No. 149: Pharma move, Feinstein grant and how Monster Trucks can save the planet

It’s August: Also known as National Catfish Month. On average, more U.S. babies are born in August than any other month. (Although that’s not why the Romans called it Sextilis.) Oh, and welcome new readers Robin, Val, Paul, Matt, Becky and whoever that is at Rocketmail. Great to have you aboard.

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The big idea: Carbon dioxide, produced during the burning of fossil fuels in power plants and automobile engines, is the chief culprit of climate change. While most efforts have focused on reducing the carbon gases that are pooling in the atmosphere and warming the planet, a few scientists have taken on the job of figuring out what might be done with the big bubble already up there.

Scientists at the University of Illinois and staffers at BNL sister facility Argonne National Laboratory have hit upon a novel thought: What if all that CO2 could be turned into fuel, much the way tree leaves convert carbon dioxide into sugars?

Cool thinking. But Problem First is that carbon dioxide is one of the least chemically reactive substances in nature. It likes being itself. It can, however, with some prodding, be turned into carbon monoxide, which we’ve already figured out how to convert into the fuels that power such vital national amusements as Monster Trucks and drag racing.

That’s the approach the Argonne and UI researchers took, developing a process that uses sunlight, water and nanoflakes of a compound called tungsten diselenide to efficiently convert bad gas into good. An artificial leaf, if you will.

It’s not clear if the process can be brought to market quick enough to save the planet, and burning carbon-based fuels – even those made from carbon you already burned once – is not necessarily a lasting solution.

It would, however, offer the excuse to drive a really big truck.

ICYMI

On the job: Suffolk Community College landed almost $3 million from U.S. Department of Labor for a record-setting job-training program.

Breathing easier: The Feinstein Institute has been awarded a $1.5 million grant to study whether home-based pulmonary rehabilitation improves outcomes for Hispanic patients. Minority patients are most apt to have difficulty accessing facility-based rehab due to lack of insurance and copay and transport problems.

Testing the markets: Chembio Diagnostics said it was beefing up its previously announced stock offering by 300,000 shares, to 2.3 million. Medford-based Chembio, which is pursuing speedy tests for HIV, Ebola and, most recently, the Zika virus, priced the shares at $6.

Easy to swallow: Suffolk County’s burgeoning drug sector got another boost last week as Evaric Pharmaceutical agreed to buy and rehab a 100,000+ foot facility in the Hauppauge Industrial Park. The Suffolk IDA helped ink the deal, which may have otherwise gone to Jersey.

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Brains and beverages: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory hosts Cocktails & Chromosomes, scientific socializing with CSHL associate professor Zachary Lippman, Aug. 4 beginning at 7 p.m., Finley’s of Huntington. RSVP please.

Speed dating: The rest of the Innovate calendar is here.

Fund times: Venture capitalists pumped more than $220 million into cybersecurity startups last week, including a $150 million stake in StackPath. That’s almost a quarter of all investment activity for the week, during which it was announced the DNC had been hacked.

Might have something there: 7-Eleven is taking two Brooklyn businesses to court for alleged trademark infringement. One is called Eleven-7.

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Compiled by John Kominicki. Thanks for reading this far.