THU AM News: Drift & Row aims to improve the value of play; Nexus Pharmaceuticals building $250 million manufacturing facility in Pleasant Prairie

— Flashing lights, bright colors and loud noises… When you walk down the aisle of a toy store, that’s what you will see and hear. 

Highly stimulating toys currently dominate the market. While these products are great entertainment for children, they generally don’t aim to improve language development or learning. A Wisconsin business is working to change this — one toy at a time.

Drift & Row LLC is a Milwaukee-based startup focused on designing and creating handmade toys that support language and learning in children. It was founded in 2018 by owner Brenna Davis, a speech language pathologist.

“The meaning of ‘Drift & Row’ is a reminder about what play should be. ‘Drift,’ meaning freedom and unstructured time. ‘Row,’ meaning children need to work and fail in order for it to be play,” Davis said.  

After working to support children and parents in her professional career, Davis saw a need for toys parents could buy to support social skills and education.   

“As a speech language pathologist, I was struggling with this disconnect as to good work happening in my therapy room and schools, and what was being translated into the home,” Davis said.

Research confirms that play is an integral part of a child’s social-emotional, cognitive, language, problem-solving and self-regulatory development. However, Davis says many parents have become too focused on developing their child’s academic and rote skills, such as counting, letters and shapes. 

Davis began making the toys by hand, specializing in three types: felt dolls, puzzles and activity matts. She says these toys encourage childrens’ engagement in creative, symbolic and collaborative play. 

“I haven’t met a parent that doesn’t want the best for their child,” Davis said. “Drift & Row is an attempt to remind parents about the importance of play for executive functioning and social skills.”

See more: 

— Nexus Pharmaceuticals is building a $250 million manufacturing facility in Pleasant Prairie for which it could earn up to $1.5 million in state tax credits. 

According to a release, the Illinois-based drugmaker’s new facility will have manufacturing operations for product areas including anesthesia, cancer treatment, cardiovascular care and more. 

“We are proud to call Wisconsin the new home for our company’s first manufacturing facility,” said Nexus CEO Mariam Darsot. “This investment is needed to drive the continued growth of the U.S. pharmaceutical manufacturing industry.” 

The multi-phase project is expected to take 10 years to complete. For the first phase, Nexus plans to invest $85 million into a 100,000-square-foot, three-story production facility. Construction of that building will begin next month, and is expected to wrap up by 2021. Commercial production is expected to begin the next year, the release shows. 

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. says Nexus plans to hire 77 workers in engineering, production, supply chain management and other areas, with an average annual salary of $70,000. 

The company can earn up to $1.5 million in state income tax credits over the next four years. A contract obtained from WEDC shows $450,000 of that can be earned by creating jobs, while the other $1,050,000 can be earned through capital expenditures in the state. 

Aside from the 77 expected direct jobs, WEDC says the new manufacturing facility could create 134 more indirect jobs in the region, based on an economic modeling analysis. According to the release from Gov. Tony Evers’ office, the construction phase of the project could support another 379 jobs, both directly and indirectly. 

See the release: 

— Gov. Tony Evers has signed into law two bills.

One creates a regulatory framework for building 5G cellular technology; the other allows the Department of Revenue to share financial information to a prospective buyer of a business.

The 5G legislation, 2019 Wisconsin Act 14, will help the state “catch up with the rest of the Midwest,” according to Evers. 

“This is an important step for investing and updating our infrastructure that will pave the way for the next generation of connectivity across our state,” the guv said in a release.  

The other bill, 2019 Wisconsin Act 15, enables the state to provide certain financial information, such as outstanding sales tax liability, to someone looking to purchase a business. Evers’ administration says this will improve “fairness and transparency” in business dealings. 

See the release: 

— The FDA has granted “fast track” designation for a cancer therapy drug trial being performed by Cellectar Biosciences. 

The company, which has offices in the Madison area, is developing a new therapeutic drug candidate for the treatment of various cancers. The new FDA designation has been secured for a clinical trial focused on patients with tenacious forms of lymphoma, a cancer of the body’s lymphatic system. 

Drugs that are granted fast track designation are generally being developed to treat serious or potentially fatal diseases and conditions “where there is an unmet need,” according to the FDA. It’s meant to speed up the process of review and approval that drugs must go through before being sold. 

According to a release from Cellectar, producers of fast-tracked drugs can interact with the FDA review team more than normal during the development process. Designated products can also get “priority review” for an official new drug application, and the FDA can review portions of that application before the full application is completed, in a process called rolling review.

“This designation supports our efforts to more rapidly provide a new therapeutic option for patients,” said James Caruso, president and CEO of Cellectar. 

He says patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma — the focus of the study — generally have low rates of survival. But in a previous clinical trial, Cellectar achieved a 33 percent overall response rate for its drug candidate, called CLR 131. 

“We are optimistic that CLR 131 has the potential to provide a meaningful treatment option for these patients and look forward to additional data in 2019,” Caruso said. 

See the release: 

See an earlier story on the company: 

— U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin is helping reintroduce a bipartisan bill aimed at improving the workforce outlook for hospices and palliative care providers. 

Palliative care is a specialized field of medicine for people dealing with serious illness, focused on reducing symptoms and related stresses. 

“I was raised by my maternal grandparents and later served as my grandmother’s primary caregiver as she grew older, so this issue is personal to me, and I want to make a difference for families experiencing serious health concerns,” the Madison Dem said. 

Baldwin is reintroducing the bill alongside Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a West Virginia Republican who was also a caregiver for her own parents living with Alzheimer’s disease, according to a release. 

The release shows the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act aims to boost the number of providers working in this space to match the rising number of hospital-based palliative care programs. 

The legislation would create new education centers and related programs for palliative care, as well as grants for physician and nurse training. The bill would also direct the National Institutes of Health to funnel more money into related research. And it would create incentives for those studying and working in palliative care. 

The bill has the backing of the Wisconsin Aging Advocacy Network, the Palliative Care Network of Wisconsin, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and other groups. 

See the release: 

— BrightStar Wisconsin has invested $50,000 into Curate Solutions, the company recently announced. 

Madison-based Curate provides resources to businesses and associations affected by decisions of municipal governments like cities, towns, villages and school districts.

Since its founding three years ago, Curate has grown to 13 employees, 20 states and more than 100 customers.

BrightStar also completed investments in two other Wisconsin-based early stage companies, bringing the number to 52 total investments in the state since it was founded.

See more at Madison Startups: 

See more on BrightStar: 

Listen to a podcast with Dale Willis, co-founder for Curate: 


# City’s dockless scooter pilot approved and accepting applications

# Study: Wisconsin fish die-offs expected to rise, largely due to climate changes

# Year after fatal explosion and fire downtown, Sun Prairie sees good things on the horizon

# Latina health cooperative offers maternal health care and more to Madison Spanish-speakers



– Farm Tech Days to hold food drive


– North Shore Bank begins work on urban North End branch


– Worker dies on Amazon construction site in Oak Creek

– Exterior work on taking down Brown County arena begins


– Culture shock: Former Edgewood College students and staff complain of racist campus culture


– Farm Aid Concert returns to Wisconsin in 2019

– Silverspot Cinema set for July 12 opening in Brookfield

– Take an inside look at Silverspot Cinema ahead of its opening in Brookfield: Slideshow


– Stir Crazy in Brookfield has permanently closed


– UWM researcher-led team awarded $3.6 million grant for child obesity study

– CDC wants doctors to be on lookout for polio-like disease in kids


– BrightStar Wisconsin invests $250,000 in three startups


– State’s workforce, corrections department heads call on employers to hire ex-offenders


– Illinois-based pharmaceutical company to build plant in Pleasant Prairie


– Dairy Cares of Wisconsin holding annual garden party


– Democratic presidential hopeful Inslee opposes pipeline plan

– Trump to push for trade deal during Wisconsin visit


– Germantown panel endorses planned 240,500-square-foot industrial building

– House on Nagawicka Lake sold for $2.3 million

– Development site sold near’s Oak Creek building


– Cities and builders face ‘hornet’s nest’ to meet affordable housing needs

– Bier appointed as Wisconsin DNR deputy secretary


– ‘Single biggest initiative of the year’ — Kohl’s expands Amazon returns program nationwide


– Wisconsin ranks low in mobile internet speed; new law allowing 5G upgrades can change that


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

Gov. Tony Evers: Announces Nexus Pharmaceuticals to build sterile injectable manufacturing facility in Pleasant Prairie 

North Shore Bank: Named best bank in Wisconsin by Forbes

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce: Water Quality Coalition responds to recommended PFAS standard