Contact:  Contact Marlene Smith at (608-576-8353) or Tom Still at (608-695-7557)

MILWAUKEE – Mithridion Inc., a Madison-based company that is developing drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease, is the Grand Prize winner in the second annual Governor’s Business Plan Contest, it was announced Tuesday.

Mithridion, the top-scoring plan in the Life Sciences category, will receive $20,000 in cash and a year’s free rent at 525 Science Drive in Madison’s University Research Park. The 2,700-square-foot office and supporting services has a market value of $80,000.

Mithridion Inc. is focused on designing and exploiting breakthrough discoveries to develop drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Jeff Johnson, a UW-Madison researcher, and Dr. Trevor Twose are Mithridion’s executives. Johnson is an associate professor in the Pharmaceutical Sciences Division at the UW-Madison and a co-founder of the company along with Twose, who is the chief executive officer.

Johnson and other researchers discovered that increased expression of a protein called transthyretin in the brain appears to halt the progression of Alzheimer’s, a finding that may cause a dramatic shift in the way scientists and researchers search for a therapy for the disease.

With continued research and a strong business plan, Mithridion foresees a time when family members with a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s disease could take a yet-undeveloped drug to increase transthyretin protein and prevent the disease from developing. It could also theoretically halt or slow down the progression of the disease in early-stage patients, preserving a higher level of cognitive function.

Currently, there are a handful of Alzheimer’s drugs on the market, but all are palliative, meaning they may slow or alleviate some symptoms, but are not intended as a cure.

An effective therapeutic drug could have an enormous social and economic effect, helping an estimated 5 million Americans who suffer from the disease, including 110,000 in Wisconsin.

Second prize goes to AquaSensors LLC of Brookfield, the winner in the Advanced Manufacturing category and a strong challenger to Mithridion among the 28 judges who scored the final round. AquaSensors will receive a $20,000 cash prize. The company designs and manufactures innovative analytical measurement systems for the continuous monitoring of pH, electrical conductivity, dissolved oxygen, ozone, and turbidity in aqueous processes

Two other finalists will receive $10,000 prizes. They are:

  • RADOM, a Milwaukee company, won the Business Services category.  RADOM assists small and medium-size medical device manufacturers grow their market share by providing outsourced research solutions.  Jovan Jevtic and Ashok Menon are founders.

  •, of Eau Claire, won the Information Technology category. The company helps businesses display personalized, motivational, entertaining and multi-lingual information to customers and employees in waiting areas and other public locations.  Mike Strand is the founder.

Second-place winners ($5,000 each) by category were: Brad Rake, Milwaukee, ZeroWire Digital Communications (Advanced Manufacturing); Kurt Brandt, Pewaukee, non- radiological and non-invasive container inspection, Brandt Technologies (Business Services); Roger Meads, Hortonville, temperature-based cow monitoring, Trace Technologies, (Information Technology); and Curtis Brandt, Verona, anti-viral drug, Pedrus Pharma (Life Sciences).

Third-place winners ($2,000 each) by category were: John LaDisa, Franklin, Vascular Prolifix, (Life Sciences); Tom Wiesen, Fitchburg, PDCA sensor-based pick-to light products, AVOW, LLC (Advanced Manufacturing); Lyle Heller, Oregon, job and talent matching software, JobSight USA (Business Services); and Pradeep Jain, Wind Lake, Intuistic Solutions (Information Technology). Deborah Still of Blue Spark LLC, Madison, finished third in Business Services balloting but declined to accept a prize.

Honorable mention winners ($1,000 each) were: Anil Gupte, Brown Deer, enhanced personal video recorders, k.e.e.n. Inc. (Information Technology); Suzanne Warrell, Hartland; Brainpool Online; Deneine Powell, Milwaukee, Seven Stones Wellness and Spa; and Jay Mason, Brookfield, Global Health Direct (Business Services); Kurt Willms, Milwaukee, D-Poly Technologies; Mitch Nick, Madison, Firesite; and Robert Gibson, Madison, Composite Rebar Technologies (Advanced Manufacturing); Anthony Escarega, Madison, Ratio; and Janet Phillips, Oconomowoc, Vector Surgical (Life Sciences).

In all, finalists will share nearly $200,000 in cash and in-kind prizes. The judging process was conducted in four rounds beginning in February, with entries coming from 200 contestants from 58 cities.

“I called for a Governor’s Business Plan Contest in my Grow Wisconsin plan because we need to support and recognize entrepreneurial activity in our state,” Gov. Jim Doyle said. “I wish the contest winners success as they build their businesses and I commend everyone who submitted their plans for this competition.”

The contest was conducted by the independent, non-profit Wisconsin Technology Council, which is the science and technology adviser to the Governor and the Legislature. Along with Doyle, Tech Council board members had urged creation of a statewide business plan contest to help jump-start high-growth, “knowledge-based” companies.

“This year’s competition was intense, with many superb plans competing for a limited number of prizes,” said Tech Council Chairman Mark Bugher, director of University Research Park. “All of these companies are winners, however, for going through the rigorous process of writing their business plans and listening to the advice of judges and mentors alike. And Wisconsin’s economy will be the long-term winner as these companies prosper and grow.”

The awards were announced Wednesday, June 7, at the Governor’s Business Plan Contest dinner at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference. Gov. Jim Doyle called for a statewide contest during his 2002 campaign for governor.

Major sponsors of the contest were the Wisconsin Department of Commerce; Mason Wells Private Equity of Milwaukee; American Transmission Co., a statewide electric transmission network; University Research Park; the law firm of Michael, Best and Friedrich; Cory L. Nettles of the law firm of Quarles and Brady; Madison Gas & Electric Co.; The Boldt Company; Loughrin Accounting & Tax Services; Smith & Gesteland LLP; the law firm of Foley & Lardner; J.P. Cullen & Sons, a Janesville construction company; the Kegonsa Capital Fund and the Fitchburg Technology Campus; Wisconsin Technology Network; Potter Lawson, the architectural firm;  the law firm of Axley Brynelson; the Wisconsin Technical College System Foundation; and the Wisconsin Technology Council.

Forty-six judges reviewed 200 first-phase plans submitted by 135 individuals from 58 Wisconsin communities. The initial entries produced 49 semi-finalist plans and, from that group, 22 finalists. The Wisconsin Technology Council and the Wisconsin Innovation Network (WIN) co-produced the contest, which is planned to repeat in 2006.

For more information on the plans, which are available for inspection by prospective accredited investors, contact Marlene Smith at 608-442-7557 or at