Accelerators / Entrepreneurs / Funding / Hiring / Startups

Power Moves: AlphaLab Health picked its third cohort and the URA needs a new executive director

Plus, a new tech company is setting up shop following a local investment, Josh Shapiro chose some Pittsburghers for his transition team, and more.

AlphaLab Health lab and coworking space. (Courtesy photo)

Power Moves is a column where we chart the comings and goings of talent across the region. Got a new hire, gig or promotion? Email us:

AlphaLab Health, an accelerator born out of a collaboration between the Allegheny Health Network and Innovation Works, has launched its third cohort of life sciences companies.

From pain assessment to price transparency, the six companies involved are focused on providing solutions to patient needs. Companies participating in the six-month program will receive guidance in navigating the clinical and commercial development of their products. Additionally, the companies will receive up to $100,000 in pre-seed money, wet and dry lab space, group and individualized education, and feedback from hospital executives and clinicians.

“AlphaLab Health’s unique model provides companies direct engagement with the healthcare system, on both the provider and payer side, enabling them to test their assumptions and pilot interactions,” said Megan Shaw, Innovation Works’ managing director for life sciences, in a statement. “The partnership between IW and AHN leverages the best of both organizations, from networks and resources to first-hand experience commercializing products. This cohort of ALH includes a strong set of clinician-entrepreneurs who developed solutions to address the challenges they and their patients faced.”

Meet the 2022-2023 AlphaLab Health cohort below, with descriptions provided by the org:

  • Advanced Optronics Inc. — Takes the guesswork out of getting a cochlear implant. Advanced Optronics (AO) designs and manufactures implantable sensors for intraoperative monitoring. AO’s first product is an integrated force and position sensor for cochlear implants. These sensors provide real-time feedback during surgery to reduce trauma and avoid damage to residual hearing during implantation. Their solution empowers surgeons with the ability to perform less traumatic insertions and preserve residual hearing.
  • Expressive Painimation — Through human-centered design, Expressive Painimation developed an electronic pain assessment tool that utilizes animations to assess pain quality and type. The speed and saturation of the animations can be calibrated by patients to assess intensity and course. Painimation does not rely on words so language and literacy are no longer barriers.
  • Handl Health — Handl Health is a healthcare price transparency platform. Handl offers health plans a simple way to comply with the CMS healthcare price transparency legislation while digitizing how patients shop, book, and pay for healthcare, creating an unparalleled user experience and realizing an average cost saving of 28%.
  • InnSight Teachnology, Inc. — InnSight Technology utilizes a multidisciplinary team composed of ophthalmologists, engineers, designers, and business experts to create novel ophthalmic diagnostic devices. Currently, they are focused on the development of a hand-held tool that can be used to change the standard for tear film testing. In addition, it provides a platform technology that can be used for other tear film biomarkers and other fluids. They have advanced the project from proof of concept to early prototype and have collected clinical data that shows the precision of their device, called the OcuCheck.
  • Noctem Health — Noctem Health is modernizing behavioral sleep care to serve all clinicians and their patients. NOCTEM eliminates the hassles of traditional behavioral sleep treatments while maintaining the quality and continuity of care for patients.
  • Respair, Inc. — Respair is developing and testing a prototype for a novel endotracheal tube designed to reduce ventilator-associated events. The company has previously completed concept validation through 50+ stakeholder interviews in addition to developing a business hypothesis, submitting a preliminary patent through the University of Pittsburgh for product design, and completing a preliminary regulatory pathway assessment. Respair is currently finalizing incorporation status in addition to utilizing ISO standards to complete bench testing on animal and human trachea models to further validate and refine the design of the endotracheal tube prototype.

While you’re at it, meet the first and second cohorts, too.

URA’s director stepped down

After roughly three years at the helm last week Greg Flisram announced that his tenure as the executive director of the Urban Redevelopment Authority has come to an end. According to a press release, he will be leaving to return to the private sector as a consultant with a national planning practice. The URA hasn’t yet announced a replacement.

“We have open and honest conversations with the community and developers to ensure the catalytic change we all say we want to see in the City of Pittsburgh occurs,” Flisram said in a statement. “The decision to resign was a difficult one that I have been pondering with growing resolve for the past several months.”

Under Flisram’s tenure, the City of Pittsburgh’s economic development arm boasts that it was committed to affordable housing, wealth building and entrepreneurial support. For instance, back in March, the URA announced the launch of two new social impact pilot programs centered on supporting minority entrepreneurship and business expansion: URA Ventures and the Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise Developer Equity Fund would provide early-stage risk capital to business owners and entrepreneurs from underrepresented backgrounds.

URA comms director Tanika Harris told in October that of URA Ventures’ three arms — Main Street Ventures, Pittsburgh Entrepreneur Fund 2.0 and Venture Co-Investment — the funding had been dispersed or was pending:

  • The first Main Street Ventures cohort was announced in September.
  • Plans for Pittsburgh Entrepreneur Fund 2.0 would be announced between the end of 2022 and early 2023, with $1 million committed.
  • Venture Co-Investment announcements are expected early next year.

Shapiro picked a handful of Pittsburghers for his transition team

With Pennsylvania’s midterm elections done, Governor-elect Josh Shapiro and Lt. Governor-elect Austin Davis have decided the time is right to get a team in place make the January transition into office as seamless as possible. Although Philadelphia saw its share of appointees, Pittsburghers will find that a host of leaders of familiar business, university and nonprofit leaders were selected for the Transition Leadership Board and a Transition Personnel Committee, too.

Notable members of the Transition Leadership Board from the Pittsburgh region include Laura Karet, the CEO of Giant Eagle and chair of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, and Comcast SVP for Political Engagement Michelle Singer, who a Pittsburgh native (though a Philadelphian now).

With regard to the Transition Personnel Committee, which is chaired by Pittsburgh native Davis, there are a few more members from the region: Curtis Aiken, president, CEO and founder of ProTech Compliance, Farnam Jahanian, president of Carnegie Mellon University; Jennifer Liptak, chief of staff to Allegheny County Executive Rich FitzgeraldNathaniel Yap, former director at Kohlberg Kravis Roberts; and Andréa Stanford, VP and Pittsburgh regional manager at BNY Mellon.

The committee’s responsibilities will include recruiting, reviewing and recommending talent to Shapiro’s senior team and other necessary personnel for the administration.

Netail is coming to Pittsburgh

Netail, a technology retail company, is coming to Pittsburgh after a $5 million raise led by Landing AI and the locally based Magarac Venture Partners.

Netail will be developing its artificial technology in Pittsburgh, attracted to its status as a rising technology hub, although it still plans to retain its presence in Palo Alto where its HQ is located. The new funding will be used to expand the company’s team of retail, AI and software engineers.

“As shopping has been transformed, retailers need to recognize that their competitive universe has expanded a thousand-fold and as a result, competitive pricing, features, availability, and convenience are central to a daily battle to win each and every customer,” Netail CEO Mark Chrystal said in a statement. “That’s what Netail focuses on, helping retailers around the world stand out digitally against the competition.”

Duolingo’s TikTok maven was named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30

Zaria Parvez, the global social media manager for East Liberty-based Duolingo, has been honored as one of the most influential voice in corporate media. The magazine praised her for leveraging TikTok to attract new users to the edtech company. Since she joined Duolingo in 2020, the company has gained millions of new users on social media.

“Under her direction, Duolingo has become known for its irreverent, snarky presence on TikTok — commenting on content even if it has nothing to do with learning new languages,” her entry read.

More Power Moves

  • After two years at the Moonshot Museum and just weeks after the museum opened to the public, Executive Director Sam Moore has announced he’ll be stepping down, and the museum will be looking to fill his position once he departs in the new year. Look for more details when we interview Moore this month.
  • The Kraft Heinz Company appointed Janelle Orozco to the role of chief procurement officer in the States.
  • Castle Biosciences, Inc., a diagnostic test company, announced that the its clinical laboratory facility in Pittsburgh received accreditation from the College of American Pathologists following a recent inspection.
Atiya Irvin-Mitchell is a 2022-2024 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.
Companies: Innovation Works (Pittsburgh) / AlphaLab Health / Duolingo / State of Pennsylvania
Series: Power Moves

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