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Emerging Technology Center signs up 10 companies for new Highlandtown office

So far 10 tech companies have committed to joining the Emerging Technology Center's new Highlandtown office when it makes the move from Canton Oct. 25. 

The city-run tech incubator will relocate to the King Cork and Seal Building, at 101 North Haven St. 

ETC has also signed up two new companies in its virtual-affiliate program, which accounts for about one-third of the 86 companies in its portfolio. Companies in the virtual program do not have offices but can use ETC facilities at the new Highlandtown site or its other office @ JHU Eastern in Charles Village. ETC president Deborah Tillett declined to name the two companies since the paperwork is still in progress. She says she expects the number of clients in the virtual program to grow. 

Tillett said that some of the companies in the ETC Canton are graduating and thus will not be transitioning to the new ETC Highlandtown. The ETC Highlandtown is laid out with dedicated offices for 11 companies, for which 10 offices are already committed. "We filled the offices quickly. We're quite happy," she says.

The Baltimore Development Corp. oversees the ETC, which houses startup and early-stage companies. The new ETC will occupy less square footage in Highlandtown than it did in Canton, though Tillett says the new location has more usable work space.
 
The ETC Highlandtown will occupy 20,000 square feet of the 70,000-square foot King Cork and Seal Building. In Canton, the ETC occupied 45,000 square feet in the Can Company, but only 30,000 square feet was usable for offices. The remaining 15,000 square feet was shared common space.
 
“We paid for it but we could not monetize it,” she says, referring to common space like lobby, halls and stairways. "We need to be thinking efficiency and the Highlandtown building has a more efficient layout and use of square feet."
 
The ETC moved into the Can Company 15 years ago as the neighborhood was transitioning from primarily industrial to a popular residential and retail neighborhood.
 
“Our leaving the space leaves [the Can Company] room for expansion,” she says.
 
Tillett called Highlandtown an “up and coming” neighborhood with “a lot going on.”  It is a state-designated Arts and Entertainment District, near Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, and on the route of the future east-west Red Line light rail.
 
ETC Highlandtown’s 10 tenants are the following: 
• 6th Street, an online retail marketing program;
• ADASHI Systems, an emergency response management program;
• American Business Forms & Envelopes, which makes software for printed business forms;
• EventRebels, which provides conference and trade show software;
• Foodem, a B2B wholesale food marketer that is hiring;
• NewsUp, an organized news delivery service;
• Pieran Health Technologies, which sells custom health software;
• Same Grain, which develops social discovery technology;
• Adecio, a digital marketing firm; and,
• New Sapience, a language comprehension software maker.
 
Source: Deborah Tillett, Emerging Technology Centers
Writer: Barbara Pash
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Baltimore nonprofit preps for Obamacare with new primary health care clinic

Baltimore nonprofit Institutes for Behavior Resources will open a new clinic this summer to provide primary health care services to substance abusers and their families, with $1.4 million in funding from state and foundation grants. 

It is part of the state’s efforts to have services in place by the time the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, is fully implemented in 2014. 

The nonprofit is using the grants to renovate the institute’s 1920s era, six-story building at 2104 Maryland Ave. in Charles Village and to open the clinic on the currently vacant fourth floor. The institute's COO Reid Blank says he expects the clinic renovation to be finished by next month with an official opening in July. Blank says it is looking to hire eight to 10 employees for the health care clinic, including nurses, counselors, receptionist and part-time physicians to add to its staff of 40. 

The nonprofit will provide clinic patients and their families with screenings, tests and medical treatment as drug addicts may not have primary care physicians or get regular medical treatment.  The clinic will serve as a model for other states in preventive health care, a key tenet in Obamacare. In addition, the clinic will be available to patients at other substance abuse programs in Baltimore, such as Man Alive Inc.

"The grants enable us to expand services to patients and their families. Our patients have other health problems that are not always addressed, and that delays progress in treating their addiction," Blank says. 
 
The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene contributed $898,000 to the project. Other funders are the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, $270,000; The Abell Foundation, $200,000; and France Merrick Foundation, $50,000. The institute is paying the remainder of the total $1.5 million project.
 
Besides its REACH program for substance abusers, the 51-year-old institute works with government agencies like the Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Railroad Administration and Department of Defense as well as commercial airlines, railroads, transit and trucking companies on the issue of fatigue.

Source: Reid Blank, Institutes for Behavior Resources
Writer: Barbara Pash
 

Deep space startup readies launch of first product

Solar Systems Express this summer plans to launch its first product, a software platform that works with open-source hardware to support manned space missions. The Baltimore startup expects the product, called a gravity development board, to be the first in a series of products to support deep space exploration.

The gravity development board is a reconfigurable system that allows individuals and small technology firms to create real-life space hardware for a variety of tasks.  "The board has the building blocks for any electrical and mechanical system. You can make an arm for a robot or develop solar uses," says Blaze Sanders, CEO and chief technology officer.

Solar Systems Express is currently located in the Emerging Technology Center @ Johns Hopkins Eastern in Charles Village. When it graduates from the incubator at the end of this month, the startup is moving to Mohave, Calif., which has become a hub for small businesses involved in the deep space industry, says Sanders. 
 
While the company will no longer be located physically in Baltimore, it will maintain its connection to the city. The American Technology Corp. in Baltimore will assemble the gravity development board and it will be sold from Baltimore, says Sanders, a former National Aeronautics and Space Administration employee.
 
Sanders co-founded the startup in 2010 with Emily Moser, chief communications officer, and Kunal Ajmera, chief business development officer. The company spent a year in the incubator.
 
The company is marketing the product, which cost $105 each, to undergraduate engineering and other college students and sold via the company’s website.
 
Sanders says Solar Systems Express joins a growing number of small businesses in the burgeoning deep space industry. Over 300 space-related businesses have been formed in less than a decade, he says.
 
Besides its own product, Solar Systems Express offers electrical engineering consulting services for other space industry companies. Among its clients is Juxtopia, a Baltimore startup that is developing augmented reality goggles.
 
The company has about $50,000 in private funding. In Baltimore, the staff consists of the three co-founders and two part-time employees. It is planning a financing round after the move to California.
 
“We have enough money to get the first boards out. After that, sales will keep us going,” says Sanders.
 
Source: Blaze Sanders, Solar Systems Express
Writer: Barbara Pash






Johns Hopkins Spinoff Readies Medical Device For Sale

Clear Guide Medical LLC is readying its first product, a medical device used in minimally invasive ultrasound surgeries that will be for sale in early 2014. Federal and state grants received this year aided the commercialization process for the Johns Hopkins spinoff, which hopes to receive another state grant early next year. 
 
The Baltimore life sciences company received a total of $550,000 from the federal National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation, in 2011 and 2012, and $125,000 from the Maryland Technology Development Corp. in 2010 and 2012. It is waiting to hear about another grant from the latter, for $100,000.
 
“We are developing a medical device that will lower health care costs by allowing [procedures] to be done quickly and at less cost,” COO Dorothee Heisenberg says. The device clips onto an ultrasound probe and provides guidance to surgeons before and during minimally invasive procedures like needle biopsies, needle nerve blocks and vein catherizations. The device provides such information as the angle to hold the needle and how far to push to reach the nerve or vein.

Heisenberg says the advantage of the device is that it makes it easier for surgeons to learn how to use ultrasound, for which they need special training. She also sees a benefit for rural areas or areas where there aren’t a lot of medical facilities. Local physicians and clinics may be able to do a biopsy, and then consult with medical experts for a diagnosis.
 
Heisenberg expects Clear Guidance’s device to cost in the $12,000 to $15,000 price range. 

Clear Guide Medical was founded in 2010, a spinoff from the Johns Hopkins Department of Computer Science and the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine’s radiology department. In 2012, it was the first company to move into the Johns Hopkins accelerator, located on the Homewood campus, Heisenberg says.
 
The company has five employees. It is in the midst of applying for a worldwide patent that covers the US, nations in Europe, Japan, Canada and Israel – countries that are most likely to develop competing devices. Johns Hopkins is paying the patent filing and application expenses, about $80,000, for which Clear Guidance will pay back in time.
 
“We want to sell our product without complications,” Heisenberg says.
 
Source: Dorothee Heisenberg, Clear Guide Medical LLC
Writer: Barbara Pash

Baltimore's vital signs looking good says report

A new statistical analysis of Baltimore shows that the city has made important improvements in areas central to the city's improvement, including crime, housing, and education prior to the recession. Other social conditions, such as the number of teen births and the number of children with elevated levels of blood lead, have also improved according to the latest "Vital Signs" report by the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance-Jacob France Institute. However, the report shows that while there have been significant improvements in a variety of economic and social indicators in Baltimore, not all neighborhoods within the city have benefited equally.

Available on the BNIA-JFI's new website, analyzes data from nearly 80 indicators provided at the Community Statistical Area level. CSAs, created by the Baltimore City Department of Planning, are clusters of neighborhoods organized around Census Tract boundaries, which are consistent statistical boundaries. Neighborhood borders don't always fall neatly into CSAs, but CSAs represent conditions occurring within the particular neighborhoods that comprise a CSA.

"This latest edition of 'Vital Signs' will help us access how our neighborhoods are doing and what we can do to help improve outcomes," says Janice Hamilton Outtz, senior associate for Civic Site and Initiatives at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. "I am excited about the new report."

The 8th edition of "Vital Signs reveals the following important trends currently impacting the city:

  • The city's population declined by 3 percent, from 651,154 in 2000, to 631,815 in 2008. While a handful of neighborhoods lost population, several more, including downtown (22 percent), Loch Raven (8.4 percent) and Northwood (9.9 percent), experienced a growth in population.
  • Median sales prices for homes in the city increased by well over 100 percent in the past eight years, although the pace of that increase has slowed considerably since the start of the recession.
  • Both adult and juvenile crime has decreased in Baltimore City. In particular, Baltimore City's Part 1 crime rate has declined from 106.0 incidents per 1,000 people in 2000 to 78.3 incidents per 1,000 per people in 2008.
  • The number of residential properties receiving rehabilitation investment is climbing, and may be continuing as the recession lingers and more homeowners choose to stay in their current home.
  • Baltimore's high school completion rate is on the rise, while its rate of truancy in elementary, middle school and high school (including students who drop out of high school) is in decline.
  • The teen birth rate dropped from 83.3 teens out of 1,000 in 2000 to 66.1 teens per 1,000 in 2008—a decline of 17.2 percent.

Other measurements, such as the larger number of Baltimore residents visiting local emergency rooms for non-emergency diagnoses and treatment, expose a city that continues to be constrained by larger trends such as rising health care costs and a lack of adequate medical insurance.

"While Baltimore City has made significant improvements in areas such as crime and education, we appear to be hampered by many of the same things that have struck other urban areas in this recession," says Matthew Kachura, program manager for BNIA-JFI at UB. "But we also are seeing some resilience, such as the increase in home prices, median household income, and an impressive number of small businesses based in well-established city neighborhoods like Edmonson Village and Greenmount East, and by the growing number of city residents who claim at least some higher education in their backgrounds."

BNIA-JFI began in 1998 as a partnership between the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers. In 2006, BNIA joined with the University of Baltimore's Jacob France Institute in an expansion of its capabilities. BNIA-JFI has strengthened the "Vital Signs" report and provided additional services and resources for those who seek data, information, and analysis about the city.

BNIA-JFI's latest product is a new Web site, www.bniajfi.org, which provides a wide variety of data, maps, and information for the City of Baltimore and its neighborhoods. Anyone interested in how Baltimore measures up can find easy-to-use statistical analyses, maps, reports and links relevant to the city.

This information is reflected in the latest "Vital Signs" report. For example, Edmonson Village reports the city's highest percentage of successful small businesses (69.2 percent), while a total of 50.9 percent of all city residents reported some type of college attendance as of 2008.

"These trends of educational attainment, lower crime and rising housing prices may not lead to a total revitalization for the city," Kachura said, "but show that many neighborhoods are improving and these improvements paint both a better and a realistic picture of Baltimore. The larger question is whether these trends can be maintained and translated into long-term improvements for Baltimore and its neighborhoods. For the most part, though, they are good news for the city."

Source: Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance-Jacob France Institute at the University of Baltimore
Writer: Walaika Haskins


JHU pledges $73M to trim greenhouse gas emissions and create Office of Sustainability

The Johns Hopkins University (JHU) has announced a $73 million plan that will cut its carbon dioxide emissions by more than half from projected levels by 2025.

The $73 million investment will be used in both conservation and efficiency measures that will reduce emissions caused by facilities operations by an initial 81,000 metric tons a year, which is more than halfway -- technically 57 percent -- to reaching the overall goal of cutting 141,000 metric tons from the 276,000 a year in emissions it would otherwise be generating 15 years from now.

The university will adopt new technologies as they become available in the next 15 years to achieve the remainder of the reduction. It will also encourage members of the university community to reduce energy consumption and environmental impact.

The emissions goal is part of a newly revealed broad, multi-faceted Implementation Plan for Advancing Sustainability and Climate Stewardship. The multi-pronged approach comes at the problem through several avenues, including research, education and community outreach in addition to greenhouse gas reduction.

"Global climate change is one of humanity's greatest challenges," says Ronald J. Daniels, JHU president. "The earth's rising temperatures will, over decades to come, affect where and how we live, the ecosystems we inhabit, our quality of life and even our health.

"Facing this challenge head-on is our shared responsibility, especially as residents of the developed world," Daniels continues. "But universities have a special role in our society and a special responsibility. We are institutions that discover, that educate and that, often, set an example. When it comes to global climate change, Johns Hopkins will be a leader in all three."

In addition to the sharp reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, the plan calls for the creation of an Environment, Sustainability and Health Institute, bringing together faculty members from across the university. Under the auspices of the newly created Institute the faculty members will be able to collaborate on research as well as on teaching climate change science and sustainability, to students including those participating in the university's new undergraduate major and minor in global environmental change and sustainability and new master's degree in energy policy and climate. Institute faculty members also will focus on applying science to environmental policy, to public health initiatives and to practical measures that individuals, organizations and businesses can take to fight global warming.

"Just as Johns Hopkins medical researchers move their discoveries off the lab bench to the patient's bedside to save lives," Daniels says, "this institute will take a bench-to-real-world approach: We will use discoveries to get things done."

The plan also includes establishment of a Sustainability House in a to-be-renovated building on North Charles Street at the university's Homewood campus that will serve as the headquarters for the university's Office of Sustainability and student environmental groups. The location will also act as a showcase and laboratory for energy conservation techniques and technologies. The design team, with students and faculty members participating, will be directed to include cutting-edge sustainability features and to meet aggressive goals, such as zero net carbon emissions, storm water capture and reuse, and organic maintenance of the grounds.

Another key component of the plan will put Johns Hopkins knowledge to work contributing to sustainability and climate change efforts in Baltimore City and the state of Maryland. One such effort, announced late last month, is a $190,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-funded collaboration with Baltimore City; Johns Hopkins students will be trained to conduct audits at nonprofit organizations in the city and help them determine how to cut energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.

The implementation plan is the result of months of detailed follow-up work on the March 2009 report of the university's President's Task Force on Climate Change. That report was the culmination of a year's work by Johns Hopkins faculty, administrators, students and trustees, as well as representatives of the Baltimore business, government and environmental communities.

"In response to a serious issue, we have taken a typically serious and thorough Johns Hopkins approach," Daniels said. "We have devoted the time and effort required to do this right: comprehensive data gathering, careful analysis and systematic planning."

The plan includes a building-by-building, campus-by-campus list of HVAC, electrical, and lab equipment improvements; lighting fixture and control upgrades; measures to make buildings more airtight; window replacements; installations of solar power panels and solar hot water equipment; water conservation measures; and other steps.

It targets laboratory research buildings in particular; often referred to as "heavy breathers," these buildings consume significant amounts of air that must be heated or cooled to satisfy temperature and humidity requirements.

Additional significant savings in carbon dioxide emission – 32,000 metric tons a year – and in energy costs will come from cogeneration plants being built on both the university's East Baltimore and Homewood campuses. The plants will burn relatively clean natural gas to produce both electricity and steam heat more cheaply and efficiently.

The final, and perhaps most important, aspect of the plan is an aggressive, sustained campaign to encourage students, faculty and staff to reduce energy consumption at work and at home. The university also will launch a parallel effort to find and implement new conservation opportunities in its energy-intensive information technology infrastructure, including desktop and mainframe computers, printers and monitors, and server farms. The IT professionals who will lead this effort will also look for other creative ways to improve the university's technology capability while reducing energy consumption.

Source: Johns Hopkins University
Writer: Walaika Haskins


Goldseker announces first neighborhood-school partnership recipients of $435K in grants

What makes a neighborhood great? The obvious answer -- its the people. But, attracting people to a neighborhood takes a combination of ingredients that include both home values, services and its public schools. Forging strong partnerships between communities and their schools, that's the motivation behind the Goldseker Foundation's latest grant initiative, Neighborhood-School Partnership.

In recognition of the interdependence between neighborhoods and schools, in which the quality of one directly impacts the quality of the other, the Goldseker Foundation provided the $435,000 to fund the new initiative. The Neighborhood-School Partnership joins another Goldseker Foundation program, Healthy Neighborhoods founded in 2001.

The Goldseker Foundation helped to create the Healthy Neighborhoods program with a $125,000 grant in 2001. Healthy Neighborhoods helps strong but undervalued Baltimore neighborhoods increase home values, market their communities and create high standards for property improvements, while forging strong connections among neighbors. The program has been a catalyst for residential investment, while the current school reform environment in Baltimore City has led to an increasing number of quality public school options to complement an existing network of strong private schools in the city.
 
Last week the non-profit organization announced the partnerships that team five neighborhood organizations with eight local grade schools.

"We've invested $2.2 million to try and create stronger neighborhoods through strong real estate markets, strong resident leadership and emphasizing everything that's right with a neighborhood. We intentionally started in neighborhoods where we wouldn't have to spend 20 years trying to fix the public schools," says Timothy Armbruster, president of the Goldseker Foundation. "We want to stimulate creative thinking about how neighborhoods and schools can work together to build from strength and tell the story about the good things happening in these communities."


Through the partnerships and grants, the foundation hopes to encourage joint neighborhood and school improvement strategies that will enhance the desirability of neighborhoods due to high-quality schools, well-maintained properties, and strong community connections, and also increase enrollment and academic quality at schools serving children living in Healthy Neighborhoods. 

"We'd like to see the education, community development, and public and private funding sectors working together to leverage investments in schools and neighborhoods for greater impact," says Armbruster. "Forging stronger connections between schools andneighborhoods is one more step in making the city more responsive and attractive to a wide range of families, including Baltimore's growing middle class."

The real winners, however, are the students will benefit from the curriculum, programs, and projects instituted at their schools. Students at Calvin M Rodwell Elementary School as a result of a $50,000 grant will take on the role normally held by local TV weatherman. The school's new Weatherbug Science Curriculum will allow the pint-sized meteorologists to use their knowledge of science and math to help create their own weather forecasts. It's partner, Garwyn Oaks Northwest Housing Resource Center will receive $25,000 for core operating support and marketing.

"It is incredibly important [to give students access to these extracurricular opportunities]. We spend so much time on basic skills, on making them ready to met standards. The enrichment they'll receive from these projects that draw on their imagination, that of course is most important," says Dr. Andres Alonso, Baltimore City Schools CEO.

Other schools and neighborhood organizations receiving funds are Cross Country Elementary/Middle and partner Comprehensive Housing Assistance Inc. (CHAI), Gwynns Falls Elementary and Greather Mondawmin Coordinating Council, City Neighbors Charter, Hamilton Elementary/Middle and St. Francis of Assisi School partnered with Neighborhoods of Greater Lauraville Inc., and Barclay Elementary/Middle and Margaret Brent Elementary/Middle partnered with Greater Homewood Community Corporation.

Sources: Tim Armbruster, The Goldseker Foundation; Dr. Andres Alonso, Baltimore City Public Schools
Writer: Walaika Haskins

JHU's Carey biz school launches technology commercialization program

Starting in February 2010, the Carey Business School will begin offering an exciting new technology commercialization program, it has dubbed Innovate!, at the Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County Campus.

Innovate!, which is funded by a National Science Foundation grant to The Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, is a 12-month program led by successful serial entrepreneurs that will take a class of 15 business professionals and 15 postdocs through evaluation of a technology's commercial viability, preparation of a business case based on the technology, and launch of the business. The businesses will be based on technology from NIH, Johns Hopkins University, the University System of Maryland, and other research institutions and federal agencies.

"The Innovate! program is perfect for professionals who have thought about starting their own technology company and are looking for a supportive, structured environment to help make it happen," says Yash Gupta, dean, Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.

"We're extremely excited to have the Innovate! program on our campus because it fits so well with the County's economic development goals," says Elaine Amir, executive director, Johns Hopkins Montgomery County. "The County recently released its Biosciences Task Force report, and one of the reports five key objectives was to 'enhance the environment for entrepreneurship and the creation of new life sciences companies.' It's great that Johns Hopkins can help advance that goal."

The Innovate! program is based on the highly successful ACTiVATE® program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, which has led to the formation of more than 25 companies since its inception in 2005.

Partners for the Innovate! program include Rockville Economic Development, the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development, and the National Institutes of Health.

Source: Johns Hopkins Carey Business School
Writer: Walaika Haskins


Researchers discover multitasking protein cells control genes

The completion of the human genome may have answered some of medical researches fundamental questions, however, the discovery has led to more complex questions for scientists. One in particular has left researchers studying gene control perplexed, "How is it that humans, being far more complex than the lowly yeast, do not proportionally contain in our genome significantly more gene-control proteins?"

A collaboration among scientists at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine that examined protein-DNA interactions across the whole genome may have an answer. Researchers have uncovered more than 300 proteins that appear to control genes, a heretofore undiscovered function for these proteins that were previously known to play other roles in cells. The results, which appear in the Oct. 30 issue of Cell, provide a partial explanation for human complexity over yeast but also throw a curve ball in what we previously understood about protein functions.

"Everyone knows that transcription factors bind to DNA and everyone knows that they bind in a sequence-specific manner," says Heng Zhu, Ph.D., an assistant professor in pharmacology and molecular sciences and a member of the High Throughput Biology Center. "But you only find what you look for, so we looked beyond and discovered proteins that essentially moonlight as transcription factors."

The team suspects that many more proteins encoded by the human genome might also be moonlighting to control genes, which brings researchers to the paradox that less complex organisms, such as plants, appear to have more transcription factors than humans. "Maybe most of our genes are doing double, triple or quadruple the work," says Zhu. "This may be a widespread phenomenon in humans and the key to how we can be so complex without significantly more genes than organisms like plants."

Source: Heng Zhu, Ph.D., Johns Hopkins
Writer: Walaika Haskins


JHU prof shares 2009 Nobel Prize

Johns Hopkins University researcher Carol Greider, Ph.D., received the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. One of the world's pioneering researchers on the structure of chromosome ends known as telomeres,  The Academy recognized Greider for her 1984 discovery of telomerase, an enzyme that maintains the length and integrity of chromosome ends and is critical for the health and survival of all living cells and organisms.

Greider is the Daniel Nathans Professor and Director of Molecular Biology and Genetics in the Johns Hopkins Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences. She shares the award with Elizabeth Blackburn, a professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco, and Jack Szostack, Ph.D., of Harvard Medical School, who discovered that telomeres are made up of simple, repeating blocks of DNA building blocks and are found in all organisms. The trio also shared the 2006 Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research for this work. Each of the three will receive a medal, a diploma and will split a cash prize of $1.4 million that will be handed out at a ceremony held in Stockholm on Dec. 10.

"What intrigues basic scientists like me is that any time we do a series of experiments, there are going to be three or four new questions that come up when you think you've answered one. Our approach shows that while you can do research that tries to answer specific questions about a disease, you can also just follow your nose," says Greider.


Source: Carol Greider, Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University
Writer: Walaika Haskins


JHU stimulus grants top $100M

The Johns Hopkins University has received 250 research grants, for a total of $114 million, as a result of the federal stimulus package designed to advance scientific and medical knowledge while jump-starting the U.S. economy.

The grants will underwrite scientific investigations ranging from the best strategies to motivate drug addicts released from in-patient rehabilitation to agree to enroll in continuing sobriety support programs to the role certain proteins play in the development of muscle-wasting diseases, such as muscular dystrophy.

In addition to advancing the medical communities knowledge and understanding, the grants also serve to generate jobs at Johns Hopkins, boosting the region's economy, as employees spend their paychecks and Hopkins' laboratories hire personnel and buy supplies.

"This milestone is a testament to the outstanding research that our world-class faculty is conducting across the university," says Lloyd Minor, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. "They have responded to the opportunities created by the stimulus package with the drive, commitment and entrepreneurial spirit that continues to distinguish Johns Hopkins."

Source: Lloyd Minor, Johns Hopkins University
Writer: Walaika Haskins


JHU study show health care costs challenge for non-profs

While much of the attention in the current debate over health care concentrates on the impact of escalating health care costs on small businesses and the uninsured, new data from the Johns Hopkins Nonprofit Listening Post Project shows that health care costs are also producing a heretofore unnoticed crisis for the country's nonprofit organizations and the nearly 13 million workers they employ.

Nearly all, 98 percent, of the responding nonprofits offering health benefits indicated that they are concerned about their organization's health care costs, with 59 percent ranking health care costs as one of their organization's top challenges.

The impact is already being felt as organizations decide to stop offering, or reduce coverage of, health benefits; institute higher employee co-pays and shares of insurance costs; and in pressures to hold down wages, shift to part-time employees, and even reduce mission-critical services.

The nonprofit workforce is the fourth largest industry in the U.S. A labor of love for most, employees generally work on lower pay scales. Nonprofits take a greater hit because thier health benefit costs are unusually high since nonprofit employers have used decent benefits packages to attract and retain quality staff. With health benefit costs steadily rising those flush benefits packages are no longer possible for large numbers of nonprofits, according to the July 2009 survey conducted by Johns Hopkins researchers.

"The evidence is now in," noted Lester Salamon, report author and director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies. "Escalating health insurance costs are taking a dramatic toll on our nation's nonprofits and the devoted employees who work for them."

Other findings from the Johns Hopkins health benefits survey include:

  • A striking 80 percent of the nonprofit respondents reported offering health insurance coverage for their employees. Nevertheless, the proportion not offering such coverage rose by 62 percent compared to the results from a comparable survey in 2004.
  • Virtually all (99 percent) of the large nonprofits responding reported offering health benefits to employees but less than half (46 percent) of the smallest organizations did, and cost was a major factor at work.
  • Nearly three out of every four nonprofits offering health benefits reported that their organization's total direct health insurance costs increased during the past year, and for over a third of the respondents the increase was over 10 percent—well above the national average of 5 percent per year.

Writer: Walaika Haskins
Source: Lester Salamon, Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies


Legos give researchers scale

Engineers at Johns Hopkins University have put down their high-powered computers and cutting edge imaging software in favor of a popular child's toy. Instead of using routine high tech toys, they've turned to Lego pieces to help them visualize the behavior of particles, cells and molecules in environments too tiny to see with naked human eye.

Researchers use the peg-shaped Lego pieces to recreate the microscopic activity inside lab-on-chip devices, known as microfluidic arrays, at a more easily observable scale. The devices are commonly used to sort tiny samples by size, shape or composition, however, the minuscule forces at work at such an extremely small magnitude are difficult to measure, to say the least.

Led by Joelle Frechette and German Drazer, assistant professors of chemical and biomolecular engineering in the Whiting School of Engineering, the team of researchers used beads that were just a few millimeters in diameter, an aquarium filled with gooey glycerol and the Lego pieces arranged on a board to recreate the scene and unlock the mysterious workings taking place at the micro- and nanoscale level.

Data gained from the somewhat unusual tests could provide clues on improving the design and fabrication of lab-on-a-chip technology.

Writer: Walaika Haskins

Source: JHU


Teens "geek out" online with Cogito.org

There's been a lot said about the negative impact for kids who spend too much time tied to their computer screen, but according to a recent $50 million study funded by the MacArthur Foundation, using digital media could teach kids something and is not just mindless Internetainment.

Children, according to the study, can learn technical skills, how to get along with people and maintain an online public identity. Some kids are able to take these lessons to the next level by "geekin-out" a peer-driven method of learning focused on gaining deep knowledge and expertise in specific areas that interest them.

Enter Cogito.org, an online community for so-called geeks, gifted middle- and high-school student who live for math and science. Developed by the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth in partnership with other leading centers for gifted children, Cogito, students have geeked out with Terry Tao, 2007 recipient of the Fields Medal in mathematics (the Nobel Prize equivalent on that subject), Johns Hopkins stem cell pioneer Doug Kerr, and geophysicist Allen West, whose theories about the extinction of the great mammals were featured in NOVA on PBS.

Writer: Walaika Haskins

Source: JHU

New DNA test uses nanotechnology to hunt down early signs of cancer

Johns Hopkins University (JHU) researchers have developed a highly sensitive test that searches for DNA attachments that often serve as early warning signs of cancer. The new technology uses tiny crystals called quantum dots to detect the presence and quantity of certain DNA changes. It could be used to detect people at risk for developing cancer and let doctors know the effectiveness of a particular cancer treatment.

Published in the August issue of the journal Genome Research, the test was developed by Jeff Tza-Huei Wang, an associate professor of mechanical engineering and colleagues at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Center.

"If it leads to early detection of cancer, this test could have huge clinical implications," said Jeff Tza-Huei Wang, an associate professor of mechanical engineering whose lab team played a leading role in developing the technique. "Doctors usually have the greatest success in fighting cancer if they can treat it in its early stage."

Writer: Walaika Haskins

Source: JHU
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