When Philip Morris International gained FDA approval this summer for a new “modified risk tobacco product” called IQOS, one of the first people to weigh in was UoL prof Brad Rodu, D.D.S. He called the new heat-not-burn product “good news for Americans who have been unable or unwilling to quit smoking.”
A professor of medicine and the endowed chair for Tobacco Harm Reduction Research at UofL, Rodu spends his time studying data on tobacco alternatives, and he has come to some surprising conclusions. He arrived at UofL 15 years ago thanks to the state's Research Challenge Trust Fund (better known as the “Bucks for Brains” program), and his research is supported both by that fund and by unrestricted grants from the tobacco industry.
So what’s a dentist doing researching tobacco? It all started when he worked at the University of Alabama Birmingham. “As an oral pathologist I was responsible for interpreting biopsies of suspicious areas in the mouth, head and neck from oral surgeons and ENT specialists all over the Southeast,” he says. And despite conventional wisdom, virtually none of those cases involved people who used smokeless tobacco. “Here I am in the middle of smokeless tobacco country, and virtually nobody that I see with mouth cancer chews or dips at all,” he recalls.
So Rodu began a campaign to convince smokers that smokeless tobacco was a viable alternative to cigarettes if they weren’t willing or able to quit altogether. “It’s the delivery system where all of the diseases are,” he says. “When you inhale smoke, you’re not only inhaling nicotine but you’re inhaling 7,000 chemicals, and many of those over a career start wearing down the body, giving people increased chances for many different cancers, heart attacks, strokes, emphysema. And those are just a few of the diseases.”
At UofL, Rodu uses federal and industry data to study a range of smoking alternatives, everything from e-cigarettes (which he thinks have a bad reputation they don’t deserve) to heat-not-burn products like IQOS to the ZYN nicotine pouches Swedish Match manufactures in Owensboro. “They’re small teabag-like pouches, and it’s pure nicotine with flavorings,” he says. “They’re three- and six-milligram strengths for each pouch, and that market is really expanding right now.” (By comparison, you typically get about a milligram of nicotine from a cigarette, although it’s absorbed much faster into the bloodstream.)
For example, Rodu’s most recent research paper (written with lead author and UofL colleague Nantaporn Plurphanswat, Ph.D., and researchers in Vermont and Sweden) looked at who’s using ZYN. “We were able to get a dataset from Swedish Match that they had collected when they first marketed ZYN in 14 Western states,” he says. “We found that the majority of ZYN users are current smokeless tobacco users, and that just 4% have never used tobacco.”
Although only time will tell, Rodu hopes the product offers smokers another offramp from their dangerous addiction.
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INNOVATIVE HELP WANTED
Build emerging tech for better health outcomes
Peter Margolis, MD, PhD, co-director of the James M. Anderson Center for Health Systems Excellence, and his team at Cincinnati Children's have been transforming pediatric medicine for years. They've been doing it by facilitating Learning Health Networks (LHN).
John Bostick, CEO of Hive Networks, spent three years studying Margolis’ work in order to develop the technology to empower doctors and researchers on their quest to improve health outcomes for patients. Carolyn Wong Simpkins, Senior Advisor of Clinical Strategy at Hive, explains what Hive does:
“Hive created a system in which shareholders could, using software, share measurable goals and available resources and hold each other responsible for making progress toward the goals,” she said.
This includes the patients and their families. Patients bring new perspectives to bear on the problems the group is trying to solve. “That sounds obvious, but it isn’t always so,” Simpkins said.
“One young patient had a condition where he had to have an NG tube inserted frequently. He taught himself how to administer the tube, created a video and posted it to the community to help others,” she said.
Hive is taking this momentum to scale and grow beyond pediatric-focused networks to those addressing conditions that impact a wide array of patients. The company is creating a paradigm shift in the healthcare industry by changing the way clinicians and patients use technology to work together and improve health outcomes.
Hive is hiring for tech positions to help expand software development and adoption of its technology. You can get the details on the open positions here.
The outfit, formerly known as Swift & Company, is wholly owned by JBS USA, one of the world’s largest beef and pork processors. The JBS facility in Louisville employs 1,200 people and serves 275 local producers. The company has as initiative called Hometown Strong, which serves as its charitable arm in local communities.
JBS USA will work with local leaders to identify where best to contribute to the Louisville community, but it is focusing on three key areas: food insecurity, community infrastructure and well being (including initiatives that improve social justice), and COVID-19 emergency response and relief. Anyone may send suggestions via [email protected].
In support of disadvantaged communities
A nonprofit micro-lender in Louisville has made available $500,000 to low-income people and small businesses in disadvantaged areas of the city. The Louisville Housing Opportunities and Micro-Enterprise Community Development Loan Fund, known as LHOME, received the line of credit from First Financial Bank. The goal is to spur economic development among needy small business owners and homeowners, primarily in Louisville’s west and south ends.
Founded in 2011, LHOME is a mission-driven nonprofit financial institution that offers loans and financial coaching services to businesses, homeowners, and renters. It is a Community Development Financial Institutions fund. Prior to the new infusion of cash, LHOME had loaned or deployed more than $1 million. Most of its clients are African Americans and African refugees. The new infusion of cash will seek to boost jobs, home ownership, income, and wealth in the communities it serves.
“We thank First Financial Bank for consistently investing in our efforts to build ownership and wealth in underserved neighborhoods of Louisville,” said Amy Shir, President and CEO of LHOME. “Through this ongoing support, we have developed a proven model in which banks and community development financial institutions can work together to invest in the residents and small businesses in historically redlined neighborhoods.”
Louisville’s digital future is taking off
Louisville’s collaborative efforts to become a regional technology hub are definitely seeing results, and tech companies are investing in Louisville in a big way. Major players like IBM and Microsoft and GE have made significant investments, and so have hundreds of other tech-focused businesses.
Last year, IBM launched an IBM Skills Academy at the University of Louisville, the first of its kind, which helps students get up to speed on in-demand technologies like cybersecurity, blockchain, and quantum computing.
Mayor Fischer later announced an initiative called LouTechWorks, aimed at partnering with education, nonprofits, and employers to develop the city’s “tech talent pipeline.” And soon after, Microsoft tapped Louisville to be a regional hub for AI, IoT, and data science. Its Future of Work initiative is offering free courses during the pandemic to help develop skills in areas like data analytics, digital marketing, software engineering, and user experience design.
If you’re a knowledge worker, this might sound familiar: not enough information, the wrong information, or information that’s lost in a sea of emails, shared documents, and notifications. Even though knowledge transfer is a vital component of professional communications, many organizations struggle to get it right.
But here’s some good news: Vogt Award winner Unitonomy has launched a knowledge transfer system called GetCommit that can help you organize and access the information you need. No more trying to track down relevant details buried in your company intranet or wiki or scattered across collaboration platforms. You just send the important information to GetCommit as you come across it—whether it’s a Slack comment, a link to a Google Doc, an email, a PDF, a chat message, or a file. GetCommit will organize the info “from any tool and in any form” in knowledge repositories that are accessible via a dashboard.
Along with improving knowledge transfer, GetCommit aims to improve company culture with a buddy system that encourages workers to connect with each other. Unitonomy founder Charley Miller says the goal is to “make knowledge transfer effortless with software that proactively adds information and makes information sharing fun.”
Mike Linnig’s Restaurant on Cane Run Road is a Louisville landmark and a big draw for anyone who wants to enjoy a great fish sandwich (and some Frisbee-sized onion rings) alfresco.
It all began in 1925 when Mike Linnig and his wife Carrie started a small roadside stand selling fruit and vegetables. It soon became known as “Mike’s Place” and began serving cold sandwiches. And it kept growing from there. The restaurant is still in the Linnig family. Today, people drive from miles around to enjoy the food and relax in the outdoor area.
We thought you’d enjoy some pictures from the early days at Mike Linnig’s.