Mike Krzyzewski of Duke announced his retirement shortly after his Tobacco Road nemesis, Roy Williams, announced his, as the N.C.A.A prepares to grant athletes greater agency.
Some signs that the end might be near came last season. But Krzyzewski has remained steadfast in his program’s tenets even as his teams adapted to the game.
With 1,097 career wins so far with the Blue Devils, the winningest coach in college basketball is planning his farewell following the 2021-22 season.
College in a pandemic was not the experience that most students had in mind. But at year’s end, some see positive experiences and insights that came out of it.
His name surfaces again in a lawsuit over shoe company payments to college players. But the surprising part is the paltry sums involved.
The administration has been making the case to allies that to avoid paying the additional taxes the president has proposed, wealthy Americans would give more to nonprofits.
The trouble for the Blue Devils will likely spark new skepticism of the N.C.A.A.’s plan to hold a national tournament next week in Indiana.
Retrofitting buildings to make them more energy efficient and better at withstanding climate change induced extreme weather is going to be a big, multi-billion dollar business. But it’s one that’s been hard for low-income communities to tap, thanks to obstacles ranging faulty incentive structures to an inability to adequately plan for which upgrades will be most effective in which buildings.
Enter BlocPower, a New York-based startup founded by a longtime advocate for energy efficiency and the job creation that comes with it, which has a novel solution for identifying, developing and profiting off of building upgrades in low income communities — all while supporting high-paying jobs for workers in the communities the company hopes to serve.
The company also has managed to raise $63 million in equity and debt financing to support its mission. That money is split between an $8 million investment from some of the country’s top venture firms and a $55 million debt facility structured in part by Goldman Sachs to finance the redevelopment projects that BlocPower is creating.
These capital commitments aren’t charity. Government dollars are coming for the industry and private companies from healthcare providers, to utility companies, to real estate developers and property managers all have a vested interest in seeing this market succeed.
There’s going to be over $1 billion carved out for weatherization and building upgrades in the stimulus package that’s still making its way through Congress
For BlocPower’s founder, Donnel Baird, the issue of seeing buildings revitalized and good high-paying jobs coming into local communities isn’t academic. Baird was born in Brooklyn’s Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood and witnessed firsthand the violence and joblessness that was ripping the fabric of that rich and vibrant community apart during the crack epidemic and economic decline of the 1980s and early 90s.
Seeing that violence firsthand, including a shooting on his way to school, instilled in Baird a desire to “create jobs for disconnected Black and brown people” so they would never feel the hopelessness and lack of opportunity that fosters cycles of violence.
Some time after the shooting, Baird’s family relocated from Brooklyn to Stone Mountain, Georgia, and after graduating from Duke University, Baird became a climate activist and community organizer, with a focus on green jobs. That led to a role in the presidential campaign for Barack Obama and an offer to work in Washington on Obama’s staff.
Baird declined the opportunity, but did take on a role reaching out to communities and unions to help implement the first stimulus package that Obama and Biden put together to promote green jobs.
And it was while watching the benefits of that stimulus collapse under the weight of a fragmented building industry that Baird came up with the idea for BlocPower.
“It was all about the implementation challenges that we ran into,” Baird said. “If you have ten buildings on a block in Oakland and they were all built by the same developer at the same time. If you rebuild those buildings and you retrofit all of those buildings, in five of those buildings you’re going to trap carbon monoxide in and kill everybody and in the other five buildings you’re going to have a reduction in emissions and energy savings.”
Before conducting any retrofits to capture energy savings (and health savings, but more on that later), Baird says developers need to figure out the potential for asbestos contamination in the building; understand the current heating, ventilation, and cooling systems that the building uses; and get an assessment of what actually needs to be done.
That’s the core problem that Baird says BlocPower solves. The company has developed software to analyze a building’s construction by creating a virtual twin based on blueprints and public records. Using that digital twin the company can identify what upgrades a building needs. Then the company taps lines of credit to work with building owners to manage the retrofits and capture the value of the energy savings and carbon offsets associated with the building upgrades.
For BlocPower to work, the financing piece is just as important as the software. Without getting banks to sign off on loans to make the upgrades, all of those dollars from the federal government remain locked up. “That’s why the $7 billion earmarked for investment in green buildings did not work,” Baird said. “At BlocPower our view is that we could build software to simulate using government records… we could simulate enough about the mechanicals, electrical, and plumbing across buildings in NYC so that we could avoid that cost.”
Along with co-founder Morris Cox, Baird built BlocPower while at Columbia University’s business school so that he could solve the technical problems and overcome the hurdles for community financing of renewable retrofit projects.
Right before his graduation, in 2014, the company had applied for a contract to do energy efficiency retrofits and was set to receive financing from the Department of Energy. The finalists had to go down to the White House and pitch the President. That pitch was scheduled for the same day as a key final exam for one of Baird’s Columbia classes, which the professor said was mandatory. Baird skipped the test and won the pitch, but failed the class.
After that it was off to Silicon Valley to pitch the business. Baird met with 200 or more investors who rejected his pitch. Many of these investors had been burned in the first cleantech bubble or had witnessed the fiery conflagrations that engulfed firms that did back cleantech businesses and swore they’d never make the same mistakes.
That was the initial position at Andreessen Horowitz when Baird pitched them, he said. “When I went to Andreessen Horowitz, they said ‘Our policy is no cleantech whatsoever. You need to figure out how software is going to eat up this energy efficiency market’,” Baird recalled.
Working with Mitch Kapor, an investor and advisor, Baird worked on the pitch and got Kapor to talk to Ben Horowitz. Both men agreed to invest and BlocPower was off to the races.
The company has completed retrofits in over 1,000 buildings since its launch, Baird said, mainly to prove out its thesis. Now, with the revolving credit facility in hand, BlocPower can take bigger bites out of the market. That includes a contract with utility companies in New York that will pay $30 million if the company can complete its retrofits and verify the energy savings from that work.
There are also early projects underway in Oakland and Chicago, Baird said.
Building retrofits do more than just provide energy savings, as Goldman Sachs managing director Margaret Anadu noted in a statement.
“BlocPower is proving that it is possible to have commercial solutions that improve public health in underserved communities, create quality jobs and lower carbon emissions,” Anadu said. “We are so proud to have supported Donnel and his team…through both equity and debt capital to further expand their reach.”
These benefits also have potential additional revenue streams associated with them that BlocPower can also capture, according to investor and director, Mitch Kapor.
“There are significant linkages that are known between buildings and pollution that are a public health issue. In a number of geographies community hospitals are under a mandate to improve health outcomes and BlocPower can get paid from health outcomes associated with the reduction in carbon. That could be a new revenue stream and a financing mechanism,” Kapor said. “There’s a lot of work to be done in essentially taking the value creation engine they have and figuring out where to bring it and which other engines they need to have to have the maximum social impact.”
Social impact is something that both Kapor and Baird talk about extensively and Baird sees the creation of green jobs as an engine for social justice — and one that can reunite a lot of working class voters whose alliances were fractured by the previous administration. Baird also believes that putting people to work is the best argument for climate change policies that have met with resistance among many union workers.
“We will not be able to pass shit unless workers and people of color are on board to force the U.S. senate to pass climate change policy,” Baird said. “We have to pass the legislation that’s going to facilitate green infrastructure in a massive way.”
He pointed to the project in Oakland as an example of how climate policies can create jobs and incentivize political action.
“In Oakland we’re doing a pilot project in 12 low income buildings in oakland. I sent them $20K to train these workers from local people of color in Oakland… they are being put to work in Oakland,” Baird said. “That’s the model for how this gets built. So now we need them to call Chuck Shumer to push him to the left on green building legislation.”
At the Duke Lemur Center, an innovative plan to keep the animals social late in life: pair them with lemurs of another species.
There’s the Top 25, but where are Kentucky, Duke, Kansas and North Carolina?
The team is the first Power Five basketball team to start and stop its season because of the pandemic. The men’s basketball team is expected to continue playing.
Prosecutors said current or former students were part of an operation that funneled thousands of pounds of marijuana, hundreds of kilograms of cocaine and other drugs to fraternities and colleges campuses.
For years, attendance rates have dropped and congregations have closed nationwide. But many reused religious spaces are still sanctuaries.
While many campuses are struggling with major outbreaks, some schools have successfully contained the virus.
Peer Medical has a big mission. After his father died of lung cancer, serial entrepreneur Ed Spiegel vowed to create a better way for lung cancer patients to deal with their disease. The startup has so far raised a $1.2M seed funding round for its ground-breaking approach and is onboarding patients at a rate of knots.
Peer Medical allows lung cancer patients to anonymously share their treatments with each other. This helps survivors find others like them and see which treatments and procedures work best. Users can search by biomarker, stage, age, or gender and review verified treatments and journeys of similar patients.
The funding round was led by Amsterdam-based ‘Partners in Equity’ (PiE), best known for investing seed capital into Adyen the Dutch payments unicorn; and London’s Seedcamp, alongside Angel investors. Peer Medical is now able to sign up patients’ electronic health records inside a minute. Its advisers include Dr. David Jablons, Head of Thoracic Oncology at UCSF, and Dr. Geoffrey Ginsburg, Head of Applied Genomics and Precision Medicine at Duke University .
Spiegel’s RentMineOnline was one of the first-ever ‘share economy’ startups to appear 10 years ago, and also Seedcamp’s first investment, and its first exit.
Indeed, the idea for Peer Medical came to Spiegel 10 years ago as the sole care-giver during his father’s three-year battle with lung cancer.
Spiegal told me he came up with the idea after meeting a buddy of his from his college who had also seen his father pass away from lung cancer. Comparing notes, Spiegal realized he could have had so much more information if they’ve been able to share treatment information.
“It’s like: ‘God I wish I would have known that back then!’. It’s just such a terrible experience. Unfortunately for me, I lived the experience, but I could have really used a sort of ‘electronic caregiver’ essentially to help my Dad through it.”
Participating in online forums, Spiegel found patients willing to help but realized the need for a centralized, searchable database that contained the knowledge these people possessed. There were over 1.7 million new cancer cases diagnosed in the US last year alone. The information for the patients is often disorganized, incomplete, or out of date. Medical record portability is growing in adoption and will be crucial in aiding treatments.
“It’s a little like you as a driver using Waze to crowdsource information from other drivers to get to the perfect route because you’re learning from all the other people,” commented Spiegal. “The future is certainly electronic health records, although it’s still kind of like using a credit card in 1999 online, it’s coming in a big way. You will have your records, and wonder ‘who else is just like me?’”
There are already big players making it happen such as Apple Health, and online hospital portal growth driven by companies like Epic and Cerner.
Peer Medical doesn’t really have ‘competitors’ in the traditional sense, other than Facebook support groups for patients, which are not anonymous and chaotic, and Google searches. PatientsLikeMe, founded in the early 2000s, doesn’t leverage the medical records aspect and sold in 2019 to United Health Care for 2017 after raising $100M.
Commenting, Reshma Sohoni, co-founder of Seedcamp said: “Ed was a part of Seedcamp’s first cohort of companies and returned our first successful exit. We’re thrilled to back Ed and his team for a second time and bring what we hope will be another successful venture to our portfolio. Unfortunately, I’ve also lost a parent to cancer and can relate to how important a tool like this can be to navigate such difficult times. We really like that the patient retains anonymity but is still able to learn from others.”
Carlos Eduardo Espinal, Seedcamp Managing Partner added: “At Seedcamp, this is exactly the type of community that we like to invest in. People, in this case, patients and caregivers, bound together by a common goal to fight cancer. We’re thrilled to help Ed and the Peer Medical team build this community that pools verified and anonymized medical records and uses them to optimize individual treatment paths.”
RentMineOnline, which did referrals for apartments on Facebook, was successfully sold to a publicly-traded property management software firm, Real Page (NASDAQ: RP).
Wang Linfa has researched bats and their diseases for decades, usually drawing little public attention. Now a world wracked by the coronavirus is relying on the work of scientists like him.
A small amount of the virus was detected in a swab of saliva from Winston, a 2-year-old pug, but he was not infected, the agency said.
A team at Duke University detected the virus in the dog this month.
Craig McFarland, the valedictorian of his high school in Jacksonville, Fla., received acceptance letters from 17 colleges and universities in all.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has provided an emergency use authorization (EUA) for a decontamination process provided by company Advanced Sterilization Products (ASP) that could see as many as 4 million N95 respirators per day sterilized for re-use. That’s a significant potential dent in the ongoing shortage of supplies faced by medical professionals and frontline workers at healthcare facilities.
This decontamination process would open up re-use of N95 masks originally designed for single use, and it uses vaporized hydrogen peroxide gas to clean the respirators. ASP’s STERRAD series sterilization machines, which are covered under the EUA, are in use in around 6,300 hospitals already (they’re commonly used for sterilizing other pieces of clinical equipment, but have not previously been intended for use with N95 masks) and there are around 9,930 in operation across the U.S., each with the capability of processing around 480 masks per day.
The FDA has perviously cleared another similar system for N95 decontamination: Battelle’s vaporized hydrogen peroxide process. This new clearance greatly expands the reach and potential volume of decontamination that’s possible, and should pave the way for others to follow.
Duke University was early in calling for this process to be used on N95 respirators after demonstrating that it is safe and effective and available on a range of equipment already in use in biocontainment labs and other medical facilities.
So far, all of these clearances are EUAs, but this does seem like an area where the measures could become more permanent following the pandemic in order to better prepare health care systems in case of other emergencies. Technologies for emergency re-use of single use equipment, and other ways to extend the viable life of crucial medical gear, seems like a wise area of further investment and study.
With shortages of N95 face masks persisting nationwide, healthcare facilities are scrambling to find ways to clean and treat the masks for reuse to protect doctors and nurses most at risk of exposure to COVID-19.
Duke University thinks it has found a solution using vaporized hydrogen peroxide to decontaminate the masks.
The process uses specialized equipment to vaporize hydrogen peroxide, which can then infuse all the layers of the mask to kill germs (including viruses) without degrading mask material.
“This is a decontamination technology and method we’ve used for years in our biocontainment laboratory,” said Scott Alderman, associate director of the Duke Regional Biocontainment Laboratory, in a statement.
The university said it has proven effective and will begin using the technology at all three of its hospitals, according to Matthew Stiegel, the director of the Occupational and Environmental Safety Office at Duke.
Ideally, the hospitals would be able to use fresh masks and not need to try to decontaminate their masks, but these are not ideal times.
Duke’s decision to use hydrogen peroxide to decontaminate N95 masks is based on published studies conducted in 2016, but the practice wasn’t widespread, because the industry wasn’t facing shortages. Those earlier studies also didn’t include fit-testing — or the resizing of masks for individual wearers — after cleaning. Duke has now done that efficacy testing in the real world, the university said.
“The ability to reuse the crucial N95 masks will boost the hospitals’ ability to protect front-line healthcare workers during this time of critical shortages of N95 masks,” said Cameron Wolfe, MD, associate professor of medicine and infectious disease specialist.
Monte Brown, MD, vice president at Duke University Health System, said the Duke team is working to spread the word about the technique, making the protocols widely available. He said several health systems and many pharmaceutical companies already have the needed equipment, which is currently used in different ways, and could ramp up operations to come to the aid of their local hospitals.
“We could stand up in front of our staff and state with confidence that we are using a proven decontamination method,” Brown said. “It has been a proven method for years. While this alone will not solve the problem, if we and others can reuse masks even once or twice, that would be a huge benefit given the current shortages.”