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Infographic – Google’s Largest Acquisitions

Infographic: Google's 10 Biggest Acquisitions | Statista You will find more statistics at Statista

23 September 2017. Google and its parent company Alphabet are, of course, major players in the technology industry and a frequent topic here on Science & Enterprise. Our friends at Statista yesterday published this chart showing Google/Alphabet’s largest acquisitions over the years, including HTC’s Pixel smartphone division just this month.

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Chip Device Finds, Collects Circulating Tumor Cells

Labyrinth chip animation

(Joseph Xu, University of Michigan)

22 September 2017. A multi-disciplinary team designed a lab-on-a-chip device using hydrodynamic forces to find and help identify circulating tumor cells in blood samples. Researchers from the engineering and medical schools at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, describe the device in the 20 September issue of the journal Cell Systems (paid subscription required).

The team from labs led by chemical engineering professor Sunitha Nagrath and cancer researcher Max Wicha who pioneered discovery of stem cells in cancer, are seeking more reliable techniques for capturing circulating tumor cells in blood. Circulating tumor cells are individual cells that break off from original tumors or those formed from where cancer spreads, and flow through the blood stream. These cells make up a minute proportion of blood volume, but are implicated in the spread of cancer to other parts of the body. Because of their tiny amounts, circulating tumor cells are difficult to find, but when detected can offer an early warning about the spread of cancer in a patient.

If reliable methods can be devised for capturing circulating tumor cells, they can offer immediate benefits to patients and clinicians, including the use of so-called liquid biopsies to detect and monitor the progress of cancer, instead of analyzing tissue samples requiring surgery from cancer patients. Nagrath, Wicha, and colleagues designed a lab-on-a-chip device using microfluidics, with tiny channels through which blood or other fluid specimens can flow, to capture these elusive cells.

The team call their device Labyrinth, since the channels in the clear plastic chip have a complex design almost resembling a maze. Doctoral candidate and first author Eric Lin who created the chip, fits 60 centimeters of channels into a 10-centimeter square design. But Labyrinth is designed to move blood samples through quickly, at 2.5 milliliters per minute, using hydrodynamics in the flow through the channels to separate and sort different types of cells.

The circular channels help separate the larger from smaller cells, with centrifugal force pushing the larger cells to the outside walls. Isolating smaller cells, however, are more of a challenge, which is the reason for sharp corners in the channel design. “Bigger cells, like most cancer cells, focus pretty fast due to the curvature, says Nagrath in a university statement. “But the smaller the cell is, the longer it takes to get focused. The corners produce a mixing action that makes the smaller white blood cells come close to the equilibrium position much faster.”

In a proof-of-concept study, the team took blood samples already drawn from 76 breast and pancreatic cancer patients participating in a clinical trial. The samples were then sent through Labyrinth, with circulating tumor cells isolated from the rest of the blood. Results show the chip provides a high yield of circulating tumor cells, more than 90 percent, and with little contamination. Additional genetic profiling of the captured cells shows tumor cells representing a wide range of stem-cell qualities, which can help design more precise treatments for patients.

“We think that this may be a way to monitor patients in clinical trials,” notes Wicha. “Rather than just counting the cells, by capturing them, we can perform molecular analysis so [we] know what we can target with treatments.”

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Gene Therapy Shown to Prevent, Reverse Multiple Sclerosis

Adeno-associated virus

Electrostatic image of adeno-associated virus (National Institute of General Medical Sciences, NIH)

22 September 2017. Medical researchers show that transferring healthy genes can protect nerve cells in lab mice against damage from multiple sclerosis, and help reverse effects of the disease. A team from University of Florida in Gainesville describe the technique in yesterday’s issue of the journal Molecular Therapy.

The researchers are led by immunologist Brad Hoffman who studies gene therapies to treat immune system disorders. Among those disorders is multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks the central nervous system and damages myelin, the fatty, protective substance around nerve fibers, as well as nerve cells themselves. Scar tissue from the damaged myelin, known as sclerosis, distorts the nerve signals sent to and from the brain and spinal cord, causing symptoms ranging from mild numbness to loss of vision or paralysis.

In multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune disorders, regulatory T-cells in the immune system fail to keep other immune system cells from attacking healthy tissue. The authors note that gene therapies designed to improve or correct the faulty regulation of errant immune system cells are shown to be safe when tested in patients with type 1 diabetes or graft-versus-host disease, but they so far returned temporary or limited results. Hoffman and colleagues, therefore are seeking more effective and sustained solutions, but still with gene therapy.

The Florida team chose to test a strategy of transferring healthy genes with the full sequence of myelin-producing proteins, called myelin oligodendrocyte glycoproteins or MOGs, to the liver, considered among the best environments for developing robust immune-tolerant cells. For transferring the genes, the researchers used adeno-associated viruses, benign and naturally occurring microbes that can infect cells, but do not integrate with the cell’s genome. Clinical trials cited by the authors show adeno-associated viruses are safe for humans, causing no more than mild reactions.

The researchers tested this approach in lab mice, where transferred MOGs restore immune tolerance by generating regulatory T-cells that protect against immune-system attacks against myelin surrounding nerve cells. The results show 1 injection of adeno-associated viruses transferring MOGs protect the myelin in mice for as long as 7 months.

The team also tested the transferred MOGs as a treatment in mice induced with a form of multiple sclerosis, where the gene therapy is used with rapamycin, a drug given to suppress the immune system in organ transplants. The results show transferring MOGs after giving this drug restores immune tolerance for myelin in mice with mild and moderate forms of multiple sclerosis. In some mice with paralysis in their limbs, movement in those limbs is also restored. The effects of the treatment continued until the end of of the experiments, about 100 days. Only mice with end-stage forms of the disease do not respond to the gene transfer treatments.

University of Florida applied for a patent on this technology, with Hoffman listed as its inventor.

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Expanse & Expense – The 3 Things You Need To Think About During Upscaling

– Contributed content –

Business people graphic

(Gerd Altmann, Pixabay)

22 September 2017. It’s a question that many entrepreneurs will ask themselves at some point, at what stage in the expansion of the business is it best to upscale and to physically expand your business, either to accommodate another property or to build on your existing location? It’s a veritable risk, whichever way you look at it, not just because the business expenses you once had are more than likely to go towards this second location, but the additional legwork in finding extra staff and resources can be a big strain on your current success if you let it.

Ask yourself: do you need to expand?

This is the first thing you need to ask before taking on the challenge of expanding your operation. Are you merely expanding your operation because of the demands in your current location, or has demand for your product been a recent occurrence? A lot of businesses who feel that they can expand to take advantage of growing popularity can drastically underestimate the drain on their current resources. Have you thought about the current business trends, and is this a passing thing? The important thing to think about before expanding your operation is to do a market forecast and really spend some time considering if it is the right thing to do right now.

The physical construction

If you have weighed up every factor and have decided on expanding your operation in your current location, the physical construction of the building can detract from the productivity of your workers. In this instance you need to make sure you are compartmentalizing effectively, to ensure that the construction doesn’t get in the way of your workers, and vice versa. You also need to make sure that your employees have safe access to the building, and there are companies like http://northernmat.ca/ that specialize in safety equipment such as temporary bridges and access mats, so people can get in and out of the building safely. You may also want to think about remote working capabilities for some, if not all, of your staff. And as the option to work remotely is highly desired by people who have busy lives outside of work, so this could work to your benefit by increasing productivity in the short term.

Recreating the same feel in the second location

Depending on the business you run, you may want to emulate the same feel so you can attract the same type of customers and clients. This is especially difficult if you are setting up a location far away from your current building. It can be a very difficult process to transfer the same vibe from one place to another, but the best way to do this is to make the staff the key ingredient. Have a look at https://www.forbes.com/ for an interesting article on how a small business keeps its authenticity in its brand, and how it should be part of the philosophy. Authenticity is what will keep your business operating effectively, and so you may want to move current staff to that new location or spend more time on creating a great workplace culture, one that encompasses many different locations.

The process of expanding a business in a physical sense is a major challenge, so you need to think about these three aspects before going ahead with it.

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Shanah Tovah 5778

Shofar

Shofar, a ram’s horn sounded during Jewish high holiday services (A. Kotok)

20 September 2017. Science and Enterprise is taking off tomorrow, 21 September, to observe Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. We wish everyone of any faith or without, a happy and healthy new year, 5778 in our calendar. We will resume regular posting on Friday.

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Patent Awarded for Live Bacterial Acne Treatment

Acne

(Kjerstin Michaela Haraldsen, Pixabay)

20 September 2017. A company developing treatments for disease by restoring the natural balance of bacteria on the skin received a patent for its acne therapy using spray-on live bacteria. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office awarded patent number 9,738,870 on 22 August to AOBiome LLC in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The three inventors on the patent include the two company founders, David Whitlock and Spiros Jamas, and chief medical officer Larry Weiss.

In its therapies, AOBiome seeks to reintroduce bacteria that oxidize ammonia eliminated from the skin microbiome through modern hygienic practices. Ammonia-oxidizing bacteria, says the company, convert ammonia and urea from perspiration to nitrite and nitric oxide. Nitrite helps control the growth of other microbes, including pathogens, while nitric oxide is a signaling molecule that helps regulate inflammation. The company also produces a line of skin-care products that maintain microbial balance on the skin under the brand name Mother Dirt.

Acne, known formally as acne vulgaris, is a chronic inflammatory condition that blocks hair follicles and sweat glands, primarily on the face, chest and back, affecting some 40 to 50 million people in the U.S., according to data cited by the company. AOBiome says eliminating commensal or natural bacteria from the skin also removes the nitric oxide leaving the skin as a pro-inflammatory environment.

The patent covers the technology behind AOBiome’s lead product code-named B244, a topical spray that applies ammonia-oxidizing bacteria to the skin thus restoring the natural microbial balance controlling skin inflammations such as acne. The patent covers topical applications containing live ammonia-oxidizing bacteria in a water-based medium administered as an aerosol or mist, for treating current cases of acne inflammations or as a maintenance treatment to prevent further outbreaks. The document also covers other ways of applying  the bacteria, such as in cosmetics, wipes, salves, or creams.

The company is testing B244 in an intermediate stage clinical trial with 358 adults with mild to moderate acne. In the trial, AOBiome is partnering with Science 37, a contract research company in Los Angeles that offers a remote data-gathering service known as Network Oriented Research Assistant, or Nora. The service connects clinical trial participants at their homes to Science 37, in this case to collect counts of acne lesions and other measures, with smartphones provided for the study. Previously, trial participants, or dermatology patients in general, would need to travel to doctors’ offices to evaluate progress.

As reported by Science & Enterprise in December 2016, AOBiome is also testing B244 as a treatment for hypertension. In an early-stage trial as an acne therapy, the company’s study team found a high correlation between the dose of B244 received as a facial spray and blood pressure of participants with normal blood pressure. The effect, says the company, was strong enough to reach statistically reliable levels at the highest dose. AOBiome adds that since it discovered this effect, the company engaged experts on blood pressure to verify a possible mechanism linking ammonia oxidizing bacteria on the vascular system.

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Face ID Camera Technology Changes How Businesses Approach Security

– Contributed content –

Apple, woman in background

(claudioscott, Pixabay)

20 September 2017. The new Apple iPhone X made a big splash in the tech community when it launched last week. Although the device was still evolution, rather than revolution, it was a showcase of all the technological wonders that can now be shoved inside an object no bigger than your hand.

Among the highlight features was the new Face ID technology: a technology which now allows people to unlock their phones just by looking at them. Facial recognition technology is now so sophisticated that it is able to recognize people automatically, without the need for human intervention.

Although the media focused on the consumer side of the story, the fact that AI is working its way into camera tech has serious implications for business IP surveillance too. For starters, the ability to recognize faces has the potential to significantly reduce the overhead associated with checking people in and out of office buildings. Smart cameras could potentially provide access to buildings to those with the correct clearance, removing the need for posting security or a reception desk. What’s more, companies could segment access to various parts of the building based on a person’s role. Employees, for instance, could be blocked from accessing mission-critical areas, like the company servers or records of account.

Then there’s the anti-crime factor. Facial recognition cameras set up in business could be linked to police databases. Companies could monitor known criminals in the vicinity of their stores automatically, enabling them to direct their security resources to prevent theft. Retail stores, in particular, stand to benefit a great deal. With facial recognition cameras, they can keep track of potential threats and eliminate them before they result in loss of stock.

The MIT Technology Review has recently suggested that we’re only at the beginning of facial recognition technology – and that’s a problem. The concern at the moment is that computer facial recognition systems aren’t analogous to those of humans. Whereas people would never mistake a brick for a face, this isn’t out of the realm of possibility for facial recognition software.

The fundamental problem has to do with the way that these systems work. Although they now have similar accuracy to people – making mistakes around 5 percent of the time – the severity of those errors can be extreme. Because machines lack an understanding of context, they’re often not able to determine whether their answers make sense. A machine might conclude that a face in a picture is something radically different to what it actually is, whereas a person would not.

One thing is for sure: businesses will use this capability to streamline their operations and free up labor for other tasks. Not only will companies be able to segment their digital networks, but also their physical operations too – and at low cost.

Technology will continue to get better, and at a rapid clip,. With the addition of iris, fingerprint and face recognition, the number of mistakes made by facial recognition cameras will decline, as systems collaborate to perform accurate identification of personnel and potential criminal threats.

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Guidelines Designed for CAR T-Cell Cancer Therapies

MD Anderson campus

Aerial photograph of MD Anderson campus in 2011 (MDAnderson.org)

20 September 2017. Cancer specialists and scientists at several cancer care centers propose safety guidelines for patients receiving engineered immune cell treatments that often have severe adverse effects. The team led by researchers at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, part of the University of Texas system, published its guidelines in yesterday’s issue of Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology (paid subscription required).

The researchers led by Elizabeth Shpall, director of MD Anderson’s cell therapy laboratory, and Sattva Neelapu, professor of lymphoma and myeloma, aim to provide guidance for emerging treatments using T-cells, white blood  cells from the patient’s immune system, genetically engineered to express chimeric antigen receptor proteins. The therapies reprogram the T-cells with genetic engineering to find and kill cancer cells like an antibody. These modified chimeric antigen receptor or CAR T-cells are infused back into the patient, seeking out and binding to a protein called CD19 found on the surface of B cells — another type of white blood cell — associated with several types of blood-related cancers.

CAR T-cells are being tested in clinical trials among patients who do respond to conventional treatments for a number of blood-related cancers, which report remission rates as high as 90 percent. In August 2017, FDA approved the first CAR T-cell treatments in the U.S. for patients with a form of stubborn or relapsing acute lymphoblastic leukemia. But along with the successes come high rates of severe adverse effects, leading in some cases to patient deaths. As reported in Science & Enterprise earlier this month, FDA put a clinical hold on two trials testing CAR T-cells when a patient died in one of the trials.

The guidelines proposed by the MD Anderson researchers — with colleagues from the Mayo Clinic, Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, and Sylvester Cancer Center at the University of Miami — address two of the main adverse reactions experienced by CAR T-cell patients. Cytokine-release syndrome is a set of reactions to immunotherapies with symptoms often resembling the flu, such as fever, nausea, chills, and muscle aches. In severe cases, however, cytokine-release syndrome can pose an emergency for patients and lead to life-threatening complications.

Another adverse reaction, but less common, is neurological toxicity called CAR-T-cell-related encephalopathy syndrome that in some cases can lead to lethal swelling in the brain. Both of the adverse reactions are treatable, however, and the guidelines offer recommendations for pre-treatment preparations, monitoring, identification of emerging adverse reactions, and treatment recommendations based on the severity of the patient’s condition.

The guidelines are a product of the CAR-T-cell-therapy-associated toxicity, or Cartox, Working Group, made up of professionals from a number of institutions with experience treating cancer patients with CAR T-cells. The group’s recommendations cover diagnostics and treatments for adverse reactions to these treatments. In cases of neurological toxicity, for example, the guidelines recommend a simple question-and-answer test, writing a standard sentence, and counting backwards from 100 by tens. Other recommendations offer ways of controlling expression of the protein interleukin-6, considered a driver of cytokine-release syndrome.

“While we all work on those issues, and learn how to better manage and harness these therapies,” says Shpall in an MD Anderson statement, “the Cartox algorithms provide ground rules for patient safety.”

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Eco-Friendly Technology – An Essential Investment For Today’s Successful Brands

– Contributed content –

Solar panels

(Oregon Dept of Transportation, Flickr)

20 September 2017. During the last couple of years, more people chose to register a business in the United States than at any time in the past. That is because the job market is slow, and unemployment rates are high. Launching a new company is often the only way average folks can improve their quality of life. However, it’s vital that every single entrepreneur out there today understands the importance of green technology. The information published below should help to highlight why eco-friendly methods have become a critical part of the business world, and why everyone who reads this post needs to plan for those investments in their budget.

Eco-friendly technology will save the planet

There is no getting away from the fact that our reliance on fossil fuels is damaging the planet right now. That is something nobody wants to happen because individuals could ruin the world for future generations. An investment in solar panels could make a massive difference if every business owner chose to walk that path. There is more than enough available energy coming to earth from the sun for everyone to power their workplaces. So, now is the best time to search online for solar deals and identify the best providers. In some instances, it’s possible to get a grant from the government or local authority.

Eco-friendly technology will help companies to save money

All business owners should aim to cut back on spending as much as possible if they want to increase their profits. While some folks might have to consider services from smallbusinessloans.co and similar sites to cover the initial cost of solar panels and green tech, the devices should pay for themselves in the long run. That is because most systems will generate more power than they use. So, the energy companies have to send entrepreneurs a check at the end of the year. Not only does eco-friendly technology assist people in saving money, but it could also help them to make some too.

Eco-friendly technology doesn’t have to break the bank

As mentioned a moment ago, there are lots of government-backed schemes and grants business owners could use if they want to go green. It’s sensible to employ the services of a legal representative or advisor with lots of experience to oversee the process. That way, entrepreneurs can make sure they’re not making any mistakes so say writers from entrepreneur.com and other experts. As the old saying goes, the devil is in the details. Professional lawyers have to read contracts all day long, and so they are the people best places to highlight any issues. Contrary to popular belief, most green tech is cheap to purchase, and it will not break the bank.

Business owners who want to learn more about the latest technology and how it could benefit their operations just need to conduct some online research. There are thousands of news articles and blog posts describing the inner workings and advantages of different concepts. So, read as much as possible and then create a plan of action. If nothing else, the next generation will appreciate the effort.

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Neuro Disease Start-Up Gains $30M in Early Funds

Nerve cells illustration

(commonfund.nih.gov)

19 September 2017. A start-up enterprise developing treatments for several neurological diseases that the company says are triggered by a common destructive protein, is raising $30 million its first venture financing round. The one year-old company, Disarm Therapeutics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is founded by two researchers at Washington University in St. Louis that made the key scientific discoveries leading to these proposed treatments.

Disarm Therapeutics is targeting neurological conditions that result from axon degeneration, a condition found in a number of disorders, affecting axons — the long extended fibers in neurons, or nerve cells — that carry electrical signals from the body of the cell. The degeneration of axon fibers is associated with several neurological disorders, including multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS, glaucoma, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, and peripheral nerve pain from diabetes or chemotherapy.

The company’s founders, geneticist Jeffrey Milbrandt and developmental biologist Aaron DiAntonio, study axon degeneration at Washington University and identified a common feature to the condition: a protein known as SARM1, short for Sterile Alpha And TIR Motif Containing 1. The researchers discovered the mechanisms behind axon degeneration that result from SARM1, usually a consequence of trauma or injury, but also inflammation or intraocular pressure associated with glaucoma. Milbrandt and DiAntonio documented the role SARM1 plays in breaking down the body’s built-in protections for axons, including the chemical actions used by SARM1 to destroy these protections.

Disarm Therapeutics’ technology, based on this research and licensed from Washington University, is a platform for developing treatments that limit the effects of SARM1 in axonal degeneration. The researchers say SARM1’s enzymatic activity offers a target for new therapies. The company also plans to develop non-invasive diagnostics to determine the extent of axonal degeneration and predict the likely effects of treatments.

Rajesh Devraj, also a co-founder and the company’s current chief scientist, says in a company statement that Disarm plans to translate the research by Milbrandt and DiAntonio into “human proof of concept in a range of neurological diseases, supported by non-invasive biomarkers.”

Milbrandt and DiAntonio are scientific advisors to Disarm Therapeutics, which they founded in 2016 with Atlas Venture, an early-stage life science venture investment company in Cambridge, Mass. Atlas Venture also led Disarm’s new venture financing, along with Lightstone Ventures and AbbVie Ventures, raising $30 million.

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