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Business Record innovationIOWA Weekly | March 22, 2018
Ivanka Trump talks workforce development, STEM education
By Kate Hayden | Staff Writer

Ivanka Trump, presidential adviser and daughter of President Donald Trump, said she wanted to visit the Waukee Innovation and Learning Center after Apple CEO Tim Cook sent her an email about the program. Cook had visited the program when he announced plans for a large server development in Waukee. Read more

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PowerPollen offers farmers new avenue of boosting crop traits
By Kate Hayden | Staff Writer

While other emerging companies traveled from California, Kentucky or Missouri, PowerPollen just made a quick trip across town to join the two-day Partnering for Growth Biotech Innovation Showcase, hosted by the Iowa Biotechnology Association.

Through three years of research, PowerPollen had already outgrown two locations in Des Moines and Urbandale before setting down roots in Ankeny in April 2017. The startup is expanding operations and staff again this year -- doubling facility square footage, expecting an expanded part-time staff this summer, and two more full-time positions to be added.

"We started talking with the city of Ankeny and realizing that they’re very business-friendly," CTO Jason Cope said.

The cross-pollination startup allows farmers to introduce new genetic traits to crops during pollination, rather than when purchasing the seed months before spring planting, Cope said. The startup’s scope is currently limited to corn, but Cope said there were promising implications for the technology in wheat and rice markets in the future.

"The best way to describe it is to put yourself in the shoes of a farmer, and have to guess, ‘did I guess well in the winter of what I would need to plant by now?’" Cope said.

"You can bring in what the farmer needs on demand. … You can save the farmer’s field from being chewed up by worms. Same with drought, same with ethanol -- a lot of the environment issues you can think of, it would be a rescue for."

PowerPollen also brings benefits of genetic diversity to crops: a field that is self-pollinating can lose between 5 to 15 percent of yields, while bringing in another source of pollen can increase yields up to 20 percent, Cope said.

PowerPollen is applied using attachments to machinery that most farmers are already using, and the startup will launch a study on pollen drift this summer.

"Pollen drift is a concern especially when there’s trans genes in that pollen, and research companies don’t want that trans gene to end up where it doesn’t belong," Cope said. "With our technology, it’s all sprayed within about seven inches. We’ll see how well we are able to control that drift."

SynderBio top company at biotech showcase; Robert Riley Jr. receives leadership award
A cancer diagnostics company and a longtime entrepreneur and community leader both received top honors at this year’s Partnering for Growth Biotech Innovation Showcase.
SynderBio, based in Coralville, is a lab automation and cancer diagnostics company that enhances cellular analyses through the targeted capture of cells from biopsy tissue. SynderBio was awarded the top company award and a $5,000 check by the Iowa Biotechnology Association. "Our expert panel felt SynderBio made the most compelling case for best company," Executive Director Joe Hrdlicka said. "SynderBio work exemplifies a leadership position in bioscience." Hrdlicka and Cultivation Corridor Executive Director Billi Hunt also presented the Cultivation Corridor Iowa Biotech Leadership Award to Robert G. Riley Jr., chairman of the board and founder of Feed Energy; CEO of the Riley Resource Group; and owner of Corn Oil One. The award recognizes an individual who demonstrates leadership, innovation, advocacy and commitment to advancing Iowa’s biotechnology industry in the past year.

Apple acquires digital magazine service with office in Coralville
Apple has announced plans to purchase Texture, the digital magazine service app by Next Issue Media LLC with a quality assurance center in Coralville. For a monthly subscription, Texture gives users unlimited access to more than 200 titles, including those published by Meredith, reports the Corridor Business Journal. There are currently 18 local employees at the Coralville Texture location.

Iowa Startup Accelerator introduces four teams in spring cohort
Four Iowa startups are finding legs as part of this spring’s Iowa Startup Accelerator, based in Cedar Rapids. New this year is the Social Good Accelerator and pilot team GSI Works, which was founded in January to reduce and prevent localized flash flooding in urban areas. ActWorthy, Cedar Rapids Marketplace, Codemoji and Kho Labs will attend a week-long orientation, and take part in 13 weeks of curriculum, and one year of mentoring and networking through the Iowa Startup Accelerator. Applications for the Iowa Startup Accelerator fall cohort are open until July 28. Interested teams can apply online.

Global Insurance Symposium announces CEO panel
The 2018 Global Insurance Symposium announced four national CEOs who will headline discussions during this year’s panel event, on April 26. Panel members include Pina Albo, CEO of Hamilton Insurance Group; Bill Wheeler, president of Athene Holding Ltd; Jim Brannen, CEO of FBL Financial Group Inc.; and David Wilken, president of Life Global Atlantic Financial Group. The four panel members will lead discussion on leadership strategies in industry. Other panel discussions will focus on topics such as artificial intelligence, genetic testing, the opioid epidemic and digital disruption. A full schedule and session details are available.

ISU Innovation Prize set for March 30-31
Two Iowa State University initiatives are co-hosting the ISU Innovation Prize on March 30-31. The ISU Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship and the ISU Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative are accepting participants to pitch in three categories: Agtech, Edtech and Global Impacts. Three $2,500 cash awards will be given for an individual/team in each category.

Each week we ask a community leader from various industries to have a little fun, peer into their crystal ball and look out 10 years in an effort to predict the future.
THIS WEEK: Dan Culhane, president and CEO, Ames Chamber of Commerce

In 10 years ...
Light rail will connect Central Iowa. You can live in downtown Des Moines and be to work in Ames at the Iowa State University Research Park in 15 minutes or live in north Ames and be to work in West Des Moines in no time. Going to the Iowa State Fair and wondering where you will park? No big deal. Simply take the light rail to Des Moines and then hop on an autonomous, of course, shuttle to the fairgrounds.
Smart gun technology: why we're a long way off
By Kate Hayden | Staff Writer
A few years ago, some friends of mine had a frightening break-in. They weren’t home at the time, when "friends" of a family member burglarized the house. What was really scary was nearly every gun in the house was stolen. The current location of those firearms is anyone’s guess, but the most likely destination was the streets of Chicago, for anyone’s use. My friends might have felt more at ease after the event if those weapons -- including handguns -- were smartguns. BuzzFeed News reports that nearly 60 percent of Americans would be interested in purchasing a smart firearm, and while the technology has a long way to go before preventing mass shooting tragedies, smart gun tech that requires a fingerprint, smart watch or ring before using could really impact accidental shootings -- and, perhaps, city crime. If this sounds interesting to you, be prepared to keep tabs on developments for quite a while: between NRA opposition, fear of government tracking, an epic backfire in New Jersey law and questions about the technology’s reliability, it’s going to take a long time before you’ll find these guns on store shelves.
'Drive' brings up worrying connotations in biotechnology
By Kate Hayden | Staff Writer
At the Partnership for Growth biotechnology showcase this week, SciBac Inc. of California made a very compelling pitch.

Branded with the tagline "always trust your gut," SciBac is creating hybrid microorganisms to treat so-called superbugs and deadly infections in people using a patented, non-GMO method they term DRIVE (Directed Recombination by In Vitro Evolution) technology. It’s a fascinating idea with positive medical implications, but one of the judges took clear issue with the nomenclature.

"Why are you calling your technology DRIVE -- since gene driving is the scariest technology ever?" he asked, catching me -- and, I think, the presenter -- off guard. "Can I suggest that you not associate yourself with the idea of gene driving? … It’s the technology that kills the world, right?"

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March 22-24: Des Moines Charity Hack 2018
Host: dsmHack
About: Each year, dsmHack holds a 48-hour hackathon to help local nonprofit organization solve their technology problems. This flagship event connects technology enthusiasts including developers, designers and project managers, and partners them with nonprofits selected through an application process.
Where: FFA Enrichment Center
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