Here is a roundup of the latest news concerning the COVID-19 pandemic in addition to announcements from local, state, and federal governments, as well as international channels. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.
Local Bank and Google Work Together to Expand Digital Customer Experience
First Independence Bank in Detroit today announced it is collaborating with Google to provide banking customers additional offerings for their digital bank accounts.
The customer-focused agreement will help customers benefit from tools and insight – a useful benefit for existing bank customers with existing FDIC or NCUA-insured account(s).
“This type of collaboration provides us the opportunity to digitize in a swiftly changing environment,” says Kenneth Kelly, chairman and CEO of First Independence, founded to serve the African American community in the wake of Detroit’s 1967 civil unrest. “Most importantly, it demonstrates Google’s commitment to inclusion.”
First Independence Bank is the seventh largest African American owned banking institution in the country. It also remains one of two banks headquartered in Detroit, as well as the only African American‐owned bank headquartered in Michigan.
Butzel Long Expands Washington, D.C. Footprint with Addition of Four IP Attorneys
Detroit’s Butzel Long law firm has expanded its Intellectual Property (IP) Practice Group with a core group of four attorneys with science, technology, and engineering backgrounds in the firm’s Washington, D.C. office, according to Butzel Long President and CEO Justin G. Klimko.
The group is led by Aaron S. Kamlay, former head of the Washington, D.C.- area IP firm Morris and Kamlay, which specialized in intellectual property law matters related to strategic patent acquisitions, mergers and acquisitions, startup support, portfolio development, and patent risk analysis.
Also joining the firm in the nation’s capital are Ian S. Harrison, Kevin T. Roddy, and Donald “Jay” Lecher.
“Intellectual property law issues reach into many areas of business,” says Klimko. “From patent prosecution to counseling and enforcement, the combined experience and caliber of attorneys from Morris and Kamlay complement our Intellectual Property Law Practice Group’s capability to meet current and future client challenges.”
Butzel Long’s says the expansion of its Washington, D.C. office is in line with its strategic vision and commitment to acquire highly qualified legal talent to service more than 3,000 geographically diverse clients in national and international markets.
U-M Researcher: Robust National Testing Network Needed
The nation needs a more robust network of testing laboratories to speed up the process of COVID-19 testing until more people develop immunity to the virus, according to Emily Toth Martin, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.
“Building a national system with more laboratories, machines, and well-trained testing professionals is essential to increase the number of tests that we can conduct and decrease the amount of time it takes for people to receive their results,” says Martin.
“We are not in a situation where we do not have enough of the physical tests or swabs. It’s the capacity at which we can analyze the tests and provide results that needs to increase. I’m hoping we can quickly get to a place where someone could go into a local pharmacy or testing site, receive a test, and get their results right away. That would be a huge change in our ability to control the virus.”
Martin says a federal approach to the virus, not unlike one in response to a war, might make supplies and laboratory capacity more available.
“We need to be mass producing testing supplies and PPE supplies,” she says. “More than supplies, we also need to push innovations for better tests that can be done easily at home and at community sites with more rapid results.”
There is concern among some in the population about how long, if at all, someone who has recovered by CODID-19 is immune from contracting it again.
“We know at this point in time that most people who get infected with COVID-19 make antibodies,” Martin says. “For most respiratory viruses, antibodies will wear off over time. Because this is a new virus, we’re unsure — but currently studying — the duration of antibodies as people get further and further out from infections that happened early on in our discovery of the virus.”
She says there is no reason to suspect that antibodies won’t protect you against a future infection. What is unknown is how long the protection will last.
“For me, the biggest concern right now is we don’t know how long antibodies last, which is extremely important for vaccine development and also to look ahead for what to expect a year from now,” Martin says. “Can we expect that all the people who are infected now will be immune next year, or do we need to be concerned about them moving back into a population where they could be infected again? That is still being determined.”
Some people are testing positive for COVID-19 for several weeks, even after their symptoms have gone away. Can those individuals still infect others?
“Once you have a respiratory virus, sometimes it’s possible for a test to pick up the RNA or the DNA from that virus — in the case of coronavirus, it’s RNA — for a long time after you’re infected,” she explains. “There have been more studies lately that have found that the further out you get from your initial symptoms, that positive test result — that RNA that’s being picked up — is not RNA from a live virus.
“The test is picking up RNA from either defective or partial viruses that are still hanging around. If you were to take that virus and try to infect a cell culture, it wouldn’t grow. Researchers are doing more and more of these studies and finding that — while it can happen in very rare circumstances — very few people are positive with infectious virus weeks after symptoms go away.”
Detroit Female Entrepreneurs Win Start Studio Pitch Competition
Alecia Gabriel, Chinonye Akunne, and Deirdre Roberson, with more than 30 years of combined technical science and art education experience, took first place in TechTown Detroit’s Start Studio Spring 2020 Virtual Showcase pitch competition.
The three founders of The Lab Drawer, a monthly subscription box with science, technology, engineering, arts, and math content delivered to the homes of middle school students around the country, were awarded the $1,500 first-place prize.
The Showcase final program presentation, which took place virtually on July 8, included pitch presentations from 15 tech-based startups across a wide range of industries, from athletic apparel to home improvement. All businesses embodied a core technology focus. Judges included representatives from Google, Rock Ventures, and Frost Brown Todd.
“Start Studio provided us with immense knowledge and insight about our customers and their needs. It has changed the way we look at and approach our business,” says Gabriel on behalf of her team.
Second place ($750) went to Guild, a marketplace that provides up-front pricing and licensed contractors for home services. The $250 third-place prize went to real-time sneaker release locater Sole Alert.
TechTown also introduced a new virtual People’s Choice Award, allowing the public to vote for their favorite pitch, with the $500 award going to Nextiles, a textiles recycling company.
Start Studio’s 12-week program offers virtual one-on-one coaching from TechTown entrepreneurs-in-residence, along with technical assistance and group learning, to help entrepreneurs refine their ideas. It provides a catalyst for creative tech concepts that might otherwise never take off. Tech founders are guided through testing, research, and the creation of a sample product.
The Showcase was the culmination of the third cohort of Detroit’s only idea-stage program for tech and tech-based businesses. Despite occurring in the midst of a pandemic, this spring session boasted the program’s largest application pool and cohort size to date.
“Now more than ever, we need to back the founders that are building the startups that will restart our economy here in the city of Detroit,” says Marlo Rencher, director of technology-based programs at TechTown. “We are building on a strong tradition of inclusion and innovation with this cohort. We will continue to support and accelerate their success.”
Applications are now open for the fourth cohort of Start Studio, which will begin Sept. 2. For more information, visit here.
SME Looking for COVID-specific Articles for Special Publication
The Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) is looking for papers about the technological aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic for a special publication of the Journal of Manufacturing Systems.
Among the topics it expects to cover are:
- Success case studies of manufacturing firms in the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Case studies in the design and deployment of a nimble manufacturing system.
- Horizontal and vertical integration for resilient manufacturing.
- Flexible, reconfigurable and adaptable production systems.
- Manufacturing systems coping with uncertainties in demands and disruptions in global supply chains.
- Cyber-physical social production systems.
- Digitalization, big data analytics for resilient manufacturing.
- Additive and rapid manufacturing as a resilient manufacturing method.
- Innovative adaption of human-machine interface and communication technologies.
- Workforce re-training, re-skilling, and re-deployment for manufacturers.
For more information on how to submit papers, visit here. Follow the link “Submit your Paper,” located in the main page of the website, and submit manuscript to Article Type “SI: COVID-19 & Manufacturing.” Mention the name of the special issue in your cover letter. All manuscripts will be peer-reviewed in accordance with the established policies and procedures of the journal. The final papers will be selected for publication depending on the results of the peer review process and the reviews of guest editors.
Submissions open on Sept. 1 and close on Nov. 30.
EMU Continues Plans for Opening for In-person Fall Semester Classes
Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti is continuing its work to prepare for students to return to campus on Aug. 31.
The EMU Public Health Work Group has released its final report, including considerations and recommendations for on-Campus reopening, which can be found here.
The areas in which detailed recommendations are provided include:
- Screening, testing, and contact tracing
- Travel reporting
- Personal protective equipment
- Personal hygiene practice
- Physical distancing
- Environmental cleaning and disinfecting
Salvation Army Stepping Up During Pandemic
The Salvation Army of Metro Detroit has raised nearly $148,000 for residents who are struggling financially due to COVID-19. These funds will provide residents with food assistance and utility bill payments, as well as adequate access to medications, prescriptions, and transportation service.
Summer in the City Campaign Chairperson Alva Adams Mason of Toyota Motor North America and Campaign Champion David Lewis of AT&T Michigan are reaching out to their colleagues in the business community to finish this campaign by reaching its goal of $250,000.
Visit here to contribute.
Mason and Lewis both have deep ties to The Salvation Army. Mason is a member of The Salvation Army National Advisory Board, and Lewis was The Red Kettle Campaign chairperson last year.
Toyota has been supporting The Salvation Army for nine consecutive years with its Walk in My Boots Program – an annual community outreach project where Toyota donates winter boots and socks to those in need. AT&T Michigan signed on as The Salvation Army’s first corporate Red Kettle partner during the 2019 campaign.