| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter RSS Feed

Emerging Technology : Innovation + Job News

390 Emerging Technology Articles | Page: | Show All

Temple nabs nationwide grant to develop the archives of the future

Joseph Lucia, Dean of Libraries at Temple University, is ready to start work on what he calls a "monumental challenge" of the 21st century.

"How do we render the digital records durable for the longterm in the way that physical records have been?" he asks. "What does digital permanence look like? [How can we achieve it] in a complex inter-organizational way that’s not just about one place and its records?"

In late June, Temple University School of Media and Communications received a $35,000 grant -- it lasts through December 20, 2016 -- from the Knight News Challenge, which awarded grants totaling $1.6 million to libraries across the country "for ideas that help libraries serve 21st century information needs."

Future-Proofing Civic Data, the Temple-led project helmed by Lucia, was conceived for this grant, but it relates closely to a lot of work Temple has been involved with for a long time.

First, Temple is home to a collecting enterprise called Urban Archives, which focuses on "social, cultural, ethnic and demographic history of 19th through 21st century Philadelphia," explains Lucia. "It’s a very broad and fairly unique archival collection of materials documenting urban life in a major American city."

Temple has also been a leading partner in the Pennsylvania metadata service hub of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), which works to "narrow the cultural and intellectual record into a public space that is not commercially oriented, and fill the library mission in the digital world."

That work means diving deep into the realms of both traditional collections and digital data.

"We’ve been looking at ways of expanding that collecting motion and focus," adds Lucia, "making sure that the digital, cultural, and social record becomes part of what we can provide access to."

That in turn led to close ties with OpenDataPhilly, which, while it identifies and aggregates data from a wide range of city institutions and organizations, does not have the mission of developing a permanent archive.

It’s what Lucia calls "an essentially unaddressed emerging issue." The days of poring over nineteenth century census data on paper archives, for example, are limited. As the world goes digital, what will archives look like and how will they function? Who will own, fund, maintain and access them?

"What happens right now with a lot of digital data is that it’s very ephemeral," he says. "It’s online for the duration that its providers see some value or benefit in having it there," but most providers of digital content aren’t thinking about its life in the long term.

$35,000 from Knight won’t solve the issue or even finish defining it, but it will "help us put time and thought into describing the scope of the problem and some possible solutions that could be deployed over time to address the problem," Lucia continues.

The initiative will involve partners at OpenDataPhilly as well as professionals from Temple’s School of Media and Communications.

"[It's] a project to really build a conceptual foundation for how would this look," he concludes. "What would the technical requirements be? What would the organizational requirements be? And who would come to the table to work on something like that?"

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Joseph Lucia, Temple University

This summer, the Pennovation Center opens sought-after wet lab space for small startups

For a small startup ready to research or develop chemical or biological innovations, finding lab space can be a challenge. Dry labs, which host technological or computer studies, or studies in fields like psychology, aren’t hard to outfit and rent. But wet labs -- featuring the equipment and safety measures needed to work with chemical and biological materials -- are another story.

This summer, labs at the soon-to-open Pennovation Center will help to change that for a select group of local companies.

About a year and a half ago, we covered the groundbreaking at University of Pennsylvania’s new 23-acre Pennovations Works campus on the south bank of the Schuylkill River: the three-story, 58,000-square-foot Pennovation Center at 34th Street and Gray’s Ferry Avenue will be the centerpiece.

The Center is slated to open this August. Its second floor will feature wet lab space available for lease to local startups.

"Wet labs are pretty unusual commodities" for this market, explains Paul Sehnert, director of development for Pennovation Works. "They’re usually built on a customized basis for companies under a long-term lease… If you're a startup company, it’s really a top dilemma. You need a space to work out of, but you can’t sign a lease and find a lab without making a long-term [financial] commitment."

The Pennovation Center hopes to remedy this with a 32-person lab available for customized leases (some as short as six months) for startups and inventors. These will come with all the typical wet lab gear: benches with view hoods, glass wash and sterilization centers, centrifuges, microscopy, and cell tissue culture and bioinstrumentation suites, in addition to safety measures like security systems, emergency eye wash and air change stations.

Senhert says the initial demand for the space is "robust" -- Penn is working now to "curate" which companies will be the best fit.

"Given that these are young companies, the more you can provide…this kind of sharing of basic services, that keeps the price more affordable and the [rental] terms shorter," says Anne Papageorge, Pennovation vice president of facilities and real estate development.

The Center will also provide programming, networking and training opportunities as a part of the package. This summer, they’re working on negotiating and executing license agreements for participating companies; the labs will be ready for occupancy in August.

The site offers two other lab spaces, adds Papageorge: a dry lab, and a currently empty lab building that Pennovation Works is holding with the intention of letting qualifying companies continue their work onsite in the future with a more customized, longer-term lease. The team hopes that as interest in the Center grows along with its companies, startups could "graduate" out of the shorter-term labs and into larger space. 

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Paul Sehnert and Anne Papageorge, Pennovation Works


Long-horizon tech startups get a much-needed boost

Entrepreneurs interested in "long -horizon" technologies -- those that require significant development and/or regulatory approvals in sectors such as healthcare, materials or energy -- have a new option for obtaining funding, expertise and other resources.
The University City Science Center's Phase 1 Ventures Program (P1V)  has emerged from stealth mode to widen its net and offer support to startups so new they might not even yet have names.
"Phase 1 Ventures serves the space in between our QED program (which provides resources to promising projects that are being developed within the academic setting) and our Port Business Incubators (which provide resources to startup companies that have already raised financing)," explains Science Center spokesperson Kristen Fitch. "P1V helps to 'road test' commercially relevant technologies outside the academic setting and to give them a chance to build management and raise funding."
Since P1V was soft-launched as a pilot in mid-2015, the program has supported these ventures, with several more expected to begin this year.
  • BioSignal Analytics uses machine-learning techniques to interpret medical signals such as electrical brain signals. The technology is from Temple University
  • LytPhage is developing a biotechnology that it hopes will replace chemical antibiotics in the fight against resistant bacteria. The technology is also from Temple.
  • PolyCore Therapeutics is developing a new drug to manage the side effects of treating Parkinson's and other neurological diseases. The technology is from Drexel University and Rutgers University. 
  • SDMI Inc., a startup formed by Dr. Chao Zhou from Lehigh University and Robert Michel, is developing a technology that will improve the speed and quality of eye exams.
  • A team including Dr. Oscar Perez from Temple University and Science Center Entrepreneur-in-Residence Matt Handel is working on a treatment for psoriasis.
  • A team including Dr. Joseph Freeman from Rutgers University and Science Center Entrepreneur-in-Residence Russell Secter is working on a technology for improving bone healing. 
  • A team including Drs. Michael Zdilla and Stephanie Wunder from Temple University and Science Center Entrepreneur-in-Residence Grant Chapman is working on a technology to improve the performance of lithium ion batteries.
P1V initially provides up to $25,000 and a semi-customized package of resources including facilities, funding, management expertise, and professional services in areas such as intellectual property, regulations, reimbursement, market evaluation, grant preparation and financial management.
Once successful in securing non-dilutive financing (capital that does not affect its ownership), participants become eligible for Phase 1 financing from P1V -- typically $150,000. Phase 2, typically $300,000, will be available to teams that subsequently secure follow-on financing.
According to Fitch, PolyCore has become the first company to transition to Phase 1 and will receive up to $250,000 to further its development of pharmaceutical treatment for Parkinson’s symptoms. The company secured funding for its project -- through its collaboration with Drexel University -- from the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation
"There are plenty of options for the growing software and digital sector, but not enough opportunities for long-horizon technologies," said Science Center President Steven Tang in a statement. "These are the technologies that have historically been the cornerstone of our region’s economy."

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.

UPenn's BioCellection may hold the key to plastics pollution worldwide

As high school seniors in their hometown of Vancouver, Miranda Wang and Jeanny Yao had some big questions -- and answers -- for a planet that produces enough plastic every year to circle itself in Saran wrap four times over.

Yao recently graduated from the University of Toronto and Wang is finishing her senior year at the University of Pennsylvania, majoring in Biology. Together they founded BioCellection. Now their team (which also includes Alexander Simafranca, Eric Friedman and Daniel Chapman) is the first undergraduate team ever to take the $30,000 grand prize at Wharton’s annual Business Plan Competition. And that's only the beginning: They also took home the Wharton Social Impact Prize, the Gloekner Undergraduate Award, the Michelson People’s Choice Award and the Committee Award for Most "Wow Factor." No other single team has ever taken five prizes in the competition.

Wang and Yao began studying riverside soil samples back in high school. They wanted to find out what the ecosystem itself might be doing to survive pollution from plastics. Traditional plastic products are made from fossil fuels, which come from carbon. Humans run on carbon, too -- our source is glucose.

"Could there be bacteria that have evolved with plastic chemicals as their carbon source?" Wang recalls wondering. "The answer is yes…Nature is very much evolving to recover itself. There is a solution in this biology, it just needs to be tapped into. Potentially this could be a large-scale commercial technology used to clean our drinking water."

Wang and Yao focused on how bacteria could be harnessed to break down potentially carcinogenic components of some plastics (like phthalates) that aren’t otherwise biodegradable. Their work won them the 2012 National Commercialization Award at Canada’s Sanofi BioGENEius Challenge and led to a popular 2013 TED talk.

In the labs at Penn, that work grew into BioCellection.

"Instead of tackling derivatives or additives in plastic, we’re [now] tackling the polymer of the plastic itself," explains Wang. "What if we can take this really big problem of the polymer, and try to solve it on a modular basis?"

BioCellection developed a way to engineer bacteria that produce an enzyme which, when combined with problem plastics in a proprietary portable chemical process, can convert that plastic into water and carbon dioxide. This patent-pending technology is still about two years away from the field, but its future application in plastic remediation at landfills, industrial sites, oceans and beaches could be tremendous, with annual revenue projected to reach $100 million by 2020.

A little further down the road in their business model, BioCellection hopes to launch a centralized processing plant that will use this enzyme to convert discarded plastics into a bio-surfactant necessary for textile manufacturing. With the help of collaborator Parley for the Oceans -- which is helping BioCellection connect to brands like Adidas that want to incorporate recycled plastic into their products -- the company hopes to sell this "upcycled" surfactant at $300/kg. It’s an estimated $42 billion market.

The issue of used plastics is a global problem: Because current recycling methods don’t generate enough revenue, over 90 percent of our cast-off plastics (even those going for recycling) end up in landfills, or incinerated, which compounds pollution. 

According to the company, "We can’t expect to change consumer habits overnight or integrate new materials immediately. It’s time to tackle the plastic pollution that currently exists, and that we’re continuing to produce, to save marine wildlife, keep the planet’s food chain intact, and protect human health."

Besides the $54,000 in total prize money from Wharton, BioCellection has earned $90,000 in grants and $240,000 in investment. The company is relocating to the San Jose BioCube in June 2016 for further development.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Miranda Wang, BioCellection 

KIZ tax credits expand east to booming Old City startup scene

Old City just got a major boost with the expansion of the University City Keystone Innovation Zone (KIZ) across the Schuylkill River and all the way to Front Street -- that means some major new tax credits for the neighborhood’s burgeoning tech sector.

Old City-based Arcweb Technologies hosted the March 23 announcement, with featured remarks from University City Science Center President and CEO Stephen S. Tang, Arcweb CEO Chris Cera, and Mayor Jim Kenney.

If you go into a coffee shop near North 3rd Street in Old City -- or as it’s affectionately known, "N3rd Street" -- and "grab somebody that’s sitting there, most likely they’re a technology worker," said Cera. "I don’t think that’s found anywhere else in Philadelphia."

And he went further than that: "My 10-year outlook…is that this is going to be the tech center of Philadelphia, here in Old City."

Expanding that University City KIZ should contribute to that growth, which Tang called "a pivotal moment in our city’s transformation from a manufacturing economy to an innovation economy."

Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell instituted the KIZ program "to spur entrepreneurial activity," Tang explained. There are 29 KIZs across the state and three within the City of Philadelphia: the large BioLaunch 611+ zone that spreads north of Lancaster and Girard Avenues and I-95; the Navy Yard KIZ, and the newly expanded University City KIZ.

A KIZ is a special district that offers tax incentives to eligible for-profit companies in the life sciences and technology sectors. The program offers a statewide pool of $25 million toward the credits. An approved KIZ company (applications must be submitted by September 15 of each year) can claim a tax credit equal to 50 percent of its increase in gross revenues in the most recent taxable year over the revenue from the preceding year, earned within the KIZ. This tax credit is capped at $100,000, and for companies whose credit exceeds their tax liability, the credit is saleable for up to $0.90 on the dollar.

In the last decade, 48 early-stage tech and life science companies in the University City KIZ have received almost $8 million in tax credits, with 21 companies nabbing close to $2 million just last year. Now this benefit will extend all the way across the heart of Center City and into Old City.

(For a look at one University City company reaping the KIZ benefit, check out our profile of Graphene Frontiers, working towards big changes in medical diagnostics.)

"As a result of these tax credits, startups are retaining jobs, hiring new employees and developing new products," said Tang. "Not only are KIZ tax credits being invested in our local economy, but they’re also strengthening Philadelphia’s innovation ecosystem."

"It’s very exciting to see what’s happening in Old City," added Mayor Kenney. "The expansion of this [KIZ] will help propel that even faster and further than it has in other parts of the city."

Arcweb is just one company standing to benefit from the change.

"I didn’t want to have a tax credit make me move across town, from people and a place that we call home," said Cera. "I’m glad that we chose to stay and invest here."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: University City KIZ expansion launch speakers

Bringing virtual reality to medicine at Temple

Gamers, armchair travelers and sci-fi fans are all embracing virtual reality. Now researchers at Temple University are pursuing medical applications for realistic, computer-simulated environments.
Dr. Alessandro Napoli, a bio-engineer at Temple, recently spoke at the University City Science Center's Quorum about how this promising technology could aid in weight loss and provide stress reduction during cancer treatment.
In 2012, working under the direction of Dr. Antonio Giordano of the Sbarro Health Research Organization, researchers used avatars to teach and demonstrate healthy diet and exercise habits. In settings like home kitchens and supermarkets, the avatars modeled healthy choices. Though the sample was small, participants said the approach helped them change their behavior and resulted in weight loss.
The second project studied the use of virtual reality during chemotherapy treatment of breast cancer patients in southern Italy. It is well known that music relieves anxiety for patients receiving chemo. What if, instead, they wore headsets that simulated relaxing 3-D images such as tropical scenes, forests or mountains?
The researchers compared music and virtual reality applied for five minutes before, 20 minutes during, and another five minutes following treatment. Measuring several physiological responses including heart rate, the researchers found that virtual reality was as calming as music. The virtual reality patients also reported that they perceived their chemo sessions as much shorter -- a positive outcome.
More research is needed, said Napoli, but with minimal training requirements "this is a great tool to introduce to clinical practice."
Napoli also presented work on a system to assess balance control and determine fitness to return to active military duty following a head injury. The system is being developed with Dr. Iyad Obeid, a Temple engineering professor, using Microsoft Kinect motion capture technology and basic computer equipment.
Balance problems can indicate brain injury. In hospitals, balance is assessed using large, complex and expensive equipment that is unsuitable in the field. The alternative is often a subjective visual assessment.
Napoli’s field system can provide visual images of 25 joints and other measures to assess balance with no need for complex equipment or highly trained operators. Over the next few years, the researchers will test the system in actual field conditions using Temple athletes and ROTC students.

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.

DIY electronic mental health screenings come to Montgomery Country

We may be used to using automated kiosks to pay for groceries, take out cash, or even check our blood pressure, but what about normalizing this kind of service for mental health screenings, too? The HealthSpark Foundation, with partners Screening for Mental Health and the Thomas Scattergood Behavioral Health Foundation, hopes to increase access to mental health services while reducing the stigma many people feel when they try to address mood disorders.

This month, the organization is debuting five MindKare kiosks in Montgomery County. This comes after two city pilots, one at a North Philadelphia Shop-Rite and another on the Drexel University campus.

According to the partners, the kiosks are "freestanding stations that offer a quick way for individuals to check on their mental and behavioral health by providing online self-assessments." The whole process can take as little as three minutes, explains HealthSpark President and CEO Russell Johnson, who likens the experience of using the touch-screen stations to visiting the ATM.

Evidence-based questions (developed through Screening for Mental Health) that gauge subjects’ feelings of sadness, loneliness, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts result in geographically customized recommendations for follow-up. This includes a list of accessible mental healthcare providers, or encouragement to bring the results of the assessment to a primary care doctor. If a user reveals suicidal thoughts, the kiosk can immediately provide a hotline number for help. Some kiosks enable users to print their results; others offer the option for them to be e-mailed to the user.

As a condition of installing the kiosks, one staffer from the hosting organization who works within view of the kiosk must receive training in mental health first aid. When needed, he or she can be a calming and well-informed presence for a person suffering from severe anxiety or suicidal thoughts, until help arrives.

The program evolved from a Scattergood design challenge a few years ago -- Drexel public health students won with a concept for a mental health-screening kiosk.

"Their interest…was to reduce the stigma associated with behavioral health conditions and create access," explains Johnson.

Dollars from the design challenge win led to the development of the kiosks with help from Screening for Mental Health. After the initial success of the pilot in Philadelphia, HealthSpark came on board, along with the Montgomery County Department of Behavioral Health, to try suburban placements.

According to Johnson, these locations were determined by factors such as geographic diversity and high pedestrian volume. You can find them at the Ambler YMCA, Manna on Main Street in Lansdale, Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell, Einstein Physicians Collegeville and the Norristown Regional Health Center.

And more kiosks may be coming. Johnson says that Screening for Mental Health, a national organization, is already getting inquiries about installing the kiosks across the country.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Russell Johnson, HealthSpark Foundation

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.

Science Central: Five questions for Choosito!

For young students, the Internet can be a big, messy, cluttered, unreliable or even dangerous place. Choosito!, a University City Science Center startup, has devised a technological solution to help K-12 teachers find age appropriate resources for their students. The company's tagline sums up its mission: "Because the web is not a library and search engines are not librarians."
We asked co-founder and CEO Eleni Miltsakaki five central questions about his growing enterprise.
What is your big idea?

Although progress has been made in returning quality search results, the focus is on improving the relevance of results to the query, not the user, and on improving the online shopping experience. 
Choosito! is a web search filtering application designed to personalize search specifically for learners. To achieve this, we shift our focus from the keyword to the user.

Let's take the example of the query "polar bears." The user making the query could be a second or fifth grader searching for cool facts about polar bears to bring to class the next day; a group of middle school students working on a science project; a language teacher looking for a short story or news about polar bears at different reading levels; a foreign language learner; or even a polar bear expert.
The key to personalizing results for learning is understanding who the user is, what she wants to learn and what she knows already. Choosito is building technology that combines text analysis algorithms with statistical representations of each user’s current and evolving experience with the topic of the query to make adaptive recommendations of relevant resources.
What is your origin story?

I am a linguist and natural language processing scientist. In 2006, I started teaching educational technology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education and was quickly confronted by frustrated teachers who were reluctant to let their students use the web because it was a distraction, took a long time to find something useful and was not reliable.
Co-founder Christos Georgiadis and I started operations in 2012. We are now surrounded by a talented team of educators, technologists and entrepreneurs dedicated to personalized learning.
What is your timeline for growth?

We launched our beta Choosito! Search and Learn in October 2014. Users can establish search criteria to filter websites by reading level and theme. Since our launch, we’ve gotten over 30,000 users.
On our first anniversary, we released our premium product Choosito! Class to help K-12 teachers integrate the teaching of information literacy into their curriculum. Choosito! Class also helps teachers assess the progress of their students’ critical thinking and information literacy skills by accessing quantitative data about their students’ methods of inquiry and evaluation of information.
In March, Choosito received a $1 million Innovation Award from the National Science Foundation. We’re currently at work to extend our machine learning text analysis technology by offering website recommendations based on what each student already knows and understands about the topic of inquiry.
Why does the marketplace need your company?

There is currently no other tool that can leverage the power and size of digital content to offer a sustainable solution not only for K-12, but lifelong personalized learning. Choosito!’s competition offers either automatically retrieved non-leveled resources or limited collections of resources organized by reading or grade level that become obsolete in less than a year.
What is your elevator pitch?

Choosito is a linguistic application that personalizes learning by making adaptive recommendations of resources that are not only relevant to the topic of interest but also relevant to the user and what they already know.

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.

Science Center's Graphene Frontiers finds applications for a new wonder material

First isolated in a lab in 2004, graphene is an atom-thick layer of carbon with remarkable properties. It is stronger than steel, an efficient conductor of heat and electricity, and nearly transparent. But only a year ago, the New Yorker asked, "Graphene may be the most remarkable substance ever discovered. But what’s it for?"
Graphene Frontiers, a University City Science Center company, has been hard at work answering that question. They have developed proprietary and patented techniques for manufacturing, handling and making devices with graphene, notably biosensors that can diagnose a wide array of diseases, with other potential applications in homeland security, defense, health and fitness, food safety, environmental monitoring and more.
The company was founded in 2010 at the UPStart program at the University of Pennsylvania and moved to the Science Center in 2012, where it employs 11 and occupies three laboratories.
The company's core innovation, according to CEO Mike Patterson, is the ability to "grow" graphene and efficiently transfer the material onto a silicon wafer to create devices called graphene field effect transistors (GFETs) that are effective sensors for chemicals and biomolecules.
"The GFET is a relatively simple electrical device with a strip of graphene (‘channel’) as the key element," he explains. "This channel is about 10 microns in length, which is 1/10 the width of a human hair. Using biochemistry, we can attach things like antibodies to the graphene to make the GFET specifically sensitive to only one thing."
To make a GFET a sensor for, say, cancer, Graphene Frontiers can attach antibodies for cancer biomarkers.

“When we expose the sensor to a sample like blood or saliva, the target molecule will bind to the antibodies on the graphene," he continues, "and we can see a change in the properties of the GFET sensor." 

So far, GFETs have effectively measured the bacterium that causes Lyme's Disease, Salmonella and others. GFETS can also be assembled in a sensor array to simultaneously perform multiple tests.
Patterson says the company is currently in pilot production for the devices, and expects to have sensors on the market for research use as early as next year. Graphene Frontiers is also developing a vapor-phase (gas) sensor that uses single-strand DNA instead of antibodies.
"Our mission," he adds, "is to make the world safer and healthier with graphene technology."

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.

Sixth annual State of University City celebrates 75,000 new jobs

On November 18, University City District (UCD) hosted its sixth annual State of University City event at World Café Live. The headline of the night was the 75,000 jobs created within this 2.4-square-mile neighborhood, home to some of Philly’s premier education, healthcare and science institutions. According to UCD, the area is on track to add an additional 1,000 jobs in 2016.

Craig Carnaroli, executive vice president of the University of Pennsylvania and UCD’s board chair, noted that this density of jobs is among the highest of any neighborhood in the country. Speaking at World Café Live, he cited the impact of startup hubs like the Enterprise Center and Drexel’s ic@3401, which now hosts 50 technology entrepreneurs from 30 member companies.

Carnaroli also noted the groundbreaking work of companies like Spark Therapeutics, which will soon seek FDA approval for its gene therapy; studies indicate they can achieve restored vision in people blinded by certain retinal diseases. Another University City breakthrough made national news this year when eight-year-old Zion Harvey received the world’s first pediatric double hand transplant from Penn Medicine.

Carnaroli touted "the power of community and institutions coming together in partnerships to produce results."

UCD Executive Director Matt Bergheiser spoke about why 75,000 jobs is a "magic number" for the area. Businesses and institutions are "feeling the growth of the regional economy" with a substantial spike in well-paid jobs, he insisted. According to UCD, between 2008 and 2013, the neighborhood saw a 79 percent increase in middle to high-wage jobs -- wage growth far above the city’s overall average. It’s exciting news, especially paired with a ten percent jump in University City’s population since 2013 and expansions in the restaurant, hospitality, retail and real estate sectors.

Another way to look at the job density in University City, Bergheiser pointed out, is to count 30,000 jobs per square mile. He also emphasized some essential ingredients in the neighborhood's success: entrepreneurial, civic and "opportunity" infrastructure. 

Because innovation needs places for people to come together, entrepreneurial infrastructure flourishes at cutting-edge hubs like the Science Center and Wexford Science + Technology.

Civic infrastructure -- which Bergheiser called "splendor at the ground level" -- includes elements such as new parklets, the Porch at 30th Street, a revamped Market Street Bridge and the upcoming $2.1 million transformation of the 40th Street SEPTA portal, slated to open in 2017.

"Opportunity infrastructure" is paying attention to an equity of opportunities, or "how we connect the talent in our West Philadelphia neighborhood" to meaningful jobs, he explained.

That led naturally to talk of UCD's West Philadelphia Skills Initiative -- many participants are low-income residents who struggle with longterm unemployment or a criminal record that prevents them from getting a foot in the door with job applications. Bergheiser said that 91 percent of Skills Initiative graduates succeed in landing a job, with an average starting wage of $13.60 per hour.

It all adds up to "a new first and lasting impression" for our metropolis, he concluded.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: University City District

Startup Central: Five Questions for BioBots

Movie aficionados may remember when Woody Allen kidnapped the disembodied nose of an evil leader in 1973’s Sleeper

Forty-two years later, BioBots, a startup that moved to the University City Science Center in June, is developing a desktop 3D printer that builds living tissue out of human cells. Yes, noses, and eventually organs for transplant. 

We asked Madeline Winter, BioBots' vice president of operations, five key questions about this ambitious company.

What is your big idea?

At BioBots, we create 3D bioprinters and bioinks. Imagine an ordinary 3D printer, but instead of printing plastic, our 3D bioprinters create living tissue. No, this is not science fiction -- currently our devices are used for research and pre-clinical screening such as drug testing. You can use our devices to build 3D living tissue models using human cells that are better able to recapitulate the function of the body. These models can be used to develop compounds for clinical settings and catch false positives before they get to clinical trials. Our long-term goal is to print custom replacement organs from a patient's own cells and eliminate the organ donor waiting list.

What is your origin tale?

Our co-founder and CTO Ricardo Solorzano created the prototype in his dorm room after being frustrated by the high cost of equipment for the University of Pennsylvania lab where he worked. Ricardo entered the prototype in an investor competition with Danny Cabrera, then a Penn senior. They ended up winning first place, pumping the prize money back into further development of the device and deciding to spend the summer seeing what they could build before starting grad school. Danny took on the role of CEO and they were accepted to the DreamIt Health Accelerator

What is your timeline?

We launched our beta program in January and quickly sold our first 50 printers to some of the best researchers around the world. When we started designing the next generation device, we reached out to our amazing community of customers for feedback on how to refine the design. We took all of their comments and used that data to design the BioBot 1, which is more precise and is able to print multiple materials at the same time. We start shipping the first BioBot 1 bioprinters this month to our growing list of customers. We aim to have a BioBots 3D bioprinter on every lab bench in the world. 

Why does the marketplace need your company?

While biofabrication has been around for a while, the other 3D bioprinters on the market are expensive (costing up to half a million dollars), large and difficult to operate. It was for these reasons that only a small number of institutions had the resources and abilities to use them. We set out to democratize that technology by developing the most sophisticated desktop 3D bioprinter on the market. By reducing the price of entry, we are able to get our devices into the hands of more researchers who are accomplishing amazing strides in their research using our devices and biomaterials. 
What is your elevator speech?

Our goal at BioBots has always been to create standards and modular systems that can engineer biology to cure disease, eliminate the organ waiting list, reverse climate change and push humans to live on other planets. Our devices will help to advance research, develop drugs and push the human race forward.
Source: Madeline Winter, BioBots
Writer: Elise Vider

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.

Penn lab promises a new frontier in cardiac repair

For patients who suffer heart attacks, the resulting damage to the organ can eventually lead to heart failure. Now a University of Pennsylvania lab is investigating the use of injectable biomaterials that show promise as a new frontier in cardiac repair.
Speaking at the University City Science Center’s Quorum, Dr. Jason Burdick, a Penn bioengineering professor, described how "hydrogels" have delivered promising results that "might be the difference between going on to heart failure or not." (Bioengineering encompasses concepts from biology and engineering; many areas of the field focus on biomedical applications.) 
The Burdick Polymeric Biomaterials Lab at Penn was established 10 years ago and immediately began work on hydrogels. The study of cardiac repair began around seven years ago. The aim is to create substances that go directly into the heart tissue to preserve the heart wall thickness and the overall shape of the heart, frequently damaged by heart attack or "myocardial infarction."
"Injectability is an interesting engineering problem," explains Burdick. The challenge is to get the gelatinous gloop to flow through syringes and catheters, solidify and stay stable in the heart tissue.
Burdick and his team are making progress using a class of hydrogels based on the molecule hyaluronic acid, already widely used in cosmetic and musculoskeletal procedures. A few small clinical studies are already underway.
"The next step is really defining the right formulation that we are interested in pursuing, so that we can finalize pre-clinical large animal trials," he says. "This involves selection of the appropriate method for delivery of the hydrogels to the heart. Hopefully we will move towards a Phase I clinical trial in just a few years."
Burdick is careful to credit clinical collaborators at Penn and other schools, notably Robert Gorman, a Penn professor of cardiovascular surgery. The two have founded a startup called Myostratum that is focused on the translation of hydrogel therapies.
"I believe this is an exciting area that has a lot of potential to develop new therapies for patients that have myocardial infarction," adds Burdick. "Many people are affected by heart disease and the development of therapies that can improve clinical outcomes is very important."
Source: Dr. Jason Burdick, Department of Bioengineering, University of Pennsylvania
Writer: Elise Vider

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.

Ben Franklin's pennies meet the 21st century with a TechniCulture residency

When it comes to funding, Christ Church Preservation Trust has a unique problem. According to Executive Director Barbara Hogue, about a million people visit Ben Franklin's grave every year. Somewhere in the early-to-mid 20th century, it became customary to toss a penny onto the Founding Father’s resting place in honor of Franklin' adage, "a penny saved is a penny earned." The custom isn’t limited to Americans -- last year the Trust counted currency from 30 different countries on the grave.

Currently, the coins the Trust collects amount to about $3,500 per year -- not an insignificant source of revenue when preservation and maintenance on the two-acre historic Christ Church Burial Ground (founded in 1723 at Fifth and Arch Streets) costs $50,000 annually. The trouble is that all those donated coins are damaging the limestone of Franklin’s grave, eroding the very landmark visitors are trying to honor.

In June, the Trust received $38,000 in the form of a Keystone Heritage Grant from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission for the conservation of Franklin’s grave. They worked with the firm Materials Conservation to develop the grant. Conservators insisted that the problems went beyond water-induced deterioration of the grave's limestone tablet and marble base.

The Trust hopes to solve the issue without losing its income stream or halting a beloved custom. This summer, Flying Kite took a look at the call for the Cultural Alliance’s inaugural TechniCulture Innovation Residency Award program applications, and this month, three winners were announced, including Christ Church Preservation Trust.

"What we really need to do is get people to stop throwing pennies on his grave, because it’s really hurting the limestone," insists Hogue. That’s where the TechniCulture application came in. "How can we encourage people to give a penny, or encourage the social custom, without damaging the grave?"

Enter Davis Shaver, the digital products and solutions lead for Philadelphia Media Network. For three months starting this October, Shaver will partner with the Trust to develop ideas for capturing this revenue stream for the essential historic site -- also boasting the graves of luminaries like Benjamin Rush, five other Signers besides Franklin, and many Revolutionary War heroes -- without cutting out the fun of honoring Ben Franklin with a small on-site donation.

"Maybe it’s an app, maybe it’s a texting opportunity," she says of the possibilities of the residency. It could be “some really simple way for people to donate small amounts of money" that could develop into a fun campaign to engage graveyard visitors, and keep the grounds safe and accessible to the public.

Early next year, all three winners of the TechniCulture Innovation Residency will present the findings of their residencies, and the Cultural Alliance will further reward one of them with funds toward implementation of the ideas.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Barbara Hogue, Christ Church Preservation Trust


Local startup ROAR for Good creates wearable protection for women

If ROAR for Good had its way, there would be no need for its product.
The startup, located at the Innovation Center @ 3401, the University City Science Center and Drexel University’s entrepreneurial incubation space, is the developer of the Athena device, a line of jewelry that triggers an alarm and text messages if its wearer is in danger.
"We’ve architected a sophisticated printed-circuit board (PCB) that can fit within our Athena line of jewelry," explains Charlotte Wells, ROAR’s operations executive. "The PCB contains logic such as a Bluetooth micro-controller and buzzer that enables the jewelry to emit a loud alarm when the button is pressed, as well as communicate with wireless devices to send alert messages to friends and family members. We’re also engineering the ability for the device to call 911 in order to get instant help in an emergency."
The company took a big step last week, launching a $40,000 Indiegogo (IGG) campaign, which according to Wells, "gives us a chance to spread the word about ROAR as a company and Athena as a product, while allowing people to pre-order the device for themselves or loved ones."

ROAR raised 64 percent of its goal in the first day.
With a successful IGG campaign -- plus funds from angel investors -- ROAR expects to begin shipping by next spring even as it continues to innovate.

"The Athena line of jewelry is just our first product," says Wells. "We plan to introduce additional designs and styles to appeal to different lifestyles. Also, as technology evolves, more things can be done in even smaller spaces. For example, embedding the technology directly into clothing, footwear, phone cases and so forth enables even greater flexibility."
As a social-mission certified B-Corp, ROAR also wants to address the root causes of violence against women. The startup has committed to investing a percentage of its proceeds in nonprofits that teach young men and women about empathy, respect and healthy relationships.
"The truth of the matter is that women should not need to alter their lifestyle, modify their behavior or carry self-defense devices to protect themselves," insists Wells. "Our goal is to help create a society where that is a reality. In the meantime, ROAR is committed to helping make a difference."
"We will continue developing solutions to reduce assaults and ideally begin to transform society," she continues. "To borrow from Steve Jobs, we want to make a dent in the universe of women’s safety and nothing would bring us more joy than to obviate the need for devices like Athena."
Source: Charlotte Wells, ROAR for Good
Writer: Elise Vider

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.
390 Emerging Technology Articles | Page: | Show All
Signup for Email Alerts