Author: Hanju Lee


Good News: April 2018

Good News: April 2018


Startup News

    • Healthify and Tissue Analytics, two startups founded by Johns Hopkins University students, gathered in Philadelphia with 18 other emerging and established businesses to highlight how to improve health care. The focus centered on initiatives and technologies that have the potential to keep patients healthy, improve outcomes and lower costs. Philadelphia Business Journal


    • According to a Johns Hopkins study, the Corrie mobile app helps reduce hospital readmissions of heart attack patients. Researchers studied 60 heart attack patients who agreed to use Corrie, the first cardiology app built using the Apple CareKit platform, in the hospital and for 30 days after discharge. Only 3 percent of users were readmitted within 30 days, compared to 19 percent of nonusers. UPI


    • The FastForward startup Personal Genome Diagnostics added to its IP portfolio with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Based in Baltimore’s Canton neighborhood, PGDx expects the license will enable it to develop new kinds of cancer tests.


    • Sisu Global Health, a FastForward startup, has made significant progress moving through clinical trials and gaining regulatory approvals for its technology that allows doctors to recycle a patient’s own blood lost through traumatic internal bleeding. Sisu plans to launch its first device for sale online, as well as in Ghana and Kenya. Baltimore Business Journal


    • Circulomics, a biotechnology company part of the FastForward ecosystem, has launched a new kit designed to enable scientists more rapidly perform high-molecular-weight DNA extraction for long-read sequencing and genome mapping. The Daily Record (Subscription required)


    • Osmosis, a startup developing a digital learning tool, has amassed 175,000 registered users in five years. A member of the Social Innovation Lab, Osmosis was founded by two Johns Hopkins School of Medicine students who aimed to help students pass tests and retain the information. Osmosis produces video content that is available for free. Subscribers get access to digital study assets, the ability to collaborate with study groups, and a machine learning-enabled system that shows learners content relevant to their studies. Insight


    • Proscia, a startup founded by Johns Hopkins alumni while studying at the university, announced that it signed a first-of-its-kind agreement with one of the largest dermatopathology labs in the country. This move marks an entrance into the dermatopathology market for the company’s AI-powered digital pathology software. Additionally, the company announced it will open an office in Philadelphia to accompany its Baltimore presence. Proscia


    • Not only has b.well Connected Health’s profile risen locally with its participation in M-1 Ventures and relocation to The Grid at the University of Maryland BioPark, the startup has received national recognition. Designing a single place to store and share health records originating from myriad sources, b.well has participated in the Silicon Valley-based Plug and Play program and recently was named to the current cohort of MasterCard’s Start Path program.


    • Two FastForward ventures were among the five startups to receive funding through TEDCO’s seed fund. LifeSprout, a tenant in FastForward 1812, received $500,000 from TEDCO as part of its $6 million raise. Theraly Fibrosis, also a tenant at FastForward 1812, received $200,000 from TEDCO as part of a $700,000 raise. Baltimore Business Journal,, The Daily Record


    • The investment firm Deerfield Management is committing $36 million of a $40 million Series A funding round for Dracen Pharmaceuticals. The FastForward startup founded last year is developing a platform of anti-cancer therapies that work as inhibitors of cancer metabolism. Endpoints News, Baltimore Business Journal,


    • RoundTrip, a Richmond-based startup that participated in M-1 Ventures, has raised $1.9 million in an initial seed round financing. The investment was led by Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania. The startup is developing software that enables patients to book trips to and from medical care appointments.Richmond Times-Dispatch


    • Milemarker, a FastForward startup developing a real-time assessment tool for surgical training, pitched against nine other ventures at the FounderTrac accelerator’s closing event and won the grand prize of $25,000.

Student Innovation


    • Johns Hopkins University is renowned for having an innovative student body. This intellectual curiosity often manifests itself in entrepreneurship. Fortunately, the University has resources like The Hatchery and FastForward U to guide students in their pursuits. The Hub



    • Two of the six startups recognized at a young inventors competition sponsored by MIT came from Johns Hopkins University. Treyetech, a member of the 2017-2018 O’Connor Fund cohort, is developing a device that helps surgeons complete corneal transplant surgeries. AssistENT’s device is designed to help people breathe easier. AssistENT and Treyetech both received $10,000 awards. The Hub


    • A team of students from Johns Hopkins University’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering have developed a “super gel” that could streamline one of a doctor’s most tedious tasks. The gel has the ability to pass through a catheter and is extremely absorbent, meaning that it can create a clot to block bleeding. Facilitating clotting enables doctors to starve a tumor or stop hemorrhage. The Hub


    • There’s one major difference between the Hippocrates Medical Review and other medical journals: jargon. Created by Johns Hopkins students, the Hippocrates Medical Review eliminates esoteric scientific terms so those without medical degrees can learn about the latest scientific advances.


    • EmboQuant, a Johns Hopkins student startup, won first place at the McGinnis Venture Competition at Carnegie Mellon University. The three-person team is designing a smarter catheter to make embolization, the primary treatment of liver cancer, safer and more effective. Carnegie Mellon

Social Ventures

    • B-360 uses dirt bikes to encourage Baltimore children to pursue STEM careers. Brittany Young recently discussed, among other things, the future of B-360 as well as how pop culture, including Black Panther and Hidden Figures, has led to more interest in STEM among the children with whom she works. Black Girl Nerds


    • Callisto, a member of one of the Social Innovation Lab’s first cohorts, was one of six ventures named to the 2018 Skoll Awardees for Social Entrepreneurship. Callisto has developed an online platform that aims to dismantle barriers to reporting sexual assault. It also provides institutions with data to guard against and respond to sexual assaults. Skoll


    • ClearMask, a startup in this year’s Social Innovation Lab cohort, was one of seven teams accepted into Accelerate Baltimore. Operated by ETC, Accelerate Baltimore is a 13-week program that features weekly business-building sessions, facilitates connections to mentors and provides space in an incubator in Baltimore’s Highlandtown neighborhood., Baltimore Business Journal


    • ClearMask is working toward gaining clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for its transparent surgical mask that is designed to improve communication between medical staff and patients. Allysa Dittmar, who is deaf, co-founded the Social Innovation Lab venture after a sign language interpreter didn’t show up to an appointment she made for surgery. Initially, Dittmar could read lips and use other visual cues to understand what was happening, but that didn’t work once the doctors and nurses donned traditional surgical masks. Baltimore Business Journal (Subscription required)


    • Since the new year, Hosts for Humanity — a Social Innovation Lab venture developing a platform that matches volunteer hosts to caretakers in need of housing while a family member or friend seeks medical care — has hosted 10 people for a total of 44 days. This has saved those families close to $6,000 on housing.

Baltimore News

    • According to the Brookings Institution, Baltimore and other post-industrial American cities will soon experience economic growth with far-reaching effects. Among the drivers of this finding is the fact that more and more jobs and educated workers prefer to live in cities. Of post-industrial cities, Baltimore is in one of the strongest positions, according to Alan Berube, a Brookings Institution senior fellow. Baltimore Sun


    • Baltimore earned a spot on a Forbes list of the 10 coolest U.S. cities to visit. The write-up cited the city’s burgeoning arts scene as well as the revitalized Port Covington neighborhood. Forbes, Baltimore Sun


    • Her Corner, a new program designed to facilitate the advancement of women entrepreneurs, launched in Baltimore this winter. The six-month program focuses specifically on helping women entrepreneurs scale their business.


    • An op-ed by University of Maryland School of Medicine Dean E. Albert Reece and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine Paul Rothman applauded Congress for infusing an extra $2 billion in the National Institutes of Health. This money, they argue, will facilitate medical research and discovery that saves lives and serves as a powerful economic engine. Baltimore Sun


    • At the March Anchor Ventures event, Harpoon Medical CEO Bill Niland discussed the startup’s two-years-long acquisition process. The University of Maryland venture set out in 2015 to find a strategic partner that would lead its next round of funding and would support a patient trial. Eventually, Harpoon found a match with Edwards Lifesciences Corp., which acquired them for $100 million. Baltimore Business Journal (Subscription required)


    • The Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation launched a website in March that is designed to help small business owners and entrepreneurs plan, start, manage and grow their businesses. The website provides help in a number of areas, including writing business plans, making legal changes and registering a business. Baltimore Sun


    • The Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET) and Baltimore Under Ground Science Space (BUGSS) have partnered to help scientists building companies out of discoveries. The relationship is designed to facilitate connections between the scientists within the two programs and increase access to lab and entrepreneurship resources.


    • As part of its TEDCO 2.0 initiative, the Maryland Technology Development Corp. is restructuring and adding new services. TEDCO CEO George Davis said he wants the state-backed organization to bring the Maryland startup ecosystem together. As such, TEDCO will add more services and expand on existing initiatives. Baltimore Business Journal


    • Maryland startups raised more than $400 million from venture capitalists in the first three months of 2018. Of this total, Baltimore-based startups accounted for $101 million. The state’s total marks the second consecutive quarter of $400 million in VC funding and the fifth straight with more than $100 million. Baltimore Business Journal


    • The recent increase in funding for Maryland startups can be attributed, in part, to the maturation of the state’s promising startups, especially those in the cybersecurity and biotechnology sectors. In the first quarter of 2018, Internet and health care companies each completed a total of six deals, the most of any industry. Baltimore Business Journal

Johns Hopkins News

    • In March, future members of the Johns Hopkins University Class of 2022 received their acceptance letters. In total, the university invited 2,284 applicants for the fall semester. This group joins the 610 early decision students who are already part of the class. The Hub


    • For the 38th consecutive year, Johns Hopkins University led the country in research and development expenditures. In 2016, the university spent $2.4 billion on R&D projects, up 5.4 percent from fiscal 2015. To date, Johns Hopkins is the only academic institution to have crossed the $2 billion spending threshold. Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Business Journal


    • The Hatchery, a student-run incubator at Johns Hopkins University, is adding even more startup resources to campus. The program has provided its initial cohort of eight startups through weekly meetings with a professional mentor, workshops, legal lessons and pitching tips.


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Social Ventures

ClearMask Wins $25,000 at Social Innovation Lab Impact+Innovation Forum

ClearMask Wins $25,000 at Social Innovation Lab Impact+Innovation Forum


As Allysa Dittmar looked up at her surgery team’s masked faces, she felt isolated. Though nobly intended to prevent the spread of bacteria, the masks acted as a different type of barrier for Dittmar, who is deaf. Unable to read her doctors’ lips or see their expressions, and thus unable to understand or communicate, she felt less than human, she says.

Drawing upon this experience, the Johns Hopkins alumnus (Krieger School of Arts and Sciences 2014, Bloomberg School of Public Health 2017) co-founded ClearMask. The venture is developing the first full-face transparent surgical mask to improve communication between health care providers and their patients — especially children, those not proficient in English and people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

As the company moves toward an NIH clinical trial (early 2019), FDA approval (fall 2019) and a product launch (late 2019), April 24, 2018 may stand out as a transformative moment. On that day, ClearMask won $25,000 at the Social Innovation Lab’s Impact+Innovation Forum and $15,000 at Village Capital’s pitch competition at Gallaudet University.

Dittmar says the funding will help ClearMask get to market faster as it will enable them to refine its product and manufacturing methods to maximize efficiency as well as to facilitate meetings and participation at other events.

Photo courtesy of ClearMask
“We’ve missed out on a fair amount of opportunities because interpreters were unavailable or not provided,” Dittmar says. “We have two team members who are deaf and use sign language to communicate, including myself. With this funding, we will be able to better support our deaf members by providing sign language interpreters for ClearMask’s meetings and outreach.”

In October, the Social Innovation Lab accepted ClearMask into its 2017-2018 cohort featuring innovative nonprofits, mission-driven companies and disruptive technologies. For six months, with the support of SIL Director Alex Riehm, ClearMask and the nine other ventures received funding, mentorship, office space and workshops.

“Throughout their time with the Social Innovation Lab, the ClearMask team has never hesitated to support other startups and members of the SIL cohort,” Riehm says. “This environment is exactly what SIL does best, and I’m happy to have shared this with ClearMask.”

ClearMask received the award based on peer evaluations given throughout the six-month program whereby cohort members ranked their peers in seven categories, including empathy, progress, experimentation and generosity.

“The peer feedback process allows us to share concrete opportunities and suggestions among teams throughout the cohort period,” Riehm says. “By taking every opportunity for feedback and improvement, we can better support our SIL teams and give them a chance to identify the winning team among them.”

Though ClearMask claimed the Impact+Innovation award, the nine other SIL teams made significant strides building ventures that will impact communities in Baltimore and beyond.

The 2017-2018 Social Innovation Lab cohort
Bakku Technologies (formerly Active Bedsore Prevention System)
Challenge – Pressure ulcers, also known as bedsores, contribute to increased mortality rates and cost hospitals $11.5 billion annually.

Solution – This SIL team comprised of the winners of the 2017 Hopkins MedHacks competition and represented by Bloomberg School of Public Health master’s student Ruchee Shrestha is developing a medical device which senses and alleviates pressure to increase comfort and reduce the occurrence of bedsores and pressure ulcers.
BeeMore Cooperative
Challenge – In 2016, Maryland lost 56 percent of its bees as part of an ongoing pollinator collapse.

Solution – Led by Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth, BeeMore is a beekeeping cooperative that engages community members with pollinators and healthy lifestyles, promotes urban beekeeping and creates new beekeepers in Baltimore.
Distribution Health
Challenge – Despite technological advances, health care requires a personal touch.

Solution – Led by Andrew York, Distribution Health combines cutting-edge health care technologies with compassionate personal care workers to provide individualized, high-quality care in the home.
The Growing Minds Initiative
Challenge – To provide sustainable access to education for orphaned and vulnerable children in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Solution – Founded by Victoria Roberts, a Johns Hopkins Krieger School of Arts and Sciences undergraduate student, The Growing Minds Initiative creates sustainable poultry and green vegetable farms to fund education and health care for orphaned and vulnerable children in that community.
ChallengeA recent study showed that LGBT youth are 120 percent more likely to be homeless than straight people.

Solution – Led by Ava Pipitone and Max Goodman, HostHome is developing an accessible home sharing platform that addresses housing instability in the LGBT community.
Hosts for Humanity
Challenge – In addition to medical bills, family members and caretakers often spend thousands for hotels as their loved ones receive treatment.

Solution – Founded by Jenny Owens — a University of Maryland, Baltimore faculty member and director of The Grid — Hosts for Humanity connects families and friends of patients traveling to receive medical care with volunteer hosts who provide accommodations in their own homes.
Mera Kitchen Collective
Challenge – Policies and systems can create structural barriers that make it difficult for immigrant and refugee women to gain access to resources and opportunities.

Solution – The Mera Kitchen Collecitve is led by five worker-owners who represent and work with immigrant and refugee communitess in Baltimore, including a Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health alumnus and a staff member at the Kennedy Krieger Institute. As a food cooperative, they share the exceptional cuisine and stories of Baltimore’s newest neighbors.
Neighbour, Neighbour
Challenge – Trinidad & Tobago has one of the highest homicide rates in the world.

Solution – Led by Zindzi Thompson, a graduate student in the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Neighbour, Neighbour is developing a mobile platform that promotes in-person social interaction in environments characterized by high-levels of insecurity.
Challenge – For citizens returning from prison, reentry programs drop re-offense rates to under 10 percent. However, Baltimore has no women’s work release centers.

Solution – Led by Bridget Nistico and Emily Thompson, PIVOT is developing a cohort support model for women returning from incarceration, providing access to housing, transportation, mental health car, addiction treatment, job training and more. Its pilot will launch this summer.

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