Science & Enterprise subscription

Please share Science & Enterprise

Follow by Email
Visit Us


Infographic – Artificial Intelligence in Smartphones

Infographic: How Smartphone Users Benefit From Artificial Intelligence | Statista You will find more statistics at Statista

20 January 2018. Many stories in Science & Enterprise over the past year tell about advances in artificial intelligence, which covers work on voice recognition, computer vision, machine learning, neural networks, and more. While many of these innovations are still in the lab or prototypes, others are already finding their way into our day-to-day lives, particularly via mobile phones in our pockets and purses.

Our friends at Statista recently documented the leading ways people are using artificial intelligence in smartphones, which is this weekend’s infographic. The data are drawn from a survey by the consulting firm Deloitte of smartphone owners in 16 developed-world markets, between May and July 2017.

More from Science & Enterprise:

*     *     *

Institute, Company Partner on Implanted Neuro Device

CorTec Brain Interchange

CorTec Brain Interchange (CorTec GmbH)

19 January 2018. A research center in Switzerland and medical engineering company in Germany are developing an implanted device to measure signals and treat disorders affecting the brain. Financial details of the agreement between the Wyss Center in Geneva, Switzerland and CorTec GmbH in Freiburg, Germany were not disclosed.

The Wyss Center for Bio and Neuroengineering is a not-for-profit research institute developing technologies to diagnose and treat diseases of the nervous system. The research center was established with a grant from Hansjörg Wyss, a Swiss entrepreneur, who also began the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. Among the center’s main projects is an implanted monitoring device for people with epilepsy to record and forecast seizures.

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder where nerve cell activity in the brain is disturbed, causing seizures with symptoms ranging from blank stares to tingling sensations to loss of consciousness. World Health Organization estimates some 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy, where in many cultures people with the condition face stigma and discrimination. While epilepsy can be treated in most cases, WHO says as many as 30 percent of episodes do not respond to treatment.

CorTec, a spin-off enterprise from Freiburg University, develops implanted prosthetic devices to diagnose and treat neurological disorders. The company’s lead product is a device called the CorTec Brain Interchange, designed to diagnose tumors in the brain and paralysis, as well as epilepsy. The device implants electrodes into the brain attached to a unit that sits on the skull behind the ear.

A separate electronic package, worn by the individual and attached to the skull unit, sends electrical pulses through the electrodes, where the system both stimulates nerve cells and records brain activity. The CorTec Brain Interchange can also connect wirelessly or by cable to a separate controller with software to record brain activity, as well as analyze and adjust the timing or intensity of the electrical pulses.

The agreement provides the Wyss Center with exclusive access to the CorTec Brain Interchange, where researchers from the company and Wyss Center will develop a new implementation of the system. The new device is expected to adapt the CorTec system for epilepsy monitoring and therapy, as well as regulating tinnitus — often called ringing in the ears — and dyslexia.

George Kouvas, program manager for the Wyss Center on this project, says in a joint statement that the new system will build on the center’s work developing a minimally invasive device for the recording of global brain signals. “The system will also be capable of electrical stimulation, for diagnostic and therapeutic applications,” says Kouvas. “The collaboration with CorTec will accelerate this development and enable us to progress to clinical trials more quickly for the benefit of people with brain circuit disorders.”

More from Science & Enterprise:

*     *     *

Stem Cells Created with Gene Editing

Cas9 protein editing a gene

Artist depiction of Cas9 protein editing a gene (Jennifer Doudna, University of California – Berkeley)

19 January 2018. A research lab in San Francisco devised a simpler process for creating stem cells from skin cells in mice with the gene editing technique Crispr. A team from the Gladstone Institute, a medical research center affiliated with University of California in San Francisco, and Stanford University describe the process in yesterday’s issue of the journal Cell Stem Cell (paid subscription required).

Researchers led by Gladstone biochemist Sheng Ding, also a professor of pharmaceutical chemistry at UC San Francisco, are seeking simple and more straightforward methods of generating stem cells for research and regenerative medicine. Producing induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPSCs — also known as adult stem cells since they’re derived from existing tissue — usually requires a collection of transcription factors, proteins that reprogram existing cells into stem cells with many of the same capabilities for regeneration as those from embryos.

Instead of a protein cocktail to generate stem cells, Ding and colleagues use the gene editing technique know as Crispr, clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats. Crispr is based on bacterial defense mechanisms that use RNA to identify and monitor precise locations in DNA. The actual editing of genomes with Crispr employs enzymes that cleave DNA strands at the desired points, with Crispr-associated protein 9, or Cas9, being the enzyme used most often.

In this case, the researchers apply Crispr to remodel the Sox2 and Oct4 genes. Sox2 provides instructions for a protein that regulates binding to other genes during an embryo’s development, much like a transcription factor. Oct4 also produces a protein that plays a role in an embryo’s development, as well as providing instructions for transforming stem cells into mature tissue cells.

The team discovered that Crispr editing of either gene can activate the process for reprogramming into stem cells. Using skin cells from mice, the researchers show edits in only one or two locations in each gene are required to trigger the natural reprogramming process. Tests show the stem cells produced with this method are authentic, functioning similarly to stem cells produced with transcription factors.

Ding believes the Crispr stem-cell technique should help fellow researchers, but can have further medical applications. “Having different options to make iPSCs will be useful when scientists encounter challenges or difficulties with one approach,” says Ding in a Gladstone statement. “Our approach could lead to a simpler method of creating iPSCs or could be used to directly reprogram skin cells into other cell types, such as heart cells or brain cells.”

More from Science & Enterprise:

*     *     *

The Importance Of Market Research

– Contributed content –

Magnified word strategy


19 January 2018. Regularly conducting market research is very important to any business, regardless what it is that you do. It’s a way of keeping up to date with any important changes that could potentially affect your company. As a business, you want to always have that edge that no one else has, and market research will give you just that.

Regardless of whether you’re starting up a new business, thinking about expanding what you have now, or just want to make sure you’re doing everything correctly, market research is a vital key to success and boosting up your sales.

Here are some more reasons as to why it is so important.

To solve any problems you may have

If you’re already aware of a problem within your business but aren’t sure what it is, then market research is what will figure out what exactly it is that went wrong. It could be down to a new competitor that has made a rather big entrance into the industry and offers more for money than you do. Or maybe it’s one of your products that aren’t selling the way you had originally estimated, so it’s costing you, rather than making you an income.

To understand your regular buyers

Market research will feed you information that helps you keep your existing customers happy. It will tell you why your customers are choosing you as a pose to one of your competitors. What it is that influences them to actually go through with a sale, and even which products in particular sell more and attract more attention than others.

To find new customers

Once you have established who your target audience is, you can then start figuring out what it is they want and need in a product or service. Market research helps in doing this by surveying these people and asking them a variety of questions that you can then benefit from as a business and cater to these individuals.

To ensure the final product is complete

Having a great product that people want to buy is one thing, but it’s all about the little details that buyers will appreciate. Take packaging, for example, when a customer orders something, and it finally reaches their door, it should be in immaculate condition; looking appealing but also protecting whatever is inside. Sites like pride themselves on using unique neuroscience techniques to accurately seek out success.

To create new strategies that work

Depending on the results that your market research has found you, will inform you on how to come up with effective strategies regarding the sales, the production, the distribution, and the marketing. You will then have the knowledge as to whether you should increase certain activities, or reduce them, or change them altogether to find a new strategy. You can find tips of doing this on

To set yourself realistic targets to reach

With all the different pieces of information that you have been able to collect, you will then be able to set yourself targets and objectives to reach. Doing this sets an end goal and allows you to grow as a whole. So this could be hitting a certain number of sales, or working on a new product or service to put out there.

*     *     *

Limited Industry Progress Seen on Microbial Resistance

Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae

Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae bacteria (

18 January 2018. A pharmaceutical industry coalition documents some advances after 2 years in developing better products and practices against antimicrobial resistance, but progress is limited and uneven. The AMR Industry Alliance, based in Geneva, Switzerland, issued its first progress report today.

The report, compiled by the consulting firm SustainAbility, highlights the scope of the growing problem posed by microorganisms becoming resistant to current antibiotics and other drugs to treat infections. Some 700,000 deaths each year are attributed to pathogens causing tuberculosis, HIV, malaria, and staph infections that develop a resistance to current treatments. The UN, among others, in 2016 called for a global campaign by governments and other sectors to address the problem.

The AMR Industry Alliance is the life science industry contribution to the cause, outlined in a statement by the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations in January 2016, called the Davos Declaration, signed by more than 100 companies and trade groups. In September 2016, 13 pharmaceutical companies prepared an additional document called the Industry Roadmap spelling out 4 broad goals in this effort including more access to treatments and diagnostics, reduced environmental impact, measures to ensure antibiotics get to only patients needing them, and more collaborations between industry and the public sector.

The new report shows in 2016 companies invested at least $2 billion in research and development considered relevant to the problem of antimicrobial resistance. Participants in the initiative are still in the early stages of development for most new products, including 10 new antibiotics, 13 new vaccine candidates, and 18 proposed diagnostics. But the prospects for continued investment are uneven. About 7 in 10 respondents (72%) expect to increase their investments in work on antimicrobial resistance, but 3 in 10 participants (30%), including about half of the larger drug makers, say they would reduce their efforts if no new incentives are provided or business models remain unchanged.

Other parts of the AMR Industry Alliance program show somewhat more progress. Large majorities of respondents, 70 to 90 percent, say they promote appropriate use of antibiotics by providing education to patients, conduct surveillance of antibiotic resistance, or are looking into their own promotional practices to help limit inappropriate use of these drugs.

At the same time half or more of responding companies are collaborating with other sectors to expand access to antibiotics where they’re needed. Part of this effort involves monitoring and addressing delays or disruptions in the supply chain. In addition, the companies signing the Industry Roadmap say they plan to implement best practices to reduce the environmental impact of manufacturing antibiotics.

One indicator of the limited progress by industry is the low response rate among the 101 signers of the Davos Declaration 2 years ago. Only 36 companies responded to the alliance’s inquiries, including all 11 large drug makers taking part in the initiative. While half of the generic drug makers responded, only 1 in 3 of diagnostics developers, and a quarter of the smaller companies provided data for the report.

The report notes, “The Alliance will actively support member companies in filling in the gaps ahead of the next update. This will include greater outreach to non-responding companies, as well as efforts to share best practices and supporting materials.”

More from Science & Enterprise:

*     *     *

Technique Developed for High-Speed Antibody Screening

Human B-cell

Human B-cell (NIAID, Flickr)

18 January 2018. A process is being developed to quickly discover antibodies in a person’s immune system that can also lead to new vaccines and drugs against viruses. Researchers from University of Kansas in Lawrence, University of Texas in Austin, and the Vaccine Research Center at National Institutes of Health reported their findings in the 8 January issue of the journal Nature Biotechnology (paid subscription required).

The team of bio- and chemical engineering researchers is seeking better methods for identifying antibodies in human blood, to better understand immune system processes, as well as design more effective vaccines and treatments for diseases. Antibodies are proteins produced in the immune system to fight invading pathogens like bacteria or viruses, including current public health challenges like influenza and HIV.

Researchers from the labs of Brandon DeKosky at Kansas, Andrew Ellington and George Georgiou at Texas, and John Mascola at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in NIH focused on B-cells, white blood cells in the immune system that produce antibodies. Genes in B-cells encode the instructions for producing antibody proteins, containing amino acids known as heavy and light chains with the specific binding regions in the disease antigen, offering the targets for antibodies.

“The VH and VL portions — derived from the heavy and light chains, respectively,” says DeKosky in a University of Kansas statement, “are the sections of an antibody gene that provide specific viral targeting. So, the VH and VL portions are the most important region to focus on for antibody screening and discovery.” Previous attempts to screen for antibodies required cloning of single cells, a time-consuming and expensive process, yielding only a small part of the antibody inventory. This problem could be overcome by matching synthetic and natural genes, but the authors say the results are often lower in quality.

The new technique maintains the native gene pairings that naturally produce antibodies. The process uses amplicons, pieces of DNA or RNA amplified by genomic sequencing techniques such as polymerase chain reactions, building on previous advances in protein display and antibody discovery technologies. The team tested their process with blood samples, which screened millions of B-cells to reveal antibodies for neutralizing HIV-1, Ebola, and influenza viruses.

The authors say the technology offers a platform for wide-ranging basic and applied research discoveries, including new vaccines and therapies. “Promising sources to discover new antibodies include donated blood samples from HIV patients with powerful immune responses against the virus,” notes DeKosky, “and also individuals who have received vaccines so that we can understand how those vaccines are working. When a potently neutralizing antibody is discovered, it can lead to new vaccine strategies and new therapeutic drug candidates.”

University of Texas, where the initial research began, filed for a patent on the technology, with DeKosky, Ellington, and Georgiou listed among the inventors.

More from Science & Enterprise:

*     *     *

Little Data to Support Wearable Device Health Benefits

Smart watch

(Oliur Rahman, Pexels)

17 January 2018. A review of published research since 2000 shows little evidence to support claims of beneficial health outcomes from the use of wearable devices like smart watches or wristbands, at least not yet. A team from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles discusses its findings in the 15 January issue of the journal npj Digital Medicine.

Researchers led by Brennan Spiegel, director of the Center for Outcomes Research and Education at Cedars-Sinai, are seeking hard evidence to back the enthusiasm and claims of individuals and companies making wearable devices to monitor a person’s health. These devices usually have biosensors built into wristbands, skin patches, belts, shoes, or other articles of clothing connected to smartphones, or integrated into the device’s app software. The devices often allow individuals to share the data they collect with other people, including health care professionals, as well as on social networks.

And the devices are popular. According to market research company International Data Corporation some 26.3 million devices were shipped during the second quarter of 2017 alone, with shipments growing by more than 10 percent over the first half of the year.

The prospect of remote patient monitoring opens up many more opportunities for data collection, particularly with non-invasive, passive processes that track a variety of health-related indicators in real time. While the devices promise to improve the timeliness of care and health outcomes, as well as increase adherence to treatments, the research team found little hard data to support these hopes, other than anecdotal evidence.

Spiegel and colleagues reviewed published research on wearable devices that measure the health outcomes of individuals using these devices. The researchers looked for randomized clinical trials evaluating these systems in more than 4300 studies published from January 2000 to March 2016. The search yielded only 27 randomized clinical trials in peer-reviewed journals. Applying a quality standard for research methods called the Jadad scale shows 16 of these studies are considered high-quality research.

Many of the trials investigated devices to measure cardiac and respiratory functions, as well as overall physical activity, often compared against standards of care alone or supplemented with education. The vast majority of the studies, 22 of 27, included a feedback loop with a doctor or nurse who received data from a device and at least discussed the results with the individual. In the other 5 trials, the person checked in with a web portal or mobile app to monitor or receive an analysis of the results.

The team normalized the data from the 27 studies to aggregate the results, and measured differences in outcomes between trial participants using the devices and people in comparison groups for 6 health indicators — body mass index, weight, waist circumference, body fat percentage, and two common measures of blood pressure: systolic and diastolic. The researchers found no statistically reliable differences overall on any of the 6 measures between wearable device users and non-users.

“As of now, we don’t have enough evidence that they consistently change clinical outcomes in a meaningful way,” says Spiegel, referring to wearable health devices in a Cedars-Sinai statement. “But that doesn’t mean they can’t.” In fact, a closer look at the data reveals the trials most likely to show statistically reliable results were those grounded in behavioral health models or including personalized coaching for participants.

As lead author and research associate Benjamin Noah notes, “Many of the studies we reviewed were still in the pilot phase,” which suggests more randomized clinical trials may be in the works. In addition, the authors recommend that future assessments identify and remedy potential barriers to remote patient monitoring on clinical outcomes, particularly by focusing on measures that matter to participants, such as symptom severity, hospital readmissions, and quality of life.

More from Science & Enterprise:

*     *     *

Small Business Grant Advances Drug Safety Test System

Randall Rasmusson and Glenna Bett

Glenna Bett, right, and Randall Rasmusson, founders of Cytocybernetics Inc. (Douglas Levere, University at Buffalo)

17 January 2018. An award from National Institutes of Health is advancing a technology for testing the safety of drugs with heart muscle cells derived from stem cells before the drugs are tested on humans. The company developing the device, Cytocybernetics Inc. in North Tonawanda, New York, is a spin-off enterprise founded by two faculty members from University at Buffalo medical school.

Cytocybernetics is creating a system for screening drug candidates for their potential harm to the heart from adverse side effects, problems usually revealed in clinical trials. “The number of drugs that can interfere with the function of the heart is astounding,” says company CEO Glenna Bett in a university statement. “Our system tests all kinds of pharmaceuticals, from allergy medications to antidepressants, for unwanted side effects such as heart attacks or arrhythmia.”

Bett is a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Buffalo, who founded Cytocybernetics with Randall Rasmusson, professor of physiology and biophysics, and the company’s president. The company’s system, called the Cybercyte, 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. FDA requires this kind of preclinical testing.

While other devices offer techniques for testing drugs before clinical trials, says Cytocybernetics, these techniques often fail to account for a key electrical current in heart muscles known as the cardiac inwardly rectifying potassium current, or IK1 that plays a role in regulating heart rhythms. The company says the Cybercyte sends a synthetic IK1 current through the whole heart muscle cells produced in the lab, giving a more complete assessment of a new drug’s effects on the heart than most other preclinical testing devices.

Betts notes that, “Drug discovery is an expensive process. By getting drugs that aren’t viable out of the pipeline quickly, you can save millions of dollars. As they say, if you’re going to fail, fail fast.”

The new $1.5 million Small Business Technology Transfer grant from National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at NIH, funds a 2-year project to further develop the Cybercyte leading to a more automated device, including field tests and validation, ready for the marketplace. The company says the new system will be more compatible with robotic systems that conduct high-volume drug screenings. The new project is an extension of an earlier NIH award to Cytocybernetics to ascertain the system’s technical and commercial feasibility.

In 2015, the same year of the first NIH grant, Cytocybernetics was named a winner of the annual 43North entrepreneur pitch competition for companies in the Buffalo region. In the following video, Betts tells more about the system and company.

More from Science & Enterprise:

*     *     *

FDA to Release More Accessible Clinical Trial Data

Scott Gottlieb

Scott Gottlieb, FDA Commissioner, in November 2017 (A. Kotok)

16 January 2018. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration plans to make available in a more user-friendly format details from clinical trials of new drugs approved by the agency. Scott Gottlieb, FDA’s Commissioner, announced the plans today in a statement on the agency’s web site.

FDA currently releases some clinical data used by the agency to approve therapies provided in new drug applications. That information, stored in the agency’s drug approvals database, is prepared by reviewers of the new drug, and normally consists of summaries of evidence supporting approval and requirements for labeling. The problem, says Gottlieb, is the summaries do not offer an easily accessible format for finding data from clinical trials supporting the approvals.

The agency is testing a different method for releasing summaries of clinical trial data through documents called clinical study reports, or CSRs, broken out from the drug approvals database. These documents, prepared by the new drug applicants, contain details of the evidence supporting their applications, including methods used in clinical studies. Examples of these scientific documents can be found on the web site of International Council for Harmonisation of Technical Requirements for Pharmaceuticals for Human Use.

Gottlieb says FDA plans to release sections of CSRs considered most important to the decisions of FDA reviewers. “Specifically,” says the statement, “we’ll include the study report body, the protocol and amendments, and the statistical analysis plan for each of the participating product’s pivotal studies.” Those CSR sections will appear in the FDA drug-approvals database, with the current information.

In addition, FDA plans to more closely link evidence from clinical studies used in drug approvals to trials registered at, the government’s clinical trials database. The agency plans to reference clinical trials cited in drug approvals with their unique identifiers, called NCT numbers, in FDA says NCT identifiers will be used on agency materials throughout the review process.

The agency is pilot testing the new procedure beginning this month. The test includes CSR documents from up to 9 new drug approvals to treat various types of diseases, and different types of products. FDA is contacting companies about participating, but emphasizes that the agency will continue to protect patient privacy, trade secrets, and other confidential information in these documents. When the pilot test is complete, FDA will seek public feedback through a Federal Register notice.

More from Science & Enterprise:

*     *     *

Nerve Stimulation Shown to Reduce Diabetes Symptoms

Nerve cells in brain illustration


15 January 2018. Electric stimulation of a key nerve pathway was shown in lab animals to restore insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance typically missing in people with type 2 diabetes. A team from CEDOC Medical School in Lisbon, Portugal and the company Galvani Bioelectronics in Stevenage, U.K. report their findings in yesterday’s issue of the journal Diabetologia.

Researchers from the lab of CEDOC pharmacology and neuroscience professor Silvia Conde and Galvani Bioelectronics are seeking new therapies for diabetes, affecting growing numbers of people worldwide. 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. According to the International Diabetes Federation, diabetes affects an estimated 425 million people worldwide.

Conde and colleagues study the role played by carotid body, a sensor connected to the brain by the carotid sinus nerve. The carotid body is located where the carotid artery separates into two arteries on either side of the neck, and it monitors oxygen and CO2 levels, as well as regulates blood pressure and respiratory rate. Previous research by the CEDOC lab shows an overactive carotid body is linked to insulin resistance, and removing the carotid sinus nerve in lab animals prevents insulin resistance as well as high blood pressure.

Working with Galvani Bioelectronics, the CEDOC team developed a method of suppressing signals through the carotid sinus nerve with kilohertz frequency alternating currents, or KHFAC, an electronic current shown to block those signals. While removing the carotid sinus nerve may stop the signals, the nerve pathway plays other key functions in the body, thus the researchers are seeking techniques for controlling the signals rather than irreversibly shutting down the nerve.

The team tested the technique with lab rats fed a diabetes-inducing diet, high in fat and sugar. Electrodes were implanted in the carotid sinus nerves of the rats, with some of the animals randomly assigned to receive KHFAC stimulation through the electrodes, and the others receiving sham electric pulses. Insulin and glucose tolerance tests were given the rats, as well as respiratory and cardiac response measures.

The results show after 9 weeks, rats receiving the real KHFAC stimulation restored more insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance than rats receiving the sham pulses. In addition, 5 weeks after the end of KHFAC stimulation, insulin resistance and glucose intolerance returned to the rats, suggesting the stimulation treatments were temporary and reversible. The authors conclude KHFAC stimulation has potential for treating metabolic disorders such as diabetes.

Galvani Bioelectronics is a joint venture of drug maker GlaxoSmithKline and Alphabet, parent company of Google. As reported in Science & Enterprise at the time of the company’s founding in August 2016, Galvani plans to discover and develop implanted electronic devices that send signals along nerve pathways in the body addressing chronic diseases, noting tests with animals already show the technology’s potential with treating type 2 diabetes.

An international patent application was filed for the technology by Galvani Biolectronics and the university, with Conde and several co-authors listed as inventors.

More from Science & Enterprise:

*     *     *