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Charleston Learning Center Expands Education Offerings With Robotics Summer Camp For Kids

The Charleston Digital Corridor is pleased to announce the addition of a STEM summer camp for rising 7th and 8th grade students at the Charleston Learning Center. The weeklong (Mon-Fri) summer camp, featuring the LEGO learning system, will be offered twice – starting July 8 and July 15, 2024 respectively. The camp will be led by Lisa Muggeo, a former public school STEM educator with eleven years of experience.

The summer camp offering is in addition to the current mix of ongoing tech and business workshops, classes, and meetups. Further, the Charleston Digital Corridor is reviewing additional ways to provide STEM educational programs for kids throughout the year.

Thanks to the foundational grant from Google and a host of public and private partners including Comcast and the City of Charleston, the Charleston Learning Center was developed to offer pragmatic, affordable, and inclusive tech & business classes for Lowcountry residents of all ages.

The Charleston Digital Corridor is also pleased to report that the Charleston Learning Center, formerly CDC Learning Center, has exceeded its initial target of 500 attendees since the center was launched last September.

"Our goal is to leverage the relationships and brain trust in Charleston's tech community to provide affordable and accessible classes to make our residents a little more knowledgeable on topics that are relevant," said Charleston Digital Corridor Director, Ernest Andrade.

Learn more about the Robotics Camp HERE.

Workiva's,  Makenzie Martin
CDC TECH LIFE PODCAST

Episode 41 of the CDC Tech Life Podcast features Makenzie Martin, Principal Product Marketer at Workiva.

Episode 41 of the CDC Tech Life Podcast features Makenzie Martin, Principal Product Marketer at Workiva. Makenzie takes us on a deep dive into the practice of Product Marketing and shares her experiences and insights on why making a Product Marketer an early hire can be a key to success for Startup Ventures.

This episode is sponsored by SatQuote. With a full suite of AI-enabled desktop and mobile apps, SatQuote is software for mapping, designing, estimating, and collaborating with customers and teammates.

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Fexillon CEO, Kieran Beggan, Digital Corridor Director, Ernest Andrade and  Honorable William Cogswell

Charleston Digital Corridor Welcomes Irish Trailblazer Fexillon to Thriving Tech Community

The Charleston Digital Corridor is proud to welcome Fexillon, an innovative leader in digitizing the built environment, to its esteemed community as the company establishes its US office in Charleston, South Carolina.

This strategic collaboration marks a significant milestone for both Fexillon and the Charleston Digital Corridor, highlighting their shared commitment to driving tech innovation and fostering growth in Charleston's dynamic ecosystem. As Fexillon embarks on its US expansion journey, the Corridor will provide the Irish firm with an ideal platform to thrive and innovate in Charleston's thriving tech scene.

Fexillon's entrance into the US market is complemented by ambitious revenue projections for the US market targeting an impressive $10 million by 2026. With a projected revenue trajectory reflecting confidence in its capabilities and market demand, Fexillon also intends to grow its US team from 10 employees in 2024 to over 30 by 2026. These initial 10 positions in 2024 will focus on supporting the rollout of Fexillon's technology platform in sectors such as Architecture, Engineering, Construction, and Operations (AECO), as well as other verticals critical to the company's success. The company will recruit peer leadership roles in its Technology, Customer Success, Smart Buildings and Building Information Modelling teams. These projections underscore Fexillon's strategic expansion plans and commitment to achieving substantial growth and success in the US tech landscape.

"We are delighted to welcome Fexillon to the Charleston Digital Corridor community," said Ernest Andrade, Founder and Director of Charleston Digital Corridor. "Their decision to base their US operations here underscores Charleston's reputation as a leading destination for tech innovation and growth. Fexillon's presence within the Corridor will enrich our ecosystem and further solidify Charleston's position as a vibrant hub for tech companies seeking to thrive and innovate. We look forward to supporting Fexillon as they embark on this exciting journey and contribute to the continued success of our dynamic tech community."

"We are honored that Fexillon, an innovative and fast-growing building tech company, has selected Charleston for its US Headquarters," said City of Charleston Mayor William Cogswell. "We are committed to supporting Fexillon as they implement their ambitious business plans for the North American market," he added.

"Our expansion into Charleston marks a pivotal moment for Fexillon and the broader Irish tech community," said Kieran Beggan, CEO, Fexillon. "We're proud to bring Irish expertise and innovation to the global stage as we enter the US market. Basing our US operations in Charleston provides comprehensive coverage for our customer base, with promising growth opportunities in South Carolina and neighboring states.

"Charleston serves as a gateway to the US market and choosing the Charleston Digital Corridor underscores our commitment to collaboration and growth within Charleston's dynamic tech ecosystem. With South Carolina's tech-friendly environment and skilled workforce, we're positioned for growth while driving innovation, forming partnerships, and showcasing the prowess of the Irish tech sector worldwide."

With the support of the Charleston Digital Corridor, Fexillon is poised to make a significant mark in the US market, driving innovation, fostering collaboration, and propelling Charleston's tech ecosystem to new heights. With a strong reputation for quality and innovation built over 24 years, Fexillon has become a trusted partner for blue-chip firms across various sectors in the Irish, UK and wider European markets. The company's digital asset management solutions have garnered acclaim from blue-chip firms in both the public and private sectors, enabling more streamlined approaches to building and property management. By leveraging its platform, clients have been empowered to make data-driven decisions, reduce energy consumption, and enhance operational efficiency.

Avicenna Biosciences co-founders, Pieter Burger (left)  and Thomas Kaiser, MD.

Avicenna Introduces Machine Learning-Enhanced Medicinal Chemistry Platform to Accelerate the Last Mile of Small Molecule Drug Discovery

Avicenna Biosciences today introduced an extension to its machine learning (ML) technology platform to enhance medicinal chemistry and expedite clinical-stage drug discovery. The company has raised $14.5 million in funding to date, with DCVC Bio leading its 2022 seed round, and this month published a paper in the peer-reviewed Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling.

Co-authored with researchers from Schrödinger and Microsoft Research AI4Science, the paper outlines how combining Schrödinger's physics-based methods with Avicenna's novel ML methods can make the lead-to-drug optimization phase of small molecule drug discovery faster, less expensive and more successful – particularly when it comes to engineering potency and selectivity against a potential biological target.

"We're accustomed to hearing scientific success stories, but the countless failures that happen along the way often get overlooked. In medicinal chemistry especially, failure is prevalent. It can require hundreds of millions of dollars across many clinical attempts to bridge the complex gap from chemistry and biology to medicine, and successfully develop an approved drug," said Dr. Thomas Kaiser, co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer at Avicenna. "Avicenna is applying novel ML methods to navigate the unknowns in medicinal chemistry and design around them. Our methods allow a drug design team to learn from years of failure and optimize against validated targets more efficiently. We're making the most critical phase of drug design –- the last mile of drug discovery –- substantially faster and more cost effective."

Technology Applications and Results

Avicenna is leveraging its technology to develop its own therapeutic programs, with an initial focus on neurodegenerative diseases. For example, Rho kinase (ROCK) inhibitors demonstrate potential in neurodegeneration and metabolic diseases. However, designing an orally dosed, central nervous system-penetrant ROCK inhibitor has proved extremely difficult. Fasudil, a promising ROCK inhibitor currently in Phase 2 clinical trials, must be dosed intravenously twice daily, precluding its use in illnesses like chronic kidney disease or neurodegeneration. To overcome these challenges, Avicenna has initiated its own ROCK Inhibitor Program. Using its novel ML technology to identify drug-like compounds with desired pharmacokinetic properties, the company has already achieved:

  • Faster Timelines: 9 months from idea to in vivo proof of concept
  • Reduced Costs: $220,000 from concept to initiation of Investigational New Drug (IND)-enabling studies
  • Better Therapeutics:__Two development candidates discovered while only synthesizing 11 total compounds

Research Paper Implications

"Creating new medicines and safely delivering them to the people who need them is incredibly difficult and full of risk. Avicenna is working to make drug discovery straightforward and fast by creating new algorithms to identify molecules with ideal drug-like properties," said Dr. John Hamer, Managing Partner at DCVC Bio. "Avicenna's collaborative research with Schrödinger and Microsoft demonstrates how a physics-based augmentation of ML requires just tens of molecules to optimize small molecules against a new drug target, as opposed to thousands. We couldn't be more excited to support this potentially game-changing biotechnology company as it scales to its next stage of growth."

Titled "FEP-Augmentation as a Means to Solve Data Paucity Problems for Machine Learning in Chemical Biology," Avicenna, Schrödinger, and Microsoft's newly published paper describes how to use physics-based methods such as Schrödinger's free energy perturbation technology, FEP+, to generate virtual data, which can be used to augment the sparse data sets commonly found in early medicinal chemistry optimization. These augmented datasets can be used for ML training where it was previously impossible to train without the disclosed approach. The augmentation is comparably informative for ML training as going through the effort and expense of making and testing the needed compounds. Ultimately, this allows an early-stage discovery team to access ML which can then quickly query millions of lead-like compounds and identify promising leads for drug development. The paper outlines the key mechanistic considerations for augmenting such data sets and lays the groundwork for implementation, demonstrating that an initial series of 10-20 related compounds, accompanied by 3D structures co-resolved with a small set of ligands, can serve as an accelerated foundation for lead optimization.

The research shows that combining FEP+ with ML can accelerate the hit-to-lead phase of drug discovery, which can generate profound implications, including:

  • Shorten the time spent in hit-to-lead optimization
  • Significant reduction in synthetic effort

Team and Partnership Opportunities

The Avicenna team's collective background in mathematics, chemistry and medicine brings a uniquely comprehensive perspective to their core discipline of medicinal chemistry. Co-founders Drs. Kaiser and Pieter Burger met while working within theLiotta Research Group at Emory University. The group is well known for its successes in drug development across virology, oncology and neurology, creating more than 20 FDA-approved therapeutics. As a synthetic organic chemist, Dr. Kaiser led the Liotta antivirals group, and as a structural bioinformaticist, Dr. Burger led its computational group.

In addition to developing its own therapeutic programs, Avicenna partners with clinical-stage biotech startups and major pharmaceutical organizations to optimize their drug discovery campaigns and maximize risk-return profiles, easily fitting into partners' existing chemistry workflows. For more information on Avicenna and its technology platform or to inquire about partnership opportunities, visit www.avicenna-bio.com.

Episode 40 of the CDC Tech Life Podcast features Steve Dykes, Executive Director of Charleston County Economic Development

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Episode 40 of the CDC Tech Life Podcast features Steve Dykes, Executive Director for the Charleston County Economic Development Department. Steve walks us through over 30 years of economic growth in Charleston County and how the region is poised for more great things in the future.

This episode is sponsored by the City of Charleston. The City of Charleston is pleased to support the Charleston Digital Corridor with its mission to foster innovation and entrepreneurship.

Comcast Lift Zone Ribbon Cutting

Comcast Launches WiFi-Connected “Lift Zone” in Partnership with the Charleston Digital Corridor Learning Center

Comcast announced today the opening of its newest Xfinity WiFi- connected "Lift Zone" at the Charleston Digital Corridor (CDC) Learning Center, located inside the Charleston Tech Center, at 997 Morrison Drive, Suite 200 in Charleston. Lift Zones are safe spaces where communities can learn digital skills and pursue academic, professional and personal advancement.

Comcast also announced a $25,000 grant for the development and promotion of the CDC's Learning Center–the home of the Lift Zone. Over the last four years, Comcast has donated more than $80,000 to the CDC to support their mission of improving economic mobility in Charleston through digital skills training.

"We appreciate Comcast's longstanding dedication in support of Charleston's tech economy," said Ernest Andrade, Executive Director at Charleston Digital Corridor. "Comcast's Lift Zone designation at the CDC Learning Center is sure to have an impact on Charleston residents as they participate in much needed, meaningful digital literacy classes."

Additionally, Comcast donated 25 laptops to students at C.E. Williams Middle School who will attend the CDC Learning Center's "ChatGPT for Students" class.

"Comcast's commitment to Charleston's workforce readiness over the years has had an enormous impact on our community," said Charleston Mayor William S. Cogswell Jr. "I am honored to celebrate with Comcast today as they commemorate the opening of a valuable Lift Zone at Charleston Digital Corridor's Learning Center."

Lift Zones are part of a larger multiyear plan by Comcast to support community-organization based WiFi at more than 1,250 Lift Zones throughout the country – including South Carolina. Lift Zones are also an extension of the company's longstanding commitment to help connect families to the internet and provide resources to help them take advantage of educational opportunities and the digital economy.

"Comcast remains committed to bridging the digital divide by providing free, robust WiFi access through its Lift Zone initiative," said Mike McArdle, Comcast Regional Senior Vice President. "We are excited to team up with the Charleston Digital Corridor to offer a safe place where local students and families have access to online educational and life resources that are so critical."

Lift Zones complement Comcast's Internet Essentials program, the nation's largest and most successful private-sector low-income broadband adoption program. For more than a decade, Comcast has worked with trusted community partners, businesses and government to help millions of households connect to the Internet and the technology they need to participate in the digital world.

Since launching in 2011, Internet Essentials has connected more than 10 million people to the Internet at home, many for the very first time.

MUSC Chief Innovation Officer Jesse Goodwin, Ph.D

Blue Sky Labs Launches MUSC Innovation District In Charleston

The Medical University of South Carolina is preparing to welcome innovators to a retooled campus building that offers lab space to people with great ideas that need room for growth. It's the beginning of an innovation district that MUSC's president has called a generational opportunity.

The location of that beginning is a building on Calhoun Street in a former College of Pharmacy site. It's now home to Blue Sky Labs – a place for scientists and other experts who want to hone their creations, test new concepts and share space and ideas with fellow innovators. The long-term plan is for other locations to follow.

Blue Sky Labs is still in the process of getting up and running. But there's no question that it's an important step toward the ultimate goal: a district where, in the words of MUSC President David Cole, M.D., "universities, corporations, manufacturers, dreamers and philanthropists come together to create a new level of what is possible."

Jesse Goodwin, MUSC's chief innovation officer, is leading the effort and will be based in the pioneering Blue Sky building. "It is a physical demonstration of MUSC's commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship and fostering that culture among its faculty and staff."

She said cultivating innovation is one of MUSC's core commitments. "Why is now the right time? We are at an inflection point as an organization and as a region where we have enough groundswell momentum that it's time to double down on our efforts if we really want to move the needle and have the type of impact that I think MUSC is poised to have."

Building momentum

Poised, because MUSC has already developed multiple options for entrepreneurs who would benefit from institutional support, including:

  • The Zucker Institute for Innovation Commercialization, which helps MUSC innovators who want to start companies.
  • MUSC Health Solutions, which works within MUSC Health to validate pain points, conduct market research, develop build/buy/partner recommendations, and craft business cases for digital solutions.
  • Goodwin's Office of Innovation, which works to build a culture of innovation by supporting new ideas generation through programs, funding, and pilot projects.

MUSC also has multiple entrepreneurial success stories. Case in point: QuicksortRx, started by a former network engineer and former pharmacist at MUSC. It helps hospitals make better pharmacy buying decisions. It's been so successful that it's moving into bigger digs and getting ready to hire more than three dozen new employees.

Other companies started by current and former MUSC employees include GlycoPath, which focuses on biomarker research; Leukogene Therapeutics, an early-stage oncology drug discovery company; and FibroTherapeutics, which is developing treatments for diseases involving organ fibrosis and vascular leakage.

Blue Sky Labs' Role

Those success stories show there's already a supportive environment at MUSC and in Charleston for entrepreneurs. Goodwin said Blue Sky Labs will build on that.

"We're not trying to replace any of the existing entrepreneurial spaces like The Harbor Entrepreneur Center or the Digital Corridor. I think they're wonderful. This is a supplement to those."

An important distinction: "None of those existing spaces has lab space. This new MUSC space does," Goodwin said.

"So if you're a biotech company that needs a lab, until now, there was no place for you to go except for the South Carolina Research Authority incubator that's on the peninsula," Goodwin said.

"And that's almost always fully occupied. So SCRA is supportive as well. This is a supplement to support life sciences in the region. It's not a competition to the existing spaces. It can be complementary. Someone could have an office over in The Harbor and run their lab here."

And that would be perfectly fine with Goodwin. She sees MUSC's role as going well beyond teaching students and healing patients. She said the academic medical center also has an eye on the future. "I think it's our obligation to foster and support innovation."

Blue Sky Labs will be a part of that. Named for the concept that creativity doesn't have to be constrained by what we already know, Blue Sky Labs is part of MUSC's focus on the pursuit of knowledge that can change lives for the better. Its tag line is "Life changing ideas made real."

That concept has the potential to help transform part of the Charleston peninsula. MUSC's president put his vision of the innovation district this way. "Imagine an environment where people can see, feel and touch our future's potential. It is a place where innovation thrives, new and creative ideas are nurtured and others will come to seek expertise, provide their knowledge and resources and set the pace for economic growth."

Episode 39 of the CDC Tech Life Podcast features Edwin Goutier, CEO of Charleston SC-based Technology Startup - Launchpath.

Episode 39 of the CDC Tech Life Podcast features Edwin Goutier, CEO of Charleston SC-based Technology Startup Launchpath. Edwin talks about how Launchpath is unlocking innovation for its corporate customers and why they are now shifting their focus to the Non-Profit Sector.

This episode is sponsored by Charleston County Economic Development Department. They're dedicated to recruiting new business, growing existing industry and improving Charleston's business climate.

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Upcoming Classes & Events

LEARNING CENTER
Aug 14, 9AM - 1PM

The Entrepreneurs Sales Playbook

Many entrepreneurs believe "if we build it, they will come". The reality is, selling well really matters when it comes to achieving sustainable double-digit revenue growth. If your company's revenue growth is stagnating or you aren't winning enough deals against your competition, this program will give you a whole new way of looking at your approach to B2B sales.

FEATURED EVENT
Oct 2, 9AM - 10:30AM

The Entrepreneurs Legal Essentials

There is a saying in business - plan for the best but prepare for the worst. Failing to properly plan for business growth can could be very expensive to address later. This class taught by a vetted legal professional is designed to help entrepreneurs avoid the legal pitfalls that so many start-ups and growing businesses encounter.

LEARNING CENTER
Jun 19, 2PM - 4PM

Introduction to ChatGPT

The "Introduction to ChatGPT" class offers an insightful journey into the capabilities, applications, and underlying principles of ChatGPT, a cutting-edge large language model (LLM) developed by OpenAI. This course provides participants with a foundational understanding of how ChatGPT works and equips them with practical knowledge to interact effectively with the model.

EVENT
Jun 24, 5:30PM - 8PM

CharlestonHacks: Hack Nights

CharlestonHacks Hack Nights is a community-run hackathon in Charleston, South Carolina, and co-hosted by The Ripple Fund. Hack Nights is an in-person hackathon focused on innovation and collaboration with the mission of contributing to the growth of Charleston, South Carolina as a thriving technology, entrepreneurship and creative hub. Learn more and register HERE.

LEARNING CENTER
Jul 8, 9AM - 1PM

Robotics Summer Camp

The Robotics Summer Camp offers a dynamic journey into the capabilities, applications, and underlying principles of Computer Science. Computer science is very important to the success of our students in the current digital world as it is in virtually every area of academic study. This camp is designed to inspire creativity and collaboration among participants, providing a solid foundation in computer science and problem-solving skills.

EVENT
Jul 15, 9AM - 1PM

Robotics Summer Camp

The Robotics Summer Camp offers a dynamic journey into the capabilities, applications, and underlying principles of Computer Science. Computer science is very important to the success of our students in the current digital world as it is in virtually every area of academic study. This camp is designed to inspire creativity and collaboration among participants, providing a solid foundation in computer science and problem-solving skills.

LEARNING CENTER
Jul 17, 9AM - 11AM

Next Level ChatGPT

So, you've been using ChatGPT and want to go further? This class is designed to level up your beginner skills and understand how to get the most out of this new technology.

LEARNING CENTER
Aug 14, 9AM - 1PM

The Entrepreneurs Sales Playbook

Many entrepreneurs believe "if we build it, they will come". The reality is, selling well really matters when it comes to achieving sustainable double-digit revenue growth. If your company's revenue growth is stagnating or you aren't winning enough deals against your competition, this program will give you a whole new way of looking at your approach to B2B sales.

LEARNING CENTER
Aug 21, 9AM - 11AM

ChatGPT for Business

Unlock the power of generative AI! Join our workshop tailored for Executives and Entrepreneurs looking to leverage cutting-edge technology. Discover how generative AI, with reported productivity gains of 20-30%, can transform your business. While ChatGPT takes center stage, we'll also explore other exciting options.

LEARNING CENTER
Sep 4, 9AM - 11AM

ChatGPT for Coders

ChatGPT won't be replacing any software developers any time soon. It's not always correct, and it doesn't do a great job at understanding larger codebases. So should you be using it to help you write code? Absolutely! With the right guidance from a developer, ChatGPT can eliminate large amounts of time in creating boilerplate code, refactoring, adding new functionality and working across different languages. Know how to write some code in Java but not Python? Want to quickly add a unit test to some new functionality? Want to spin up a new API in Go but don't know where to start? All of these are great use cases, and if you can learn to use GPT effectively in your coding process you can move much faster and solve larger and more complex problems every day. Whether you are a seasoned coder or just starting out, this class should leave you with new tricks and faster process to build the things you're excited to build.

LEARNING CENTER
Sep 24, 2PM - 4PM

The Tech Investor's Playbook

Interested in learning how to make money in tech stocks? Technology stocks comprise 43% of the weight of the S&P 500. 8 of America's 10 largest companies by market cap are tech firms.

LEARNING CENTER
Oct 16, 11:30AM - 1PM

ChatGPT Lunch & Learn

ChatGPT is ever evolving. The ChatGPT Lunch & Learn session will introduce the latest new features that have developed and explore how these developments can enhance your professional and personal interactions. The second half is dedicated to addressing your questions, providing a hands-on opportunity to apply ChatGPT to your unique needs. Lunch/drink is provided.

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