WED AM News: Exact Sciences liver cancer test granted breakthrough device designation; Report highlights uninsured children in Wisconsin

— A new test for liver cancer being developed by Madison-based Exact Sciences has been granted “breakthrough device” designation by the FDA, promising an easier pathway to market. 

The new test detects hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common form of liver cancer. It relies on six blood-based biomarkers. Company Chairman and CEO Kevin Conroy says recently published study results show an improvement over other diagnostic tests. 

A release from the company shows more than 42,000 Americans and 780,000 people around the world are diagnosed with liver cancer each year, with HCC accounting for about 90 percent of cases. 

“There is a significant, worldwide unmet need for a blood-based, early detection diagnostic test for liver cancer in persons with elevated risk for the disease,” said Dr. Naga Chalasani, associate dean for clinical research at the Indiana University School of Medicine. He was the lead author of the study conducted in partnership with Exact Sciences. 

The study found the test has 80 percent sensitivity to the liver cancer, and 71 percent sensitivity for earlier cases. For comparison, the alpha-fetoprotein test — used to detect birth defects as well as various cancers — had 45 percent sensitivity under the same conditions. 

The liver cancer test is still being developed, and Exact Sciences has announced the new test will hit the market in the second half of 2020. The release shows the company plans to gather performance data to support adoption of the test and inclusion into health guidelines.

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— A recent report from Kids Forward shows the number of uninsured children in Wisconsin remained “largely unchanged” between 2016 and 2018, at 51,000. 

The report relies on new study results from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. It shows that during the same period, the number of uninsured kids across the United States increased by more than 400,000 to top 4 million. According to the nonprofit Kids Forward, based in Madison, that’s the highest number since the Affordable Care Act took effect in 2014. 

In its report, Kids Forward includes other findings from the American Community Survey showing Wisconsin’s uninsured rate for people under age 19 is 3.8 percent. That’s higher than Midwest neighbors such as Illinois and Michigan, 3.4 percent; Minnesota, 3.3 percent; and Iowa, 2.7 percent. 

The group claims Wisconsin “was once a leader” in insurance coverage for children, but now ranks 21st among U.S. states. The report shows if Wisconsin reduced its uninsured rate for kids to Iowa’s level, 15,000 children would gain insurance in the state. 

The Kids Forward report places the blame with the Trump administration, arguing the government’s “actions or inaction” have made health coverage more difficult to access. 

Wisconsin’s uninsured rate for kids also is below the national rate of 5.2 percent. 

See more on the study results from Georgetown University: 

— The Assembly has passed a measure that would bring Wisconsin’s hemp regulations in line with federal guidelines, boosting the state’s chances of gaining lead oversight of the nascent crop from federal regulators.

“I know everybody is gonna push the green button, because this is a great bill,” Rep. Tony Kurtz, R-Wonewoc, said on the floor.

The bill, which passed unanimously 95-0, is on the verge of becoming law after it passed in the Senate in October and marks hemp’s renaissance in Wisconsin since it was reintroduced under a 2018 pilot program.

Prior to the 2018 program, the crop had not been planted in Wisconsin since 1957 and had been outlawed in the United States since 1970 when it was lumped in with its psychoactive cousin marijuana and classified as a Schedule I narcotic by the Drug Enforcement Agency. The DEA defines Schedule 1 substances as those “with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

But the 2014 federal farm bill paved the way for the crop’s comeback with a provision that drew distinctions between marijuana and hemp and allowed states to grow hemp under a pilot program. State lawmakers took advantage of the opportunity in the waning days of 2017, passing legislation for a pilot program to reintroduce the crop in the state.

After two successful growing seasons, a boom in popularity of hemp-derived CBD and changes to the crop’s legal status made by the 2018 federal farm bill, lawmakers said they had to act quickly to maximize the state’s opportunity to grow as a hemp producer.

“For the average farmer you’re not gonna see much of anything,” Kurtz said when asked ahead of the floor session how the bill would affect farmers. “It’s pretty streamlined.”

See more at 

— Cardinal Capital Management will be investing more than $30 million to construct several residential buildings in Racine, under finalized terms for the planned Ajax development project. 

Racine Mayor Cory Mason announced the terms of the agreement, which includes a number of incentives provided by the city. 

“I am really excited to see this project move forward. It takes an old, abandoned, industrial site and breathes new life into the Uptown neighborhood,” Mason said. “It is important that we create great spaces for everyone in our community to live, and this project helps move us closer to accomplishing that goal.”

Existing industrial structures will be demolished as part of the project, and environmental site contamination will need to be cleaned. Cardinal’s plans include constructing two four-story apartment buildings: a market-rate development with 87 apartments and a lower-rate development with 54 apartments, for a total of 141 new units. 

Of the total $30 million cost, $19.3 million will go to the market-rate project and $10.8 million will go toward the affordable units. 

City incentives include a $1 million site remediation and parking incentive, a tax increment district development incentive, a $900,000 direct loan from the city, a 20-year, $600,000 Community Development Block Grant loan, and others. 

Pending regulatory approval, demolition and remediation are set to begin “almost immediately,” the release shows. Construction is planned to wrap up by the end of 2020.  

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— Republican lawmakers are circulating a bill for co-sponsorship that would expand a telehealth program run by the Division of Community Corrections that provide mental health treatment to offenders under community supervision. 

The co-sponsorship memo shows the legislation would expand the mental health telehealth program to cover around two-thirds of the state. Currently, these services are only offered in the northwest region, and bill authors say the regions that would be newly covered have the greatest need for services. 

The bill would place the responsibility for funding the telehealth expansion on the Department of Corrections, rather than using general purpose revenue. The cost of the expansion is estimated at $135,000. 

Authors include Reps. Robert Brooks, R-Saukville, and Michael Schraa, R-Oshkosh, and Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills. 

The memo comes after the Assembly and Senate recently passed a separate bill to broadly expand access to telehealth services for Medicaid recipients. 

See the memo:

See more on the other telehealth bill: 

— WEDC and the UW System have launched a new online tool to help businesses launch internship programs. 

The free tool, dubbed the Talent Generator, was announced yesterday by UW System President Ray Cross and WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes. It was unveiled at an Eau Claire-based construction company called Market & Johnson, which helped developed the tool and operates its own internship program. 

A release shows the online training modules include resources from colleges and universities, aimed at connecting companies with academic advisors and they students they assist. In the release, Cross highlighted the impact of internships on the state’s workforce. 

“We know every time a student secures an internship with a Wisconsin employer, the likelihood of them staying here increases,” he said. 

See the Talent Generator site: 

See more: 


# Wisconsin Assembly set to vote on new hemp regulations

# Entrepreneurs, business leaders pack Good City Brewing for Startup Milwaukee Week kickoff: Slideshow

# Verso mills in Maine, Wisconsin sold to Pennsylvania company

# Startups, small businesses get help creating internships from UW System and WEDC



– Despite falling numbers, Wisconsin turkey producers report strong local demand

– Driftless Region Beef Conference slated for January


– Former Lt. Gov. Kleefisch joins ABC of Wisconsin as ‘jobs ambassador’

– Construction on Judge Doyle Square apartments could start June 1


– School report cards show most Wisconsin schools, districts meet expectations

– Most Wisconsin schools, districts meet expectations

– FarmFirst Dairy Co-op to offer college scholarships


– Cold blast keeps Wisconsin temperatures in single digits

– As snow falls, some counties have already exhausted winter plowing budgets

– Report shows mixed results on Great Lakes lamprey control


– Devon seafood restaurant closes Bayshore location


– Ascension Medical Group to open clinic in Historic Third Ward


– Duffy takes job as lobbyist after resigning from Congress


– Real estate exec Steve Palec is publishing a book


– Madison startup Understory shifts to providing weather insurance coverage


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

Racine Mayor Cory Mason: And Cardinal Capital Group finalize terms for Ajax

Fox Cities Chamber: December Business Breakfast Bytes focuses on building leaders in the workplace