Tech start-ups may be drawing heaps of attention lately but the top two dozen companies still in the running in the Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Competition represent a wide variety of industries, from Pan Genome Systems’ vaccines for dairy cows to Little Green Pencil’s system for scoring golf outings.
Among the health care-related proposals, in particular, are a couple of familiar names of entrepreneurs who have done well with other companies:
Elucent Medical is headed by Laura King, former CEO of NeuWave Medical.
Amebagone’s founder is Marcin Filutowicz, a UW-Madison bacteriology professor who also co-founded ConjuGon in 2001.
Adam Bock, a former business manager for Stratatech, is on the board of Cellular Logistics.
King’s domain is medical devices. She was in the management ranks at GE Healthcare for much of her 20 years there, and then served for six years as president and CEO of NeuWave, which she co-founded with UW radiology professor Dr. Fred Lee and UW engineering professor Dan van der Weide. NeuWave makes an ablation device used for zapping cancerous tumors.
Elucent, established in July 2013, makes a medical device for use in breast cancer surgery. It helps identify the location and borders of malignant tumors, King said.
Traditionally, when a patient gets a biopsy and a breast lump is found to be cancerous, the patient goes in for a procedure prior to the surgery to insert a wire into the skin to identify the location.
“Our device would eliminate that step, which is a $1,500 cost to the health care system,” said King.
King, Lee and van der Weide have developed a tiny tag that is placed in the lump at the time of the biopsy, King said. It means patients can avoid going through a separate procedure, performed by a radiologist under either ultrasound or X-ray. “We think that’s pretty important in today’s world,” she said.
King said Elucent plans to file for federal regulatory approval before the end of 2014.
Why enter the Governor’s Business Plan Competition?
“For us, it was an opportunity to accelerate what we were working on. There’s a huge benefit of continuing to meet and connect with other entrepreneurs in the state,” said King, who also teaches a class in the new entrepreneurship program at Carroll University, Waukesha.
The breast cancer surgery marker is not likely to be the only product to come out of Elucent, whose name is derived from the Latin word “elucio,” which means to “shine out” or “stand out,” King said.
“Our goal with Elucent Medical is to design and commercialize medical devices and services that ‘stand out’ in terms of clinical efficacy and healthcare economics,” she said.
Amebagone is the latest company that serial entrepreneur Filutowicz is behind. It stems from his research into amoebas in the soil and is the third business the UW bacteriologist has started — all of which are aimed at finding alternatives for killing antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Amebagone’s proposal for the Business Plan contest describes the product as a new type of biopesticide that could be used on a farm, for water treatment or for medical uses, said Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, which organizes the contest.
Filutowicz also started ConjuGon in Madison in 2001 and PlasmiGon in 2008, both to work on antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections.
Cellular Logistics is developing a substance for use in closing wounds, such as diabetic foot ulcers, said co-founder Eric Schmuck. He said proteins secreted by heart cells can be produced into a sheet “like a contact lens,” and tests on mice have shown that the protein sheet can heal wounds.
Among the company’s board members is Adam Bock. Most recently a lecturer on entrepreneurship at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, Bock was a business manager at Strata-tech Corp., a Madison company working on skin substitute products; manager of a former angel investor group in Madison, Early Stage Research; and was CEO of Nebraska Surgical, a start-up making small surgical robots.
Schmuck said eventually, Cellular Logistics’ technology may be used in stem cell therapy to regenerate damaged heart cells, for example, after a heart attack. “We’re not going to create the stem cells but we can get (them) where they need to grow,” he said.