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Middle Bit: IDx’s AI diagnostics system launches in Retail Clinics

‍Patients of CarePortMD retail health clinics at Albertsons grocery stores now have access to IDx’s autonomous AI diagnostic system, IDx-DR.

This makes CarePortMD the first retail health clinic to adopt this type of AI diagnostic technology. Albertsons, the nation’s second largest grocery chain, added five CarePortMD clinics to stores in Delaware and Pennsylvania this past year.

IDx-DR uses AI to identify patients with diabetic retinopathy and macular edema, common complications of diabetes and a leading cause of blindness. CarePortMD captures and transmits patient vitals, IDx-DR exam results, and other important health information to the patient’s doctor.

“Our goal is to ensure all patients with diabetes have access to the diabetic retinopathy exam so that we can improve patient outcomes,” said Michael Abramoff, founder and CEO of IDx. “More patients are getting their healthcare in retail clinics, so there is value in exploring the space. We were attracted to CarePortMD’s care coordination model; it’s critical that results make it back to the patient’s medical home and are triaged appropriately. This is a great opportunity to do AI the right way together.”


Urbandale-based Per Mar Security Services announced last week the acquisition of Lincoln, Nebraska-based NECO Security.

NECO Security Project Manager Bill Thomas, along with the company’s five technicians, will be joining Midwest Alarm Services. They will be serving customers out of the Per Mar and Midwest Alarm Services local office in Lincoln.

“We are excited to have NECO Security join our organization,” says Doug Richard, president of Midwest Alarm Services. “NECO and Midwest Alarm Services were two of the original Notifier dealers in the U.S. The NECO team will be a great cultural fit as they have been working together for decades and have a customer first mentality. We are looking forward to working with them to continue to deliver the best service in the industry.”

Established in 1953, Per Mar Security Services is the largest, family-owned, full-service security company in the Midwest with more than 2,400 employees, operating in 23 branch locations and 17 satellite locations.

National Academy of Inventors recognizes two ISU researchers

The National Academy of Inventors is adding Iowa State University’s Balaji Narasimhan and Guru Rao to its roster of academy fellows.

The academy announced today it is recognizing Narasimhan and Rao for demonstrating “a highly prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on the quality of life, economic development, and welfare of society.”

The academy’s announcement specifically cited Narasimhan’s work in nanomedicines and biomedical engineering.

The latest projects in his lab include studies of a universal nanovaccine for flu, an immunotherapy treatment for pancreatic cancer, a new nanovaccine for respiratory syncytial virus and a nanomedicine-based methods to overcome antimicrobial resistance by some pathogens and nanovaccines to treat older adults.

Rao was cited for his work in biochemistry.

Rao’s work has been all about engineering proteins for the nutritional enhancement of crops such as corn and soybeans and designing proteins for resistance to insects and fungal pathogens. The former chair of Iowa State’s Roy J. Carver Department of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology, Rao has 28 patents from 1995 to 2017.

Middle Bit: IDx's AI diagnostics system launches in Retail Clinics | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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