FRI AM News: WisBusiness: the Podcast with Tina Chang, CEO of SysLogic; Machine learning guiding early-stage drug discovery process

— This week’s episode of “WisBusiness: the Podcast” is with Tina Chang, CEO of the Brookfield-based software company SysLogic. 

Chang gives an overview of current trends in the field of cybersecurity, including a surge in cyberattacks during the pandemic. 

“We all know the rush to go remote was not predicted or under any of our control. For those companies and organizations that had remote workers, they were probably more prepared from a cybersecurity perspective than the rest of the world,” she said. “Quite frankly, when those employees went home, they weren’t prepared with the right tools, or the right protocols, or the right best practices to protect themselves from cybercrime.” 

She explains that cyberattacks such as ransomware have been targeting small and mid-size businesses along with larger, more high-profile targets. 

Chang also highlighted the rise of multi-factor authentication as an effective, though “sometimes slow and annoying” defensive measure. By requiring users to input a secondary code that is sent to them, the system can verify their identity and improve security. 

“In the cases that we’re not seeing multi-factor authentication, we are seeing more access breaches,” she said. 

Listen to the podcast here: 

See a full list of WisBusiness podcasts: 

— Machine learning systems are helping researchers in Wisconsin discover promising drug candidates through more efficient data analysis. 

Tony Gitter is an associate professor in the Department of Biostatistics and Medical Informatics at UW-Madison, and an investigator at the Morgridge Institute for Research. Speaking yesterday at the Wisconsin Biohealth Summit in Madison, he explained how his research team worked with other scientists at the university to identify new potential antibiotics. 

“There’s a lot of interest and need to develop novel types of antibiotics because there’s increasing bacterial resistance to some of the classic antibiotics that we have on the market,” he said. 

Scientists working under UW-Madison Professor James Keck in the Biomolecular Chemistry Department started with a focus on a bacterial strain of pneumonia, and determined that breaking apart two structural proteins would kill the bacteria. From there, they began looking for chemicals that could do so through the traditional screening process. After months of research, scientists and graduate students working at the Keck Lab had tested over 427,000 chemicals. 

“Their reward is finding that 99.9 percent of what they tested completely failed. There’s a tiny, tiny sliver of chemicals that might be promising, but most of those are also not very good,” Gitter said. “But what this generates is a lot of data, so now we have an area that’s really ripe for machine learning to step in.” 

Gitter’s research group trained machine learning models on the data in hopes of finding out what makes that small number of candidate chemicals different from all the others that failed. 

After scoring a billion more combinations that were commercially available, the system came up with a list of just 68 chemicals “that looked very appealing,” he said. After acquiring and testing those candidates, they found that about half of them showed promise for killing the bacteria. 

“So we go from 99.9 percent complete failures, to an almost 50 percent hit rate, because the machine learning system is guiding our decisions about what to test,” he said. “We can have a much more customized view of which chemicals might actually work.” 

While artificial intelligence applications like this are having a large impact on the early stages of drug discovery, Gitter said future developments might improve late-stage efforts as well. 

“Machine learning is not yet reducing our animal testing needs, it’s not yet reducing the number of failed clinical trials that we have,” he said. “Those are going to be some grand challenges that we might think about going forward.” 

— A Madison-based startup called Semba Biosciences has been acquired by the life sciences division of Tosoh Corporation, a large Japanese company providing chemicals and specialty materials. 

“Tosoh has plans to grow the Semba team and create a global center of excellence for continuous chromatography in Madison.” said Ali Soleymannezhad, vice president of global marketing and business development for Tosoh Bioscience. 

Chromatography is the process of separating mixtures by passing them through a medium in which components move at different rates. Semba Biosciences provides products used in this process. 

The Kegonsa Seed Fund, a venture capital fund based in Wisconsin, was the initial investor in Semba Biosciences when the company was just getting started. The Kegonsa Coinvest Fund also invested in the company, and the two funds owned a 40 percent stake in the company when it was acquired by Tosoh. Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. 

“As a $5 billion-dollar worldwide organization, Tosoh will be a terrific addition to the local Madison high-tech community,” said Ken Johnson, managing director of the Kegonsa venture funds. “In addition, this acquisition will provide a substantial investment return for Kegonsa investors.”

See the release: 

— A boat manufacturer called Grand Craft Boats is moving its headquarters and production facilities from Michigan to Wisconsin. 

The company, which produces high-end custom wooden boats, says it will create 20 jobs at its new site in Walworth County over the next three years. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation is providing up to $125,000 in state income tax credits, which the business can earn over the next three years by hitting certain benchmarks for job creation and capital invested in the project. 

Grand Craft Boats will be leasing a 20,300-square-foot building in Genoa City, located near the state’s southern border. Walworth County Economic Development Alliance Executive Director Derek D’Auria notes that recreation on nearby Lake Geneva represents “a world-class draw” for the area. 

Patrick Gallagher, the company’s CEO and president, says the move was motivated by Wisconsin’s “strong workforce, as well as a business climate that values and encourages” manufacturing businesses like his. 

“Our products are a perfect match for Wisconsin’s deep tradition of lake recreation and enjoyment of the outdoors,” Gallagher said. 

See the release: 

— GOP lawmakers have unveiled a package of bills they said would help make workforce housing more affordable, including one that would require some communities to spend $1 million of their federal COVID funds toward the effort.

That bill would require communities that received American Rescue Plan Act funds to use at least $1 million or 10 percent of stimulus funds — whichever is less — for one or more of: new workforce housing infrastructure; a low-interest loan program for the remodeling and rehabilitation of older workforce housing; a low- or no-interest loan program for new workforce housing units; and the redevelopment of sites that had been used as shopping centers or other commercial property.

Other pieces include:

*creating a sales tax exemption for building materials, supplies, equipment and certain services used for workforce housing projects.

*authorizing the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority to make low- or no-interest loans to cover the costs of removing lead paint from residential properties.

*requiring the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. to create a program to certify residential real estate developments as shovel-ready. The bill also would require WEDC to establish procedures to expedite permits for shovel-ready sites.

*updating appraisal practices to prohibit the use of mortgage or bank appraisals to determine a property’s value.

*requiring municipalities that have a zoning ordinance and furnish water and sewer service to allow at least one multifamily district with no fewer than 16 residential units per acre and permit the same density in any district designated for commercial use.

See the release:

— The Department of Administration is now accepting applications for the Tourism Capital Grant Program, which will fund projects aimed at improving the state’s tourism industry. 

Recipients including local and tribal governments and tourism-related nonprofits will be eligible for up to $10 million in total funding. Gov. Tony Evers announced the grant program in August as part of the $150 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds going toward the state’s tourism and entertainment sectors. 

Grants of up to $3.5 million will be provided to successful applicants, a release shows. Applications will be accepted through Nov. 12. 

See program details here: 

— State agencies will host a series of virtual listening sessions next month as they develop a new environmental and public health mapping tool. 

The Wisconsin Environmental Equity Tool is being created by the departments of Administration, Health Services and Natural Resources, as well as the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. The data visualization platform aims to help users identify communities in the state that are most impacted by environmental and health inequities, a release shows. 

“We can do better, and we want everyone to be a part of our work to better understand and address the environmental and health inequities facing Wisconsinites every day and build a healthier, more equitable future for our state,” Gov. Evers said in the release. 

Three listening sessions will be held in early November to give participants a chance to weigh in on the tool’s development. 

Register for the listening sessions here: 

See the release: 


# Digital inclusion task force recommends Madison coordinate existing resources

# Molson Coors, Advocate Aurora exceed 90% employee vaccinations; some organizations plan firings

# Drinking water advisory is indefinite on French Island



– Three seats up for election on Corn Promotion Board


– World Dairy Expo sees drop in attendance this year


– How a Madison elementary school responded to four COVID-19 positives in one morning

– Tommy Thompson talks bridging political divide, future of UW System at UW-Oshkosh event


– Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra only about 70% full for opening concerts


– ‘Something has to be done’: Living along Madison’s Starkweather Creek, one of Wisconsin’s most polluted waterways


– Ansay & Associates acquires another Fox Valley insurance firm


– Federal class action lawsuit filed for failing to protect Wisconsin kids from COVID-19


– Johnson Controls names new chief HR officer

– Custom boat maker to move from Michigan to Walworth County


– Wisconsin Republicans continue to push state abortion law changes, despite previous vetoes


– ManpowerGroup’s downtown headquarters sold for more than $70 million


– 3rd Street Market Hall at The Avenue sets tentative opening date


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

Wisconsin Conservation Congress: Reiterates position in support for higher wolf quota

Kegonsa Capital Partners: Tosoh Biosciences acquires Wisconsin startup Semba Biosciences

Dept. of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection: Announces 2021 Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board election results