No. 559: Flying saucers, supervillains and mutant viruses – are we living in an ‘X Files’ episode?

Smoke gets in your eyes: William B. Davis, the nefarious Cigarette Smoking Man of "X-Files" fame and a longtime Canadian acting coach, was born 83 years ago today.


Going to be a big day: Welcome to Wednesday, dear readers, as we brave another wintry week of socioeconomic innovation – with the fate of the Republic hanging in the balance, once again.

Surprisingly un-American: Invented by a French chef, in London, to honor an Australian soprano.

Wish you were here: It’s Jan. 13 out there, and while out-of-control pandemics and potential revolutions continue to darken American skies, the rest of the world goes on: Liberation Day in Togo, Constitution Day in Mongolia, Democracy Day in Cape Verde and so on.

Here in the leaderless United States, amid the “armed protests” and impeachments, we mark National Peach Melba Day, so that should balance the scales.

Moon walk: In otherworldly news, Galileo discovered what would become known as Callisto – the fourth “Galilean moon” around Jupiter – on this date in 1610.

The Italian astronomer’s original naming system (“Medicean Planets,” numbers I, II, III and IV) was phased out in the 1800s, when the Galilean moons adopted their current identities: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.

Good enough to eat: Automobile magnate Henry Ford drove home a U.S. patent on Jan. 13, 1942, for a lightweight “soybean car.”

Other U.S. patents associated with this date include one in 1903 for Massachusetts inventor Thaddeus Fairbanks, who weighed in with a platform scale for railroad cars.

Outta here: German test pilot Helmut Schenck became the first person to successfully use an airplane ejector seat on this date in 1942, bailing out of his Heinkel He-280 jet fighter.

The experimental aircraft was being towed to a midair start when it iced up, forcing Schenck to take an alternate flight.

Saucer people: The “Pluto Platter” flies into view.

Disc drive: Wham-O began production of what would later become the Frisbee on Jan. 13, 1957.

The toy was first known as the Pluto Platter, to capitalize on the 1950s flying saucer craze.

Blind ambition: And it was this date in 1976 when inventor Ray Kurzweil introduced the prototype Kurzweil Reading Machine, the first electronic device that converted print to speech.

Had it with your “rules”: Radical Austrian scientist Paul Feyerabend (1924-1994) – a philosophical anarchist who outraged the establishment by challenging scientific methods and promoting freedom of thought – would be 97 years old today.

Many talents: Reilly (left, opposite Gillian Anderson) was a heralded comedian, Broadway veteran and voice actor, and even made a famous “X-Files” appearance (alongside Alex Trebek and Jesse Ventura!).

Also born on Jan. 13 were German physiologist Oskar Minkowski (1858-1931), who discovered pancreatic diabetes; Russian-born American singing, burlesque and vaudeville standout Sophie Tucker (1884-1966), the “Last of the Red-Hot Mamas”; American statistician Gertrude Cox (1900-1978), the “First Lady of Statistics”; Hollywood tough guy Robert Stack (1919-2003), who led “The Untouchables” and dug into “Unsolved Mysteries”; and perennial gameshow panelist Charles Nelson Reilly (1931-2007).

Marlboro man: And take a bow, William B. Davis – the Canadian actor (and acting school founder) known best as “X-Files” villain The Cigarette Smoking Man turns 83 today.

Scully? Mulder? Scully!?! Mulder!?! Scuuulllyyy! Muuulllderrr!


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Venture time: A stalwart of the Long Island innovation scene is gearing up again, as the registration deadline approaches for the 2021 Hofstra Digital Remedy Venture Challenge Series.

This year’s entrepreneurship competition, rejiggered to an all-virtual format, puts $75,000 in business funding and in-kind business-formation prizes on the line, with competitors (current Hofstra University students, incoming accepted students and/or alumni from Hofstra’s classes of 2019 and 2020) taking advantage of mentorship services and a business bootcamp, all leading up to a final pitch-a-thon.

Now in its ninth year, the business plan contest – which pivoted smoothly to a virtual format midway through its 2020 edition and has added a “COVID-19 Innovation Prize” for 2021, backed by Northwell Health – was launched in 2012 (as the CPXi Venture Tech Challenge) by Hofstra alumnus and competition benefactor Mike Seiman, CEO of New York City digital media company Digital Remedy. More information, including details on competition registration, available here.

All together now: The Virtual Marching Band synchs and swims.

That’s the spirit: As members of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division-I Football Championship Subdivision and the little-known Colonial Athletic Association, the Stony Brook Seawolves don’t figure to play for a national football championship anytime soon.

But three Stony Brook University students were part of Monday night’s NCAA Football Championship game, suiting up for the Intercollegiate Marching Band, a virtual assembly of 1,500 performers representing 200 marching bands in 45 states and Puerto Rico. Showcasing all of the unique aspects of a marching band show – including musicians, drum majors, color guards, majorettes and more – the disparate performers entertained during halftime of last night’s Alabama/Ohio title tilt, presenting a unique rendition of Beyoncé’s “End of Time.”

Among them were SBU Honors College physics/math student Nicholas Manzella (on trombone), SBU Honors College biology student Julie Micko (on bass drum) and SBU junior and psychology major Adena Assawakulpaibool (part of the virtual color guard). “We’re excited to have three of our members joining this enormous virtual performance,” noted Spirit of Stony Brook Director Justin Stolarik, adding the halftime show would “bring national visibility to our band and to our university.”



Left face: Governor Andrew Cuomo is spending the week promoting his innovation-heavy and unflinchingly liberal 2021 agenda.

Mutant hunter: Applied DNA’s COVID-19 test kit can spot the highly contagious “UK strain” and other coronavirus mutations, according to the FDA.

Innovation in the Age of Coronavirus: SUNY steps up, Long Island vaccination clinics proliferate and more New Yorkers become inoculation-eligible … lots happening this week in LI’s one-and-only pandemic primer.



Consumables connoisseur Kate Fullam shares her adventures with dynamic Southampton startup Homeslice Pizza, which topped off a brilliant pandemic pivot with an impressive expansion.



Mazel tov: Israel’s $6.2 billion med-tech industry is a beacon of innovation. BioWorld hones in.

Omedetō: Japan is showcasing a record number of startups in this week’s virtual CES 2021. Japan Today pays respect.

Toutes nos felicitations: A Nobel prize-winning economist will lead France’s new Fund for Innovation in Development. Devex dives in.



+ Atalanta Therapeutics, a Massachusetts-based biotech pioneering new treatments for neurodegenerative diseases, raised $110 million in Series A funding. The financing was provided exclusively by F-Prime Capital.

+ Monument Inc., a New York City-based healthcare brand focused on alcohol abuse, closed a $10.3 million Series A funding round led by VMG Catalyst.

+ Neuros Medical, an Ohio-based med-tech developing a high-frequency nerve-block technology for patients with intractable post-amputation pain, closed a Series BB financing totaling $38.5 million, co-led by Amzak Health and Sectoral Asset Management, with participation from InCube Ventures, U.S. Venture Partners, Osage University Partners and Aperture Venture Partners, among others.

+ Voxy EnGen, a NYC-based language upskilling platform providing personalized English training for non-native speakers, secured $6.75 million in Series A financing. Backers included Rethink Education, The Social Entrepreneurs’ Fund, the University System of Maryland Momentum Fund, Juvo Ventures and The American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact.

+ Aro Biotherapeutics, a Pennsylvania-based biotech pioneering the development of tissue-targeted genetic medicines, closed an $88 million Series A financing led by Northpond Ventures, Cowen Healthcare Investments, HealthCap, BVF Partners, Ridgeback Capital, Johnson & Johnson Innovation, BioMotiv and Ionis Pharmaceuticals.

+ Carrum Health, a California-based digital health company connecting employers and employees to Centers of Excellence, closed a $40 million Series A funding led by Tiger Global Management, with participation from GreatPoint Ventures, Cross Creek, Wildcat Venture Partners and SpringRock Ventures.



Why so serious: Holding the guilty accountable? That’s just batty.

Going to the dogs: Ben & Jerry’s launches its first frozen pet desserts.

Making a statement: The pandemic has changed the rules of personal finance.

Playing the Joker: Gotham’s greatest supervillain makes a strong case against impeachment.

Leading the way: Please continue supporting the great firms that support Innovate LI, including Nixon Peabody, where navigating 21st century law starts with a deep understanding of each client’s business. Check them out.




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