A torrent of money heading our way + Healthcare and other advancement – November 22, 2019
"Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things." Theodore Levitt
MONEY FLYING IN
Look out, It's a cash-nado!
Duke, Cleveland Clinic to receive share of $1 billion windfall
Duke University, along with the Cleveland Clinic, MIT and the University of Southern California, is set to receive a staggering $261 million charitable gift from foundations established by the late Thomas Lord of Cary, North Carolina.
Lord, who ran the North Carolina-based Lord Corporation until his death in 1989, selected the four institutions for their long-standing commitment to advancing education, research, science and technology.
The sale of Lord Corporation to Parker Hannifin for $3.7 billion triggered the massive contributions, which will be delivered to Duke and the other institutions with little to no stipulations on how the money shall be used. That flexibility, according to various school officials, is what makes these gifts so powerful and unique.
The single largest donation to the Duke endowment in school history, the $261 million dollars is an institutional game changer. According to Duke President Vincent Price, “The Lord Foundation's exceptional support for Duke will transform our efforts to address the world's most intractable problems.”
Durham e-commerce startup raises $75 million
Speaking of the big bucks, Durham, NC's Spreedly, an e-commerce payment processing startup, just announced $75 million in fresh capital, a substantial cash injection that will allow the company to double its workforce in the coming year. The new funds come from Spectrum Equity, a private equity firm that's enjoyed a string of recent successes with big names like Grubhub, Bitly, and Survey Monkey.
Spreedly CEO Justin Benson has big plans for the new capital, including moving the company headquarters to Durham's new downtown Innovation District and rapid expansion into new markets, including Latin America. The company plans to double its current workforce of 65 to help manage the rapid increase in demand for their payment processing services.
Spectrum Equity's managing director Adam Margolin noted, “With minimal prior funding, Spreedly has grown rapidly and today powers nearly one million transactions daily, 108% more than the year before. We are thrilled to have this opportunity to back Justin and the rest of the Spreedly team and to support their ambitious growth plans.”
With online sales expected to run north of $900 billion by 2023, Spreedly's expansion seems perfectly timed to seize the moment.
UofL advancing therapy for children with spinal cord injuries
Image courtesy of University of Louisville
Children with spinal cord injuries are making great strides in therapeutic recovery, thanks to an innovative partnership between the medical and engineering departments at the University of Louisville. Locomotor training, which incorporates treadmills and harnesses to help patients with spinal injuries recover the ability to sit, regain trunk control, stand, and even walk, was pioneered by UofL professor of neurosurgery Susan Harkema. While her initial efforts were designed for adult patients, the technology has shown great promise with children as well, albeit with some logistical challenges due to the different physical needs of smaller patients.
UofL professor Andrea Behrman, also in the neurological surgery department, teamed up with bioengineering professor Tommy Roussel to develop a locomotor training treadmill and harness system based on Harkema's design, only tailored for children, improving overall adaptability and therapist accessibility.
Behrman noted, “The treadmill is a tool for us, but we want it to be a smart tool. By making it better, we are going to do our jobs better and the child is going to participate better.”
The prototype machine went through several stages of design and refinement before the UofL team partnered with Power NeuroRecovery to develop commercial units, which are now making their way to other medical centers across the US, including Pittsburgh, Houston, and New York.
National AI healthcare challenge underway
The Centers for Medicare & Medicare Services (CMS) announced the 25 members of a cohort who will participate in the Artificial Intelligence Health Outcomes Challenge, a competition designed by CMS to “accelerate development of AI solutions that aid clinicians in predicting health outcomes and keeping patients healthy.” More than 300 organizations—including health providers, tech companies, and consulting firms—applied for the competition. The field will eventually be whittled down to seven, each receiving a $60,000 award. The grand prize winner will take home a cool $1 million.
Heavyweights like IBM, Accenture, and Merck made the cut, as did several organizations from familiar Flyover Future locales, including Rochester, MN's Mayo Clinic, North Carolina State University in Raleigh, and Ann Arbor Algorithms in Michigan.
According to CMS Administrator Seema Verma, “Artificial Intelligence is a vehicle that can help drive our system to value—proven to reduce out-of-pocket costs and improve quality. It holds the potential to revolutionize healthcare.”
A cure for traffic?
You know when you were sitting in traffic the other day, hoping that you’d be stuck there for hours? Of course not. No one has ever thought that. That’s because traffic is the most aggravating time sink to befall mankind.
But there may be some good news on the horizon: Carnegie Mellon’s Traffic21 Institute. The goal of the research institute is to design, test, deploy, and evaluate information and communications technology-based solutions to address transportation problems.
One of its pilot programs was Surtrac, an intelligent traffic signaling system that optimizes actual traffic flow. Each signal senses approaching traffic streams and then generates a timing plan. The software then lets the signals “talk to each other,” sharing plans with each other and coordinating their actions.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto told the CMU website that this is only the beginning of innovation in the city. "If you look at Pittsburgh, what you see is an urban lab."
Making streets safer for emergency responders
According to the Highway Transportation Safety Administration, there are roughly 6,500 accidents involving ambulances and 3,100 involving fire trucks in the US every year—and with better car soundproofing and more distracted driving, those numbers are likely to go up.
In Grand Rapids, MI, collisions with emergency vehicles has been a serious problem. Assistant fire chief Brad Brown says they’ve been hit many times. “We’re sitting there with our emergency lights flashing and people are still running into us. We don’t need louder sirens and brighter lights; we need a better way to communicate with the motoring public.”
It seems they’ve found one. Grand Rapids’ fire trucks are now equipped with devices that track their location and report it to the cloud in real time. Motorists are then notified of the location of the trucks via navigation apps or infotainment systems.
The system, called HAAS Alert Safety Cloud, is the brainchild of Chicago startup HAAS Alert. Although Grand Rapids is its biggest market, the company has also gotten 100 other US cities on board with the system.
Brown said that while it’s early, he’s seeing some improvement in “motorist awareness.” City officials have been impressed enough to expand the system for use in ambulances and highway patrol vehicles.
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