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Win Win: $300,000 for a new jobs program at University City District


Many who want to work face challenges such as poverty, long-time unemployment, or transitioning to life outside the criminal justice system. They may not be ready for the traditional workforce, but they’re adults with the capacity to build skills given the right mentorship. Enter a new landscaping program from University City District (UCD), which just received a $300,000 two-year seed grant.
 
The Green City Works employment initiative -- which earned a $50,000 planning grant last year -- is now officially launching with support from the Job Opportunity Investment Network (JOIN), a program of United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey. JOIN awarded the nascent program (an extension of the existing West Philadelphia Skills Initiative) that planning grant in January 2015; 24 regional organizations competed for four awards.

The grant program was dubbed the Win-Win Challenge because it aimed to build a win-win scenario for workers and employers. The local nonprofit community was invited to "come to us with new ideas around partnership…that seek to address actual business needs," explains JOIN Executive Director Jennie Sparandara. But at the same time, they wanted to help those who most need a leg up in the workforce.

JOIN assessed the four grantees one year later, determining who was ready to translate their plans into action. Green City Works, a nonprofit landscaping venture, was the clearly prepared for the next step.

"UCD is really recognizing that not everybody…is ready for work with a big employer," says Sparandara of the program’s appeal to JOIN. "[They] need a safe space to learn on the job, with practical skill-building and workplace coaching designed to help participants progress in their careers beyond Green City Works. With UCD, the hope is to connect them with these big institutional employers in the Philadelphia area."

"From JOIN’s perspective, we’re interested in learning how these positions can serve as an entrée into the trade,” adds JOIN Program Manager Hoa Pham.

According to Sparandara, UCD was able to demonstrate and articulate "a very clear vision for how they wanted to use funding to build out this program…They are open to and interested in learning and growing along with us as funders.This fits very well with JOIN’s mission as seed-funders and a learning community.

The project will formally launch on March 22, with JOIN dollars beginning to flow this month.

In the future, we’ll take a look at how Green City Works grew from the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative and the program’s specific goals over the next two years.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Jennie Sparandara and Hoa Pham, JOIN 

The Job Opportunity Investment Network (JOIN) has partnered with Flying Kite to explore how good jobs are created and filled in Greater Philadelphia. Stay tuned as we follow the progress of these exciting grants and track the city's continued workforce development challenges.

 

BioDetego's technology predicts a cancer's return


For cancer patients, their doctors and loved ones, there is no question more pressing than whether the disease will return -- and whether chemotherapy is necessary. BioDetego, a "virtual resident" at the University City Science Center, is aiming squarely at those wrenching uncertainties with a novel testing platform that aims to predict which cancer patients will experience a recurrence and benefit from additional treatment.
 
Based on research by CEO David Zuzga and his mentor Dr. Giovanni Mario Pitari at Thomas Jefferson University, BioDetego was founded in 2012. The company raised seed funds in 2014 and, over the past year, has established a research collaboration with the Mayo Clinic and completed a pilot clinical study in colon cancer.
 
"Following surgery to remove a tumor, the biggest questions for patients and their doctors are, 'Will the cancer come back"?’ and 'Is chemotherapy necessary?'" says Zuzga. "The answers likely determine who receives chemotherapy and who does not, but unfortunately, these are among the hardest questions to answer with the current standard of care."
 
To address this need, BioDetego has identified biomarkers in tumors that are closely associated with how aggressive cancers are. As Zuzga explains, these biomarkers describe the function of a protein called vasodilator-stimulated phosphoprotein or VASP. VASP has a very specific and unique biologic function in tumors. It converts signals that the tumor receives from its environment into physical force, allowing the tumor cell to move throughout the body and ultimately cause metastases.
 
BioDetego's testing platform VASPfore determines whether the VASP mechanism in tumors is functional.

"It’s a bit like seeing whether a transmission is in gear or in neutral," explains Zuzga. "A tumor with the VASP mechanism in gear is highly invasive and these patients are much more likely to experience a relapse and benefit from chemotherapy. Conversely, if the VASP mechanism is in neutral or non-functional, a relapse is very unlikely and these patients may avoid harmful unnecessary chemotherapy."
 
The company's initial focus is on colorectal cancer -- the VASPfore colorectal cancer test could be available to patients in as little as three years after completion of two clinical validation studies. The potential market is large, with 80,000 patients diagnosed each year in the U.S. with stage II or early stage III disease. That number grows to 200,000 with European countries and Australia, where BioDetego has filed patent applications.
 
BioDetego is also investigating VASPfore’s applicability to other forms of cancer including breast, prostate, kidney and bladder.

"Ultimately, we believe there is an opportunity for the VASPfore platform to broadly disrupt the paradigm of cancer prognosis and chemotherapy treatment decision making," enthuses Zuzga.
 
The startup joined the Science Center as a virtual resident in 2014, affording it a physical address and access to the Center’s community and resources. As BioDetego grows, the company hopes to set up operations in the Port Business Incubator

WRITER IN RESIDENCE is a partnership between the University City Science Center and Flying Kite Media that embeds a reporter on-site at 3711 Market Street. The resulting coverage will provide an inside look at the most intriguing companies, discoveries and technological innovations coming out of this essential Philadelphia institution.
 

New business pre-accelerator program launches out of the Camden CoLab


In April, the Camden CoLab will partner with Hopeworks 'N Camden to launch a new pre-accelerator program that hopes to draw aspiring entrepreneurs of all stripes. Like the renovation of the Ruby Match Factory into a state-of-the-art office space, it’s another initiative in our former On the Ground neighborhood that proves Camden is poised for job growth.

The Camden CoLab Hopeworks Pre-Accelerator (as it’s currently titled) hopes to attract an inaugural class of 10 to 30 students. The six-week course will be hosted at the Waterfront Technology Center of the Rutgers Camden campus. It’s open to new entrepreneurs from any region, but the Hopeworks partnership and other outreach will ensure special focus on locals who need help developing a business idea.

According to CoLab Director Suzanne Zammit, the idea came from a group of Rutgers students she taught last semester -- they developed a project to benchmark university-sponsored business accelerators all over the U.S., incorporating factors like best practices and curriculum.

"Let’s quit waiting and just do this," recalls Zammit of the plan to bring their research to bear in Camden.

Applications for the program -- Monday night classes begin the first week of April -- are coming soon (keep an eye on the CoLab website for links). The exact cost of the pre-accelerator is still TBD, but it will be an accessible price with some scholarships available. Applicants should already have a concept for a business (anything from tech to a consumer product or service), but not know where to start with a business plan or revenue model. Social impact and diversity are especially in line with CoLab's mission.

"There will be a teacher lesson for an hour-and-a-half, and then there will be a guest speaker who will be an entrepreneur," explains Zammit. These speakers will include people who have just concluded their initial fundraising all the way to up to entrepreneurs running successful businesses, as well as others from the local startup community. There will also be plenty of one-on-one mentoring and business development guidance.

The ultimate hope is to repeat the program not just for new aspiring business-owners, but to bring the inaugural class through two more successive accelerator rounds and help them achieve a million dollars in revenue.

"Once they leave this class, they’ll be ready to go," insists Zammit. "We’re truly launching successful companies that are going to create a buzz, as well as attract more companies to the Camden waterfront and create more jobs."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Suzanne Zammit, Camden CoLab


Follow all our work #OnTheGroundPhilly via twitter (@flyingkitemedia) and Instagram (@flyingkite_ontheground).

On the Ground is made possible by the Knight Foundation, an organization that supports transformational ideas, promotes quality journalism, advances media innovation, engages communities and fosters the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.
 

Entrepreneur IQ launches with Brock Weatherup, big Philly booster


Brock Weatherup would like to change the narrative about Philadelphia's startup climate. First, stop comparing it to Silicon Valley. Instead, talk up "our special aggregation of all the elements needed for the startup community." And that old meme about Philadelphia’s brain drain? Get over that, too.
 
Last week, Weatherup used the bully pulpit as the University City Science Center’s first Entrepreneur IQ (short for Entrepreneur in Quorum) to encourage the crowd to get bullish on the region. The new program will offer targeted advice to aspiring entrepreneurs. 
 
A hugely successful serial entrepreneur, angel investor and president of Philly Startup Leaders, Weatherup is best known as CEO of Pet360, which sold to PetSmart in 2014 for $160 million.
 
Silicon Valley, said Weatherup, with its highly developed entrepreneurial ecosystem, its abundance of capital and its ferociously competitive business climate, is in a class by itself, followed only -- distantly -- by Israel, "and then there are the rest of us."
 
Consider what Philadelphia has to offer, he argued. Its diverse economy provides emerging companies with a multiplicity of often-illusive first and second customers. It has capital, it has talent ("finding great people is always the hardest thing") and, unlike other cities where he has worked, it has an open and welcoming entrepreneurial community.
 
It is in that spirit that Weatherup is volunteering as the first Entrepreneur IQ, sponsored by Fox Rothschild
 
Weatherup will begin counseling aspiring startup founders during office hours (April 4 and May 18). You can get more information or signup here
 
WRITER IN RESIDENCE is a partnership between the University City Science Center and Flying Kite Media that embeds a reporter on-site at 3711 Market Street. The resulting coverage will provide an inside look at the most intriguing companies, discoveries and technological innovations coming out of this essential Philadelphia institution.
 

Temple Blackstone Launchpad student wins pitch contest with campus food delivery app


Recent Temple graduate Andrew Nakkache and his business partner, fellow grad Mike Paszkiewicz, got the idea for their winning 2016 College Pitch Philly concept Habitat when they grew frustrated with the student meal plans. The resulting startup is a food-delivery app linking local food trucks and restaurants with campus-dwellers.

The duo -- who both graduated about a month ago -- met on their very first day on campus and soon identified a couple things about student life that weren’t ideal, including the fact that they (or their parents) were wasting money on meal plans with meals that expired weekly.

"Wouldn’t it be awesome if there was an off-campus meal plan?" Nakkache remembers wondering. It was just a concept at that point, but a year-and-a-half later, he and Paszkiewicz launched the initial version of Habitat, a general "student-to-student marketplace."

"It failed big-time," recalls Nakkache. It was "buggy" and they released it in April, shortly before the summer exodus. People were downloading the app, but in one month, they didn’t book a single transaction. There was work to be done.

The partners headed to San Francisco for some mentorship -- one successful entrepreneur assured them that they had a great market, but needed to zero in on a much more targeted service. They realized that there was a huge opportunity in food alone.

Nakkache points to existing meal delivery apps and websites like GrubHub; they realized none of them were focused on the college market. The revamped version of Habitat, launched September 1, 2015, operates with "runners" (exclusively Temple students) delivering food to campus sites within a half-mile or less of participating restaurants and food trucks for a $2.50 in-app delivery fee.

Since launch, Habitat has clocked about 1200 orders, with over 400 in the last month. Nakkache touts a 75 percent success rate with vendors: out of 28 food trucks and restaurants approached by Habitat, 21 came on board.

At the February 24 College Pitch Philly competition, Habitat took top honors, nabbing $7,500 out of a total $15,000 prize pool. (The contest is sponsored by the Philadelphia Regional Entrepreneurship Education Consortium and partners StartUp PHL, Blackstone Foundation, and Quorum at the University City Science Center.) Wins like this -- including a $21,000 boost from the Fox School’s Be Your Own Boss Bowl -- have helped propel the young company, which now has six full-time employees.

Habitat’s latest update speaks to the founders’ original inspiration: a stored-value feature that allows app users (or their parents) to buy tiered plans that include a certain number of pre-paid meals (at $8 each) and some free deliveries.

Next up? Burnish the metrics at Temple and expand to University City. The founders hope the prize money from College Pitch Philly will help bring Habitat to Penn and Drexel by fall 2016.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Andrew Nakkache, Habitat

Promising healthcare technologies win $600K investment from the Science Center


A new way to gather DNA for testing. A better tool for training healthcare workers. Improved physical therapy. An innovative approach to stem cell therapy. These technologies are all under development at regional universities and have been funded by the latest round of the University City Science Center’s QED Proof-of-Concept Program

Launched in 2009, the program provides a boost to novel university-born technologies with market potential, bridging the gap between academic research and commercialization. To date, 28 funded QED projects have attracted over $15 million in follow-on funding and led to seven licensed technologies.

QED goes to the heart of the Center's mission as a nonprofit organization that supports early-stage innovation. In its latest funding round -- the eighth -- QED awarded $600,000 to support researchers at the University of Delaware, Penn State University and Rutgers. The awards are half funded by the Science Center and half by the researchers’ institutions.

The four awardees were selected from a pool of 62 applicants and 12 universities in the Greater Philadelphia region.

Amy Cowperthwait of the University of Delaware is revolutionizing healthcare training by addressing the shortcomings of mannequin simulation. A qualified nurse, Cowperthwait has teamed up with lead engineer Amy Bucha to develop a tool for teaching healthcare workers airway management in emergency situations, improving patient safety and providing feedback from the patient’s perspective.

Dr. Judith Deutsch, professor of rehabilitation and movement science at the Rutgers University School of Health Related Professions, led a team of physical therapists and engineers to create a customized low-cost rehabilitation technology that selectively tracks movement and heart rate. The technology will aid in balance, mobility, coordination and fitness training for older adults as well as persons with neurologic and musculoskeletal conditions such as a stroke.

Dr. Melik Demirel of Penn State is using proteins to coat the surfaces of biomedical swabs, improving DNA capture. These swabs will allow gene analysis from even tiny amounts of blood or other biological samples; the DNA swab industry is the primary market for this product.

Dr. KiBum Lee, an associate professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Rutgers, is developing an innovative platform for programming human patient-derived stem cells for use in stem-cell therapies. His methods would help people with incurable and debilitating diseases and disorders. Lee's strategy is unlike conventional approaches because it doesn’t rely on the use of viruses to modify the cells' genes.

"The QED program excels at finding innovative, commercially relevant solutions for pressing problems in healthcare and life sciences," notes Science Center President and CEO Stephen S. Tang. "Our latest round looked for innovative approaches to collaboration as it emphasized partnerships between two groups that don’t typically work together: medical professionals and engineers. Putting together these groups’ different skill sets and perspectives -- as exemplified by Amy Cowperthwait’s and Judith Deutsch’s projects -- creates another path to improving patient care. You can expect to see more of these special emphasis areas in the future."

WRITER IN RESIDENCE is a partnership between the University City Science Center and Flying Kite Media that embeds a reporter on-site at 3711 Market Street. The resulting coverage will provide an inside look at the most intriguing companies, discoveries and technological innovations coming out of this essential Philadelphia institution.
 

GreenFutures takes shape at Philly schools


Last week, we spoke with Megan Garner about the School District of Philadelphia's new five-year "GreenFutures" Sustainability Plan which includes a big boost for recycling in all of the city's schools. Modeled on the City's six-year Greenworks Philadelphia initiative, the program is broken up into several focus areas.

Greenworks includes categories such as energy, environment, engagement and equity, and the District admired the model. Their Office of Environmental Management and Services sought out input from a partnering Consumption Waste Committee which featured representatives from Keep Philadelphia Beautiful, Recyclebank and other school districts (including New York City and suburban Philly-area districts) which have had success with their own green initiatives.

According to Garner, the District chose five focus areas for its own GreenFutures plan: Sustainability; Consumption and Waste; Energy and Efficiencies; School Greenscapes; and Healthy Schools, Healthy Living.

Francine Locke, Director of the District’s Office of Environmental Management and Services, is spearheading the project with help from internal and external partners. She has a master’s degree in environmental health, and experience as an industrial hygienist; Garner studied geology and worked in environmental consulting.

"Prior to this [plan], we were helping with indoor environmental quality inspections," explains Garner. That included projects like the clean-up of oil or chemical spills.

They weren’t educators, but after focusing on the operations side at the District, they began to reach out to curriculum departments about incorporating sustainability initiatives into the life of the schools. Possible future educational options include a special science course, or an environmental or energy-savers club.

Building GreenFutures involved extensive outreach. Within the District, that meant connecting with departments as diverse as educational technology, transportation, food services and facilities management. Outside the schools, it meant creating relationships with local government, public and private industry leaders, nearby school districts, and institutions of higher learning.

Garner says that the initiative's five focus areas cover about sixty individual actions. For example, helping all schools -- not just ones with large yards – incorporate educational green spaces, and officially cataloging the green spaces and gardens that do exist.

"The goal is that 100 percent of [Philadelphia] schools will recycle," says Garner of the plan's major five-year push. Through recycling, the District hopes to "increase its aggregate waste diversion from landfills by ten percent over five years."

Does that sound low?

Maybe, but according to Garner, "we’re hoping to blow it out of the water. Every student will have access to a vision for consumption and waste. Every student will have access to a school that incorporates waste reduction practices and diverts waste from landfills."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Megan Garner, School District of Philadelphia

What does the Every Student Succeeds Act mean for Philly youngsters?


2001's No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) -- with its federally mandated education standards -- has been replaced by 2015's Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). On February 24, the Friends Center's Exchange PHL hosted Maura McInerney, a senior attorney at the Education Law Center – PA, for the latest installment of its Breakfast Series to discuss the shifts ESSA will bring to U.S. schools (with most changes taking effect by December of this year).

While McInerney was frank about many portions of the law that maintain nebulous standards in terms of education access, goals, and enforcement, the new rules mean a goodbye to mandates for the controversial Common Core teaching style.

Teachers "had no idea how to implement the Common Core," she explained. Now states are required to adopt "challenging" academic standards -- which could mean a continuance of Common Core or a new standard (Pennsylvania opted to maintain Common Core).

So how does ESSA impact Pennsylvania and Philadelphia schools? Some of its provisions build on the original intent of NCLB with policies to maintain and increase access to quality education for at-risk children. This is important for our state because Pennsylvania has the largest disparity in the country between its wealthy school districts and its under-funded school districts, and children are hurting.

One notable change from NCLB -- particularly relevant to a state with wide funding gaps -- is a new requirement disaggregating data about students' performance. Evaluations will no longer group all children together, but allow special consideration for students who face extra challenges, such as kids who are homeless or living in poverty, kids in foster care, kids with disabilities, or kids learning English as a second language.

ESSA also works to eliminate punitive measures for teachers whose students fail to meet federal standards. According to McInerney, this was resulting in counselors and teachers advising kids to miss tests when they were at risk of failing them.

ESSA also hopes to better support kids who now wind up in Alternative Education for Disruptive Youth programs (AEDY). A disproportionate number of students in AEDY programs have disabilities (McInerney helped open a legal investigation into the problem). And ironically, one issue that often lands kids in AEDY programs is truancy (how can children be labeled "disruptive" if they’re not even present, she wondered). ESSA aims to implement conditions to reduce bullying and harassment and "reduce the overuse of discipline practices that remove students from the classroom." Currently kids in AEDY programs must change schools to enter their new classrooms, and, as a punitive measure, lose access to art and music classes, maintaining only "core subjects." This does little to reduce disruptive behavior or truancy.

Another provision of ESSA that could impact Philadelphia schools in particular relates to grant programs for school districts. Districts that receive over $30,000 must spend "20 percent on at least one activity that helps students be safe and healthy."

What could that mean for Philly? The restoration of school nurses. Due to budget cuts, local schools have lost 100 nurses since 2011. In some cases, a single nurse now covers as many as five schools. ESSA could help change that.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Maura McInerney, Education Law Center – PA 

 

Food News: Eclectic Double Knot brings coffee, pastries, banh mi, sushi and more to Midtown Village


Coffee. Pastries. Banh mi and lunch bowls. Sushi. Japanese-style small plates. Robatayaki. You can get them all at Double KnotSampan's exciting new neighbor on 13th Street. For Michael Schulson and his MJS Restaurants (of Atlantic City's Izakaya, Sampan and the Independence Beer Garden) the new spot came after a quick turnaround -- it took less than a year from lease to launch. The dynamic space is an intriguing addition to Midtown Village's exploding restaurant scene.

There’s so much happening at Double Knot (120 S. 13th Street) that it's good to have a tour guide. The space has two levels: about 1100 square feet upstairs and a larger downstairs space offering about 3000 square feet including dining rooms, a bar (under beverage manager Zachary Davis), and a twelve-seat sushi and robatayaki bar.

The Double Knot day starts at 7 a.m. in its street-level coffee bar where they serve a buzzy proprietary blend through a partnership with Elixr; the menu also includes coffee cocktails and pastries (from pastry chef Roxxanne Delle Site). From there, it's on to lunch: Schulson says his mid-day patrons have been especially enthusiastic about the midday offerings: create-your-own lunch bowls or banh mi for just $7.

At 4 p.m., the cocktail lounge opens, serving a daily punch, wine and beer on draft, desserts, and selections from the downstairs sushi and robatayaki menus. Dinner starts at 5 p.m. with 35 seats upstairs -- along with a full bar serving sake by the glass and bottle -- and 80 seats downstairs, plus the sushi bar.

"We wanted to do something that made the downstairs feel a little bit more exclusive, more hidden," says Shulson of building a space that patrons will discover "tucked away" down a hallway and back stairwell.

And dinner?

Executive Chef Kevin Yanaga supervises a menu featuring sushi, Japanese small plates (Schulson recommends ordering about eight for a table of two) and 38 robatayaki options. Robatayaki is a Japanese-style skewer slow-grilled over open charcoal; Double Knot’s offerings include duck hearts, lobster, shrimp, venison, chicken breast and asparagus.

As for the small plates, take your pick. The menu has nine sections including meat, fish, sushi, sashimi, hot, cold and crispy. Schulson's favorites include the hearts of palm salad; the tuna tartare with chili oil, avocado and rice pearls; and the rib-eye for two served with sushi rice and lettuce for wrapping.

Kate Rohrer of Rohe Creative designed the space. Upstairs patrons will find a light, earthy palette including exposed brick, reclaimed wood, tile, antiqued mirrors and industrial-style lighting. Downstairs, there's "dark and moody" velvet booths, industrial fixtures and two hand-painted murals.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Michael Schulson, MJS Restaurants

 

A new citywide plan for school district recycling gets off the ground


"You wouldn’t think it’s that hard, because pretty much everyone recycles at home, right? So what is the big problem at school?” asks Megan Garner, Sustainability Program Manager at the School District of Philadelphia’s Office of Environmental Management and Services. They're rolling out the ambitious five-year city-wide "GreenFutures" program, bringing a full recycling program to each of the District’s 218 schools.
 
Recycling does exist in City schools, but it’s limited -- they are all able to recycle cardboard. Forty-two schools also have a dumpster for co-mingled recyclables and a vendor to haul them, but at the remaining schools, all other recyclables (including cans and bottles) currently go right into the trash.
 
A longtime in-house contractor with the School District through Keating Environmental Management, Garner has been working closely on the District’s sustainability plan (launching this spring) with her supervisor Francine Locke, director of the Office of Environmental Management and Services.
 
"We would like to expand the program, but we’re having trouble getting participation at the schools," says Garner. Many principals and staffers face pressing issues that make it tough to prioritize recycling.
 
But according to some studies, about ninety percent of the average classroom’s waste is recyclable. So is this as simple as just putting recycling bins in Philly classrooms?
 
No, Garner insists, if they don't bring kids on board with the initiatives, "we would be missing a large educational piece with our students…We’re not in the waste business; we’re in the education business."
 
That means not just relying on District staff -- teachers and building engineers -- or outside vendors to make District-wide recycling a reality. It’s getting the kids in on the ground floor.
 
Garner hopes students and staff can eventually see that recycling isn’t a "stand-alone" proposition and build understanding of the "embodied energy" that our trash represents: the use of raw materials and depletion of natural resources, and energy spent shipping, processing and packing. There are also plenty of cross-curricular, interdisciplinary links, like the impact recycling has on our drinking water, air quality and climate.
 
Widespread recycling also makes economic sense. Trash disposal currently costs a set fee per pick-up -- and an additional fee by weight when it reaches the landfill. Recycling shrinks the volume of landfill trash, lessening the number of trash pick-ups needed and reducing landfill fees.
 
"So even if you’re not in it for the social or environmental aspects, financially it makes sense," explains Garner. "To be successful, it really needs to have the students involved...people don’t generally say no to student ideas. So if it’s student-driven and student-led, with the support of teachers and staff, it has a much better chance for success."
 
And it’s about preparing for Philly’s future, too. According to Garner, today’s students are "the decision-makers, the policy-makers, the leaders, the critical thinkers, the innovators of tomorrow."
 
Stay tuned for a closer look at the District’s plan to boost sustainability in our schools.
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Megan Garner, School District of Philadelphia

 

The Philadelphia Immigrant Innovation Hub launches in Mt. Airy

On February 4, Mayor Jim Kenney joined Mt. Airy USA Executive Director Brad Copeland and others for the official launch of the Philadelphia Immigrant Innovation Hub at 6700 Germantown Avenue.

In his remarks to the diverse crowd of immigrant entrepreneurs, funders and other supporters, Kenney called the room "a beautiful sight."

"This is what Philadelphia looks like," he said. "And this is what the country should look like."

Copeland added that a support and co-working hub for Philly's immigrant entrepreneurs was "very Mt. Airy" -- the neighborhood is already extremely diverse and civically engaged. He praised Hub members’ commitment, drive, energy, vision and "willingness to take risks."

The Hub was made possible by a 2015 Knight Foundation Cities Challenge grant. Speakers credited former Mt. Airy USA leader Anuj Gupta for the inspiration to pursue these dollars for the project. Out of 5,000 applications last year, there were 32 winners -- seven of those from Philadelphia, the most winners from any city in the country.

"[Knight] allows organizations like ours to dream crazy dreams and then challenges us to make them a reality," enthused Copeland.

Sarajane Blair and Jamie Shanker of Mt. Airy USA outlined the new space's offerings, which are made possible with additional financial support and guidance from the nonprofit community lender FINANTA. Services will include "core workshops" (offered through a partnership with the Welcoming Center for New Pennyslvanians), individual business and financial plan development, credit building tools, and community support and engagement helmed by Mt. Airy USA. Hub members will also have access to a co-working space on Germantown Avenue, five financial lending cycles a year, and dedicated networking programs.

"We will do everything we can to help you succeed," said Blair to program participants.

Those eligible for the program must be immigrants to the U.S. who want to be self-employed and have a business idea or plan, but need assistance in starting or growing their business. Applicants can head to piihub.org to get started.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Philadelphia Immigrant Innovation Hub launch speakers
 

Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau welcomes new ceo and a major national conference


In January, the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB) welcomed its new president and CEO Julie Coker Graham with an announcement ceremony featuring Mayor Jim Kenney and leaders of the National Medical Association (NMA). America’s oldest and largest organization representing African American healthcare professionals, NMA will hold its annual conference in Philadelphia in July 2017. (Flying Kite heard from Graham a few weeks ago when she spoke at Philly’s Women at the Wheel forum.)

According to Graham, the conference will bring 3500 attendees to the city, with an estimated $5 million economic impact. And it’s extra special because current NMA national president is Philly’s own Dr. Edith P. Mitchell, a medical oncologist and associate director of Jefferson University Health System’s Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center.

Dr. Mitchell is pleased to represent a partnership between Jefferson, the NMA and the City of Philadelphia. When the NMA was formed in 1895, "doctors like me were denied membership in other organizations," she explained at the ceremony. Mitchell appreciates the opportunities at Philly’s many medical and educational institutions and asked, "How we can all work together to fight disparities and head toward healthcare equity for all?"

NMA Executive Director Martin Hamlette introduced Dr. Mitchell with the same themes. He pointed to the NMA's many corporate and political partnerships that tackle the issues both African-American physicians and their patients face, with a special focus on chronic conditions, aging and wellness, and fair access to healthcare.

"We get lobbied by a lot of cities," said Hamlette of deciding to bring the 2017 conference to the Pennsylvania Convention Center. (The last NMA conference held here was in 2003.) Philly was chosen not only because it’s a vibrant, "progressive" city where it’s good to conduct business, but also because it’s "a city that embraces diversity."

"Philadelphia is going to lead toward healthcare equity for all of us," added Dr. Mitchell.

According to PHLCVB, the organization’s convention bookings over the next several years will bring close to two million visitors to the city and generate an estimated $4 billion in regional economic impact.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: PHLCVB and NMA speakers

 

Could Philly's next big healthcare company come out of the Digital Health Accelerator?

Six early-stage healthcare companies comprise the 2016 class at the University City Science Center’s Digital Health Accelerator (DHA). These startups are developing technologies as diverse as enrolling sick pets in clinical trials to providing treatment for chronic wounds without a doctor’s visit.
 
Each startup in the just-announced sophomore cohort will receive up to $50,000 in funding, professional mentorship, and networking opportunities with key healthcare stakeholders including insurers, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and research institutions. They’ll also receive a 12-month membership at the Innovation Center @3401 -- a partnership between the Science Center and Drexel University in collaboration with Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania and Safeguard Scientifics
 
The 2016 DHA companies are:

Grand Round Table
The company's product emails primary care providers a daily summary of their scheduled patient follow-ups so they can better manage high-risk patients, keeping them out of the hospital.

Graphwear Technologies
This startup has developed the first graphene patch to measure dehydration, glucose and lactic acid levels, all from your sweat.

InvisAlert Solutions
The company uses a wearable device to help care providers monitor patients in institutional settings, improving compliance.

Oncora Medical
This enterprise has a tool for planning personalized cancer radiotherapy, reducing the incidence of toxic radiation side effects in patients and improving cancer center efficiency.

One Health Company
This startup helps to enroll ill pets in trials of cutting-edge therapies, improving their wellness and encouraging the development of new therapies for human medicine.

Tissue Analytics
This company transforms the smartphone into a platform for evaluating and measuring things like chronic wounds, burns and skin conditions. 
 
The 2016 class was selected from a pool of 69 applicants via a multi-stage process that emphasized the inclusion of women and minority entrepreneurs. The DHA employs a selection panel of industry and investor professionals -- including a number from outside the region -- to review applications and make recommendations.
 
As it turned out, all of the selected companies have some connection to the University of Pennsylvania or Drexel. Four of them -- Grand Round Table, GraphWear Technologies, Oncora Medical and Tissue Analytics -- are graduates of DreamIt, also located at the Innovation Center. Of the six companies in the second DHA class, three are women or minority-owned.
 
The Science Center launched the DHA in 2014; seven companies from the inaugural class have since gone from prototype to commercialization, creating 68 new jobs, generating over $1 million in revenue and raising almost $9 million in follow-on investment.
 
Funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration Growth Accelerator Fund enabled the second class of the DHA to continue to focus on minority and women-led businesses. The DHA also received support from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development

WRITER IN RESIDENCE is a partnership between the University City Science Center and Flying Kite Media that embeds a reporter on-site at 3711 Market Street. The resulting coverage will provide an inside look at the most intriguing companies, discoveries and technological innovations coming out of this essential Philadelphia institution.
 

Saying goodbye (for now) to Callowhill with a look back at neighborhood voices


As Flying Kite transitions from its most recent On the Ground residency at Asian Arts Initiative, it’s worth looking back on neighborhood voices from the past few years. After all, this area just north of Center City has many names and many stories.

Last week, we spoke with Mural Arts freelance project manager Dave Kyu. He's been involved with the Asian Arts Social Practice Lab since 2012. His past projects include "Sign of the Times," which collected thoughts and reflections from the neighborhood and broadcast them on signs mounted on a truck driving around the city, and "Write Sky," which solicited ideas from community members that became messages in the sky with the help of sky-writing pilots.

To launch projects like this -- including his current work on a light and sound installation near the Viaduct -- he needed to get to know the neighborhood. Kyu began with a small survey of about fifteen people, hoping to learn what people’s perceptions of the area were. He recently shared the results with Flying Kite. The themes raised in surveys conducted in late 2012 through early 2013 reflect dramatic neighborhood change.

One question he asked his subjects was a deceptively simple one: What do you call this neighborhood?

To some, it’s Chinatown North, but it’s also Callowhill and "North of Vine." Others call it "the Viaduct area" -- certainly a label that’s gaining traction now -- and others call it "Eraserhood" or the "Loft District."

Kyu says all of these names just represent different factions of people trying to preserve what they see as their piece of the neighborhood as development advances.

Back then, respondents noted that the area was becoming a haven for the "creative class" and other entrepreneurs. The addition of galleries, bars and restaurants -- from artists and collectives at the 319 gallery building to nightlife startups like Brick and Mortar and W/N W/N Coffee Bar, and services like GoBeer -- have borne this out.

Kyu also asked subjects, "What is the best thing that could happen in this neighborhood in the next year?" Answers included a launch to the first stage of the new Viaduct Park (on its way), and "some type of festival that is accessible for all." Last fall’s Pearl Street Passage project offered a taste of this possibility.

The survey also noted that the area was "ripe for development" and changing extremely fast. Projects from the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation’s Eastern Tower to new high-end residential units on Spring Garden, speak to expanding live/work opportunities in the neighborhood.

Keep an eye out for our continued coverage of happenings in Callowhill as it searches for its 21st century identity. And come say hello in Strawberry Mansion, where we will begin our next On the Ground residency soon.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Dave Kyu
, Mural Arts Project and Asian Arts Initiative

Follow all our work #OnTheGroundPhilly via twitter (@flyingkitemedia) and Instagram (@flyingkite_ontheground).

On the Ground is made possible by the Knight Foundation, an organization that supports transformational ideas, promotes quality journalism, advances media innovation, engages communities and fosters the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.
 

Crystallized Skulls, Crocheted Skeletons: Art meets zoological specimens at the Science Center


What are a crystallized alligator skull, crocheted bird skeletons and a "couture taxidermy" peacock doing at the University City Science Center? They are among the works of 12 artists on display at Methods of Collection, a new exhibition opening this week at the Esther Klein Gallery.
 
For almost its entire 40-plus-year history, the Center has employed a curator to draw the connection between science and art. The gallery itself -- which opened in 1976 and bears the name of a well-known Philadelphia philanthropist -- has a mission to use "the creative arts as a platform to explore relationships between art, science and technology."
 
According to Angela McQuillan, the current curator, the concept for the new show emerged from her personal experience. As a cancer researcher earlier in her career, she saw animal studies as "a necessary evil. It’s better to test on animals than on humans," she says. "But I also don’t think it’s right. So this is a difficult subject. This show is based on my feelings from all those years working in a lab."
 
And as the Center notes, "Preserved animal specimens have been collected for centuries for the study of natural history and the advancement of science."
 
McQuillan acknowledges the show’s ick factor for some viewers.

"Some pieces could be considered creepy or morbid," she muses. "I want to look at these things as objects of science and I want people to see the beauty in that… If [visitors] are grossed out at least they’ll think about it."
 
Among the pieces are:
  • Embellished taxidermy birds by Philadelphia artist Beth Beverly
  • "Alternative taxidermy" dogs made of breed-specific fur by Lauren Davies of Cleveland
  • A stuffed bear with intricate embroidery depicting anatomically correct blood vessels by Deborah Simon of Brooklyn
  • Pieces by Philadelphia artist Pierre Trombert, who will do a special performance piece at the opening reception: 5 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, February 11 at the Esther Klein Gallery (3600 Market Street)
Methods of Collection will continue through March 25.

WRITER IN RESIDENCE is a partnership between the University City Science Center and Flying Kite Media that embeds a reporter on-site at 3711 Market Street. The resulting coverage will provide an inside look at the most intriguing companies, discoveries and technological innovations coming out of this essential Philadelphia institution.

 
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