The New STL: Innovators 2015 | Part III

St. Louis is reinventing itself as a city of innovation. Meet the bold minds that are helping us get there.

 

 

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EDUCATION: Paul Feiling | Regional Director, First Robotics-St. Louis Region

Described as “part science fair, part basketball game, part Nelly concert,” FIRST Robotics‘ competitions are a far cry from what one might expect‰ÛÓand that’s precisely the point. “We’re bringing science and engineering to the forefront to make it cool,” Paul Freiling explains.

The key: keeping K-12 students engaged throughout their education and bringing in the community to support them and inspire them into university years and beyond. “We’re building this idea of getting the Boeings and Emersons of the world to come in as mentors and guide them through the process of becoming a scientist or engineer,” Freiling says.

In true engineering spirit, students must also turn to each other to help work through their robotics challenges. It’s what FIRST calls “coopertition,” a portmanteau of “cooperation” and “competition.” St. Louis plays perennial host to FIRST’s annual world championships, partly because of the community the organization has developed. “FIRST has really bridged organizations, companies, museums and schools together to share resources,” Freiling says. ‰ÛÒ KA

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CITY PROGRESS: Shane Cohn | Alderman 25th Ward, City of St. Louis

If a driving force behind St. Louis’ revival had to be narrowed to just one person, Jerry Schlichter would be among the top contenders. After working relentlessly to pass 1998’s statewide Historic Tax Credit that spurred the revitalization of real estate (to date,it’s yielded $7 million in direct investment), as well as the Rebuilding Communities Act that attracted companies through incentives to distressed communities (a definition that, at the time, included all of St. Louis), he co-founded Arch Grants in 2012 with the vision of a better city driven by innovation and entrepreneurship. The program has brought 55 startups to St. Louis in three years, enticing them to move with $50,000 grants and the tax incentives to be located in St. Louis. Not only has his work put St. Louis on the map for startup success, but the city is now widely known as a national model for historic rehabilitation. ‰ÛÒ KA

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BIOTECH: Dr. King, Pediatric Cardiologist, & Dr. Parkar, Radiologist | SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center

Cardiac surgeons build their strategy from 2-D scans, keeping them in mind’s eye as they fix what’s broken‰ÛÓuntil now. Dr. Wilson King and Dr. Nadeem Parkar have harnessed 3-D printing capabilities to create personalized models of patients’ hearts, making problem-solving far more intuitive. The team builds the model from regular CAT scans of a patient’s heart translated into a computer-assisted design (CAD) model. From there, the rendering is printed using a 3-D printer at SLU’s engineering school. The resulting replica of the patient’s heart allows surgeons to know exactly what to expect and map out their plan ahead of time, rather than on the operating table (for more, check out our online extra).

Their applied medical use of 3-D printing technology is among the first in the nation, and they’re riding the crest of the new wave of personalized medical care. With lowering costs (currently around $600 for a model), it won’t be long before the practice spreads to other surgeries, too. The next steps for the team? Using flexible, sanitized materials so surgeons can bring the models right into the operating room. ‰ÛÒ KA

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CITY PROGRESS: Jerry Schlichter | President & Director, Arch Grants

If a driving force behind St. Louis’ revival had to be narrowed to just one person, Jerry Schlichter would be among the top contenders. After working relentlessly to pass 1998’s statewide Historic Tax Credit that spurred the revitalization of real estate (to date,it’s yielded $7 million in direct investment), as well as the Rebuilding Communities Act that attracted companies through incentives to distressed communities (a definition that, at the time, included all of St. Louis), he co-founded Arch Grants in 2012 with the vision of a better city driven by innovation and entrepreneurship. The program has brought 55 startups to St. Louis in three years, enticing them to move with $50,000 grants and the tax incentives to be located in St. Louis. Not only has his work put St. Louis on the map for startup success, but the city is now widely known as a national model for historic rehabilitation. ‰ÛÒ KA

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MEDICINE: Agnes Scoville, M.D. | Founder & Owner, Pacidose

Agnes Scoville has always been a creative problem-solver, a skill honed while studying math and physics, working as a computer programmer, attending medical school and serving in the military‰ÛÓincluding a nine-month stint in Iraq, where she “had to be very creative in order to take care of our wounded.”

Then came a show-stopping dilemma: Giving her young daughter medicine. So Scoville patented Pacidose, a pacifier that attaches to a syringe, thus easing the drama of administering meds at home while still providing accurate dosing. Sales of the highly practical product are on the up, thanks to shout-outs everywhere
from NBC to Pinterest, and a clinical study is underway.

Her company is eyeing an expansion into the hospital arena with Pacidose this year, in addition to pursuing the development of other baby products. ‰ÛÒ AD

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BIOTECH: Abby Cohen | Co-Founder, Sparo Labs

The next medical breakthrough for the treatment of respiratory diseases could very well result from an after-school project. As part of a student group at Washington University, Abby Cohen (who co-founded Sparo Labs with fellow student Andrew Brimer) focused on asthma after finding out 80-90 percent of all asthma hospitalizations are actually preventable. And while there is a lot of asthma awareness, there has been relatively no advancement in the technology used to manage it. Sparo Labs’ pocket-sized device plugs into the headphone jack of a smartphone to quantify lung function and help patients better manage their asthma.

Due to launch in beta this summer, it costs about $10 to build, compared to $1,000 for current diagnostic devices. Most importantly, it helps put patients at the center of their treatment, allowing them to interact with their own health data and catch problems before they become severe. ‰ÛÒ NK

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BIOTECH: Ben Harvatine | Co-Founder & CEO, Jolt

Not all sports-related concussions are from big hits to the head: Some happen slowly through many little impacts, gradually worsening the damage. Inspired by such an injury as a college wrestler, Ben Harvatine used class time at MIT to invent the Jolt sensor, which measures both quantity and magnitude of head impacts.

The comfortable, affordable headgear, particularly useful for football players, lets athletes know when their heads have had enough‰ÛÓand also sends an alert to an app on a parent’s or coach’s device. Now headquartered at T-REX, Harvatine’s young company is hitting the ground running. Thanks to funding from an Arch Grant, MIT’s alumni-founded MassChallenge and a Kickstarter campaign, production is underway, and the sensors are expected to start shipping this spring. ‰ÛÒ AD

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BIOTECH: Dr. Samuel Achilefu | Professor of Radiology and Biomedical Engineering, Washington University

Inspired by night vision goggles, Samuel Achilefu’s “cancer goggles” allow surgeons to see cancer cells in a patient, revolutionizing the way cancer is operated on. Developed in conjunction with Viktor Gruev, also at Washington University, and Ron Liang of the University of Arizona, the glasses are complemented by a molecular dye injected into the patient that attaches to cancerous cells. With the dye in place, the cells glow blue through the glasses’ lens, signaling to the surgeon exactly what to operate on.

Successful clinical trials took place in 2013 and 2014 on liver and breast cancers, and hospitals from around the world are now requesting the glasses. “Our goal is to make sure that every surgeon who wants one has one,” says Achilefu. While the glasses are on their way to becoming commercially available, Achilefu is hoping to get the price point down so they will be affordable for general surgeons at rural hospitals. He’s also working on the other end of the spectrum: A prototype for neurosurgeons, who need to see every single cancer cell. ‰ÛÒ KA

 

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