FDA Approves Abbott’s Epic Plus Tissue Valves Use In Mitral or Aortic Valve Replacement

by Sloan T. Wilson, The Chicago Times

September 28, 2021

GREEN OAKS, IL — The Epic Plus and Epic Plus Supra Stented Tissue Valves from Abbott have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to improve therapy options for people with aortic or mitral valve disease.  These next-generation devices are based on Abbott’s Epic surgical valve platform, which has a long history of safety and good clinical outcomes and include innovations that make valve implantation and future cardiac interventions easier.

Heart valve disease occurs when one or more of the heart’s four valves fails to open or close properly, causing blood flow to the body to be disrupted. The aortic and mitral valves are the most commonly affected.  When diseased or damaged heart valves cannot be repaired, they can be surgically replaced with mechanical or bioprosthetic (tissue) valves during an open-heart surgery.  Epic Plus bioprosthetic valves do not require long-term use of blood-thinning medication, making them the preferred option for people who cannot take blood thinners or are over the age of 70.

Every year, over 100,000 people in the United States undergo conventional heart valve surgery, which is often a life-saving procedure.  The new Epic Plus tissue valves’ approval provides an important treatment option for patients undergoing valve replacement surgery without the need for long-term blood thinners, as well as a durable solution that allows for reinterventions as needed.

More radiopaque markers (reference points visible on radiographic scans) have been added to Epic Plus, making it easier for doctors to navigate if future transcatheter procedures are required.

The new valves, like the Epic surgical valve platform, are designed to provide long-term performance and durability thanks to Abbott’s proprietary anticalcification technology.

The Epic Plus Mitral holder, which aids in the precise insertion of the valve, also has a lower profile, allowing physicians a better view of the device during implantation.  The device can be implanted in either the aortic or mitral valve position, as well as in patients with more complex anatomies.

The Epic Plus Stented Tissue Valves are the newest addition to Abbott’s surgical tissue and mechanical heart valve portfolio.

IBM To Build Telefónica’s First-Ever Cloud-Native 5G Core Network Platform

by The Chicago Times Business Staff

September 25, 2021

ARMONK, NY — IBM announced Sep 23 a multi-year strategic agreement with Telefónica to use IBM intelligent automation software and services to implement UNICA Next, Telefónica’s first cloud-native 5G core network platform.

As Telefónica and other Communications Service Providers (CSPs) around the world prepare for the benefits that 5G will bring to core network functions; Telefónica intends to have an open, secure, intelligent, and highly automated network capable of powering transformation for consumer and enterprise customers across all industries.

To deploy the cloud-native platform, Telefónica has worked with IBM Global Business Services, a leading systems integrator and IBM’s digital transformation services and consultancy arm, Red Hat, and Juniper networking.  The platform will be a new open-standard open-networking technology compliant platform that will be deployed across multiple central, regional, and distributed data centers, offering low latency and high bandwidth while delivering services in an agile fashion.  UNICA Next data centers are scheduled to be deployed beginning in October 2021, with scalable architecture designed to meet ETSI and other relevant industry standards.

The new network is based on IBM Cloud Pak for Network Automation, Red Hat OpenShift, and Juniper Networks Apstra and QFX technology, all of which work together to provide streamlined end-to-end orchestration and operations.

The platform will enable continuous improvements in deployment and management, as well as the creation of new services that provide increased customer value.  The combination of IBM Cloud Pak for Network Automation software and UNICA Next enables intent-driven orchestration, which supports the end-to-end lifecycle management of various network cloud elements and network functions, including 5G core.  When combined with the power of Red Hat Open Shift and Advanced Cluster Management for Kubernetes, Telefónica will have an environment designed for increased observability and control for managing the UNICA Next Kubernetes environment and driving 5G and edge innovation more quickly and with less complexity.

These new capabilities will be designed to enable Telefónica to deploy network services and new network functions more quickly by leveraging the IBM Cloud for Telecommunications partner ecosystem.

Telefónica, a pioneer in the adoption of open networks, has already deployed a live implementation in Europe using the IBM Cloud for Telecommunications and is continuing to innovate for their customers with increased speed and value.

The IBM Global Telco Solutions Lab in Coppell, Texas, in collaboration with Telefónica’s Network Cloud Lab in Madrid, will help accelerate the evolution of UNICA Next by creating new fully integrated releases using CI/CD methodology for ongoing life-cycle upgrades to the existing UNICA Next platform.

Telefónica will be able to increase agility and data security while also continuing to innovate and transform by leveraging IBM’s large network function ecosystem, Red Hat’s vast ecosystem of certified partners, and Juniper’s relationships with network function and hardware vendors by collaborating with IBM.

KKR Completes Joint Investment In 400 Summer Street Joint Venture

by Sloan T. Wilson, The Chicago Times

September 25, 2021

NEW YORK – KKR announced today that it has completed a significant investment in a joint venture with WS Development and the Public Sector Pension Investment Board in 400 Summer Street, a new state-of-the-art life science tower currently under construction in Boston’s Seaport District.

KKR will share ownership of the asset with WS Development and PSP Investments, while WS Development will continue to oversee and lead development and management of the property.

400 Summer Street is a 16-story purpose-built life science building in Boston’s Seaport District submarket.  The 635,000-square-foot property will be the headquarters of Foundation Medicine, a leading Boston-based biotechnology company and subsidiary of Roche Pharmaceuticals, which has leased 100 percent of the laboratory and office space in the building.

400 Summer Street is part of WS Development’s 33-acre Boston Seaport development project, which will include both interior and exterior public spaces connecting Summer and Congress Streets, as well as more than 30,000 square feet of neighborhood retail space.

Funding for research and development has continued to fuel growth in the life sciences sector, with total pharmaceutical R&D spending expected to exceed $200 billion by 2021.

“We have a strong belief in life sciences real estate and believe there will be a long-term demand for high-quality lab and workspace in the world’s top innovation hubs.  With our investment in 400 Summer Street in Boston’s Seaport, we are thrilled to be expanding our portfolio of trophy life science assets.  In addition to our recent acquisition in San Francisco’s Mission Bay, we now serve the two largest and most prestigious life science clusters in the United States,” said Justin Pattner, KKR Partner.

The transaction was handled by Newmark’s Boston-based Capital Markets Group, which represented WS Development and PSP Investments.

Morris Adjmi Architects of New York designed the structure, which is being built by Suffolk Construction of Boston.

Boeing Retains ICBM Guidance Systems Support Contract Through 2039

by Sloan T. Wilson, The Chicago Times

September 20, 2021

CHICAGO — Under a recently awarded 18-year, $1.6 billion sole-source contract, Boeing will continue to maintain the guidance system for the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) for the United States Air Force.

Boeing, which has held the contract exclusively since 1996, will primarily perform the work at the Boeing Guidance Repair Center in Heath, Ohio – the company’s center of excellence for navigation and guidance system maintenance, repair, and overhaul.  Because of the site’s unique stability and inertial calibration capabilities, Boeing is able to maintain the readiness and accuracy of guidance and navigation systems for nuclear-capable platforms in the United States with unparalleled quality and precision.

“As the ICBM guidance system’s original equipment manufacturer, this contract ensures the continued reliability, safety, and accuracy of our nation’s land-based strategic deterrent,” said Mike Murasky, site leader for the Boeing Guidance Repair Center.

Since the inception of strategic deterrence, the Boeing-built ICBM weapon system has served as the reliable and enduring ground-based leg of the US nuclear triad.  Boeing is also the prime contractor for Minuteman guidance subsystem maintenance, and it is the only company that has continuously supported every ICBM subsystem – ground, guidance, propulsion, and re-entry – over the weapon system’s lifetime.

Ford Begins Pre-Production of All-Electric F-150: 100,000 Plus On Order

by John McPhaul, The Chicago Times

September 19, 2021

DEARBORN, MI — Ford announced Thursday that it will increase investment and add jobs to boost production as the first pre-production F-150 Lightning trucks roll out of Ford’s new Rouge Electric Vehicle Center as demand for the all-electric truck soars.

Ford will invest an additional $250 million and create 450 direct jobs at the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center, Van Dyke Electric Powertrain Center, and Rawsonville Components Plant.  The investment and new jobs will contribute to an increase in production capacity to 80,000 trucks per year.

“We knew the F-150 Lightning was special, but public interest has exceeded our wildest dreams and changed the conversation about electric vehicles.  So we are doubling down, adding jobs and investment to boost output,” said Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford Motor Company.

With a starting MSRP of $40,000 and an EPA-estimated driving range of 300 miles with the extended range battery1, the F-150 Lightning is aimed squarely at the heart of the US auto market.  Ford has taken more than 150,000 reservations for the truck.

“Electrifying the F-Series – America’s best-selling truck for 44 years – and assembling at this high-tech facility in Michigan – represents a significant step toward mass adoption of electric vehicles in America . . . F-150 Lightning is intended to be more than a no-compromise zero tail pipe emissions truck . . . It is loaded with clever features and technology that will improve over time, it is thrilling to drive, and it can power your home and workplace.” said Kumar Galhotra, Ford’s president of The Americas and International Markets Group.

Ford announced the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center’s construction a year ago as part of a $700 million investment in the historic Ford Rouge Center to create a manufacturing home for the F-150 Lightning.

Ford’s pre-production F-150 Lightning trucks are now leaving the factory for field testing, with the truck expected to be available to customers next spring.

Ford’s additional $250 million investment will result in 450 additional hourly direct jobs, with the majority of those employees assembling the F-150 Lightning at the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center.  The batteries will be assembled at the Rawsonville Components Plant, and the Van Dyke Electric Powertrain Center will increase its capacity to supply electric motors and electric transaxles for the F-150 Lightning.

This is the latest in Ford’s ongoing commitment to Michigan.  Since 2016, Ford has invested $7.7 billion in the state and created or retained 7,000 Michigan jobs, including bringing the new Bronco SUV and Ranger pickup production to Michigan, refurbishing Michigan Central Station, developing a new Ford Research and Engineering Campus in Dearborn, and establishing Ford’s Ion Park in Romulus, among other things.  Since its inception in 1903, Michigan has been the home of Ford, and these locations are part of a growing network in southeast Michigan that will support the next generation of Ford’s battery electric, connected, and autonomous vehicles.


by The Chicago Times Staff

August 4, 2021

CHICAGO — Due to the delta variant, Home Depot stores are once again requiring all customers, contractors, and employees to wear coronavirus masks indoors.  The new rules also apply to Home Depot’s distribution centers, offices, and work being done in customers’ homes or businesses.

“We will ask customers to wear masks while shopping in our stores and will continue to provide masks to those who do not have one,” the company said in a statement.  Home Depot is also encouraging its employees to get COVID-19 vaccinations and is providing assistance with childcare, transportation, and appointment scheduling.  Customers under the age of 12 and those with a “valid medical condition” are exempt, but they were required to speak with a store employee before entering.

Home Depot lifted the previous mask mandate for vaccinated customers on May 17 after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its coronavirus guidance – a move reversed by the Biden administration last week.  Even vaccinated people should now wear masks indoors, according to current CDC recommendations, and some businesses, state and local governments have adopted that guidance as a new rule.