No. 494: In which Earth Day, the National League and fresh NSF Fellows all arrive, but COVID-19 won’t leave

Good for the heart: Only slightly dangerous during a societal lockdown, today is National Jelly Bean Day.


People of Earth: Welcome to Wednesday, dear readers, as Long Island, the United States and a good chunk of the civilized world muscle their way through another workweek in the Age of Coronavirus.

The future, now: In the palm of our hands.

It’s April 22 out there, which of course makes this Earth Day’s 50th anniversary – certainly not what anybody expected it would be, though maybe that’s not all bad.

Cool beans: Meanwhile, you might still have some in the house after this month’s Easter holiday, so go crazy – it’s also National Jelly Bean Day.

Fruit roll-up: Speaking of fruity flavors, let’s get today’s innovation-history review rolling with London produce merchant Robert Tyers, who patented his “Volito” – the world’s first wooden roller skates – on this date in 1823.

Other U.S. patents issued on April 22 include Edison’s 25th, covering the Wizard of Menlo Park’s “Improvement in Thermal Regulators for Electric Lights” in 1879.

Are you Sirius: The steam-powered passenger ship Sirius – an example of Britain’s shipbuilding dominance and predecessor of the modern luxury liner – cruised into New York Harbor on this date in 1838, towing a new era in transatlantic travel.

Play ball (please!): In what sounds like a brilliant dream from some long-gone lifetime, professional baseball’s National League became a thing on April 22, 1876, with the visiting Boston Red Stockings topping the host Philadelphia Athletics, 6-5.

Other sports innovations associated with this date include basketball’s 24-second shot clock, which was adopted by the National Basketball Association in 1954.

Eye-witness: Texas ophthalmologists performed the world’s first complete human-eye transplant on April 22, 1969.

Unfortunately, the procedure – while deemed successful – failed to restore the patient’s sight, possibly because the transplanted eye was not well preserved.

Just browsing: And the web browser that started it all – Mosaic version 1.0, credited with supercharging the World Wide Web – was released on this date in 1993 by the National Center for Supercomputing Application.

Page turner: Bettie’s free expression changed American culture.

Atomic about-face: American physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967), who lit the fuse on the Manhattan Project and lived to regret it, would be 116 years old today.

Also born on April 22 were “Tom Jones” author and 18th century funnyman Henry Fielding (1707-1754), remembered primarily for his satire; forward-thinking German philosopher and physicist Immanuel Kant (1724-1804); better-red-than-dead Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924), who kicked off the Soviet Union; “Queen of the Pinups” Bettie Page (1923-2008); and Academy Award-winning Hollywood icon Jack Nicholson (born 1937).

Glück of the draw: And take a bow, Louise Glück – Long Island’s own one-time U.S. Poet Laureate turns 77 today.


About our sponsor: Farrell Fritz, a full-service law firm with 15 practice groups, advises startups on entity formation, founder and shareholder agreements, funding, executive compensation and benefits, licensing and technology transfer, mergers and acquisitions and other strategic transactions. The firm’s blog, New York Venture Hub, discusses legal and business issues facing entrepreneurs and investors.



Lung capacity: Envisagenics, founded by Martin Akerman and Maria Luisa Pineda, has teamed up with Johnson & Johnson’s lung-cancer lab.

Top of your lungs: Three cheers for our old friends at Envisagenics Inc., the RNA-splicing Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory spinoff that’s entered into a new research collaboration with Johnson & Johnson’s Lung Cancer Initiative.

The 2013 startup has already earned plenty of attention with SpliceCore, an AI-powered drug-discovery platform that identifies RNA-sequencing errors – culprits behind cancer and other genetic diseases, and ideal targets for new pharmaceutical treatments. Through the new research agreement, the now-New York City-based innovator will use SpliceCore to build predictive models for lung cancer progression and risk, leveraging its RNA-sequencing expertise to provide fresh analyses of LCI data.

Expect some fast results, according to Envisagenics cofounder and CTO Martin Akerman, who said, “SpliceCore can scan millions of potential RNA-splicing events from 1,000 patient samples in two hours.” And expect those scans to provide critical data, added cofounder and CEO Maria Luisa Pineda, particularly for lung cancer patients. “Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths globally, and it is difficult to treat in later stages,” Pineda said Tuesday. “That is why it is so important for Envisagenics to identify early determinants of lung-cancer risk.”

Fellow students: Five Stony Brook University learners are among 14 SUNY students earning prestigious 2020 fellowships through the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program – a traditional stepping-stone toward laboratory breakthroughs, Nobel Prizes and other lofty achievements.

Stony Brook students Fatoumata Ceesay (sociology), Tori Peña (cognitive psychology), Kiran Eiden (astronomy/astrophysics), Audrey Farrell (plasma physics) and Mateo Mezic (economics) all earned the honor, among 2,076 national awardees and a 2020 SUNY class spanning five statewide campuses (the University at Buffalo boasted seven NSF fellows, while Binghamton University and SUNY College at Potsdam tallied one each).

The fellowships provide three years of financial support (over a five-year “fellowship period”), including a $34,000 annual stipend for the student and a $12,000 cost-of-education allowance for his or her school, earmarked for graduate studies in pursuit of STEM-related master’s and doctoral degrees. Another six SBU students – studying chemistry, neuroscience and other cutting-edge fields – earned honorable mentions in this year’s GRFP.



Remember the Main: Huntington-based group-gifting trailblazer eGifter is leading an online rescue mission to save the nation’s Mom and Pops.

Quality quantum: A global-communications visionary has got the goods, according to the DoE, which has staked the Stony Brook startup with a $1.5 million grant.

Innovation in the Age of Coronavirus: A spare-parts ventilator, a critical diabetic clue and bonuses for Northwell’s heroes – it’s the coronavirus, Long Island-style, in our exclusive Pandemic Primer.



Hero worship: Washington has failed us, but local leaders are guiding the nation through the wilds of the great 2020 pandemic. Media master David Chauvin knows where to find them on Long Island.



Git with it: DevOps specialist GitLab was all-remote before all-remote was cool. Forbes explores how the world’s biggest work-from-home company gets it done.

Re-test drive: Tesla is already renovating its all-electric cybertruck, more than a year before it’s scheduled to hit the road. Inverse takes a spin.

Immigration explanation: The “suspension” of immigration into the United States is all about jobs, according to the spin of surprised White House staffers. Politico dives in.



+ RDMD, a California-based health-tech company accelerating drug research for rare diseases, raised $14 million in Series A financing led by Spark Capital, with participation from Lux Capital, Village Global, Garuda Ventures and new investor Maveron Capital.

+ Learn In, a Utah-based service provider that plans educational and training-focused corporate sabbaticals, closed a $3.5 million seed-funding round. Backers included Album, GSV, Firework Ventures, Village Global and angel investor Michael Levinthal.

+ Coder, a Texas-based provider of open-source tools and customizable development platforms, closed a $30 million Series B funding round led by current investor GGV Capital, with participation from Redpoint Ventures, Uncork Capital and In-Q-Tel.

+ PIC Therapeutics, a Massachusetts-based biotechnology company focused on cancer treatments via modulation of oncogene translation, closed a $5 million seed round led by Advent Life Sciences, with participation from Belinda Termeer, several biopharmaceutical-industry executives and individual investors.

+ ByHeart, a New York City-based manufacturer of infant nutrition products, closed a $70 million Series A funding round led by Polaris Partners, D1 Capital Partners and OCV Partners, with participation from Red Sea Ventures, Sean Parker, Bellco Capital and affiliates of Two River.

+ Savi Solutions PBC, a Washington-based technology startup focused on student loans, closed a $6 million Series A funding round led by Nyca Partners, AlleyCorp, Temerity Capital, 9Yards Capital and social impact investors/entrepreneurs Michele Kang, Catherine Reynolds and Sheila Lirio Marcelo.


Video star: You’ve got the look (virtually).

BELOW THE FOLD (Videoconference Edition)

Get ’em while they’re hot: A record 62 million conferencing apps were downloaded in one week.

Bang, Zoom: Five tips to look your best at today’s online meeting.

Down time: Why napping between video calls isn’t a terrible idea.

See for yourself: Farrell Fritz – one of the amazing firms that support Innovate LI – offers some of the best legal resources on video, in person or anywhere else. Check them out.