MON AM News: Madison startup developing chemical health testing platform; MMAC exec highlights ‘signs of future weakness’ in metro economy

— A startup led by a UW-Madison researcher is developing a method for testing the effect of certain chemicals on human brain and spinal cord development. 

Randolph Ashton is an associate professor of biomedical engineering at the university and the CEO and co-founder of Neurosetta LLC. Speaking during a recent pitch presentation as part of WARF Innovation Day at Summerfest Tech, he said the company’s RosetteArray platform “will transform risk assessment and drug discovery for neurodevelopmental disorders.”

He highlighted a “fundamental limitation” with how companies assess the risk of new drugs and chemicals, as they can’t be tested on human embryos. He said that’s a major issue for the development process, because no animal models have the same level of complexity. 

“Practically, this means there are thousands of agricultural and industrial chemicals released into the market with essentially no data on how they affect human brain and spinal cord development,” he said. “This causes increased risk of these chemicals — even ones that are EPA-approved — for being pulled off the market after they’ve been released.” 

He added this issue raises the cost of chemical development and leads to higher rates of neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, spina bifida and Huntington’s disease. 

To address this problem, the company has created a platform for modeling brain and spinal cord development in a specialized dish using human cells, enabling “scalable and cost-effective screening” of various chemical compounds. It can also be used to probe genetic backgrounds to gauge an individual’s risk of developing certain disorders, he explained. 

“We can drastically reduce the risk associated with compound development and release, and thereby the cost of those development pipelines,” he said. “And we can enable novel neurodevelopmental disease models that allow us to create new precision drug discoveries.” 

The RosetteArray platform has been developed with over $4 million in funding from various sources, and involves three different patents filed by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, Ashton said. The company is seeking corporate partners to conduct beta testing for the technology. 

“In order to make these safety risk assessments, this forces them to make a multi-million dollar wager when they’re taking a chemical or drug from product development into the clinic,” he said. “Ultimately, Neurosetta hopes our RosetteArray platform will help to mitigate this risk and significantly reduce their cost.” 

— The head of economic research for MMAC points to “signs of future weakness” in the Milwaukee area. 

But Bret Maybourne in MMAC’s latest trend report notes growth continues across the majority of indicators in the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce’s May report. Fourteen of the 22 indicators showed year-over-year improvement, the report shows. 

“Slower overall job gains, a slower pace of manufacturing activity and the erosion of worker earnings due to inflation mark clouds on the horizon,” Maybourne said. “Whether broad-based continuing growth is sustainable in the future is an open question.”  

Of the 10 major industry sectors covered in the report, seven saw job gains over the year in May. Leisure and hospitality led the pack with a 10 percent increase, followed by construction, mining and natural resources with a 4.1 percent increase. 

Among sectors with job declines, financial activities had the largest with a 5.2 percent decrease over the year, according to the report. That’s the eighth year-over-year decrease in the past nine months for this sector, MMAC notes.

Meanwhile, the number of manufacturing jobs in metro Milwaukee increased 1.5 percent over the year in May, slowing from the 2.4 percent growth logged in April. It’s also the smallest jobs increase for this sector since September 2021. 

See the release: 

— A study from Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin found COVID-19 patients using a remote patient monitoring system were less likely to be hospitalized and had shorter hospital stays. 

The study was published recently in The Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open. Study authors wrote their findings “suggest that remote patient monitoring for COVID-19 may help patients better manage symptoms at home and help hospitals better manage bed capacity.” 

Researchers found patients who activated the remote monitoring system were 32 percent less likely to be hospitalized. And those that were hospitalized had stays that were 2.7 days shorter on average, and spent less time in intensive care, according to a release from Froedtert & the MCW.

In March 2020, the health system began using a program called GetWell Loop that helps its nurses monitor patients. Over 5,000 patients either used a web application or downloaded a mobile app for tracking symptoms, temperature and oxygen levels. 

When patient data indicates issues such as breathing problems or worsening fever, the virtual care team monitoring the system can contact patients to determine if further care or evaluation is needed. 

Dr. Karen Fickel, co-author on the study and medical director of the virtual care team, says this telemedicine approach “gave people at home the tools they needed outside of the hospital and clinic environments.” 

See the full study: 

See the release: 

— A split Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled local health officials have power to issue public health orders without first getting permission from elected officials.

The ruling stems from a challenge of COVID-19 orders issued by Janel Heinrich in her capacity as the public health officer and director of Public Health of Madison and Dane County.

The lawsuit sought an injunction and a declaration that Heinrich’s orders were unenforceable unless adopted by the county board.

In a 4-3 ruling, the court found state law gives local health officers the authority to issue such orders.

Read the decision: 

<i>For more of the most relevant news on COVID-19, reports on groundbreaking health research in Wisconsin, links to top stories and more, sign up today for the free daily Health Care Report from and</i>

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— Department of Safety and Professional Services Secretary Dawn Crim is stepping down from the agency that handles professional licensing.

Crim in a joint press release with Gov. Tony Evers Friday did not offer any reasons for her departure. But Republicans have criticized Crim for her handling of professional licensing application backlogs at DSPS.

Despite the backlash, Crim in the release said she’s proud of the progress she made.

“After more than ten years of operating with disparate processes and policies, DSPS is now a unified agency focused on ensuring safety and supporting the economy,” she said.

Crim also came under fire after her appointment for stabbing her son’s hand with a pen several times in 2005 until he bled as a punishment for him doing the same to another child. She was charged with felony child abuse, but the charge was dismissed as part of a deferred prosecution agreement.

The Senate confirmed Crim 29-2 in September last year. Republican Sens. Julian Bradley, R-Franklin, and Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, were the only ones opposed.

Evers also announced he is appointing DSPS Assistant Deputy Secretary Dan Hereth to replace Crim. Hereth served as deputy district director for U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, starting in 2007 before joining DSPS in 2019.

See the release here:

See a story from April on the backlog issue: 


# After hitting record highs this spring, gas prices fall in Wisconsin

# Ascent 2.0: Timber tower opens path to new cities

# Wisconsin Supreme Court says local health officers can issue emergency orders



– FSA County Committee nomination period closes on Aug. 1

– Theme announced for 2023 Dairy Strong Conference


– Horicon Bank acquiring Grafton-based Cornerstone Community Bank


– Loomis Center in for a facelift with new discount retail tenant, proposed facade improvements


– Michigan panel wants details on Great Lakes oil tunnel plan

– Eau Claire’s water spending to rise due to PFAS


– As more children struggle with mental health, Wisconsin offers tools to support them


– Dane County COVID-19 restrictions upheld by Wisconsin Supreme Court

– Court: Local health officers can issue unilateral orders

– Lawsuit challenges Drew Tower’s approval in Wauwatosa


– Germantown company wants feds to investigate Chinese manufacturer


– Longtime Milwaukee radio personality Jane Matenaer exits WTMJ-AM


– Crim stepping down as DSPS secretary, Hereth taking over 

– State DSPS Secretary Dawn Crim departing Tony Evers’ administration

– Planned Parenthood Advocates: Biden order changes nothing for abortion in Wisconsin


– Kenosha Best Western hotel sold for $6 million


– ‘Dark store’ tax opponents aim for decisive victory with case headed to


– Tom Still: Court’s EPA decision aside, markets and innovation steadily at work


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

Dept. of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection: Wisconsin Potato Industry Board election results announced

MMAC: May economic trends report for metro Milwaukee