DBusiness Daily Update: Gilbert Family Foundation Funds Clinical Study of Vision Loss from NF1, and More

Our roundup of the latest news from metro Detroit and Michigan businesses as well as announcements from government agencies, including updates about the COVID-19 pandemic. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is one the lead investigators of the NF1 study being funded by the Gilbert Family Foundation. // Courtesy of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is one the lead investigators of the NF1 study being funded by the Gilbert Family Foundation. // Courtesy of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Our roundup of the latest news from metro Detroit and Michigan businesses as well as announcements from government agencies, including updates about the COVID-19 pandemic. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.

Gilbert Family Foundation Funds Clinical Study of Vision Loss from NF1

The Gilbert Family Foundation, a private nonprofit established by Jennifer and Dan Gilbert to accelerate a cure for neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1), is funding of a new $5.4 million clinical study to understand the mechanisms of vision loss caused by NF1-associated optic pathway gliomas, or NF1-OPGs.

The study will be led by investigators at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, Calif.

Nearly 20 percent of children with NF1 will develop an OPG, a tumor located along the visual pathway, which can cause permanent vision loss ranging from mild deficit to complete blindness. In April 2019, the Gilbert Family Foundation launched its Vision Restoration Initiative to fund research focused on developing innovative therapies that either repair or replace damaged visual systems caused by NF1-OPGs.

“One in five NF1 patients develop OPGs, and many end up with chronic vision loss, a symptom that can have devastating effects on quality of life,” says Jennifer Gilbert, co-founder of the Gilbert Family Foundation. “We’re working to put an effective cure for NF1-OPG-related vision loss and blindness within reach. This study is a major milestone for our Vision Restoration Initiative as we strive to unlock life-changing therapies and support future research.”

Through a combination of established and novel visual function testing methods, this study will define the functional, structural, metabolic, and patient-reported components of NF1-OPG-induced vision loss. Findings are expected to inform the development of future therapies, validate existing models of the disease, and help identify new metrics for evaluating the efficacy of vision restoration treatments, including those developed within the Gilbert Family Foundation’s Vision Restoration Initiative and in both pre-clinical animal models and human clinical trials.

“Our data on variance and test-retest reliability will be critical to powering endpoint analyses in early-phase clinical trials for new candidate therapies for NF1-OPG vision neuroprotection and restoration anticipated in the coming years,” says Dr. Jeffrey Goldberg, professor and chair of ophthalmology at Stanford University School of Medicine. “Our novel and broad approach should identify biomarkers that are relevant in humans and can subsequently drive animal testing by using those biomarkers in pre-clinical therapeutic studies.”

This study will last approximately three years, with patient recruitment beginning in late 2021 or early 2022.

“As the Vision Restoration Initiative’s first comprehensive human study, this project will provide a new understanding of vision loss from NF1-OPGs,” says Dr. Robert Avery, a pediatric neuro-ophthalmologist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and assistant professor of ophthalmology and neurology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “We’re moving closer to our goal of ultimately preventing and even reversing the lifelong vision loss from these tumors.”

State Funds Five New Mobility Pilot Programs

Five mobility companies — MUVE, Airspace Link, KUHMUTE, GreenRoute, and Michigan Flyer — have received more than $444,000 in Michigan Mobility Funding Platform grants to deploy mobility pilots in Michigan that alleviate mobility barriers and help accelerate electric vehicle adoption.

The state Office of Future Mobility and Electrification, in partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and Michigan Department of Transportation, launched the Michigan Mobility Funding Platform to provide grants to mobility and electrification companies looking to deploy their technology solutions in Michigan.

“These grants are securing a foundation for mobility companies across the state that builds on our reputation as a global leader in testing and deployment of future mobility solutions, but also create a runway to future growth and jobs right here in Michigan,” says Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “These five companies will help bring Michigan closer to our goal of providing sustainable, equitable and accessible transportation options for all residents, and I’m confident this technology will have a lasting positive impact on our communities.”

The first five grants are being awarded to:

  • MUVE ($125,000) is bringing more accessibility options to transit riders in Washtenaw County.
  • Airspace Link ($125,000) is helping a hospital transport essential medical supplies via drones in Detroit.
  • KUHMUTE ($89,005) is installing multimodal charging hubs for e-scooters, e-bikes, and more to increase access to transit and local business in Flint.
  • Michigan Flyer ($65,000) is making it easier for passengers to reserve trips using multiple providers.
  • GreenRoute ($40,000) is providing energy-efficient routing to reduce EV range anxiety.

While this marks the first round of Michigan Mobility Funding Platform grant recipients, Michigan has awarded more than $2.4 million to support real-world deployments and testing to scale mobility deployments since 2018.

A new report shows the University Research Corridor (which includes Michigan State University in East Lansing, Wayne State in Detroit, and the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor) lead the nation’s top university innovation clusters in preparing the greatest number of grads for careers in mobility, helping to build a strong talent pipeline to support these efforts.

For more information, visit here.

Detroit Thermal Enrolls in DTE Energy’s MIGreenPower Program

Clean steam energy supplier Detroit Thermal has enrolled in DTE Energy’s MIGreenPower program and will attribute 100 percent of its electric usage to renewable resources by 2030.

MIGreenPower enables DTE Electric customers to attribute a greater percentage of their energy use to Michigan-made wind and solar beyond the 15 percent DTE already provides. Detroit Thermal’s commitment ultimately will offset the carbon dioxide equivalent of greenhouse gas emissions from an estimated more than 1,000 passenger vehicles driven for a year.

Since 1903, Detroit Thermal’s steam distribution system has been an energy solution for Detroit and a piece of the city’s infrastructure and economic recovery. Detroit Thermal delivers clean steam energy through an underground network that runs throughout the greater downtown Detroit area and serves more than 100 buildings. Produced with clean natural gas and offering unique advantages, the system continues to provide clean, safe steam energy, now partially derived from renewable sources.

For more than 100 years, Detroit Thermal has served most of Detroit’s noteworthy buildings, including the GM Renaissance Center, TCF Center, Fox Theater, Detroit Medical Center, Ford Field, The Fisher Building, the City of Detroit, and Wayne State University.

“Sustainability has always been at the center of what we do, and enrolling in MIGreenPower reinforces that commitment,” says Todd Grzech, CEO of Detroit Thermal. “Because of the customers we serve and the nature of our work, our enrollment will make a significant clean energy impact on the city of Detroit and the overall region. We’re thrilled to join DTE in the fight against climate change and continue working to build a cleaner future for all.”

Detroit Thermal joins more than 400 businesses and nearly 40,000 residential customers who are using MIGreenPower to reduce their carbon footprint and accelerate the development of renewable energy in Michigan. Detroit Thermal customers, General Motors Co. and Bedrock Detroit, also are part of the MIGreenPower program.

Other prominent MIGreenPower program subscribers include Ford Motor Co., the University of Michigan, the Detroit Zoo, and the state of Michigan.

MIGreenPower subscribers annually support 1.8 million megawatt hours of clean energy, which has the environmental benefit equal to taking 277,400 passenger cars off the road for a year.*

For more information, visit here.

TechTown Detroit’s ‘Toast of the Town’ to Take Place Virtually Sept. 30

TechTown Detroit will once again conduct its Toast of the Town fundraising event virtually from 4-5 p.m. on Sept. 30.

This year, Toast of the Town presented by Bank of America will broadcast live from two locations to showcase TechTown’s impact and reach. Remote locations include Wayne State University’s Industry Innovation Center and the Detroit Southwest Ford Resource and Engagement Center.

Online guests will watch TechTown President and CEO Ned Staebler deliver a speech about moving forward to a more inclusive economy, witness the live announcement of the TechTown Startup Fund grantees, and celebrate the Wayne State Office of Economic Development’s 10th anniversary.

“The team at TechTown has been busy reimagining our economy, and we’re looking forward to celebrating the creativity and ingenuity of our clients, alumni and the entire entrepreneurial ecosystem at Toast of the Town,” says Staebler.

Also part of the event are three local entrepreneurs receiving TechTown’s highest honor for their embodiment of the entrepreneurial spirit and leveraging the many resources found at TechTown and across Detroit’s small business community: Javier Evelyn, founder and CEO of Alerje;  Juan Carlos Dueweke-Pérez, director and founder of Featherstone; and Raquel Lozano, owner of El Popo Market.

Carla Walker-Miller, founder and CEO of Walker-Miller Energy Services, will receive the Marlowe Stoudamire Small Business Champion Award.

Virtual attendees will have the opportunity to vote for a People’s Choice Salute Award winner during the event. Nominees include: Crystal Rice, Black Economic Exchange Group; Jerome B. Brown and Samuel Van Buren, Detroit Soul; Justin Turk, Livegistics, Katrina Wilson, Crème Brûlée; the Vargas Lopez Family, La Jaliscience Supermercado y Taqueria; Robin Wright King and Dr. Ali Bazzi, Urban Docz; Ronier Golightly, Motor City Popcorn; and Ryan Salter, and Marc and LeTresha Howland, Breadless.

Two Black-owned tech startups and alumni of TechTown will be awarded a total of $23,000 at Toast of the Town to help them reach their next business milestone.

Registration is required here, but there is no cost to attend the virtual Toast of the Town. Donations of any amount will be immediately put to work helping TechTown continue providing programs, education, and resources for early- to growth-stage small businesses and tech entrepreneurs. Individuals who donate will be invited to join the Donor Wall for All, a crowd-sourced photo mosaic at TechTown. Register at techtowndetroit.org/toast

St. Lawrence Seaway Shipping Increases in August

Demand for construction and manufacturing materials both domestically and internationally continued on the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway through August as shipments of iron ore, steel, cement, and stone surged through the region.

According to the latest figures, St. Lawrence Seaway cargo volumes from March 22 to Aug. 31 totaled 20.7 million metric tons, up 5.2 percent over the same period in 2020. One of the commodities leading the charge was iron ore tonnage, up nearly 30 percent compared to 2020. The rise was partly due to an increase in Minnesota Iron Range pellets being transported from the Port of Duluth-Superior and Silver Bay to Quebec ports and then loaded onto ocean carriers for export overseas.

Year-to-date general cargo shipments were up 60 percent, mainly due to steel imports from European countries to cities throughout Ontario and the U.S. Great Lakes states.

Year-to-date dry bulk shipments, including stone, cement, gypsum, and other materials, were up 13 percent. These strong cargo categories were partly offset, however, by an 18 percent decline in grain shipments (including both Canadian and U.S. volumes).

“Great Lakes-St. Lawrence ships and ports specialize in efficiently transporting the metals and minerals that are now fueling North America’s manufacturing rebound and general economic recovery,” says Bruce Burrows, president and CEO of the Chamber of Marine Commerce. “We expect this surge in materials through our trade corridor to continue in the coming months.”

Registering at 6,159,559 short tons, cargo through the Port of Toledo remained strong through August 2021 exceeding 2020 totals by more than 25 percent.

“Looking back, we have not surpassed 6 million tons through August since 2011,” says Joseph Cappel, vice president of business development at the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.  “The additional iron ore tonnage attributed to the Cleveland Cliffs HBI operation has really helped elevate the port to the next level and we continue to focus on updating our infrastructure to accommodate additional throughput. It’s exciting to think about the potential of this port as we look toward the future.”

D. Cipher Launches Free Music Festival and Fundraiser at Detroit City Distillery

Detroit City Distillery and D.Cipher will collaborate to host “Rock the Block,” a free, one-day music festival and fundraiser from 5 p.m. to midnight on Sept. 23, dedicated to supporting Detroit’s music community and its contribution to the city’s culture and nightlife.

The event will take place outside on the street at 2462 Riopelle St. in Eastern Market with live bands, DJs, visual art, and local vendors.

Two of Detroit’s hottest DJs, Blaaqgold and Donavan Glover, will team up to headline the festival alongside Detroit-raised, L.A.-based DJ House Shoes. The NLR Experience and BC Keez plan a jam session with Detroit musicians bringing live hip-hop, jazz, soul, funk, and rock to the block. Legendary J Hearns opens the festival.

“Since our inception, we have been deeply committed to supporting our local community of musicians,” says Nique Love Rhodes, co-founder of D.Cipher. “This block party is a celebration of the return of live music this summer and is a way to continue our efforts towards advancing a strong music economy here in the city.”

Patrons will enjoy cocktails by Detroit City Distillery, food by Midnight Temple and Soo Fraiche Grill and art, music, and clothing by a host of local vendors.

Rock the Block Party is free to attend. D.Cipher is asking for donations in one of two ways: visiting here and at the party via cash app $dciphermusic.

All donations will support D.Cipher’s mission to build a more sustainable music economy and continue its efforts to help Detroit’s community of musicians.

Forbes’ Under 30 Summit Returns to Detroit Oct. 10-12

Forbes is bringing its flagship Under 30 Summit, presented by Rocket Mortgage, back to an in-person event in Detroit, Oct. 10-12, at the Detroit Opera House.

This event will be taking place in-person exclusively for Under 30 list makers and virtually for a broader audience. The summit will bring together the best minds across industries, venture capitalism, public policy, and more to learn, network, collaborate, recruit, and exchange ideas.

The Under 30 Summit is a component of Forbes’ yearlong 10th anniversary celebration of Under 30 that started with the launch of the 2021 30 Under 30 list.

Focusing on the theme “Decade of Disruption,” the event will assemble a roster of leaders, entrepreneurs, and Under 30 listers past and present. It will shine a spotlight on some of the biggest innovators of the last decade and explore what the future has in store as we enter a brand-new era.

Feature events at the Forbes Under 30 Summit in Detroit include:

  • Forbes Under 30 Music Festival, a tradition which will kick off the summit. Grammy-nominated musician, Jack Harlow will headline the 2021 Forbes Under 30 Music Festival, which will take place on the evening of October 10. Grammy-nominated musician, Kevin Garrett will be the show opener.
  • A series of panels and keynotes. Day one will focus on discussing the most pressing issues of today and tomorrow, while day two is all about looking inward and focusing on effective company building.
  • Forbes Under 30 Taste of Detroit, a street festival featuring local food, drinks and performances which will support small businesses and chefs.
  • Forbes Under 30 Bar Crawl
  • Virtual Service Day in partnership with Close the Gap. Forbes is joining forces with Close the Gap Foundation to launch a first-of-its-kind mentorship program that pairs first-gen, low-income (FGLI) and BIPOC students with Forbes 30 Under 30 list makers to bridge the network gap.

“As we celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the 30 Under 30 list, the Under 30 community has become a global phenomenon with more than 10,000 young entrepreneurs, leaders and innovators from around the world,” says Randall Lane, chief content officer of Forbes and founder of the Under 30 Summit. “Our return to in-person events with the Under 30 Summit will spotlight Under 30 list makers, past and present, who have made a positive impact in business and society over the last decade. By hosting it in Detroit, and partnering with Rocket Mortgage, we are ready to safely celebrate a Decade of Disruption in the technology hub of the Midwest.”

For more information and to register for the summit, visit here.

DAPCEP Set to Begin 45th Year of STEM Education

The Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program (DAPCEP) is preparing to begin its 45th year of maximizing underrepresented youth potential for success in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Starting Saturday, Sept. 25, DAPCEP Explorers’ will begin their eight-week modules that will expose pre-KP through 3rd graders to various science and engineering concepts. Starting Oct. 9,

DAPCEP Pathfinders’ six-week modules for grades four through 12 commence.

“We are truly thrilled to kick off the fall semester of DAPCEP’s 45th year,” says Michelle L. Reaves, executive director of DAPCEP. “This fall, we have collaborated with partners Ford Motor Co., General Motors, Altair Engineering, and PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and several area universities and educational providers to supply our students with a unique array of hands-on activities that acclimates them with STEM concepts and supplements their academic studies.”

These programs expose students to STEM experiences including: animation, artificial intelligence and coding, bioengineering and other engineering disciplines, chemistry, cyber security, digital tech, mobile apps, accounting, nuclear power, SAT prep, urban design, and more.

Classes will be conducted online, primarily via Zoom. Course materials will be distributed the week prior to when classes start, either by mail, or via scheduled safe pick-up at the DAPCEP office in downtown Detroit.

Interested parents and students can view the full list of Fall 2021 courses here.

To celebrate its 45th year, DAPCEP is presenting its 10th annual Real McCoy Awards presented by DTE Energy at 6 p.m. on Sept. 30. It will be recorded an shown in the organization’s Facebook page.

Applications Open for 2022 Neighborhood Opportunity Fund Grants

Applications are now being accepted by the City of Detroit Housing and Revitalization Department (HRD) for millions of dollars in Neighborhood Opportunity Fund (NOF) grants, which fund public services to low- to moderate-income Detroiters that help stabilize neighborhoods, sustain a healthy and safe environment, and improve the quality of life for residents.

Last year’s round, announced this past April, saw 36 community organizations awarded $2.7 million in grants. More than $12 million has been awarded over the past five years. The program awards grants in five areas: education, seniors, recreation, health and public safety, and funds everything from after-school tutoring programs to dental care for low-income Detroiters. The grants are funded through community development block grants (CDBG) allocated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to Detroit.

“Our goal through this program is to support the organizations that help support Detroit on a daily basis, offering important programs and services on which so many Detroiters rely,” says Julie Schneider, director of HRD. “The Neighborhood Opportunity Fund helps build capacity at public service organizations and keep these programs going, helping to create a better city for all.”

Nonprofits and neighborhood service organizations are encouraged to visit here to begin the application process. The deadline to apply is 4 p.m. Oct. 1. Interested organizations can attend a virtual information session at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 15. Registration for the webinar is required and can be submitted here.