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Philadelphia's Pulse InfoFrame brings its cloud-based platform to patient care

Alice Solomon, senior director of Pulse InfoFrame, has some questions: "Is it a problem that Starbucks is using the latest in analytics to get you a better cup of coffee, but we aren’t doing it to save your life? Is it a problem that the oncologist treating your mother may be totally unaware of how other doctors around the country and around the world are successfully treating different types of cancer? Is it a problem that your doctor diagnoses high blood pressure, prescribes meds, and sends you on your way to change your diet and sedentary lifestyle? Yes, yes, yes."

Pulse, a health care technology startup at Philadelphia's University City Science Center Digital Health Accelerator, is aiming to solve those challenges with its clinical and research platform, providing data, management and integration systems targeted at the highly detailed requirements of medical specialists. Physicians, hospitals, researchers, and medical device and pharmaceutical companies can use the cloud-based platform to capture, organize, model, store and share detailed administrative and medical data with patients and other health care stakeholders. 

The company was founded in 2011 in Canada, where it is providing the platform for a national melanoma registry, and has an office in India. Pulse originally came to Philadelphia as a participant in the Canadian Technology Accelerator and is committed to launching its U.S. operations in the region. Pulse already has its local first client, Simon’s Fund, a Lafayette Hill-based nonprofit focused on research and awareness of sudden cardiac arrest and death in young athletes and children.

According to Solomon, electronic medical records "are administrative and billing tools…they were never intended to solve patient care problems. The Pulse platform focuses on improving patient care by looking at what we call ‘little data,’ which is customizing data collection to pull what is relevant to the clinician with the goal of solving real big questions. We support 22 diseases globally (including cancer, diabetes and heart disease), provide mobile access and promote patient engagement in their own health. We find out why things happen."

Source: Alice Solomon, Pulse InfoFrame
Writer: Elise Vider

Penn Medicine expands at newest University City Science Center building

The University City Science Center in West Philadelphia is now fully leased at its newest building at 3737 Market Street with the expansion of its anchor tenant.

Penn Medicine University City is expanding into an additional 56,000 square feet or two entire floors. With this lease expansion, Penn Medicine occupies almost 268,000 square feet in the 13-story laboratory and office building. 

"3737 Market’s rapid lease up exemplifies the attractiveness of the Science Center as a location of choice in the innovation ecosystem," insists Science Center President and CEO Stephen S. Tang. 

The new building has achieved LEED Gold certification for its core and shell design. The structure also incorporates innovative energy efficiency features, an extensive green roof system with a white roof membrane that helps reduce heat emissions from the building, and an innovative storm water management system. It is the first health care building in Pennsylvania to have a chilled beam system, an advanced convection HVAC system designed to heat or cool large structures. 

Wexford Science & Technology, a real estate company specializing in facilities for institutions such as universities, university-related research parks and health care systems, and the Science Center jointly developed the building, which opened in September.

According to its website, the Science Center now comprises 16 buildings across a 17-acre campus offering "both plug-and-play incubator space for startup companies and office and lab space for established companies."

Source: University City Science Center
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Architrep hatches DIY dinosaur kits in Allentown

At age five, Lisa Glover had a dinosaur-themed birthday party. Years later, inspired by a dinosaur-at-a-mall video, she went full Jurassic Park for an assignment at Lehigh University’s Technical Entrepreneurship Master’s Degree Program

"The dino kits were part of a homework assignment back in October of 2013 called 'Making It’ -- we had to explore a manufacturing process and demonstrate it in a unique and interesting way,” she recalls. “I chose a process called Industrial Origami, which involves taking sheet metal, making special types of cuts in it, and folding it up into various, useful objects. I thought that making something fanciful -- a costume -- would be a great use for this manufacturing process. I demonstrated it using cardboard, since sheet metal is really heavy! People really were fascinated by this 15-foot-long creation of mine, and I had a ton of fun building it, so I decided to bring a smaller version of the creature to life."

Last March, Glover hatched Architrep at Ben Franklin Tech Ventures. Soon after, she launched a flat-pack Velociraptor kit on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter. She expected to raise enough funds to make and sell a few hundred kits. Instead, she sold nearly 5,500. In December, Architrep was accepted into the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center business incubation program. 

The startup's latest product, a Pterodactyl kit with a three-foot wingspan and Glover’s signature googly eyes, has already exceeded its Kickstarter goal. Glover also has plans for a Triceratops kit, as well as a variety of other dinosaurs, animals and mythical creatures. 

"I'm also developing some mini kits of the same creatures," she says. "The current kits take a few hours to build and are intended for ages 9-plus. I'd like to create some simpler ones that can be built by ages 6-plus and only take half-an-hour to build. Also, I'm developing partial-costumes: just the head and arms of creatures, that people can build and wear. Some day, I hope to bring full-body costumes to the world, but right now that just isn't feasible." 

Source: Lisa Glover, Architrep
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Helping companies train their people, TiER1 expands in Pittsburgh

Founded in 2002 in a Kentucky home dining room, TiER1 Performance Solutions is now growing fast in Pittsburgh. 

The company, based in Kentucky near Cincinnati, opened an office in Wexford in 2010 when it acquired Motionplan, a custom training development company. By 2014, TiER1 had 25 employees in Wexford and had outgrown its space. Rather than relocate, the company chose to open a second location in downtown Pittsburgh. 

"Opening a second, centrally located office is part of our plan to further embed ourselves into the fabric of Pittsburgh," said CEP Greg Harmeyer last year. "It’s a creative space where our team, clients and partners can connect and collaborate around ideas that empower people to do their best work."

"We’ve doubled in size in the last three years, and plan to double our Pittsburgh team size and revenue presence over the next few years, as well," says spokeswoman Abby Bolton. The company counts more than 40 large companies in the Pittsburgh region as clients, along with hundreds more around the country, as well as federal and local governments. 

TiER1 helps "mid- to large-sized organizations improve their performance by improving the performance of their people," she explains. "We design and develop learning, communication and change management solutions to help align, train and enable people to do their best work. Whether we’re partnering with a client to support a new technology rollout, design a global onboarding program, launch a new product, develop an enterprise learning strategy, or evolve an organizational culture -- if it has to do with people and performance, TiER1 can help.”

Source: Abby Bolton, TiER1 Performance Solutions
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Philadelphia's BioBots prints living tissue

In the sounds-like-science-fiction department comes BioBots, a Philadelphia startup developing high-resolution, desktop 3D printers that generate living tissue.

"BioBots is like a 3D printer, but instead of using plastic filament to create 3D structures, it uses mixtures of biocompatible materials (like collagen) and living cells to create 3D tissues," explains CEO Danny Cabrera. "The finished product that comes out of the BioBot is alive."

The first-generation BioBots 1 printer can generate a dozen different cell types. 
  
With over 120,000 patients in the United States on organ-transfer waiting lists, building replacement organs is a long-term goal for the company. For now, the printers are primarily used for research.

"Biofabrication technology is definitely becoming more and more accessible in functionality, ease of use and cost, and that is going to greatly accelerate the pace of development," says Cabrera. "We are currently focusing on making the best research tool for our customers, taking structures out of lab note books and onto lab benches. It’s only a matter of time before those same structures start leaking out of the lab and into the clinic." 

Co-founder Ricardo Solorzano started working on printing 3D tissues -- and built the first prototype -- in his University of Pennsylvania dorm room. In August, he and Penn classmates Cabrera and Sohaib Hashmi launched the company. The startup initially grew at the DreamIt Health incubator and recently received funding from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania

BiotBots is also opening a seed round of funding; actively promoting its beta program; offering testers a bioprinter and support for $5,000; and recruiting for its R&D team.

"The BioBot 1 is exciting, but it’s definitely not all we have up our sleeves," insists Cabrera. "Look out for a radical change in a few healthcare-related industries and new industries being created by our technology."

Source: Danny Cabrera, BioBots
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Whitehall's Dynalene helps industry keep its cool

Even in the coldest of winters, industrial processes generate a lot of heat  -- and that's not a good thing.

Dynalene, headquartered in Whitehall, specializes in industrial heat transfer fluids or, as president and CEO Satish Mohapatra explains, "something that carries heat from one place to another, similar to the antifreeze in your car engine."

The company's products are used in a wide range of applications: pharmaceutical (reactor cooling), food and beverage process cooling, climactic chambers (wind tunnels), ice rinks, heating and air-conditioning of buildings, solar thermal and electronics cooling.

Dynalene's roots go back to a 1993 research grant from Ben Franklin Technology Partners that went towards development of ultra-low temperature heat transfer fluids that work efficiently below -80°C (-112°F). The resulting products were commercialized and sold under the Dynalene name by several antecedent corporations until 2005 when the company changed its name to Dynalene Inc. 

Today, the enterprise has more than 50 products, offers a wide range of analytical testing through its laboratory services division, and fields an active R&D group.  
 
"Looking ahead, we are developing several products to go into solar thermal, fuel-cell cooling and flushing fluid applications," adds Mohapatra.

Dynalene works closely with Lehigh University and has won a number of grants from the federal Small Business Innovation Research program and the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Technology Alliance.  

The company made its first expansion in 2013 with a new production facility in Chicago to serve midwest customers and is currently planning another such facility in the west.

Source: Satish Mohapatra, Dynalene
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Pittsburgh startup NetBeez monitors networks in real time

The enterprise networks that healthcare organizations, university campuses and big retailers rely upon are complex and notoriously difficult to build, operate, monitor and troubleshoot.

Pittsburgh's NetBeez has developed a network-monitoring tool that tests and validates enterprise networks from an end-user perspective. The company uses small and low-cost sensors to verify that users can connect to the network and have good performance from the applications. Data is collected in real-time. When a problem occurs in the network, it is immediately detected and reported to the network support group so it can be corrected before users have to call the help desk.

Stefano Gridelli, Panickos Neophytou and Panos Vouzis founded the company in 2013 at Innovation Work's AlphaLab incubator. Neophytou is credited as the main developer of the central server that provides the "swarm intelligence" of the system. Vouzis developed the network sensors -- called BEEZ -- that collect and process network and application performance.

"The solution can be deployed in any network environment: from small remote offices to large corporate locations, from data centers to cloud environments," explains Gridelli. "The development team puts considerable effort into making the solution easy to use and deploy so our customers can start monitoring with NetBeez from day one, without requiring too much effort, skill or training for its adoption."

NetBeez recently released new wireless monitoring agents -- "a killer product that is [generating] strong demand from universities and from retail customers," says Gridelli -- and will be showcasing its wares next month at Interop Las Vegas, a mega IT industry event. 

Since its founding, NetBeez has received funding from Carnegie Mellon University’s Open Field Entrepreneurs Fund, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and Innovation Works via the Technology Commercialization Initiative.

"Without their support and the ecosystem that is taking place in Pittsburgh, it would have been almost impossible for the founding team to [achieve] such accomplishment in two years only," insists Gridelli.

Source: Stefano Gridelli, NetBeez
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Super abrasive machining drives growth in State College

Miniaturization in the automotive and industrial markets is what drives State College's Super Abrasive Machining Innovation (SAMI). 

"In the automotive business, for example, innovative technologies are ever increasing vehicle power and performance," explains CEO Rocco Petrilli. "[This allows] for smaller and more compact components and systems whose lighter weight drives further fuel economies."

The result is a growing demand for complex precision components -- many formed with powdered metal and other metal-forming technologies -- that maintain tight tolerances. Over the past 30 years, the weight of powdered metal parts in the average car has grown from about eight pounds to more than 50.

But powdered metal technology and other metal forming processes like forgings and castings will not reach their fullest potential without "a truly disruptive material removal process application that parallels the net shaping advantages proliferated by these… advancements," explains Petrilli.

Thus the development of super abrasive machining, a novel process that combines the capabilities of grinding with the speed, precision and cost productivity of machining. 

"Whereas the established culture would lead design engineers and procurement professionals to specify a complicated subassembly requiring several parts that are separately machined, ground, finished and assembled, the use of super abrasive machining can reduce the number of parts and the number of assembly steps," says Petrilli.

With a Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central & Northern Pennsylvania investment made in September, SAMI is undertaking a marketing campaign to tout super abrasive machining as a disruptive technology that achieves cost savings, boosts productivity and insures quality control for the industry. 

Source: Rocco Petrilli, Super Abrasive Machining Innovation
Writer: Elise Vider

Titusville sketches a downtown arts and crafts incubator

Officials in Titusville are taking first steps towards creating a downtown arts-and-crafts incubator.

Deb Eckelberger of the Titusville Community Development Agencies (TCDA) describes the project as "a win-win…a way to fill a vacant downtown location and to showcase the wealth of talent in this area."

A wide array of artists, crafters and artisans -- jewelry makers, photographers, alpaca wool providers, spinners of yarn, handmade soap providers, wood crafters, maple syrup makers, bead and glass artists and more -- have expressed interest in taking space at the former Angeli Winery Store.

The approximately 3,000 square foot space would house microbusinesses, giving the vendors a year-round retail presence, and freeing them from reliance on holiday and craft show sales. The incubator could also leverage the reuse of an adjacent, one-time restaurant.

"The two locations could work well together," says Eckelberger.

Establishing the incubator is a true team effort. Titusville Redevelopment Authority (TRA), TCDA’s economic development arm, owns the building.

"We are uniquely positioned to work together with the artisans and crafters, the City of Titusville, local community organizations -- Titusville Industrial Fund Inc., Titusville Council on the ArtsTitusville Chamber of Commerce and Titusville Renaissance Inc. --  and with our Northwest Partnership for Regional Economic Performance partners," explains Eckelberger.

In addition, TCDA is working with the Gannon Small Business Development Center to provide business support services to the vendors.

Source: Deb Eckelberger, TCDA
Writer: Elise Vider

Philadelphia's EnviroKure turns chicken waste into organic fertilizer

The words "Philadelphia" and "agricultural products" don’t usually go together, but the growing company EnviroKure is making organic fertilizers near the city's Tacony-Palmyra Bridge.

"Agriculture is of course a major industry throughout Pennsylvania," says company president and CEO Mark Lupke. "We located our pilot plant in Philadelphia for several reasons: access to raw materials, access to key personnel, engineers, and scientists, a great transportation system, and industrial facilities and zoning that were amenable to the operation of a fertilizer production plant. Not to mention that we are proud Philadelphians!"

EnviroKure produces liquid organic fertilizers with a proprietary technology that upcycles chicken manure by eliminating harmful pathogens and phosphorous, and refining the liquid for use by large-scale organic farming and natural turf management operations.

"Organic farmers are in need of a highly refined premium liquid organic fertilizer in order to increase their yields and adopt the latest and most technologically advanced agricultural methods," explains Lupke. "Poultry farmers are facing increasing restrictions on how they handle an overabundance of chicken manure; environmentalists and government officials are increasingly concerned about the pollution in the Chesapeake and other waterways caused by the excess phosphorous naturally occurring in manure."
 
From its 30,000-square-foot pilot plant, EnviroKure has already seen demand for its products extend beyond the mid-Atlantic, shipping by the tanker-load to Vermont, and by 300-gallon totes to citrus groves in Florida. The company recently completed a first round of funding (including an investment from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania) and is in discussions with several state agencies for the completion of a full-scale commercial plant by January 2017. The company is also entering a strategic partnership with a large independent fertilizer distributor and receiving strong interest from major organic growers.

"Our immediate goal is to gain increasing support from growers by demonstrating the quality and efficacy of our…product line," says Lupke. "Our long-term goal is to build multiple plants in agricultural areas to convert waste into the most valuable organic fertilizers currently on the market. Our vision is clear. We intend to be the first truly national manufacturer of USDA certified liquid organic fertilizers."

Source: Mark Lupke, EnviroKure
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern PA names seven top innovators

Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/NEP) will honor seven innovators for their ability to peer around corners at the annual Northeastern Pennsylvania Innovation Awards ceremony in May.

BFTP/NEP named Hometown’s Highwood USA as the company that best exemplifies entrepreneurial achievement. A manufacturer of extruded-plastic, synthetic-wood products for outdoor furniture, hot tubs/spas, decks and other exterior lumber uses, the company "demonstrates the successful leverage of Ben Franklin support to accelerate the growth of a young firm," said BFTP/NEP in a statement. "Founded in 2003, Highwood proactively and continuously innovates its processes, introduces new products, and identifies and develops untapped niches in the marketplace…Through thoughtful planning, bold strategy and skillful execution, the firm continues to grow, providing high-value jobs in Schuylkill County for years to come."

Slatington's Luminaire Testing Laboratory (LTL) was honored for its success as a BFTP incubator graduate. In 1989, LTL was the first company to locate in Allentown’s Bridgeworks Enterprise Center. In 2010, the owners sold the company to Underwriters Laboratories (UL), the well-known international electrical testing company. The founder recently launched another new company.

"The LTL story demonstrates the importance of business incubators in providing support to early-stage firms," explained BFTP. "It portrays a successful business exit, executed by a founder who was able to attract an international business to the region that continued to create and retain good jobs. Finally, the LTL story illustrates the commitment of a serial entrepreneur who is now developing a second venture."

LifeAire Systems in Allentown will be honored for product innovation. The company’s revolutionary air purification systems "will impact a continuum of patient care, beginning with the protection of the embryo, to the infant in the neonatal intensive care unit, to the patient in the operating room, and to the elderly in long-term care facilities."
        
Wilkes-Barre's EthosGen, meanwhile, is revolutionizing the $1 billion renewable energy market with a patented and proprietary Thermal Energy to Electric Power System. The company best demonstrates "a 'break-the-mold/ approach to integrating new or existing technology into its business," said BFTP/NEP.
        
BFTP/NEP also recognized Wilkes-Barre’s Medico Industries, which produces metal parts for oil and gas drilling companies, the automotive industry and other customers, for manufacturing achievement. "A focus on constant improvement has enabled the company to establish a truly flexible manufacturing facility that has economically transitioned through many changes in industrial needs," explains BFTP/NEP.
        
Andrew Stanten, president of Altitude Marketing in Emmaus, "an unwavering supporter of regional entrepreneurship [who] freely shares his expertise and experience widely with startups, established manufacturers and students in northeastern Pennsylvania" was named winner of the entrepreneurial advocate award. Edward J. McCann, Jr., retired COO of the Berks County Workforce Investment Board, will be honored for his "strong vision, dedication and commitment [that] have helped the Ben Franklin Technology Partners accomplish its goals."

The awards dinner is set for May 7 at the Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University.

Source: BFTP/NEP
Writer: Elise Vider

Virterras's greenhouse in northeastern PA will deliver fresh produce year-round

Virterras, a company that develops sustainable technologies in the energy, food and water industries, is planning a large state-of-the-art hydroponic greenhouse in northeastern Pennsylvania.

"Today, over 65 percent of all fresh produce in the U.S. is imported," explains Virterras President Walton Clark. "To survive the long-haul shipping, it's picked before it is ripe. Varieties are selected for shipping, maximum shelf life and visual appeal, but are completely lacking in taste and have limited nutritional value. To bring back taste we need to be producing locally." 

The first planned crop?

"Great-tasting local tomatoes picked at absolute ripeness for better taste and nutrition," he enthuses.

Several sites are under consideration for the first phase of the greenhouse, which will cover 10 acres under glass and is projected to create up to 40 jobs. Construction is projected to begin later this year, with the goal of expanding in multiple phases and over time to other Pennsylvania locations, boosting overall employment to up to 140. 

According to Clark, Virterras chose northeastern Pennsylvania based on the state's pro-business stance, access to the East Coast U.S. markets and help from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/NEP), which recently made a $50,000 investment in the company. 

"Virterras’ site selection in Pennsylvania, innovative facility design and environmentally sustainable growing practices will provide naturally ripened, fresh produce to local stores with significant improvements in product taste and nutrition," said BFTP/NEP when announcing its loan. "The market for fresh, local food is growing rapidly…and Virterras is part of a growing trend of bringing back local agriculture and jobs to Pennsylvania."

Virterras, whose corporate office is temporarily located in Moosic, Penn., acquires or partners with developers of new technologies, targeting industrial production methods and resources for energy, food and water.

"Virterras defines success in terms of environmental sustainability, economic sustainability and social responsibility," explains Clark. "By combining these principles with innovative technology, Virterras develops projects such as the greenhouse project."

Source: Walton Clark, Virterras
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Out of the Office, into the Kitchen: Allentown's Sarbari provides restaurant-purchasing software

Restaurants and food service providers, from small family-owned eateries to large restaurant groups, all devote significant resources to purchasing food and supplies. 

Sarbari, based in Allentown, aims to get restaurant personnel out of the office and into the kitchen, with a software solution that organizes supplier data, streamlines the ordering process, boosts productivity, and saves money on food and labor costs.

Founder and CEO Sebastian Serra started his career as a produce supplier in the North End of Boston, eventually starting his own company.

"After selling that company to a larger competitor, I saw a need for restaurant owners to have the ability to organize the pricing and product information from all the suppliers they were using," he recalls. "By starting with an Excel spreadsheet and creating formulas that helped them shop more intelligently, the restaurants saw savings in both time and money immediately."

That spreadsheet eventually led Serra to Allentown's Trifecta Technologies, which developed Sarbari’s web-based software program, and, most recently, to a new headquarters in downtown Allentown.

"We're excited to be part the amazing revitalization going on here," he says. "With our new space we now have plenty of room to operate. We're currently working to add new members to our operations team, and the sales team will expand into New York and Boston in the coming months. We expect to add five to 10 new jobs in the next six months."

Working with its clients, Sarbari has identified several new features for the next software update, scheduled for this summer. 

Source: Sebastian Serra, Sarbari  
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Genomics research collaboration launches; statewide network eases big data transmission

Penn State and Geisinger Research are collaborating on a massive effort to connect the genome data of 100,000 anonymous patients with their medical histories, in order to identify the genetic and environmental roots of human disease.

According to Marylyn Ritchie, director of the Center for Systems Genomics in the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences at Penn State, "this collaboration with Geisinger provides an enormous opportunity for faculty, graduate students and post docs across Penn State to engage in discovery that seeks to improve human health."

The new program was developed to harness the data resources being generated through a large-scale DNA-sequencing project at Geisinger in collaboration with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals; at least 100,000 Geisinger patients will be sequenced over the next five years.

"Geisinger has a unique and robust resource for big-data analysis and Penn State has phenomenal data-science researchers. It is a perfect combination," said Ritchie, who was named founding director of the new Biomedical and Translational Informatics Program of Geisinger Research. Ritchie was recruited to Penn State in 2011 as part of a genomics and computational biology cluster hire that brought more than 30 faculty members to multiple colleges at Penn State.

In an unrelated announcement, Geisinger Health System said it has become the first health care organization to be connected to the Pennsylvania Research and Education Network (PennREN), a public network exchange built and managed by the Keystone Initiative for Network Based Education and Research (KINBER) to provide broadband connectivity, foster collaboration and promote innovative use of digital technologies. 

"Geisinger is a PennREN pioneer in the health care arena, and its connection to our high performance network will enable opportunities for innovation, such as transmission of big data for genomic research, telemedicine, video consultation, remote patient monitoring and access to specialist care," said KINBER Executive Director Wendy Huntoon. 

"With [Geisinger] massively using genomics in its research and clinics, a dedicated, high-speed, data-transfer system like KINBER makes very large data-intensive collaborations easier," added Raghu Metpally, a bioinformatics scientist at Geisinger’s Sigfried and Janet Weis Center for Research.

Besides Geisinger, KINBER's membership includes Bucknell, Penn State and the University of Pittsburgh.

Source: Penn State and Geisinger Health System
Writer: Elise Vider

'Philadelphia Liberty Trail' raises Philly's national profile

Writer and world traveler Larissa Milne conjures a troubling statistic, based on the years she and her husband Michael have spent in cities across the globe, writing for the Inquirer and their own award-winning "Changes in Longitude" blog.

Outside of Philadelphia, Larissa estimates, "85 percent of people don’t know what a cheesesteak really is."

So their new book, Philadelphia Liberty Trail, published by Globe Pequot Press last month, includes a sidebar on "cheesesteak etiquette," while recommending some favorite local spots for tourists ready to venture beyond the neon lights of Pat’s and Geno’s.

"It’s a little bit different than the average guidebook that’s out there," explains Larissa. "The publisher wanted us to produce a creative book that was similar to…a book they’ve had out for many years on the Boston Freedom Trail."

Despite having more Revolutionary historic sites than Boston, Philadelphia lacks the equivalent of Boston’s famous Freedom Trail route. The couple set out to write the book that might create one.

While Liberty Trail includes advice on visiting slightly more far-flung sites such as Valley Forge, Fort Mifflin, Bartram’s Garden, and historic houses in Germantown, it focuses on the Revolutionary War history of Old City and Society Hill, and invites tourists beyond the usual stops at Independence National Historic Park. Some of the highlights in their book are the Physick HouseChrist Church and Washington Square. There's also advice on where to stay and where to park, how to go on foot or take SEPTA, and info on restaurants that might not otherwise be on the radar for visitors.
 
Michael, a New York native, and Larissa, who grew up in the Philly suburbs, lived at 11th and Pine Streets before making an unusual decision in 2011. They sold their house, quit their jobs, gave away their stuff, and began traveling the world and writing along the way. They still don’t have a permanent address, but talked with Flying Kite about their new book from their current perch in Arizona.
  
Larissa, who’s also a consultant with Ben Franklin Technology Partners, loves to fill visitors in on the real story of Pennsylvania Hospital, America’s oldest hospital, which many pass on bus tours, but few actually visit.
 
"Benjamin Franklin was very instrumental in getting funding for that hospital in the early 1750s," she says, after the local governing bodies declined to support it. Franklin spearheaded an effort to draw contributions for the project from local citizens: "It was like a Kickstarter campaign in 1750."
 
The Milnes hope their book can help make Philadelphia a worldwide tourist destination, not just for tri-state day-trips, but for visitors who will stay, eat and shop in the city for days.
 
"I grew up in New York, and the image of Philadelphia back in the old days was, well, it’s kind of a drive-by tourist destination," recalls Michael. "You didn’t stay overnight, you drive down, you see the Liberty Bell, you see Independence Hall, you get back in the car, you leave."
  
But with major publications like Fast Company magazine and The New York Times recognizing Philadelphia as a top global destination, the Milnes believe it’s a perfect time for a new kind of Philly guidebook. And after seeing the world for the last several years, they still insist there’s nowhere they’d rather settle.
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Larissa and Michael Milne,
 Philadelphia Liberty Trail 
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