BrightStar Announces Two New Investments

MILWAUKEE, December 16, 2020 – BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation Inc. today announced that its investment committee has approved two new investments in early-stage Wisconsin based companies: COnovate, Inc. and Retham Technologies, LLC. These investments bring to 57 the number of early-stage Wisconsin companies in which BrightStar has invested.

Both Milwaukee-based companies are receiving seed investments of $50,000 made possible through matching fund grants to BrightStar from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s Capital Catalyst program. Capital Catalyst funds are specifically designed to assist proof of principal stage companies to take that extra step needed to prove out their technology. For COnovate, the funds will help to show the ability to scale production for its novel room temperature solid form carbon monoxide compound that can be seamlessly adapted for use in lithium-ion batteries. For Retham it is to finish clinical studies needed to bridge the company to the point of beginning 510(k) activities for FDA clearance.

COnovate, Inc. founded in 2016 by UWM professors Carol Hirschmugl and Marija Gajdardziska, will use its newly discovered material named “Cophite” to boost a battery’s capacity and charging speed. The BrightStar funds will help bring the COnovate project out of the academic lab into a pre-commercial scale up process—leading to a Series A investment round next year.

“COnovate grew from deep expertise of UWM physicists and highlights the strength of UWM as a research institution and a source for innovations that can scale and impact the world.” said Brian Thompson, UWM Research Foundation President. “The company founders embraced the customer discovery process as a core competency to help them identify opportunities, and I’m pleased that they were able to leverage the growing support structure at UWM and in the Milwaukee community to move them to the next level.”

“Retham is a Milwaukee startup cofounded by Dr. Anand Padmanabhan, based on groundbreaking research he conducted when he was at Blood Center of Wisconsin,” said Daniel Sem, Retham’s acting CEO and Dean of Business at Concordia University. “The clinical diagnostic assay his team is developing provides more reliable results in less time (< 1 day vs. 3 days) than the current market-dominant test, and will prevent many deaths or amputations from this autoimmune reaction that nearly 1% of patients have to Heparin treatment. Retham expects its HITDx assay to be on the market and in clinical labs by 2023.”