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490 BioTech wins Innov865 Alliance’s Startup Day; Dr. Peter Tsai is recognized for Global Pandemic Support

490 BioTech wins Innov865 Alliance’s Startup Day; Dr. Peter Tsai is recognized for Global Pandemic Support

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The startup 490 BioTech, which developed bioluminescent human cells to show changes in cellular health, won the Innov865 Judges’ Choice Award at Startup Day 2020 with a pitch that explained how its technology can improve development of pharmaceuticals.

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Healthy happy cells are bright, sick cells go dim, and dead cells go dark,” 490 BioTech co-founder and CEO Dan Close said. “Our product provides continuous information about a drug’s effect on human health so pharmaceutical companies can operate more efficiently.”

As winner, his company will receive a $7,000 cash prize that they will use to develop its business further. 490 BioTech was named among several winners during Innov865 Week, which celebrates entrepreneurship and innovation in Knoxville and the region.  He and others pitched their businesses on Startup Day, Tuesday, Sept. 29.

Winners were named in an awards ceremony on Friday, Oct. 2 that included the judges’ choice, 490 BioTech; the Innov865 Crowd Favorite prize, presented by BB&T and SunTrust Bank, now Truist, was given to Quantum Lock; and the first recipient of the Innov865 Impact Award, presented by Verizon, was named – N95 mask developer Dr. Peter Tsai.

The look and feel of Innov865 Week may have been a little different, but the excitement of the eighth annual Startup Day was woven throughout the a week of virtual events designed to introduce investors to burgeoning startups in the process of gaining traction in the market.

The festivities started with a discussion from University of Tennessee President and entrepreneur Randy Boyd during a Facebook Live segment on Monday morning, followed by the Spark Innovation Center Showcase on Monday afternoon. On Tuesday nearly 200 attendees heard from Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon and then were introduced to six investable pitchers in what was deemed by judges as the closest Startup Day to date. The virtual “Shark Tank”-style pitch competition included previously taped pitches and virtual question and answer sessions hosted on the local startup virtual platform Lunchpool.

Quantum Lock, co-founded by Erica Grant, won the $3,000 Innov865 Crowd Favorite prize as voted on by viewers of the competition on Startup Day.

Quantum Lock creates random, untraceable combinations for locks that prevent hackers from doing things such as creating a master key for hotel rooms, among other safeguards. Later plans for Quantum Lock’s technology include securing the energy grid, hospitals, homes, smartphones and personal security.

“Encouraging entrepreneurs to creatively solve problems and build businesses is one way Truist delivers on its purpose of inspiring and building better lives and communities, said Christian Corts, regional president for BB&T | SunTrust now Truist, East Tennessee. “We appreciate the hard work and ingenuity of all of Startup Day’s participants, and congratulate Quantum Lock and Erica Grant as the crowd favorite award winner for Startup Day 2020.”

The inaugural Innov865 Impact Award, presented by Verizon, was given to Peter Tsai, University of Tennessee researcher who developed the N95 mask material.

“Verizon is proud to present the inaugural Innov865 Impact Award, and pleased to announce the winner, Peter Tsai,” said Thomas Green, Managing Partner for Government and Public Safety at Verizon. “As the architect behind the essential technology in N95 masks, his work is essential to the global response for fighting the pandemic. This is the kind of life-changing technology that the Innov865 Impact Award presented by Verizon is meant to highlight.”

The Innov865 Impact Award recognizes an inventor who has made a positive impact in the fight against COVID-19. Tsai, a research faculty member at the University of Tennessee Department of Material Science and Engineering, used a method called electrostatic charging to develop the N95 mask material, which filters out 95 percent of particles from air that wearers breathe through the mask. Front-line healthcare workers and others use the N95 mask as part of the essential personal protective equipment they need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tsai then participated in a fireside chat with Lonnie Love of ORNL, moderated by Jon Sheiber with TechCrunch, in which he explained his work.

“I did not expect this. It’s just happened by chance,” Tsai said. “My invention is an ordinary invention.”  However, Tsai’s invention has had an extraordinary impact. Dr. Tsai retired two years ago, but the global pandemic caused a shortage of N95 masks. Earlier this year, he worked with labs and manufacturers to teach others how to make the materials and safely reuse N95 masks.

About the Startup Day winners

Innov865 Judges Choice: 490 BioTech – The Knoxville-based 490 BioTech makes bioluminescent human cells capable of continuously producing a visual light signal that adjusts in real-time to represent changes in cellular health. The company’s glowing cells can be used by pharmaceutical companies in their efforts to develop safer, more effective, and less expensive medicines. 490 BioTech serves the academic, commercial, industrial, and government research community by providing high quality bioluminescent cell lines that don’t require external luciferin treatments to function.

Their patented genetic architecture allows their cell lines to produce their own luciferin internally, allowing for continuous light production throughout the life of a culture.

Cofounder and CSO: Dan Close

Innov865 Crowd Favorite prize, presented by BB&T and SunTrust Bank, now Truist: Quantum Lock – Quantum Lock is developing a smart lock system that is more secure than many current smartphone-based key systems. Quantum Lock’s technology uses quantum physics to generate keys that are random and untraceable. Quantum Lock’s premier product, Gamma Lock, is a smart phone or key fob based smart lock which is built to secure guests at Bed and Breakfasts and hotels.

Cofounder: Erica Grant

About the Innov865 Alliance and Innov865 Week’s Startup Day

Innov865 Week is a weeklong series of events that celebrates Knoxville’s entrepreneurial spirit by bringing together startups, entrepreneurs, makers, investors, business leaders, students, and community leaders from across East Tennessee for a week of educational panels, pitch competitions, investor roundtables, and social events. It is presented by the Innov865 Alliance, a coalition that develops, supports, and promotes the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Founding members of the Innov865 Alliance include the University of Tennessee Research Foundation, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, PYA, UT’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Three Roots Capital, Tennessee Valley Authority, Launch Tennessee, Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, the University of Tennessee Research Park at Cherokee Farm, and Bunker Labs Knoxville. To learn more, visit http://innov865.com/.

Helen Ross McNabb Center announces name change to McNabb Center

(KNOXVILLE, Tenn.) Helen Ross McNabb Center, the region’s leading provider of

behavioral health services, announced that it has changed its name to

McNabb Center, effective immediately.

“Mrs. Helen Ross McNabb founded the organization in 1948 and it has since evolved

to serve individuals from infancy through adulthood,” said Jerry Vagnier, president

and CEO of the McNabb Center. “Mrs. McNabb left a legacy of compassion that

continues to inspire us to serve those with the most need in our community.”

The McNabb Center is undertaking a brand refresh to become more identifiable

within the communities it serves. Over the next year, the Center will roll out its new

logo, highlighting its focus on “Well Mind, Well Being.”

“The McNabb Center provides mental health, substance use, victim and social

services across East Tennessee,” Vagnier said. “The focus of ‘Well Mind, Well Being’

speaks to the whole person approach to the care we provide.”

While the logo and name are changing, the Center’s dedication to delivering the

highest quality care is not. The Center’s mission has been and continues to be;

improving the lives of the people we serve.

In addition to the name change, the Center has refreshed its website to provide

clients with easier access to care: www.mcnabbcenter.org.

The McNabb Center is the region’s leading nonprofit provider of mental health,

substance use, social and victim services. By focusing on an individual’s “Well Mind,

Well Being,” we provide a quality and compassionate approach to care from infancy

through adulthood. Since 1948, the Center has proudly served individuals with the

most needs and fewest resources. Today, the McNabb Center delivers support to

more than 30,000 people throughout East Tennessee each year. For more

information, visit www.mcnabbcenter.org or call 1-800-255-9711.

Y-12 conducts successful emergency exercise during pandemic

Oak Ridge, Tenn. – The Y-12 National Security Complex successfully conducted its first full-scale emergency exercise since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Y-12 regularly conducts emergency exercises and drills with various scenarios to ensure it can effectively respond to potential emergencies, but the September 1 exercise was the first to include the pandemic safety protocols established by Consolidated Nuclear Security (CNS), which operates the site in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

Approximately 290 personnel were directly involved in the exercise as responders and exercise control personnel, and all successfully implemented COVID-19 controls.

“Conducting a full scale exercise during the COVID-19 epidemic was a huge challenge as the primary consideration was the health and safety of personnel during the exercise,” said Jon Pack, Emergency Management Program Manager. “An exercise safety plan is always utilized for an exercise, but this exercise plan addressed the new hazard of possible COVID-19 exposure.

Throughout the exercise “there was excellent adherence to the COVID-19 controls,” said Susan Morris, NNSA Production Office’s Assistant Manager for Environment, Safety, Health and Quality.

Independent observers from the Department of Energy’s Office of Enterprise Assessments agreed, concluding in their field notes that “NPO and CNS demonstrated that Y-12 can effectively respond to an Operational Emergency while operating under COVID-19 pandemic protocols.”

CNS had already implemented safety protocols, such as mandatory mask usage and social distancing, for the site. Exercise participants adhered to those measures “with some additional actions such as placing Plexiglas shields in some areas of our emergency centers where maintaining six feet social distancing was problematic,” Pack said.

“The most important thing for the general public to understand is that by continuing to perform complex Emergency Management exercises during the COVID-19 epidemic, the Y-12 Site demonstrates the ability to effectively respond to an operational emergency while operating under COVID-19 epidemic protocols in order to ensure that appropriate response measures can be taken to protect the worker, the public, the environment, and national security.”

The previous month, the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas, completed its successful full-scale emergency exercise, the first this year in the DOE Complex to be held with COVID-19 pandemic protocols in place. CNS manages both Y-12 and Pantex and had established pandemic protocols at both sites.

Merchant & Gould receives Mansfield Certification for 3.0 Version, boosting diversity efforts

KNOXVILLE, Tenn., Sept. 29, 2020 — Merchant & Gould P.C., a national intellectual property (IP) law firm with a Knoxville office, has achieved Mansfield Certification status for 2020, after completing a 12-month self-study designed to boost the representation of diverse lawyers in firm leadership.  Created by Diversity Lab, a data company that leverages research and behavior, the Mansfield Rule certification measures whether law firms have affirmatively considered women, attorneys of color, LGBTQ+ attorneys, and attorneys with disabilities — at least 30 percent of the candidate pool — for recruitment, governance roles, equity partner promotions, and inclusion in formal pitch presentations to clients. 

“More than ever, it’s important to reaffirm our commitment to each other and to our legal community.  We continue the dialog about diversity, inclusion and equality, and we continue to boost diverse leadership and representation,” said Christopher J. Leonard, Merchant & Gould’s Managing Director, CEO, and Chairman of the Board.  “The data we have collected during the Mansfield Certification process has been informing new policies and outcomes, benefiting our firm, clients and industry.”

Merchant & Gould was one of 100 law firms completing the certification program, a designation meant to ensure representative promotion processes at law firms — moving toward a larger goal of diversifying industry-wide leadership as inclusively and effectively as possible.   The Mansfield Rule aims to boost the representation of diverse lawyers in law firm leadership by broadening the pool of candidates considered for these roles and opportunities.

“We’ve participated for two years and have already seen changes in more diverse client teams and hiring.  We have also opened our firm’s leadership to reflect a broader coalition of attorneys having various backgrounds.  It’s more than an initiative to us; these actions are part of our firm’s culture and core values,” added Andrew L. Jagenow, Merchant & Gould’s Diversity Committee Chair. 

Merchant & Gould participated in the previous iteration of the Mansfield Rule and achieved Mansfield 2.0 Certification in 2019, in addition to the Version 3.0 just earned.  The firm continues its work to advance diversity throughout the legal industry.

Recognized on the Forbes list of “America’s Top Trusted Corporate Law Firms 2019,” Merchant & Gould P.C. is a national intellectual property (IP) law firm with approximately 100 attorneys in offices in Knoxville, Tenn.; Minneapolis; New York; Washington, D.C.; Atlanta; and Denver.  Founded in Minneapolis in 1900, the firm has grown to become one of the largest intellectual property law firms in the United States, representing the worldwide intellectual property interests of clients in diverse industries and technologies.  www.merchantgould.com

Merchant & Gould helps sole inventors, emerging and established companies, universities, venture capitalists, and Fortune 500 and 100 companies stay ahead of the curve to gain leverage in new and existing markets.  The firm handles every phase of IP prosecution and enforcement, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets, as well as licensing, due diligence, opinions and counseling, in all areas of technology.   As the pace of global innovation surges, intellectual property has become an increasingly integral and valuable part of business.

This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Knoxville Biz Ticker: 490 BioTech wins Innov865 Alliance’s Startup Day; Dr. Peter Tsai is recognized for Global Pandemic Support

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