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Self-Adjusting Lenses Designed for Eyeglasses

Eyeglasses with smart lenses

Eyeglasses with self-adjusting lenses (Dan Hixson, University of Utah)

26 January 2017. An engineering lab at University of Utah developed a system with eyeglass lenses that automatically adjust to the focus of the wearer, to replace bifocals and reading glasses. A team led by electrical engineering professor Carlos Mastrangelo describe the prototype device in the 17 January issue of the journal Optics Express.

Mastrangelo and colleagues are seeking a more convenient solution for people as they reach middle age and beyond, when problems develop with focusing on objects close-up, a condition known as presbyopia or farsightedness. For people with the condition, the eye’s natural lens hardens, making it difficult to focus light directly on the retina, coupled with weaker muscle fibers around the retina. As a result, light tends to focus behind the retina, causing poor vision for close-up objects.

Because presbyopia is so common, most people with the condition can choose from multiple solutions for dealing with it, such as reading glasses, prescription eyeglasses, contact lenses, and laser surgery. Each of these options has its advantages and disadvantages, and people seeking ways to correct presbyopia need to balance factors of effectiveness, convenience, and cost.

The Utah team addresses one of those factors, convenience. Reading glasses are a simple and inexpensive option for people with no other vision disorders, but they need to be put on and taken off as needed. For some situations, like driving, putting on and removing glasses can pose risks. In addition, as some people age, their vision degrades further, requiring new glasses with more powerful lenses.

The system developed by the researchers has eyeglass lenses that adjust automatically to the object being viewed. “Most people who get reading glasses have to put them on and take them off all the time,” says Mastrangelo in a university statement. ““You don’t have to do that anymore. You put these on, and it’s always clear.”

The team’s prototype uses lenses filled with glycerin, a clear, thick viscous liquid. The lenses are mounted in eyeglass frames that in their current design look more like goggles, and are held in the frames by flexible membranes in front and rear. The lenses are adjusted with three levers connected to the rear membranes that push the lenses back and forth like pistons. But the mechanism also changes the curvature of the lenses, and thus the focal length between the lenses and eyes.

Thick frames are needed to hold the electronics controlling the device and battery providing the power. In the bridge of the frames is a meter that measures distance to the object with an infrared beam. The meter calculates distance to the object, which then adjusts the curvature of the lenses to the correct focal length to provide a clear view of the object.

Before wearing the glasses for the first time, the user needs to calibrate the lenses for his or her prescription, which is done with a smartphone app written for the device that connects to the frame via Bluetooth signals. No further calibrations are needed unless the user’s prescription changes, which can be entered again through the app. The original frames and lenses would not need to be changed.

The researchers tested the prototype system in the lab, with the lenses adjusting to objects, in this case text on a page, at varying distances, documented by photos of the texts. The team says the device draws little power, and can operate with lightweight rechargeable batteries for about 6 hours.

The team demonstrated the system at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, but admits that the design needs to be made lighter and smaller. The university says Sharpeyes LLC, a start-up company, plans to take the system to market.

The following brief (30 second) video demonstrates the lenses adjusting to varying differences.

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Trial Planned to Evaluate CTE Blood Test

American football

(A. Kotok)

25 January 2017. A clinical trial is planned of a blood test to detect an indicator of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. or CTE. a neurodegenerative disease associated with collision sports. The study, with former players in the National Football League, will be conducted by a Exosome Sciences in San Diego, a subsidiary of medical device maker Aethlon Medical Inc.

Exosome Sciences develops diagnostics for disease based on exosomes, tiny — 40 to 150 nanometer — lipid-membrane containers in cells that gather up and secrete cytoplasm, the gel-like material outside the cell nucleus. While originally believed to carry out waste removal and other maintenance tasks, exosomes were shown in recent years to perform useful delivery functions carrying proteins and genetic material to other cells, and drawing increased attention from a range of biological disciplines.

The main product from Exosome Sciences is a test in development for CTE, a disease that develops in athletes playing collision sports, such as American football and rugby, as well as military veterans encountering repeated head impacts. The disease is associated with progressive degeneration of brain tissue, as well as a build up of abnormal protein deposits known as tau. Brain degeneration from CTE is characterized by a number of disorders including depression, memory loss, confusion, impaired judgement, and aggression, sometimes leading to dementia and suicide.

Much of the research on CTE is carried out by Boston University’s medical school that studies the brains of former athletes after their death. In 2012 the university’s CTE center reported the brains collected from 68 of 85 former athletes had CTE, of which 34 were former NFL players. One of the cases studied in more depth by the lab was lineman Tom McHale, who played most of his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and who died from a drug overdose in 2008 at age 45. McHale was a teammate with Jim Joyce at University of Maryland, the founder of Aethlon Medical and Exosome Sciences.

The new clinical trial will test for the presence of plasma exosomal tau — tau proteins carried by exosomes in blood plasma — in some 200 retired NFL players. Plasma exosomal tau is a biomarker for CTE, which was studied by Boston University researchers in 78 former NFL players, and reported in April 2016. In that study exosomes were extracted from the blood plasma and analyzed for tau content with fluorescent nanoparticles. When compared to 16 non-athletes, the NFL players had much more exosomal tau. In addition, former players with more tau in their blood scored lower on memory tests.

The new study will be led by Kendall Van Keuren-Jensen, with the Translational Genomics Research Institute’s Center for Noninvasive Diagnostics in Phoenix. Van Keuren-Jensen and colleagues study discovery and detection of biomarkers for central nervous system disorders and injuries. Exosome Sciences expects the trial to begin in the second quarter of 2017.

“This study provides researchers an opportunity to potentially change how doctors diagnose CTE, which today can only be diagnosed post-mortem,” says Van Keuren-Jensen in a company statement. “Validating plasma exosomal tau as the basis for a non-invasive test to detect and monitor CTE in living individuals will expand significantly the body of clinical data available for analysis and may provide a starting point for early intervention.”

Company CEO Jim Joyce, who played in the NFL with the Denver Broncos, plans to raise awareness of the study among retired players in the week preceding the NFL Super Bowl championship game in Houston on 5 February. Joyce expects to take part in the the Global Brain Health Coalition’s annual meeting and hold discussions with former players to establish an advisory committee for the project.

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Allergy Immunotherapy Firm Raises $2M in Early Funds


Pollen (Wikimedia Commons)

25 January 2017. A biotechnology company in Finland developing an allergy vaccine that harnesses the immune system is raising €1.85 million ($US 2 million) in its first venture funding round. Desentum in Espoo is a spin-off enterprise from VTT Technical Research Center and University of Eastern Finland, where the research underlying the company’s technology was conducted.

Desentum is creating a new way of treating allergies, which are disorders of the immune system that react to substances considered harmless to most people, like pollen or some foods, by producing antibodies to fight the mistaken invaders. Those antibody-generated reactions can cause symptoms such as inflammation in skin, sinuses, airways, or the digestive system. For some people, allergic reactions can be life-threatening when severe anaphylaxis occurs, resulting in low blood pressure, difficulty breathing, and loss of consciousness.

Most current allergy drugs address the symptoms caused by the immune reactions, but Desentum is taking a different approach, with a vaccine that quickly trains the immune system to tolerate the offending substances. Allergic reactions are triggered by immunoglobulin E, or IgE, antibodies programmed to connect to white blood cells called mast cells that regulate immune reactions.

Desentum says its technology uses synthetic hypoallergens, with low doses of proteins resembling the offending substances. Instead of generating IgE antibodies, hypoallergens induce production of an antibody known as immunoglobulin G, or IgG, the most common type of antibody, which in this case immobilizes and helps destroy allergens. The alternative reaction is designed to train the immune system to react differently to offending substances, with IgG instead of IgE antibodies causing inflammation.

This vaccine approach, says Desentum, is different from other immunotherapies on the market for allergies that block connections between IgE antibodies and mast cells, which can take years to be fully effective. With Desentum’s vaccine, the immune system remembers to respond with IgG antibodies the next time it encounters offending allergens, faster than current allergy immunotherapies.

Investors in Desentum’s first new venture financing round include Belgian Cascara Ventures, Luxembourgian ACME Investments, Finnish VTT Ventures, and Sto-Rahoitus, as well as the founding shareholders. CEO Pekka Mattila says in a company statement, “The capital raised now will help Desentum to move forward towards first stage clinical trials.” Those clinical trials are expected to begin later in 2017.

Desentum was founded in 2011 by several scientists at VTT Technical Research Center and University of Eastern Finland to commercialize the technology they invented. In 2013, that technology received the the European Association of Research and Technology Organisation’s Innovation Prize.

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News Blackout Imposed on U.S. Science Agencies [Updated]

Stop sign

(dimitrisvetsikas1969, Pixabay)

Update 25 January 2017. Buzzfeed News reports today that Department of Agriculture rescinded its order to Agricultural Research Service staff to stop communication with the public. Reporter Dino Grandoni quotes Chavonda Jacobs-Young, the agency’s administrator, that the original order should not have been issued and “is hereby rescinded.”

24 January 2017. Multiple news services today are reporting that the Trump administration is ordering several U.S. government agencies conducting or funding scientific research to cease discussing its activities with the media or public officials. The ban covers agencies in Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture, and in the case of Environmental Protection Agency, extends to a freeze on new grants and contracts.

In a story by politics editor Sam Stein and reporter Kate Sheppard, Huffington Post today says agencies inside the Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, received a memo with orders not to correspond with public officials, until the Department’s leadership has time to meet with new White House staff on the Trump administration’s policies. A congressional source, say the reporters, confirmed the freeze on HHS interactions with officials.

Stein and Sheppard also reported that a subsequent memo to National Institutes of Health told that agency to freeze new regulations or guidance, and not discuss them in public. The reporters quote the memo as instructing operating divisions in the department, “to hold on publishing new rules or guidance in the Federal Register or other public forums and discussing them with public officials until the Administration has had an opportunity to review them.”

Huffington Post says its sources close to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were not aware of the memo. But CDC on Monday abruptly canceled without comment a conference on climate and health planned with American Public Health Association. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the association, told Associated Press, “They had no idea whether the new administration would be supportive,” calling CDC’s decision “a strategic retreat intended to head off a possible last minute cancellation or other repercussions from Trump officials who may prove hostile to spending money on climate change science.”

Environmental Protection Agency

The Environmental Protection Agency, a long-time target for anti-environmental interests, was told to cease all public communications activities, and had its grant-making and contracting authorities frozen indefinitely. In a separate story on Huffington Post, Sheppard reports the agency is imposing tight restrictions on press releases, blog posts, social media and content on the agency web site. The restrictions include reviews of speaking engagements, webinars, list serves, and incoming media requests.

The more damaging restrictions, however, may be on EPA’s grant-making and contracting authorities. ProPublica reporters Andrew Revkin and Jesse Eisinger reported Monday night that a memo from an EPA contracting officer says, “The new EPA administration has asked that all contract and grant awards be temporarily suspended, effective immediately. Until we receive further clarification, this includes task orders and work assignments.”

Neither EPA nor Trump administration officials commented on the reports by Huffington Post or ProPublica. But Myron Ebell, who led the Trump transition team at EPA told ProPublica, “They’re trying to freeze things to make sure nothing happens they don’t want to have happen, so any regulations going forward, contracts, grants, hires, they want to make sure to look at them first.”

An extended freeze on EPA grants and contracts could have significant effects on companies doing business with the agency, as well as communities and universities. ProPublica says EPA has contracts valued at $6.4 billion currently in place. The contracts support day-to-day public health activities such as handling hazardous waste and testing the quality of drinking water.

Agricultural Research Service

A report today by Dino Grandoni of Buzzfeed News says staff at the Agricultural Research Service, an agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, received orders to cease its communications with the public. An e-mail message to agency staff, shared with Grandoni, quotes Sharon Drumm, chief of staff at Agricultural Research Service who says,  “Starting immediately and until further notice, ARS will not release any public-facing documents.” The message continues, “This includes, but is not limited to, news releases, photos, fact sheets, news feeds, and social media content.”

Agricultural Research Service is USDA’s in-house research arm, with some 8,000 staff members including 2,000 scientists. The agency conducts 750 projects at its more than 90 research sites, including overseas labs. Agricultural Research Service last issued a press release and Twitter message on Monday.

The agency issued a statement from spokesperson Christopher Bentley in response to a request from Buzzfeed News indicating that the ban applies to “informational products like news releases and social media content,” but, “Scientific publications, released through peer reviewed professional journals are not included.”

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Neuro Device Company to Begin Clinical Trials in Europe

Spine model

(Michael Dorausch, Flickr)

24 January 2017. Clinical trials in Europe are set to begin to test a non-invasive device that stimulates nerves and the spinal cord to treat neuromotor disorders. PathMaker Neurosystems Inc. in Boston is conducting the trials with Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle Epinière, or Brain and Spine Institute, in Paris, scheduled to begin later in 2017.

The clinical trials will test PathMaker’s MyoRegulator system as a treatment for neuromotor spasticity, where muscles are continuously contracted, which interferes with normal speech and movements, and can be particularly harmful to growing children. Spasticity, marked by muscle tightness and involuntary movements, is a symptom of disorders including cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury, stroke, and spinal cord injury. American Association of Neurological Surgeons estimates some 12 million people worldwide have some form of neuromotor spasticity.

PathMaker is developing systems that harness electronic current stimulation of the spinal cord and muscles to treat muscle paralysis, spasticity, and weakness often found in disorders such as stroke, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and spinal cord injury. Unlike other technologies that require surgical implants to deliver the current, the company’s devices deliver electronic stimulation from electrodes placed on the skin at multiple points on the body.

Signals from PathMaker devices are sent to muscles through nerve pathways that are damaged, yet still intact. One electrode is placed at a designated position over the spinal cord, while other electrodes are placed at points on the body where muscles require stimulation. The company says preclinical studies with animals and early human feasibility studies indicate the technology can help relieve muscle paralysis and weakness, as well as disorders in muscle tone.

The company’s lead device is the MyoRegulator system, offering spinal cord stimulation functions that relieve spasticity in muscles. The treatment in this case is aimed at hyperexcitable spinal cord circuits where stimulation can regulate aberrant signals causing the muscles’ spasticity. An early-stage trial testing MyoRegulator’s safety and efficacy is underway at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, New York.

Brain and Spine Institute conducts research on neurological diseases, and arranged for the trial to be conducted at Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris. The study, which will be used to apply for Conformité Européene or CE regulatory approval for the device in Europe, still requires approval from French authorities. Pathmaker, which has an office in Paris, takes part in the Brain and Spine Institute’s incubator program to speed new neuroscience technologies into commercialization.

As reported in Science & Enterprise, Pathmaker’s spinal stimulation technology received a U.S. patent in June 2016, with the inventor listed as physical therapy professor Zaghloul Ahmed at College of Staten Island, a division of City University of New York, which was assigned the rights to the invention. Ahmed is the scientific founder of Pathmaker and an adviser to the company.

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Biopharm, Hospital to Partner on Cell Energy Diseases

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, main campus (

23 January 2017. A biopharmaceutical company in Sweden and children’s hospital in the U.S. are collaborating on research into deficiencies in cells’ energy components responsible for a number of genetic disorders. Financial details of the project between NeuroVive Pharmaceuticals AB  in Lund, Sweden and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia were not disclosed.

The agreement calls for a team at Children’s Hospital to evaluate compounds in an experimental drug by NeuroVive to treat mitochondrial disorders, inherited diseases affecting the mitochondria, components in cells that provide energy for the cells at large. The team is led by Marni Falk, director of the hospital’s Mitochondrial Disease Clinical Center.

Mitochondria provide 90 percent of the energy for sustaining human organs and functions, thus disorders in mitochondria result in cell energy and death, particularly in organs requiring high energy, such as the heart, brain, muscles, and lungs. Symptoms can include seizures, strokes, as well as inability to walk, see, talk, or digest food. United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation says mitochondrial disease affects mainly children, but adult onset is occurring more frequently.

Falk and colleagues will review NeuroVive’s experimental drug code-named NVP015 designed to penetrate outer cell membranes and activate inside the cell. The Children’s Hospital team will evaluate NVP015’s ability to affect energy metabolism and disease development in preclinical models of disease resulting from deficiencies in a part of the mitochondria known as Complex I (roman numeral I), the source of most mitochondrial disorders.

Complex I is one of four protein chains in the mitochondria that produce energy, with complex I deficiency resulting in progressive neurological degeneration, and affecting high-energy organs including brain, heart, liver, and skeletal muscles. A number of rare inherited disorders are associated with complex I deficiency, such as Leigh Syndrome and Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy.

The hospital’s Mitochondrial Disease Clinical Center is both a treatment and research facility, where Falk serves as an attending physician as well as its director. The center conducts studies with simple animal models examining signaling pathways affecting mitochondrial disease, as well as possible treatments, including a form of niacin, or vitamin B3. Its studies also cover protein generation from genes and autophagy, the process of cell maintenance, both of which are disrupted in mitochondrial disorders.

This collaboration is not the first for NeuroVive with an institution in Philadelphia. As reported in Science & Enterprise in April 2016, the company is partnering with University of Pennsylvania’s medical school in preclinical studies of its drug candidate NeuroStat that protects against long term damage caused by traumatic brain injury. NeuroVive develops drugs based on cyclosporine, a common compound used largely to suppress the immune system for preventing rejection in organ transplants. The company’s work extends to another property of cyclosporine, to protect mitochondria in nerve cells following traumatic injuries.

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Safer Engineered-Cell Cancer Immunotherapy Designed

Lab at Cellectis


23 January 2017. A biotechnology company designed a new type of engineered T-cell from the immune system that more precisely targets tumors and stays away from healthy cells. A team from Cellectis S.A. in New York and Paris describe its discoveries in the 20 January issue of the journal Scientific Reports.

The Cellectis researchers are seeking to improve on initial developments of immune system cells modified in the lab to treat cancer, by breaking through defenses tumors create to prevent the body’s immune system from fighting the disease. The process takes T-cells, white blood cells from the immune system, and reprograms the cells through genetic engineering to find and kill cancer cells. The engineered T-cells become hunter cells, containing a protein known as chimeric antigen receptor that acts like an antibody. These modified chimeric antigen receptor or CAR T-cells are infused into the patient, seeking out and binding to proteins associated with the cancer.

While early clinical trials of CAR T-cell treatments show promise, they also reveal problems with targeting only cancer cells, threatening healthy tissue that results in serious adverse effects leading in some cases to fatalities. The Cellectis team led by its senior scientist Alexandre Juillerat is refining the CAR-T process to make CAR-T treatments more selective, aiming particularly at tumors and their immediate environment. That microevenvironment, as its called, is characterized by low oxygen concentrations called hypoxia that feed tumor growth.

Juillerat and colleagues enhanced CAR T-cell technology by further engineering T-cells to be sensitive to the low oxygen nature of tumors. This sensor-like feature responds to the presence of a protein known as hypoxia-inducible factor 1-alpha found in the low-oxygen tumor environment. The sensor in the engineered CAR-T cell acts like a switch, where in its default state, it ignores healthy tissue. But when confronted with hypoxia-inducible factor 1-alpha, its cancer cell-killing properties are activated.

In proof-of-concept tests in lab cultures, researchers report the CAR T-cells switch on and bind to the target proteins. Also, the lower the oxygen levels in the target tissue, the more binding takes place, and the more tumor cell killing occurs. Yet, in tissues with normal oxygen levels, the CAR T-cells do not respond, or switch back to the default “off” position after encountering tumor cells.

The team believes this cell engineering technology can be expanded into a platform for enhancing CAR T-cells to respond to other types of tumor environments or conditions, even regulating the toxicity of cancer cells when needed.

Cellectis is developing immunotherapies using CAR T-cells based on T-cells from healthy donors, rather than the patient’s own T-cells. The DNA in the donated cells is edited to add chimeric antigen receptors, for infusion into the patient.

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FDA Begins Cancer Product Review Center

Richard Pazdur

Richard Pazdur (

20 January 2017. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is reorganizing its review of treatments for cancer into a structure that cuts across its traditional bureaucratic lines. FDA’s Oncology Center of Excellence is led by Richard Pazdur who served as acting director of the unit since June 2016, and also lost his wife to ovarian cancer.

The Oncology Center of Excellence aims to better coordinate evaluations of new therapeutic products for cancer by the FDA’s separate offices for drugs, biologics, and medical devices. While applications and review criteria for new treatments and devices are not expected to change, FDA says the new center plans to draw more on the expertise of scientific and regulatory professionals in these offices, where needed, and encourage more collaboration across the usual hierarchies.

In an agency blog post after his appointment in June, Pazdur noted the oncology center will emulate models from cancer care facilities and the academic world that put more emphasis on multi-disciplinary collaboration to confront the complexities of cancer. The new center also intends to encourage more patients’ perspectives in FDA’s regulatory decision making, an idea that became a personal mission after his wife Mary died from ovarian cancer in November 2015.

Pazdur says that before becoming the oncology center’s acting director, he applied some of these methods to his work as director of FDA’s Office of Hematology and Oncology Products in the agency’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. From 2010 to mid-2016, says Pazdur, that office approved 61 new cancer treatments, many times before their review target dates.

One of the oncology center’s tasks is to streamline the clinical trial process for testing new treatments. One approach is to shift away from standard phase 1, 2, and 3 — for early-, intermediate-, and late-stage — clinical trials, when possible. Another step to simplify clinical trials is with a common group of control subjects, usually those given a placebo rather than the test drug, for tests of multiple drugs.

In addition, simplified end-point measures of efficacy make data collection easier and can require smaller numbers of trial participants. Pazdur and colleagues outlined some of these proposals in a New England Journal of Medicine article in May 2016.

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Lilly Acquires Migraine Therapy Company in $960M Deal

Person with migraine

(R. Nial Bradshaw, Flickr)

19 January 2017. Drug maker Eli Lilly and Company is acquiring CoLucid Pharmaceuticals, a developer of treatments for migraine pain and associated symptoms. The deal is expected to bring CoLucid Pharma shareholders a total of $960 million.

CoLucid Pharma’s lead product is lasmiditan, a drug to treat migraine. Migraine is a neurological syndrome causing severe headaches along with nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. In some cases, migraines are preceded by warning episodes called aura including flashes of light, blind spots, or tingling in arms and legs. The web site estimates 37 million people in the U.S. suffer from migraines, and cites World Health Organization data indicating migraines affect 18 percent of American women and 7 percent of men.

Lasmiditan stimulates receptors for the protein 5-HT1F in the trigeminal nerve pathway system in the brain, where activating these receptors blocks migraine pain signals through the pathway. Unlike many other migraine therapies, lasmiditan does not constrict blood vessels, making it potentially more suitable for individuals with cardiovascular conditions. The company notes that migraine is highly correlated with and considered a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

CoLucid Pharma, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is testing lasmiditan in clinical trials as a migraine treatment. In September 2016, the company reported results of a late-stage clinical trial among more than 2,200 individuals with migraine experienced either with or without associated aura. The drug was tested in 2 doses against a placebo. The results show more recipients of lasmiditan were likely to achieve a full 2 hours without pain after taking the drug, compared to participants receiving the placebo. Lasmiditan recipients were also more likely to be free of secondary migraine symptoms, such as nausea and sensitivity to light.

The company says 2 other clinical trials are underway or planned for lasmiditan. One trial is a late-stage study at 140 sites in the U.S., U.K., and Germany, where participants will include individuals with risk factors for cardiovascular disease. A second trial is a study of long-term safety and efficacy of lasmiditan, as well as its effects on functional outcomes and disability.

Eli Lilly and Company in Indianapolis is acquiring all shares of CoLucid Pharma and paying its shareholders $46.50 per share, which according to industry newsletter FirstWord Pharma is 33 percent higher than CoLucid’s closing share price on 17 January. The total amount paid in the acquisition is about $960 million.

Lilly is no stranger to lasmiditan. The company first discovered the compound, but when its priorities changed in 2005, lasmiditan was licensed to CoLucid Pharma for development. In the 12 years since that licensing deal, Lilly’s corporate strategy changed again, making CoLucid and lasmiditan takeover targets. Lasmiditan is expected to complement Lilly’s other pain drugs in development: galcanezumab in late-stage trials for cluster headache and migraine, and tanezumab for osteoarthritis, lower back and cancer pain, in development with Pfizer.

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Disclosure: The author owns shares in Pfizer.

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UC San Francisco, Intel Partner on Health Analytics

Networked devices

(Gerd Altmann, Pixabay)

19 January 2017. Intel Corporation and University of California in San Francisco are developing a data analytics platform that harnesses artificial intelligence to help front-line clinicians make better decisions for their patients. Financial and intellectual property aspects of the agreement between Intel and UC-San Francisco were not disclosed.

The agreement aims to advance big data analytics for health care to overcome obstacles from medical data stored in complex and diverse data sets, managed on multiple incompatible platforms. In addition, the number, variety, and complexity of data sources are increasing, which include genomic sequencing and mobile devices with wearable sensors, adding further to the data integration challenge. These obstacles, say the parties, slow the process of integrating data into a usable forms for physicians, often making the information they need difficult to access.

Intel and UC-San Francisco say they plan to develop an “information commons” that integrates data sufficiently from these diverse sources to enable the use of artificial intelligence techniques, such as deep learning to gain greater insights. Deep learning is a form of machine learning that makes it possible for systems to discern underlying patterns in relationships, and build those relationships into knowledge bases applied to a number of disciplines.

While deep learning and artificial intelligence are advancing in other fields, such as driverless vehicles, their applications in health care are so far limited. Michael Blum, director of UC-San Francisco’s Center for Digital Health Innovation, notes in a university statement that that these techniques can be applied to critical medical tasks and issues such as analyzing images, predicting health risks, and preventing hospital readmissions.

“Deep learning environments are capable of rapidly analyzing and predicting patient trajectories utilizing vast amounts of multi-dimensional data,” says Blum. “By integrating deep learning capabilities into the care delivered to critically injured patients, providers will have access to real-time decision support that will enable timely decision making in an environment where seconds are the difference between life and death.”

UC-San Francisco and Intel plan to create algorithms adapting deep learning concepts applied to health care decisions. Those models will be written on advanced, but commercially-available technology platforms that support data collection and annotation, and algorithm development and testing. The university expects the platform will accommodate large data sets, and eventually support advancements such as neural network and other complex models simulating human organisms.

Intel aims to gain more insights into health care analytical requirements that can help the company better design technologies for this industry. In addition, the company expects to apply these deep learning algorithms to more complex analytical challenges in health care as well as other industries.

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