The Canary may be able to chirp a bit sooner.

Isomark’s Canary, that is — a device that can analyze your breath to see if you are coming down with an infection ... and maybe even, someday, help monitor an outbreak like the current Ebola scare.

Isomark, Madison, is getting a two-year, $1.7 million “Fast Track” Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institutes of Health to speed development of the non-invasive breathalyzer.

“This is huge for us,” CEO Joe Kremer said. “It’s a validation that what we’re trying to do is good.”

Initial tests show the Canary breathalyzer can detect a change in the patient’s metabolism and the buildup of immune proteins to fight an infection, early on. The goal: to find infections contracted in a hospital, like pneumonia.

But it could also eventually be used to provide an early marker for diseases such as Ebola, Kremer said. He said it’s less invasive than a blood test and it would be far better than the current method authorities are using — taking the temperature of people who may have been exposed to the illness.

“We believe Isomark’s Canary would provide a much earlier warning than temperature that an infection is setting in,” said Kremer. “It’s like taking the temperature of the immune system.”

Kremer said he is hoping to start enrolling patients in a larger pilot study at UW Hospital soon.

Founded in 2005, Isomark has received more than $4 million in grants and investor funds, so far.

Global investor pitches

Two Madison companies are getting a chance to tell their stories to a larger audience.

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OpenHomes, a Madison real estate-oriented start-up, is one of 200 young companies from around the world that will present to investors and entrepreneurs at Web Summit, a huge technology gathering in Dublin, Nov. 4-6, that bills itself as “the world’s largest and leading start-up and investor event.”

Of thousands of start-ups that applied, OpenHomes is one of 100 early-stage companies — only 15 of which are from the U.S. — that will compete in the Pitch Alpha competition for start-ups that have raised $1 million or less.

“It’s a chance to meet and pitch in front of dozens of investors, many of whom it would be very difficult to get a meeting with otherwise,” said OpenHomes founder and chief executive Kelda Roys. “As we’re entering the early stages of raising our next round, the timing is excellent. My hope is simply to pique the interest of some investors so that I’ll be able to get follow-up meetings.”

Founded in 2013, OpenHomes is a platform for selling or buying a home, charging only a 1 percent commission. Roys, an attorney and former state representative, said she applied on a whim.

In all, 200 companies will compete over the three-day conference at Pitch, presented by Web Summit and Coca-Cola.

Shoutlet, meanwhile, was one of 30 companies that made presentations to the Chicago Venture Summit, Oct. 14-15. Incorporated in 2010, Shoutlet’s platform helps companies create relationships with their customers based on online social networking.

Epic seeks contract

Epic Systems Corp., Verona, is one of the companies featured in a Washington Post story this week about a big Defense Department contract.

Epic is teaming with IBM to vie for a contract estimated at $11 billion, over as long as 10 years, to update the military’s electronic health records system.

The deadline for bids is Oct. 31 and high-level teams are seeking the action. In addition to Epic and IBM, other contenders include: Cerner, Leidos, and Accenture Federal Services; Computer Sciences Corp., Hewlett-Packard, and AllScripts; and PriceWaterhouseCoopers, DSS, MedSphere, and General Dynamics Information Technology.

The Defense Department is expected to take several months to choose the team that will modernize the health IT system covering more than 15 million active-duty service members and veterans, the article says.

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Contact Judy Newman at jdnewman@madison.com with tips and story suggestions.