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Wisconsin Roundup: Exact Sciences, State Budget, Lucigen, & More

Xconomy Wisconsin — 

Here are a few of the latest updates from Wisconsin’s tech and innovation community:

—Middleton-based Lucigen was awarded a $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to continue developing a DNA cloning product used in protein expression, according to a press release. The company makes a variety of tools for life sciences research, and is also working on rapid molecular diagnostic tests for diseases like Ebola and Clostridium difficile, or C. diff.

—Negotiations are heating up between Exact Sciences (NASDAQ: EXAS), real estate developers, and the city of Madison on a $188 million project that would relocate Exact’s headquarters from the city’s west side to downtown. The development would also include a new hotel and hundreds of parking spaces, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

Exact had 503 employees, including 201 at its headquarters, at the beginning of the year, the newspaper reported. If the downtown office comes to fruition, Exact estimates it would employ 2,000 people companywide by 2023, including 650 people at the headquarters. Those projections, of course, depend on Exact continuing to pick up momentum with its first molecular diagnostic product, Cologuard, and executing on plans for additional products over the next five years or so.

—Arrowhead Research (NASDAQ: ARWR) said it got regulatory approval in the U.K. and New Zealand to move forward in both countries with its Phase 1 clinical trial of ARC-AAT, its drug candidate for treating liver disease associated with Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (AATD), a rare genetic disorder affecting the liver and lungs. The company has already begun enrolling patients in Australia as part of the Phase 1 study, and plans to soon begin enrolling patients in the U.K. and New Zealand. The FDA granted Arrowhead orphan drug status for ARC-AAT in June.

Arrowhead’s technology uses RNA interference (RNAi), which is intended to prevent disease-related genes from producing proteins that would otherwise wreak havoc in the body. The company is based in Pasadena, CA, but has research and development operations in Madison.

—Late additions to the proposed state budget last week included $250,000 to help build a facility for the St. Croix Valley Business Incubator in northwestern Wisconsin, as well as up to $500,000 in grants for equipment purchases by fabrication laboratories, which give K-12 students access to machines like 3D printers and laser engravers, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

The state Senate passed the budget late Tuesday night, and the Assembly was expected to consider it today.

—The Wisconsin State Journal has a feature story on research into a method for preserving transplant organs called “warm perfusion,” which some think has a chance of becoming the new medical standard. The practice involves pumping the organs with blood that is at or below room temperature. The debate over this method is of note in Wisconsin because the current standard—a cold solution used to help preserve organs in coolers for shipping—was developed at the University of Wisconsin Hospital, the newspaper reported.