Sunday, March 18, 2018

Innovation Thriving at Brandeis -- Recapping #MIN108

Standing Room Only Crowd at Brandeis for MIN108
Brandeis University's Gosman Sports and Convocation Center was the setting for Mass Innovation Nights 108 last Wednesday. On the day after a blizzard, the third in a series of northeast storms that has plagued Massachusetts this month, the turnout was amazing. The Gosman Center was buzzing and it was standing room only for the presentations. Brandeis is a hotbed of innovation and all the companies showcasing products were led by students, alumni, or faculty of Brandeis. Innovation is definitely thriving at Brandeis.
People Checking out the Tables
There was pizza and pie and whoopie pies to celebrate Pi Day and product tables to check out along with a busy Experts Corner. I found it a bit of a stretch to check out every product before the presentations, so I don't have photos of everybody, but I certainly learned a lot. As I made the rounds, I kept thinking that the Girl Scientists (a biochemist and a physicist -- my family grows science geeks) would be excited by some of these products.  Anyway, I had a blast learning what I could learn.

BobbieC Telling Us MIN is Nine Years Old
Rebecca Menapace, Associate Provost for Innovation, welcomed us to Brandeis, told us a bit about all the innovative stuff going on there, and asked us to raise our hands if it was the first time we'd ever set foot on the Brandeis campus.  I was surprised at how many people raised their hands. For the record, it was definitely not my first time on the campus but it has been a long time since I've been there and the university has grown a lot since then.

Then it was time for the presentations. The four chosen presenters for the night were:
GreenChoice presented GreenScore, a software tool (essentially a browser extension as I understood it) to help you assess the healthiness and sustainability of the food products you buy online. GreenScore uses artificial intelligence to aggregate and synthesize information on companies and products to score food products (on a 1 to 100 scale) for things like freshness, nutritional value, health and safety, animal welfare practices, and sustainability. They seem to have a good grasp of their target market: millennials who shop online. 
Green Choice Presenting
RC Survey 2.0 from  Relational Coordination Analytics, Inc. uses a simple survey to analyze complex communication patterns in organizations that have a lot of interdependence along with time constraints and uncertainty -- think health care or airline travel. The goal is to find where such an organization can reinforce strengths and improve weaknesses  for smoother, more coordinated interaction and happier, more engaged workers.
Relational Coordination Analytics
ThermaGenix makes reagents that improve the product yield and specificity in polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplifications (that's biochemist-speak for making lots of copies of a segment of DNA -- told you the family biochemist would dig this). This sounds like a big improvement for use in the world of DNA and RNA sequencing.  That's about as much as I understood about it, but I was pretty impressed.
ThermaGenix
WorkAround described themselves as an impact sourcing provider helping companies get more done for less, while giving jobs to refugees. The name "workaround" really says it all. The basic concept is to use the Internet to take advantage of work that can be done remotely and entirely online so that refugees who can't get work permits in the countries where they have taken refuge can find jobs.
Workaround

Tranquilo Mat had one of the busiest tables. The portable, vibrating mat soothes your baby in the crib, the stroller, or wherever you go. The mat mimics a mom’s heartbeat and womb-type motions through gentle vibrations and soft sounds to calm the crying baby.
Tranqilo Mat
Articulate Biosciences showcased their ABX product family of injectable viscoelastic gels for lubricating and cushioning diseased soft tissues. I enjoyed talking with them about their first product offering, which is intended to relieve pain and increase mobility for people with osteoarthritis. I love this idea. They got my audience choice vote. Not surprisingly, they won the grand prize in the voting. I'm definitely going to keep track of their progress. As I was sitting down to write this on Friday, they were in Lowell participating in the ribbon cutting for their move into the M2D2 incubator space at the UML Innovation Hub.
Articulate Biosciences
Vata Verks has developed a smart water usage sensor for buildings. It takes advantage of the fluctuating magnetic fields inside a building’s utility meters, so you don't have to call a plumber to cut pipes to install it. The sensor just  straps on so customers can take advantage of the data stream to detect leaks, track costs, and analyze building performance simply and cheaply.
Vata Verks

ModiBrace is a modifiable back brace designed to improve scoliosis treatment. The brace can be  adjusted easily and quickly to precisely target and correct curvature in the spine. Made for children and adolescents diagnosed with scoliosis, it can grow along with them.

Sclervey  maps the shape of the sclera for the creation of specialty scleral contact lenses. It projects points of light onto the surface of the eye and does views from multiple cameras for precise 3D modeling. That should make for better fitting lenses for sure.
Busy Tables
Cryo-cell is a freezable fluid cell for cryo-electron microscopy. Cryo-electron microscopy is currently emerging as the preferred method to determine 3D protein structures in biomedical research and drug discovery. This technique requires that proteins be frozen in a thin film of water before imaging. Cryo-cell uses a nanofabricated fluid cell to improve on the current freezing technology and to  reduce the amount of protein needed.
Winners of the audience choice vote were:
ABX Viscoelastics (Grand prize)
WorkAround
Greenscore

The Winners Posing with BobbieC and Rebecca Menapace
For this month's  Expert Looking Expert photo, here's Rebecca Menapace representing all of the Brandeis expertise at MIN108
Expert Looking Expert

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