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Infographic — Can Digital Tech Make a Better World?

Digital technology poll chart

Click on image for full-size view (Dentsu Aegis Network, Statista)

21 October 2018. Those of us old enough to remember the early days of the Internet can recall bold predictions that ubiquitous computing and networking would bring people of different nations and cultures closer together, and open up an abundance of economic opportunities for all strata of society. Since those heady days, people working  in technology industries have found more mixed results, of course, with probably as many downsides as upsides for the general welfare.

Nonetheless large segments of the public in 10 advanced countries — but not a majority — still believe digital technology can help solve many of the world’s challenges, such as poverty, hunger, and climate change. Our friends at Statista published a chart on Friday with results of that poll, documented in a report by Dentsu Aegis Network and Oxford Economics, this weekend’s infographic on Science & Enterprise.

Of the 20,000 respondents polled, about 4 in 10 (42%) overall in the 10 countries agree digital technology will help solve the world’s most pressing challenges. In only one country, China, does a clear majority of respondents — about 7 in 10 or 71 percent — agree that digital technology is improving conditions in the world. About half of those in Russia (49%) agree with the statement, as well as roughly 4 in 10 respondents in Europe, Australia, and the U.S. The Japanese are most pessimistic, with less than a quarter (22%) believing digital technology is helping solve the world’s problems.

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How Ground Quality Affects Business Safety

– Contributed content –

Excavation

(Didgeman, Pixabay)

21 Oct. 2018. Buildings are constructed year round across the globe. Now, many of these are residential properties for people to live in, or public properties that people access for things like health care, education, or religious purposes. But many buildings that are constructed are put up for the sake of business.

When these properties are complete, they are referred to as “commercial properties”. There are various types of commercial properties out there. Some are retail stores that sell commercial goods over the counter. Some are inhabited by professional services that offer to do things for the people they engage with once a deal has been made. Others specialize in hospitality and dining – think hotels, restaurants, bars, and clubs. Then there are commercial properties that provide people with an experience, such as escape rooms, paintballing facilities, arcades, laser tag, or amusement parks.

Essentially, if a property or space is used to make money, it is commercial. Now, many business owners will simply rent out an existing commercial property and hope for the best. But it’s extremely important to bear in mind that various things can go wrong with a commercial property and need to be rectified in order to provide customers with a safe space to engage with. Ground quality is just one factor that can affect a commercial property’s structural stability and sturdiness. So, let’s focus on that for now.

Ground to avoid

There are various problems that you can face when determining whether land is suitable to build on or not. Some are more obvious than others. If you can see that ground is on an extreme slope, is unstable to even walk on, has clear sinkholes, or areas that are clearly boggy and collect rainfall, you might want to give these areas a miss. If the land comes hand in hand with an extremely low price tag, there may be clear problems that are not easily hidden. Do not be drawn in by cheap cost, as you may find yourself wasting your money.

Measures to make ground safe

There are certain types of ground that aren’t ideal, but can be made safe to build on. Professional contractors and other specialists can carry out techniques such as laying foundation columns to make sure that buildings are strong and secure where they are laid. Collaborate with these professionals for the best results.

Listen to the professionals

If a professional geologist or engineer is telling you that certain land is unsuitable or that expensive work needs to be carried out to make it suitable, listen to their advice. They know what they are talking about and will discourage you from building anywhere that is unsafe. Do not assume that you know better than people who have received years of educations and training in the area.

Remember that you need to bear safety at the forefront of your mind at all times in business. Ground quality and safety are tied closely, so pay attention to this area of commercial property construction and maintenance.

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Six Things To Know Before You Build Commercially

– Contributed content –

Glass-steel office building

(Unsplash)

20 Oct. 2018. Building commercial property is a big job. It’s a daunting project for even the most seasoned commercial real estate entrepreneurs and while you may only go through a new build of a commercial property a handful of times, it never stops being difficult to plan.

The only thing that you can do is arm yourself with all the information that you need to push the job ahead, and ensure that you have it in hand the whole way. Your business may surround the development of commercial property, but that doesn’t mean that it’s always going to run smoothly. Below, you’ll find six things that you need to know before you go ahead with your building job.

Know your numbers

Once you know the price of your commercial property and the land, you can work out how much further you need to borrow for services from Service Trucks International and a reputable contractor. This is going to help you to understand how much money you can afford to repay alongside your mortgage costs each month. It’s also worth understanding your business budget before you get that finance: just because the bank says ‘yes’, doesn’t mean that you definitely want to afford to go ahead. Know every single expense the whole way before you commit to it.

Get reviews

Bringing in a contractor and their building firm to your job is just a big of a job as the project itself. You need a firm that you can trust and you need to do your research to make sure that it happens right. Have your builder run through the entire process with you so that you can find someone that you can trust.

Understand your land

Other than the price, you need to know about your land. You need to know what you can build on it and what you will be permitted to build and you need to know if it’s in a danger zone for floods and brush fires. If your land is sloped, you need to know because it affects your build.

Think ahead

If you are a property developer for commercial properties, you may already be looking ahead at how much you could earn from the sale. If you are doing this for the first time, think about your neighborhood and what will fit design-wise. It can make a huge difference to your resale value.

Make it efficient

You may be building commercial property, but adding things like a roof garden, solar panels and energy efficient windows is going to up the value of your property. Making your commercial property as green as possible as you build it is a positive step to reducing your carbon footprint.

Passive design

Reducing the cost of the utilities is important and passive design can help. Angling your offices toward the sun to help to heat the building, as well as providing as much natural light as possible is so important. Along with this, using good insulation and double glazing can help you to contribute to a better commercial space.

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Health System Connects Mobile App to 250 Devices

Phone user

(Pexels.com)

20 Oct. 2018. A health care system in Boston is developing a mobile app to make it easier to share data from 250 home and wearable devices that collect medically related information. Partners Connected Health says the app connecting these devices to its PGHD Connect platform will be available for download next month.

Partners Connected Health is the information technology division of Partners HealthCare, a health care provider system that includes Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital — both teaching hospitals affiliated with Harvard Medical School — as well as  community and specialty hospitals, community health centers, a physician network, and home health and long-term care services. Among the company’s services is development and testing of mobile technologies for medication adherence, care coordination, chronic disease management, prevention, and wellness.

Partners HealthCare launched PGHD Connect last year to connect the wide array of personal health devices to individuals’ electronic health records. The platform collects data from wearable devices, such as activity trackers, as well as health care monitors used in the home, such as fitness equipment, connected bathroom scales, blood glucose meters, and blood pressure cuffs, for patients and their physicians. In addition to blood glucose levels and blood pressure, PGHD Connect also records weight and activity data in the clients’ health records.

As reported by Science & Enterprise in October of last year, the health IT company Validic developed a key part of PGHD Connect that integrates data from the wide variety of devices into electronic health records. Validic and Partners HealthCare reported on results of a pilot test integrating data from home blood pressure monitors.

The new mobile app will add an enhancement to PGHD Connect, a feature called VitalSnap that allows for direct capture of data from home or wearable devices without an intermediary app or device. The app, say its developers, will be available next month in iOS and Android versions, built on Apple HealthKit and Samsung Health frameworks.

Kelly Santomas, senior director of Partners Connected Health says in a company statement that “PGHDConnect is currently used in primary care and specialty practices, and is being positioned to launch in hospitals and at discharge.” She adds that “There is a research study in progress and a number of pilots being proposed to assess workflows and clinical outcomes using this platform with the potential to reach almost two million patients across the Partners network.”

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Making A Big Impact With Your Small Business In 2019

– Contributed content –

Meeting around a conference table

(Christina Morillo, Pexels.com)

19 Oct. 2018. As this year draws to a close, many entrepreneurs are probably looking ahead to 2019 with plans regarding their next business strategies. Given that industries are constantly changing, it’s important to return to the drawing board on a regular basis to conjure new ideas that could help your company to succeed in its respective marketplace.

For small businesses, this can be tough; there’s a lot of competition, and you might not have the same brand recognition as your competitors. But, given the resources available to you in the modern age, that doesn’t have to be a disadvantage. Small businesses can grow to the same height as their competitors if they use their size to their advantage. Here’s how you could put plans in place to ensure that you make a really big impact next year.

Invest and grow

If you want your small business to really take off then you need to help it grow. Reaching out to customers is a great way to increase profits, and bigger profit margins will give you more money to invest, but you need to focus on the way in which you spend your money. Which areas of your business need the most improvement? For instance, if you need a better online advertising campaign then you might want to hire digital marketing experts.

If you need to meet increased demand then you might want to consider outsourcing excess work to deliver a more extensive service. This could be hugely beneficial to your business from a financial standpoint because it’d help you grow without spending a lot of money. You need to make the most of modern resources at your disposal. Digital solutions will be even more important in 2019.

Of course, if you don’t have the funding to invest in your business as extensively as needed then you might want to look into options for financial support. You could even get an equifax business credit report to take a look at your company’s current credit situation. Your rating is very important when it comes to getting a business loan because lenders want to know that they’re going to get their money back.

You should also look into ways in which you could improve your credit score if it’s not currently as high as you’d like it to be. The point is that you shouldn’t cut corners when it comes to investment. Your business needs to grow if it wants to make a bigger impact next year. Make sure you’re investing in modern solutions.

Conduct internal and external research

If your small business is going to develop and move in the right direction next year then you need to conduct a company evaluation. Assess what you did well and not so well in 2018. This is an opportunity to tidy up your business model. You could take a look at your expenses and cut out unnecessary costs, for instance. This will reduce margin erosion and give you more available funds to invest in your company, referring back to the previous point. You should get feedback from your employees too. Ask them if there are ways in which you could optimize your business’ operations for the best results in terms of productivity and company finances.

Additionally, make sure you conduct external research. If your business is going to improve then it needs to make sure that it’ll have a place in the marketplace of 2019. Monitor trends, and make an assessment as to whether your company needs to modernize. In the modern age, many businesses conduct market research using platforms such as social media. If you ask customers for feedback then you might be able to find answers that could make your business better equipped for success in the current industry.

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NIH Supporting Electronic Neuro Drug Test Technology

Neurons

(commonfund.nih.gov)

19 October 2018. A university spin-off enterprise is receiving funds from National Institute of Mental Health to develop a simple, reliable electronic device to evaluate effects of neurological drugs on brain cells. The technology is being developed by Cytocybernetics Inc. in North Tonawanda, New York, a company founded by medical and biophysics researchers from nearby University at Buffalo.

The $250,000 award from NIMH, part of National Institutes of Health, is advancing work by Cytocybernetics on a simple, reliable, plug-and-play dynamic clamp system to test drugs developed to treat neurological disorders like epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease for adverse effects on nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain. A dynamic clamp is a device that gauges electrical activity of individual cells by measuring their electro-physiological signals, in this case from the synapses or electrical junctions of neurons. These physiological signals can then be captured, transmitted, and processed as electronic signals on computer systems.

Up to now, says Cytocybernetics, dynamic clamp devices lack the stability and reliability to be useful in day-to-day work of researchers or physicians. In the new project, the company plans to further develop its dynamic clamp system to provide the simplicity and reliability needed for real-time electro-physiological cell signaling. Cytocybernetics says the dynamic clamp system being developed provides measures of both electric voltage and calcium signaling, offering a higher-quality output. And these more reliable signals allow for use of more sophisticated statistical modeling techniques known as Markov models that calculate probabilities of events in dynamically changing environments.

Cytocybernetics plans to apply this technology to evaluate drugs for neurological conditions for possible adverse effects on neurons in the brain. In previous work, the company designed a system for  screening drug candidates for their potential harm to the heart from adverse side effects, problems usually revealed in clinical trials. As reported by Science & Enterprise in January, the company’s technology tests the effects of drugs on human cardiac myocytes, heart muscle cells derived from induced pluripotent stem cells, also known as adult stem cells taken from existing human tissue instead of embryos. The system sends a synthetic electronic current through the whole heart muscle cells produced in the lab that the company says gives a more complete assessment of a new drug’s effects on the heart than most other preclinical testing devices.

The new NIMH award funds a 1-year project to further develop and test the feasibility of Cytocybernetics’ dynamic clamp system. The company proposes advancing the dual-signal — electric voltage and calcium — signal detection device, which would be digitally controlled for improved stability. The project also calls for developing a library of correcting background currents to also provide more stability.

Cytocybernetics’ CEO Glenna Bett, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Buffalo says in a university statement that the system, “will enable neuroscientists to determine specific details of how drugs interact with neurons and affect their electrical behavior.” She adds that the company’s work with neurons will target an “important step in the drug development pipeline: studying how a drug works, and enabling scientists to more fully characterize early-stage candidate drugs with potential in neuroscience.”

The grant was awarded under NIH’s Small Business Innovation Research program that sets aside funding for small, early-stage businesses in the health care and life science fields. In the last (2018) fiscal year, NIH channeled more than $1 billion into its small business set-aside programs.

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Harvard Spin-Off, AbbVie Partner on Fibrosis Treatments

Handshake

(Pexels.com)

18 Oct. 2018. Drug maker AbbVie and biotechnology company Morphic Therapeutic are collaborating on new treatments for fibrosis based on Morphic’s technology blocking proteins that promote fibrosis. The deal, which could give AbbVie an exclusive license to Morphic’s technology for fibrosis treatments, provides Morphic with an immediate payment of $100 million.

Morphic Therapeutic, in Waltham, Massachusetts, creates small molecule, or low molecular weight, treatments that block the activity of integrins, a class of proteins in humans and other animals that attach cell skeletons to the extracellular matrix, the network of molecules providing structural and biochemical support for cells. Integrins provide signaling pathways going into the cell from outside, and out of the cell from inside, acting as receptors for binding molecules affecting cell activities, as well as other proteins. Many biological processes function normally with integrins, but when integrins send aberrant signals, a number of diseases can result.

Timothy Springer, an immunologist and biophysicist at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, has studied integrins since the 1980s. His lab’s research led to early treatments — administered with injections — already approved to address integrins associated with a number of diseases: multiple sclerosis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, plaque psoriasis, acute coronary syndrome, and complications during procedures implanting a stent to open arteries. Springer founded Morphic Therapeutic to bring to market more recent research with small molecule compounds that could lead to oral drugs rather than injections.

The agreement offers AbbVie, based in Chicago, access to Morphic’s integrin-blocking technology. “Fibrosis represents a major area of medical need as it can impact nearly every major organ system and has limited targeted treatments to address the underlying cause,” says Lisa Olson, AbbVie’s vice-president for immunology discovery, in a joint company statement. “We believe that integrin biology could play an important role in the future treatment paradigm of serious immune-mediated diseases where fibrotic mechanisms contribute to the pathology. We are pleased to partner with the team at Morphic to develop therapies together for patients with these serious conditions.”

Under the deal, AbbVie receives an option to exclusively license Morphic’s technology for candidate products treating fibrosis-related disorders. Morphic will be responsible for preclinical research and development on each new product leading to investigational new drug applications to FDA, in effect, a request to begin clinical trials.

AbbVie is paying Morphic $100 million for these options, with Morphic eligible for additional fees when AbbVie exercises those options to license Morphic’s research. At that point, Morphic will be eligible for undisclosed clinical and commercial milestone payments, as well as royalties on product sales. The agreement also gives Morphic rights to share costs of treatments for liver fibrosis.

AbbVie is no stranger to Morphic Therapeutic, with AbbVie’s investment arm taking part in Morphic’s two venture funding rounds. The second of those financing rounds took place less than a month ago, raising $80 million. Morphic’s first venture round, reported by Science & Enterprise in June 2016, raised $51.5 million.

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Hat tip: Endpoints News

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Five Ways to Cut Waste in Your Business

– Contributed content –

Pile of waste paper

(Christa Dodoo, Unsplash)

18 Oct. 2018. Waste is a buzzword right now. We’re all thinking more of how much water, plastic and food we are wasting. Not to mention money. We’re watching documentaries about water waste and plastics. We’re reading frightening statistics about how we need to stop wasting if we want to save our planet.

At home, we’re making an effort to avoid single-use plastics. We’re recycling our paper and glass and taking old clothes to charity shops. We’re thinking more about how much water we use, and we’re looking at ways to waste less food and save money. We carry reusable tote bags around so that we don’t need to use single-use carriers for anything that we might buy. It might not seem like a lot, but, if everyone made the same kind of efforts we could make the world that we know last a lot longer.

But, are you doing the same at work? When you run a small business, it can all seem too much. With so much to think about, the idea of avoiding waste can seem like more than you’ve got the time or the budget to tackle. But, it shouldn’t be. We should be making the same kind of savings in our businesses as we are at home.

Money

If there’s one thing that you will be keen to waste less of, it’s money. Many small businesses are paying much more than they need to for things like supplies and utilities, but also for services like marketing and branding. This often comes from a lack of experience and knowledge of the business world. We accept the first deals that come up, we don’t negotiate or shop around, and we often pay over the odds without realizing.

Look at how to find a financial planner who can help you to plan and manage your finances a little better. Take the time to make savings and learn how to stick to a budget. Over time, you’ll become more comfortable bartering and negotiating, and you’ll start to recognize places to save more efficiently.

Time

Time is another thing that we waste far too much of. In life, we see time as infinite. None of us wants to think that it will one day run out for us, and it’s upsetting to think about how much of our life we are wasting sitting in traffic or waiting for the bus.

You might not think about the time you waste at the office in quite the same way. You know that this isn’t infinite. You look forward to clocking off and going home for the day and long for time off, holidays and maybe even your retirement. But, if you run your own business, this time is valuable. Every second that you waste procrastinating or avoiding work is time that you could have spent earning money. Start managing your time better and your business will grow.

Water

Water waste is a global issue. The world is made of 70% water, but only about 2.5% of this is safe to drink. Not a lot at all. Fortunately, there are easy things that you can do to waste less. Encourage staff to drink out of bottles instead of cups, so that the leftovers after a drink don’t end up in the bin. Install a dam on your toilets so that you waste less with every flush, fix leaky taps and ask staff to turn the tap off as soon as they’ve washed their hands. When it comes to saving water, it’s often just a case of becoming more conscious of what you are using, so pin reminders up around your workplace to get people thinking.

Paper

We use paper all of the time. While some of it is recycled, not all of it is or can be, and even if it is, power and supplies are used to create the paper that we use. Like water, however, it’s easy to cut your paper waste. First, stop printing. Save files to the cloud to share them between your team, and send emails instead of letters. Then, look at your packaging. Do you need so much or can it be minimized? When it comes to the paper, you do use, make sure your suppliers are providing recycled, and recyclable sheets.

Power

Wasting power is wasting both resources and money. To make significant savings, consider having solar panels installed, and insulation fitted. For smaller, but equally important savings, remind staff to power down and avoid using electricity when it’s not needed.

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Robotic Exoskeleton Systems Studied for Industrial Workforce

Guardian XO exoskeleton

Guardian XO exoskeleton (Sarcos Robotics)

18 Oct. 2018. Control systems for whole-body robotic devices worn by industrial workers to help them perform their jobs are being designed and assessed by an academic-industry engineering team. The project, led by Virginia Tech in Blacksburg with a robotics developer and other institutions, is funded by a 5-year, $3 million grant from National Science Foundation.

A team led by ergonomics and human factors engineering professor Divya Srinivasan is seeking to better use robotic exoskeletons to improve the productivity of workers in factories and warehouses. New technologies are needed to improve output and job satisfaction in factory settings, say the researchers, to make up for a shrinking pool of trained workers for advanced industrial jobs. Moreover, factory and warehouse staff are being increasingly brought into contact with other robotic systems, raising safety risks for workers.

“Productivity would be boosted if people are healthier and safer,” says Srinivasan in a Virginia Tech statement. “Workers currently in those positions would be able to do the job with less physical effort and in a safer way, develop new technological skills, and possibly get paid better. We are hopeful that younger generations will not look down upon heavy industrial jobs as a result.”

Whole-body exoskeletons are wearable devices designed to reduce the physical strain on workers and guide their activities on the shop floor. The research aims to advance systems for controlling these exoskeletons as well as making their connections with humans more intuitive and adaptive in dynamic industrial settings. Augmented reality is expected to be a key part of these systems. With augmented reality, information can be displayed in workers’ field of view to increase their situational awareness in the workplace, to reduce guesswork and improve safety. In addition, algorithms will be written to better integrate exoskeleton-equipped workers with other robotic systems in their environment.

One of Virginia Tech’s partners in the project is Sarcos Robotics in Salt Lake City, a developer of robotic systems for industrial, defense, and public safety use, including hazardous work environments such as oil and gas, maritime, and mining. One of Sarcos’s products is an industrial untethered exoskeleton designed to enhance human strength and endurance. The Guardian XO system, as it’s called, is still in development. Also joining the team are other engineering labs at Virginia Tech, as well as visual artists from University of Virginia and University of California in Santa Barbara.

The study is also expected to evaluate the impact of these industrial exoskeletons on workplace productivity and diversity, including benefits for individuals with physical and cognitive impairments. A team member recruited for this part of the project is Virginia Tech economist Suquin Ge, expected to develop models for assessing worker productivity and more macro-level measures of corporate profits and labor market impacts.

The project is funded from National Science Foundation’s Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier program, a cross-disciplinary initiative to study the interactions of humans, machines, and society to improve productivity and increase opportunities for workers.

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Diabetes Drug Assessed Long-Term Against All Other Treatments

Bathroom scale

(StillWorksImagery, Pixabay)

17 Oct. 2018. A new clinical trial is testing the drug semaglutide for people with type 2 diabetes against as many as 40 other diabetes treatments when used as a supplemental drug over 2 years. The post-marketing study — undertaken after clearance by FDA — is conducted by HealthCore, the outcomes research unit of health insurance provider Anthem, testing semaglutide, marketed under the brand name Ozempic by drug maker Novo Nordisk.

The drug Ozempic is prescribed for people with type 2 diabetes who need extra help controlling their blood glucose levels. Diabetes is a chronic disorder where the pancreas does not create enough insulin to process the sugar glucose to flow into the blood stream and cells for energy in the body. In type 2 diabetes, which accounts for at least 90 percent of all diabetes cases, the pancreas produces some but not enough insulin, or the body cannot process insulin. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says diabetes affects 30.3 million people in the U.S., with the number of people with the disease tripling in the past 20 years as the population ages and more people become overweight.

Ozempic is part of a class of drugs known as glucagon-like peptide 1, or GLP-1 receptor agonists that activate GLP-1 peptides to promote production of insulin in the pancreas. The drug is given as a self-administered injection under the skin with a pen-like device, and prescribed as a supplemental treatment for people who need extra help controlling their blood glucose levels beyond diet, exercise, and first-line treatments. While Ozempic is cleared for marketing in the U.S. by FDA, the drug comes with a long list of conditions and adverse effect warnings.

The clinical trial — with the acronym SEPRA, short for a 26-word official title — is recruiting 2,250 adults, age 18 to 65, with type 2 diabetes who are also members of an affiliated Anthem health insurance plan. The study aims to compare the effects of Ozempic in real-world settings over a period of 2 years. Participants will be randomly assigned to receive Ozempic to help control blood sugar levels or other approved prescribed drugs or treatments on the market, as well as the first-line drug metformin. Researchers expect as many as 40 other drugs or treatments to be used by participants in the trial.

During this time, the study team will record participants blood glucose levels, defined as hemoglobin A1c, or HbA1c, under the target of 7 percent, the trial’s main effectiveness measure. The HealthCore researchers are also tracking changes in HbA1c levels, body weight changes, hypoglycemia rates, and overall vital signs, as well as hospitalizations, emergency room visits, and quality of life indicators.

John Buse, an endocrinologist at University of North Carolina medical school, director of the school’s diabetes center, and an adviser to the project says in a HealthCore statement that “Because the SEPRA trial seeks to find out what happens with people using anti-diabetic therapies after FDA approval, it may be of greater interest to more people and doctors than a standard randomized clinical trial, which requires intense monitoring and coaching of consumers to take medications.” Buse adds, “This trial will be relying on how doctors work with their patients in the real world with little outside guidance.”

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