MON AM News: Group formed supporting legislation to create new regulations for PBMs; WERCBench Labs Accelerator announces latest cohort

— Pharmacists, patients and others in the state have formed a new group to support legislation that would establish new regulations for pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs. 

The Wisconsin Pharmacy Patient Protection Coalition has released a petition signed by 11,000 patients in the state supporting the effort. The group says similar bills have been introduced in all 50 states, and 33 states have recently passed new laws related to PBMs. 

“What this legislation does is to finally hold the whole PBM industry accountable for their secretive actions that have hurt our state’s most vulnerable patients by forcing them to unknowingly pay high prices for prescriptions,” said Rob Gundermann, chair of the WPPPC and executive director of the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging and Health Groups.  

The legislation would require PBMs to register with the state and establish new price transparency regulations. And it would create new requirements on contracts between PBMs and pharmacies, pharmacists or health benefit plan sponsors, according to analysis from the Legislative Reference Bureau. 

In a release, the new coalition says the legislation would eliminate “intimidating gag clause provisions” in PBM contracts, which prevent pharmacists in some cases from informing customers of less costly options for medication. 

And the legislation would require PBMs to make sure patients aren’t denied coverage during a plan year if the treatment in question was covered when they enrolled or renewed, according to the coalition.

See more: 

— The latest cohort of startups taking part in the WERCBench Labs Accelerator are developing new technologies ranging from building systems software to a platform for managing utility grids during disasters. 

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin toured the M-WERC facility last week to announce the seven startups chosen for the fifth cohort of the program. It’s set to begin in October and run for 16 weeks. At the end of the program, participants will present for Demo Day next year on March 3. 

WERCBench Labs Managing Director Jacquin Davidson will coordinate the program, while specific courses will be taught by industry professionals, academics and other instructors. It will be held at the group’s Energy Innovation Center in Milwaukee, which houses equipment for prototyping and testing. 

“This year’s cohort has some exceptional technologies,” Davidson said. 

Three of the participants are from Chicago: Accelerate Wind, a startup with a commercial rooftop wind installation; Mesodyne, which has a new compact power generator; and Omega Grid, a company with a software platform for power grid optimization. 

From Wisconsin, participants include Agricycle, a Milwaukee company with a solar dehydrator for fruit and other foods; Madison-based CLOCworks, which has machine learning software for HVAC systems; and Elektrifi, another Madison company with a grid management system for disaster relief. 

The seventh member is Steam Energy Labs, a Boulder-based firm developing smart thermostat technology. 

See more on the accelerator program: 

— Business leaders from around the state have been named to WEDC’s new entrepreneurship and innovation committee. 

According to a release from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., the agency’s board created the committee at the request of Gov. Tony Evers. 

The 15-member committee will be co-chaired by Joe Kirgues, co-founder of Milwaukee-based gener8tor, and Rebecca Cooke, owner of Eau Claire-based Red’s Mercantile and founder of the Red Letter Grant — both members of the WEDC board of directors. 

See the full list of the new committee’s members: 

— A researcher at UW-Madison has secured a patent for a method to track patients’ immune response to a new potential vaccine for many strains of pathogenic fungi. 

According to an info sheet from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, no vaccine currently exists for fungal infections. To fill that gap, Professor Bruce Klein created a new potential vaccine that contains calnexin — a protein contained in fungi and other similar lifeforms. That treatment could help an infected patient’s immune system fight off a fungal pathogen. 

To support that vaccine, Klein and colleagues have created a method to test immune response in patients with fungal infections. The test could be used to check immunity in veterinary medicine as well as in humans. 

WARF’s info sheet shows the “detection agent” is also made with the calnexin protein, and can help doctors track how the patient’s body responds to infection or vaccination. WARF says “promising” animal studies are underway involving several fungal strains. 

See more on the fungal infection vaccine: 

See the info sheet for more on the test: 

— Fetch Rewards, a Madison business with a mobile grocery rewards app, has partnered with Kount, a company focused on digital fraud prevention. 

The partnership aims to improve customer experience, enable shoppers to quickly redeem gift cards, offer new customer features and protect against digital fraud. 

“With our growth goals in the next year, the level of transparency Kount provides is key,” Fetch Rewards Founder Wes Schroll said in a statement. “We can’t make a risk analysis with blinders on, and Kount’s detailed data allows us to make confident, efficient decisions without being bogged down by rules.”

According to a release, by working with Kount, Fetch Rewards can focus resources on creating partnerships for its shoppers, advancing its digital innovation and further supporting its growth.

Fetch has grown by more than 350 percent in the last six months.

See more at Madison Startups: 

Listen to a podcast with Wes Schroll, the company’s CEO and founder: 


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<i>See these and other press releases: </i>

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