I've had my share of health problems, as readers of this column well know. But so far I have managed to avoid the most common affliction among my group of friends: atrial fibrillation. Four have experienced A-fib, also known as AF, which manifests as an irregular heartbeat in between 2.7 and 6.1 million American adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Because older people are more likely to develop the condition and the U.S. population is aging, that number is expected to reach 12.1 million by 2030. A-fib itself is not fatal but, if untreated, dramatically increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.
To be honest, my 62-year-old ticker beat a little faster when I first heard about an effort here in Vermont to better diagnose A-fib. University of Vermont Medical Center cardiologist Peter Spector has developed a device that can more accurately locate the problem spot in the heart so it can be targeted with a procedure called ablation. Bringing the innovation to market is Sarah Kalil, a med-tech lawyer who grew up in Burlington, spent most of her career working in Boston and now lives in Stowe.
Their startup company, CoreMap, is at a crucial moment: seeking investment, perfecting and testing its product, clearing regulatory hurdles. Despite those pressures, Kalil made time to talk to a Seven Days reporter for a story in this week's paper. The catch: The interview was aerobic. To get a word, Chelsea Edgar had to accompany the busy 63-year-old entrepreneur on her daily morning hike up Mount Mansfield.
A sixth-generation Vermonter who graduated from Burlington High School and the University of Vermont, Kalil is a dynamo and one of the keynote presenters at this year's Vermont Tech Jam. Organized by Seven Days, the annual event takes place on Saturday, October 22, at Hula in Burlington. The job fair/expo runs from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Kalil takes the stage at 4 p.m. alongside one of her mentors: Shelburne resident John Abele, cofounder of medical device company Boston Scientific. Edgar will engage the duo in a conversation about innovation, collaboration and what it takes to compete in the burgeoning realm of health care technology.
A related story in the current issue, "Picture of Health," introduces five other Vermont companies creating amazing devices, apps and AI programs in the med-tech realm. One of them, Biocogniv, is trying to find a way to predict sepsis, a leading cause of hospital death, before it develops. The company is exhibiting at the Tech Jam. Like so many other Vermont enterprises participating on Saturday, it's hoping to find potential employees among the crowd.
Take a look through the event guide, which lists and describes all the exhibitors, in the center of this week's paper. Some of them will blow your mind. The annual Tech Jam gives us a reason to research the state's tech sector and reflect on how technology is changing our culture. This week's Tech Issue is the result of our collective efforts.
Seven Days was the first local media outlet to break the news in 2018 that Beta Technologies was trying to build an electric plane in a hangar at Burlington International Airport. We've since covered the company's exponential growth and, at the 2021 Tech Jam, introduced its masterminds to the public. In this week's news section, Kevin McCallum provides an update on one of the company's biggest challenges: constructing a battery-charging network across the U.S. that will help usher in a future of electric aviation.
Vermont investors helped get Beta off the ground. That's partly because lucrative sales of local tech companies such as IDX, Dealer.com, MicroStrain and BioTek Instruments made a number of people here very wealthy. As a result, the state now hosts enough venture capitalists to support several organized funds. John Antonucci is at the helm of the Dudley Fund, which Anne Wallace Allen wrote about in January. Now she's profiling Antonucci, who once ran the LaunchVT program for aspiring entrepreneurs.
On the dark side, Derek Brouwer tracked down the 27-year-old deputy director of Middlebury College's Center on Terrorism, Extremism and Counterterrorism for an illuminating Q&A. The headline, "Hell Monitor," says it all.
The features, arts and culture team found plenty to write about, too. Chris Farnsworth checked out the new esports facility at Champlain College — and played, of course. Alison Novak went to Westford to visit a school that excels in teaching kids about robotics.
Margot Harrison interviewed some of the state's most successful TikTok content producers. Some farmers are using the platform, too, to explain agriculture to a wider audience. Look for that story in the food section, along with an exploration of how the practice of tipping has changed with the proliferation of point-of-sale systems.
One inescapable lesson this theme issue touches on year after year: Whether we use it or not, technology is reshaping our state. Mark Saltveit reflects on that truth in a lighthearted essay that rounds out the issue.
Tech isn't always a force for good. How it's used ultimately depends on the people behind it. All the more reason to read up on Vermont's innovators, then meet some of them in person at Saturday's Tech Jam.