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In rural Wayne County, a new business incubator boosts high-tech startups

Rural Wayne County has had challenges attracting new industry. Now its economic development pros have decided to promote growth from within. The newly opened Stourbridge Project in downtown Honesdale is a business incubator and co-working space targeting startups in web development technologies, app development, e-commerce, engineering, technology services and digital media.  

“For the last few years, we have noticed a number of small technology companies, software app developers, e-commerce and other technology businesses operating in the county out of homes and garages with little or no interaction with other technology professionals," says Troy Bystrom of Wayne Economic Development Corporation (WEDCO). "The Stourbridge Project is a catalyst where these startup businesses can interact, spin off new ideas and access expertise or equipment that may not be readily available to them.”

Another challenge is that broadband is expensive in Wayne County -- prices for bandwidth are in some cases triple the cost of neighboring areas. The Stourbridge Project offers high-speed Internet and data storage, along with media equipment, 3-D printers, specialty software packages and more.

The 1,800-square-foot incubator is located in an old and mostly vacant school building. The county commissioners leased the building to WEDCO for $1 per year for seven years.  
 
Another key partner is the Wayne Pike Workforce Alliance, which will offer business development training, seminars and support systems. An onsite digital media lab will help companies utilize marketing tools such as images, video and distance learning.  

According to Bystrom, several companies have expressed interested in locating at the incubator, where renovations are still underway.

"The co-working space is currently open and is being utilized by several companies as we begin to ramp up operations," he explains. 

A community open house is scheduled for July 9. 

Source: Troy Bystrom, WEDCO
Writer: Elise Vider

Carnegie Mellon receives $31 million to establish entrepreneurship center

Carnegie Mellon University is establishing the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship, which will serve as a hub for university-wide entrepreneurial activities. James R. Swartz, a 1966 alum and founding partner of the global venture capital firm Accel Partners, donated $31 million to support the school's efforts.

"As one of the most successful venture capitalists in the world, [Swartz] understands the importance of nurturing innovators and creative thinkers," said CMU President Subra Suresh. "This gift will bring together cross-university initiatives in ways that will have a far-reaching impact on future generations of young entrepreneurs."

According to the university, the gift includes $13 million in permanent university endowment, which in combination with other resources will support Presidential Scholarships and Fellowships for students, a faculty chair, entrepreneurs-in-residence, and an executive director and staff for the center. An additional $18 million will be directed to a number of programmatic and infrastructure projects over the next four years. This includes $10 million committed last year for the creation of space for entrepreneurship activities in the David A. Tepper Quadrangle, the university's major new academic hub. The remaining $8 million, leveraged with additional support, will fund infrastructure projects at several other locations across campus, new campus-wide curriculum development, a new fund to seed ideas across CMU's colleges and schools, and community outreach to engage local secondary schools in entrepreneurship learning opportunities. 

Startup activity among CMU faculty, students and alumni has been robust, with more than 138 companies created since 2009, said the university. And with work beginning on the David A. Tepper Quadrangle, CMU is poised to create a new innovation corridor with global impact in research, invention and commercialization. 

"Carnegie Mellon is one of the world's leading centers for learning and discovery," enthused Swartz. "From its founding, entrepreneurship has been ingrained throughout the university's culture. With its strengths in technology, science and the arts, CMU is an ideal location to cultivate the ideas, technologies and solutions that will make a true difference in the world."

Source: Carnegie Mellon University
Writer: Elise Vider

AWE Ventures—Powered by Ben Franklin aims to raise capital for women-led businesses

In 1995, a small group of Philadelphia-region women entrepreneurs got together for mutual support and access to capital. Now, 20 years later, the group -- renamed the Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) -- is the Mid-Atlantic's largest organization dedicated to fostering high-growth businesses founded or led by women. 

Still, according to Executive Director Victoria Burkhart, "there is a sense…that now is the time to 'move the needle' on women and entrepreneurship, and for AWE to take a more active role in connecting women to capital. AWE approached Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/SEP), a longtime partner, to brainstorm strategies for aligning efforts in support of funding for entrepreneurial enterprises founded by women."

The resulting AWE Ventures—Powered by Ben Franklin is a crowdfunded, donation-driven initiative to raise $250,000 -- to be matched dollar-for-dollar by BFTP/SEP -- for seed-stage investments in women-led enterprises in the Philadelphia region. The new program will also provide hands-on support for entrepreneurs from both partners’ shared networks of capital, counsel and connections, and events, workshops and published content to empower entrepreneurs and celebrate successes.

“As much as it is our goal to help support the growth of female entrepreneurs, AWE Ventures will also provide an opportunity to mentor future women investors," explains Burkhart. "Programming offered by both AWE and Ben Franklin will be as much about ‘how to invest’ as it will be about entrepreneurship. Fostering increased participation of women in early-stage or angel investment is equally important to increasing the diversity of our technology ecosystem here in the Greater Philadelphia region; really, in the nation at large."

"AWE and Ben Franklin will identify potential entrepreneurs for investment, with full management of the due diligence and investment processes to be handled by Ben Franklin," explains RoseAnn B. Rosenthal, BFTP/SEP’s president and CEO. "Like all other Ben Franklin investments, companies will commit to being located in Philadelphia, Bucks, Montgomery, Delaware or Chester counties for at least five years, or until repayment/exit. The number of companies to be funded remains flexible and will depend upon the amount of funds raised."

"AWE does a great job in creating events and programs to connect and advance women entrepreneurs, providing opportunities to share experiences, insights, best practices and lessons learned," she adds. "Ben Franklin does as well, actively working to bring insights from its investors, portfolio companies and regional partners into the mix. There's really no end date or fixed total hours for what AWE Ventures—Powered by Ben Franklin can provide. That's what so great about our two organizations working together on this initiative."

Source: RoseAnn B. Rosenthal, BFTP/SEP and Victoria Burkhart, AWE
Writer: Elise Vider

State College's Homeland Manufacturing Services brings electronics manufacturing home

Three years ago, Army National Guard veteran John Bonislawski launched Homeland Manufacturing Services in his 300-square-foot basement. 

Sixteen months ago, the young company moved into 2,000 square feet, and then in late May, Bonislawski cut the ribbon on a 5,000-square-foot facility with another 5,000 square feet available for immediate expansion.

HMS is a full-service electronics manufacturing company serving the defense, medical, satellite communications, sensor, agricultural and other markets. The company assembles electronic circuit cards, cable assemblies and box-build assemblies for original equipment manufacturers, defense contractors and research organizations in the U.S. and Canada. 

The new facility was purpose-built for electronics manufacturing, including the environmental controls and high-output lighting necessary to assemble extremely small electronic components.

"Our new high-speed production line is capable of placing the smallest electronic components on circuit boards at a rate of 22,000 parts per hour," explains Bonislawski. "Our new placement machine also includes electrical verification of many electronic components, further strengthening our core philosophy of defect prevention vs. defect detection. We are equipped to assemble even the most complex circuit cards."
 
Bonislawski reports that HMS's sales have more than doubled each year and will double again this year even without new business.

"With 100 percent of the profits reinvested back into the company we now have the same manufacturing capabilities of companies many times larger,” he adds. 

An underlying goal is to bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. and specifically to Centre County.

"For more than 20 years I have worked in industry and watched U.S. manufacturing jobs being shipped off-shore to save a few pennies," says Bonislawski. "After two decades of outsourcing electronics manufacturing off-shore, I believe that U.S. companies are finally figuring out that when considering the cost of poor quality, late deliveries, rising global transportation costs, uncertainty protecting their intellectual property, poor customer service and many bad experiences…manufacturing electronics in the U.S. is more attractive than ever and a better overall value for the customer."

Source: John Bonislawski, Homeland Manufacturing Services
Writer: Elise Vider

In Allentown, fast-growing Netizen provides cyber security to government and commercial clients

After meeting at a Lehigh Valley Hackathon, Max Harris and Mike Hawkins -- both U.S. Army veterans with backgrounds in law enforcement, military intelligence, cyber security and software development -- founded Allentown’s Netizen

A year-and-a-half later, the company counts federal agencies (including the Departments of Justice and Defense and the Veteran's Administration) among its clients and is in final negotiations with Defense and the VA on new contracts. One pending project is a software security pilot designed to protect veterans’ data.

Private companies are also turning to Netizen to provide cyber and software security expertise in markets such as healthcare, public safety, finance, manufacturing and e-commerce.

As a veteran-owned company, Netizen benefits from "preferred vendor" status for government contracts. But according to Harris, the young company has also "built a solid brand among the ‘beltway crowd’ in Washington, D.C. and routinely gets called on for our particular areas of expertise in web/mobile software development and cyber security." 

Netizen recently moved into the Allentown Economic Development Corp.'s (AEDC) Bridgeworks Enterprise Center to serve its commercial clients and is working to expand into a second Allentown location which will be security-cleared for defense work. The company is also planning to expand into Virginia to serve its D.C.-based clients and to open satellite offices in Seattle, California and possibly Texas. 

"We are [also] working to build out a suite of products for cyber threat intelligence," adds Harris. "And we have been corresponding regularly with Lehigh University researchers to potentially leverage an academic-private partnership of sorts to drive innovation in cyber security, especially for data and software."

Source: Max Harris, Netizen and AEDC
Writer: Elise Vider
 

In Philadelphia, Fitly's SmartPlate uses advanced technology to keep dieters honest

Dieters rejoice. At last, a plate that can keep you honest.

Philadelphia’s Fitly has developed SmartPlate, a Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-enabled hardware device that instantly tracks and analyzes what you eat with the support of a mobile application.

The plate’s design is based on research that shows that size, color and shape all influence eating habits. According to the company's website, the average dinner plate has grown 36 percent since 1960 and bigger plates translate to bigger waistlines. Similarly, studies have shown that darker plates make it harder to determine a proper portion, encouraging overeating. The SmartPlate is shaped as a "squircle," to give the illusion of a bigger surface while providing a 10-inch diameter white surface -- ideal for healthy portions.

SmartPlate has built-in advanced object recognition and weight sensors, providing an automated reading of what a user is eating. It comes with an Android or iOS app that integrates with most wearable devices and food journaling apps.

The plate also comes with a microwaveable lid and in a variety of colors.

Anthony Ortiz founded Fitly, aimed at weight management and control of diabetes, in 2011. The company has established itself through its mobile/web app as a delivery service for fresh ingredients and recipes based on the user’s personalized healthy meal selections. Fitly is a 2013 DreamIt Health graduate. 

The company launched SmartPlate, its first product, earlier this month at Collision Conference in Las Vegas and is now in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign where it hopes to raise $100,000 to start production. They hope to begin shipping next year.

Source: Fitly
Writer: Elise Vider

Erie's AcousticSheep offers a BIG IDEA for a good night's sleep

In 2007, Dr. Wei-Shin Lai suffered the occupational hazard of a family doctor -- difficulty falling back to sleep after late-night patient phone calls. Her husband suggested that she listen to something to relax, but headphones or ear buds were uncomfortable in bed. The solution was ultra-thin, high-quality speakers stuffed with soft fleece into a headband.

That low-tech solution became the basis for high-tech SleepPhones, a headphone in a patented headband design, billed as "pajamas for your ears" by Lai’s company AcousticSheep. Now Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern Pennsylvania (BFTP/CNP) has named the Erie-based company winner of the 2015 BIG IDEA contest. 

AcousticSheep won a prize package that includes $50,000 in cash, a $25,000 research grant, priority access to a $100,000 low-interest loan, 60 hours of project time at the NW Industrial Resource Center, an apprentice to assist in prototype development or pre-commercialization services, and guidance from Ben Franklin’s eMarketing Learning Center and the Innovation Partnership

SleepPhones are a strong seller at Amazon and other online retailers. Now the company is developing software and phone apps to work with its products.

"We have an idea that will transform SleepPhones from being headphones that help you sleep better to a community partnering to improve sleep throughout the entire world," said Lai in a statement. "Winning this amazing prize will allow us to create a new technology to eliminate sleepless nights cheaply, and completely drug-free, for everyone."

Spokeswoman Jennifer Brownlee adds that AcousticSheep is working on incorporating induction charging to its wireless Bluetooth headphones; they will be launching a Kickstarter campaign in July. 
 
Source: Jennifer Brownlee, AcousticSheep; BFTP/CNP
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Calling all Makers: NextFab opens second location in Philadelphia

 NextFab, a "gym for innovators" that provides members access to a variety of fabrication tools, celebrated the grand opening of its second location on Friday. The new outpost is on the first floor of Impact Hub Philadelphia, a socially-minded co-working space in the Fishtown neighborhood.

While the pairing of a business space with a workshop may seem odd to some, the match was well-made. The lovingly restored building at N. 4th and Thompson Streets was formerly occupied by 3rd Ward, a Brooklyn-founded (and now defunct) maker space.

"We learned that 3rd Ward had left a fair amount of equipment and some spaces fit out as workshops, and that Impact Hub was pondering what to do with them," explains Evan Malone, president of NextFab. "Our working together seemed to be a logical solution."

In addition to taking over unused space and equipment, Malone is also excited to be close to where people live and work -- there is a large community of artists, designers and tinkerers in the Fishtown, Northern Liberties and Kensington communities.

"It's not as large as our Wash Avenue location, but it provides well-rounded wood and metal shops, and a very quiet and comfortable CAD and electronics lab," enthuses Malone. "We are most excited that North 4th has NextFab's first shop dedicated to jewelry making and we have a professional jewelry designer on staff."
 
Keep an eye on the NextFab website for special offers throughout the month in celebration of the new space and for partnership projects with Impact Hub later this year.

Writer: Hailey Blessing
Source: Evan Malone, NextFab

TechCelerator @ State College wins $500K federal grant to turn ideas into businesses

As anyone who's ever tried to launch a tech startup knows, it takes a lot more than a good idea.

Penn State recently received a $500,000 federal grant to address just that challenge. The funds will advance the development of TechCelerator @ State College, a pre-accelerator specifically designed to allow technologists to explore entrepreneurship and commercialization pathways and arrive at educated go/no-go decisions. This program will not only result in $30 million in economic benefits, but will also catalyze a replicable rural innovation strategy.

"The TechCelerator Program, which has already produced dozens of success stories, provides an array of pre-launch business and market research services -- or Boot Camps -- designed to assist university researchers, grad students and local tech-entrepreneurs in converting their ideas into business realities," explained Stephen Brawley, president and CEO of Ben Franklin Technology Partners. "Our goal was to stimulate and ‘accelerate’ a sustainable, entrepreneurial pipeline and the model works." 

The grants from the U.S. Department of Commerce Regional Innovation Strategies program are part of a new initiative designed to advance innovation and capacity-building activities in regions across the country. TechCelerator @ State College is among the first 26 recipients.

"This region is fortunate to have a variety of assets, most notably in intellectual property creation from the cutting edge research conducted at the university," said Heather Fennessey, director of Penn State’s Small Business Development Center. "Penn State's research expenditures have increased by nearly $500 million in the past 20 years. The opportunity for our potential economic growth, which can result from this increase in university-based research, is exciting."

Source: Ben Franklin Technology Partners
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Three tech startups get growing with help from BFTP/CNP

Three tech startups have received investments from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern Pennsylvania

Located in Harrisburg, Hatchback, Inc. has developed a B2B platform that integrates with mobile apps, allowing marketers to collect, target and engage with audiences based on their actual travel patterns. The company offers retailers, restaurants, etc., the ability to engage with consumers, creating sales opportunities that would otherwise likely not exist.   

"Power players like Google and Facebook rely on manual check-ins at Point A and Point B to learn about users," explains the company’s website. "Hatchback persistently gathers information about users' travel patterns to understand their tendencies, whereabouts and habits as consumers. In other words, Hatchback captures the invaluable moments happening between Point A and Point B that the 'big guys' simply don't access."

Atoptix, located in State College, is developing a smart-phone integrated health sensor. It offers individuals the ability to track and monitor their health and wellness by accurately measuring the levels of various tissue components such as hemoglobin, oxygen and glucose. The patented miniature optical spectrometer technology allows for completely non-invasive, real-time monitoring and early warning for health concerns such as anemia, diabetes, inflammation and even cancer. 

"Atoptix was formed to turn exciting technology developed by researchers at Penn State University into solutions that can have a meaningful and marketable impact outside of the research laboratory," says the company's website; the enterprise was recently awarded an SBIR Phase 1 grant by the National Institutes of Health.

In Boalsburg, Sensor Networks has developed a safe, patented digital solution for measuring and monitoring wall thickness in pipes, tanks, vessels and heat exchangers. This technology replaces the need to send technicians into physical locations such as refineries, chemical plants, rail and tank trucks, storage tanks and offshore drilling platforms. In February, the company was awarded a $50,000 grant from Ben Franklin’s Shale Gas Innovation and Commercialization Center. 

Source: BFTP/CNP
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Toothbrushes, Textiles, Technology: BFTP/NEP invests in 10 diverse companies

Three early-stage companies and seven established manufacturers in northeastern Pennsylvania are beneficiaries of the latest round of investments from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/NEP). Those investments total $316,000.
 
Loans were provided to the following early-stage companies:
 
Bison Analytics, LLC, Lewisburg, was awarded $52,500 to complete development of and provide marketing support to their consolidation, planning and business intelligence software, targeted to small businesses that use QuickBooks
 
Colymer Industries, LLC, located at Ben Franklin TechVentures in Bethlehem, earned $50,000 to implement a marketing and sales strategy to commercialize a new proprietary, non-asphalt roofing and waterproofing material called Tarzanite.
 
Four Hound Solutions, LLC, Wilkes-Barre, received a loan of $25,000 to develop and submit a provisional patent and revise their business plan; the company produces software solutions for automated test equipment. 
 
BFTP/NEP will also provide matching funds for these technology-based manufacturing/university partnerships.
 
Applied Separations, Inc., Allentown, and Lafayette College received $50,000 to develop and implement a new process and deploy equipment for the waterless dyeing of textiles. They hope to tap into business-to-business sales to clothing manufacturers and textile companies.
 
Bio Med Sciences, Inc., Allentown, and Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center earned $25,000 to complete implementation of a new Enterprise Resource Planning system. The company produces innovative and specialized materials for burn and wound care, and aesthetic skin care. 

Effort Foundry, Inc., Bath, and Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center received $25,000 to implement improved production methods and product tracking capabilities at this supplier of high-integrity steel parts for the pump, power generation, and military industries.
 
Hydro Recovery LP, Blossburg, and Pennsylvania State University were awarded $25,000 to further develop and optimize the economic extraction of useful materials from residual "frac" water used in natural gas wells.
 
Pleasant Mount Welding, Inc., Carbondale, and Johnson College received $20,100 to develop manufacturing capability and produce aluminum I-bar and rectangular bar grating products to better serve customers, increase profit margin and create additional market opportunities. 

Radius Toothbrush, Kutztown, and Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center earned $18,500 to complete facility assessment and planning to accommodate future growth at this manufacturer of innovative, high-performance, ergonomic toothbrushes.
 
Rea.deeming Beauty, Inc., Bethlehem, and Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center were awarded $25,000 to streamline current manufacturing and shipping procedures by designing and implementing new automation techniques at this manufacturer of elliptical-shaped makeup applicators. 

Source: BFTP/NEP
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Wilkes Enterprise Center opens its doors to startups in downtown Wilkes-Barre

Wilkes University has expanded its entrepreneurial education offerings with the new Wilkes Enterprise Center, a downtown business incubator intended to encourage and support startups from Wilkes students, faculty and staff.  

According to a university blog post, nine nascent businesses are already housed at the center, which opened in March. Three are student-run enterprises: Kraken Boardsports, which manufactures outdoor recreation products; Magnesium Works, a company developing a therapeutic wrap for athletic and other applications; and Penwel, developers of a product to increase student safety at parties.

Other businesses run by Wilkes faculty and staff include Bepa Studio, a nature photography studio; Four Hound Solutions, which provides automated testing solutions (and is the recipient of a new investment, reported in this issue, from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania); Penn Manufacturing, an additive manufacturing company; MC2 Consulting Group, which provides leadership training and consulting services; and Xonnel Enterprises, which designs and manufactures fitness equipment. A ninth company, At The Inkwell -- which specializes in book promotion and reviews in an online platform -- is not physically located at the center, but will use its support services.  

The new center is an integral part of Wilkes' vision to expand entrepreneurial education across academic disciplines, explains Wilkes University President Patrick F. Leahy.

"The Wilkes Enterprise Center strengthens our educational mission, providing opportunities for students to apply what they have learned to invent new products and processes and to build businesses," he said in a statement. "Students also benefit by working with faculty who will start businesses under the auspices of the center."

An initiative of the Allan P. Kirby Center for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship at Wilkes, the center also reflects the University’s commitment to the city by attracting new businesses to downtown and retaining talented individuals to work locally. 

Businesses at the center receive office space and advising from an executive-in-residence and a team of volunteer business advisors. Wilkes is also planning a seed venture fund and technology transfer office to further support fledgling businesses.

Source: Wilkes University
Writer: Elise Vider
 

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Alice Solomon, Pulse InfoFrame
Writer: Elise Vider

Architrep hatches DIY dinosaur kits in Allentown

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Lisa Glover, Architrep
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Philadelphia's BioBots prints living tissue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Danny Cabrera, BioBots
Writer: Elise Vider
 
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