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Eleven Southeast PA companies share $1.9 million in new funding

Eleven early-stage companies -- everything from a bagel bakery to a company that prints living tissue -- are recipients of $1.9 million in new investments from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania

Philadelphia's BioBots expects that within 20 years its 3-D bioprinters will allow patients with organ failure to receive custom replacement organs built by and constructed out of their own cells.

Another Philadelphia company, EnviroKure Inc., uses proprietary technology to produce liquid organic fertilizers. Their unique product upcycles chicken manure in a fully sustainable, highly efficient process to meet the needs of the fastest growing fertilizer markets in the United States: large-scale organic farming and natural turf management.

In Chester County, Essential Medical is developing X-SealTM and MANTATM, two innovative vascular closure devices for both small bore and large bore femoral closure. Vascular closure devices (VCDs) are used to close incisions in the leg artery after cardiac catheterizations.

Philadelphia's Fitly is a Digital Health Accelerator company. Fitly’s mission is to empower anyone who needs to eat healthy by making cooking easy, delicious and affordable. 

LifeVest, a Philadelphia company, sits at the intersection of physical and financial health. Using evidence-based science and behavioral economics, LifeVest motivates users to invest in their own wellbeing by rewarding them for learning about, tracking and improving their health.

Livegenic in Philadelphia delivers technology to enhance the customer service environment. It provides an easy way to gain a real-time video from the customer’s point of view through something most customers already have: a smartphone. Livegenic helps organizations reduce support costs, improve customer and employee satisfaction, and minimize business-related risks.

Mitochon Pharmaceuticals is a Delaware County biotech startup that focuses on developing drugs targeting the mitochondria for a host of serious diseases. The company’s development programs are primarily focused on neurodegenerative and neuromuscular diseases including Huntington’s, Batten Disease, Stroke, Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson Disease and severe burns, and secondarily on metabolic disorders due to over-nutrition (diabetes, obesity and NASH). Ongoing research has linked these diseases to various malfunctions of the mitochondria. By correcting them, Mitochon aims to open the way for a broad range of disease modifying therapies.

Montgomery County’s NETMINDER produces a unique protective coating, offering an environmentally acceptable way to protect aquatic gear such as salmon, cobia, and bluefin tuna nets; oyster cages; trays and bags; crab pots and other gear from the high costs of fouling.

Also based in Montgomery County, PAST offers its Software as a Service (SaaS) to help doctors efficiently distinguish patients who can safely use controlled substance prescription medication from those who require more complex care or additional safety considerations.
 
Locating in Philadelphia’s Manayunk neighborhood, Sweet Note Bakery is a gluten-free and allergen-free bagel manufacturer.

Montgomery County’s Zuppler is a global Internet commerce solution for restaurants and caterers. Zuppler powers millions of mobile and web food-ordering transactions using their proprietary SaaS platform. This enables consumers to order food from their preferred restaurants and caterers using any device via the restaurant’s branded website or mobile app.

Source: Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania 
Writer: Elise Vider

Pittsburgh's Idea Foundry adds advanced materials to its mission

Idea Foundry, a nonprofit Pittsburgh acceleration and commercialization organization, is adding a new arm focused on advanced materials. Expected to launch its first round in May, the program joins other Idea Foundry accelerators in healthcare and life sciences, social enterprise, entertainment and education technology, and water. Participants will be eligible for financial support, hands-on business development services and market collaboration opportunities with industry players.
 
"The new accelerator’s focus is fairly broad," says Director of Innovation Nehal Bhojak. "We will consider innovations in all areas of material science."

Initially those will include bioengineered materials, advanced materials such as synthetic engineered materials or super alloys, coatings and polymers. As the accelerator becomes established, Bhojak envisions an even more expanded focus.

Concurrent with the launch announcement comes the dissolution of the PA NanoMaterials Commercialization Center.

"The PA Nano Board agreed that nanotechnology ventures were more accurately defined as part of the large advanced materials field, which led to the new program to be administered by Idea Foundry," explains Robert Kumpf, a former PA Nano board member. The organization ceased to exist as of January 1.

Bhojak says Idea Foundry will "carry forward the original mission of the PA Nano Center through our tried and tested accelerator model." Besides managing the dissolution, Idea Foundry will use its own financial and team resources towards the new accelerator.

"Idea Foundry has always supported material science innovations and we have quite a few advanced materials companies in our portfolio," she adds. "The new accelerator will enable us to continue that support with more sector-specific focus."
 
Source: Nehal Bhojak, Idea Foundry
Writer: Elise Vider
 

With a big NSF grant and new accelerator, UPenn takes technology from lab to market

The University of Pennsylvania's new Penn Center for Innovation, described as "a dedicated, one-stop shop for commercial partnering with Penn," has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to foster entrepreneurship and commercialization.

Under the three-year grant, Penn is launching the Penn I-Corps Site, a new business accelerator, in collaboration with Wharton's Mack Institute for Innovation Management, Penn Medicine’s Center for Healthcare InnovationBen Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/SEP) and the City of Philadelphia.

In its grant announcement, Penn said the Penn I-Corps Site will "support translation of research areas into the marketplace by providing educational programming, financial advice and strategic guidance."

The accelerator gets underway this summer with 30 faculty-student interdisciplinary teams creating commercialization plans for their early-stage technology. The goal is to help the teams launch new ventures by the end of 2015 with well-developed business models that position them to apply for further NSF funding.

The Summer Accelerator Program is open to Penn faculty and students as well as local entrepreneurs. An organizational meeting is set for 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, February 24 at the World Café Live (3025 Walnut St., Philadelphia).

A committee comprised of investors, experienced entrepreneurs and industry experts will select the participants; the program will launch in May. The teams will have access to lectures and hands-on activities, guidance on developing and testing their business models, up to $2,500 in NSF funding for prototyping and other expenses, and connections to an extensive entrepreneurial network.

"We’re excited to work together to build a network of mentors and advisors to help the teams gain real-world experience in bringing technology from the lab to the market," explains RoseAnn Rosenthal, president and CEO of BFTP/SEP, "and to build a pipeline of investable enterprises that can creative economic value in our region."

Source: The Penn Center for Innovation
Writer: Elise Vider

 

Philadelphia Macaroni to the Rescue: Harrisburg acquisition saves 43 jobs

Philadelphia Macaroni Company, a more than 100-year-old, family-owned company, is operating a new pasta-making plant in Harrisburg, saving 43 jobs in the process.

The company makes dried pasta and noodles at the plant, which was previously operated by Unilever. The Harrisburg Regional Chamber & CREDC recently reported that Unilever had been contemplating vacating the facility. 

"Philadelphia Macaroni Company’s purchase agreement and business plan to operate from this facility effectively saved 43 full-time jobs in the city of Harrisburg," explained the Chamber.

"The Harrisburg plant was recently updated with state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment," said Philadelphia Macaroni President Luke Marano, Jr. when announcing the plans last year. "This facility, complemented by its dedicated and professional workforce, is a valuable asset critical to the future development, growth and success of Philadelphia Macaroni Company."

Philadelphia Macaroni Company was founded in 1914 in Philadelphia’s Italian Market. Today, a fifth generation of the founding family runs the company, headquartered in Philadelphia. In addition to the new Harrisburg plant, the company operates factories in Warminster, North Dakota and Washington State, and mills durum and hard red spring wheat at its Minot Milling division in North Dakota. Besides being one of the country’s oldest pasta makers, the company is one of the largest industrial pasta manufacturers in the U.S.

Company spokeswoman Linda Schalles declined to reveal terms of the sales agreement in Harrisburg, but according to the Capital Region Economic Development Corporation, the chamber’s economic development arm, the company recently closed on a $450,000 Enterprise Zone Loan towards the purchase of machinery and equipment at the facility.

More hiring is expected at the plant, Schalles adds.

Source: Linda Schalles, Philadelphia Macaroni Company; Harrisburg Regional Chamber & CREDC
Writer: Elise Vider

Seven BIG IDEAS compete for $200,000 in prizes from Ben Franklin Technology Parnters

Seven startups in Northwestern Pennsylvania are gearing up to pitch their innovations at the annual BIG IDEA competition sponsored by Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern Pennsylvania (BFTP/CNP).  

"Many people don’t realize that Ben Franklin makes investments in small manufacturers," said BFTP/CNP in announcing the competition. "This year, in order to remind companies to think about Ben Franklin as a resource when planning to introduce new or improved products to the market, our BIG IDEA Contest will focus on helping small manufacturers and entrepreneurs turn their ideas into real business opportunities."

The finalists will pitch their ideas to a panel of independent judges in April, with the winner announced in May. The winner’s prize package is valued at $200,000 and includes $50,000 in cash, an Innovation Adoption Grant up to $25,000 to work with a PA-based research university, priority access to a low-interest $100,000 loan from BFTP, 60 hours of Innovation Engineering project time from the NW Industrial Resource Center as well as access to an Advanced Manufacturing Apprentice to assist in prototype development or pre-commercialization services, a one-year pass to seminars offered by BFTP's eMarketing Learning Center  and a free consult (and proposal prep) on how to access federal R&D grant money from the Innovation Partnership.

BFTP/CNP President and CEO Stephen Brawley says the response to the 2015 BIG IDEA competition was overwhelming.

"There’s a lot of entrepreneurial energy in this area," he enthuses. "We had so many great applications, it was difficult to choose just a few finalists. It takes guts to put your ideas out there to be judged by strangers, and we applaud all who did. Those who did not make it into the finals, should feel free to contact Ben Franklin's Erie office if they want to pursue other options."

This year’s finalists are:Source: Liz Wilson, BFTP/CNP
Writer: Elise Vider
 

New report quantifies advanced manufacturing in the Commonwealth

A new report by the Brookings Institution offers a detailed look at how high-technology industries are faring in Pennsylvania, and how the Commonwealth compares to the rest of the nation.

The 50 industries, which Brookings defines as those that spend substantially on R&D and employ at least 20 percent of their workforce in STEM-intensive occupations, include the manufacturing, energy and services sectors. This so-called advanced industries super-sector is "crucial to future prosperity in the United States, but face[s] substantial competitiveness challenges," said the report.

As a whole, Pennsylvania had nearly 478,000 full-time workers (or 8.1 percent of all jobs) employed in advanced industries in 2013, ranking 23rd among the states. These direct jobs, with an average annual salary of more than $80,000, supported another nearly 382,000 jobs in other industries. Among the fastest growing statewide industries between 2010 and 2013 were oil and gas extraction (up 41.8 percent), foundries (up 13.9 percent), railroad rolling stock manufacturing (up 12.4 percent), and iron and steel products (up 12.3 percent).

Both Philadelphia at 43rd and Pittsburgh at 45th ranked high among larger metros in advanced industries employment.

"Nobody has deeper roots in industrial innovation than the Pittsburgh region," says Dennis Yablonsky, CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and its affiliates. "Advanced industries are in our DNA, and we believe they are critical to our future."

Brookings singled out Pittsburgh’s Aquion Energy, a Carnegie Mellon spinoff and maker of sodium ion batteries and energy storage systems, in a video.

Pittsburgh’s "sophisticated technology assets and experienced workforces…epitomize the kind of synergies a city can provide to a new company," explains Mark Muro of Brookings.

Among small metro areas, Chambersburg ranked 43rd, with advanced industries accounting for 10.5 percent of its jobs.

Source: Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program, Allegheny Conference on Community Development
Writer: Elise Vider

 

Dynamic marketing campaign pushes innovation on the I-99 corridor

Economic development officials in Centre, Blair and Bedford counties are at work on a fresh marketing campaign touting the I-99 corridor as a prime location for business growth.

"With the largest concentration of Keystone Innovation Zones and Penn State University’s leadership status in materials science, life sciences and information technologies, the I-99 corridor region is poised to take its marketing efforts to the next level to support local companies and attract new investment," says Lesley Kistner of the Chamber of Business & Industry of Centre County.

The campaign is aimed at site selectors, corporate decision makers and economic development officials; it includes an annual print publication scheduled to launch this summer and a revamped website. Besides CBICC, the partners are the Altoona-Blair County Development Corporation and the Bedford County Development Association.

The three counties began collaborating in 2001 on economic growth along I-99, which runs north-south, linking I-76 and I-80. From the outset, a key objective was to leverage the strengths of Penn State.

“So while work to promote the economic development assets of the corridor is not new, the effort has been re-energized at a time when its most recognizable asset -- Penn State University -- has made economic development a focal point," explains Kistner. "Under President Barron, [the school] has made dramatic improvements in its intellectual property policy -- all strong selling points that make the region attractive to business."

Adding to its appeal, the I-99 corridor has 10 Keystone Innovation Zone locations designed to link technology-based companies with university faculty and research support, and numerous Keystone Opportunity Zones, which feature a greatly reduced tax burden.

The corridor also offers easy access to "Penn State University and its world-class research across many fields of study, including a leadership in metallic materials additive manufacturing," adds Kistner. "Low-cost energy, a skilled workforce, a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem, a strategic location to Marcellus and Utica natural gas shale plays, and an efficient transportation system all combine to make the corridor and this region of central Pennsylvania attractive to business and industry."

Source: Lesley Kistner, Chamber of Business & Industry of Centre County
Writer: Elise Vider

 

Uber and Carnegie Mellon head down the road towards driver-less cars with new research lab

As it continues its efforts towards world domination, Uber, the popular tech-based car-ride service, is partnering with Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) on the Uber Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh.

"The center will focus on the development of key long-term technologies that advance Uber’s mission of bringing safe, reliable transportation to everyone, everywhere," the partners said in making the announcement.

The partnership will provide a forum for Uber technology leaders to work closely with CMU faculty, staff and students -- both on campus and at the National Robotics Engineering Center  -- to do research and development, primarily in the areas of mapping, vehicle safety and autonomy technology.

Uber apps connect drivers to riders who can summon and pay for rides via their mobile phones. Founded in 2009, Uber now operates in more than 200 cities in 54 countries worldwide.

"Uber is a rapidly growing company known for its innovative technology that is radically improving access to transportation for millions of global citizens," says Andrew Moore, dean of CMU’s School of Computer Science. "CMU is renowned for innovations that transform lives. We look forward to partnering with Uber as they build out the Advanced Technologies Center and to working together on real-world applications, which offer very interesting new challenges at the intersections of technology, mobility and human interactions."

The agreement also includes funding from Uber for faculty chairs and graduate fellowships.

"We are excited to join the community of Pittsburgh and partner with the experts at CMU, whose breadth and depth of technical expertise, particularly in robotics, are unmatched," says Jeff Holden, Uber’s chief product officer. "As a global leader in urban transportation, we have the unique opportunity to invest in leading edge technologies to enable the safe and efficient movement of people and things at giant scale. This collaboration and the creation of the Uber Advanced Technologies Center represent an important investment in building for the long term of Uber."

Source: Uber and Carnegie Mellon University
Writer: Elise Vider

 

Second Time Around: LightLab International Allentown reunites two veteran entrepreneurs

Two of the entrepreneurs behind the first client at Allentown’s Bridgeworks Enterprise Center are back a quarter-century later with a new venture, LightLab International Allentown.

Mike Grather and Tracy Silvert managed Luminaire Testing Labs (LTL) when it launched in 1989. Grather joined LTL as one of its first employees and purchased the company from its founder three years later. By the time LTL was sold 12 years later it had grown to $2 million in annual revenue with nine employees. Along the way, Grather hired Silvert to manage operations. 

Now the two are back together with an eye towards the expanding market for LED lighting.

"As we were growing LTL, we were able to fuel it by taking advantage of the expanding use of compact fluorescent lights (CFL) and the subsequent introduction of LED lamps," says Grather. "Because of their energy efficiency, we are seeing that LED bulbs are proliferating in the market much like CFL bulbs did. It’s a market that we know well and are very excited to re-enter."

LightLab International Allentown, which plans to be operational by April, will be an ISO-accredited photometric testing laboratory providing testing services for the lighting industry (primarily the North American market). Typical products for testing would include bulbs (replacement lamps) and lighting fixtures (luminaires) for use in interior, outdoor, parking-area, roadway and floodlighting applications.

"There is an industry-wide need for technical customer support to help lighting manufacturers navigate the many new standards, specifications and regulations that have arisen in the past five to 10 years," explains Grather. "We also have the experience needed to work with manufacturers’ engineering departments to help customize testing to fit their research and development needs."
 
LightLab International is based in Australia, where they manufacture testing equipment, and perform testing and calibration services. LightLab opened a testing laboratory in Phoenix, Arizona in 2011. The Allentown operation will operate under the LightLab name, but will be its own entity with its own management.

"Like any other startup, we raised our own funding, operate on our own finances, and will proceed with business without any managerial or financial involvement from the other labs," insists Grather.

Hence the location in a business incubator.

"This is the story every business incubator looks for," says Anthony Durante, program manager for Allentown Economic Development Corporation. "We are bringing back an entrepreneur who had successfully grown and exited a company that originated in our program. The team is back because they know firsthand the benefits of being part of a program like ours."

Sources: AEDC and Mike Grather, LightLab International Allentown
Writer: Elise Vider

 

Girl Power: DreamIt Athena announces its first class of female entrepreneurs

Philadelphia’s DreamIt Athena, a new accelerator track aimed at female entrepreneurs, has announced its first cohort. The selected companies will take up residence at DreamIt Ventures HQ, housed at the Innovation Center @3401, through May. They will each receive $25,000 in seed money, along with female-centric guidance on raising capital, developing mentors and networks, and self-promoting.

"Female entrepreneurs face a level of scrutiny that places them at a disadvantage from the start," says Karen Griffith Gryga, DreamIt’s managing partner. "For all the talk about the unique challenges female founders face, there's been little action in how to solve such issues. DreamIt took the lead by being the first top-tier accelerator to solve the problem. We’re going beyond typical platforms of discussion and networking [and hope to] change the dynamic of what’s been the startup norm for far too long. 

"DreamIt Athena aims to make a significant difference by providing specific, dedicated resources that help remove the all-too-common barriers," she continues. "[That way] female founders can develop the required skill sets to build sustainable, competitive businesses. Without a doubt, we expect to see significant personal development and company milestones throughout the cycle."

The Athena companies are:

Captain Planner (Boston) streamlines the process of trip-planning by aggregating information on attractions, restaurants and events, while providing reviews and map-centric itineraries. 

Forecastr (Detroit) provides ready-made analytics and predictive recommendations specifically tailored for television executives available via the cloud. 

LIA Diagnostics (Philadelphia) is developing a flushable pregnancy test, helping women address the challenges surrounding privacy, usability and sustainability in current at-home diagnostics. 

Ohneka Farms (Mount Laurel, N.J.) is a social enterprise focusing on urban farming products and services. They are developing ROOT, a smart countertop planter that enables users to grow organic edible plants at home with minimal maintenance.
 
Roar For Good (Philadelphia) is a social impact company with the mission of reducing assaults against women through wearable technology, empowerment and education. The initial product line combines fashionable self-defense jewelry and mobile technology to reduce the incidences of assault against women. 

The Athena companies will work alongside these other startups at DreamIt:

Bungalow Insurance (San Diego) is building the first online, independent, renters’ insurance platform to improve insurance experiences for millennials. 
  
Commit Analytics (King of Prussia) optimizes human performance using machine learning algorithms to design data-driven solutions for athletes and health-conscious consumers. 
 
IglooHome (Singapore) is developing smart home technologies that offer Airbnb hosts a novel way to welcome guests; they focus on convenience, safety and cost savings. 
 
LocoRobo (Philadelphia) is a non-profit robotics company whose mission is to provide educational and scientific training using high-quality robotics platforms, promoting STEM education and workforce development. 
 
Whose Your Landlord (Elliott City, Maryland) is a website and mobile app enabling renters to rate their landlords and housing complexes, and giving them the ability to find their next home. 

Source: Karen Griffith Gryga, DreamIt Ventures
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Ultra energy-efficient Scranton Passive House nears completion

Construction is nearly complete on the Scranton Passive House, which promises to use 80 percent less energy that its more conventional downtown neighbors.

Milford architect Richard Pedranti designed the structure after completing training on passive architecture in 2013.

"Passive house offers an elegant solution to reducing the consumption of nonrenewable resources in our buildings," he explains. "But equally important, passive house is about building comfortable, healthy and durable buildings with excellent indoor air quality."

Passive houses conserve energy by creating a virtually airtight, super-insulated, compact building envelope. Using detailed and specific weather data, high-performance windows are oriented to control solar gain and shading. A heat (or energy) recovery ventilator serves as the lungs of a passive house by providing a constant supply of filtered fresh air.

According to Pedranti, there are about 30,000 to 50,000 passive houses in Europe; North America has fewer than 300 such structures and the Scranton House is the first in northeastern Pennsylvania. 

(Passive architecture is applicable to all building types, from a single-family house to a skyscraper, and can be designed according to any aesthetic, according to the Passive House Institute U.S.) 

Christie Karpiak and Declan Mulhall, both professors at the University of Scranton, commissioned the Scranton Passive House and plan to move in in April. Construction costs for the 2,100 square foot house were $165 per square foot, not including land and fees.

Pedranti is now at work on four more single-family passive houses in the area.

Source: Richard Pedranti, Richard Pedranti Architect
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Erie Insurance opens first of its big downtown projects

Erie Insurance has cut the ribbon on its new state-of-the-art Technical Learning Center, the first of a trio of real estate projects in downtown Erie.

The 52,000-square-foot claims training facility incorporates a three-story model house (boasting an attic and basement, and made from 400 different building materials), as well as sprinkler and building material work stations. The center also includes 14 vehicle bays with lifts, frame repair stations, wheel alignment machines, and prep and paint booths. 

"This training facility will enable employees to touch, feel, build and get a firsthand look at damage they encounter in the field," said Erie executive Chip Dufala in a statement. 

For many years, Erie had outsourced its claims training to third-party vendors.

"By creating an in-house training experience, we can ensure consistency in the learning environment and techniques, and better instill the Erie approach to customer service," explains company spokeswoman Leah Knapp. "The skills we’ll teach will help us get our customers back in their homes, back on the road and back to normal after a loss."

Erie is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year and is on track with two other major development projects near its downtown home office. One is the transformation of the 100-year-old C. F. Adams Building, an early company headquarters, into the Erie Insurance Heritage Center. The other is the renovation of the 93-year-old Pennsylvania National Guard Armory into office space for the company, expanding its downtown campus footprint.

Redeveloping historic properties, "enables us to maintain the rich history of this region and incorporate it with the needs of a contemporary business," said Dufala when announcing the downtown plans in 2013.

CBT Architects of Boston designed the training center and its adjacent parking garage. The new facility also includes an installation by found-object artist Michelle Stitzlein, who recreated the Erie logo from repurposed automotive and building materials.
 
Source: Leah Knapp, Erie Insurance
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Pew names Pennsylvania a 'rising clean energy leader'

Pennsylvania has developed a fast-growing clean energy economy, attracting billions in investment dollars for solar, wind, hydropower and other renewable energy technologies, according to a recent report by the Pew Charitable Trusts

Pew found that between 2009 and 2013, Pennsylvania added nearly 1.4 gigawatts of clean energy capacity and attracted $3.5 billion in private investment. In 2013, Pennsylvania ranked sixth nationally in attracting private investment in clean energy at $841 million.

New project installations over the next decade are expected to add five gigawatts of capacity and generate $17.7 billion in investment, Pew added.

The organization attributes much of the activity to the state’s 2004 Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards, and to federal and state incentives. 

"By setting a goal for renewable energy and offering incentives for clean energy projects, Pennsylvania has been able to attract private investment, create new jobs and diversify its energy mix," said Tom Swanson, manager of Pew’s clean energy initiative.

The state’s Energy Portfolio Standards call for 18 percent of the state’s electricity to come from advanced energy sources by 2021 -- eight percent from renewable power and the remaining 10 percent from other advanced technologies, including efficiency and innovations in fossil energy. Pew reported that because of this policy, solar power and industrial energy efficiency have grown rapidly -- 212 megawatts and 3.3 gigawatts respectively since 2013.

State and federal incentives have also boosted clean energy. Today, wind energy and hydropower account for the majority of the state’s renewable capacity. Pennsylvania’s installed wind capacity is enough to power over 300,000 homes. Pennsylvania ranks ninth in homes powered by solar (nearly 25,000), 11th in capacity added in 2013, and 11th in jobs supported by the industry (2,900).

Industrial energy efficiency technologies -- such as combined heat and power from a single fuel source, and reusing waste heat -- are also in play. In 2013, Pennsylvania ranked sixth for total installed capacity of these technologies, eighth for capacity added that year and eighth for private investment in the sector. 

Still, challenges remain. For example, Pew cited the import of electricity from out-of-state solar projects, "effectively outsourcing some of the economic benefits the standards were designed to generate in-state."

Source: The Pew Charitable Trusts
Writer: Elise Vider

Promising healthcare research gets funding from University City Science Center

Researchers in Greater Philadelphia developing technologies for high-speed eye exams, cancer treatment and healthcare sanitation will receive funding through the seventh round of the University City Science Center's  QED Proof-of-Concept Program

The program, started in 2009, funds novel university technologies with market potential, bridging the gap between academic research and product commercialization. To date, 24 QED projects have attracted $14.8 million in follow-on funding, leading to six licensed technologies.

"QED continues to resonate with both the academic and funding community," says Science Center President and CEO Stephen S. Tang. "The number of submissions continues to increase round over round as academic researchers identify ways to commercialize their emerging technologies. At the same time, the support of our funders enables us to continue to facilitate the development of these exciting technologies and contribute to the robust life science ecosystem in the Greater Philadelphia region."

The new awardees include: 
  • Dr. Chao Zhou of Lehigh University, who is developing a diagnostic instrument that will allow faster, more sensitive eye exams for macular degeneration and glaucoma, improving an approach known as optical coherence tomography (OCT).
  • Dr. William Wuest of Temple University, who is developing the next generation of disinfectants for a variety of commercial industries including healthcare, transportation, water and energy.
  • Dr. Sunday Shoyele of Thomas Jefferson University, who is developing a product for delivering highly-degradable gene inhibitors to cancer and other cells using antibody-based nanoparticles.
The QED grants will also support stem cell research at Rutgers University. The awardees will receive a total of $650,000 in funding, along with guidance from the Science Center's team of business advisors.

Source: University City Science Center
Writer: Elise Vider

Penn State researchers determine that printed books are better for sleep than e-readers

You there curled up late at night with your smartphone, tablet or e-reader. Having trouble sleeping? It may be that exposure to the device's light is messing with your circadian clock.

According to Researchers at Penn State, study participants took nearly 10 minutes longer to fall asleep and had a significantly lower amount of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep after reading from a light-emitting e-reader than they did after reading from a printed book.

Exposure to light during evening and early nighttime hours suppresses release of the sleep-facilitating hormone melatonin and shifts the circadian clock, making it harder to fall asleep at bedtime. And electronic devices emit a form of light that "is different from natural light in composition, having a greater impact on sleep and circadian rhythms," says Anne-Marie Chang, assistant professor of bio-behavioral health, who led the project.

Chang and colleagues observed 12 adults for two weeks, comparing when the participants read from an iPad before bedtime to when they read from a printed book before bedtime. The researchers monitored the participants' melatonin levels, sleep and next-morning alertness, as well as other sleep-related measures.

"Our most surprising finding was that individuals using the e-reader would be more tired and take longer to become alert the next morning," explains Chang. "This has real consequences for daytime functioning, and these effects might be worse in the real world as opposed to the controlled environment we used."

Chang anticipates that the findings will lead to further investigation of the effects of light-emitting technologies on sleep, including, for example, the timing of exposure to this light at different times of day.

"We hope this will lead to the development of technological devices that are more 'sleep compatible,'" she says. "We live in a sleep-restricted society in general -- it is important to further study the effects of using light-emitting devices, especially before bed, as they may have longer term health consequences than we previously considered."

Source: Anne-Marie Chang, Penn State University
Writer: Elise Vider
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