THU AM News: Nano RED wins Pressure Chamber pitch contest; Evers announces $50 million going to ag producers

— A startup called Nano RED has won the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce’s Pressure Chamber contest, which gives early-stage companies a chance to pitch to a live audience. 

Nano RED is developing precision medicine platforms for the treatment of respiratory viral illnesses, including COVID-19, as well as drug delivery for cancer immunotherapy. The company beat out four other finalists, two of which also operate in the health care space. 

The business got its start in 2015 when a graduate student and postdoctoral fellows from UW-Milwaukee, the Blood Research Institute and the Medical College of Wisconsin came together in hopes of improving how cancer is treated. The company pivoted to add a focus on treating COVID-19 after co-founder Dr. Johnathan Ebben saw the impact of the virus first-hand while working in the intensive care unit. 

Nano RED has since received a Phase 1 Small Business Innovation Research award from the National Science Foundation for this work. 

As winners of the contest, co-founders Gang Xin, Karthika Divakaran and Ebben have earned a spot in an upcoming meeting with Silicon Valley investors this fall organized by the chamber. According to the chamber, Pressure Chamber participants have gone on to collectively raise more than $500 million from investors. 

Yesterday’s pitch contest was held as part of Forward Festival, an annual celebration of technology and entrepreneurship held in the Madison area.

See more on Nano RED here: 

— Gov. Tony Evers has announced that an additional $50 million in American Rescue Plan Funds will go toward direct payments to agricultural producers.

Evers has directed more than $100 million in federal funds toward farmers and agriculture, with $50 million in direct aid going to farmers last year. Individuals received up to $3,500 through the Farm Support Program initiative funded by the CARES Act in 2020.

“There’s no question Wisconsin farmers are some of the strongest, most resilient folks in the state, but the last year brought on unique and unprecedented challenges — challenges many of them are still grappling with,” Evers said in a statement.

Read the press release:

— The Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority is awarding three low-income housing projects with a total of $1.3 million in National Housing Trust Fund debt financing. 

Fourteen02 Park, located in Madison, is getting $500,000 from WHEDA. This project includes 150 units including 30 set aside for residents at or below 30 percent of the county’s median income, as well as a commercial space on the first floor. 

Also in Dane County, the Waterford project in the Village of McFarland is getting $485,000. The project will include 49 units of family and senior housing as well as six units for low-income residents. 

Brook Street Lofts in Fond du Lac is getting $344,829 from WHEDA for the “adaptive reuse” of an industrial and commercial building, including 62 units of family housing. Thirteen units are meant for low-income residents. 

See the release: 

— Port Milwaukee has received its 14th Robert J. Lewis Pacesetter Award, which recognizes increases in international cargo shipping. 

The award is from the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, a government entity operating under the U.S. Department of Transportation. 

A release shows Port Milwaukee had the highest annual cargo volume of the past seven years at the end of 2020, as the port handled 37 percent more cargo last year than in 2019.  

“During a year of uncertain economic conditions, the Port not only maintained operations without commercial interruption, but enhanced them,” said Milwaukee Port Director Adam Tindall-Schlicht. “This is good news for Milwaukee as we continue recovering from the pandemic, supporting job creation, and building a stronger maritime economy.”

See the port’s 2020 report: 

See the release: 

— The conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty is asking the state Supreme Court to strike down Dane County’s mask mandate, which takes effect today. 

“The courts have made clear that unelected public health officers do not have unlimited authority,” said WILL Deputy Counsel Dan Lennington. “Dane County’s health officer, simply put, doesn’t have the power to order universal masking, or anything else, without express legal authority.”

Public Health Madison and Dane County issued the new mask mandate on Tuesday. The emergency order is set to expire Sept. 16. 

See WILL’s request here: 

— Racine officials will use $600,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to award gift cards to residents who get a COVID-19 vaccine and to those that help get somebody vaccinated.

Unvaccinated city residents that are eligible for the vaccine can get a $50 gift card per dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or $100 or two $50 gift cards per dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, a release shows. 

Also, already vaccinated residents can get a $50 gift card for each person they bring to get vaccinated, with no cap on the number of gift cards they can receive for these referrals. 

“Our vaccination rates continue to lag behind the rest of the state, and I’m grateful that the Council has approved this plan to provide gift card incentives,” said Mayor Cory Mason. “I hope these incentives will encourage more of our residents to get vaccinated quickly help us protect our friends and loved ones from getting sick or dying.” 

As of yesterday, 50 percent of Racine County residents have gotten at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and 46.4 percent have completed their vaccine series. Of the state’s total population, 53.5 percent have gotten at least one vaccine dose, and 50.3 percent are fully vaccinated. 

The incentive program will be available at the Public Health Department clinic in City Hall, a walk-in clinic at the Regency Mall, and various pop-up clinics located around the city. Participating residents will have to verify their address with clinic staff and fill out an entry form. 

See the release: 

— The head of the Wisconsin Health Care Association and Wisconsin Center for Assisted Living is concerned that a federal mandate directing nursing homes to require COVID-19 vaccinations among staff would drive workers away from the field. 

“Eradicating COVID-19 is a very important priority, but in any care facility, the number one priority is caring for our patients,” WHCA/WCAL President and CEO Rick Abrams said in a recent interview. “If we have employees leaving facilities because they’re resolute in the decision not to get vaccinated, that would be a travesty for everybody.” 

Federal officials will reportedly direct nursing homes across the country to require vaccinations among their staff, with those that don’t facing a loss of Medicaid and Medicare funding. That’s according to a news report from the Washington Post. 

Abrams criticized the “punitive” approach to improving public health, but added that “rather than jumping to conclusions, we look forward to hearing more detail.” He’s hopeful the Biden administration will work with national health care organizations on any such mandate. 

“We have to work cooperatively to solve these problems and ensure our residents get the best care possible,” he said. 

See more in Top Stories below. 

— The state Department of Health Services has announced that certain immunocompromised people in Wisconsin are eligible for a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine, following approval by federal officials. 

According to a release, the recommendation applies to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, both of which come in two doses given several weeks apart. 

Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer for the DHS Bureau of Communicable Disease, notes that people with certain medical conditions struggle to build up immunity from two-dose vaccine series. 

“Fortunately, studies show that a third dose can help bolster the immune response in these individuals to achieve the same strong protection from the virus that those who are not immunocompromised were able to develop with just the two-dose series,” Westergaard said in a statement. 

Additional doses of the Pfizer vaccine will be available for immunocompromised people ages 12 and up, while the additional dose of the Moderna vaccine is only for those 18 and older, the release shows. The extra dose should be given at least 28 days after the recipient has completed the initial vaccine series. 

Qualifying conditions include receiving treatment for blood cancers or other tumors, receiving an organ transplant and taking immune-suppressing medications, getting a stem cell transplant in the past two years, and others. 

The DHS announcement comes as federal health officials have announced plans to offer COVID-19 booster shots to anyone who’s completed the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine series, starting the week of Sept. 20. 

See the DHS release: 


# Biden administration to offer vaccine booster shots beginning Sept. 20, require vaccinations for nursing home staff

# Tony Evers allocates $50 million in federal funds to farmers, agriculture industry

# COVID-19 hospitalizations spike in Wisconsin as delta variant spreads

# Nuveen enters Milwaukee market with $96 million purchase of three health centers



– New ag export terminal in Port of Milwaukee to be built


– MPS to consider mandatory vaccine policy for staff in September


– COVID-19 antibodies found in white-tailed deer


– Wisconsin DHS supports recommendation of additional COVID-19 vaccine dose for immunocompromised people


– Attorney General Kaul files lawsuit seeking to force Walker appointee off DNR board


– Wisconsin Republicans seek to dismiss redistricting lawsuit

– Gov. Tony Evers says he backs local vaccine requirements for teachers


– Milwaukee Bucks assistant coach Vin Baker is opening a local treatment and recovery center for people with addictions


– Indoor mask mandate is back for Dane County


– Menomonee Falls to pay for infrastructure costs after a local company guarantees $7 million in new property tax base


– Gyms hoping for business as usual after Dane County mask mandate goes into effect


– Ticket prices fall for Green Bay Packers season opener in New Orleans


– Mask fitter created by UW-Madison engineers can help in high-risk COVID-19 situations


– Local Milwaukee artists will be featured in Brewery District’s mostly outdoors Equinox Festival


– College study-abroad programs cautiously return with small groups of ‘trailblazer’ students

– Milwaukee Public Schools hopes to fix bus shortage by the end of the week


– TDS gets Eau Claire’s OK to build fiber optic network


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

Mason Companies, Inc.: Broke ground on new facility in Chippewa Falls

Dairy Business Association: Thanks Evers for added financial support for farmers