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Eco-Friendly And Scientific Approaches To Running Your Business

– Contributed content –

Laptop, coffee

(Free-Photos, Pixabay)

10 July 2018. Running a business these days is no easy thing to do. But with so much more focus on the environment now it is more important than ever to consider how focused you are on eco-friendly and scientific options within your business to help with the running of it. It isn’t just about you as an individual, if you have a whole team of people then everyone needs to be on board. So we thought we would share with you some of the things you could consider when it comes to making your business more environmentally friendly.

Recycling in the workplace

One of the first things to consider would be recycling. There is so much importance placed around recycling in the home and we are encouraged to do it on a daily basis, but the same principles can be applied in the workplace. Think about how much recyclable material is used daily, and how best that you can keep things moving forward within the business. It could be as simple as proving the right sort of disposal methods, or making it easier for your employees and yourself to recycle more frequently in the workplace.

Thinking about the working environment

The working environment is also important to consider. It helps to ensure that youa have the right level of facilities to meet the needs of the people who work for you. Facilities that allow people to warm up or store food correctly, make drinks and even supplying water to facilities in bathrooms such as laboratory sanitation supplies. You might also want to think about the actual environment, so keeping people warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Without cranking the heat up and costing you a fortune on those energy bills, you could consider the insulation and windows and doors you have in place first.

Making the workplace environmentally friendly

You also need to think about how you can make the workplace itself environmentally friendly. We have already mentioned about keeping things warm and cool and how insulation and double glazing can help with those things, but you might also want to think about some of the smaller changes you can make. The lights in the workplace are often on from the morning all day, and these can be using up a lot of energy if they are not energy saving bulbs. It may feel like there is a lot to invest, are you are likely to have a lot of bulbs, but the energy you save in the long term can significantly reduce the cost you pay overall.

Recycling old technology

When it comes to other aspects of your business there are other areas where you can really make more use of the older items and that is the old technology you probably have stored in cupboards or living around somewhere. Technology changes at a rapid rate, and so does your need to upgrade systems and stay in with the times and producing the right level of workflow. So recycling older materials can really help you do your bit. Old computers, printers, machines and even ink cartridges that you put into printers and copiers.

Power down at night

The lone thing you and your staff might be completely and utterly guilty of is the one thing that could be causing you to use more energy, even when you are not there. Have you guess it? Powering down. Do you switch off your computer or leave it in standby mode? Do you switch off other important tech in your office or business? The chances are you wont and you just walk away, but you are unsung unnecessary energy. Simply powering down at the end of the night and switching things off, even lights and other aspects can really help reduce your business energy usage and bills.

Remote and flexible working options

Finally, could you be doing more for your employees while helping your energy and eco friendly approach to your business? The answer is yes. Allowing people to work remotely and flexible can really help reduce your initial outlay. People get the flexibility of different working options and you get to have a more flexible and energy efficient way of running your business without losing the man power.

There are so many ways that energy usage, scientific enhancements and changing of habits that can really help you keep a more eco approach in mind when it comes to running your business. I hope some of these suggestions help you on your way to achieve it that.

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Nanoparticles Shown to Boost Anti-Cancer Immune Cells

Cytokines and T-cells

Micrograph showing cytokines, seen as yellow circles, activating T-cells, in blue, to attack nearby tumor cells. (Sudha Kumari and Yiran Zheng, Mass. Institute of Technology)

10 July 2018. A bioengineering lab developed a technique to attach larger quantities of cancer-fighting proteins to immune system cells that in lab mice reduced or eliminated tumors while avoiding harmful side effects. A team at Massachusetts Institute of Technology describes the technology in yesterday’s issue of the journal Nature Biotechnology (paid subscription required).

Researchers from the lab of bioengineering and materials science professor Darrell Irvine are seeking more effective and safer methods for harnessing the immune system to treat cancer. Engineering T-cells, white blood cells in the immune system, to fight cancer today involves adding protein receptors that seek out and destroy cancer cells. While this approach often returns high remission rates for some blood-related cancers like leukemia, it has proven more difficult with solid tumors, such as breast or lung cancer. Techniques to boost the technique’s effectiveness, such as adding immune system proteins called cytokines, can also result in harmful immune reactions, such as inflammation.

Irvine’s lab studies ways of improving the effectiveness of cancer treatments with synthetic materials formulated into nanoscale particles, where 1 nanometer equals 1 billionth of a meter. Researchers in the lab investigate ways nanoparticles can be configured to locate the therapies’ targets, deliver the treatments to those targets, or amplify their effects when encountering tumor cells.

In this case, the team formulated gel-like nanoparticles that absorb relatively large quantities of the cancer-fighting cytokine interleukin-15 carried by T-cells. The nanogel particles are also designed to release their interleukin-15 payloads only after binding to the tumor cells, by reacting to chemical changes unique to T-cells when they encounter tumors, thus preventing adverse side effects when extra cytokines are released into the general blood stream.

“The nanogels are preferentially dissolving when the T-cells are in sites where they see tumor antigen, in the tumor and in the tumor-draining lymph nodes,” says Irvine in a university statement. “The drug is most efficiently being released at the sites where you want it and not in some healthy tissue where it might cause trouble.”

The researchers tested the techniques in lab mice induced with melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer. The results show the nanogels could release 8 times the amount of interleukin-15 without causing adverse effects in the mice, than the same cytokines given by injection into the blood stream. The findings also show the technique enables T-cells to expand 16-fold in the mice tumors, causing reductions in tumor size, and in 60 percent of the cases, complete elimination of the tumors.

Irvine is a founder of Torque Biotherapeutics a start-up enterprise in Cambridge, Massachusetts that licenses the technology from MIT, and chairs the company’s scientific advisory board. Torque offers what it calls deep-primed T-cells that address a variety of blood-related and solid-tumor cancers, with interleuken-15 and other immunotherapies. The company expects the procedures for deep-primed T-cells to be simple enough for administering in an outpatient setting. The university says Torque plans to begin clinical trials of its technology this summer.

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Gene Therapy Shown to Reduce Extreme High Cholesterol

Heart check

(Gerd Altmann, Pixabay)

9 July 2018. A gene therapy technique that stops production of a targeted protein is shown in tests with monkeys to reduce levels of harmful cholesterol, but also expose potential risks associated with the technique. A team from the University of Pennsylvania medical school in Philadelphia and the biotechnology company Precision Biosciences in Durham, North Carolina describe the technique and test results in today’s issue of the journal Nature Biotechnology (paid subscription required).

UPenn researchers from the lab of inherited disease specialist James Wilson are seeking better treatment options for people with hypercholesterolemia, a condition marked by high levels of low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, cholesterol. LDL cholesterol, also known as “bad” cholesterol, is produced in the liver and can build up as waxy plaque deposits in arteries, contributing to atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, a risk factor of heart disease.

Hypercholesterolemia can result from lifestyles with little physical activity and high fat diets, but it can also be caused by an inherited condition. The inherited form of hypercholesterolemia results from mutations in the PCSK9 gene that change the chemistry of PCSK9 proteins. Healthy PCSK9 proteins regulate production of LDL cholesterol in the liver, but the mutated forms appear to reduce PCSK9’s regulatory functions, allowing more LDL cholesterol to be produced. Currently approved synthetic antibody drugs on the market can block the actions of mutated PCSK9 proteins, but in some people, the drugs caused serious adverse hypersensitivity reactions.

Wilson and colleagues tested a gene therapy developed by Precision Biosciences that deactivates the mutated PCSK9 gene, thus preventing the gene’s harmful effects. The therapy acts like the genome editing technique Crispr, but instead of removing the offending gene from the genome, a complex synthetic enzyme called a meganuclease developed by Precision Biosciences on the company’s Arcus platform seeks out and silences the gene preventing production of LDL-supporting proteins. The meganuclease enzyme is delivered with engineered adeno-associated viruses, benign microbes designed to transfer genetic-related material, in this case to the liver.

The researchers tested single doses of the therapy at various dosage levels with 6 rhesus macaque monkeys induced with PCSK9 mutations. The middle to high doses of the meganuclease reduced PCSK9 protein levels from 45 to 84 percent, and lowered LDL cholesterol levels as much as 60 percent in the monkey’s blood and livers. DNA remains of the adeno-associated viruses and residual meganuclease declined as well, leaving stable functioning liver cells.

The team highlighted potential risks with the technique, however, that will need to be monitored in future clinical trials.. The monkeys experienced temporary elevations of transaminases in their blood, attributed to immune-system reactions to the meganuclease. Elevated transaminases, while in mild cases do not cause symptoms, are indicators of more serious liver disease. Also, initial tests with transferring meganuclease enzymes caused some off-target edits, which the researchers say was corrected by more precise engineering of the enzyme to focus on the PCSK9 gene.

Precision Biosciences helped fund the project, and owns the process used in the study. However, Wilson and first author Lili Wang are listed as inventors on patents owned by UPenn for technologies related to those in the study, some of which are licensed to other biotechnology enterprises.

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Stay On Task By Outsourcing

– Contributed content –

Analytics chart

(Turnisu, Pixabay)

9 July 2018. There are many aspects to running a business and without an army of staff behind you, a sole trader can find most of the working day is spent completing small, but essential tasks. It is estimated that for a business to grow 80% of a business owners time should be spent on generating sales. If you enjoy working 24/7 this is doable, but if you are aiming to enjoy a healthy work/life balance you need to take action.

Running a successful business involves being aware of every aspect. It is important to know where manpower is spent, where the majority of the budget is spent and which avenue produces the most sales. To do this you need to analyze the running of your business in order to streamline tasks and increase productiveness. The Analytics module is a unique tool which creates key performance indicators, enabling identification of areas which would benefit from improvements and areas that are performing well.

To streamline the tasks essential to the running of your business you could consider outsourcing to a freelancer. The internet allows us to connect with people all over the world who are experts in their field. Outsourcing to freelancers lowers costs associated with recruitment and employment.

Here are some tasks associated with running a business which naturally lend themselves to being outsourced.

Telesales

Telesales are time consuming and it sometimes feels as though it is a lot of effort for little return. Although sales are essential for business growth a lot of people find cold calling an uncomfortable process. You could consider outsourcing telesales and pick up any sales leads on a personal basis.

Accounts

It is essential for any business to keep accurate accounts. Some people love the task, but many don’t. If you belong to the latter group you could consider outsourcing bookkeeping tasks and hire the expertise of an accountant at tax return deadline.

Paperwork

Although “paperwork” is often done digitally these days, there still remains a large amount. There are tasks relating to meeting minutes, storage of data, sales documentation and invoices. There will also be emails to compile, texts to send and documents to file. All of these tasks could be completed by a virtual PA, which will free up lots of time for other essential business tasks.

Social media management

If your business has not harnessed the power of social media yet, you’re missing out on thousands of potential sales leads. You can very effectively get your brand’s mission across to a huge audience by using the different social media platforms. Being active and engaging on social media requires a certain amount of effort and if time is short, you may be best placed hiring a social media manager on a freelance basis.

There are many freelancers to choose from, but caution should be taken when choosing someone right for your business. Ensure you ask for references and evidence of previous work.

Hopefully by following the above advice you will free up more time so that you can concentrate on generating sales leads.

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New $315 Million Life Sciences Venture Fund Unveiled

Investment graphic

(Gerd Altmann, Pixabay)

9 July 2018. A life science and health care investment company in the U.K. today revealed its 12th venture capital fund for start-up and current enterprises in the U.S. and Europe. Abingworth LLP, based in London, says its new Abingworth Bioventures VII fund raised $315 million, which brings the company’s total investment value to $1.2 billion.

Abingworth invests in companies developing innovative pharmaceuticals, biologics, nucleic acid treatments, medical devices, diagnostics, and support technologies including instrumentation and software. Its investments include seed funds for new start-ups as well as later-stage investments, including publicly-funded companies, and in some cases also incubates new enterprises on its premises. Abingworth typically invests $15 to $30 million per company, holding these investments for 3 to 8 years.

Abingworth Bioventures VII or ABV VII is the company’s 12th investment vehicle. ABV VII’s funds, says Abingworth, were raised from foundations, endowments, family investors, health care companies, insurance companies, and pension plans in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. The company says with the new fund it plans to continue its strategy of supporting early- and late-stage enterprises in the U.S. and Europe.

Among the companies in Abingworth’s portfolio is Crispr Therapeutics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, founded by 5 scientists including Emmanuelle Charpentier, now with the Max Planck Institute in Berlin and one of the pioneers in the genome editing technology. Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna at University of California in Berkeley led research teams that published early findings about Crispr in the journal Science in 2012, and an article in Nature a year earlier.

Science & Enterprise reported several times on Crispr Therapeutics, going back to its first venture round in 2014 and second funding round in 2016. This site also reported on the company’s licensing deals with drug maker Bayer and biotechnology company Vertex Pharmaceuticals. The partnership with Vertex, to develop Crispr-based treatments for inherited blood diseases, hit a snag at the end of May 2018, when the FDA stopped the companies from beginning a clinical trial of its experimental treatment for sickle cell disease and beta-thalassemia.

Science & Enterprise also reported on the previous Abingworth Bioventures VI fund that raised $375 million in 2014, as well as earlier investments by Abingworth in Dicerna Pharmaceuticals, Chiasma, and Prosensa.

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Infographic – Amazon’s Largest Acquisitions

7 July 2018. The recent acquisition of online pharmacy PillPack by Amazon highlights the view of a number of observers — including myself — that the tech industry is a growing influence in health care, with growing opportunities for disrupting that industry as well. Our friends at CB Insights put together a chart showing Amazon’s largest acquisitions in dollar value, this weekend’s infographic.

Acquisitions by amazon

Corporate acquisitions by Amazon. Click on chart for full-size view (CB Insights)

A tally by CB Insights shows Amazon made 10 acquisitions in 2017, with only 3 acquisitions so far this year, including PillPack. But each of the acquisitions this year is valued at more than $1 billion, including PillPack at $1.8 billion. The biggest acquisition for Amazon is still Whole Foods, purchased last year for $13.7 billion.

While Amazon is best known as an online retailer, Amazon Web Services is a major player in heavy-duty cloud computing, used extensively for big data analytics, such as in precision medicine. See the links below for examples.

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Smart Bandage Monitors, Provides Drugs to Chronic Wounds

Smart bandage

Smart wound care bandage, with sensors at right, connecting to a microcontroller that dispenses medication. (Tufts University)

6 July 2018. An engineering team at Tufts University is developing a self-contained bandage with sensors that monitor the status of chronic wounds, and also dispenses medication as needed. A team from the nanotechnology lab of engineering professor Sameer Sonkusale on the Tufts campus in Medford, Massachusetts describes the device in today’s issue of the journal Small (paid subscription required).

Sonkusale’s Nanoscale Integrated Sensors and Circuits lab studies miniaturized systems for biomedical applications, particularly those reduced in size to nanoscale dimensions, where 1 nanometer equals 1 billionth of a meter. Researchers in the Nano Lab, as it’s called, investigate the use of low-power circuits, as well as soft and flexible electronics, which are needed to treat chronic wounds.

The need for these specialized treatments is felt particularly in people with diabetes, who develop slow-healing skin ulcers on their feet, a common complication of the disease. In people with diabetes, blood flow is reduced to the legs and feet, leading to nerve damage and reduced feeling in those regions, as well as slower healing of wounds. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says in 2010, some 73,000 Americans required amputation of a leg or foot because of complications from diabetes. Another source of chronic wounds is pressure sores, a problem faced by people in wheelchairs or bed-ridden, where skin is damaged by staying in one position for too long.

For these chronic wounds, Sonkusale and colleagues configured a closed-loop device made of flexible, bio-friendly materials. The smart bandage device has sensors to measure acidity or alkaline levels as indicated by pH. A pH measure serves as a gauge of healing progress, where pH readings above a certain level indicate the wound is infected or healing too slowly. In addition, the device has a sensor to measure temperature, where higher temperatures indicate the presence of inflammation that inhibits healing, as well as a sensor for oxygen levels, another indicator of tissue repair.

The Tufts smart bandage also features a miniaturized drug dispensing mechanism. The device contains a hydrogel, a water-based polymer gel, containing antibiotics to treat the wound as needed. The hydrogel is designed to respond to heat, which releases the antibiotics when heated. The data from the sensors determine the need for dispensing medications. The sensor data are captured in a microcontroller, which triggers a tiny heating element in the device under specified conditions.

The researchers tested a proof-of-concept prototype of the smart bandage, which the authors say worked as planned in lab models and conditions. The team next plans to continue preclinical tests of the device with lab animals.

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FDA Reviewers Found Accepting Industry Payments After Drug Approvals

Pills and dollars

(Images Money, Flickr)

6 July 2018. A new report finds a large percentage of panel members that review drug applications for the Food and Drug Administration accept payments and other rewards from companies after their drugs are approved. The report led by investigative correspondent Charles Piller appears in today’s issue of the journal Science.

Piller and colleagues looked into the practice of drug developers providing financial benefits to members of FDA advisory committees after the panels review drug applications and vote to recommend approval. Advisory committees, often comprised of physicians and academic scientists, are recruited by FDA to independently evaluate drug applications in addition to the agency’s professional staff. While FDA does not always follow the assessments of these committees, an endorsement from these panels is often a predictor of FDA approval.

The Science team looked into advisory panels that recommended approval of 28 cardiovascular/renal or psychopharmacologic drugs as well as treatments for arthritis from 2008 to 2014, and were later approved by FDA. The reporters matched up participants on these panels to payments listed in the Open Payments database, collected by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, from 2013 to 2016. The team also scanned conflict-of-interest disclosures in scientific and medical journals, at least those not behind paywalls. (Editor’s note: Much of Science magazine’s content is behind a paywall.) In their inquiries, the reporters looked for payments from the companies whose products were reviewed, as well as competitors of those companies making similar drugs.

The team found 107 advisers taking part in the committees and recommending the 28 drugs for FDA approval. Of the 107 participants, 40 — or 37 percent — received payments of $10,000 or more in compensation or research support after they voted to approve the drugs, either from the developers of the drugs or from competitors. In addition, 26 of the committee participants earned at least $100,000 from these companies, and 7 gained $1 million or more. The reporters also found the 17 top earning advisers, those making $300,000 or more, took in a total of $26 million over this period, of which nearly all, 94 percent, came from the companies making the products they reviewed or competitors.

An FDA spokesperson told Science in a statement that advisory committee members must disclose prospective employers, but not anticipated payments. The spokesperson added, “FDA also screens potential participants for relationships and situations that do not create a financial conflict of interest but that may create the appearance that a committee member lacks impartiality.” Nonetheless, the investigative team found as well that the top earners and others among the 107 advisory committee participants received payments from drug companies with products being reviewed and competitors in the same year or before the time the panels met. The reporters say they found these details in the academic journal disclosures, not from FDA.

While Science’s investigation focused mainly on the advisory committees, the team also found some FDA professional staff with at least the appearance of conflicts. Through web searches, including on LinkedIn, the reporters found 11 of 16 medical staff that worked on the 28 drugs reviewed by the agency between 2008 to 2014 left the agency to work for the companies submitting the drugs for review, either as direct hires or consultants.

Bioethicist Carl Elliott at University of Minnesota who studies industry conflicts of interest told Science that compensation and other benefits after the fact are just as ethically troubling as direct quid pro quo rewards. “You do something positive for a company that you feel confident is going to pay you back for it later on,” notes Elliott. “And they do.”

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Crispr Deployed to Boost Plant Disease Resistance

Junqi Song

Junqi Song (Texas A&M AgriLife Research)

5 July 2018. A plant science lab in Dallas is designing a new use of the emerging genome editing technique known as Crispr to add more resistance to plant diseases in two staple food crops. The research is carried out in the plant immunity lab led by Junqi Song, part of the Texas A&M AgriLife Research network.

Song and colleagues aim to increase the natural resistance of plants to disease, particularly late blight disease, a common and long-standing problem among growers of potatoes and tomatoes. Late blight disease is caused by a fungus-like oomycete pathogen called Phytophthora infestans that infects potato tubers and tomato leaves. The disease spreads easily in wet conditions, with spores traveling through the air, and as a result can quickly cause damage to entire fields of potato or tomato crops. The Irish potato famine in the mid-1800s is attributed to late blight disease.

Song’s lab is using Crispr to build in greater resistance to late blight disease in these two key crops. Crispr — short for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats — is most associated with correcting inherited medical disorders, but is also gaining more uses in agriculture. It’s a genome-editing process 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 for the longest period.

Genetic engineering to remove, or knock out, specific plant characteristics has been tried before to protect late blight disease, but in this case, the AgriLife lab is using Crispr to take a different approach. Song notes in an AgriLife statement that these previous knock-out genetic engineering techniques can provide broad protection against the disease, but at a high price. He says that “successes from knock-out editing come at a cost to many other aspects of the plant’s physical health and other characteristics.”

Instead, the lab plans to insert, or knock in, a new set of genetic regulators using Crispr/Cas9. Song acknowledges this process is more complex, but it should allow for potato and tomato crops to increase their resistance to late blight disease without doing harm to the plants. The added genetic regulators are expected to help the plants’ existing genes better resist infection from Phytophthora infestans and other disease-causing microbes.

The researchers believe this approach can be extended to other crops, including wheat, rice, cotton, strawberry, carrot and citrus to meet increasing needs worldwide. “There is a growing demand for agricultural production as global populations continue to grow,” Song adds. “We will need to develop increasingly efficient systems to meet this demand and hopefully our work is a step in the right direction.”

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Pharmacy Lab, Space Company Partner on Plant Microgravity Study

CubeLabs

CubeLabs prepared for launch (Space Tango)

5 July 2018. A university pharmacy lab and spin-off company building cargoes for space travel plan to test various plants in microgravity on their ability to produce therapeutic compounds. The company Space Tango, a four year-old enterprise in Lexington, Kentucky, is collaborating with researchers at University of Kentucky’s pharmacy school on a study that will send two different forms of plant life to the International Space Station for the tests.

The lab of Kentucky pharmacy professor Joseph Chappell, also the school’s chair, studies processes in plants for producing substances for development into treatments for disease. Among the lab’s interests is the potential effects of microgravity, or weightless conditions in space, on plants grown on earth that contain compounds with therapeutic benefits. At present, those effects are unknown, which is one of the motivations for the project.

“No plants are growing in outer space; no plants grow in the absence of gravity that we’re aware of,” says Chappelle in a university statement. “By putting them in that very unnatural environment, we hope to kind of open Pandora’s Box.” That Pandora’s Box is experiments putting  plants with beneficial compounds under weightless conditions, a form of stress not encountered on earth because of gravity. Since the plants evolved on earth for millions of years under conditions of gravity, the Kentucky team hopes a weightless environment can offer insights for scientists into adapting or modifying plants to optimize their production of compounds for drugs or food products.

In the Chappelle lab, the study is led by postdoctoral researcher Chase Kempinski who studies triterpenes, compounds from plants with waxy surfaces having a range of applications in food, health, and industrial biotechnology. For this project, Kempinski is a consulting plant physiologist with Space Tango preparing plant samples for their journey into space. In a preliminary study, Kempinski sent seed samples of Madagascar periwinkle and Valerian into orbit to test the effects of microgravity. Madagascar periwinkle produces small quantities an anti-cancer compound, while Valerian is used today in supplements to help relieve anxiety.

In the new tests, the researchers plan to send Madagascar periwinkle and Valerian seeds in a Space Tango payload to germinate, and observe effects on the plants’ biology as they begin growing in microgravity. Space Tango prepares cargoes in what it calls CubeLabs, standard 4-inch cube-shaped modules that can be built and configured together into TangoLab systems for launch on SpaceX Falcon rockets, as well as deployment, descent, and retrieval. The company says it has 2 TangoLabs currently deployed on the International Space Station.

Funding and intellectual property aspects of the partnership were not disclosed. In the following video, Chappelle, Kempinski, and Space Tango co-founder Kris Kimel tell more about the project.

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