Coronavirus Updates: Disney Donates Masks; Cases in L.A. County Surge; L.O.L. Surprise! Makers Create Ventilator
Here are the latest headlines regarding how the novel coronavirus is impacting the Los Angeles startup and tech communities. Sign up for our newsletter and follow dot.LA on Twitter for the latest updates.
- Disney donates masks to hospitals in California, New York and Florida
- More than 3,500 coronavirus cases in L.A. County; new worries about asymptomatic carriers
- L.O.L. Surprise! maker creates ventilator prototype, launches $5 million fund for healthcare workers
L.O.L. Surprise! maker creates ventilator prototype, launches $5 million fund for healthcare workers
Health care workers receive masks and other protective gear.
The maker of L.O.L Surprise!, Chatsworth-based MGA Entertainment has launched a nonprofit to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and is working on a ventilator prototype.
Chief executive Isaac Larian, whose company has production facilities on contract in China, said he started to order masks from his suppliers after hearing from friends in the medical field who couldn't find needed supplies.
"They couldn't get protection," he said. Next week, he expects a shipment of 200,000 masks to arrive.
Dubbed Operation Pac-Man, the fund will go towards procuring personal protective equipment for health care workers, the company. Larian promises that funds donated will be matched and he's committed $5 million to start the effort.
Meanwhile, the designers at MGAE have created a prototype ventilator that's being tested at UCLA, Larian said. He plans to produce it at the company's Little Tikes factory in Hudson, Ohio.
"We are going to move fast on this," he said. "We expect to go into production late next week."
More than 3,500 coronavirus cases in L.A. County; new worries about asymptomatic carriers
As the number of novel coronavirus cases continued to climb past 3,500 in the county, public health officials warned there's growing evidence asymptomatic carriers of the virus could be spreading it.
"There are people who are infected with COVID -19, but don't have any symptoms and for some of these people there is also evidence that they are able to spread the infection," said the county's director of public health Barbara Ferrer during her daily briefing.
The novel coronavirus has claimed 11 more lives in the county and has infected 513 more people, county health officials said on Wednesday. There's now 3,518 individuals that have been infected and 65 that have died.
She warned that people should continue to take precautions, even if a person doesn't appear sick.
About 20% of those that have tested positive for the fast-moving virus have been hospitalized. Of those, Ferrer said 76% had no documented underlying health conditions.
"Everyone should take seriously the fact that they are at risk not only for illness for COVID-1 but for serious illness," she said.
Disney donates masks to hospitals in California, New York and Florida
Disney Parks has donated 100,000 N95 masks to the states of New York, California and Florida, the company announced through its Disney Parks Blog on Wednesday. In the same announcement Disney said the Parks unit had also donated 150,000 rain ponchos to MedShare, a humanitarian aid group, which will distribute the gear to hospitals. The need for masks is clear, but why ponchos? On March 20, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published an article calling for ideas to address the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). The article received over 100,000 views and yielded more than 250 comments, with many more ideas sent straight to JAMA editors. On March 28, JAMA published a summary of the recommendations, which included repurposing ponchos for gowns. "The idea was inspired by nurses across the country who inventively found that rain ponchos can be an excellent way to protect their clothing and prolong the use of PPE, while also freeing up gowns when needed," Disney's statement said.
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It's never been a better time to "murder your thirst."
Seven months after raising more than $9 million in Series A funding, Santa Monica-based canned water startup Liquid Death has raised $23 million in Series B funding.
The round was led by an unnamed consumer-focused family office and participated in by Convivialité Ventures, Fat Mike (NOFX), Pat McAfee, existing investor in Velvet Sea Ventures and others.
Eliminating battery waste, developing new hair growth therapy, fixing carbon dioxide. These are among some of the ambitious problems that companies are trying to solve at the First Look SoCal Innovation Showcase beginning Tuesday.
Hosted by nonprofit Alliance for SoCal Innovation, the online event connects early-stage tech and life science companies with investors and serial entrepreneurs.
BioZen Batteries Aims to Solve Our Energy Storage Issues<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://dot.la/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDI0Nzg5MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNTg3OTYyNn0.y9dSMjovB1GtsQ1SZhKiPTIJY3VW0XOE2YXd-JN1xYU/image.jpg?width=980" id="95064" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c3ad9197ad70005802e6d34d6da3c29d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Left to right: BioZen Batteries' co-founders Zach Rengert, Nate Kirchhofer and Eric Brigham.<p>Nate Kirchhofer, co-founder and CEO of <a href="https://biozenbatteries.com/" target="_blank">BioZen Batteries</a>, wants to make batteries that will outlive him.</p><p>Santa Barbara-based BioZen creates organic electrolytes, the active material inside a specific type of battery called a "redox flow battery." It's a different type of technology that differs from the lithium batteries often used in mobile applications like cars and phones. Only 5% of those get recycled.</p><p>BioZen's batteries are well suited for green, large-scale energy storage, Kirchhofer said. For example, batteries that help solar panels connect to the grid or provide backup during disasters when the power goes out.</p><p>Kirchhofer, an electrochemist, founded the company in June of 2019 with Zach Rengert, a materials chemist, and Eric Brigham, the company's CFO. Kirchhofer and Rengert met while getting their doctorate at UC Santa Barbara.</p><p>There hasn't yet been a push for sustainable batteries because it isn't economically incentivized, Kirchhofer told dot.LA. He said that his batteries are cheaper than competitors.</p><p>Kirchhofer's product fits into a growing renewable energy market and a social movement in which individuals want to do their part. He's worked for four startups but says this one is poised to make the biggest impact.</p><p>"If it's not our generation that solves climate change, there's not another chance. There's not another Earth." he said. "If we can make these batteries happen, we can truly integrate renewable energy and stop the petroleum-dominated energy paradigm we're part of."</p>
Amplifica's founder Dr. Maksim Plikus
Amplifica Treats Baldness with Mole Molecules<p>Back in 2013, Amplifica's founder Dr. Maksim Plikus began studying hairy moles. Though some find the growths unsightly, his work showed promise for baldness treatment.</p><p>He, along with colleagues at UC Irvine, discovered that molecules from moles that grow excessive hair can induce follicle growth when administered anywhere on the skin.</p><p>"As long as you can tease it out and replicate it in the form of purified molecules, you can achieve essentially what we think would be a novel, revolutionary solution to baldness," Plikus told dot.LA.</p><p>Plikus said his company is the first to solve hair loss by replicating cells from hairy moles to stimulate hair growth. At the moment, hair follicle research has emerged as a leading experimental model for studying stem cells.</p><p>By 2025, hair-loss products are projected to surpass $12 billion, Plikus said. But only two drugs are FDA approved and require daily treatment in the form of pills, which he said come with long-term side effects.</p><p>Amplifica says it's poised to put a more effective and convenient solution on the market. Pinkus' proposed product is a topical solution requiring less frequent application, like getting Botox injections a few times per year.</p>
FixingCO2 Aims to Recycle Fuel from the Air<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://dot.la/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDI0ODM4My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMzA1ODA4MH0.9RqwD9zUN1et1kor8zNPj8WH2kOX6SrysdpRDFT5QMc/image.jpg?width=980" id="daa89" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9851b177139c4b5e06bd9c96fb395083" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
FixingCO2's team. CEO Eldar Akhmetgaliyev is at right.<p><a href="https://fixingco2.com/" target="_blank">FixingCO2</a> got its start on Mars. Like the name says, the company aims to fix the global carbon problem that's fueling climate change.</p><p>In 2018, co-founder Alma Zhanaidarova's professor and research group at UC San Diego received a grant from NASA to build out a reactor that makes renewable fuels and chemicals from carbon dioxide, often a byproduct of industrial waste. The technology was being developed in anticipation of a one-day human mission to Mars, where 95% of the atmosphere is carbon dioxide.</p><p>Now, the San Diego-based startup is commercializing their product for earthlings.</p><p>"It's a different application but the same core technology," co-founder Eldar Akhmetgaliyev told dot.LA. "Instead of making fuels from oil or any other fossil sources, we can make them essentially from air."</p><p>The team is developing the hardware to capture industrial emissions blamed for much of the Earth's warming. The product has significant application for the aviation industry, where planes are built to burn jet fuel that produces carbon emissions.</p><p>"These kinds of technologies provide them a pathway to decarbonization," he said. "They can use fuels made from CO2 so they're not contributing to climate change."</p><p>As fires burn through California and the Pacific Northwest, Akhmetgaliyev said there's urgency for innovators in the carbon tech market. "We're pretty much turning our planet into Mars," he said.</p><p>He said that by 2050, about 14% of overall carbon reduction will come from carbon capture and utilization (CCUS) technology like his.</p><p>"The market hasn't met its opportunity and with the effects of climate change being seen everyday, there's going to be more drive towards these low carbon technologies."</p>
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