BrightStar Wisconsin Announces Two New Investments

MILWAUKEE, June 5, 2019 – BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation Inc. today announced that it has made an investment in two companies that are new to its portfolio: HDL Diagnostics, Inc. and FreshEx Corp., Pleasant Prairie. These investments bring to 48 the number of early-stage Wisconsin companies in which BrightStar has invested.

HDL Diagnostics is a Milwaukee biotechnology company focused on providing the first scalable high-density lipoprotein or HDL function test. HDL is commonly known as the “good cholesterol.” Recent research has established that HDL function testing outperforms HDL-Cholesterol (HDL-C), which simply determines the level of HDL in blood, for predicting heart attacks. HDL function testing measures whether and to what extent the good cholesterol is removing bad cholesterol, or LDL, from the artery walls.

“Testing HDL’s functional status has been available to scientists for years as a research-use-only test, but because of its complexity it is not been used at the point of care,” said board member Matt Amman. “We believe we can change that and improve the ability of physicians to diagnose coronary artery disease with our technology platform.”

Brightstar’s $75,000 investment helped the company complete its second round of funding and start its first clinical trial. The company also recruited Roger Newton, Ph.D., who is the co-discoverer of Lipitor, to join the company’s board of directors.

FreshEx Corp., Pleasant Prairie, has been developing a solution to extend the shelf life of foods like breads, berries and cheeses that are highly susceptible to mold. The company estimates that the global opportunity for extending the shelf life of these products, even by several days, is in the hundreds of million dollars.

Co-founders Toby Thomas and William Belias each have more than 30 years of product development and go-to-market successes. They were instrumental in the development of scented Hefty garbage bags and Hefty OneZip food storage bags.

FreshEx was discovered at a Hatch event, BrightStar’s entrepreneurial pitch program.


“My experience with BrightStar has been terrific,” said FreshEx CEO Toby Thomas. “From my first pitch through to funding my venture, BrightStar has been very supportive.”


BrightStar’s $100,000 investment is the first awarded to a Hatch program participant. The rest of the investors in this $1.3 million round came from investment groups outside of Wisconsin. The most interesting group in this round is Village Global, an early-stage venture capital group funded by some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs, including Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos.