Magic Bullets All Over Pittsburgh

I need a theme to connect several notes that I collected. The theme is magic bullets. Pittsburgh is still looking for its magic bullet, the one great thing that will restore the city and the region. That's the bad news. The good news seems to be that we've got a lot of 'em. No more eggs in one basket. We're adding baskets.

Today's PG: "ALS drug brings payoff: South Side firm gets up to $345M for rights; a boost to biotech in region." Read past the sensationalist headline; local drug developer Knopp Neurosciences is getting $20 million in cash, is selling $80 million in stock, and hopes to get the rest way down the road (years down the road) if its ALS drug turns out to be approved -- and is effective and successful. The deal is definitely a nice little win for Pittsburgh's fledgling biotech sector, but the fact that it is front page news shows just how far that sector has to go.

Today's PG: "McCartney christens Consol with high-energy show." Thousands of baby boomers paid a ton of money to see the biggest baby boom icon of them all "christen" the "Consol Energy Center," the publicly-subsidized hockey arena (oops, "multi-use arena") that will save Uptown as well as the Pens and their fans. I'm more of a John person than a Paul person, but either way, the event just goes to show how much Pittsburgh's future is invested in its past. The future arrives on September 5. That's the Lady Gaga show.

Today's PG: "Imagining a bright future for rusty relic of Pittsburgh's age of steel." Absolutely: create a park to preserve some of the history. Check out the Steel Industry Heritage Corp. But the restored site will take off? People will go out there for symphony concerts? Who? I looked around the Rivers of Steel site for data to back up the idea that a national historic site would be anything other than a pleasant and attractive part of the national park system -- a 20th century counterpart to, say, the Fort Necessity National Battlefield, which is one of my favorite stops when I show the region to out-of-town guests. But there is nothing.

In better news (for me): At Burgh Diaspora the other day, I got some props from geographer and Pittsburgh enthusiast Jim Russell for my skepticism about the future of Pittsburgh manufacturing. Wherever you sit in this conversation, I thank Jim (and Harold Miller) for continuing the kind of *constructive* dialogue about Pittsburgh's future that the region really needs.

In better news (two): Pitt's Center for Social and Urban Research (the unfortunately acronymed "UCSUR") has started a blog: "The PUB," which stands for "Pittsburgh Urban Blog." Another acronym, featuring a pun, no less. I will add it to the blogroll, though Chris Briem's impressive firehose of Pittsburgh data is already enough for me. Since Chris works at UCSUR, one wonders whether The PUB will be "more of" or "instead of" relative to Chris's prodigious output.

Better news (three): Someone is out there talking about dysfunction (or creative destruction) in the market for entrepreneurial capital. Read Michael Arrington's piece at TechCruch, about angels (playing small ball with lots of little plays, but getting more aggressive) and VCs (looking for swing-for-the-fences plays). Are angels jumping in where VCs fear to tread? Are social media startups (low capital needs) changing the character of startup investment altogether? What's happening in Pittsburgh on this score?

And the best news (four): Paul McCartney and Steel may be the metaphorical ghosts of Pittsburgh's past, but the real ghosts of Pittsburgh's past are starting to get their due. "Haunted Pittsburgh Ghost Tours" is going strong. Check it out - here.


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Pittsblog 2.0 is written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Send email to michael.j.madison[at] Mike also blogs at, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

All opinions expressed at Pittsblog 2.0 are those of their respective authors and of no one (and no thing) else, least of all the University of Pittsburgh.

Pittsblog 2.0 has a motto: "It's steel good in Pittsburgh." Say it aloud, with a Pittsburgh accent.

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