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Business competition awards Madison-based opioid treatment developer top prize
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Business competition awards Madison-based opioid treatment developer top prize

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A Madison-based pharmaceutical developer looking to address the opioid crisis won the Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest Thursday.

Plumb Pharmaceuticals, which is developing a drug delivery method that will help people battling opioid addiction, will receive cash and in-kind services for winning the grand prize of the contest at this year’s Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference.

Of 200 entries, judges selected by the Wisconsin Technology Council, which puts on the contest and conference, winnowed the list to 12 finalists. Those companies created pitch videos that judges reviewed ahead of the conference.

“I’ve already been contacted by a few interested investors, so that’s certainly a positive outcome,” CEO Jacqueline Hind said.

Timothy Heath and Lisa Krugner-Higby, who founded Plumb about 10 years ago, have created a formula of liposomes that, when loaded with medication and injected under the skin, slowly releases the medication.

Plumb Pharmaceuticals

Through liposomal technology, Plumb Pharmaceutical's founders believe their method of drug delivery -- which would be injected just beneath the skin -- could treat a patient for up to three months at a time.

Extended-release injections for medication already exist but typically only last a month. A single injection using Plumb’s formula could treat a patient for about three months.

“We have the potential to make a positive impact on a global health crisis,” Hind said. “It is reinforcing to know that Plumb’s mission and business plan resonate with experienced business leaders.”

Starting Up: Opioid crisis leads Plumb Pharmaceuticals founders to create better addiction treatment

Plumb is currently using medications that curb cravings and block opioid receptors, such as naltrexone, but the founders say other medications, such as those for mental health conditions, could be delivered through the process.

The company is on track to license its drug delivery method to a manufacturer in about three years, Hind said, after going through human trials for Food and Drug Administration approval.

Business plan contestants

Typically, the winner of the contest would be announced in-person at the conference, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the conference was held online with workshops, speeches and panels run through video calling programs.

A panel of 90 judges scored the companies based on their pitch videos — which ran up to seven minutes — as well as 15- to 20-page written plans for their businesses, detailing different aspects of the companies, including the core product or service, management team and key financial data.

The other 11 finalists were:

  • AGent+ Solutions, of New Berlin, which makes germ-fighting surface cleaners derived from natural materials.
  • Advanced Ionics, of Milwaukee, which designed a way to produce hydrogen using water, electricity and electrolysis instead of carbon-emitting fossil fuels.
  • eCourt Reporters, of Burlington, which runs a platform to vet, pair and schedule freelance court reporters with law firms for out-of-courthouse legal proceedings.
  • IVO Systems, of Madison, which runs a platform for construction companies to better manage projects.
  • Last Lock, of Milwaukee, which makes an internet-connected, self-powered locking system for commercial use.
  • Entremere, of Madison, which runs an interactive ad system for live events.
  • ModuTree, of Milwaukee, which makes easy-to-customize hunting blinds.
  • MyGenomeRX, of Wisconsin Dells, which uses DNA information to identify genetic compatibility with or possible reactions to prescription drugs.
  • Oncogone, of Madison and Potomac, Maryland, which is creating a new chemotherapy option for brain cancer treatments.
  • Safety4Her, of Milwaukee, which designs better-fitting safety clothing, such as reflective vests, for women.
  • Steady Shot, of Milwaukee, which makes attachments for insulin injection pens to make it easier to inject.
Starting Up: New device offers Steady Shot of insulin for diabetics
  • The contest also named the top finalists in the contest’s four categories. Advanced Ionics won the award in advanced engineering, Last Lock won in business services, MyGenomeRX won in information technology and Plumb Pharmaceuticals won in life sciences.

The People’s Choice award, selected based on conference attendees’ votes, went to AGent+ Solutions.

“I’ve already been contacted by a few interested investors, so that’s certainly a positive outcome.” Jacqueline Hind, Plumb Pharmaceuticals CEO

"I've already been contacted by a few interested investors, so that's certainly a positive outcome."

Jacqueline Hind, Plumb Pharmaceuticals CEO


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