Madison startup Isomark's breath-test bags -- already in a pilot project for use in detecting infections -- are now being used by the UW Badger football team in a separate project to show if the players' training workouts are effective.


Badger football players are taking a breath test — but it has nothing to do with checking for alcohol consumption.

Instead, it is meant to find out if the athletes are getting an effective workout, says Isomark, the Madison startup that developed the technology.

Isomark says its Energy Balance device gives trainers quick information about how an athlete is metabolizing food.

Badger football players are using the technology in a pilot program this fall. They breathe into a special bag at the start of a practice, twice during a workout and twice afterward, said Daniel Butz, Isomark chief scientific officer.

The technology measures the carbon in exhaled breath, the company says.

“We can look at what their body is using for energy at any given time, and by doing that, we can help them to optimize their workout training,” Butz said.

“We can tell what metabolic fuels they’re using to perform their workout,” he said — for example, if they are burning carbohydrates, protein or fat. The results can be tied to the intensity, duration and nature of the workout, he said.

“From a performance team standpoint, this information is vital, because ultimately, we want to put (players) in a position to succeed on and off the field,” said Jamil Walker, the football team’s assistant strength and condition coach, in a news release from Isomark.

Isomark was founded in 2005 but received its first investor equity funding in 2010.

The company has five full-time employees.

Energy Balance also is being tested among hospitalized patients getting intravenous nutrition to track their caloric intake, Butz said.

But beyond that, Isomark’s technology is in a separate pilot study for a totally different use: detecting infections at their very early stages.

The same technology, based on UW-Madison research and licensed from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, can identify the onset of infections by examining the carbon isotopes in their breath to find changes in a patient’s metabolism, Isomark says.

A pilot study of trauma and emergency patients is underway at Ohio State and Washington universities, CEO Joe Kremer says.

The idea is to curb the number of infections that hospital patients contract. Kremer says up to 10 percent of all patients, nationwide, develop a hospital-acquired infection.

Kremer says Isomark will need U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval to sell its Canary device for infection detection but not for use of Energy Balance by athletes or others in a weight management program.

Short takes

RPRD Diagnostics says it will develop laboratory tests that can further the concept of personalized medicine.

The Milwaukee startup, a spinoff from the Medical College of Wisconsin, says its technology will let health care providers screen a patient’s genetic makeup for variations that will help or hinder the effectiveness of a particular drug treatment.

Ulrich Broeckel, founder and CEO of RPRD Diagnostics, is a professor of pediatrics, medicine and physiology at Medical College of Wisconsin.

Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals, whose headquarters are in California but research and development center is in Madison, will work with Spring Bank Pharmaceuticals to see if their drug candidates, taken together, are effective in treating chronic hepatitis B, a common liver infection.

Arrowhead’s ARC-520 already is under investigation for possible treatment of the ailment. It is one of several drug candidates the company is pursuing, using RNA interference to silence the action of certain genes as a way to fight diseases.

The fourth annual Wisconsin Governor’s Summit on Cybersecurity will be held Thursday at Gordon Commons on the UW-Madison campus.

Speakers will include FBI special agent Bryon Franz; Terry Hect, director for cybersecurity at AT&T; and author P.W. Singer, an editor at Popular Science magazine who has been named one of the nation’s 100 leading innovators by the Smithsonian Institution. Concern about cyberthreats prompted the state of Wisconsin to block more than 1.4 million emails a day, received by state agencies and considered suspicious, just during the month of August, state officials said.

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Judy Newman is a business reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.