEO and chief restructuring officer, and also given a board seat.