No. 384: Inventing aspirin, Novocain and heroin – and fighting opioid addiction with feeling

Aging beautifully: One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Grand Canyon is one of Earth's most photographed landscapes. Grand Canyon National Park turned 100 on Feb. 26.


All downhill from here: Over the hump we go, dear readers, as we slide into the second half of another busy week of socioeconomic innovation here on Long Island and around the world.

It’s Wednesday, Feb. 27, and the second day of Ayyám-i-Há for followers of the Bahá’í faith. (Of course, this observance only falls on this date on the Gregorian calendar if Bahá’í Naw-Rúz takes place on March 21, which doesn’t always happen, obviously.)

Well, duh: Slightly more accessible this Feb. 27 are International Polar Bear Day (fairly self-explanatory) and National No-Brainer Day (on which Americans are reminded to keep it simple).

There it is again: Early astronomers reported the passage of Halley’s Comet on this date in 837 A.D., already the 15th known record of the famous fireball.

For those keeping score, unmistakable observations of the regularly scheduled comet were made by ancient Chinese, Babylonian and medieval European astronomers, dating as far back as 240 B.C. (It earned its iconic name in 1705, when astronomer Edmond Halley plotted its precise timetable.)

That’s Charlotte Ray, Esq., thank you: Ms. Ray, the first female black lawyer in United States history, completed her law degree at Howard University on Feb. 27, 1872.

Let’s roll: New York inventor and composer Oscar Hammerstein I patented the first cigar-rolling machine on this date in 1883.

Other U.S. patents issued on Feb. 27 include one in 1900 for German chemist Felix Hoffman, who concocted a chemical compound known as acetylsalicylic acid. You know it better as “aspirin.” (True story: Hoffman also invented heroin).

Carbon copy: It was this date in 1940 when University of California at Berkeley researchers Martin Kamen and Samuel Ruben confirmed the existence of the carbon isotope 14C – which went by the stage name “Carbon 14” and opened the door to a slew of new sciences, including radiocarbon dating.

People watching: And while it was officially dated as the issue of March 4, the first edition of People magazine – featuring stories on Mia Farrow, Gloria Vanderbilt and the wives of Vietnam War MIAs – hit newsstands on this date in 1974.

The Wrath of John: Speaking of good reads, John Steinbeck (1902-1968) – the Nobel Prize-winning author of “The Grapes of Wrath” – would be 117 years old today.

Other Feb. 27 birthday boys and girls include American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882); German chemist and Novocain inventor Alfred Einhorn (1856-1917); American scientist/author Alice Hamilton (1869-1970), a physician best known for her groundbreaking work on occupational health (and for being the first woman on the Harvard University faculty); and American entrepreneur David Sarnoff (1891-1971), first general manager of RCA and founder of the NBC television network.

Three faces of Joanne: And take a bow, Joanne Woodward – the Academy Award-, Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning actress, producer and philanthropist turns 89 today.

Wish Paul Newman’s widow (and partner in The Hole in the Wall Gang, a Connecticut-based nonprofit residential summer camp for seriously ill kids and their families) a happy birthday at Story tips and calendar suggestions also appreciated.


About our sponsor: The Long Island Business Development Council has helped build the regional economy for 50 years by bringing together government economic-development officials, developers, financial experts and others for education, debate and networking.



In space, no one can hear you snore: Still counting down to the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo moon landing, the Cradle of Aviation Museum will debrief a retired Space Shuttle astronaut about the lighter side of space exploration.

“Practical Jokes in Space” might be a subtitle for this Wednesday’s conversation with Robert Cenker, an aerospace engineer, consultant to microgravity researchers and spaceship designers and one-time payload specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia. Cenker, who flew on mission STS-61-C in January 1986, will meet-and-greet museum members at 6:15 p.m., followed by his free public lecture at 7 p.m. (reservations required).

Cenker will discuss his mission, which included physiological tests, an infrared camera experiment and the deployment of a geostationary commercial communications satellite. He’s also expected to explain how and why he wound up duct-taped to a cabin wall (spoiler alert: sleeping in zero-g wasn’t a problem for the first-time spaceman, but faulty Velcro straps proved troublesome).



We’re starting to get excited over here, with our fourth-annual Innovator of the Year Awards now less than a month away.

Join us March 26 at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Westbury, where we’ll honor Intelligent Product Solutions CEO Mitch Maiman as our 2019 Master of Innovation, along with two dozen of the region’s most impressive researchers, inventors, entrepreneurs and executives. Among them: Hofstra University Assistant Biology Professor Javier Izquierdo, a microbiologist looking to improve local plant health and turn agricultural waste into cutting-edge biofuels.

Check out Friday’s newsletter for a special announcement regarding new awards added to this year’s slate. Until then, everything you need to know about our A-list breakfast networker, including sponsorship and registration information, awaits here.



Hip, check: Add outpatient hip-replacement procedures to North Shore University Hospital’s rapidly expanding menu of same-day joint-replacement surgical options.

Charging forward: An Italian import developing a revolutionary vanadium-flow power source for residential and light-commercial uses is making full use of Stony Brook University’s science-commercialization ecosystem.

Tales from an epidemic: Gina Czark, Northwell Health’s vice president of content management, explains why storytelling might be a potent weapon in the fight against opioid addiction.



Business-development expert Phil Rugile knows the scuttling of Amazon’s HQ2 isn’t the end of innovation in Greater New York – but he says the need for a well-organized regional incubation network is now stronger than ever.



Constructive: Scientific American reports on a proposal to create an energy-water R&D corridor along the U.S.-Mexico border, replacing antagonism with economic opportunity.

Construction: It all clicks at Forbes, which explains how building things with Legos can teach corporate America plenty about innovation.

Confusing: With global warming inevitably pushing North American food production northward, Science Guy Bill Nye thinks America should invade Canada now.



+ Flexport, a California-based full-service air and ocean freight forwarder, raised $1 billion in funding led by SoftBank, with participation from existing investors Founders Fund, DST Global, Cherubic Ventures, Susa Ventures and SF Express.

+ Geneos Therapeutics, a Pennsylvania-based developer of neoantigen-targeting cancer immunotherapies, closed its $10.5 million Series A funding round led by Santé Ventures, with participation from Inovio.

+ Tillable, an Illinois-based online marketplace helping landowners and farmers determine fair rent for farmland, raised $8.25 million in Series A funding led by agtech investment holding company The Production Board, with participation by First Round Capital.

+ ThinkGenetic, a Louisiana-based maker of an artificial intelligence-driven “SymptomMatcher” for genetic disorders, closed its $1.5 million angel round of funding led by entrepreneur and investor Cian Robinson of the Lafayette General Health System.

+ Clutter, a California-based on-demand storage company that manages the pickup, storage and retrieval of belongings, closed a $200 million Series D funding round led by SoftBank Vision Fund, with participation from Sequoia, Atomico, GV, Fifth Wall and Four Rivers.

+ The Guarantors, a New York City-based insurtech provider for the real estate rental industry, closed on $15 million in Series B funding led by Global Founders Capital, with participation from White Star Capital, Alven Capital, Partech Ventures and Silvertech Ventures.



Short stop: The two-letter word you should never use in professional correspondence.

Deep thought: Eleven things you didn’t know about the Grand Canyon, which became a national park 100 years ago this week.  

Long experience: Please continue supporting the amazing organizations that support Innovate LI, including the Long Island Business Development Council, which has invested five decades in the region’s socioeconomic wellbeing.