Welcome to the second annual Innovator of the Year awards.
Following are the stories of some of Long Island’s best and brightest ideas across an incredibly broad spectrum of innovation, from a microscope that can image nano-sized structures and chemical reactions to a digital platform delivering custom-designed undergarments.
There’s obviously a lot of ground in-between, including cancer inhibitors and a potential HIV cure, 3D-printed tissue, bioelectronics and an algorithm that hasn’t yet met a virus it can’t recode and conquer.
(And they’re coming for you, Zika.)
On the software front, there is an array of apps for everything from customer loyalty to time and expense tracking for separated parents, even an app that helps you keep track of your other apps. We also honor robotics makers, power-traction improvers and companies working on the next generation of consultancy, lighting and defense.
There are clean-energy inventions that will one day – and maybe soon – change the way we heat and cool our homes, harvest energy from the oceans and beef up the performance of fuel cells. We’re also celebrating Long Island’s historical roots in agriculture, with salutes to craft brewing, a memory-enhancing power drink, awesome tea and a devilishly good line of pickles.
Oh, and sofrito. Let’s not forget the sofrito.
We’ve also singled out Robert Catell as our inaugural Master of Innovation. Bob’s career as innovative manager, company builder, mentor, investor and sage spans almost 60 years, and he shows no signs of getting comfy in the Barcalounger just yet. Last fall, in fact, he signed on to assist Stony Brook startup – and previous Innovator winner – Applied DNA Sciences, which thinks it can use genetic markers to safeguard the electric grid.
Our honorees include first-time entrepreneurs, inveterate tinkerers and some who have made invention and innovation their careers. Their ideas may not all end up changing the world, but they are all making it a better place. We thought there should be an award for that.
Like Innovate Long Island itself, these awards would not be possible without the encouragement and financial support of our sponsors. Their company logos and congratulatory messages are displayed within, but allow space right here for a sincere thank you to the universities, law and accounting firms, economic development organizations, foundations and individuals who believe, as we do, that innovation is the bedrock of Long Island’s once and future prosperity.
Their faith in that future is worthy of its own celebration.
Also, a very heartfelt thank you to the tiny group of people who helped pull this off, including EventWorxx’s Marlene McDonnell, Innovate LI scribe Gregory Zeller and photographer Bob Giglione. And, as always, a tip of the hat to Crest Hollow Country Club and Design Audio Visual. We can’t imagine doing an event without you guys.
Finally, congratulations to this year’s band of merry innovators. As you know firsthand, ideas are easy – it’s turning them into something that’s the hard part.
We applaud your courage and dedication.
– John Kominicki, Publisher
In a world where new software options just keep coming, it can be difficult for commercial users to get the most digital bang for their buck.
Software companies are thrilled to peddle the next, the biggest, the best programs to bring customers to the promised land – but following through after the sale is a somewhat lost art, according to Jeff Leventhal.
“Selling professional services is an afterthought for most software companies,” he said. “But customers need to have access to consultants to install and integrate the products they’re acquiring.”
Enter WorkRails, a Huntington-based tech consultancy that aims to be a savior to those customers and a BFF to software companies of all stripes.
The “professional service e-commerce and delivery platform,” as Leventhal describes it, helps end users overcome the “miserable experience” of finding the right consultant to maximize their return on investment in new software programs – while making it easier for software companies to sell their wares.
The startup boasts an impressive pedigree. Chief Executive Officer Leventhal, who recently bought in as an investment partner at New York City-based seed-stage VC firm Boldstart Ventures, is one of the first-ever Entrepreneurs in Residence at Hofstra University, though he’s perhaps best known as the cofounder and former CEO of staffing juggernaut Work Market.
According to Forbes, the longtime investor/consultant has personally raised more than $75 million in venture capital over the course of five successful startups, including Work Market.
His partners at WorkRails include Jamie Proctor, a former JPMorgan managing director who currently consults for portfolio-management specialist BondView and analytics expert Limbik. In 2013, Proctor – no stranger to tech startups – co-founded Centerport-based Sweigh Inc., a real-time social sentiment platform designed to tell bloggers, business owners and anyone else who cares to know what the masses are thinking.
The team – 18 managers and consultants as of this month, according to Leventhal – offers expert consultations on software suites by Salesforce, HubSpot, Shopify, Microsoft and other major-league commercial software makers. WorkRails posts an open invitation on its website for new consultants to apply, but is extremely judicious in its recruiting – only those who can truly help WorkRails’ customers increase their software ROI make the cut. The startup is off to a good start, according to Leventhal, who noted “a really great pipeline” of customers – too early to start naming names, he said – and an ongoing effort to expand the WorkRails platform to include new software programs and new expert consultants.
“For now, it’s about execution and continuing to build an amazing team of people,” Leventhal said. “It’s like any other startup business. It’s about working hard.”
Christos & Constantine Morris
Founded in 2000 by brothers Christos and Constantine Morris, Melville-based software maker eVero Corp. is working to keep the “care” in healthcare.
The basic idea – at least these days – is to help manage long-term care for those who need it most, particularly patients with intellectual and developmental disabilities, through a series of patient- and provider-friendly apps and software suites.
But such compassionate computing wasn’t exactly what Constantine had in mind back in 1996, when he launched his first startup, Cortex Communications LLC, a dial-up access company providing early Internet access for residential users via local phone exchanges.
It didn’t take long for that industry to be gobbled up by titans like AOL, so Constantine performed his first pivot, refocusing Cortex Communications on website hosting and design – both relatively new concepts at the time – and other IT-related services.
In 2000, Christos came on board and the brothers – recognizing a growing need for practice-management software throughout the healthcare industry – spun out the eVero Corp. It was a “natural fit,” Christos said, noting many of Cortex Communications’ customers were in the healthcare business.
eVero established itself quickly, thanks largely to that existing customer base and the technological chops developed at Cortex Communications. The Morris brothers presided over the development and integration of several cutting-edge technology solutions for the health and human services marketplace, and slowly gravitated toward I/DD communities and the nonprofit agencies that serve them.
Now, based on raw data aggregated over more than 15 years, eVero is pivoting again – this time, into integrated care management models that control, monitor and direct healthcare in the most effective manner possible, based on each case’s specifics.
Once again, the strategy is rooted in marketplace need. Christos referenced doctors and long-term-care providers that offer multiple services and “need all that rolled up,” while patients – who often deal with multiple providers and must track numerous appointments and medications – need all the help they can get.
The biggest challenge to the new integrated care management vertical is working with insurance companies, the CEO said, but momentum may be on eVero’s side. As New York and other states shift away from direct fee-for-service models and toward managed-care models, the Melville company’s Integrated Care Management Platform stands ready to answer the increasing demand.
“As innovators, we’re trying to tackle the actual cost of service delivery, with a number of budget models and tools,” Christos noted.
And therein lies eVero’s secret sauce: those 15 years (and counting) of critical healthcare-management data straight from the source.
“Ultimately, it’s all about the data,” Christos said. “And we have a lot of data we’re using to drive this newer model.
Promising “powerful, mobile-driven marketing,” Skoop! is an interactive-marketing services provider with a multifaceted menu of scalable programs for franchisers, retail chains, salons, restaurants and service businesses – basically, any business whose customers might happen to carry a cellphone.
It’s global – headquartered in Plainview, it has a sales office in England, “technical resources” across India and the Americas and customers everywhere – and about a decade old.
And it is, according to founder and CEO Dan Giacopelli, very much a startup.
Knee-deep in a brand-new vertical market – its third – Skoop! launched in 2007 and flipped the switch on its first mobile platform in 2008. Giacopelli, an electrical engineer with a history of moderate entrepreneurial successes, wanted to leverage his knowledge of computers and emerging mobile technologies into an app-making software company, but soon realized he had the next generation’s mobile-marketing tiger by the tail.
For about five years, Skoop! treaded mobile waters, creating increasingly standard fare like mobile-friendly websites and text messaging apps – “not high enough up the value scale, in my mind,” according to Giacopelli, who sought “the next level of application sophistication.”
Following developing trends, he began tweaking Skoop!’s core products into customized channels for gift cards, loyalty rewards programs and online payment protocols – common mobile tech here in 2017, but less so in 2011, when Giacopelli switched gears.
Skoop!’s established digital and professional networks helped. And after struggling through the teeth of the Great Recession, the 2007 startup finally turned a profit in 2015, allowing Giacopelli to start focusing on what would become the company’s third distinct pivot – licensing Skoop!’s proprietary technologies to third parties in non-competitive industries.
With the help of his freelance developers, Giacopelli has created and owns all of Skoop!’s unique IP – putting him in total control of who gets to use it, and how his born-again startup profits. Now, through a recent deal partnering the UK sales office with a major Japanese point-of-sale terminal manufacturer, Giacopelli is looking forward to a “distribution arrangement that will cover a large part of that planet.
”Not bad for the software startup that took its sweet time.
“We had a very steep learning curve for our customers, who didn’t understand the product at first and at the same time didn’t want to put money into anything,” Giacopelli said. “Having weathered that storm, our products were rather mature and ready for large-scale deployment, and it all kind of jelled.
“Now, things are going great.”
The Moiety App
If necessity is the mother of invention, meet the father.
Divorced dad Gregory Wagner based his software sensation, the Moiety scheduling app, on his own co-parenting misadventures. Recognizing the need for better shared schedule-keeping between separated parents and others in their “crew” – the kids, the grandparents, babysitters and others in the childcare loop – Wagner designed a digital solution that would replace dozens of time-consuming calls and confusing texts with easy swipes and clicks.
While the scheduling app is useful to any family (or social unit) juggling study groups, basketball games, board meetings and more, Wagner added tools particularly helpful to separated co-parents. Moiety includes time and budget trackers and other data-gathering options specifically useful to mediators and lawyers – bells and whistles that can help keep things civil by keeping them simple.
Moiety – pronounced moy-a-tee, generally defined as “one of two equal parts” – was a hit before it even launched. Wagner built a large social media following and even produced a theatrical-style trailer heralding the app’s release, while his Woodbury-based Aeonic Ventures formed a unique partnership with Washington, D.C.-based investment/development platform KiwiTech.
When Moiety finally launched on iOS in October 2016, it had a running start. In addition to thousands of U.S. downloads, the app scored across international markets, including Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Vietnam and China.
By January 2017, a fourth version of the iOS app – enhanced largely based on user suggestions, with such upgrades as clearer notification banners – was available in the Apple Store, and Aeonic Ventures was closing in on an official release date for its Android version.
“Our mission is really to become the Fitbit of family, parenting, scheduling and expenses,” Wagner said. “Our long-term goal is to be a complete ecosystem, engineered to support families, mediators, judges and lawyers.
“But our initial objective is to simplify complicated family schedules.”
Ashish Pandhi & James Knaus
Social media are great, but they can always be Bettr.
And so could Bettr, for that matter, a social media-management app that took its time stepping onstage. Creators Ashish Pandhi and James Knaus – Hofstra University chums who turned pro during the course of commercialization – had enjoyed notable app-creation success before, and were determined to move the ball forward with their latest effort.
Their first two products – Queue+, which allows users to schedule posts to Tumblr accounts and track account statistics, and Archive Poster, a Google Chrome extension that speeds up social media workflow – had set some basic media-management parameters.
Bettr would combine its predecessors’ scheduling and statistical-analysis functions with a deeper dive into data and functionality: daily traffic reports covering multiple accounts, statistical tracking of photo interactions, remote post editing and more.
The co-creators, who began developing a family of social media-management apps in Pandhi’s Hicksville basement almost four years ago while both studied at Hofstra, didn’t flip the switch on their latest product as planned, in December 2015. Before rushing in with a could-be-better Bettr, they opted for an extended beta test, targeting what they referred to as carefully selected “social media influencers.”
The patience paid off. While the iOS app that officially debuted in March 2016 offers scheduling and data-crunching for Instagram accounts only, it does precisely what its creators envisioned – and it keeps improving, up to Version 2.9 by February 2017 (“unfollow” notifications? You bet).
The e-entrepreneurs have also introduced a QR code-enabled website to deepen the Bettr user experience, and have an Android version of the social media-management tool in the works.
Ultimately, Pandhi and Knaus envision a single app to rule them all – as in, multiple social media accounts, with the same traffic-tracking and statistical analyses available for a user’s Twitter, Facebook and other social channels.
“People really care about the analytics,” Knaus stated. “They definitely care about the scheduling, but they really want to know who’s following their account, how many followers they’ve gained, how many they’ve lost, what they’re attracted to.
“We didn’t make it absolutely beautiful at first, we just made it work,” he added. “Then we made it nice.
Propelled by a $1 million booster in 2016, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory spinoff DepYMed Inc. is working steadily toward milestones that will earn another cool million – and could ultimately bring a series of cutting-edge cancer inhibitors to market.
The 2014 startup, spun out of CSHL with the help of New York City stalwart Ohr Pharmaceutical, announced the completion of a Series A funding round late in 2016. The money – from TopSpin Fund LP, controlled by Roslyn-based VC and private-equity firm TopSpin Partners – will be used to develop multiple therapeutic applications based on the inhibition of enzyme phosphates.
In addition to the potentially $2 million stake, the deal also delivered DepYMed some significant human capital: TopSpin Fund Managing Director Steve Winick, a patent attorney who spent more than two decades as Honeywell’s chief technology officer, signed on to DepYMed’s Board of Directors.
That was a pretty good get for the three-year-old firm, according to President and CEO Andreas Grill, who noted Winick’s long experience guiding other startups, including some with breakthrough potential. That level of savvy is critical now – the CEO used words like “general” and “normal” to describe the milestones tied to that second million-dollar tranche, but there’s nothing routine about DepYMed’s science.
The company is conducting Phase 1 clinical trials of MSI-1436C, also known as Trodusquemine, which targets the critical protein tyrosine phosphatase 1B, better known by its nom de voyage, PTP1B. The phosphatase inhibitor is seen as a potential breakthrough in the fight against HER2-positive breast cancer – the main thrust of a study currently underway at Northwell Health’s Monter Cancer Center in Lake Success.
But that’s not the only potential use for DepYMed’s proprietary PTP1B inhibitors. DepYMed is also in preclinical development, in collaboration with CSHL investigators, on more potent inhibitors as potential treatments for additional cancer indications, numerous metabolic diseases and even central nervous system disorders.
At an even earlier developmental stage are PTP1B inhibitors targeting obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Part of the second half of the $2 million funding round will be used to prepare “additional analogues” for clinical trials, Grill noted, though the primary mission now remains the development of a new HER2-positive breast cancer treatment.
“The money will help bring the next generation of PTP1B inhibitors closer to clinical development, but at the moment we’re still looking primarily at HER2 and other cancer types,” Grill stated. “The cancer study is full steam ahead.”
John Sperzel III
Chembio Diagnostics Systems
The new year started with a bang for Chembio Diagnostics Systems, which announced in January 2017 that its combination HIV/syphilis point-of-care tests had been approved for sale throughout Europe and the Caribbean.
Previously approved for use in Mexico and Brazil (and still undergoing clinical testing in the United States), the single-use kits offer rapid detection of antibodies common to syphilis and HIV types 1 and 2. They require only small blood samples and provide results in as little as 15 minutes.
Chembio Diagnostics Systems is hoping to receive U.S. and Southeast Asia clearances for its HIV/syphilis kits later this year. But the European and Caribbean permissions were a welcomed start to 2017, according to CEO John Sperzel III, who believes his proprietary platforms – which boast 2-year shelf lives – can play a significant role in global initiatives to reduce the transmission of HIV and syphilis to unborn children, and in screening adult populations where HIV and syphilis co-infection rates continue to rise.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that syphilis patients have a higher risk of contracting HIV – as much as five times higher – and that 2 million pregnancies each year are affected by mother-to-child transmission of HIV and/or syphilis, increasing the number of stillbirths, spontaneous abortions and incidents of low birthweight.
Late in 2016, Chembio Diagnostics Systems received other promising news on the international front: In November, the national health-regulatory agency of Brazil approved commercial use of Chembio’s rapid field test for the Zika virus, a major step toward selling the product in the Zika-ravaged Brazilian market.
Also in November, the Medford biotech announced the acquisition of RVR Diagnostics Sdb Bhd, a private Malaysian distributor of point-of-care diagnostic tests, strengthening its foothold in that Southeast Asian nation.
Those moves followed a September shakeup of Chembio Diagnostics Systems international executive team, with the company naming new presidents for its Americas region – including Canada, the United States and Latin America – and its EMEA and APAC markets, covering Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Asian Pacific.
With the new execs in place and the good news coming in January from European and Caribbean quarters, Chembio Diagnostics Systems is officially in growth mode, according to Sperzel.
“Our growth plans include expansion into the Asia Pacific region, and we believe a corporate presence in Malaysia will be a key success factor,” the CEO said. “We believe Chembio is on a path to establish a global operation with potential for growth in several important markets.”
J. Robert Coleman & Steffan Mueller
Hailed by some as the posterchild for the Long Island Innovation Economy, Codagenix truly has emerged as a blueprint for smart commercialization.
Wielding a next-level biotechnology certainly helps, and the 2012 startup absolutely has that in its proprietary synthetic-biology platform, which digitally “recodes” viruses to create and test potential vaccines. In fact, the breakthrough tech has allowed Codagenix cofounders J. Robert Coleman and Steffan Mueller to swing for the biomedical fences, and that right quick.
The cutting-edge software has already been pitted against Zika virus, swine flu, foot and mouth disease and the dreaded, ever-mutating seasonal influenza. And with multiple studies underway – including in vivo testing of a live-attenuated Zika-vaccine candidate, produced just 27 days after Zika was plugged into the vaccine-design platform – Codagenix is filling its pipeline with potential targets.
Coleman, a Farmingdale State College biology professor, and Mueller, a former Stony Brook University assistant research professor, have availed themselves of multiple regional, state and federal resources along the way, including several beefy research awards.
Codagenix launched in SBU’s Long Island High Technology Incubator before relocating to 1,500 square feet of wet-lab and office space in FSC’s Broad Hollow Bioscience Park. Funding has been strong from the start: The biotech racked up nearly $2 million in National Institutes of Health grants before nailing a joint $100,000 investment from regional business booster Accelerate Long Island and the Long Island Emerging Technologies Fund, followed by a $2 million investment by Roslyn-based venture group Topspin Partners.
That kept Codagenix cooking until December 2015, when the company earned $2.25 million through Albany’s Regional Economic Development Council competition.
With Zika and the flu in its sights and the ink drying on an exclusive licensing agreement with the Research Foundation for the State University of New York – designed to commercialize a “pipeline of live attenuated vaccines” against viral infections attacking humans and animals – the ceiling continues rising for this champion of Long Island innovation.
Coleman, who’s noted a “growing need for vaccines that work and that can be made rapidly, as evidenced by the Zika epidemic,” says that Codagenix is ready to answer the call.
“The technology is very rapid,” Coleman said. “We can produce multiple vaccine candidates simultaneously and quickly.”
“Former mad scientist” James Egan (his words) and his TargaGenix Inc. team are developing a drug that’s unique in the fight against cancer.
Meet SBT-1214, which is not a peppy “Star Wars” robot but a revolutionary pharmaceutical 20 years in the making. The 2013 startup’s proprietary product isn’t special because it kills cancer cells – other drugs do that – but for its ability to neutralize highly resistant cancer stem cells, the tiny buggers that tend to revive the disease post-treatment.
It’s not a cure, but it’s getting there. Egan and company, residents of Stony Brook University’s Long Island High-Technology Incubator, have performed extensive laboratory tests and, according to the entrepreneur, “been able to cure many difficult and aggressive cancer indications in [mouse] models.”
Egan, who earned an MBA and a PhD in molecular pharmacology at SBU, is a former vice president at New York City oncology company IRX Therapeutics, where he raised capital investments and formed strategic partnerships, including academic and industry collaborations.
He incorporated TargaGenix specifically to commercialize the work of Iwao Ojima, an SBU distinguished professor of chemistry, director of the university’s Institute of Chemical Biology & Drug Development and head of the university’s chapter of the National Academy of Inventors.
Ojima discovered SBT-1214 while screening tumor cells capable of resisting multiple drugs. He’s spent two decades researching its effectiveness against tumors and those dogged cancer stem cells, efforts covered extensively by numerous peer-reviewed journals.
The highly regarded researcher now serves as TargaGenix’s senior scientific advisor alongside Mansoor Amiji, a distinguished professor of pharmacy at Boston’s Northeast University.
Still awaiting an Investigational New Drug designation from the Food & Drug Administration, TargaGenix recently received a $2.3 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to put toward the development of “novel cancer stem cell therapeutics.” The biotech is hoping to raise another $8 million in capital investments to fund Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical studies.
Egan, who noted those drug-resistant stem cells are “what makes cancer treatment so difficult,” said after decades of research, Ojima’s research was ready to break through.
“It was an opportunity I couldn’t resist, for the reasons we all get into this field, to try to help patients,” the entrepreneurial pharmacologist said. “And it could be a multi-blockbuster.
“A blockbuster is generally thought of as a billion a year in revenue,” Egan said. “Well, this could be a $10-billion-a-year drug.”
Joseph Scaduto, Lorne Golub & Francis Johnson
Carefully developing a breakthrough pharmaceutical with game-changing animal- and human-health potential, Traverse Biosciences earned its first Innovator of the Year award with a strong 2016 – and appears determined to outdo itself in 2017.
Already this year, co-founders Joseph Scaduto and Lorne Golub and scientific partner Francis Johnson – a Stony Brook University pharmacological sciences professor who co-created the novel drug TRB-N0224 with Golub – have earned a new U.S. patent, launched an R&D partnership with a major animal-health company and made final preparations for a large-scale study to commence this spring at SBU.
The new patent covers a proprietary library of chemically modified curcumins – plant-based chemicals, including TRB-N0224 – and marks the third patent for Golub and Johnson’s flagship formula, which has been exclusively licensed to Traverse Biosciences by the Research Foundation for the State University of New York.
The R&D agreement, meanwhile, involves “a top-10 global animal health company,” according to CEO Scaduto, who isn’t naming names – but is excited to note that the partner company is testing TRB-N0224 “for a number of potential applications in animal health” beyond Rover’s sore gums.
That’s in addition to an imminent canine periodontal disease study at Stony Brook – and all that follows a year in which Traverse Biosciences earned outside funding in chunks, completed key laboratory experiments and formed a number of critical research partnerships.
Among Traverse Bioscience’s 2016 achievements: a $1.32 million Phase II Small Business Technology Transfer Award from the National Institutes of Health, shared with the SBU School of Dental Medicine; a $500,000 seed investment from Rochester-based venture-capital firm Excell Partners; a $164,689 Department of Defense stipend, shared with SUNY Upstate Medical University, to test TRB-N0224 against lung injuries; and a successful pilot study pitting the drug against non-naturally occurring periodontitis in a laboratory beagle, clearing the way for the coming canine periodontal studies.
With Traverse Biosciences just scratching the surface of TRB-N0224’s potential animal- and human-health applications, the 2013 startup is anticipating a big year, according to Scaduto, who noted the Phase II tech-transfer grant actually skips the biotech ahead a few spaces.
“We focused on canine periodontal disease for a reason,” Scaduto states. “The pre-clinical model for the human disease is the dog. So we’re getting a nice bang for the buck with this grant, which allows us to do a dog study both as a target species for our animal-health vertical and as the pre-clinical efficacy model for a human study.
It may have a fanciful name – founder Mohan Wanchoo cites the “wellness” associated with the fragrant flower – but the science is solid, and plentiful, at Jasmine Universe.
The energy-focused startup distributes proprietary technologies designed to maximize efficiency in residential and commercial spaces. Combining a control console (the “hubb”), wall plugs (the “ploggs”) and its own “smart thermostat” (the “statt”), the mobile-friendly Jasmine Universe system monitors appliances and heating systems, tracks usage times, formulates energy-reduction formulas and otherwise optimizes system operations and fuel consumption.
It also gives users real-time, app-activated remote control of the ploggs, which fit between electrical cords and wall outlets and serve as vigilant energy monitors – and, when necessary, on/off switches.
The system debuted at Advance Energy 2016, a New York City sustainability conference hosted by Stony Brook University and populated by a major-league assemblage of research organizations, private companies and government agencies, including PSEG Long Island, National Grid, Lockheed Martin and the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority, among others.
It was a big stage – and a veritable dash to the spotlight for the 2014 startup, a resident of SBU’s Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center.
But founder and CEO Mohan Wanchoo spent years developing the technology before launching, and with just a few user-interface tweaks – part of the sage guidance offered by former LIPA VicePresident Bruce Germano, another company principal – Jasmine Universe was ready to run almost before it could walk.
With self-evident environmental promise and cost-savings potential – the system boasts $200 in annual savings for the average residential customer and similar, scalable savings for commercial users – Jasmine Universe is aiming straight for the top.
Germano referenced negotiations with large utilities, energy marketers (responsible for selling power to consumers in 22 deregulated markets, including New York State) and other energy-efficiency companies. With 2016’s small-scale production run now complete, the power players are anticipating a surge – and they’ll do it, Wanchoo noted, under their own steam.
“We’re self-funded and we’re keeping it that way,” the CEO says. “We are a serious player in this marketplace, and we’re open for business.”
Bonded Energy Solutions
Jerritt Gluck is looking to create the 21st century’s most energy-efficient heating systems, starting with tech that’s more than three centuries old.
Of course, Gluck and “software guy” Laszlo Osher, through their 2013 startup Bonded Energy Solutions, are adding some modern twists to the tried and true and not terribly efficient science of steam heating. But the entrepreneurs’ futuristic product – it goes by SteamTech – is rooted in the past.
While modern structures are built with more efficient central heating systems, there are still plenty of steam-heated buildings around – especially older residential apartment buildings, where owners can spend as much as $60,000 annually to heat a five-story, 50-unit, 50,000-square-foot structure.
Enter SteamTech, which looks to tackle that problem by creating “heating zones,” as opposed to heating the entire square footage.
The basic idea is to push air out of certain spaces and allow steam to rush in, and it’s achieved through the “air eliminator,” a device of Gluck’s design that ushers air out, invites steam in and packs small sensors that become buoyant when the device fills with steam – automatically closing heating vents when target temperatures are achieved.
By synching his WiFi-enabled air eliminator system with the Internet and mobile devices, Gluck is looking to put modern, cost-cutting environmental controls in the hands of virtually any homeowner, even residents of those older steam-heated apartment buildings (and yes, New York City and Long Island still have plenty).
Early beta tests were conducted at a multifamily building in the Bronx. Bonded Energy Solutions – a resident of the Long Island High-Technology Incubator on the Stony Brook University campus – has now installed upgraded systems in an 18-unit Manhattan residential building, including enhancements based on those earlier tests.
While collecting energy-usage data and other critical information from the Manhattan test site, Gluck – who did much of the early design work and testing in his circa-1700s, steam-heated Oyster Bay farmhouse – plans to establish several more beta sites this year, while exploring multiple grants and private funding opportunities.
He’s targeting 2018 for a potential commercial rollout – just five years after Bonded Energy Solutions officially launched, not bad for an ambitious project that combines old and new technologies in an effort to create brave new energy solutions.
“This wouldn’t have been possible 20 years ago,” says Gluck. “This is a building monitoring system, not just a way of turning steam on and off.
“I’m confident and comfortable that it will work, and we’re committed to bringing this product through to fruition.”
Reed Phillips and his Stony Brook-based startup, Energystics Ltd., are certainly piling up the patents.
The circa-2012 company – specifically, its trademarked Vibristor technology – has already earned six U.S. patents, including one in October 2016 covering the distinctive oscillating motions of magnets inside a proprietary wave-energy harvesting device. And Phillips predicts up to a dozen more over the next year-plus.
Far from a patent collector (someone who amasses publicly traded patents as ammo for potential lawsuits), Phillips is an entrepreneurial innovator of the highest order. And his next-generation technology, which aspires to revolutionize the conversion of linear motion into electricity, involves many moving parts – hence the numerous patents, which cover different aspects of the ambitious Vibristor tech.
Recognizing that a magnetic field moving past a copper wire (or other stationary conductor) produces electricity, Phillips was determined to convert the kinetic (or motion-generated) energy of waves, vibrating overpass struts and just about anything else that reliably shimmies, into electrical power. Such conversion technology is not completely new, though previous attempts sacrificed too much potential power in the transference from kinetic energy to electricity.
To that end, Phillips has learned to shape and focus magnetic fields so no mechanical energy is lost during transference into electrical energy. Combine that with Energystics’ patented energy-collection technologies, and you create game-changing possibilities, according to the inventor, who is working on “several” commercial products incorporating these designs.
No. 1 on the list is a wave-powered navigational buoy that’s looking to make a commercial splash as early as this year. Phillips is currently waiting on what might prove to be his most significant patent to date – Energystics’ first covering of what the founder called “an entire system,” in this case a navigational and instrument buoy that can self-generate enough juice to power global-positioning sensors, atmospheric meters and other scientific tools.
Not only will the built-in Vibristor technology harvest and convert enough wave energy to run the doodads, but it will do so for up to 15 maintenance-free years, according to the inventor – making the still unnamed buoy (Phillips was kicking around “Superbuoy” at one point) a solid commercial introduction.
There will be more, the inventor promised.
“We’re working on several commercial products,” says Phillips. “But this is the one I have decided to go with to start getting this technology commercialized.”
For the plants, by the plants, Re-Nuble Inc. and its cutting-edge organic fertilizer aim to turn “yesterday’s leftovers” into “tomorrow’s abundance.”
That was not necessarily the idea when founder Tinia Pina first decided to do something about the poor food choices available in Harlem, where she taught an SAT prep class, and other low-income areas, where plenty of fast food – but few fresh vegetables – seemed to crop up.
That particular cause mixed nicely with the entrepreneur’s other scientific interests, including her efforts to bring transparency to the evils of chemical fertilization and her quest to overcome unsatisfactory food-waste treatment options.
Pina, who earned a business IT degree at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and studied at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, followed the research to anaerobic digesters, a technology through which microorganisms break down biodegradable materials in the absence of oxygen.
The process is expensive, but it creates harvestable energy – plus a leftover liquid that could be used as a fertilizer.
The liquid is low in nutrients and not a particularly effective fertilizer. But as a growth accelerant for hydroponics – the hydroculture subset that grows plants in mineral-nutrient solutions, sans soil – it turns out to be crazy bonkers effective.
Launching online in 2015, Re-Nuble Inc. and its hit hydroponics formulas have allowed Pina to merge her multiple pursuits into a single mission: To sustainably convert individual communities’ leftover consumable resources into a valuable, renewability-focused product that promotes healthier choices within that community, all with zero environmental effect.
Pina’s ag-tech – a “virtual tenant” of Stony Brook University’s Clean Energy Business Incubator Program headquartered since June 2016 in the Harlem Biospace biotech incubator – is not out to change the world, Pina insists.
But by intertwining the natural food cycle and community-education protocols with next-level sustainability technologies, the startup is happy to promote proper nutrition and ecologically responsible sustainability, one blooming formula at a time.
“I really see some futuristic perspectives supporting what we’re doing,” Pina said. “Global microeconomic trends of people migrating toward urban centers support a more efficient economy, in terms of where and how our food is produced.
“There’s not a lot of applied research on how to use food waste in hydroponics,” she added. “If we can close the loop on these farms, creating a method where they could use their own waste on-site, it will take off from there.”
Ron Tabbitas, Miriam Rafailovich & Michael Rubino
A startup with a heart of gold – at least, a proprietary gold-nanoparticle coating technology licensed from Stony Brook University researchers – MEAn Technologies is looking to redefine clean energy by maximizing fuel cell performance.
Lest you be misled, the MEAn people – a play on “membrane electrode assemblies” – are perfectly nice. Ron Tabbitas is the founder and president of Selden business-development services provider Dynamic Supplier Alignment, which will be the MEAn Technologies parent company when the subsidiary officially spins off.
Technical advisor Miriam Rafailovich is director of SBU’s Garcia Materials Research Science and Engineering Center and co-director of the university’s Chemical and Molecular Engineering program, while Michael Rubino has helped MEAn Technologies find its footing through his role as Dynamic Supplier Alignment’s operations chief.
Pay attention, because there will be a quiz: MEAn Technology is developing a proprietary method of depositing catalytic nanoparticles directly onto fuel cell membranes prior to platinum loading, turning the membranes into vital components of the electrode assemblies that comprise the core of the Low-Temperature Proton Exchange Membrane fuel cells used in a wide range of power applications.
OK – forget the quiz. Suffice it to say, MEAn Technologies is looking to boost fuel cell power output by as much as 40 percent, with cost-per-kilowatt reductions of better than 35 percent.
The technology is solid, but right now, the coming-soon startup’s focus is on funding. Tabbitas & Co. presented to a NYSERDA panel in early March in hopes of landing up to $100,000 in funding through NYSERDA’s new Ignition Grants program, which offers “timely, highly targeted infusions of capital” to companies involved with clean-tech incubator programs.
Through its affiliation with SBU’s Long Island High-Technology Incubator, MEAn Technologies has a shot, and the founding crew hopes to receive good news by the end of March. They’re also continuing their collaboration with Rochester-based American Fuel Cell – a plus for their fundraising efforts – and have submitted a proposal to SUNY for technology-acceleration funding and hope to hear back this spring.
Meanwhile, the clean-energy startup is finalizing multiple field tests for its proprietary catalytic-nanoparticle system, with three “customers” slated to commence testing within six months and the beta runs slated to last about nine months.
“These tests are very important,” Tabbitas said. “We call them ‘customers,’ but they’re all big players in the fuel cell market and early adapters for this technology.”
MASTER OF INNOVATION
There’s a familiar thread running through the career of Robert Catell, a Greatest Generation-styled theme in which hard work trumps hard knocks and giving back is not a nicety but a personal necessity.
The story is not quite Horatio Alger, but close: A Brooklyn boy loses his father at a young age and abandons his dream of playing pro ball to help support his struggling single mother.
There are the requisite odd jobs and countless hours after school stocking shelves at the local drug store.In addition to an unflagging work ethic – or because of it, perhaps – the young Catell develops a shrewd understanding of the value of education, graduating with pride from P.S. 131, then Pershing Junior High and New Utrecht High School, where Buddy Hackett preceded him and David Geffen would follow.
(It was originally New Utrecht Training School, but parents didn’t like the acronym.)
Then it was on to City College, where Catell earned bachelor and master degrees in mechanical engineering. Although he would later attend programs at Columbia and Harvard, Catell credits the public institutions with teaching him the basics of business management – how to approach problems and how to solve them.
The first job is on the bottom rung at Brooklyn Union Gas Co. – in a meter repair shop in Canarsie – a corporate ladder he would inch up over 40 years, leading by example and keeping both an open door and an open mind with staff and customers and community.
Doing well by doing good was Catell’s personal mantra, but it served him well on the climb through Brooklyn Union, which had a reputation for doing more for its communities than burying pipe. He became president and CEO in 1991 and chairman in 1996.
“It is in me forever,” Catell said. “If you get something, you try to give something back. That has been the theme of my life, never to forget what got me here.”
In 1998 came Brooklyn Union’s merger with the Long Island Lighting Co., putting Catell at the helm of the combined KeySpan Corp., which he built into the largest distributor of natural gas in the Northeast and the largest investor-owned electric generator in New York State, assembling the critical mass necessary to thrive in the just-deregulated energy business.
In his 2004 book, “The CEO and the Monk,” which he co-authored with the company’s corporate ombudsman, Kenny Moore, a former Catholic clergyman, Catell conceded he’d made a few mistakes along the way.“
But I do feel extremely comfortable that I will leave behind a very clear set of beliefs about the ethical way to conduct business and treat people,” he added.
Catell remained in charge following KeySpan’s $7.3 billion sale to National Grid in 2007, serving as chairman of the British firm’s U.S. operations and deputy chair of the parent company.
He stepped down from National Grid in 2009 and turned his attention full-time to two of his most cherished projects: the Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center at Stony Brook University and the New York State Smart Grid Consortium, both of which he chairs.
KeySpan and National Grid, of course, are only part of the Catell corporate story, which includes serving as founder and chairman of Alberta Northeast Gas, on numerous business boards and industry advisory groups, and as a trustee for schools, colleges and associations, including The Partnership for New York City Inc., the United States Energy Association and the Long Island Association.
In October 2016, Catell agreed to join the board of Applied DNA Sciences, to help the Stony Brook startup use its genetic marking technology to protect power grids and energy infrastructures – an ideal focus for his half-century-plus of energy-industry leadership.
In announcing the arrival of the master innovator, Applied DNA Sciences CEO James Hayward said Catell would bring critical “knowledge and insight” as the company looked to apply its DNA-based security products to several major industries. Catell, meanwhile, noted that his newest role – not likely to be his last, if history is any guide – was among his most important.
The protection of power and transportation assets is vital “not only to the agencies that run these businesses,” he noted, “but to our citizens as well.”
Community first, as always.
“I think Long Island can really lead in solar and wind and creating cleaner conventional generation that operates more efficiently,” Catell added. “And the uniqueness of being an island gives us further opportunity to be a leader in this space.
“We can better control our destiny.”
Horatio couldn’t have said it any better.
FOOD & BEVERAGE
Kyle Chandler – no, not the actor – was working the 2013 North Fork Craft Beer Festival when he had his a-ha moment. Two or three pints in, he was thirsting, but not for more suds.
Recalling childhood memories filled with fresh jugs of iced sun tea, courtesy of his mother, the Northrop Grumman systems engineer started brewing. Rehydration was his inspiration, but he also recognized the commercial potential of a “craft revolution” that already included beer, wine, cheese, pickles and dozens of other homespun products.
His goal was “a good iced tea that fits this world,” something that could stand up to all that handcrafted gastronomy. So Chandler spent about 18 months securing permits and acquiring kettles, pumps and hoses – he even snagged his future souped up “show rig” at auction – and leased time at Stony Brook University’s Calverton Business Incubator to brew, tinker and bottle.
The Subtle Tea Co. launched in 2014 in Chandler’s Centereach living room, with a thirst-quenching dream and a modest marketing plan. It was actually the first beverage company to take space in the food-friendly Calverton incubator, where several other Long Island artisans were already whipping up niche edibles.
Inside of a year, the craft-tea startup sold more than 10,000 bottles, with Chandler targeting Long Island delis, breweries, wineries, farm stands, natural food stores, restaurants and bars, plus local events.
The innovator called the incubator “an amazing gift from New York State and Stony Brook University” and credited his startup’s early success to the commercial kitchen’s state-of-the-art processing equipment and invaluable mentorship opportunities.
It’s a good business to be successful in. Bottled tea is a rising tide, according to a 2014 report by global business intelligence specialist IBISWorld, with U.S. production rising 6.1 percent annually between 2009 and 2014 and 10 percent annual growth forecasted through 2019.
In 2015, the U.S. Tea Association reported the national tea industry – including bottled beverages produced by the likes of PepsiCo, Snapple and Woodbury-based Arizona Beverage Co. – as a $10.4 billion annual business, up from $1.9 billion in 1990.
Chandler – Subtle Tea’s brewmaster, head tester, accountant, delivery man and chief corporate strategist – has steadily grown his niche enterprise, featuring such flavors as plum, raspberry, a caffeine-free apple-mango and a bold, unsweetened black tea that goes by “Sweetless.”
There are T-shirts, too, while Chandler and his “show rig” – the box truck affectionately dubbed Subtle Jerry – still make the rounds.
It’s a good spot to be in, according to Chandler, who has whet his entrepreneurial appetites by wetting others’ whistles.
“Maybe someday we’ll have our own brewery,” says Chandler. “Maybe someday we’ll have our own sales team, distributor and financial investor.
“I’m working towards it all.
Kevin Cain, Manny Coelho, Marc Jackson, Lee Kaplan
Lithology Brewing Co.
In case you had any doubts, Long Islanders love their craft beers. Look no further than the numerous microbreweries and private batches that have gurgled up in Nassau and Suffolk over the last several years – even a startup providing weekly bus tours of the Island’s up-and-coming brewpubs.
Or, consider the super-successful Kickstarter campaign that propelled Lithology Brewing Co. to sudsy new heights.
First, a little technical extrapolation: Brewers Kevin Cain, Manny Coelho, Marc Jackson and Lee Kaplan all boast scientific backgrounds, and the veteran homebrewers aimed to bring that sort of methodical precision to the microbrew realm (hence the name Lithology, which is the study of the physical and chemical characteristics of rock and sediment).
When Cain and Kaplan got into a heated brew-session debate about refractometer readings one night in 2013, one blurted out that they should launch a professional, commercial brewery – and, almost on a dare, the Lithology Brewing Co. was unofficially born.
Flash forward two years to that Kickstarter campaign: Between March and April of 2015, Lithology Brewing sought $35,000 in crowd-funded capital to expand production of its increasingly popular wares. Ultimately, their steins runnethed over, with a cool $36,355 in the tank.
Literally: The successful campaign landed the brew-preneurs a new carbonation tank, new fermenters, a refrigerated van and some $8,000 worth of kegs. And the frothy foursome leveraging production, networking and mentorship opportunities provided by the Farmingdale food cooperative A Taste of Long Island.
Officially licensed in 2015 by the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, the innovators infused local ingredients where they could – their Lafayette Farmhouse Saison is brewed with Long Island honey, while their Water Mill Imperial Pumpkin Ale features locally sourced squash.
And they haven’t been shy about creativity: Lithology Brewing’s Rock Hammer Vanilla Porter includes “subtle hints of chocolate and coffee,” according to the company’s website, while The White – a light, naturally hazy Belgian-style brew – benefits from dried whole chamomile and orange zest.
The innovative brewers have racked up their share of awards. Among them: a silver medal (for their Brown Ale) in the uber-competitive 2016 New York International Beer Competition, following a bronze in the 2015 installment.
In 2016, the partners also opened Lithology Brewing’s first tasting room on Main Street in Farmingdale – and there appears to be no holding back the microbrewery with the unique flavors and scientific pedigree.
“It’s amazing to see our beers in locations from Southampton to Brooklyn to Manhattan,” Kaplan says. “And that people are buying.
In the world of brainpower-boosting beverages, nothing howls quite like AlphaWolf. Inventor Michael Chalavoutis saw to it – for personal reasons, at first, a victim of his own self-created daily grind.
While studying for the MCATs, Chalavoutis worked as an adjunct biology professor at Hofstra University, where the Wesleyan University graduate had earned a master’s degree in cellular and molecular biology. He also worked as a strength-and-conditioning coach at Xceleration Sports Training, a Deer Park gym specializing in high school, college and semipro athletes.
The three-headed schedule was wearing him down, so Chalavoutis – already known to tinker with natural extracts and other ingredients that might benefit his strength-training clients – got busier.
Aiming for a pleasant-tasting beverage that did for the mind what nutrient-rich sports drinks do for the muscles, the biologist independently researched the pros and cons of numerous vitamins, minerals and other natural and artificial compounds, then started mixing and matching – a dash of caffeine here, 1,000 percent of the recommended daily B12 dosage there. His early concoctions were mostly awful-tasting. But the results – taste-wise and performance-wise, according to “guinea pig” family and friends – kept improving, so Chalavoutis kept plugging.
He struck mental gold with such ingredients as vinpocetine, a manmade compound that mimics a periwinkle extract and supercharges cerebral blood flow, and L-Theanine, a glutamic acid known to induce relaxation without drowsiness.
Now the brainpower results were tangible, and Chalavoutis added the last key ingredient: Kentucky-based Flavorman, a leading beverage-development firm. After two years of tinkering, with Flavorman adding some sweet to his science, the entrepreneur finally launched Carle Place-based AlphaWolf LLC in 2015.
Early returns were promising. Working with a Pennsylvania-based bottler, AlphaWolf secured small distribution deals with several independent retailers on the East End and in Port Jefferson. Chavaloutis is now working to expand production and distribution, with the lucrative Manhattan and Jersey Shore markets in his sights.
Hardly your average drink-making-scientist-entre-preneur-fitness expert-brainy-hunk-type, Chavaloutis is thinking in big-picture terms, aiming to “go from something very small to something very big in the Northeast” before selling off the mental-refreshment brand and moving on to new ideas.
“I want to grow this over the next five or six years and sell it to another company,” Chalavoutis stated. “I have other ideas I want to pursue, other beverage- and food-type things and one or two ideas for new apps.
”But that doesn’t mean he won’t enjoy the ride: “Personally, I’m going to have more fun going out and assisting distributors on the Jersey Shore.”
Randy & Cori Kopke
Just four years ago, Randy Kopke was a work-a-day masonry contractor, specializing in tile. His wife, Cori, was a part-time bookkeeper for several small Long Island companies. And there was no indication whatsoever that culinary greatness beckoned.
But beckon it did, and it all started when the Kopkes – self-professed pickle-lovers who, as a hobby, jarred their own vinegary cucumbers – did a relative a favor, supplying 200 jars of their handcrafted wares as wedding favors.
They were an instant hit, and that’s hardly hyperbole. Wedding guests clamored for more. Over the course of a single weekend, word spread around Montauk – site of the destination wedding – and very suddenly the amateur picklers were fielding calls for more jars. Before they knew it, Randy noted, the IGA supermarket in Northport was knocking.
Not that he necessarily soured on contracting, but Randy knew a sweet deal when he saw it – and along with Cori determined to take a shot at this new bread-and-butter.
Backyard Brine Pickle Co. launched in late 2013 inside Stony Brook University’s Business Incubator at Calverton. It has since graduated from the food-friendly shared facility, and the Kopkes have hung a shingle outside their own 2,000-square-foot commercial space in Cutchogue.
There, the professional picklers prepare and ship a variety of addictive flavors: the garlicy Dill Death Do Us Part, the habanero-infused Rowdy Pepper Belly, summer favorite Smokey Sienna, imbued with the power of jalapenos – the list goes on.
The wide variety – and tireless legwork by the couple, who spent their entrepreneurial salad days pushing their wares at local festivals and big-stage events like Maryland’s Expo East food showcase and the Specialty Food Association’s annual Summer Fancy Food Show in NYC – started a bona fide movement.
Within two years of the company’s official launch, Backyard Brine was on the shelves of more than 100 independent and chain retail outlets between Brooklyn and Montauk. Today, Everything Bread and Butter (pickled in a Vermont maple syrup brine) and other Kopke crunchers can be found in specialty shops throughout New York City, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont.
No doubt, it’s been an impressive run for the former amateur pickle enthusiasts, who as recently as four years ago had never even considered starting a food business.
“A consultant said the number of stores we got into as quickly as we did was just unbelievable,” Randy recalled. “I guess you never know what’s going to happen.”
Tainos Sofrito & Mojo
Vivian Jarrett understands sofrito – not just the tastes and textures of the aromatic staple of Puerto Rican cuisine, but its sacredness.
She knows that promoting a commercial version of the sauce – the first thing thrown in the pot in most Puerto Rican dishes, or the last thing dolloped on top, or both – is a risky bet, culturally speaking. Everybody and their grandma have their own recipe, and you better believe it’s personal.
But the proof is in the salsa: Everyone who tastes Jarrett’s handcrafted sofrito – and her homemade mojo, a citrus- and cilantro-based sauce that’s basically “the salt and pepper of Puerto Rican cuisine,” according to Jarrett – gets hooked.
The self-described “foodie” has a theory: At home, sofrito is usually built one ingredient at a time – peppers then onions then garlic and so on, until the base is simmering and the rest of the meal’s ingredients can go in. Rarely are the sofrito ingredients blended together, perfectly punctuated with cilantro and spices and set aside.
That makes her organic, preservative-free, ready-to-roll version unique – and in an era when many households, Puerto Rican and otherwise, feature meal-makers with full-time jobs, the time may have come for a sofrito that’s (gasp) arguably tastier than grandma’s.
That said, Jarrett – one of those working moms herself, lending a hand at Custom Stair Runners, her husband’s Riverhead-based niche flooring business – is not looking to become a global sofrito force, at least not yet.
Since unofficially launching Tainos Sofrito & Mojo – named for the Arawakan-speaking natives of what is now Puerto Rico, Cuba, Jamaica and other Caribbean locales – in late 2013, she’s gained a regional following and even attracted a distribution offer from a national supermarket chain.
Sensing a future of margins-making manufacturing monotony, Jarrett declined. For now, she’s happy to continue jarring small amounts of her sauces by hand, a few hours each week at Stony Brook University’s Business Incubator at Calverton, and peddling them at Long Island festivals and farmer’s markets – in person, of course, because “that’s exciting to me” and “there’s nothing like the feel of a farmer’s market find you can’t get anywhere else.”
And if she ever so slowly changes cultural perceptions about a titanic, if taboo, culinary icon, well … you never know.
“My children are young once,” Jarrett said. “Sofrito will always be there.”
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
Unprecedented X-ray capabilities are shedding new light on the nano-world.
The ability to image physical structures and chemical reactions down to the nanometer (one-billionth of a meter, for those keeping score) is critical at the National Synchrotron Light Source II, the Department of Energy’s state-of-the-art electron storage ring housed at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton.
By offering researchers an array of X-ray, ultraviolet and infrared beamlines, NSLS-II can unlock the secrets behind molecular electronics, clean energy and a host of other next-generation technologies – but doing that requires an entirely new class of X-ray microscope.
Fortunately for the global waiting list of scientists lined up for a look at those beamlines, NSLS-II physicist Evgeny Nazaretski and Yong Chu, leader of the NSLS-II’s Hard X-Ray Nanoprobe Beamline group, are on the case.
The two have conspired to produce the Laue Lens Multilayer Microscope, a groundbreaking instrument designed specifically to deliver a suite of unprecedented X-ray imaging capabilities for the Hard X-Ray Nanoprobe Beamline. The science is slightly beyond the average layman – for starters, recall everything you know about Bragg diffraction and Laue geometry – but the upshot is clear: By manipulating novel nano-focusing optics, the microscope produces an X-ray beam just 10 nanometers wide.
It’s not quite the holy grail of pure nanometer resolution – not yet – but the Laue Lens Multilayer Microscope does provide unprecedented detail on a nanoscopic scale, giving researchers their best look yet at proteins at work inside the cells of a biological sample, for instance, and other really, really, really tiny stuff.
One of the hurdles cleared by Nazaretski, Chu et al is the need to keep the scope super-steady. Clear imaging at these levels requires extremely high stability, meaning vibrations and “thermal drifts” – infinitesimal shimmies caused by heat – must be virtually eliminated.
To that end, the BNL scientists have employed more than 20 piezo motors, small, very fine engines that produce motion when electric currents are fed into piezo crystals. By using these and other technological marvels – including the latest in interferometric-sensing, nanoscale-motion and position-control technologies – Nazaretski and Chu’s teams have reduced thermal drifting to just two nanometers per hour.
The science is heavy, and BNL researchers were quick to thank contributors at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois for sharing their technical expertise. But combining these next-level technologies – and giving some of the world’s brightest physicists a crack at refining them – has resulted in what Nazaretski called “a new benchmark for X-ray microscopy systems.”
“This instrument is a critical link connecting NSLS-II’s bright X-rays to unprecedented nanoscale X-ray imaging capabilities,” added Chu, who predicted the closest look yet at the density, elemental composition and crystalline structure of many different materials “will lead to many groundbreaking scientific discoveries.”
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Physicians have a new weapon in the war against spinal muscular atrophy, a severe and sometimes fatal motor neuron disease that targets young children.
The weapon is Nusinersen, a revolutionary drug being branded as Spinraza by Massachusetts-based pharmaceuticals firm Biogen Inc. following more than a decade of testing in laboratory mouse models by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory research professor Adrian Krainer and his team, and several years of human testing in collaboration with California-based Ionis Pharmaceuticals.
The years upon years of careful study are more than worth it to anyone familiar with the nefarious illness. The leading cause of infant mortality, spinal muscular atrophy wastes away young muscle, robbing newborns and toddlers of the ability to walk, crawl or even hold up their heads. In extreme cases, the illness decimates the muscles that facilitate the breathing process.
Spinal muscular atrophy patients lack a gene called SMN1, for “survival motor neuron.” The gene encodes a protein critical to motor neuron function; in its absence, a backup gene called SMN2 steps in, but that gene contains a DNA error – common to everyone – that prevents cells from manufacturing the survival protein.
Krainer, one of the world’s leading experts on the cellular process known as RNA splicing (essentially, the editing of “messages” copied from genes), figured out how to correct the SMN2 defect, which is caused by a failure of the gene’s splicing mechanism.
Working with Ionis Pharmaceuticals scientists, Krainer and his CSHL team designed tiny molecules called antisense oligonucleotides, which bind to RNA messages produced by the SMN2 gene and, basically, correct the splicing error stunting protein production.
Early tests resulted in the manufacturing of the SMN protein in mice modeling SMA pathology. Ionis Pharmaceuticals initiated human testing in 2011 across a range of human patients – ranging in age from a few days to 12 years – and an FDA Priority Review cleared Nusinersen for use in pediatric and adult SMA patients in December 2016.
Krainer, who’s also shared his knowledge and expertise as a scientific investigator for CSHL bioinformatics spinoff Envisagenics, has spent nearly two decades studying the mechanisms of RNA splicing – an investment of time and energy that’s now come to fruition in the most meaningful way possible.
“For those of us who have had the thrilling experience of working on this drug from the very beginning, and have watched it succeed in reversing SMA pathology in animals, and more recently in young people with the illness, news of the FDA approval is incredibly gratifying,” Krainer said. “Most gratifying to me is the thought that thousands of families will now be able to see their loved ones benefit from the drug’s therapeutic effects.”
Stony Brook University
Few people understand microbiology like Stony Brook University professor Carol Carter, and the Yale-trained PhD will tell you that an AIDS cure is not currently on anyone’s radar.
But that doesn’t mean science can’t slow the bugger down.
Carter, a molecular geneticist and adjunct professor in SBU’s Department of Physiology & Biophysics, is working on a unique method of stopping the HIV-1 virus’ spread through a host organism – by targeting cellular factors that release the virus from infected cells, instead of targeting the virus itself.
The doctor has already stopped the spread of HIV in laboratory tissue samples, a significant step toward the creation of a viral inhibitor capable of halting HIV’s path of cellular destruction – and giving the immune system time to fight back.
And not just HIV, but other viruses as well, including some that have confounded science’s best minds. If they transit cells the way HIV does – a process known as “budding” – they also may be susceptible to Carter’s inhibitor.
When viruses infect a cell, they want to spread to other cells. Some viral proteins simply kill infected cells, and when the cells fall apart, float along to the next healthy cell. Others gather at the periphery of an infected cell and push, bulging the cell membrane until they burst out and stream toward the next target.
That’s “budding,” and it’s how HIV spreads. Based on a discovery she made almost two decades ago involving a protein called TSG101, Carter’s inhibitor blitzes the budding process – without affecting a cell’s ability to perform healthy budding as necessary.
The TSG101 protein helps viruses get around and is necessary for the budding process. Carter’s inhibitor blocks a virus’ ability to attract TSG101 – but so far, only at massive dosage levels. The mission now is to dramatically reduce the required chemical dosage.
Carter is one in a thick field of global researchers pursuing inhibitor biotechnologies, but in some areas, she’s nudging ahead. She’s close to creating first-in-class molecules that can stop the viral budding process in more complex biological organisms, starting with small plants.
The potential healthcare impact of a successful HIV inhibitor is enormous. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that at the start of 2013, roughly 1.2 million people – some as young as 13 – were living with the HIV infection, with average care costs over a lifetime of treatments topping $379,000. And those were just U.S. numbers.
Reversing those trends is a matter of funding and research, according to Carter, who believes an HIV inhibitor can’t come fast enough.
“It’s one of those diseases that’s humbling us,” she said. “We don’t have an effective vaccine, and the infection – though controllable, depending on where you live – is holding its own.”
The Feinstein Institute
Combining the cutting-edge powers of 3D printing and tissue engineering, Daniel Grande – director of the Orthopedic Research Laboratory at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research – is part of an effort that could someday rebuild medical science, or at least your balky knee.
Tissue engineering is like other kinds of engineering, except it replaces building blocks like steel and computer code with living skin cells and muscle matter. Feinstein Institute scientists know how to whip up fresh cartilage – by combining nutritious cells called chondrocytes with binding collagen – but shaping it into something useful, like a replacement bone or trachea, also known as the windpipe, is something else.
Enter 3D printing, which can be used to create a sort of scaffolding – in essence, an outline of the biological target – to be coated by chondrocytes and collagen, allowing the biomass to grow into purposeful cartilage.
Using next-level printers and a special “bio-ink” produced by New York City-based 3D printer manufacturer MakerBot, Feinstein Institute researchers in late 2014 were able to create cartilage specifically for tracheal repair or replacement – the first time a MakerBot-created scaffold was combined with living cells to create a tracheal segment.
Todd Goldstein, then a PhD candidate at the Feinstein Institute’s Elmezzi Graduate School of Molecular Medicine and part of Grande’s team, presented the evidence in 2015 at the 51st annual meeting of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons.
Then, in April 2016, the 3D printing science was chosen as the winner of Northwell Health’s first Medical Innovation Contest, a month-long multimedia campaign featuring television commercials and online voting. Northwell Health, the Feinstein Institute’s parent organization, registered nearly 500,000 votes during the contest, with Grande’s team outlasting the Patient Identification Shield – a temporary stamp meant to replace the antiquated hospital wristband – and the “neural tourniquet” blood-loss-staunching device being commercialized by Feinstein Vice President Christopher Czura.
The $100,000 Medical Innovation Contest prize is furthering the work of Grande and Lee Smith, chief of pediatric otolaryngology at the Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, who are working to produce a range of “bioprinted” implants created from a patient’s own living cells – capable of replacing virtually any bone and, someday soon, functioning muscles and organs.
“The Bionic Man is not the future, it’s the present,” according to Grande. “We have that ability to do that now. It’s really exciting.”
The Feinstein Institute
Chad Bouton wasn’t kidding when he noted “it’s an incredibly exciting time to be in [the bioelectronics] field.”
Bouton, a brain-wave expert and 2010 Battelle Inventor of the Year who in 2015 was named director of the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research’s Center for Bioelectronic Medicine, used those words following the “strategic alliance” announced in February between Feinstein and GE Ventures, the multinational conglomerate’s business-licensing and equity arm.
But he could just as easily have used them in April 2016, when “neural bypass” technology he helped invent gave a paralyzed patient use f his arm – a first-ever human-paralysis “reanimation” using bioelectronic medicine.
As covered by the journal Nature and others, a quadriplegic man from Ohio became the first person to regain movement in a paralyzed limb via an implant that sends electronic signals from his brain to his muscles – not only restoring limited use of his hand and wrist, but providing novel insights into the brain’s reaction to spinal cord injury.
That was the fate that befell then-19-year-old Ian Burkhart of Ohio, who broke his neck diving into waves at the beach and was left paralyzed from the fifth cervical vertebrae down. He could move his head, neck and upper arms, but nothing else.
In 2014, Burkhart had a microchip implanted in his brain at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center. The chip works with proprietary artificial-intelligence software developed by Bouton and his team, capable of learning the brain patterns associated with specific body movements.
The tech is as thick as the upshot is astonishing: When Burkhart is wired to the proper laboratory equipment, the chip “reanimates” his right hand, wrist and fingers based on his actual brain impulses – with the patient eventually regaining enough thought-controlled movement to play the nimble-fingers videogame “Guitar Hero.”
Bouton, lead technologist on the project, was at Battelle – the Ohio-based global research and development mecca – when Burkhart received his implant. Since he transitioned to the Feinstein Institute in 2015, the scientist and his team have closely monitored Burkhart’s progress, finally reporting their impressive findings in April 2016.
The next-level nature of Bouton’s work should come as no surprise. Long-term studies and breakthrough experiments by the Feinstein Institute’s vice-president of advanced engineering and technology have been featured on “60 Minutes” and other newsmagazines, while Bouton – who personally holds over 70 global patents – has earned accolades from the U.S. Congress for his work in the medical-device field.
While the experimental neural bypass technology is years away from widespread commercial use, it certainly adds to the excitement of the bioelectronics era, according to Bouton.
“We learned that a completely paralyzed person can regain functional movement using a completely artificial, literal bypass to reroute signals from the brain to the affected muscles,” Bouton told the Washington Post. “This allows new options for people that are living with severe paralysis, in terms of regaining movement and actually increasing their ability to do daily tasks we take for granted.”
Observing a common error over her lengthy career, Nassau BOCES physical therapist Mary Ann Malizia took matters into her own legs.
Most people stretching their calf muscles or hamstrings before working out or beginning physical therapy sessions “cheat,” according to Malizia, by positioning their legs incorrectly or holding a sometimes-painful stretch for a shorter time than they should – and that not only slows recovery, it opens the door to new injuries.
Her solution: The Perfect Leg Stretcher, a strap-on device that perfectly positions the leg for proper stretching and includes a built-in timer to slow down corner-cutters who may be in a rush.
There are other commercialized devices designed to help patients stretch their hamstrings and calf muscles, but not correctly, according to Malizia – for instance, they’ll allow users to bend their knees or point their toes in a way that brings comfort, but doesn’t let the muscles stretch as they should.
No other leg-stretcher on the market has a built-in timer, either, making it easier for users to cut short their therapy – and few, if any, boast a built-in goniometer, a feature Malizia included in her designs to measure range of motion and help patients and therapists track a recovering muscle’s progress.
Before her creation earned a U.S. patent in 2016, the Rockville Centre inventor debuted the Perfect Leg Stretcher at a 2015 American Physical Therapy Association conference. Early reviews were strong and Malizia began accepting her first commercial orders; now the professional therapist and rookie entrepreneur – and her 2014 startup, Malizia Stretcher Inc. – is looking to develop global markets.
In addition to injury prevention, proper leg stretches can promote recovery from a wide range of injuries and disorders, including recuperation from hip and knee surgeries; they can also benefit sufferers of Restless Leg Syndrome (doctors don’t really know the cause, though they suspect genetics, and stretching definitely seems to help).
Malizia is also busily quantifying the Perfect Leg Stretcher’s effectiveness in increasing lower-extremity range of motion for patients with neurological conditions such as cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.
With so many potential uses, the inventor isn’t kidding about those worldwide ambitions for her first-ever creation.
“I plan to sell this product to physical therapists, chiropractors and athletic trainers at every college, high school and hospital in America and overseas,” Malizia states. “This is going to be a global product.”
Ready Check Glo
Lynbrook High School and Adelphi University graduate Celestina Pugliese was tired of restaurant servers continuously asking if she was ready to pay the check.With a bitter aftertaste that hasn’t completely faded nearly eight years later, she still recalls an irritating story from 2009, featuring a persistent server who loomed over her table, repeatedly asked if he could take the check and basically just stood there and waited.
The grating experience lit Pugliese’s metaphorical lightbulb: What if the little folder containing the bill had some kind of indicator on it, alerting the server when the customer was ready to pay?
Today, the patented faux-leather check folders produced and distributed by 2011 startup Ready Check Glo can be found in restaurants and hotels around the world. Nearly 1,500 clients in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Europe have lit up to the folders, which include light-up windows to alert servers and can be customized with any restaurant name, hotel logo or other corporate marker.
While it’s a bona fide success story, getting there wasn’t easy. Pugliese recalls a “day-to-day grind” after ordering up her first prototype (from a Midwest engineer she met on small-biz resource hub Guru.com), highlighted by a series of product-design mishaps.
Things didn’t improve much until she switched to a New York-based manufacturer, Matrix Source Industrial Co. of Hartsdale. After Matrix Source finally nailed down the design, Pugliese enjoyed more success with her printer/distributor, Farmingdale-based Infinity Screen and Pad Print.
Within five years, the partners shipped northwards of 24,000 customized units around the world, building an impressive Ready Check Glo client list that includes W Hotels and Resorts, Harrah’s Las Vegas, the Culinary Institute of America, the Netherlands’ Nolet Distillery – distributors of Ketel One vodka – and megastar rapper Fifty Cent, who distributes the glowing portfolios to buyers of his Effen vodka brand.
Also in the fold is Anheuser-Busch, which reached out after Pugliese appeared on the Food Network program “Food Fortunes” – “Shark Tank’s” culinary cousin – and now ships lithium battery-powered Ready Set Glo units featuring light-up Budweiser labels to pubs and eateries around the country.
Today, thanks in part to a partnership with Texas-based Quick Technologies Inc. (and its SAGE Online product-research and business-management tools) and to its status as a registered Woman Owned Business (“It really opens doors,” Pugliese noted), Ready Set Glo continues to surge.
It’s a happy ending (or beginning) for a story that started with an annoying waiter and a design process that stumbled out of the gate – but successful entrepreneurship, Pugliese has learned, is often about learning from struggle.
“You’re going to make mistakes,” she observes. “There are going to be challenges, whether it’s money or manufacturing or production problems.
“Now, every time I make a sale, it shows me my product is well-received … and that’s what keeps me going.”
The Chess Bike
Ladies and gentlemen, presenting the first-ever two-time Long Island Innovator of the Year.
Brimes Energy CEO Ramuel Maramara and his “artificial jellyfish” wave energy-harvesting device were among Innovate LI’s very first batch of honorees in 2015. With his R&D teams hip-deep (and deeper) into planned ocean testing, the inventor is back – this time, with a startup that’s stretching its land legs.
Maramara’s latest enterprise is Chess Fit Inc., which proudly presents “the world’s most intelligent exercise machine” – the Chess Bike, a proprietary platform that one-ups the traditional indoor exercise bike by turning regular bicycles into energy-generating stationary machines.
There are a number of cutting-edge technologies at play in the prototype Chess Bike, including motion-generated electricity tech, but the platform – just a funding boost away from its commercial debut – is only a distant cousin of the industrial-strength jellyfish.
The easily portable machine slightly elevates and strongly secures the rear wheel of a user’s standard bicycle (sold separately), allowing pedal people to go for a spin indoors or out while it translates all that human energy into new electricity.
The juice is stored in one of three different custom-designed battery packs, offering hours of portable power for phones, laptops and virtually any other device or appliance requiring fewer than 85 watts.
Maramara and Chess Fit cofounder David Quitoriano – a veteran programmer who built Yehey, basically the Philippine version of Yahoo – have also created iOS and Android apps offering smartphone-controlled terrain-resistance levels and other remote training modes, as well as a “3D Virtual Reality Tour” program that works with Chess Bike’s customized VR headset.
There’s lots of other high-tech wizardry at work – the Chess Bike’s twin-generator system can capture an extremely high percentage of the wattage generated by human legs, for instance – but the makers aren’t about to blab.
Deal in hand with a Philippines-based manufacturer, Maramara and Co. are exploring their funding options – and already thinking ahead to new human-energy-harvesting worlds to conquer, with such variations as the Chess Rower, an indoor option for canoeing enthusiasts.
“By harvesting your energy and helping the environment, you feel a lot better, and not just physically,” Maramara says. “You feel like you’re doing the right thing.”
It’s a rare week in which Felicia Fleitman and her Westbury startup aren’t inventing some new way to innovate campus hiring, or building the nation’s first “internship collective,” or announcing a progressive “autism pipeline” with the state’s largest health-care provider.
Or without Fleitman running a top-flight educator/employer panel discussion on the science of internships, or Savvy Hires making fast friends with Arianna Huffington and her new Thrive Global journal.
But Fleitman – less a professional version of the Energizer bunny than a professional version of an unstoppable cascade reaction deep inside the sun’s nuclear core – just won’t let up. And clearly, her inventiveness is effecting the way Long Island employers, and others, view their future staffing needs.
It’s ironic, considering the breakneck pace since Fleitman launched Savvy Hires in July 2016, but the entrepreneur took a slow boat to business ownership. She knew early on that she wanted to start her own recruiting company, and plotted a very specific professional course that would give her the exact exposure and experience she’d need to do it right.
Fleitman managed campus-recruiting and summer-associate programs for New York City law firms. She staffed executive-level positions across the food and beverage industries for BevForce, rising to become the powerful firm’s recruiting manager. She directed recruiting for NYC-based global IT innovator NTT Data.
And at every stop, Fleitman gleaned knowledge that would ultimately inform Savvy Hires, which looks to apply scientific methods to matching talent and opportunity.
Since launching, Fleitman has been busy making new friends. In December, she announced the start of a unique internship program for autistic college students, in conjunction with Adelphi University’s Bridges to Adelphi program, Northwell Health – New York’s largest healthcare provider and private employer – and Missouri-based Enterprise Rent-A-Car, which maintains four Long Island offices.
That was followed by the launch of Savvy Hires’ new “internship collective,” a collaboration with LaunchPad Long Island aimed at perfecting the internship process. The basic ideas: Deliver the benefits of top-rate, potential-hire interns and a full-on campus-recruiting team – a six-figure luxury for most employers – in dynamic, options-heavy packages starting around twenty-five-hundred bucks.
And those are just two of the inventive ways Savvy Hires is plowing brain-first into the recruiting field.
“These models will prove valuable not only to our regional economic development, but to economic development in communities around the country,” Fleitman says. “Frankly, I think Long Island needs us.”
Soteria Technologies can catch its breath, but not a break.
It’s got a brilliant technology in its lightweight “personal escape respirator,” which can provide up to 30 minutes of breathable air – hopefully, enough to survive a high-rise fire or similar disaster.
It had seed support in 2015 in a combined $200,000 investment from a Michigan-based plastics-engineering specialist and a Connecticut angel – ostensibly, enough to begin thinking about a modest production run.
And it finally got its ducks in a row last year, with an interstate assortment of third-party manufacturers ready to provide components and final assembly set to take place at Soteria Technologies’ 3,000-square-foot Lindenhurst facility.
Like so many early-stage enterprises sitting on a potentially game-changing technology, Jeffry Peterson’s 2013 tech startup just needs that breakthrough capital infusion.
With an ambitious Indiegogo campaign wrapping up this month, Peterson is hoping for the best, considering all options and, above all else, eager to begin production of his life-saving devices, a social-media darling of survivalists and professional firefighters alike.
There’s no doubting the Oxxy/Gen’s clever design. The roughly one-pound masks, which Soteria Technologies ultimately plans to retail for $99 apiece, use a pebbly form of potassium superoxide to absorb carbon dioxide when humans exhale, leaving only oxygen.
Similar to the way trees create oxygen through photosynthesis, the technology was patented by veteran chemist Mel Blum, who is Soteria’s scientific advisor.
Peterson hopes to begin shipping tissue box-sized Oxxy/Gen Escape Kits – including an emergency respirator, protective goggles, nose clips, reflective safety strips and an LED light – this spring, working-capital-permitting.
At a minimum, Soteria Technologies has committed to donating one Oxxy/Gen unit to a family in need in a high-rise building for each $85 raised through the Indiegogo campaign. But its president is looking to do much more.
“The lowest price oxygen-supplying escape respirators on the market today are around $500, and go up from there,” Peterson says. “With a shelf life of five years and a price under $100, Oxxy/Gen is safety at less than $20 per year, making it affordable to all.”
The synergy is unmistakable: U.S. armed services veterans manufacturing equipment designed to safe-guard the men and women in uniform today.
In the pantheons of two-birds-with-one-stone business strategies, East/West Industries has uncorked a doozy, except the stone actually nails more than two birds. By reaching out to veteran’s groups, attending hire-a-vet job fairs and affiliating with Long Island’s U.S. Air National Guard leaders, the long-time defense manufacturer – which has spent nearly five decades developing new and improved aircraft seats and life-support systems, primarily for military vehicles – is serving many innovative masters.
Long Island veterans get good-paying job opportunities stretching from the drawing board to the assembly line. Customers – the Department of Defense, prime contractors like Boeing and Northrop Grumman and major system suppliers like Honeywell, just to skim the surface – get quality products from dedicated workers with some skin in the game, sometimes literally.
And the woman-owned business gets another notch on its socially conscious belt – not to mention a skilled and eager workforce, according to president Teresa Ferraro.
“Our veterans have a work ethic that’s extremely critical to making sure the needed attention is put into the products we supply to aircrews,” Ferraro states. “We need to ensure the proper attention to detail is in every product we make.
“Our products save aircrew lives.”
The veterans-employment effort is one of the ingredients in East/West Industries’ recent employment growth. The company, which launched in Hauppauge in 1968, had about 50 full-time employees at the end of 2015; it was 75 as of the start of 2017, and should grow to 85 full-timers by year’s end – everything from machinists to mechanical engineers – “just to fill the man-hours needed for our current contracts,” Ferraro said.
Another growth factor is East/West Industries’ stepped-up technological game. In March 2016, the company acquired a Fortus 250mc 3D Production System, an advanced 3D printer and high-end prototyping device with small-scale manufacturing capabilities – a serious technological and production leap for a Long Island stalwart rapidly approaching its golden anniversary.
With its workforce and technological chips falling into place, East/West Industries in February moved into its new 50,000-square-foot Ronkonkoma home. Ferraro noted the help of the Town of Islip Industrial Development Agency, “which enabled us to stay in Suffolk County” – and to continue serving as both a life-saver and a vital cog in the Long Island innovation economy.
“It has enabled us to maintain these jobs, for both veterans and our long-tenured employees here,” Ferraro said. “And it will create a lot more employment growth.”
Never mind the name, a working title suggested by his young daughters: John Pawloski’s traction drive is among the most efficient power-transmission systems ever invented, and it’s ready to roll.
Pawloski – vice president at family-owned, circa-1947 Jewelers Machinists Co. in North Babylon and great-grandson of Robert Smith, who patented the polarization process upon which Edwin Land cofounded Polaroid – has worked up a quiet, proficient transmission system that could ultimately become a workhorse of the manufacturing and energy industries.
Based on “rolling friction” principles and featuring very few moving parts, the Marmalade Drive – rechristened the RMI Traction Drive when Pawloski launched North Babylon-based Rolling Motion Industries in November 2016 – is “very efficient and wickedly simple,” according to its inventor, pretty much what Pawloski envisioned a decade ago, when he first conceived an alternative to standard belt-drive transmissions.
Not that putting it all together was simple. Pawloski mocked up the first prototype at 2 a.m. in his home and spent the next 10 years tinkering and refining, and he had plenty of help along the way – primarily, a development grant from the Huntington office of the Workforce Development Institute and loads of engineering assistance from students and faculty at Stony Brook University.
The WDI grant went primarily toward software development, as well as the training of a few SBU students to use it. The software is a Computer-Aided Design program that permits the use of thread grinders (which slice grooves into parts, such as screws) to more efficiently and accurately shape the inner tracks that the drive’s ball bearings follow.
That facilitates “dramatically” quicker production of individual Traction Drive units, Pawloski noted, and that’s a key step in taking the former Marmalade Drive – which has earned four U.S. patents covering its design, functionality and potential applications – from the drawing board to commercial prosperity.
Now, after successfully testing his transmission system in commercial HVAC units and electric golf carts and launching his new startup, Pawloski is looking for partners to help spread the marmalade around. Specifically, the entrepreneurial inventor wants to land a large-scale distribution deal, though Rolling Motion Industries will consider the right licensing opportunities.
The important thing is that the unique technology begins rolling into select markets. Once it does, the sky’s the limit, according to Pawloski, who’s ready to kick production into quiet, energy-efficient gear.
“The Traction Drive is definitely unique and soon to be very big in the marketplace,” he said. “For certain sectors, like the golf carts and HVAC units, the quantities could be astronomically huge.”
Noelle & Kali Ventresca
Manufacturing intimate apparel wasn’t the plan when Noelle Ventresca was studying music business and film scoring at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, and her sister Kali Ventresca was an art student at SUNY New Paltz.
But Noelle started designing lingerie as a hobby, and then Kali started photographing the designs, and suddenly they were in business – though it wasn’t quite the business they were destined for, not yet.
Impish Lee launched in 2012 with small runs on Etsy, the peer-to-peer e-commerce site with a reputation for quality handmade goods. A modest wholesale deal with Urban Outfitters followed, and while that was a fairly impressive get for the sisters, it was also an eye-opener: Wholesaling to retailers was not their bag.
So, with Noelle as CEO and Kali as chief creative officer, the Ventrescas pivoted in November 2015 into more of a B2C model, going where no online lingerie designer had gone before by offering customized garments based completely on user input.
With a little help from Austrian software developer Combeenation, Impish Lee rebranded around an “online configurator” that enables visitors to design their own hotness. Users start with their garment of choice – from bras and panties to full-flowing robes, ranging from petite to plus sizes – then select from menus of linings, fabrics and finishes.
Based on 25 basic designs and more than 50 fabrics, the configurator literally offers trillions of potential combinations. And behind each hand-crafted garment are the Ventresca sisters, who rent about 600 square feet inside a Sea Cliff art studio and used a successful $15,000 Kickstarter campaign – plus some critical family-and-friends investments – to purchase industrial sewing machines and other manufacturing equipment.
While the lingerie industry is stacked with entrenched competitors, Impish Lee isn’t looking to take down Victoria’s Secret or “other companies selling in a lower price range,” according to Noelle. Instead, the sisters are more interested in providing high-end products and “personalized experiences” for customers (including men, who can benefit from an educational online Gift Guide, and are likely to enjoy the lessons).
With a thriving social media marketing campaign – including, as of 2016, a series of instructional YouTube videos on how to work the configurator – and good relations with beta-testing bloggers, the new do-it-yourself Impish Lee got off to a strong start.
Now, with their feet firmly beneath them, the Ventrescas are considering some high-tech upgrades, including computer-aided design software, laser cutters and possibly a mobile app that can take pictures of a customer’s body and run them through an analysis algorithm, creating a more intuitive user experience.
“We have some very big dreams,” Noelle said. “We’ll be looking to incorporate some really interesting technology, and we’ll see where the path goes from there.”
Founded by Bill and Morris Cooper in 1955, Westbury-based Spectronics Corp. has spent over six decades on Long Island’s cutting edge. So where does it go from there?
Credited with inventing the fluorescent leak-detection systems used throughout today’s automotive industry, blacklight counterfeit currency detectors, the world’s first-ever ultraviolet cellphone sanitizer and other amazing – if not front-page – breakthroughs, the company has been to the height of technological achievement.
That’s a literal truth: Spectronics UV lamps soared into orbit aboard the space shuttle. Company products also factored into the Human Genome Project and have even compiled an enviable Hollywood résumé, with cameos on “The X Files” and “CSI: New York.”
With all that, with all the patents (dating back to 1969) and all the feature articles in Life and Popular Science, where does the self-proclaimed “world’s leading manufacturer of ultraviolet equipment and fluorescent materials” go next?
Stay tuned, says Jon Cooper, the former Suffolk County legislator who’s been Spectronics Corp. president since 1978.
With its workforce growing steadily, its 2016 acquisition of Bohemia-based Computer Numerically Controlled-machining specialist H&I Manufacturing and several recent technological investments – including new 3D printing capabilities and a state-of-the-art bottling system, a critical score for a company that peddles fluorescent dyes – the best is yet to come, according to Cooper.
And it may come largely abroad. Last summer, Spectronics Corp. announced that Latin American and Asian-Pacific sales manager Dan Tristan would join the influential Aftermarket Automotive Suppliers Association’s 93-year-old Oversees Automotive Council – both a unique honor and a rare opportunity for Spectronics.
The company subsequently announced the launch of a new multilingual website for Tracer Products, its automotive division, designed to carry Spectronics Corp. products into new international markets.
And that was followed by the announcement of a new exclusive distribution agreement with ChemPoint, a subsidiary of Washington State-based Univar Inc. that deals fine chemicals throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
With new tech, new partners and a fresh EMEA distribution deal, it appears the only place for Spectronics Corp. to go is … everywhere.
“I set a goal of becoming a $50 million business, and we’re on track for that through organic growth and acquisitions,” Cooper says. “We’re going to stay on Long Island and continue to attract topnotch employees, and continue to make this work somehow.”
The robots are coming! No, not the automaton apocalypse – not yet – but an innovative advance for several critical industries.
It was a big 2016 for ULC Robotics, which followed a 2015 Game Changer Award from Robotics Business Review with important Federal Aviation Administration drone certifications and a new chief of UK operations – key moves for a high-tech manufacturer already making nice with some of Europe’s largest utilities.
ULC Robotics incorporated in 2001 and has grown into a leading international provider of automatons and related systems for the energy and utility industries. The Hauppauge company took a big forward step in 2014, when it announced testing of next-level robots built specifically to work inside active gas mains.
The Cast Iron Robotic Repair Inspection System – specifically, the CIRRIS XI (as in “inspection”) and CIRRIS XR (as in “repair”) – was designed in collaboration with SGN, a major United Kingdom utility operating gas pipelines throughout Scotland and southern England.
Measuring about 4 feet long by 1 foot wide by 1 foot tall, weighing about 140 pounds each, the mechanical marvels could give some sci-fi robots a run for their credits. The remote-controlled ULC inspection unit can visually scan pipe walls and collect critical integrity data, information that couldn’t be gathered remotely before now.
The repair bot is the workhorse, built to remotely fix leaks and prevent future springs by strategically applying joint sealant.
SGN, which operates 74,000 kilometers of gas pipeline, wrapped up extensive CIRRIS field tests last year. And in July, ULC Robotics named Graeme Cleeton – who’s held executive positions with some of the U.K.’s leading utilities – vice president of United Kingdom operations.
Based at the company’s U.K. headquarters in the southern English county of Kent, Cleeton is playing a vital role as ULC rolls its next-generation CIRRIS models into regional natural-gas lines.
Meanwhile, that FAA certification lets ULC Robotics operate unmanned aerial systems for commercial purposes anywhere in the United States, as long as they remain below 400 feet. That’s high enough, according to ULC Robotics President and CEO Greg Penza, to inspect and survey many difficult-to-access structures and monitor pipelines for gas leaks.
These moves position the innovative R&D firm well for what Penza sees as the next “big boost” in the national economy, following the PC revolution of the 1980s and the buildout of the nation’s cellular networks, starting in the 1990s.
“Robots will be used every day in our homes and businesses,” Penza stated. “We’ll see them everywhere and we’ll interact with them everywhere.
“They will drive the next boom in the global economy.”