Category Archives: News

MolecularMD Announces Partnership with Indica Labs


PORTLAND, Ore. and CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Sept. 28, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — MolecularMD, a provider of molecular and tissue-based clinical trial assays and diagnostics for oncology based drug development programs, has announced a partnership agreement with Indica Labs, a leader in digital pathology imaging tools and services.

The collaboration between the companies leverages MolecularMD’s diagnostic clinical testing solutions with Indica Labs’ digital biomarker analysis services to enable an efficient transition of pre-clinical research to the diagnostic setting and deployment of advanced image analysis workflows. Mindful that many of its clients are using Indica Labs’ products and services, MolecularMD envisions the partnership will facilitate seamless transition of image analysis methods to the clinical trial setting for accelerated drug development programs.

“Indica Labs’ HALOTM image analysis software and the HALO LinkTM image management system provides advanced image analysis capabilities in a global collaborative environment,” said Doug Bowman, Vice President of Pharma Services at Indica Labs.  “This agreement will allow our clients to take advantage of MolecularMD’s capabilities, and MolecularMD’s clients to develop quantitative assays to better understand biomarker expression levels and spatial relationships relative to the tissue microenvironment.”

“The agreement will provide our clients with integrated genomic and phenotypic biomarker analyses that are crucial for accurate and effective patient stratification,” said Dan Snyder, President and Chief Executive Officer at MolecularMD.

“Indica Labs fills our clients’ needs for digital biomarker analysis and enhances our proposition to immuno-oncology development programs. These capabilities will provide unique advantages and accelerate pipeline decisions. The use of advanced algorithms for IHC data interpretation holds the possibility of improved patient outcomes,” said Snyder.

Indica Labs will attend the Pathology Visions 2017 Conference; which brings together the luminaries and key opinion leaders in digital pathology. More information about the partnership can be found at the Indica Labs Booth #7. Pathology Visions 2017 will be held from October 1-3, 2017 in San Diego at the Manchester Grand Hyatt. For more information about Pathology Visions 2017, click here.

About MolecularMD
MolecularMD Corporation develops and commercializes specialty molecular diagnostics for oncology applications. Its tests are designed to allow appropriate selection, monitoring and management of patients treated with molecularly-targeted cancer therapies. MolecularMD integrates gold standard and innovative platform technologies with custom clinical assay design and validation to accelerate all phases of clinical development, including FDA approval and commercialization of in vitro companion diagnostic tests for novel anticancer agents. A private company based in Portland, Oregon, MolecularMD was founded by Dr. Brian Druker, director of the Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health & Science University, and Sheridan G. Snyder, entrepreneur and founder of Genzyme Corporation.  Learn more at

Contact Information:
Fritz Eibel, SVP and Chief Marketing Officer

About Indica Labs
Indica Labs is the first company to offer tissue specific and application specific image analysis algorithms in a truly integrated digital pathology environment. Pharmaceutical, healthcare, and research organizations worldwide utilize Indica tools for high-throughput, whole-slide image quantification in areas such as neuroscience, metabolism, oncology, toxicological pathology, and more. Learn more at

Contact information:
Douglas Bowman, VP of Pharma Services

TissueTech, Inc. Names Dr. Herbert B. Slade as Chief Medical Officer

SOURCE: TissueTech, Inc.

MIAMI – August 1, 2017 – TissueTech, Inc. announced today that Herbert B. Slade, MD, has been named the company’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO). Dr. Slade, who will lead the execution of TissueTech’s clinical research strategies and be the primary liaison for medical affairs, has more than 25 years of healthcare industry-based experience, most recently at Smith & Nephew plc, where he was CMO and Senior Vice President of Research and Development for the wound care division.

Dr. Slade’s previous research background includes prestigious work with Dr. Jonas Salk, who developed one of the first successful polio vaccines. Dr. Salk recruited Dr. Slade from academia to develop an HIV therapeutic vaccine joint venture, where Dr. Slade held the position of Director of AIDS and Immunology at Rhône-Poulenc Rorer.

Dr. Slade later became CMO of 3M Pharmaceuticals for 12 years. Following that appointment, he joined DFB Pharmaceuticals, serving as CMO for Healthpoint Biotherapeutics. After Healthpoint was acquired by Smith & Nephew in 2012, Slade’s role expanded to include their wound care division.

“It is with great enthusiasm that I join the TissueTech executive team. As the first company to commercialize amniotic membrane based technologies for clinical use, it is a pioneer in the field of regenerative medicine,” said Dr. Slade. “The company has an innovative vision for the future development of this platform technology, and I know that my experience in clinical development can be an asset to support the company in achieving those objectives.”

Dr. Slade received his undergraduate degree in biology from Hamilton College and his M.D. from State University of New York Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York.

“In addition to being a dual board-certified subspecialist in pediatrics and clinical immunology, Dr. Slade has played pivotal roles in key medical research for a number of reputable companies,” said Amy Tseng, Chief Executive Officer of TissueTech. “As our company continues to grow – we recently achieved the milestone of 300,000 human implants performed by clinicians –an individual with the credentials and knowledge that Dr. Slade provides necessary support for our mission to continue to provide clinicians with advanced regenerative medicine therapies that improve patients’ lives.”

About TissueTech, Inc.

TissueTech, Inc., the parent company of Amniox Medical, Inc. and Bio-Tissue, Inc., pioneered the development and clinical application of regenerative, amniotic tissue-based products. Amniox Medical markets products for use in the musculoskeletal and wound care markets; Bio-Tissue markets products for the ophthalmology and optometry markets. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has supported TissueTech’s research with more than 30 continuous years of research grants. Since the company’s inception, clinicians have performed more than 300,000 human implants of the company’s products and published more than 300 peer-reviewed studies supporting its technology platform. The company’s first product, AmnioGraft®, is the only tissue graft designated by the FDA as homologous for promoting ophthalmic wound healing while suppressing scarring and inflammation.

Media Contact: Chris Gale,

BPV Invests in Pensacola-based Intelligent Retinal Imaging Systems

Intelligent Retinal Imaging Systems Raises Series B Growth Funding

SOURCE: Intelligent Retinal Imaging Systems, LLC

PENSACOLA, Fla.—June 20, 2017Intelligent Retinal Imaging Systems, Inc. (IRIS), the industry leader in early detection systems for diabetic eye disease, today announced the company successfully closed a round of Series B financing. The round was led by Ballast Point Ventures, a later-stage venture capital and growth equity firm that invests in rapidly growing, privately owned companies in the health care and technology industries. The round also includes investments from two healthcare system funds, Providence Ventures and current IRIS customer, CoxHealth. Funds raised will be used to support the company’s expansion and growth strategy as well as to support IRIS’s goal of developing the next generation of products that detect eye disease and improve the monitoring and care of patients in diabetic populations.

“IRIS was founded with the idea that through innovative and forward-thinking preventative care systems, we could save the sight of millions of patients,” said IRIS Founder and Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Sunil Gupta. “Everyone deserves a lifetime of sight. I am pleased that Ballast Point Ventures, Providence Ventures and CoxHealth have joined IRIS to improve the lives of patients with diabetes and see the value in our goal to develop the next generation of solutions.”

“With the capital from this financing, IRIS will be able to build on its leading position in the market while continuing to innovate and serve its forward-thinking health system clients,” said Matt Rice, Partner at Ballast Point Ventures. “We are excited to partner with Dr. Sunil Gupta, Jason Crawford, and the entire IRIS team to execute on the company’s mission of ending preventable blindness.”

“IRIS is emblematic of Providence Ventures’ investment strategy. Our fund’s interest was driven by deep insights collected from our Providence St. Joseph Health operating colleagues, and their enthusiasm regarding IRIS’s diverse and important value proposition. Providence St. Joseph Health’s clinical leaders are excited about the potential of the IRIS solution to dramatically enhance our ability to care for diabetic patients,” added Jeff Stolte, Partner at Providence Ventures.

“CoxHealth and IRIS have developed a partnership that has produced meaningful outcomes for our patients,” said Jake McWay, Senior Vice President and CFO of CoxHealth. “In recognition of the results we achieved over the last year, we were jointly awarded a 2017 Microsoft Health Innovation Award. We are excited to see the impact of this expansion and investment, and believe great things are ahead for this collaboration.”

The IRIS retinal telemedicine platform was developed to help end preventable, permanent blindness caused by diabetic retinopathy through early diagnosis. The IRIS platform is in place at 94 health systems across 28 states. IRIS seamlessly sits within a primary care physician’s existing workflow, dramatically increasing a health system’s ability to achieve superior annual diabetic retinopathy compliance rates. IRIS enables health systems to increase access, improve care coordination, lower costs and achieve 5-Star outcomes. In four years, IRIS clients have examined 183,498 patients with diabetes and found sight-threatening disease in nearly 31,624. One-third of the patients examined with the IRIS technology have been diagnosed with some form of retinal pathology.

“Great strides have been made to unseat diabetic retinopathy as the leading cause of blindness worldwide. The only barrier to success is early detection. IRIS closes the care gap for those patients that do not receive annual diabetic retinal exams. This investment will allow IRIS’s committed team and partners to execute to our vision of preventing blindness both here in the U.S. and worldwide,” added Dr. Gupta.

“Ballast Point Ventures, Providence Ventures and CoxHealth bring a deep understanding of the importance of population health management,” said IRIS CEO, Jason Crawford. “This investment will help us continue to improve the infrastructure, technology and services we deliver to our customers. It will lead to innovation that will place IRIS in a strong position to fuel the future of our product and improve the lives of every patient with diabetes that we touch.”

Matt Rice from Ballast Point Ventures and Jeff Stolte from Providence Ventures will join the IRIS Board of Directors, and Dr. C. Mark Costley, M.D. of CoxHealth will serve as Chair of IRIS’s newly established Clinical Advisory Board.

IRIS was advised by Ziegler, a healthcare-focused investment bank headquartered in Chicago, Ill.

About Ballast Point Ventures

Ballast Point Ventures is a later-stage venture capital fund established to provide expansion capital for rapidly growing, privately owned companies in diverse industries, with a particular emphasis on companies located in the Southeast and Texas. The BPV partners have more than 70 years of combined experience investing in and building high-growth companies in a number of industries, including healthcare, business services, communications, technology, financial services and consumer. BPV has $360 million under management and seeks to make equity investments ranging in size from $4 million to $12 million.

About Providence Ventures and Providence St. Joseph Health

Providence Ventures was founded in 2014 to manage a $150 million venture capital fund on behalf of Providence St. Joseph Health. Providence Ventures aims to drive innovation across the health care system to improve quality and convenience, lower cost and create better health outcomes. Providence St. Joseph Health is a new organization created by Providence Health & Services and St. Joseph Health with the goal of improving the health of the communities it serves, especially those who are poor and vulnerable. Together, its 111,000 caregivers (all employees) serve in 50 hospitals, 829 clinics and a comprehensive range of services across Alaska, California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas and Washington.

About CoxHealth
CoxHealth is the only locally owned, not-for-profit health system based in Springfield, Mo., and is nationally accredited by DNV GL – Healthcare. Established in 1906, the organization serves a 25-county service area in southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas, offering a comprehensive array of primary and specialty care through five hospitals and more than 80 clinics. CoxHealth also serves the unmet needs of its friends and neighbors by providing more than $148 million annually in community benefit. The health system includes Cox Medical Center South, Cox Medical Center Branson, Cox North Hospital, Meyer Orthopedic and Rehabilitation Hospital, Cox Monett Hospital, Oxford HealthCare (the nation’s second largest hospital-based home health agency), Home Parenteral Services (home infusion therapy), CoxHealth Foundation, Cox College, Cox HealthPlans and more.

About Intelligent Retinal Imaging Systems

Intelligent Retinal Imaging Systems (IRIS) is the industry leader in early detection systems for diabetic eye disease. The company’s IRIS solution is an end-to-end FDA-cleared, telemedicine system that has improved quality, expanded access and reduced costs for diabetic retinopathy exams across the U.S. IRIS was founded in 2011 by nationally recognized retina surgeon Dr. Sunil Gupta, with a vision to end preventable blindness through the development and deployment of retinal diagnostic services in the primary care setting. The IRIS team of physicians, technicians and best practice client success experts partner with forward-thinking providers and payers to enhance patient outcomes by closing care gaps in healthcare systems. IRIS is the recipient of the 2017 Microsoft Innovation Award and the 2016 Frost & Sullivan New Product Innovation Award in Diabetic Retinopathy. For additional information, visit

Iconixx Named among ‘50 Fastest Growing Companies of the Year 2017’ by The Silicon Review Magazine

AUSTIN, Texas–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Iconixx today announced that The Silicon Review Magazine has named it among the ‘50 Fastest Growing Companies of the Year 2017.’

“We are honored to be recognized by The Silicon Review Magazine as the one of the 50 Fastest Growing Companies of the Year 2017”

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“The Silicon Review 50 Fastest Growing Companies of the Year 2017 program identifies companies which are revolutionizing the decision making and business growth process, and winning a spot on this list indicates the company has not only distinguished itself from peers by proving itself as one of the fastest growing companies but also helping other companies to gain momentum in the marketplace,” said Sreshtha Banerjee, Editor-in-Chief of The Silicon Review Magazine. The publication has selected Iconixx based on its financial growth, ability to retain customers, frequent innovation, and contribution to the IT sector at large.

“We are honored to be recognized by The Silicon Review Magazine as the one of the 50 Fastest Growing Companies of the Year 2017,” said Derrik Deyhimi, Founder and CEO at Iconixx. “We are very proud of our product, sales and customer service accomplishments, and expect to see that accelerated in the next year.”

Iconixx has increased its sales force significantly to continue its momentum of growth. The team is focused on making their customers’ lives better through product innovation and its unrivaled customer support.

About Iconixx

Within every sales professional is a primal, quota-crushing beast. If you’re responsible for managing compensation, you are the beastmaster. The beastmaster has no time for tedious compensation routines using inferior tools like spreadsheets. The beastmaster, meanwhile, cannot abide the irritation of manual commission reconciliations. No. The beast cares only for the hunt. Iconixx is a sales compensation solution that automates commission plans and eliminates sales downtime caused by trivial administration. So get Iconixx – and unleash the beast. Iconixx is headquartered in Austin, Texas, and is online at

HotSchedules Announces New CEO, Changes to Leadership Team and Record Usage Numbers

News Provided on May 16, 2017 by HotSchedules

AUSTIN, TX – MAY 16, 2017 – HotSchedules®, a leading provider of technology solutions for the restaurant and hospitality industries, announced Mike Arenth as Chief Executive Officer. Arenth started with the company in late 2016 and implemented key leadership changes to better support innovation and growth. Prior to joining HotSchedules, Arenth was a Senior Advisor to Silver Lake, an Executive Vice President at SAP and before that spent 10 years at Ariba as General Manager and Senior Vice President.

“Restaurants remain economic powerhouses but technology is rapidly changing the industry and I’m confident that Mike is the right person to lead HotSchedules forward,” said Kevin Costello, Chairman of HotSchedules. “He is a seasoned executive with proven ability to create strategic clarity, focus an organization and drive innovation and growth particularly in industries facing transformation.”

“HotSchedules is built on a solid foundation— great products, strong financials, very engaged users, world-class customers and a talented team dedicated to meeting the ever-changing needs of this evolving industry,” said Arenth. “I’m honored and excited to lead HotSchedules to create the next generation of intelligent back-of-house solutions that will help our customers drive into the future—thoughtfully, efficiently, successfully and profitably.”

The company also announced record usage numbers for its popular platform designed to streamline back-of-house operations including training, scheduling, time & attendance, shift communications, task management, inventory, financials and analytics. HotSchedules serves over 2 million users in over 130,000 locations across 26 countries.

In 2016 alone, HotSchedules customers:
  • Scheduled 1.6 BILLION hours
  • Exchanged 224 MILLION messages
  • Traded 12.5 MILLION shifts
  • Completed over 5 MILLION online training courses
  • Completed over 1 MILLION online training certifications
  • Generated over $65 BILLION in restaurant sales
  • Purchased $24 BILLION in inventory through the platform

To further strategic momentum, the company has expanded its leadership team to include a dynamic group of executives to compliment the deep restaurant industry experience of Co-Founder David Cantu and the existing HotSchedules team.

The new leadership team includes:
  • Ted Kondis, Chief Revenue Officer who brings experience in general management and sales from Ariba, Arthur Anderson and SAP.
  • Neville Letzerich, Chief Marketing Officer who previously served as CMO at Forcepoint, LLC. Prior to that Letzerich held executive, product, marketing and consulting roles at EMC, Bazaarvoice and Accenture.
  • Sean Fitzpatrick, Chief Operations Officer has been with the company for 3 years and is promoted to COO. Fitzpatrick previously served as Global Vice President of Strategy and Innovation at Oracle and has held senior leadership at BearingPoint, BroadVision and Lucent Technologies.
  • Brian Gaffney, Senior Vice President of Engineering: After more than three years of engineering leadership within HotSchedules, Gaffney has been promoted to SVP Engineering. Prior to that, he spent fifteen years at software start-ups including, AmberPoint, App Dynamics, Symplified, and Emotive Communications.
About HotSchedules

HotSchedules provides mobile, cloud-based technology for the restaurant, retail and hospitality industries. The company is committed to serving those who serve others through a comprehensive suite of solutions that make working for and in restaurants – and beyond – more rewarding and efficient. The product suite solves the challenges associated with training, scheduling and managing labor, back-of-house operations and communications. HotSchedules is proud to serve more than 2 million users in over 130,000 locations across 26 countries. For more information visit:

Media Contact: Ryan Bearden,

Iconixx Software Closes $4.2 Million Equity Financing

Posted May 2nd, 2017 by Business Wire

AUSTIN, Texas–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Iconixx software announces today it has closed $4.2M in new capital. This round of funding was led by existing investors Ballast Point Ventures, Harbert Growth Partners, S3 Ventures, and the Iconixx management team, resulting in $24 million in capital raised to date.

Iconixx, a global leader in enterprise class incentive compensation software, will use the funding to accelerate growth initiatives. The company has plans for product advancements and continued increase in market share by expanding its robust sales team.

“Our solid sales pipeline, proven customer success accomplishments, and product enhancements have propelled our rapid growth and award-winning customer support team. The hard work of our skilled team has driven our successes, and we expect to see these accelerated,” said Derrik Deyhimi, Chairman and CEO of Iconixx. “We are excited about our future growth and making the lives of each of our customers better.”

“We are proud of the accomplishments Iconixx software has achieved in product enrichments, customer acquisition and customer success. Our overwhelming confidence in the Iconixx compensation management solution leaves us excited for the continued partnership with the team,” says Matt Rice, Partner at Ballast Point Ventures.

About Iconixx

Iconixx software listens intently to every customer’s challenge – treating every interaction as an opportunity to understand the unique compensation needs of each customer. We carefully diagnose the problem and prescribe an automated path by configuring our software to remedy critical compensation issues. Your cure is our success!

About S3 Ventures

S3 Ventures is an early, expansion and growth stage venture firm with $200 million under management. The firm is focused on information technology solutions that solve large business problems and in medical devices that improve the human condition. S3 invests across all stages of a company’s growth and partners with the team to help focus methodically on what it takes to build a successful company.

About Harbert Growth Partners Funds (the “HGP Funds”)

The Harbert Growth Partners Funds are emerging growth stage investors focused on rapidly growing technology and healthcare companies headquartered in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern United States. The HGP Funds are affiliates of Harbert Management Corporation (“HMC”), an alternative asset management company which manages approximately $4.4 billion in Regulatory Assets Under Management as of June 30, 2016, from offices in 11 locations across the United States and Europe.

About Ballast Point Ventures

Ballast Point Ventures is a later stage venture capital fund established to provide expansion capital for rapidly growing, privately owned companies in diverse industries, with a particular emphasis on companies located in the Southeast and Texas. The BPV partners have more than 70 years of combined experience investing in and building high-growth companies in a number of industries, including healthcare, business services, communications, technology, financial services and consumer. BPV has $360 million under management and seeks to make equity investments ranging in size from $4 million to $12 million.

BigTeams, StateChamps partner to provide online ticketing to high schools

Posted March 17th, 2017 by StateChamps

BigTeams, the leading high school sports software platform in the US, has announced that it has partnered with Birmingham, Alabama-based to provide online ticketing services to BigTeams client high schools.

“Increasingly, our clients and their fans have been asking for an online ticketing solution for high schools,” said Jeff Gilbert, BigTeams Founding Partner and Chief Product Officer.  “In looking for a partner, we evaluated multiple ticketing companies’ ticketing solutions to high schools. In the end, StateChamps’ team and technology made it obvious to us that they are the winning solution” said BigTeams CEO, Joe Romano.

StateChamps’ patent-pending Share and TearTM Technology delivers electronic tickets to an app on the ticket purchaser’s smartphone. The ticket buyer then presents their phone at the gate, and the digital ticket is “torn” on screen by gate staff.  “We designed the digital tearing process to be almost identical to the paper ticket redemption process;” StateChamps Chief Marketing Officer Eric Housh explained, “it requires neither ticket scanners nor internet, and gate staff can be trained in seconds.”

In addition to Share and TearTM, StateChamps’ team of over 60 ticketing professionals power an “Omni-Service” approach. After the school sends the schedule and ticket price information, StateChamps does the work to set everything up.

“The school gets secure, powerful, and hassle-free online ticketing at no cost, with no work required,” Housh said.

The StateChamps online ticketing solution will be included at no additional cost for new and existing BigTeams and ScheduleStar client schools, and will integrate seamlessly with BigTeams and ScheduleStar. StateChamps will also provide free printed tickets to BigTeams clients.

About StateChamps

StateChamps is the exclusive online ticketing solution for hundreds of high schools nationwide, including seven state high school athletics associations. StateChamps was also recognized as a preferred vendor and online ticket supplier of the National Interscholastic Association of Athletic Administrators. For more information, please visit

About BigTeams

BigTeams is the leading provider of technology designed to streamline communication for high school athletic communities.  BigTeams offers official websites for high school sports programs, time saving tools such as Schedule Star™, and other products designed to eliminate administrative burdens on AD’s and coaches, while connecting student athletes and fans through a single platform.

PowerChord, Inc. Hires New President to Amplify Global to Local Solutions

Posted March 15th, 2017 by PowerChord

PowerChord, a leading SaaS company that transforms how brands drive local sales, welcomed newly appointed company President, Steven Roth, to their growing executive team.

Roth joins the SaaS organization with almost 20 years of experience working with top-tier retailers, manufacturers and agencies from around the world. His addition brings a deep expertise in product innovation to PowerChord and will provide a strong foundation for the development of global enterprise level, eCommerce and retail advertising solutions at the hyper local level.

Hailing from Google, he has spent the past four years as a Group Product Manager after developing technology that is now part of Google Shopping during his tenure at Channel Intelligence – the Florida-based, global technology company acquired by Google in 2013. While at Channel Intelligence, Roth’s revenue breaking, international solutions were utilized in over 30 countries and operated across all corresponding languages and currencies. Previously, Roth held roles at Altiris / Wise Solutions, Profitstar and Metavante.

As PowerChord’s new President, Roth’s focus will center around expanding the comprehensive suite of products in the PowerChord Platform to increase long-term value and the scalable efficiencies that allow global businesses to control their brand, engage customers, and drive local sales through their dealer networks.

Roth will also propel the company towards emerging technologies and market-leading, digital solutions to meet the growing needs of the multi-location marketplace, while further optimizing the connection between online consumers and the global to local retail community.

“We have to think big” said Roth, “because that forces you to scale. I’m looking forward to that process and the exploration of how the needs of the market will influence us to move forward – the sky’s the limit when it comes to innovation. It’s a unique time in the company’s history and I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of it.”

“We’re honored to welcome Steven to the PowerChord team” said PowerChord CEO, Lanny Tucker. “We’re confident that his vision and operational excellence will bring exciting progress to our position as a SaaS leader and continue enhancing the company’s global value proposition for clients across a wide range of industry landscapes.”

Southeastern and Texas cities are doing particularly well among the country’s 200 largest metro areas, according to the Milken Institute

Congratulations to Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville as a few of the Florida metro areas with the strongest gains in their rankings!

Competing metros: Tampa Bay rebounds to best performance in decade in Milken Institute rankings

Posted December 16th, 2016 by Tampa Bay times

Here’s a feel-good column to unwrap this holiday season that will reveal the Tampa Bay metro area is rebounding as one of the better performing, larger metro areas in the United States.

That’s great news after a decade of rough times in the bay area economy, hitting a low ranking among the nation’s top 200 metros at No. 169 in 2009. That’s when the recession cut deepest in Tampa Bay and Florida, and the housing market bust was most intense.

So here’s the best gift, courtesy of the Milken Institute’s just released 2016 annual survey of the best performers among the country’s 200 largest metro areas.

Tampa Bay ranks No. 33, up 25 spots from No. 58 in 2015 and up a whopping 136 metro spots from seven years ago when this market pretty much hit bottom at No. 169.

That bears repeating. The Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metro area leapfrogged 25 (from 58 to 33) metro areas in one year and 136 of the nation’s 200 top metro areas since a low in 2009.

Looks like all the talk of “swagger” by Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn isn’t just political hype after all.

Why do we care if we are 33rd this year? Because the trajectory has been up seven years straight. These are not static changes. Every one of those 200 metro areas is striving to do better, to out-compete its peers.

Rising so quickly as Tampa Bay has is testament to the improved Florida economy but also points to the local efforts at economic gains achieved over time.

Tampa Bay’s ranking this year is the highest it has been since 2005, when this metro market ranked 25th by Milken in that year’s metro survey.

That’s an impressive comeback, one that underpins the growing confidence in this metro area’s broader business community. Unemployment is down. Tourism remains strong. A construction boom is under way from the downtowns of St. Petersburg and Tampa to southern Hillsborough north to Wesley Chapel.

And new companies with major league names like Johnson & Johnson and Citigroup are expanding here while up-and-coming area firms from CareSync and BlueGrace Logistics are winning strong investment backing and aggressively adding jobs.

And on Jan. 9, this market gets to kick off the new year by basking in the public spotlight as host of the third annual College Football Playoff National Championship at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

But enough with the self-congratulatory back slapping. There’s more to learn from the Milken Institute survey, which has been analyzing metro performances since 1999.

The survey’s “Best-Performing Cities: Where America’s Jobs Are Created and Sustained” index uses a comprehensive set of data to rank both 200 large and 201 smaller metros across the United States. Measures like growth in employment, wages and technology output are heavily weighted. Milken chooses not to include cost-of-living and quality-of-life conditions (which arguably would only improve Tampa Bay’s status).

Here are a few key takeaways from the overall survey.

  • At No. 1, San Jose/Silicon Valley repeated as the top metro area among 200 large metros, both as the nation’s innovation capital but also for its top rating for wage growth.
  • Top metro performers were strikingly stable compared with 2015. The top six large metros in the 2016 rankings were the same as last year, though there were a few ranking shifts among those six. In all, 19 of last year’s top 25 metros made the cut in 2016.
  • Milken researchers said the top-performing metros have “cohesive strategies” that distinguish them from others and offer lessons that may be adaptable for other localities. Here’s one lesson for Tampa Bay: All the top ranked metro areas have major tech sector clusters and high rates of entrepreneurship. This market is working to raise its tech sector, and the still-young startup community here is gaining ground. Consider this a strong reminder to keep the focus, energy and resources on these core Tampa Bay sectors.
  • While Tampa Bay’s comeback in the rankings is impressive, another Central Florida metro also deserves attention. The Orlando metro area ranked 9th in the nationwide large metro rankings, soaring from 28th last year and making it the only Florida metro area to crack the top 10 in 2016. The principal driver: job growth. The smaller Orlando metro market routinely outpaced job expansions reported in larger metro markets of Florida.

Let me suggest another factor in Orlando’s success not captured in the Milken survey. That metro area’s economic development organizations are regionally streamlined to speak with one voice. They are also efficient and communicate to each other so they rarely duplicate efforts or compete against one another. Tampa Bay, by contrast, still struggles to operate as a single market, though there are signs of improving cooperation.

  • While Orlando, Tampa Bay, Fort Lauderdale and Fort Myers metro areas saw strong gains in their Milken rankings, Florida cities like Tallahassee, Pensacola, Ocala and Lakeland saw their rankings drop.
  • In the related Milken rankings of 201 smaller metro areas across the United States, the Villages ranked tops in Florida at 13th, though it fell from 6th in the 2015 survey. Bringing up the rear: In Citrus County, the Homosassa Springs metro area ranked 170th, improving from 187th last year. The area’s economy, which encompasses Crystal River, was hurt by the premature closing of the Duke Energy nuclear power plant there. A replacement natural gas plant now in the works should help a slow rebound.

A final footnote: Among the top 10 large metros ranked by Milken are two Southeast markets (other than Orlando at No. 9). Raleigh, N.C., a perennial hot spot for higher wage jobs and a better educated workforce, ranked 6th this year, as it did in 2015. The other metro on the upswing is Nashville, which landed at 7th from 18th in 2015.

St. Petersburg economic leaders toured Raleigh earlier this fall to learn some of its best practices. Tampa business leaders took a benchmarking trip to Nashville in 2013.

These kinds of trips can only contribute to a better performing Tampa Bay market.


TissueTech’s Umbilical Cord Technology Shows Promise in Spina Bifida Patients

New Hope for Spina Bifida’s Youngest Patients

Posted November 1st, 2016 by TMC

Seven years ago, Lovepreet K. Mann was standing at a crosswalk in Salt Lake City with her husband and colleague, Dr. Ramesha Papanna. They had been testing an underwater glue for fetal surgery, and a thought suddenly occurred to her. There, on the street in Utah, the couple began a discussion that would ultimately lead to a patch made from human umbilical cord. Today, it is being used to help repair spina bifida in babies before they’re even born.

A “super C-section”

Spina bifida is a birth defect characterized by an incomplete closing of the bones and membranes surrounding the spinal cord. In most cases, tissues and nerves are exposed in an opening along several vertebrae in the baby’s back, making him or her highly susceptible to life-threatening infections and sometimes triggering complete paralysis of the legs as well as bladder incontinence and a range of cognitive difficulties. The condition is typically detected in a pregnant woman’s 20-week anatomy scan, during which time the ultrasound tech identifies either a lemon-shaped head or a “banana sign,” both caused by pulls in the cranial area from the spinal malformation.

For decades, the standard treatment has included postnatal surgery, but sentiments shifted after the groundbreaking NIH-funded MOMS Trial (Management of Myelomeningocele Study) initiated in 2003, in which standard repair results were benchmarked against more than 90 fetal repair cases. The results spoke volumes. Babies who underwent fetal repair were much less likely to need a ventricular shunt for hydrocephalus. Furthermore, twice as many children from the fetal surgery group were able to walk without crutches at 30 months of age, compared to those who received the surgery after birth.

Not all patients qualify for the highly specialized, extremely complex procedure, which involves either pulling the skin together or stitching a patch directly onto the spina bifida site of the fetus while it is still in the mother’s womb. Likened to a “super C-section,” the intricate series of surgical steps (making an incision in the mother, protecting the placenta, opening up the amniotic sac, preserving the fluid, performing the repair through a tiny three-inch by four-inch window in the uterus, replacing the fluid, closing the uterus and then the mother layer by layer) is also not without risk. Most babies who undergo fetal surgery will be born prematurely. There is potential for post-surgical complications and infections. There is the risk of death. And, until Mann, a research instructor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at McGovern Medical School, thought of using the regenerative material she and Papanna had been studying to patch the site, there was the likely possibility of scar tissue formation, which meant further injury to the spinal cord as the child grew and developed.

Originally, Papanna, the principal investigator and an assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at The Fetal Center at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, was interested in using amniotic membrane from the placenta to seal fetal membranes—the layers of the amniotic sac—after surgeries in utero. He and Mann flew to Miami to meet with expert ophthalmologist Scheffer C.G. Tseng, M.D., Ph.D., who was using a human amniotic membrane patch to repair corneas. After spending a week in his center, the two were even more impressed at its regenerative properties.

What makes the material so “magical,” as Papanna puts it, is a compound called heavy chain hyaluronic acid/pentraxin3, which initiates natural regeneration of the tissues at the repair site, rather than healing by scar formation. The distinction is important in spina bifida repair since one creates a healthy, biologically compatible environment while the other often leads to scarring of the spinal cord to the repair site. This can lead to loss of bladder and motor function later in life. If scarring occurs, further surgeries are required to remove the scar tissue and protect the spine.

“The molecule is the same one that is present around the egg of every woman who ovulates every month, in the lining of the womb and the placenta. This is essential to maintain normal reproductive function,” Papanna said. “Nature has created a solution, and we have harnessed it to our benefit.”

But this wasn’t the fairytale ending Papanna and Mann had hoped for. Despite its phenomenal healing properties, the amniotic membrane patch was paper-thin and flimsy, making it difficult to work with.

“If the site gets infected, the baby dies,” explained Kenneth Moise, M.D., director of the Fetal Intervention Fellowship Program at McGovern Medical School and co-director of The Fetal Center at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. “It’s covering the spinal cord, so it has to be a watertight seal—CSF [cerebrospinal fluid] can’t leak out and infections can’t come in.”

Unfortunately, every time Papanna practiced his stitches on the delicate material, it tore. So he looked to the umbilical cord, which contains the same “magical” molecules as the amniotic membrane, but is thicker and far more pliable.

“It was so obvious,” Papanna said. “The umbilical cord has the same regenerative properties.”

Success stories

Mann and Papanna contacted Tseng, who created a new patch and sent it back to them for testing. After suturing multiple chicken breasts and injecting blue dye as a proxy for cerebral spinal fluid, Papanna and Mann were satisfied that it could provide the watertight seal necessary for spina bifida repair. Papanna’s lab studied its performance in animal models and he was granted approval from the FDA for clinical use in three cases. He and a team of surgeons including Moise, Kuojen Tsao, M.D., co-director of the Fetal Center at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital and an associate professor at McGovern Medical School’s Department of Pediatric Surgery, and pediatric neurosurgeon Stephen Fletcher, D.O., an associate professor in McGovern Medical School’s Department of Pediatric Surgery, performed the first surgery in July 2015. A second case was performed a few months later, and the results of the two surgeries were published in Obstetrics and Gynecology in July of this year.

So far, they have been success stories. In both cases, the surgeries went well and the babies were born at 37 and a half weeks, just three weeks shy of full term. At birth, the patch was still in place and there were no signs of leakage or fluid inside. Moreover, both babies retained lower limb function as well as normal bowel movements. The one peculiarity was that, at birth, the site had not yet regenerated—it was semi-translucent, and when Papanna tapped the baby’s head, he could see the cerebrospinal fluid underneath the patch. Within a few weeks, however, the skin grew into the patch exactly as expected.

“Every day you could watch the blood vessels and the tissues grow closer together,” Papanna said. “It was incredible.”

A third case was completed and as the months pass, all three babies continue to exhibit normal leg movement and bladder control and no need for further repair. The true test will come with time, but already the patch is showing promise as the next big advancement in fetal surgery: whereas the MOMS Trial demonstrated that fetal surgery could vastly improve outcomes in mobility and neurological development, this patch could take the procedure a step further, resulting in an even more improved outcome for children with spina bifida. Perhaps, in the future, there will be no more need for surgical revisions, no additional repairs, few if any symptoms. An entirely normal childhood.

“People are trying stem cells and different ‘off the shelf’ patches, but this patch is doing more than any of the others,” Mann said. “It’s helping with regeneration of existing skin. It’s creating organized growth of tissues, and the body doesn’t reject it. Even more, its source is abundant since the umbilical cord from every pregnancy could produce a new patch.”

“Where are all the other babies?”

Currently, Papanna and his team are pursuing additional clinical studies and working to expand their approval from the FDA for more cases. They hope to apply the patch using fetoscopic repair techniques, which would reduce surgical risks to both the mother and the baby. Ultimately, they also aim to create a standard of care for babies diagnosed with spina bifida.

“Right now, the techniques being used to close the spina bifida are all over the map, and the outcomes vary considerably,” said Moise, who recently returned from Botswana where the International Fetal Medicine and Surgery Society convened for their annual conference.

“Nobody has a standard way of treating this, but we all agree that whatever patches or fetoscopic approach we use, the outcomes should be judged against the MOMS Trial. We all want to develop something better than what we’re already doing.”

Moise expects that a standard of care, as well as increasingly positive outcomes, will also encourage OBGYNs to refer more of their patients to fetal centers for counseling.

“We should be three times busier than we are,” Moise said. “There are over 200 babies born in Texas every year with spina bifida. Two hundred. And we might do eight or 10 cases a year. Where are all the other babies?”

Even more, he hopes standardizing treatment will change the climate surrounding fetal repair surgery worldwide. Currently, there are only a handful of sites outside the U.S. that do fetal surgical repairs. According to Moise, many countries, including most of Western Europe, consider a spina bifida diagnosis the equivalent of an unviable pregnancy.

“They think we’re crazy to do what we do,” Moise said.

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