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Stroudsburg's IER applies its social outreach technology to childhood obesity and more

It all started with the fruits and vegetables that Edward Connors used in the classroom. As founder in 2008 of East Stroudsburg's Innovative Educational Resources to teach science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), Connors says that having students guess the number of petals on an artichoke, say, was a great way to teach math.
 
But the approach also yielded an altogether different realization. "Our work with inquiry-based math and science using fruits and vegetables as manipulatives in the K-8 classroom led us to discover new educational opportunities related to food choice and nutritional education," Connors says.
 
In 2010, IER won $548,000 in U.S. Department of Agriculture funding to look at how technology could be used to address the problem of childhood obesity.  What ultimately resulted is IER's "virtual social worker," a community-based research method and community engagement platform, aimed at providing underserved and vulnerable populations – low income, low literacy, non-English speaking, for example – with culturally relevant access to information on health and nutrition.
 
Working with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, IER piloted its approach in an application intended to improve access to health and social service resources for the Hispanic community around Charlotte, North Carolina.  IER is also behind the recent launch of PoconoHealth.org, an interactive, online directory of health, social service and education resources. 
 
Now Connors is preparing to establish a new company, Heudia, to apply the same strategy and technology to health literacy. "I realized that health care costs are being driven by the same lack of access to primary care and income inequality," he says. 
 
 
Source: Edward Connors, Innovative Educational Resources
Writer: Elise Vider
 

A new center for innovation and creativity at Lehigh University's Mountaintop Campus

Lehigh University is embarking on "a bold new initiative to renovate and reimagine" two massive, former Bethlehem Steel buildings on its Mountaintop campus.
 
With a $20 million gift from alumnus Scott Belair, who graduated in 1969 and went on to co-found Urban Outfitters, the school acquired the buildings, totaling 120,000 square feet, in May and envisions using them as a center for innovation and creativity.
 
"Mountaintop provides an opportunity for students to define complex questions, take intellectual risks, use faculty as mentors and access resources and support from across the university and beyond," the university said in a blog post. "Students will be challenged to develop their capacities for creativity, inquiry, discovery, synthesis and teamwork."
 
Several teams of students and faculty worked at Mountaintop this summer in open-ended pilot projects. One team isolated and characterized viruses that attack bacteria that are found in soil as part of a large national project on tuberculosis. Other teams developed a prototype for durable housing for refugees, designed an integrated system for both crop production and water filtration and produced a documentary film about the first four women faculty members in Lehigh's English department. 
 
The university is gathering ideas for projects and uses for the facility and expects to use Belair's gift to leverage an additional $40 million as it moves ahead with its multi-phase Mountaintop project.
 
 
Source: Lehigh University
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Griesing Law earns major recognition, attracts major event for women, minority owned firms to Philly

When we profiled Fran Griesing, founder of Philadelphia-based, startup-focused Griesing Law in May, the trailblazing attorney spoke about the traps of working at a large firm -- especially for women -- and the value of making her firm "an environment in which everyone who worked there could reach their best potential."
 
The approach was validated last month when she picked up the 2013 Law Firm MVP award from the National Association of Minority and Women-Owned Law Firms (NAMWOLF). The award honors a member law firm for "its outstanding achievement in furthering NAMWOLF's mission of promoting diversity and inclusion by fostering relationships between preeminent minority and women-owned law firms and corporations and public entities. Griesing was joined by her firm's Director of Administration Jessica Mazzeo, to accept the award in Minneapolis on Sept. 23 at NAMWOLF's annual meeting and expo.
 
Griesing played a significant role in attracting the 2014 NAMWOLF annual conference to Philadelphia next September. The event is important to not only Griesing, but the many women- and minority-owned law firms in Greater Philadelphia. The event (and its build-up) will provide many valuable opportunities for those firms to connect with large corporations and public entities, helping attract bigger business.
 
"We are honored and delighted to be recognized given the many firms that work tirelessly to promote NAMWOLF's important mission of affording access and opportunities for minority and women-owned law firms," she said.
 
Keystone Edge staff
Source: Fran Griesing
 




HalenHardy earns honor at SHALE INSIGHT


Hey! What's the big idea? (There's $25K and more for tech innovation.)

Do you live in Central or South Central Pennsylvania? Do you have an idea for a new, technology-based product or process? Get busy, because your idea could win one of two $25,000 cash prizes in Ben Franklin’s BIG IDEA Business Plan Contest
 
This year’s competition, sponsored by Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central & Northern PA  (BFTP/CNP) and the BF Venture Investment Forum, targets 25 counties in Central and South Central Pennsylvania.  

To be eligible, you must live in one of the 25 counties; have developed or be developing, a new, innovative tech product or process; have had no significant sales if a product has already been developed; have fewer than 50 employees if a company has been formed and have never received previous BFTP funding.

Preferred industry sectors include (but are not limited to):  nanotechnology; green technologies; alternative energy; advanced manufacturing; advanced materials; medical devices; information technology and software.
 
The application deadline is December 9; final judging is set for February 20, 2014.
 
In addition to the $25,000 in cash, the two grand-prize winners will also receive:

  • One-year website hosting offered by Netrepid;
  • The opportunity to participate in a BF TechCelerator Boot Camp for Startups;
  • Six months free rent in the BF TechCelerator @ Carlisle (for a winner from that area);
  • Assistance from the Innovation Partnership in preparing a proposal to receive a federal research (SBIR) grant;
  • Access to all Ben Franklin’s business support services at no charge.
“We had a huge response to last year’s contest. Nearly 2,000 people came to the BIG IDEA landing page to check out the easy application process.  We believe that anyone with the courage, energy and enthusiasm to apply to a business plan contest is already a winner,” says Stephen Brawley, President/CEO of Ben Franklin.

Full details, a list of the eligible counties and an application forms are online
 
Source: BFTP/CNP
Writer: Elise Vider

Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse leverages capital to nurture two promising startups

The Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse (PLSG) has announced new investments in two biotech startups "that are  addressing large markets and solving problems that have never been solved before," says John Manzetti, PLSG's CEO. 
 
And the greenhouse's involvement with the two companies goes beyond dollars.
 
PLSG first became aware of Complexa Inc., which is working on a new class of drugs to treat metabolic and inflammatory disorders, in 2008. Since then, the greenhouse has invested more than $500,000 in the company, including its recent $200,000 commitment.
 
In 2011, PLSG helped recruit and place Joshua Tarnoff  at Complexa as CEO, through its Executive Program, designed to bring experienced life sciences executive talent into the region. 
 
PLSG helped attract Cognition Therapeutics to Pittsburgh from San Francisco. The company is working on a new class of drugs to treat and possibly even reverse Alzheimer's Disease. 
 
"Our PLSG team was absolutely floored by the technology and promise it would bring to patients," says Manzetti, who adds that the value of the company, if successful, would be "incalculable."
 
From its initial $200,000 investment in 2007, PLSG helped leverage further investment from other sources. And through its Executive Program, PLSG placed Hank Safferstein as CEO (he splits his time between Cognition and PLSG as an executive-in-residence.) 
 
PLSG also helped Cognition set up by purchasing its lab equipment and leasing it to the company in lab space that it also provided.
 
With its latest investment of $138,000, PLSG has invested a total of $1.2 million in Cognition, the greenhouse's largest investment to date.  In addition, the PLSG Accelerator Fund has invested heavily into Cognition. 
 
Both CEOs have raised significant capital for Complex and Cognition and both will need millions more to test and potentially bring their drugs to market. 
 
Manzetti pledges to keep at it: "These are the types of companies PLSG loves and in which we will continue to invest."
 
Source: John Manzetti, PLSG
Writer: Elise Vider

Green is the school color at Pittsburgh's Chatham University

The legacy of the seminal environmentalist Rachel Carson, class of '29, continues to shape Pittsburgh's Chatham University and its commitment to environmental sustainability.
 
Now the school has received its largest gift ever, $15 million from the Falk Foundation to support academic programs at Chatham's interdisciplinary School of Sustainability & the Environment (to be renamed the Falk School of Sustainability) and to help fund construction of the school's green Eden Hall Campus.
 
Chatham made a formal commitment to environmental education and advocacy in 2008, pledging to integrate "sustainability into the fabric of the University through a coordinated and sustained effort of a kind rarely seen before."
 
"Sustainability at Chatham is many things," says President Esther L. Barazzone. "A way of institutional living that in itself educates students and all who come in contact with us; a commitment to living respectfully upon the land; a body of educational content and practice that is offered in courses and degrees; and a substantial and important repositioning of the entire institution around urban sustainability transformation – one of the most critical and transformative issues of modern society and within the higher education industry."
 
The first phase of Chatham's branch Eden Hall Campus, which it claims will be "the world's first fully sustainable campus in higher education" is set to open by December 1. The 338-acre campus in Pittsburgh's North Hills, originally home to an early Heinz company executive, will eventually serve 1,500 students while emitting zero carbon emissions, producing more energy than it consumes and managing all storm and waste water on-site.
 
Source: Bill Campbell, Chatham University
Writer: Elise Vider

Dyer, baker, software makers and more get BFTP/NEP $$$ support

A dyer, a baker and several software makers are among the early-stage companies and established manufacturers in the latest investment round announced by Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania
 
BFTP/NEP is making loans to these to early-stage companies: 
  
Colymer Industries, Ben Franklin TechVentures, Bethlehem, $35,000 to complete a new financial model, strategic business plan, corporate operating agreement, and assignment of intellectual property for this manufacturer of proprietary non-asphalt roofing materials.
 
Columbia County Bread & Granola, Bloomsburg, $28,000 to complete development of a strategic business plan that will help the company expand into new markets and raise capital as needed for its line of food products for health-conscious consumers and individuals who suffer from a variety of dietary restrictions. 
 
eVendorCheck,  Hawley, $81,000 to develop and implement enhanced sales strategies for the company’s web-based customer feedback system for procurement professionals.
 
Pivitec, LLC, Ben Franklin TechVentures, Bethlehem, $75,000 to continue commercialization and enhancement of hardware and software products for this developer of audio streaming and distribution products. 
 
PROVA Systems and Technologies, Inc., Carbondale, $60,000 to support the commercialization of a fleet management software system for small and medium-sized enterprises, and family fleets. 
 
TSG Software,  Ben Franklin TechVentures, Bethlehem, $100,000 to support a focused sales and marketing effort in commercializing software for business cleaning services, property and facility managers, and building management contractors
 
These tech-based, established manufacturers and their higher-ed partners are receiving 1:1 matching funds: 
 
Applied Separations, Inc., Allentown,and Philadelphia University, $50,000 to develop and implement a new process and deploy equipment for the waterless dyeing of textiles for business-to-business sales to clothing manufacturers and textile companies.
 
Cambridge-Lee Industries, LLC, Reading and Northampton Community College’s Emerging Technologies Applications Center, $27,650 to conduct testing of  energy-efficient, micro-fin refrigeration tubes at this manufacturer of copper tubing for plumbing, refrigeration, and other commercial applications. 
 
Custom Processing Services, Inc., Reading and Northampton Community College’s Emerging Technologies Applications Center, $50,000 to investigate how the waste energy from a proposed thermochemical process can be used in the company’s manufacturing processes and as a potential fuel source and to determine the economics, technical, and environmental issues involved with the process. The company provides sophisticated air-jet milling, micronizing, blending, and testing of powered materials on a contract basis.
 
EcoTech Marine LLC, Allentown and Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center, $25,000 to implement a new Enterprise Resource Planning system with features to accommodate facility expansion and maintain quality for this maker of equipment for hobby reef aquariums. 
 
Georg Fischer Harvel, Easton and Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center, $50,000 to complete a sustainability analysis to reduce energy consumption by 20% or more. GFH is an international leader in thermoplastic extrusions, primarily manufacturing PVC and CPVC piping for diverse target markets in high-end applications such as microelectronics and pharmaceuticals. 
 
KME Kovatch, Nesquehoning and Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center, $25,000 to develop new finishing processes associated with the pumper truck and tanker truck. KME Fire Apparatus is an industry leader in the design and manufacture of custom fire and fuel tanker vehicles and equipment, and the largest privately held manufacturer of fire trucks in the nation
 
McGregor Industries Inc.,  Dunmore and Penn State, $15,154 to survey and test three new, more cost-competitive tread infills at this manufacturer of metal stairs, gratings, and floor plates. McGregor will also test the tread infills for material characterization and stair tread structural and slip performance.
 
Source: BFTP/NEP
Writer: Elise Vider

Indiana's Arctic Blast Covers keeps bank branches toasty

Working for a bank purchasing department, Dale Conrath knew that ATMs, drive-through windows, cash drawers and night-deposit slots were great for customers. But for the tellers and others huddled around space heaters behind those drafty holes, not so great.
 
Internet searches showed that there were simply no products available to solve the problem. So Conrath started tinkering. For four years, working out of his Indiana garage, he experimented with materials and designs and built prototypes, with significant help from the Small Business Development Center at Indiana University
 
In 2012, he launched Arctic Blast Covers, which offers a line of thermal covers for ATM machines, night-drop boxes and cash drawers.
 
Conrath has a patent pending for his technology, which he claims can reduce a bank's utility bills up to 20% annually, raise inside room temperatures as much as 15 degrees and has the added benefit of keeping automotive pollution outside.
 
A recent pilot program at 16 PNC bank branches in western PA was a big success. And Conrath was recently awarded $35,500 from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern PA for marketing and distribution.  He reports that he is in close talks with Bankers Security, which offers security devices to the banking industry, to distribute Arctic Covers in four states.
 
Conrath is already thinking about other possible markets. Pharmacies are one. Another is the gas and oil drilling industry to address the problem of water freezing in wells when they are shut down.
 
For now, though, the focus is on growing sales for the bank line. As Conrath notes, "There is no competition – zero." And winter is coming.
 
Source: Dale Conrath, Arctic Blast Covers
Writer: Elise Vider
 
 

$11.5 M in federal grants and the "Good Housekeeping Seal" to four Ben Franklin Biotech Clients

Four biotechnology clients of the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania have been awarded more than $11.5 million in follow-on funding in federal science-based grants.
 
The four are all residents at Ben Franklin TechVentures on the Lehigh University campus. The funding, says BFTP/NEP, demonstrates both the viability of the startups and their work and that "an investment from the Ben Franklin Technology Partners is like a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for early-stage technology firms."
  
Azevan Pharmaceuticals, Inc. received a National Institutes of Health (NIH) award for a potential next-generation therapeutic for depression that targets a different neurochemical system than current drugs. The company has received about $9 million from NIH since 2004.
 
Hager Biosciences, LLC  received two NIH grants in 2011 and 2013, totaling almost $675,000. The first grant is to develop a therapeutic agent to address substance addictions such as nicotine, and also with potential application to panic and anxiety disorders. The second grant is to discover unique agents that could mitigate OP (Organo Phosphurus) chemical threats, addressing both acute OP-poisoning and long-term neurodegenerative effects.
 
The National Science Foundation has awarded $800,000 from 2009 through the present to Third Eye Diagnostics Inc., and the company also received $250,000 from a federal Qualifying Therapeutic Discovery Project grant. Third Eye received a Pre-Proposal Technical Award, a Federal Marketing Assistance Review and MicroGrant from the Innovation Partnership (IPart). The company is developing a non-invasive, handheld intracranial pressure (ICP) monitor. 
 
The U.S. Department of Defense awarded two grants totaling $850,000 in 2012 and 2013 to VaxForm LLC.  The company is developing a vaccine targeting diseases resulting from Streptococcus pyogenes infection.
 
“These federal grants allow Ben Franklin clients to commercialize their products that significantly improve the human condition,” said R. Chadwick Paul, CEO of BFTP/NEP. “This follow-on funding lets Ben Franklin leverage our investments to help create more highly paid, sustainable jobs for Pennsylvania workers.”
 
Source: BFTP/NEP
Writer: Elise Vider
 
 

Philadelphia's growing Invisible Sentinel gets visibility

Invisible Sentinel isn't all that invisible anymore. The company marked its expansion at Phiiladelphia's University City Science Center at a high-profile event this week, with Sen. Pat Toomey as the speaker, no less.
 
Founded in 2006, Invisible Sentinel is staying true to its Science Center roots, tripling its office, lab and manufacturing space and retaining its 18 jobs.
 
The company builds portable, easy-to-use, cost-effective equipment for the rapid diagnosis of food contamination. CEO Nicholas Siciliano, who co-founded the company with Ben Pascal, says the technology "eliminates the need for infrastructure and major investment" for its customer base of food and beverage manufacturers and processors and third party testing labs.
 
Invisible Sentinel is also launching its Veriflow technology, "the next generation in powerful diagnostic tools to help manufacturers and government regulators keep the global food supply safe." The newly commercialized product suite detects the bacterial strains that cause the majority of non-viral foodborne illnesses: Shiga Toxin-Producing E.coli, Listeria monocytogenes, Campylobacter jejuni, and Salmonella enterica.
 
Preventing bacterial outbreaks and ensuring food safety is big business. Invisible Sentinel reports that contaminated food sickens about 48 million in the U.S. annually, while industry-wide revenue streams are crippled to the tune of $152 billion.
 
Siciliano proudly notes that the company is all made in PA, manufacturing right in University City using molded plastics made in York.
 
Its market is domestic, but Siciliano says they are exploring overseas expansion. He anticipates that Invisible Sentinel will double its workforce by the end of 2014, adding management, manufacturing, sales and marketing and scientific positions.
 
Source: Nicholas Siciliano, Invisible Sentinel
Writer: Elise Vider
 

New Geisinger Institute for Advanced Application to boost health care innovations

Two decades ago, Geisinger Health Systems was an early adopter in the use of electronic medical records. Now Geisinger, which serves more than 2.6 million residents throughout central and northeastern Pennsylvania, is once again fully embracing innovation with the establishment of its new Geisinger Institute for Advanced Application (GIAA).  
 
GIAA, "an ambitious endeavor," says its director, Dr. Gregory Moore, will conduct research and development across a range of disciplines, all with the goal of improving the quality and reducing the cost of health care.
 
The institute is comprised of three components. The Center for Healthcare Re-engineering is focused on introducing industrial and systems engineering concepts to health care. The Center for Emerging Technology and Informatics is "very future focused" in its work, which involves use of gadgets, human interface (how does a technology work for a sick or elderly patient?), novel data streams and more.  The Center for Clinical Innovations is studying health care of large populations, patient and family engagement and health care systems technology.
 
Some of this work has been underway at various Geisinger campuses; other aspects such as the emerging technologies/informatics piece are new. All of the centers will eventually be consolidated at a single location. Moore is actively searching for a facility – an old warehouse or school would be ideal, "to create a think tank atmosphere" – within 25 miles of Geisinger's Danville headquarters and hopes to be settled within a year. The spread-out institute currently has about 30 staffers; Moore expects to recruit another dozen in the next 18 months.
 
As its new models, applications and technologies are ready, GIAA will actively pursue commercialization. Moore sees potential early wins in data and informatics and clinical innovations.  GIAA also hosts a streamlined portal for outside companies to pursue technology trials at Geisinger.
 
Source: Dr. Gregory Moore, Geisinger Institute of Advanced Application

Writer: Elise Vider
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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