Science Policy Friday: EoE/Eos - Rare Disease, Even Rarer Insurance Coverage



This article, the first in a two part series, seeks to raise awareness of a rare disease affecting children known as eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE or Eos for short), a chronic disease that causes inflammation in the esophagus. Part two examines how a rare disease like Eos Disorders is either not covered or poorly covered by medical insurance, and recent legislation to address this problem for EoE.  A big thank you to our new science and environment intern Chelsea Mann for research and drafting this article.

Inflammation is a term regularly associated with common health complications. It is the most likely reason you experience joint pain after a morning run and the reason you miss work after developing bronchitis. While such complications may temporarily interfere with our daily lives, treatment options for inflammation are usually easily accessible and efficient. But for some people—especially children—inflammation can be a serious condition, particularly when this immune response prevents them from eating regular foods to obtain their basic nutrition.   

Imagine an inflammatory disease that closes your throat, prohibits the consumption of food, and cannot be treated with simple medications. This type of inflammation is caused by eosinophils (white blood cells) in response to allergies. White blood cells are typically helpful, but high quantities of white blood cells in areas other than the blood and intestinal tract can cause major issues. While we often take it for granted, the esophagus is a critical organ. It is the body’s digestive highway and transports food from the mouth and throat to your stomach. The inflammatory response that is triggered by an elevation of white blood cells in people with Eos disorders creates a roadblock on this digestive highway, disrupting crucial function and making it near impossible to safely consume and digest food.

Eosinophilic esophagitis largely affects infants and children. According to most medical descriptions of EoE, the symptoms include nausea, regurgitation, vomiting, abdominal pain and reflux. While rare, eosinophilic esophagitis is one of the most prevalent esophageal diseases and causes of dysphagia or difficulty swallowing, and food being impacted in the esophagus. It is a parent’s worst nightmare to have a child with the potential to choke every time he or she eats, while also being deprived of the basic nutrients he or she needs to live and thrive.  Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s webpage on the disease provides more detailed information about the signs and symptoms of eosinophilic esophagitis in infants and children.

Science Policy Friday: Microgrids Small in Size, Big on Efficiency and Resiliency

SciPoliFri_Box.gifThis week’s column is on a new novel piece of legislation that encourages municipalities to consider establishing microgrids that can continue to provide power to key facilities during outages, one of their many benefits to our energy infrastructure.  A big thank you to our new science and environment intern Tiffany Zhao for research and drafting this article. Cross-posted at 

Whether we are charging cellphones or heating homes, society depends on energy in almost every aspect of our lives. The United States ranks second in the world in energy consumption, and as energy usage grows, it becomes increasingly necessary to ensure that our energy usage is sustainable, efficient, and secure.

By incorporating “microgrids”, New Jersey is seeking to be a leader in paving the way for the United States’ energy future. Microgrids are localized electrical grids. Just like larger electrical grids (macrogrids), microgrids can deliver electricity from power plants to consumers, except microgrids cover smaller regions. However, microgrids differ from traditional electrical grids, because they can also produce and store their own energy combined with using resources like solar panels or steam turbines.

Because microgrids can both produce and deliver energy, they can operate independently of the electrical grid. Although some microgrids, like many in Alaska, operate completely independently like islands, most microgrids in the Northeast are normally connected with the electrical grid but have the ability to disconnect from the grid during an outage or disruption.

A new bill (A2756 / S881), sponsored by Assemblyman Tim Eustace and Assemblyman Daniel Benson, seeks to extend the success of microgrids beyond Princeton University throughout New Jersey. The bill would allow municipalities to apply to establish a three-year microgrid pilot program. The program focuses  on enabling public and private facilities that have been declared as critical to maintain normal operation during disasters and emergencies like Superstorm Sandy. By participating in the microgrid pilot program, municipalities will be able to become more prepared for emergencies and contribute to a more sustainable energy future.

Science Policy Friday: Small Step for Solar Paves Way for Greener Grid

SciPoliFri_Box.gifThis week’s column is on an important piece of legislation that will ensure that residential and small-business solar continues to grow with the full support of state policy.  As always, thanks to my science and environment intern Arcadia Lee for research and drafting this article. Thank you to NJ Spotlight and for their continued coverage of these important issues to the state of New Jersey. Cross-posted at 

You or maybe a neighbor in town has installed solar, and you've seen or heard about how the power company's meter "runs backward" when the solar panels are powering the home.  That means that the homeowner is receiving a retail rate for the power they are generating, making the payback for solar much quicker for the homeowner.  The technical term for this is "Net Metering."  

Net metering is the system that allows people who generate their own electricity using solar panels to feed excess energy back into the grid, sometimes referred to as “nega-watt” energy.  Net metering encourages residential and commercial solar growth and may allow a utility company to avoid costly investments in new transmission and distribution of grid electricity.

Under the current New Jersey law, utilities do not have to offer net metering when generating capacity by net-metered customers equals 2.5% of the state’s peak demand for electricity, and as NJ Spotlight reports, a threshold we are already above. But on August 10th, the governor signed legislation (A-3838/S-2420) sponsored by Assemblymen John F. McKeon, Tim Eustace, Reed Gusciora and myself.  The new law expands the state’s net-metering capacity threshold to 2.9% of total annual kilowatt-hours sold in state. More importantly, this means that the crucial pro-consumer pro-environment and pro-renewable energy job policy of net metering will continue unabated as solar continues its growth in the Garden State.

Science Policy Friday: New Jersey Science Policy Roundup

SciPoliFri_Box.gifThis week’s column is a collection of interesting articles from across various science and technology policy spectrums, from state-wide energy system changes to environmental sustainability designs and more! Stay informed and let us know what topics you’d like us to cover in our next few columns.  Perhaps you'd like to hear about autonomous vehicles, bio pharmaceuticals, climate change adaptation along the Jersey Shore? Let us know and have a great weekend! 

Thanks to my science and environment intern Arcadia Lee for research and drafting this article. Thank you to NJ Spotlight and for their continued coverage of these important issues to the state of New Jersey. Cross-posted at 

NJ Energy Policy

Critics of Energy Master Plan Make Opinions Heard at Public Hearing - NJ Spotlight

The NJ Board of Public Utilities hosts the first of three public hearings on the Energy Master Plan

Bill Could Mean More Money to Small Businesses, Residents with Solar Panels - NJ Spotlight

“Christie signs law that increases cap on net metering, letting New Jersey residents earn more for electricity their solar panels produce.”

Power-Grid Operator PJM Hands Off High-Speed Transmission Project - NJ Spotlight

PJM moves to strengthen the reliability of southern NJ’s energy system with a project assigned to PSE&G, Pepco Holdings, Inc. and LS Power.

Power-Grid Operator Pledges to Work Closely With Natural-Gas Sector - NJ Spotlight

“PJM agreement seeks to ensure reliability as coal-fired plants are phased out and more gas-fired units are built.”

NJ Tech Policy

Rate Counsel Files With FCC to Block Verizon Switch to Fiber-Optic System - NJ Spotlight

“Division claims telecom giant’s moving subscribers from copper without telling them; subscribers worry about loss of service during outages.”

Bill Would Let NJ Start-Ups, Entrepreneurs Seek Financial Backers Online - NJ Spotlight

A new crowd-funding bill has bipartisan support and will help New Jersey’s innovators seek private capital from the investing public to develop their products or services.

New numbers show that drones are quickly filling the sky |

“Drone sightings by pilots have skyrocketed across the country in 2015, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, underscoring a spate of recent sightings near area airports and spurring calls for tighter restrictions on the unmanned craft.”

NJ Environmental Policy

Can this Innovative shore house withstand another Hurricane Sandy? (PHOTOS) |

The Steven’s Institute of Technology in Jersey City designed and constructed a sustainable, net zero, hurricane-resilient home in a national academic competition, known as the biennial Solar Decathlon.

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP)-SEEDS

Environmental jobs, news, events and more in local NJ!

Science Policy Friday: Planning New Jersey's Energy Future

SciPoliFri_Box.gifThis is the third in a series of articles or news gathering of science and technology policy issues facing New Jersey or the nation. Thanks to my science and environment intern Arcadia Lee for research and drafting this article. Cross-posted at 


Energy touches the lives of every New Jersey resident - every day. Our quality of life, our security, our prosperity, the land and water around us, and how we work and play all depend on energy. Energy master planning is an important aspect of proactive facilities management, providing an expertly defined and practical road-map to a sustainable future environment.

New Jersey's Board of Public Utilities Office of Clean Energy will be holding hearingsthis month to update the state's Energy Master Plan.  

Adding to the Energy Master Plan's importance is its relationship to the federal Clean Power Plan announced this week by President Obama.  The EPA is giving each state an individual goal for cutting power plant emissions. States can then decide for themselves how to get there.

Spotlight on #WomeninSTEM : Veronica Gerlach Viramontes, Engineering student from Rutgers

Veronicaresearch.jpg This is the first in a monthly column highlighting women leaders in the STEM field, from students to professionals in their fields. Thanks go to my Environmental intern Arcadia Lee for identifying the subject of our first Spotlight.


Veronica Gerlach Viramontes

B.S. Engineering 
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

My name is Veronica Gerlach Viramontes and I am 21 years old. In the fall I will be a 4th year student at Rutgers, The State University of NJ. Before attending college, I lived in Ewing, NJ for 8 years.  I previously lived in St. Louis, MO and Danbury, CT, where I was born. From a young age I found myself very interested in science. By the age of 10, I decided that I wanted to be a cardiothoracic surgeon after my father had open heart surgery for an aortic valve replacement. Even though I was told that I would probably change my mind when I was older, I still continue to have the passion and drive to become a cardiothoracic surgeon as a third year college student.

Aside from academics, I am passionate about women's rights and social justice for those experiencing poverty. To advocate for less privileged populations, I helped start a ONE campus chapter at Rutgers with a group of 5 other women.  ONE is a program started by Bono and the Bill Gates Foundation to help raise public awareness about poverty in Africa and to encourage US citizens to advocate for bills that help people in African countries, particularly women who suffer more from poverty than men.

Along with being a college student, I am a spouse to an airman, who was recently deployed to the Middle-East.  I have also been a mother since June of last year. I hope to prove to women that it is possible to balance having a healthy family and a successful career. I plan on graduating in 2017 and will be the first in my family to have a BS in Engineering, as well as, the first to go on to medical school.

Science Policy Friday: Eyes of the Skies, Drones on the Rise - Part 2


SciPoliFri_Box.gifThis is the second in a series of articles or news gathering of science and technology policy issues facing New Jersey or the nation. Thanks to my science and environment intern Arcadia Lee for research and drafting this article. Cross-posted at

Last week, I discussed my legislation (A-1039/S-2310) that sets standards for law enforcement and other government agency use of drones. This week, I’m highlighting legislation (A-4344) sponsored by Assembly Homeland Security Chair Annette Quijano and myself that seeks to protect infrastructure from drone surveillance and requires certain drones to be registered and insured.

There have been a few instances to date where a policy like this would have come in handy. Over the summer, a woman was knocked unconscious when she was struck by a small drone during the Pride parade in downtown Seattle. In New York, a businessman was almost hit by a drone after colliding with a building. Also this summer, in Florida, a small UAV sat hovered near a woman sitting at an outdoor table at a bar in Tampa, Florida and when the drone was made to follow her as she left, it crashed into her car's roof. California is still trying to track down the owners of drones that interfered with firefighting during recent wildfires.

A-4344 starts an important conversation on what type of reasonable restrictions and penalties should be imposed on those that take on the responsibility of operating a drone.

Science Policy Friday: Eyes of the Skies, Drones on the Rise

SciPoliFri_Box.gifThis is the first in a series of articles or news gathering of science and technology policy issues facing New Jersey or the nation. Thanks to my science and environment intern Arcadia Lee for research and drafting this article. Cross-posted on

Drones seem to be everywhere in the news.  We may have seen the latest cool uses like The Lily Camera and Amazon's package delivering drones.  Or read about concerns over safety and privacy, whether from amateur operators getting in the way of California firefighters or fears of government abuse of information gathering.

For New Jersey policymakers, safety has to be the primary focus as our state considers how best to assess and manage the risks associated with governmental, commercial and civilian use of drones within our borders.  I along with colleagues in the Assembly and Senate have introduced two timely bills that provide needed rules of unmanned aerial vehicles, otherwise known as UAVs or drones, so that the promise of new technology can be realized without the inherent dangers to privacy and safety.  In addition Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman has passed Legislation in the House of Representatives regarding drones and their threat to security.

This first article focuses on NJ's potential governmental use of drones and creating an important framework that balances privacy with the promise of enhanced capabilities by public safety.  The bill (A-1039/S-2310) sponsored with Speaker Prieto and Senator Sacco, sets forth certain standards to be followed by law enforcement agencies and fire departments when utilizing drones.