The Science Center name continues to stand for our programs and operations. Through the diverse programs listed below, we are boosting our impact on innovation and entrepreneurship – while maintaining a sharp focus on our work as a tech-based economic development organization.
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PHASE 1 VENTURES

When PolyCore Therapeutics, a Drexel spinout, began developing a breakthrough drug to manage the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease, CEO Jim Harris and Sandhya Kortagere (pictured) quickly realized that they could hasten their journey to funding via the Science Center’s newest commercialization program, Phase 1 Ventures.

In 2016 Phase 1 Ventures (P1V) emerged from a pilot to widen its net and help test and evolve more ideas into growing, funded companies, thanks to a wide array of offerings including expertise, guidance, connectivity to networks, strategy, space and funding.

PolyCore is the first company to receive matching funds from P1V. “The Science Center enabled and accelerated our development through connections to people, processes and resources within the life science startup community,” explains Harris.

P1V is an accelerator for “long-horizon” technologies requiring significant development or regulatory approvals, such as healthcare, materials, or energy. Seasoned entrepreneurs from the Science Center’s extensive networks are matched with technologies at P1V participating universities or with newly formed startups requiring a management team. P1V initially provides up to $25,000 in support and other resources, including free legal, IP and other professional services.

Teams then focus on building commercialization plans and applying for grants. For those that secure funding, P1V could provide up to an additional $450,000.

Lehigh, Rutgers, Temple, and Penn State are currently participating, and companies developing technologies from other universities are also eligible.

“P1V enhances our ability, desire and determination to bring our product to market,” Harris says.

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QED

Amy Cowperthwait is revolutionizing healthcare training – one simulation at a time. Cowperthwait, a nurse, teamed with an interdisciplinary team across the University of Delaware campus to develop SimUTrach, a tool for teaching healthcare providers how to care for a patient with a tracheostomy. SimuTrach enables feedback from the “patient’s” perspective and ultimately improves patient safety.

The project received a healthy infusion of cash from the QED Proof-of-Concept program. QED’s eighth – and latest – round of funding emphasized collaborations between medical professionals and engineers, two groups that don’t often work together.

In all, QED awarded $600,000 to support four initiatives in 2016, including Cowperthwait’s research, a project at Penn State University and two at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Each award is jointly provided by the Science Center and the recipient’s institution.

“This award gives us credibility. Support from the college and Office of Economic Innovation and Partnership propelled us from concept to design,” Cowperthwait explains. “QED funding and access to its business and legal advisors took us to the next level – through Beta testing and market research.”

QED goes to the heart of the Science Center's support for early-stage innovation. Launched in 2009, the program funds novel university technologies with market potential, bridging the gap between academic research and product commercialization. So far, the 28 projects which have received seed funding have grown to attract $19 million in follow-on financing and have resulted in eight licensed technologies.

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FIRSTHAND

You can dress a bunch of bright, enthusiastic middle schoolers in lab coats and teach them to conduct experiments. But it takes mentors to coax that scientific spark into a flame.

That’s where the Science Center’s FirstHand program comes in, introducing youth from under-resourced Philadelphia schools to science, technology, engineering, the arts and math, all while exposing them to the Science Center’s resident scientists and entrepreneurs.

Mentoring sessions with scientists at Science Center resident companies are a key FirstHand experience. Olamide Sanuth (pictured), who started as an intern at Invisible Sentinel and now is operations manager, is an enthusiastic FirstHand mentor. “These young people are truly excited about science and technology,” he says.

That early exposure to science, combined with encouragement from scientists and entrepreneurs, helps to build awareness and establish a conduit from FirstHand to STEM careers.

It was a good first year for FirstHand. The program won the 2015 STEM Mentoring Award for “Most Innovative Hands-On Project” from the US2020 Program, a White House mandate to match one million students with STEM mentors by 2020. FirstHand also earned the 2016 Afterschool Champion Award from the Pennsylvania Afterschool/Youth Development Network.

“These awards affirm FirstHand’s unique hands-on approach and the Science Center’s commitment to career-focused mentoring,” says David Clayton, FirstHand director. “FirstHand is creating something special at the Science Center, as we open doors for the minds of tomorrow.”

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DIGITAL HEALTH ACCELERATOR

If you’re looking for a glimpse into a futuristic world of technology, just sit down with the members of the Science Center’s Digital Health Accelerator. For digital health technologies, the future is here. The products and devices developed by these companies are about to enter the market, thanks to the DHA’s funding, mentorship, space and warm introductions.

Imagine getting care for a chronic wound without going to the doctor. That’s feasible thanks to Tissue Analytics’ smartphone technology. How about slapping on a wearable patch before your workout and getting an instant analysis through your perspiration? Graphwear Technologies is making it a reality.

If the inaugural class of the DHA is any indicator, the six companies in the current class are headed for success. The seven companies in the first class collectively created 68 jobs and raised almost $9 million in follow-on investment. And one – Keosys, a French medical imaging company that established a U.S. base in Philly – was acquired at the end of the program.

“The DHA provides us with an innovative ecosystem, systemic support, and financing,” says Christina Lopes (pictured here with Founder & COO Benjamin Lewis), CEO Of The One Health Company which enrolls ill pets in trials of cutting-edge therapies – while helping to develop new therapies for human medicine at the same time. “As a startup, it's so important to be co-located with other entrepreneurs who are working tirelessly to disrupt a space.”

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QUORUM

Quorum’s power lies in the connections it fosters. Entrepreneur in Quorum, its newest signature program, connects leaders of startups with a seasoned and savvy entrepreneur, a heavy hitter who will take a hard look at their enterprises. “Our feedback told us that entrepreneurs wanted to talk to more experienced entrepreneurs and get targeted business advice,” says Anna King, Quorum program manager.

Enter Brock Weatherup – the first Entrepreneur IQ. Weatherup (pictured at left) founded Pet 360, then sold the company to PetSmart for $160 million. Currently the President of Philly Startup Leaders, Weatherup began holding office hours at Quorum one day a month beginning in March 2016. His calendar fills up quickly with entrepreneurs eager for face time with someone who intimately understands the hardships and rewards of entrepreneurship.

One of them is Quorum regular Satyajeet Shahade (pictured at right), CEO and founder of HootBoard, an online bulletin board for community websites. His challenge: organizations like the product but not enough to become paying customers. Weatherup helped Shahade and his partner fine-tune the idea and suggested a pivot to focus solely on real estate, particularly student housing.

“He advised us, in very clear terms, to drop all the categories we were reaching out to except one. Cut out the ones who will never pay,” Shahade recalls. “Fast forward a month and a half, and it’s been a very interesting turnaround. We have better business and have even increased the price. Our mentor gave us the impetus.”

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UNIVERSITY CITY KEYSTONE INNOVATION ZONE

University City got a lot bigger in 2016 as the University City Keystone Innovation Zone (UC KIZ) extended to Old City and its most famous address: N3RD Street.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and Science Center CEO Steve Tang joined Arcweb Technologies’ CEO Chris Cera at his Old City offices in March 2016 to announce the expansion. The Science Center, the UC KIZ’s fiscal agent, worked with the City and the Commonwealth to expand the Zone.

A statewide initiative, Keystone Innovation Zones allow qualifying emerging tech and life science companies to access up to $100,000 annually in sellable tax credits. In 2015 alone, 21 UC KIZ companies leveraged $1.8 million in tax credits. Over the last 10 years, the program has helped put close to $8 million in tax credits in the hands of roughly 50 University City and Center City startups. Starting in 2017, eligible Old City companies will be able to reap the benefits too.

“What this credit essentially means to us is that we can add one or two high-paying jobs here in Old City,” Cera commented at the announcement.

“The expansion of the UC KIZ is an incredibly important development for Philadelphia’s startup community,” said Mayor Kenney. “The inclusion of Old City will bolster the already exciting growth of tech companies we’ve seen on and around N3RD Street. We’re committed to helping Philadelphia’s innovation community flourish throughout the City, and tools like KIZs are a big part of that equation.”

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ic@3401

Yasmine Mustafa and her team are on a mission to keep women safe from assault. They have a strong advocate in the Innovation Center @3401 (ic@3401), which provides Mustafa’s ROAR for Good a supportive environment and accommodates its rapid growth while the team focuses on wearable technology to prevent attacks on women.

“The Science Center and Drexel made it easy for our startup to grow by offering 24/7 building access, fast support, unlimited conference space availability, as well as access to other startups,” explains CEO Mustafa (pictured second from right). “ic@3401 has provided us with the resources we needed to help ROAR become the company it is today.”

ROAR is off to a, well, roaring start. In addition to receiving seed money, ROAR raised more than $300,000 through an October 2015 crowdfunding campaign – over 650% of its original goal.

Meanwhile ic@3401 strengthened its offerings in 2015 when Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania joined Drexel University and the Science Center as a partner at the collaborative workspace. In addition to establishing a physical presence, Ben Franklin offers ic@3401 members industry consulting, market analysis and access to capital.

Safeguard Scientifics, a Radnor-based private equity and venture capital firm, has also set up shop at ic@3401 as its first Sustaining Member. Safeguard will play a prominent role in ic@3401’s ecosystem, as it helps to recruit and mentor member companies and to bring in new industry collaborators.

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PORT BUSINESS INCUBATOR

The labs at the Science Center’s Port business incubator were the deciding factor for BioBots when it needed room to grow. “We’re working at the intersection of engineering and biology, so the labs were important,” says Danny Cabrera, CEO of the company which is building 3D printers that can generate living tissues.

BioBots’ founders first tested their business concept at the Port through a Science Center scholarship in 2014. They returned in 2015, where they now occupy the entire Bullpen coworking space (pictured) along with a lab. “We also needed room to grow and we definitely have that at the Port,” explains Cabrera.

And growing they are. BioBots has doubled in size over the past year, from four to eight people—with expectations of growing a lot more.

BioBots believes their 3D printers could revolutionize research and medicine by recreating complex biological tissues, such as bones, outside of the body. And researchers are starting to take notice. In 2014, BioBots produced and shipped two units of their printer. In 2015, they shipped 36 units. They expect that number to double in 2016. Their printers are used in labs all over the country.

“We designed the Port’s scholarship initiative to allow exciting idea-stage companies to test the waters,” says Chris Laing, the Science Center’s VP Science & Technology. “It’s the first step in the Port, which provides lab facilities, access to capital and market expertise – and the flexibility to grow.”

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