Category: Startups

Social Ventures

New SIL Director Aiming to Strengthen Baltimore’s Social Innovation…

New SIL Director Aiming to Strengthen Baltimore’s Social Innovation Scene


Alex Riehm
Since 2011, the Social Innovation Lab (SIL) has supported 72 mission-driven ventures that have impacted a quarter million lives. The reach of this program and the opportunity to work hands-on with talented social entrepreneurs drew Alex Riehm to SIL, where he assumed the role of director in November.

After earning a master’s degree in international affairs from The George Washington University in 2010, Riehm oversaw 65 social enterprises, nonprofits and university initiatives as a portfolio manager for USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures fund. Many of the ventures he supported operated overseas, so while they often grew and benefited society, the physical distance made it difficult to build strong personal connections.

“My priority was to find an opportunity where I could have direct and supportive relationships with changemakers,” Riehm says. “Connections like these enable me to better understand the individual social entrepreneurs, their motivations and what they hope to achieve. Ultimately, this means I can provide better support and make a greater impact.”

Darius Graham, who served as SIL director for nearly four years before transitioning to a new role in Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures as director of student ventures, cited Riehm’s experience, vision and desire to build personal relationships as key traits that will help him succeed in leading SIL.

“Alex stood out because he already knows what it takes to grow emerging ventures and how programs like the Social Innovation Lab can help ventures avoid common roadblocks,” Graham says. “Given his experience, Alex is poised to refine the Social Innovation Lab’s model of helping ventures set and meet critical milestones that accelerate their work and help them make a measurable impact.”

Alex Riehm (right)
with the 2017-2018 SIL cohort

Riehm’s first order of business: ensuring that the 10 ventures in the 2017-2018 cohort experienced the sense of support, camaraderie and shared experience that SIL intends to cultivate. He has already crossed this off his to-do list.

“I wanted to prioritize building a mutually supportive cohort, but I was lucky to find that Darius had already created this culture,” Riehm says, noting that this year’s 10 SIL teams have had dinners and other get-togethers. “This year’s SIL cohort is flexible, they know what they want to achieve and are willing to iterate their approaches to get there. This creativity and nimbleness is exactly what programs like the Social Innovation Lab need.”

With a supportive environment in place, Riehm has shifted his focus to identifying and consolidating the resources and opportunities available to social entrepreneurs from myriad local and regional sources.

“I want the Social Innovation Lab to be a greater part of the city’s conversation about social innovation,” Riehm says. “I hope to use Johns Hopkins’ resources to connect smart teams to good work and vice versa. There’s a lot we can do to add to each other’s work.”

Riehm moved to Baltimore from Washington, D.C. only three years ago, but he happily calls this city home. He is particularly enamored and inspired by the creativity and commitment to impact that drives the city’s social entrepreneurship scene.

“Baltimore is a city where people devote generations of time and energy,” Riehm says. “It seems like the people I’ve met have five projects going on and work for two nonprofits. People invest a lot of themselves in building something here.

“This city feels like my home. I’m looking forward to investing my time and energy here, too.”

Click here to learn more about the Social Innovation Lab!



2 Johns Hopkins Faculty Members Honored by National Academy…

2 Johns Hopkins Faculty Members Honored by National Academy of Inventors

The National Academy of Inventors (NAI) elected Howard E. Katz and Russell Taylor to its 2017 class of fellows, a prestigious distinction reserved for academic inventors who have benefited people and society.

The two Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering faculty members bring the total number of Johns Hopkins affiliates to receive this recognition to 11. The NAI began distributing these awards in 2012 and currently has 912 NAI Fellows from over 250 research universities and governmental and nonprofit research institutes.

Howard Katz

Katz, a professor in the Department of Materials Science and engineering and member of the Institute for NanoBioTechnology, chaired the Department of Materials Science from 2008 to 2014.

Among many other awards and recognition, Katz has been named an American Chemical Society Fellow in 2010 and was selected a Materials Research Society Fellow in 2008. His research interests include nanomaterials and optoelectronic and magnetic materials.

Russell Taylor

Widely considered the father of medical robotics, Taylor is the John C. Malone Professor in the Department of Computer Science, director of the Laboratory for Computational Sensing and Robotics and a member of the Johns Hopkins Malone Center for Engineering in Healthcare.

In addition to receiving numerous awards and honors, Taylor has authored more than 325 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters.

The 2017 Class

The work of the 155 NAI Fellows selected as part of the 2017 class has resulted in nearly 6,000 issued U.S. patents and discoveries. In total, the six classes of NAI Fellows are responsible for more than 32,000 patents.

“Election to NAI Fellow status is the highest professional accolade bestowed to academic inventors who have demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development and welfare of society,” according to the NAI. “NAI Fellows have generated more than 9,400 licensed technologies and companies and created more than 1.3 million jobs, with over $137 billion in revenue generated based on their discoveries.”
The nine other NAI Fellows from The Johns Hopkins University are:

Solomon H. Snyder, Professor of Neuroscience


James West, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Mechanical Engineering


Jennifer Elisseeff, Director of the Translational Tissue Engineering Center, Professor of Ophthalmology
Justin Hanes, Director of the Center for Nanomedicine, Professor of Ophthalmology


Kenneth Kinzler, Director of the Ludwig Center at Johns Hopkins University, Professor of Oncology
Se-Jin Lee, The Michael and Ann Hankin and Partners of Brown Advisory Professor in Scientific Innovation, Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics
Bert Vogelstein, Professor of Oncology


Henry Halperin, Co-director of the Johns Hopkins Imaging Institute of Excellence, Professor of Medicine
David Sidransky, Director of Head and Neck Cancer Research, Professor of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery

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