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AI, Accelerators, & Awards: This Week’s Wisconsin Watch List

Xconomy Wisconsin — 

Here are some of the past week’s major headlines from Wisconsin’s tech and innovation community:

—Madison-based Exact Sciences (NASDAQ: EXAS) announced it won’t move into a new headquarters in the city’s downtown, dropping its previous plans. Instead, the company will expand its presence at University Research Park on Madison’s west side. Last month, shares in Exact plunged on news that its colorectal cancer diagnostic product was classified as an “alternative” screening method, leaving it out of a group of recommended tests.

—The City of Racine and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. (WEDC) announced they’ve launched a $200,000 fund to provide grants and loans to entrepreneurs developing technologies in high-growth sectors. The two sides contributed equally to the fund, which will be managed by the Racine County Economic Development Corp. WEDC allocated the money through its Capital Catalyst program, which nine Wisconsin communities and organizations are leveraging to support early-stage development in their areas.

—The National Science Foundation awarded Madison-based AmebaGone a Small Business Innovation Research Phase 2 grant of nearly $740,000 to develop natural biocides that attack disease-causing bacteria in apples, pears, and other crops, the company announced. It’s developing bio-control products that behave similarly to human immune cells to treat infections in plants and people, AmebaGone said. Last year, the use of antibiotics in organic orchards was banned, the company said, creating problems for growers and their industry and potentially putting their organic certifications at risk.

—The Midwest Energy Research Consortium (M-WERC) said it will offer expanded programming around its WERCBench Labs accelerator for engineering-focused startups. M-WERC will start accepting applications for the second edition of its 12-week accelerator—the first class graduated in August—and sponsor events introducing prospects to the program and teaching more seasoned entrepreneurs about business models and financing.

—Walgreens announced its Healthcare Clinics, of which there are more than 400 in the U.S., will start transitioning early next year to an electronic health records system developed by Verona-based Epic Systems. Deerfield, IL-based Walgreens said among the benefits of switching from its proprietary records system is the ability to send records between Epic sites using the company’s Care Everywhere module.

—Wisconsin startup accelerator Gener8tor had a busy week. It announced a partnership with the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), which manages intellectual property for the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The goal is for one third of the participants in gBETA, Gener8tor’s free, six-week accelerator for early-stage companies affiliated with colleges and universities in Wisconsin, to have technology licensed by WARF. Gener8tor also held its “Premiere Night,” at which its latest class of five startups pitched an audience that included scores of investors.

—Speaking of Gener8tor, one of its portfolio companies, Neshkoro-based Quietyme, unveiled a new device to allow patients to communicate with hospital staff more efficiently. Called CareCube, the device allows patients to indicate wants and needs—for example hunger, thirst, a need to use the bathroom—by rotating the cube so the appropriate side is facing up. A health system can only use CareCube if it has installed Quietyme’s wireless network of sensors, which are designed to measure sound and reduce noise in hospitals.

—Madison-based Virent, which is attempting to commercialize a plant-based alternative fuel for motor vehicles and other machines, finished atop this year’s Biofuels Digest ranking of the “40 hottest small companies in the advanced bioeconomy.” Biofuels Digest said its rankings recognize innovation and achievement in fuels, bio-based chemicals, and materials. To be eligible for the list, a company must have less than $20 million in annual revenue and less than 100 full-time employees, the publication said.

—Mequon-based iDAvatars is unique among the first 100 development partners with IBM’s (NYSE: IBM) Watson supercomputer, in that iDAvatars focuses more on user experience than content, founder and CEO Norrie Daroga told Xconomy. The startup has developed software enabling animated characters like Sophie, a virtual medical assistant, to interact with users through natural language processing, facial recognition, and other technologies. Its customers include German pharma Bayer and Intel (NASDAQ: INTC), which uses iDAvatars’ technology in its RealSense 3D camera.