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UB's Pre-Seed Workshop seeks to aid entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs who want to get life-sciences and high-tech companies off the ground will have a chance to pitch their ideas to experts at the University at Buffalo's Pre-Seed Workshop this week and next.

The workshop takes place Wednesday, Thursday and June 20 at UB's Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences and the adjoining Roswell Park Center for Genetics and Pharmacology on Ellicott Street.

Ten workshop participants will get advice from business, financial and legal experts as they craft the kind of presentation they can make in the future to prospective investors and business partners.

On the final day, the participants will make their presentations to a group of investors in a low-stakes setting meant to provide the entrepreneurs with feedback on their ideas and performance.

According to UB, the participants include a new method of growing microalgae for the biofuel market and a method of evaluating clinicians performing robotic surgery.

--- Stephen T. Watson

SBA to detail effect of Affordable Care Act on small businesses

The U.S. Small Business Administration in Buffalo is holding a session explaining the impact of the federal Affordable Care Act on small businesses, and registration for the Wednesday morning event is still open.

Thirty company representatives have signed up for the seminar, which will be held from 10 a.m. to noon at the SBA's local offices, 130 S. Elmwood Ave., Suite 423.

The new federal health care law has a number of provisions that will affect small businesses, and their employees, and the seminar is meant to address the questions employers have about the act.

Anyone interested in attending the seminar can register at the door or at

--- Stephen T. Watson


Sabres to make announcement about building project

HarborCenter 4By Jonathan D. Epstein

The Buffalo Sabres will make a “major announcement” regarding their HARBORCenter project at Canalside on Thursday morning.
The team did not provide any details Wednesday evening, but scheduled a press conference for 11 a.m. at the First Niagara Center, with Chief Development Officer Cliff Benson.
The $170 million project by the Sabres and owner Terry Pegula involves construction of a multi-purpose facility, anchored by two giant ice rinks for community use and a 200-room, full-service hotel and a parking ramp with 850 spaces. It will be connected directly to the First Niagara Center, making it the only three-rink complex in the National Hockey League.
Construction work is already underway at the site, known as the Webster Block. However, officials have not yet identified what hotel chain will be represented in the facility.

UB, life-sciences firms partner on gene-sequencing project

By Stephen T. Watson

The University at Buffalo is teaming up with a major biotechnology corporation and a life-sciences startup company that grew out of research conducted at Roswell Park Cancer Institute to boost genetics-based clinical research on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

The partners announced Wednesday that Life Technologies –- which has a large media manufacturing facility on Grand Island –- is providing UB and Empire Genomics with advanced genome-sequencing equipment.

Empire Genomics will install the new equipment in lab space in its building on the edge of the medical campus, while UB has installed the technology in its New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences on the campus.

The sequencing technology will help UB researchers and Empire Genomics employees develop new diagnostic tests that –- eventually –- could lead to drugs targeted to individual patients, and the partnership is touted as a boon to efforts to build a life-sciences industry in Buffalo.

For more on the partnership, read Thursday's Buffalo News.


Area health plans exceed federal standards for medical spending

The area's three major health plans in 2012 all easily met federal guidelines for how much of their revenues must be spent on medical benefits for their members, the insurers said this week.

Health plans are required under a provision in the federal Affordable Care Act to provide an accounting of how they spend their premium dollars, known as their medical loss ratio, or MLR, data. The most recent filings were due to the federal government on Saturday, and there also are state regulations.

HealthNow New York, the Buffalo-based parent company of BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York; Independent Health Association; and Rochester's Excellus, which operates in the Buffalo area as Univera Healthcare, all met the minimum federal standard of spending on medical care and health services last year.

Overall, Excellus reported that it paid out $3.8 billion in medical benefits for its customers, out of $4.1 billion in after-tax premium revenues collected, or about $330 million more than federal and state requirements.

The federal reporting regulations are broken down into three areas: small group, large group and individual plans.

In the small group commercial pool, for example, which includes businesses with up to 50 employees, the federal standard requires spending at least 82 percent of premiums on medical expenses and claims. Locally, HealthNow spent 98.4 percent of small-group premiums on medical expenses, while Excellus spent 92.5 percent, according to those companies.

For large group coverage, the federal minimum is 85 percent. HealthNow reported spending 91.6 percent of those premiums on medical expenses and Excellus reported spending 92.1 percent.

For those with individual, direct-pay plans, where the federal minimum is 82 percent, HealthNow reported spending 122.5 percent of those premiums on medical expenses and Excellus reported spending 94.9 percent.

Independent Health did not report specific numbers but the health plan said in a statement that the insurer exceeded the federal minimum standards in the three categories.

"Our MLR results demonstrate the company’s efforts to operate as efficiently as possible and that our products are priced appropriately," the statement reads.

Insurers, including some elsewhere in the country, that don't meet the minimum standards are required to issue rebates.

-- Stephen T. Watson





Yogurt power

Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo's chief executive officer, is due back in Upstate today to celebrate the opening of the Muller Quaker Dairy yogurt manufacturing plant in Batavia. The plant is a joint venture of Pepsi and the Theo Muller Group, as Pepsi aims to ramp up its sales in the yogurt industry.

Forbes ranked Nooyi, 57, the 10th most powerful woman in the world in the latest edition of its list. Her ranking was up two spots from a year earlier.

"Under her urging, PepsiCo is researching a new sweetener that could result in trading places with rival No. 1 Coca-Cola," Forbes wrote.

-- Matt Glynn

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