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2019 Articles | Page: | Show All

A father-daughter team spearheads Kempton's Tree Armor

In 1992, when Jill Saunders was a year old, her family planted 20 sycamores and maples on their Kempton farm. Since then, only one of those trees has survived the year-round damage done by deer.
 
Jill and her father, Jim, tried wrapping their trees with a variety of tree guards -- "glorified ace bandages," recalls Jill. Eventually, the pair decided to design a better tree guard.
 
Their invention, Tree Armor, is a coiled PVC plastic engineered to unwind around any size trunk. The product is brown and almost invisible from a short distance. It is reusable, perforated to prevent mold and mildew, and certified to be free of heavy metals and other toxins that can leach into the ground, a critical factor for orchard farmers and food growers.
 
And the product is now made in America, a special point of pride for the Saunders family.

"Dad and I took our prototypes to 12 different extruders in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware," says Jill. "Some wouldn't even bid on making samples. Others couldn't give us a price that we could sell at. We were frustrated when we sent the prototypes to China. The Chinese were glad to make our initial order -- the price was right and the quality was pretty good. The second order came back at a higher cost and the quality wasn't nearly as good. That last order made us more determined to find an American manufacturer."
 
A sales call to Lehigh University resulted in an introduction to Lehigh’s Small Business Development Center; they connected Tree Armor with GSH Industries in Ohio, who began manufacturing the product in November.
 
That third run of 30,000 pieces is selling well over the Internet, and Tree Armor hopes to move into big-box retail. Meanwhile, the Saunders have invented a new product, Tree Armor Plus, a tree guard impregnated with a scent that repels deer, rabbits and rodents. 
 
Source: Jill Saunders, Tree Armor
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Penn State student entrepreneurs earn scholarship support

Coffee, tea, beer, spirits -- how do makers of craft beverages like these measure and quantify flavor in a consistent, even standardized, way? 

Analytical Flavor Systems aims to solve that problem with Gastrograph, a tech-based flavor analysis system for artisan products.

Jason Cohen founded the company in 2012 as an outgrowth of his undergraduate research at Penn State. Now co-founder and frontend developer John Dori, a junior at Penn State's College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST), has been awarded the David Rusenko Entrepreneur-in-Residence Scholarship, which carries a $10,000 stipend, along with support from a faculty mentor and the opportunity to earn six credits while working on the startup.

Gastrograph is based on Cohen's research "and thousands of Gastrograph reviews done in pen and paper and manually entered into a database in order to help producers of artisan coffee, beer and spirits understand their products' flavor profiles and make a more consistent product," explains Dori.

The company currently has nine employees (including Ted Papaioannou, the other co-founder) who live and work together in State College, and four customers: Otto's Brewery, Robin Hood Brewery, DJ Coffee and Perfect Coffee.

"We've begun development on two sensors that will be used inside of coffee roasters and beer tanks as the products are made," says Dori. "[This provides] the producer with as much data about their product as possible."

The startup is also planning to release an iOS version of its Gastrograph Review app by September.

Meanwhile, IST sophomore Jules Dupont received the Rusenko Emerging Entrepreneur Scholarship for his startup, Mobile Library Apps, a product that provides mobile access to library catalogs. 

Rusenko, a 2007 IST alumnus and co-founder of Weebly, a San Francisco-based web hosting service, donated $400,000 in 2012 to establish the scholarships.

For more on how PA colleges and universities are fostering entrepreneurship, check out this week's lead feature.

Source: John Dori, Analytical Flavor Systems; Jules Dupont, Mobile Library Apps and IST
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Robotics and technology keep Hatfield's Rodon Group 'cheaper than China'

At a time when many American manufacturers were busily outsourcing to China, Hatfield's Rodon Group -- and its sister company, K’NEX Brands -- doubled down on domestic production. Their multi-million dollar investment in new presses, robotics and advanced computer mold-making equipment has translated into robust growth and a proud claim of being "cheaper than China."

Rodon was founded in 1956. Today it is a third-generation family plastic injection molder that manufactures billions (with a "B") of small plastic parts every year -- everything from hose washers to push pins to all manner of connectors, brackets and fasteners. About 25 percent of its output is parts for K'NEX, the toy company founded in 1992 by Joel Glickman, Rodon's then-chairman. 

Today Glickman's son-in-law, Michael Araten, is CEO of both companies; each employ about 100 people and operate out of two 125,000-square-foot plants, about a mile apart.

Rodon's prices are competitive with foreign-made products, says Araten, in part because of the company's vertical integration. The company designs its products at no charge, fabricates its own molds at considerable savings to the customer and has heavily automated its manufacturing.

"By doing all that in one place, we have efficiency and economy of scale," he explains.

In addition, their heavy investment in technology, especially in robotics over the last five to seven years, enables 24/7 production and also helps negate China's cheap labor advantage. 

With 19 percent average annual growth since 2009, Rodon is continuing to add capacity. Thanks to an imminent $2 million investment, the company is adding more plastic injection molding presses (to its current 105), new robots and other upgrades. Rodon is also pondering a physical expansion into a separate warehousing and distribution facility. Araten projects that the combined workforce will grow 5 to 10 percent by 2016.

According to Araten, expanding markets supporting the growth include construction (think plumbing parts and hardware), food and beverage (bottle caps), and apparel (buttons and zipper pulls).

Source: Michael Araten, The Rodon Group and K’NEX Brands
Writer: Elise Vider

PA businesses -- large and small, east and west -- to be honored with ImPAct Awards

An array of Pennsylvania companies -- everything from ABEC Inc. in Bethlehem to Zook Motors in Kane -- are finalists in the 2014 Governor’s ImPAct Awards

For the second year, the awards are aimed at celebrating "companies and individuals who are investing in Pennsylvania and creating jobs." The awards will be given at a May 30 luncheon at Hershey Lodge.

The finalists paint a picture of the Pennsylvania economy -- they range from small businesses to vast enterprises, startups to long-established companies, represent geographic diversity and come from a wide array of sectors. Where else would you find Webster’s Bookstore and Café in State College nominated in the same category as financial services giant Vanguard in Valley Forge?

The PA Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) led the process for nominations and selecting finalists. Two panels of judges from different parts of the state chose the 50 winners. Any size company is eligible, as long as they have significant operations in Pennsylvania and have been in business for at least one year. 

The awards will be given in five categories: Community Impact to a company that exemplifies the tenet of "doing well by doing good"; Entrepreneur Impact to recognize leadership via creativity, innovation, managerial ability, leadership skills or turnaround; Export Impact to a company that has significantly increased its export sales and number of new foreign markets since 2011; Jobs First, to recognize consistent job growth and retention; and Small Business Impact to a growing firm of 100 or fewer employees. 

Source: DCED and Laura Eppler, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern PA
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Downingtown's Bolt On Technology automates auto shops

While teaching adult computer classes in the late 90s, Mike Risich got an education in just how badly the automotive repair industry needed technology when a student with a repair shop asked for help. 

"This has been an industry that relies on pen and pencil," explains Risich. With a background in software development, he set out to digitize operations and make independent shop owners more efficient and more profitable. 

Risich worked nights and weekends on his fledgling venture before launching Bolt On Technology in 2008. Today, the Downingtown company offers more than a dozen tech solutions aimed at the auto repair industry. 

Its best seller is the Mobile Manager Pro, which does everything from scanning vehicle identification numbers (VIN) to recording and sharing multi-point inspection notes, estimates, service recommendations, photos, invoices and scheduled appointments. According to Risich, back in the day, just getting the 17-alpha-numeric-character VIN code accurately recorded from a mechanic’s handwritten scratches was a feat.

And every vehicle owner knows how easy it is to disregard those little oil-change-reminder stickers on the windshield. Lube Sticker Pro determines future appointments based on driving habits, the type of oil used and other factors, and schedules them in the shop’s point-of-sale system. Customers get automated text alerts reminding them of appointments.

Snap-on, the toolmaking giant, licensed three of Bolt On’s software products in 2011, a major step for the company, which continues to grow. New products under development include one that generates custom coupons (in the way that groceries do) and another than uses EZPass-type technology to track the efficiency of equipment and workers. 

Only two years ago, Bolt On consisted of Risich and two employees. Now the company has expanded its office from 1,600-square-feet to more than 4,000 and employs 13 people. He expects to have a crew of 20 by year's end as Bolt On ramps up internal sales with advertising and a heavy presence at trade shows nationally.

Source: Mike Risich, Bolt On Technology
Writer: Elise Vider

 

Carnegie Mellon and Broadway's Tony Awards team up to honor theater educators

When nominations for the Tony Awards, Broadway's annual prizes, were announced last week, most of the buzz was about actors like Bryan Cranston and shows like Aladdin.

But also announced was a new venture with Carnegie Mellon University -- the Pittsburgh institution has been named the Tony Awards’ first exclusive higher education partner. As part of the collaboration, the two organizations will jointly create and launch the first national recognition program honoring kindergarten through high-school (K-12) theater educators.

CMU’s School of Drama is the oldest drama degree-granting program in the United States, celebrating its centennial this year. In the past century, CMU has produced hundreds of Tony nominees and 31 Tony winners, including eight winners in 2013 alone. 

"Not only because we are celebrating the School of Drama centennial, but also because we believe in the power of arts education, the partnership with the American Theatre Wing and The Broadway League [the Tony sponsors] made perfect sense," says Dan Martin, dean of CMU's College of Fine Arts. "Carnegie Mellon University is often referred to as one of the only universities that successfully combines education in the arts and technology, and we truly are dedicated to preparing students for a well-rounded future that reflects what they have learned here. We want to recognize arts educators as people who make a difference in their students' lives, from their earliest educational experience onward. With the Tony Awards and this educators' honor, we are able to play a part in doing that."

Nominations for the new theater educators’ award will open in September. The winning teacher will receive the "Tony Honor for Excellence in Theatre Education presented by Carnegie Mellon University" on-stage at the 2015 Tony Awards. The trip to New York City will be included and a financial contribution will be made to the theater arts program at the winner’s school.

Source: Pam Wigley, CMU and Tony Awards
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Wyndridge Farm takes on new life as cider maker and special events venue

Steve and Julie Groff bought their idyllic 77-acre Dallastown farm 13 years ago as a place to raise their kids -- and their horses -- while Steve pursued his career as an orthopedic surgeon and founder of OSS Health, a regional health system. 

But two years ago, after a serious bike accident and trauma surgery of his own, Groff decided it was time to live his dream. Today, the family’s Wyndridge Farm is being developed to support several businesses and as a place, according to Groff, "to celebrate life." 

The farm is already producing "Crafty Cider," a hard cider made from locally-sourced apples. Cider is the fastest growing segment of the alcohol market, and Wyndridge's champagne-style cider is selling well at regional locations. The farm is also is moving into production of a second craft beverage, details to follow.

Renovations are nearly complete on the 120-year-old barn, which, along with new buildings, will open this summer for special events. With a new commercial kitchen, seating for several hundred, and indoor and outdoor facilities, Groff expects to host weddings, reunions, trade shows, corporate meetings and other special events by fall. 

As the events operation ramps up, Wyndridge has built a staff of five full-timers, including an executive chef, event planners, a general manager and a cider master. 

The farm was recently awarded a $2.1 million Small Business Administration loan through the York County Economic Alliance.

"We’re really excited about being an economic driver for this area," says Groff.

Source: Steve Groff, Wyndridge Farm
Writer: Elise Vider

BFTP/NEP names its Innovation Award winners

Five cutting-edge companies and three invdividuals are being honored for their achievements as innovators and entrepreneurs by Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/NEP). The winners of the 2014 Innovation Awards will be honored at the Ben Franklin i xchange event, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 6 at the Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University. They are:
 
Saladax Biomedical, Inc., Bethlehem, for entrepreneurial achievement 
Saladax develops and commercializes diagnostic blood test kits that quickly, accurately and inexpensively personalize chemotherapy drug levels for optimal results. Saladax originally planned to launch in New Jersey, but chose instead to start in Ben Franklin's TechVentures. Saladax now holds 82 international patents and employs 45. 
 
Viddler, Inc., Bethlehem, incubator graduate award
Viddler delivers secure, interactive media solutions for thousands of business communication, learning and publishing clients in more than 150 countries. Viddler graduated from TechVentures in September 2011 and today employs 22 at its new Southside Bethlehem headquarters.
 
XiGo Nanotools,  Bethlehem, product innovation
XiGo Nanotools has commercialized three table-top devices for characterizing the nature of particles -- or emulsion droplets -- in liquids using patented magnetic resonance imaging technology. Ben Franklin invested a total of $400,000 in XiGo; the company is a resident at TechVentures.
 
Vitrius Technologies, Wilkes-Barre, innovative application of technology 
Vitrius Technologies provides smart window systems for the residential, commercial and architectural markets. Ben Franklin invested a total of $320,000 in Vitrius, and provided financial support for sales efforts and industry-required testing. The company is now beginning to commercialize its groundbreaking products.
 
Cambridge-Lee Industries LLC, Reading, manufacturing achievement
Cambridge-Lee Industries, the second largest plumbing tube manufacturer in the country, recently constructed a new 195,000-square-foot manufacturing facility to produce thin-wall copper tubes for the commercial HVAC market. (For more on Cambridge-Lee, check out this Q&A with CEO Andi Funk.)
 
PA Senator John R. Gordner and PA Senator John P. Blake, Special Achievement Senators
Gordner’s and Blake’s bi-partisan legislative efforts on behalf of the Ben Franklin Technology Partners will result in much-needed investment capital to significantly leverage private investment in promising companies for future job growth. They worked tirelessly to pass the crucial Innovate in PA legislation, providing a three-year infusion of funds to allow Ben Franklin to make impactful investments in deserving Pennsylvania companies.

Former PA Governor Dick Thornburgh, Partnership
Governor Dick Thornburgh was the leader with the foresight to establish the Ben Franklin Partnership in 1982. His idea has emerged as a resounding success and his work a lasting legacy. The Ben Franklin Technology Partners has dramatically strengthened the Pennsylvania economy and improved the lives of thousands of entrepreneurs, workers and their families.

Last year, more than 550 tech entrepreneurs, business people, economic developers, venture capitalists, political leaders, educators, students, bankers, lawyers and accountants attended i xchange; that number is expected to grow again this year. Jeff Hoffman, veteran of seven startups, including Priceline.com, will give the keynote address. The registration fee is $65 in advance; $75 the day of the event. To learn more or to register, visit nep.benfranklin.org or ennect.com/e2331, email ixchange@nep.benfranklin.org or call 610-758-5200.

Source: BFTP/NEP
Writer: Elise Vider
 

CMU architects develop a dashboard to reduce office energy use

Office workers don’t get a utility bill for the energy they use at work, points out Ray Yun, a doctoral student at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Architecture. For his dissertation, he decided to create an effective way for desk jockeys to save energy. The result is the Intelligent Dashboard, a web-based application that shows users' real-time energy usage and allows to them to manage their consumption using manual and automated controls.  

"What I am most proud of is helping people to see energy saving opportunities," says Yun. "Office workers have no big incentive to put any effort into conserving energy at work since they don’t pay the bills. Without providing rewards or penalties or forcing workers to use our dashboard, we have successfully assisted them in voluntarily acting on behalf of the environment."

The dashboard evaluates "plug load energy use" -- plug load refers to how many things are actually plugged into outlets at an individual desk. They all pull from the grid. 

Eighty employees at a major Pittsburgh corporation field-tested the dashboard, using plug-in devices manufactured by Plugwise that measure the energy consumption of each device and provide digital on-off control. 

After six weeks, the group with a full suite of energy monitors, online controls and the ability to place their work schedule on a calendar to control unnecessary plug loads, averaged 35.4 percent savings in their plug load energy consumption.

The research was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Consortium for Building Energy Innovation and Yun believes it has commercial potential. The research team, which also includes Azizan Aziz, Vivian Loftness, Bertrand Lasternas, Peter Scupelli, Chenlu Zhang, Yunjeong Mo and Jie Zhao, is looking to expand the technology to other sectors in building energy management such as lighting, HVAC and building temperature. 

Source: Ray Yun, Carnegie Mellon University
Writer: Elise Vider

 

From Steel to Space: Pittsburgh joins global NASA hackathon

The sky was not the limit for three teams of entrepreneurs who gathered on April 12-13 in Pittsburgh as part of the International Space Apps Challenge, a worldwide hackathon sponsored by NASA and intended "to address global needs applicable to both life on Earth and life in space."

All three Pittsburgh teams will go on to global judging against projects devised in 76 straight hours of hacking that kicked off in Doha, Qatar and ended in Seattle.

Opentree aims to provide a simple and efficient way to measure the height of urban trees, providing useful data to scientists. "Citizen scientists" can photograph trees and upload the images to Flickr. The Opentree website can then calculate the tree size and store the data.

Pimios is a web-based application intended to aggregate data from multiple locations about space events such as lunar eclipses, solar flares, shooting stars, asteroids and even UFO sightings. 

Integrex's goal is to create wearable technology capable of monitoring astronaut vitals, including blood pressure, heart rate and temperature. 

Richard Behana, one of the Pittsburgh organizers, is an Iraq veteran and serial entrepreneur who, as a child, dreamed of being an astronaut. He recently founded Space Challenges, a nonprofit organization that promotes STEM education through competitions that use space exploration as inspiration. The STEM Lunar Challenge, a related project, will kick off this summer in partnership with Astrobotic Technology, the Pittsburgh company working on a 2015 moon launch.

Behana, working with Nahom Beyene, Kit Mueller and Lee Ngo, organized the Pittsburgh hackathon in only five weeks, and expects it to be the first of many as the Steel City looks to space as its next frontier.

Source: Richard Behana, International Space Apps Challenge
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Zombies urge millenials to sign up for health care

Are you covered for injuries sustained in a zombie attack?

Neumann University senior Kathleen Poliski posed that question in a video, the grand prize winner in a competition sponsored by Philadelphia's Independence Blue Cross (IBX). 

The IBX: 90 Seconds challenge was aimed at encouraging millennials -- those born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s -- to meet the deadline for health care plan registration under the Affordable Care Act.

"We anticipated that millennials might be late to sign up, so we came up with creative ways to engage with them," says Paula Sunshine, IBX vice president of consumer sales and marketing. "Using social media was an obvious choice…Our goal was to reach people where they live, work and play."

The February call for 90-second videos resulted in hundreds of submissions; viewers across social media platforms selected the winners from 16 finalists.

"This is the first time we’ve done something like this and the response was tremendous," says Sunshine. "We enlisted our local colleges and universities to help generate interest and spread the word." (Temple University scored $10,000 as the participating school with the most video entry votes.)

Poliski was inspired while watching The Walking Dead over spring break. She recruited 15 friends and classmates, and used dollar-store makeup leftover from Halloween to transform them into zombies. The whole thing was shot in a day. 

A community and media arts major, Poliski, 21, is graduating next month; the prize-winning video is part of her reel as she searches for a first job in video production.

"It couldn’t have come at a better time," she says.  

As for zombie apocalypse coverage -- it depends on your plan.

Source: Paula Sunshine, IBX and Kathleen Poliski, Neumann University
Writer: Elise Vider

 

Hörmann opens the doors at its state-of-the-art new plant outside Pittsburgh

Hörmann High Performance Doors, a German company with a manufacturing presence in the Pittsburgh region since 1981, has officially opened a custom-built, state-of-the-art facility at Starpointe Business Park in Burgettstown.  
 
Hörmann acquired land and built the $7 million, 68,000-square-foot facility -- designed by Pittsburgh architects Pfaffmann & Associates in coordination with counterparts in Germany -- from the ground up. It includes a production floor, a full-size showroom and offices. The plant makes high-speed, roll-up doors for industrial and commercial markets, such as car dealerships, fire stations, parking garages and sports stadiums.
 
According to Alice Permigiani, the company's marketing director, Hörmann outgrew its old plant in Leetsdale. The company has been steadily growing, doubling its output over the past three years. Building an all-new facility enabled them to create "a layout that makes the overall production process much more efficient,"she  explains. It also gave the company a showroom, which features full-size doors, and is used for sales and training.
 
Most significantly, the new facility enables Hörmann to accommodate future growth -- the company anticipates expanding in two phases to an eventual buildout of 220,000 square feet.
 
The new plant is pursuing LEED Silver certification for its green design, including energy conservation features, recycled materials, high-performance skylights to maximize natural light and a designed "drive-thru" capacity and crane system for fully climate-controlled interior off-loading, which allows for complete thru-building production. 
 
Hörmann has 45 employees at the location. Speaking at an opening ceremony on April 7, Christoph Hörmann, managing partner at Hörmann in Germany, asserted, "Our investment in the new building makes it clear that we, the Hörmann family, believe in the U.S. market."
 
Dan Reitz, executive director of the Washington County Council on Economic Development, added, "We aren’t just creating jobs, we’re creating lifetime careers in manufacturing, logistics, engineering, science and more. It’s a great day for Washington County. Doors are being opened, literally, to our future."
 
Source: Alice Permigiani, Hörmann High Performance Doors; Philip Cynar, Allegheny Conference on Community Development
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Reliant on federal contracts, Carlisle's Markant Corp. grows via acquisitions

With the Department of Defense as its primary client, Carlisle's Markant Corporation has been hit by recent cuts in government spending.

"As the government continues to work through funding challenges that were highlighted by 2013's furloughs and government shutdown, we've seen stagnant growth within the industry coupled with increased price sensitivity among our customers," explains CEO and co-founder Ivelisse Alemany.
 
Markant's solution is to grow by actively shopping for companies with federal contracts. "Our company has been looking to expand via acquisitions within the industry that will give us access to new agencies and customers," says Alemany.
 
Alemany founded Markant, a provider of niche professional support services to the federal government, in 2008 with Carl Hintz, the company's chief financial officer. Markant's tagline is, "The threat is always there. So are we." Its technical expertise includes Internet security, computer systems integration, program management, database application development and web-based application service programs.

"With an increased focus by our customers on price, we look to preserve our margins by focusing on complex tasks deep within the value chain that require staff with vast experience, education and industry certifications," says Alemany. "The complexity of this work can occasionally present recruiting challenges. We mitigate this challenge by developing talent internally, maintaining deep consultant and alumni networks, and utilizing project forecasting techniques that assist us in recruiting for skills and positions in advance of needs materializing."
 
Markant employs 38 full-time employees across multiple states along with a cadre of consultants and part-time workers. A minority-owned, woman-owned business, Markant has been located at the Murata Business Center/TechCelerator in Carlisle since 2009.
 
Source:  Ivelisse Alemany, Markant Corp.
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Keeping pace with e-marketing keeps Bethlehem's EggZack expanding

Online marketing for small businesses has only gotten more complex since 2011, when Keystone Edge last visited EggZack
 
According to CEO and founder Jon Zack, back in those dark days of social media, it was enough to have a website and be on Facebook. Today, with the advent of Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, etc., you'd be missing about 80 percent of your audience by only relying on those two. 
 
"Online marketing has become more fragmented and it will continue," explains Zack.
 
EggZack's software solution streamlines marketing by integrating all social media, email, web content, local news sites, etc. and formatting a single post for all platforms. Most critically, the system drives users back to the client's preferred platform, usually the website. 
 
For EggZack's market of small businesses with fewer than 15 employees and a reach of about 25 miles (pizza parlors, gyms, local politicians and police departments, for example), the system can boost buyers by as much as 80 percent and traffic by as much as 300 percent.
 
To keep up with this ever-changing technological landscape, EggZack recently acquired a company that will allow it to expand its point-of-sale and mobile capacity. 
 
When it moved to Bethlehem's Ben Franklin Tech Ventures in 2011 (Zack established the company in New Jersey in 2008), EggZack had six employees. Today it has 16, nine of them in Bethlehem; Zack expects to grow to 22 by the end of the year. Sales are on track to double or even triple this year; 2013 ended a solid 30 percent over 2012. 
 
EggZack has also been successful in attracting funds, raising $1.3 million from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania, and angel and strategic investors.
 
Source: Jon Zack, EggZack
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Pittsburgh's Cognition Therapeutics to launch clinical trials on its novel Alzheimer's drug

Pittsburgh's Cognition Therapeutics is hoping to enter clinical trials next year with its novel approach to treating Alzheimer's disease. 

According to CEO Hank Safferstein, Cognition's small-molecule drugs, taken orally, prevent toxic proteins from binding to the brain. Pre-clinical data suggest the drugs can reverse the effects Alzheimer's and sustain that reversal.
 
If proven, Cognition's approach has huge implications. There are currently no therapeutics available to prevent the accumulation of the toxic proteins that cause Alzheimer's cognitive impairment and, eventually, death. Alzheimer's is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., and the number of patients is expected to rise sharply as the population ages.
 
Despite Cognition's promise, raising capital to advance to clinical trials is challenging because of the cost and a risk-adverse funding environment. But Safferstein is hopeful that trials enrolling patients diagnosed with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's will get underway in 2015, either through a contract research organization or an in-house partner.
 
Meanwhile, the company is continuing to investigate the application of its biological and chemical platforms to a range of other degenerative brain diseases such as Parkinson's, frontal lobe dementia and ALS.
 
Dr. Susan Catalano founded the company in San Francisco in 2007. That same year, the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse (PLSG) recruited Cognition to Pittsburgh, providing capital, equipment, office and lab space, and connecting the company with Safferstein, who joined under PLSG's Executive Program. The help gave Cognition "the opportunity to start a company and immediately put money back into the science," explains Safferstein.
 
In the years since, Pittsburgh has continued to be a great place to build a drug discovery and development company, he adds, citing support from PLSG, its Accelerator Fund, Innovation Works and angel investors. 
 
Source: Hank Safferstein, Cognition Therapeutics
Writer: Elise Vider
 
 
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