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Cellular Dynamics International (CDI) has changed its structure, dividing into two separate business units: Therapeutics, to develop stem cell-based drugs, and Life Science, focusing on research products.

“By creating a market-oriented organization, operations in Madison can grow much more rapidly,” Kazuyoshi Hirao, chairman and CEO, said in an email exchange.

Founded by UW-Madison stem cell pioneer James Thomson in 2004, CDI was acquired by Japanese conglomerate Fujifilm Holdings Corp. for $307 million in April 2015.

The company will stay at its current location, 525 Science Drive, and will add to its staff of 165 employees “according to our growth,” Hirao said.

About two dozen of CDI’s employees work at the company’s Novato, California, stem cell bank.

Emile Nuwaysir, president and chief operating officer, will lead the Therapeutics unit, which expects to submit applications for experimental drugs involving heart and eye disorders, Parkinson’s disease and cancer in the 2018-2020 time period, the company said.

“Our company considers the overall regenerative medicine market to represent an early-stage opportunity; we anticipate tremendous market growth by 2040,” Hirao said in a news release.

Bruce Novich, executive vice president and general manager of CDI, will guide the Life Science unit “by propelling innovative cell products, applications and services,” the company said in the release. “This business unit is already on a clear path to profitability.”

CDI manufactures induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) by taking a blood sample, reverting the cells to their embryonic state, and reprogramming them into virtually any type of cell in the human body.

Madison startups

are on the move

AkitaBox is one of the latest converts to the AT&T building, 316 W. Washington Ave. — fast becoming a startup hub since the building underwent a major renovation.

AkitaBox — which automates building maintenance, planning and inspections — moved into ninth-floor offices this week from its previous location in the gener8tor co-working space, 30 W. Mifflin St. AkitaBox is a graduate of the gener8tor business accelerator program.

AkitaBox has 13 employees and recently obtained $1.1 million from investors.

Todd Hoffmaster, co-founder and CEO, said he expects to add 10 to 13 employees, nearly doubling the staff, over the next six months.

In its new location, AkitaBox joins young, local businesses that include mobile restaurant meal-ordering company EatStreet; apartment rental search firm Abodo; health IT company Catalyze; and computer consulting firm 5Nines.

AkitaBox’s building software already is used in more than 900 buildings across 10 states, Hoffmaster said.

He said his next task will be to focus on “educating the building management industry so they know of a better way to do things other than using paper and pencil.”

Meanwhile, two other startups are moving into the Madison Enterprise Center, 100 S. Baldwin St.

GymDandy, a website to help people find an athletic space to rent, and WeightUp Solutions, which helps weightlifters track their performance, are moving in.

Common Wealth and Madison Gas & Electric jointly operate the Madison Enterprise Center, which serves as a light industrial business incubator.

Bellbrook Labs

banks $860K research grant

Bellbrook Labs has received a two-year, phase 2 Small Business Innovation Research grant of $860,000 to bring to market a tool that will let researchers screen for potential drug compounds more quickly and thoroughly.

The company says its AptaFluor assay uses a microbial sensor to turn a certain type of enzyme activity into a fluorescent signal.

“It allows for screening of targets that generally were not able to be investigated via (traditional high-throughput screening) methods because previous assays weren’t sensitive enough,” Bellbrook spokesman Justin Brink said.

Contact Judy Newman at

jdnewman@madison.com

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