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13 posts from June 2016

June 30, 2016

Rochester med data firm expands focus, changes name

A Rochester medical analytics firm is expanding its reach with new products and a new name.

Transfuse Solutions Inc., known for analytical software focuses on blood transfusions, recently changed its name to Apri Health Inc., said co-founder and retired Mayo Clinic physician Dr. Mark Ereth.

"Since we're expanding far beyond blood, we thought it was appropriate for a name change," he said this week.

Ereth and Jamison Feramisco founded Transfuse in 2013 in the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator in downtown Rochester. It launched with data tools to evaluate the necessity of blood transfusions. Ereth said nearly half of transfusions are unnecessary and just add to the cost of health care.

Apri-health-small-270In the past months, the firm has looked beyond transfusions to introduce new data products to analyze lab tests, diagnostic radiology and overall cost of care.

Apri, which has 12 to 17 employees, works directly with hospitals and small to medium health-care systems.

"A third of every health-care dollar is spent on overutilization and waste," Ereth said. "That's almost a trillion dollars a year. We're tackling that over utilization that doesn't provide patient benefits and that only costs the health-care system dollars."

His firm's data analysis is aimed at finding and eliminating that waste.

"The bottom line is patients get better care with less intrusive treatment and hospitals spend less on unnecessary activity. That all drives better value for patients," he said.

While Apri has employees in Silicon Valley and Dallas, Texas, the firm is rooted in Rochester. Rochester Area Economic Development Inc. helped launch it in the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator in the Minnesota Biobusiness Center.

The firm licenses some intellectual property from Mayo Clinic for its educational software, though its core analytical systems were developed by Apri.

It also works with another Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator tenant, Ambient Clinical Analytics. Ambient has a similar technical portfolio of data products focused on emergency and intensive care treatment.

It is led by CEO Al Berning, who previously led Pemstar, Hardcore Computing and other Rochester companies. Drew Flaada, a former RochesterIBM executive, serves as chief technology officer.

June 29, 2016

Mayo Clinic tech doesn't fare well in Celyad/Cardio3 study

Sometimes lost opportunities are actually positive things. 
 
The City of Rochester really wanted rock star Belgium biotech Celyad/ Cardio3 to build a manufacturing facility here to handle the Mayo Clinic-created C-Cure stem cell cardiac treatment.
 
CelyadThat fell apart, when Celyad/Cardio3 pulled out of its plan to take over the fifth floor of the Minnesota Buiobusiness Center.
 
However, this week that looks like a good thing. Rochester make have ducked being stuck with a half built facility after the results of the latest study of C-Cure.
 
A Chart 1 Phase 3 study found that no difference between patients treated with the C-Cure and those given a placebo.
 
Here's how an article on the Seeking Alpha investment news site described the situation:
 

The failure of a pivotal trial of its heart failure cell therapy C-Cure, erased 38% from the Belgian company’s valuation this afternoon, an outcome that will make its search for a partner considerably harder.

Indeed, without a partner the project is effectively dead, as Celyad confirmed today that it would not conduct further clinical work alone.

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The Chart-1 phase III study failed to show this: it recruited 271 patients with chronic advanced symptomatic heart failure, and compared C-Cure against sham treatment. The primary endpoint was a composite of mortality, morbidity, quality of life, six-minute-walk test and left ventricular structure and function at 39 weeks, and on this measure C-Cure patients failed to show any difference versus placebo.

 
That must be pretty disappointing after nine years of promising results.
 
 Celyad/Cardio3 licensed stem-cell research by Mayo Clinic's Dr. Andre Terzic and Dr. Atta Behfar in 2007. It was called Cardio3 Biosciences back then. They have collaborated for years on the cardiopoiesis technology the company uses to repair patients' hearts by re-programming their own stem cells to regenerate cardiac tissue. Mayo Clinic owned 2.69 percent of Celyad as of March 3, 2015.
 
However, Celayd bought an NKR-T cell platform from Celdara Medical in 2015. It appeared that the company very quickly turned away from C-Cure to focus on the new area. That is looking like the saving grace for Celyad today.
 

 All of which would have been disastrous if not for the presence of its fledgling immuno-oncology pipeline, which no doubt prevented an even bigger share price collapse.

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Further data updates are expected in the coming months, and indeed this afternoon Celyad’s chief executive, Christian Homsy, ended a conference call discussing the C-Cure results by flagging approaching good news in oncology. Given the relatively small amount paid to access this technology and the huge hopes for the adoptive T-cell space, investors could indeed soon forget the C-Cure failure.

June 27, 2016

Mayo Clinic announces Transplant Genomics deal

It looks like Mayo Clinic is joining forces with a Pleasanton, Calif.-based (previously of Massachusetts) firm to bolster its genetic testing to predict the success of organ transplants.

Logo-2-ret1Here's the vague description of the deal announced in a general press release this morning:

 

Transplant Genomics Inc. is collaborating with the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine to develop, validate and commercialize diagnostic tests enabling personalized immunosuppression for solid organ transplant recipients. This multiyear collaboration includes an assessment of TGI's TruGraf test for renal transplant monitoring, a Mayo Clinic investment in TGI, and the co-development of new tests and technologies for additional targets, including exploratory studies in heart and liver transplantation.

This seems like this could be an interesting project. I wonder how long Mayo Clinic has been working with Transplant Genomics. 

It also would be fascinating to know how much Mayo Clinic is investing in TGI as well as how long this "multiyear" deal is slated to last.

 

 

 

June 21, 2016

New downtown skyway going up quickly

Construction of a new downtown Rochester skyway is well underway.

06212016skywayworkThis is a small skyway that will link the 318 Commons building on First Avenue to the former Paine Furniture building on South Broadway. It will span a small alley to make the link.

The connection will link University of Minnesota Rochester offices in the 318 Commons building to future UMR offices in the Paine building.

A quick peek down the alley from behind Cafe Steam showed that the construction is rolling along really quickly.

Once completed, downtown pedestrians will be able to get even farther without stepping out in the snow or rain. 

 

Macken starts construction on Byron expansion

After 107 years of being based solely in the Med City, the Macken family is adding its first funeral home outside of Rochester.

The Mackens, who own Rochester's Macken Funeral Home, are investing more than $2 million to build a new full-service facility in Byron to be called Byron Funeral Home and Cremation Services. Work started this week on the 8,000-square-foot building at 1620 Voll Drive NW at the intersection of U.S.14 West and 19th Avenue.

It will offer full funeral and visitation services as well as on-site cremation.

Rochester-MN-FuneralHome-1A public groundbreaking ceremony involving the Macken family and local leaders is scheduled for Thursday morning at the construction site. Mortician Peter Macken estimates the new facility could be completed and ready for use by October or November.

"We've been toying with this for years," he said. "We're really excited about this. Byron doesn't have a funeral home. We think Byron has a bright future and we'd like to be part of that."

Jay Czeczok, a longtime Macken employee and Byron resident, will manage the Byron Funeral Home when it opens. He will be supported by a team of on-site and Rochester employees.

Pete Macken says the family is pleased to have Weis Construction, CRW Architecture & Design Group Inc. and many other local sub-contractors involved in the project.

This expansion to Byron is the latest milestone in the funeral home's history.

Dan Macken launched what would become Macken Funeral Homes in Rochester in 1909. It now is led by the founder's grandsons, Tim and Dan Macken. Peter Macken is Tim Macken's son and the fourth generation of the family to work in the business.

One of the Mackens last expansions was in 2010, when it built a large chapel to add to its longtime Rochester campus at 1105 12th St. SE.

 

June 16, 2016

Rochester music school to expand

A local music school has really struck a chord in Rochester.

Ryan Utterback launched Pure Rock Studios in his home in 2012. When it swelled beyond that space, he moved it into a 2,500-square-foot building at 515 Rocky Creek Drive NE.

13417510_1017403615047508_8141035925918801272_nNow that he and his teachers are working with 250 to 270 students of all ages each week, the school needs even more space. That means more than doubling the size of the school to add a new wing for for the drum classes and a stage performance area as well as renovating the existing building.

"I knew it would get here, but it just has grown much faster than I anticipated," said Utterbeck. "That speaks volumes about our instructors and the curriculum that's really just built around a fun, hands on way to learn music."

He hopes work on the 3,000-square-foot expansion will start by mid-July, with the goal of opening the new wing by September.

Pure Rock has 14 instructors teaching group and one-on-one classes in guitar, bass guitar, drums, piano and vocal. Plus Utterbeck recently added banjo, mandolin and ukulele classes because of the growing popularity of those instruments.

The students range from youth to adults, with about 65 percent being younger than 18 years old.

Pure Roch's focus on performance has spurred the creation of many new bands formed by the students. Utterbeck also has his students perform regularly at local venues such as Thursday on First and Third and the Wicked Moose Bar & Grill.

"Music is a lifelong gift you can share with people," he said.

In fact, the architect and contractor working on the project are both musicians, who occasionally play at Pure Rock. Adam Ferrari of Rochester's 9.Square is the project architect as well as a drummer.

Adam Kramer of Kramer Contracting also is a musician who has played with Utterbeck since high school. Kramer recently launch his new construction business after work with Kraus Anderson Construction Co.

June 14, 2016

Software giant buys Rochester's DoApp

Wade-beaversDoApp Inc., an 8-year-old Rochester media technology firm, was acquired this week by the top software firm in the newspaper industry.

Newscycle Solutions bought DoApp to become part of a new mobile division to add to its services for newspapers and expand into television and radio. Bloomington, Minn.-based Newscycle, which is owned by Vista Equity Partners, works with 92 of the top 100 U.S. newspapers as well as 1,200 companies in 45 countries.

DoApp-logo-square_400x400Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

DoApp co-founder Wade Beavers says Newscycle has worked with DoApp on various projects and the relationship just deepened until this became the logical step. Beavers, now president of Newscycle's mobile division, says this acquisition is good for his company and for Rochester. All 13 employees now have jobs with Newscycle and the division will remain in Rochester in the former DoApp office at 1652 Greenview Drive SW.

"You'll definitely see more employees in Rochester. Newscycle is very strategic on growth," said Beavers. "They plan to stay here."

Beavers co-founded DoApp with Joe Sriver with help from Dave Borrillo in 2008. In the early days, Beavers and Borrillo created early iPhone apps while drinking coffee in Rochester's south Panera eatery. Three DoApp apps were among the first 500 sold on Apple's then-new App Store.

The Newscycle sale marks the third major "exit" for DoApp, since it launched.

In 2012, Raleigh, N.C.-based Axial Exchange acquired mRemedy, which DoApp created with Mayo Clinic. It focused on making patient-focused mobile health-care apps.

DoApp also sold its popular mobile real estate platform to CoreLogic, of Irvine, Calif. in 2014. Borrillo, previously DoApp’s chief operating officer, joined CoreLogic along with all of the DoApp employees working on the real estate app. CoreLogic kept the office in Rochester and it has added several jobs since the acquisition.

“DoApp has led the way for media companies to be the best in their markets with an awesome mobile experience that hasn’t been matched,” said Beavers in Monday's announcement. “Becoming part of the Newscycle family will allow us to create a more complete experience that will take publishers forward and connect them to their audiences across all devices.”

 

June 13, 2016

Future use of ex-postal center still unclear

Almost a year since buying a former Med City mail processing center for $2.11 million, Mayo Clinic still is working out what to do with it.

3939Valleyhigh DriveMayo Clinic purchased the former U.S. Postal Service facility at 3939 Valleyhigh Drive in July 2015. The 72,662-square-foot center closed in January 2015, when mail processing was transferred to the Twin Cities.

When asked this week about its plan, the Mayo Clinic was pretty much the same as when it bought the building.

“No decisions have been made regarding the use of space at 3939 Valleyhigh Drive NW,” wrote Kelley Luckstein of Mayo Clinic Public Affairs on Friday in response to the query about the building.

The 19-year-old building could be adapted for a variety of purposes, such as an industrial laundry, a distribution center or light manufacturing. The center is described as "constructed of pre-stressed concrete and steel frames for high volume load distribution and contains a total of 23 dock doors; 10 overhead doors, 12 semi-truck docks and one grade door." 

 

June 10, 2016

More Dunkin' Donuts coming southern Minnesota

Two years after making a flashy return to Minnesota with a Rochester shop, Dunkin' Donuts has signed a franchise agreement to bring three more locations to the region.

The Massachusetts doughnut maker announced Thursday that it has signed a deal with new franchisees Oliver Schugel and David Schooff to open three new restaurants in Mankato. The first one is slated to open in 2017.

06232014dunkindonutsMankato is leaping ahead of Rochester, which was expected to have about five locations by now. 

Rochester Retail Services, a division of the Kahler Hospitality Group, opened a shop here in June 2014 at 15 First Ave. SW in its Kahler Grand Hotel complex in the heart of downtown. It was the first one in Minnesota since 2005. Dunkin' said then that Rochester Retail Services would be opening five more shops in the next few years.

That changed last fall, according to Dunkin' Donuts Senior Director of Franchising Patrick Cunningham.

"Rochester Retail Services, the franchisee of record, will continue to own and operate the existing restaurant in the Kahler. However, they will not develop more Dunkin' stores as we previously reported," he said in October.

When announcing the coming Mankato shops, Dunkin' said franchise opportunities remain available in Rochester. Plus, "to help fuel additional growth in the market, special development incentives are available."

In Mankato, the new franchisees have more than 45 years of combined experience in business and real estate development.

“We have a passion and loyalty for the Dunkin' Donuts brand and look forward to opening our restaurants in the years to come," stated Schooff. 

June 07, 2016

Broadway at Center development still awaiting financing

A long-anticipated downtown Rochester development, the first Destination Medical Center project, is still waiting for financing before can can begin.

Broadwayatcenter3City officials were notified recently by Hinshaw & Culbertson, a Minneapolis law firm, that a $102.5 million loan to finance the bulk of developer Gus Chafoulias' 23-story Broadway at Center tower was scheduled to close on May 31. A $2.3 million tax-increment financing loan was expected to close at the same time.

However, that didn't happen.

When asked Tuesday about the status of the financing and the timeline for the Broadway at Center project, Titan Development Marketing and Communications Manager Sheila Thoma made a statement via email. Titan is a Chafoulias family company.

"It has not closed. As soon as it does, I will let you know," she wrote

The loans are being made by Minneapolis-based Dougherty Financial Group, which includes seven financial companies that manage more than $42 billion in assets. The firm's founder and board chair, Michael E. Dougherty, is very familiar with Rochester and Mayo Clinic's Destination Medical Center initiative.
Dougherty joined the the Mayo Clinic Board of Trustees in 2012. He then became a DMC Corp. board member in April.

While the loans and $6.5 million in assistance from the city of Rochester will finance the majority of the $140 million project, people close to the project say an additional $35 million is coming from Middle Eastern investors.

Chafoulias, with limited assistance from his son Andy Chafoulias and Titan, has been working on different versions of this project since 2007.

Broadway at Center will house a 264-room Hilton Hotel, 33 apartment units and space for office, retail and restaurant use. More than $14 million — including the city's $6.5 million assistance to the developer and the remainder of infrastructure costs — is planned to be reported as DMC local contributions and credited toward the city's $128 million commitment.

There has been a lot of interest about when demolition of the empty CJ's Midtown Lounge and other buildings on that corner would begin. Once the financing for the project is locked in, that should clear the way for work to start.