WI Watchlist: Twitter Deal, AmFam Gift, Arrowhead Trial & More

Xconomy Wisconsin — 

It’s time to catch up on recent headlines from Wisconsin’s innovation scene, including a $20 million donation earmarked for data science research and education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a pair of tech acquisitions, and key milestones for two biotech firms. Read on for details.

—American Family Insurance said it will donate $20 million to the University of Wisconsin-Madison for data science initiatives. Half will go toward creating a Data Science Institute on campus, and half will support research over the next 10 years, according to a press release.

—Twitter “acquihired” Highly, a startup that created online tools for quickly sharing bits of text from articles and websites, according to TechCrunch. The deal’s terms weren’t disclosed, but Highly’s founders and sole employees, Wisconsin natives Andrew Courter and Eric Wuebben, will join Twitter, BizTimes Media reported. Wuebben was based at the StartingBlock Madison entrepreneurial hub in Wisconsin’s capital; he’ll now work at Twitter’s New York office, according to BizTimes.

—TechCanary, a Milwaukee-area startup that developed software to help insurance professionals manage customer relationships, was acquired by University Park, IL-based Applied Systems for an undisclosed amount. TechCanary was founded in 2013 and raised at least $200,000 in venture funding.

—Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ARWR) said it began dosing a new cohort of patients in an ongoing Phase 1/2 study of an experimental hepatitis B drug that uses RNA interference. The move triggered a $25 million milestone payment from Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) subsidiary that struck a deal last October to license and develop the treatment. Read more about the partnership in this Xconomy story.

Arrowhead has its main office in Pasadena, CA, but its research laboratories are in Madison.

—Stratatech unveiled a $28 million expansion that almost tripled the size of its headquarters in Madison’s University Research Park, bringing its space to 35,000 square feet, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. The 80-person company added more capacity to manufacture its experimental lab-made tissue, which is in clinical testing. Stratatech was acquired in 2016 by Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals.

—Lastly, this feature story by Marc Eisen in Isthmus magazine is worth a read. The piece explores mounting calls for changes on University of Wisconsin-Madison’s campus to foster more translation of basic medical research into commercial products. The crux of the article is an exploration of a consultant’s report delivered to university administrators last year—and later disputed by some of them—that calls for an overhaul of the review process for campus projects involving human subjects, and advocates for cultural changes as well, among other recommendations.