FRI AM News: WisBusiness: the Podcast with Dr. Ulrich Broeckel, founder and CEO of RPRD Diagnostics; Modeling suggests omicron peak could be near, though health officials stress uncertainty

— This week’s episode of “WisBusiness: the Podcast” features an interview with Dr. Ulrich Broeckel, founder and CEO of RPRD Diagnostics. 

He’s also a professor in the Departments of Pediatrics, Medicine and Physiology at the Medical College of Wisconsin, with over 20 years of experience working with genetics and genomics and 10 years in clinical diagnostics. The business is a clinical diagnostic lab focused on precision medicine, particularly in the field of pharmacogenetics. Its name stands for “right patient, right drug.” 

“Pharmacogenetics is really the science and the application of genetic testing to find out which drug works for a particular patient,” he said. “We’re offering clinical testing, very comprehensive, for patients and health care providers and pharmacists who like to utilize this information to tailor, personalize the drug treatments.” 

While his work at the MCW in Milwaukee relates to understanding genetic variations and their impact on human health and medical treatment, RPRD Diagnostics aims to put this understanding into practice and make related services more widely available. 

“By including the information from a pharmacogenetic test, that you can either provide a better dosing or you can look for a better drug which works potentially better than the other one, or you can actually reduce the potential occurance of side effects,” he said. 

Broeckel also provides his perspective on the rise of genetics testing, and the importance of personalized medicine in modern health care. 

Listen to the podcast here: 

See a full list of podcasts: 

— State health officials say the peak in cases caused by the omicron surge could be coming soon, though the current outlook is far from certain. 

“The modeling that I’ve seen with some places anticipates a peak during early to mid-January,” DHS Bureau of Communicable Diseases Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ryan Westergaard said yesterday during a media briefing. 

But he added that “it’s always speculation; we really have learned that it’s difficult to predict.” 

As case numbers have been accelerating so quickly, Westergaard said the “optimistic view” is that the omicron variant will spread rapidly, reach its peak and then begin to recede. 

“How far are we from the peak? We don’t even know. Some of the national models have said that January will be a bad month all over, and it will probably vary regionally,” he said. “We’d love to see tomorrow be lower and for today to have been the peak and see less and less in the coming weeks. I don’t think we’re confident that’ll be the case. It wouldn’t shock us if we see higher case numbers this week and next week.” 

The Department of Health Service is reporting another record high day for new COVID-19 cases, with 11,547 cases added to the system. That’s driven the seven-day average to 6,808 cases per day, exceeding the levels seen in November 2020. 

Meanwhile, the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene reports 861 cases of the omicron variant have been identified in the state. While results are delayed due to the time involved with sequencing and reporting, the lab’s site shows omicron cases made up the majority of new cases being tested near the end of 2021. 

As more omicron research results become available, Westergaard said “the picture seems to be getting clearer” that the variant is less likely to cause severe disease. 

“That’s of course good news, the counterbalance in that being that it spreads so much more easily,” he said. “Many, many more people are getting infected, and that will translate into, and is continuing to translate to, full hospitals and brings risk to all of us who might need emergency health care in the future.” 

Track the latest omicron figures here: 

See the latest overall case numbers: 

— DHS says it has recruited 567 nurses, nursing assistants and other health workers through staffing agencies to help support 72 Wisconsin care facilities since Oct. 19. 

A release from the agency shows funding for this support comes in part from the American Rescue Plan Act. 

“The good news today is that we have helped recruit nearly 600 temporary staff to provide critical care during the current COVID-19 surge,” Gov. Tony Evers said in a release. “But I also want to be clear: our hospitals and health care systems are still under tremendous pressure, and they need every Wisconsinite to do our part to help stop the spread of COVID-19.” 

Health officials on yesterday’s call said 97 percent of the state’s ICU beds and 98 percent of immediate care beds are currently in use. And 78.3 percent of hospitals in the state had ICUs at peak capacity as of Jan. 4, while 53.2 percent were at overall peak capacity, the DHS site shows. 

The number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the state has climbed to 2,002 patients, the Wisconsin Hospital Association dashboard shows, including 464 intensive care patients. Fifty-one of the state’s 1,353 ICU beds were immediately available yesterday. 

The DHS site shows 62.3 percent of Wisconsin residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 58.3 percent have completed the vaccine series. Over 1.6 million additional or booster doses have been administered in the state, making up nearly 49 percent of the 3.4 million fully vaccinated residents. 

Based on data from November 2021, DHS says people who weren’t fully vaccinated were hospitalized at a rate 11 times higher than those who were fully vaccinated. 

See the latest numbers from WHA: 

See the release: 

— Accelerated Labs, a private COVID-19 testing provider, is opening a mass testing clinic in Dane County with support from the county’s health department. 

The new clinic aims to help address high demand for tests in the Madison area, as some community testing sites have seen long lines with cars backed up around multiple blocks. Ken Van Horn, testing director for Public Health Madison & Dane County, says the new option will “have a huge impact” on availability. 

“It will increase the total testing capacity in Dane County by 12.5 percent right away on week one, 25 percent on week two and 33 percent when weekends are added to the mix,” he said in a release. 

The walk-up clinic will be opening in three phases starting Monday with capacity for between 500 and 750 cases per day. The following Monday, capacity will increase to 1,000 tests per day, the release shows. It will expand operations to weekends “as soon as possible,” with hours of operations from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

Health officials during yesterday’s DHS media briefing said increased demand is being seen at community testing sites around the state. While at-home tests are available for purchase at pharmacies and online, officials noted supply may be limited.

“Due to the increased demand for testing, it may take longer as well for you to receive your results,” said Traci DeSalvo, director of the Department of Health Services Bureau of Communicable Diseases. 

See the PHMDC release: 

— Through a partnership with SCS Global Services, the Water Council will be rolling out new stewardship programs for businesses. 

“It is exciting to start 2022 with the announcement of this new collaboration with SCS Global Services as they have a strong global reputation as a third-party verifier of environmental and sustainability performance,” said Dean Amhaus, president and CEO of the Milwaukee-based organization. 

He notes the Water Council has informally worked with California-based SCS for years, and sees them as “a critical partner” as the group prepares to launch a new program early this year. A release highlights factors driving companies to “address water-related challenges in their value chains,” such as impacts of climate change and supply disruptions. 

More details of the partnership will be announced in the coming weeks and months, according to an email announcing the partnership. 

See the release: 


# Some private colleges, universities delaying start of spring semester classes, requiring vaccinations amid COVID-19 surge

# Officials urge shots, tests as COVID reaches record levels

# $316 million Powerball ticket was sold at Jackson Pointe Citgo in Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin Lottery says



– Applications available for 75th Alice in Dairyland


– Class III milk price rises to $18.36 for December

– USDA to survey Wisconsin floriculture operations


– Walbec Group acquires Verona-based Parisi Construction

– Walbec Group acquires Madison-area contractor Parisi Construction


– Federal Reserve: Wisconsin’s recovery lagging behind other Midwest states


– Marquette delays classes, urges students, staff to boost

– UW-Madison to host community listening sessions for chancellor search


– A Wisconsin bill introducing a sandhill crane hunting season could put the endangered whooping crane at risk


– COVID-19 hospitalizations prompt Madison hospitals to postpone procedures

– Record Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations prompt new Milwaukee County health advisory

– Another record daily caseload reported for Wisconsin as infections could keep rising, health officials say

– PHMDC launching new COVID-19 testing site at Alliant Energy Center


– MLG Capital announces plans for sixth real estate fund


– Suburban Enterprises expands to new Appleton building, adding more workers


– Michael Best acquires North Carolina law firm


– Facilities occupied by Froedtert, Children’s sell for combined $92M

– Quad/Graphics sells shuttered plants, nets over $58 million

– Summerfest CEO buys home on Pewaukee Lake


– Madison City Council approves blueprint for development of south Madison

– Janesville gas station wants right to sell beer by the can, liquor commission divided


– Powerball tickets sold in Wisconsin, California split $632M

– Bed Bath & Beyond closure list includes one Wisconsin store, Kroger partnership nears


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

Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce: Ornua Ingredients North America becomes gold-certified Fox Cities Employee Friendly Workplace

Dept. of Health Services: Provides update on support for Wisconsin’s health care system