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Vaccine Shown Effective Against Range of Flu Viruses

H1N1 virus

Electron-microscope image of the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus (

25 January 2018. An experimental vaccine made with protein-infused nanoscale particles was shown to provide long-lasting protection in lab mice against a broad range of common influenza viruses. Researchers from Georgia State University in Atlanta describe their vaccine in yesterday’s issue of the journal Nature Communications.

The Georgia State team, led by molecular biology and biochemistry professor Bao-Zhong Wang, is seeking better tools to contain and prevent the contagious viral disease influenza or flu. The virus causing flu outbreaks has two main types known as influenza A and B. Influenza A viruses emerge as different strains from the composition of proteins on their surface, called hemagglutinin and neuraminidase, abbreviated to H and N. The various influenza A strains are made up of combinations of 18 H and 11 N proteins, with H1N1 and H3N2 among the most common flu viruses this year. Influenza B has just two main sub-types.

The continuous mutation of flu viruses, particularly influenza A, make the disease difficult to contain from year to year. Different flu strains emerge each annual flu season, and public health authorities need to prepare well in advance to anticipate the strains likely to arrive, then develop, produce, and distribute seasonal vaccines to protect against those strains. If the annual predictions miss the correct mix of influenza strains, the seasonal flu vaccines are less effective. That situation appears to be occurring in the current (2017-2018) flu season in the U.S., with 49 of 50 states reporting cases of flu and 32 states, plus New York City and Puerto Rico, noting high flu activity rates, as of 13 January 2018.

To help solve this problem, Wang and colleagues, including associates from Emory University and Georgia Tech, are developing a vaccine that can apply to a wide variety of flu viruses, and provide immunity for extended periods. The researchers are focusing on the hemagglutinin proteins that vary considerably in the influenza A virus. While current vaccines aim at the variable parts of the protein’s head region to prevent infections, the researchers instead target the less variable stalk of the protein’s chemistry.

While the stalk portion of the H protein may be less variable, it is also not stable and easily degraded. Thus, to create a vaccine that would induce continuous immunity triggered by the protein’s stalk region, the team turned to nanoscale particles for delivering an antigen to induce a response from the stalk protein’s chemistry. Wang identified this antigen known as matrix protein 2 ectodomain, or M2e, in an earlier study. The nanoparticles are double-layered with M2e proteins to extend their activity time in the body.

“We assembled this stalk domain into a protein nanoparticle as a vaccine,” says Wang in a university statement. “Once inside, the nanoparticle can protect this antigenic protein so it won’t be degraded. Our immune cells have a good ability to take in this nanoparticle, so this nanoparticle is much, much better than a soluble protein to induce immune responses.”

The researchers tested the nanoparticle vaccine with 2 injections in lab mice, and exposed the mice to lethal doses of four influenza A viruses: H1N1, H3N2, H5N1, and H7N9. After 4 weeks following the second injection, mice receiving the vaccine survived without respiratory effects, while comparable mice receiving a placebo suffered lung infections, severe weight loss, and death.

The team believes its study shows the technology can provide the basis for a universal flu vaccine, subject to further preclinical testing and human clinical trials. The authors also note that its formulation with nanoscale particles would not likely require refrigeration, making it easier to store and ship in many regions.

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Agencies Send Warnings to Halt Opioid Cessation Scams

Compound bottles

(Matt Briney, Unsplash)

24 January 2018. Two federal agencies sent warning letters to companies the agencies say are illegally marketing products making false or unsubstantiated claims about their treating opioid addiction or withdrawal. The letters were sent by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission to vendors of 12 products, with orders to take action within 3 weeks.

The well-documented opioid crisis in the U.S. and elsewhere shows little sign of abating, with much of the problem linked to abuse of opioid pain drugs. A report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in July 2017 spells out the scope of the crisis, with some 2 million Americans age 12 and older addicted to prescription opioid drugs and another 600,000 addicted to heroin. The most visible and immediate effect of the emergency is the growing number of overdoses and deaths that result. National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of National Institutes of Health, cites data showing more than 90 Americans each day die from opioid overdose.

FDA and FTC say the cited companies make claims unsubstantiated by evidence, such as “a life without the irritability, cravings, restlessness, excitability, exhaustion and discomfort associated with the nightmare of addiction and withdrawal symptoms,” and “safe and effective natural supplements that work to ease many physical symptoms of opiate withdrawal.” The agencies say products with unsubstantiated claims may prevent those addicted to opioids from seeking approved treatments that have been demonstrated to be safe and effective, delay their path to recovery, and put them at greater risk of death.

The warnings were sent to:

  • GUNA Inc. product: GUNA-ADDICT 1
  • King Bio Inc. product: AddictaPlex
  • Opiate Freedom Center. product: Opiate Freedom 5-Pack
  • U4Life LLC. product: Mitadone Anti-Opiate Aid Plus Extra Strength
  • Ryan Donnelly. product: CalmSupport
  • Richie Ogulnick. products: TaperAid and TaperAid Complete
  • Medicus Holistic Alternatives LLC. product: Natracet
  • Nutracore Health Products LLC. product: Opiate DeTox Pro
  • Healthy Healing LLC. product: Withdrawal Support, formerly called Addiction Withdrawal
  • Soothedrawal Inc. product: Soothedrawal Daytime and Nighttime Formulas
  • Choice Detox Center Inc. product: Nofeel

FDA and FTC also sent warning letters to 4 unnamed marketers of opioid cessation products. The agencies say all of the companies use online platforms to make illegal claims about their products’ ability to cure, treat, or prevent a disease. Selling unapproved products claiming to treat opioid addiction and withdrawal is a violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act administered by FDA. Making false or unsubstantiated claims about therapies violates the Federal Trade Commission Act, which prohibits deceptive advertising.

The warning letters call for the companies to respond in 15 working days with the actions taken to address the agencies’ concerns. Failure to correct the violations, say the agencies, can result in law enforcement actions, such as seizure or injunction.

Also today, the FTC and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in the Department of Health and Human Services, issued a fact sheet to help clarify real treatments for opioid addiction and scams. The page includes resources to contact for help in finding legitimate treatments.

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Are You Overlooking These Security Issues?

– Contributed content –

24 January 2018. When you run a business, you need to constantly think about security. It’s no secret that issues with security have actually risen over the past few years and this is likely due to the rise of cybercrime. Cybercrime can put business owners in a tricky situation where they often struggle to protect their company. And, it’s not just the company assets that the hackers are going after. Hackers are eager and often find a way to target the customers more than the business itself. They can steal data, siphoning off TBs that could give them the power to claim millions from customers of large and small companies.

Is there a way to avoid this? Well, you need to think about the issues with security that you are missing and that could ultimately leave your business vulnerable.

Files erased

File eraser graphic


When you delete something from your computer, you probably think it’s gone for good. As soon as you clean out the recycle button, you may, at least for a moment, feel a little more secure. But should you? Actually, a skilled hacker can get data from a computer whether it’s been deleted or not. There’s a way to ask past versions of files. That means you can access them before a file was erased and grab it. This is why even after you delete a file the memory on the computer doesn’t go down as much as you’d think. The file is still somewhere on the drive in an encrypted format. It’s very easy to recover if you know how. Now, this could be a good thing because it means that you can recover deleted files without too much effort. However, it also suggests that unless you are destroying your hard drive correctly, you could always be leaving personal data completely vulnerable.

Trouble with the tech


(JEShoots, Pixabay)

Be aware that recently several tech companies including Apple and AMD have admitted that their technology has vulnerabilities that leave them exposed to hacks and thefts. Microsoft is also facing a particular problem with a certain piece of software that can slip through security undetected. How do you fix this issue? Well, you need to make sure that you have as much security on your machines as possible and don’t just settle for the standard anti-virus software. While this can prove to be effective, it may not provide the full level of security necessary to prevent an attack. For this, you will need to think about investing in software that makes it more difficult for hackers to slip through undetected.

Get on the cloud

Cloud graphic


Lastly, you do need to make sure that you are storing personal data and in particular data related to finances on the cloud. If you don’t do this, then you are using a lower form of security than what is currently available on the market. Experts agree that while cloud servers are still vulnerable, they are currently the best form of security that you can get for your files today and far more effective than a basic hard drive.

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NIH Funding Immune-Friendly Synthetic Vascular Grafts

Blood vessel visualization

Blood vessel visualization (Harvard Medical School, NIH)

24 January 2018. A bioengineering lab is receiving a National Institutes of Health grant to advance development of more tolerable synthetic veins and arteries implanted in heart bypass patients. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute awarded more than $672,000 for the 1-year project to a team at University of Pittsburgh, led by bioengineering professor Jonathan Vande Geest.

Vande Geest’s Soft Tissue Biomechanics Lab studies new materials to improve the performance of soft tissues in the body, or create safe replacement tissue, including blood vessels. Replacement blood vessels are a critical need in coronary artery bypass surgery, where the first choice for surgeons is grafting the patient’s own veins or arteries from the leg or the mammary artery below the rib cage. But when the patient’s condition makes those options unavailable, synthetic blood vessel grafts are needed.

Synthetic grafts replacing large-diameter blood vessels usually work well for heart surgery patients, lasting up to 10 years. With small-diameter replacement vessels, however, problems often develop with immune-system reactions to the implants, causing the vessels to become clogged or form blood clots. “Small-diameter vascular grafts, or grafts involving blood vessels with an internal diameter smaller than five millimeters,” says Vande Geest in a university statement, “have much higher failure rates than larger ones. A significant proportion of vascular disease cases involve small-diameter blood vessels, so the demand for viable treatment options is very high.”

The Pittsburgh team proposes developing replacement grafts that more closely emulate natural blood vessels, to limit or eliminate these immune reactions. The researchers are building their replacement vessels with alternating layers of biomaterials gelatin and tropoelastin to replace the collagen and elastin respectively in natural blood vessels. Gelatin is derived from collagen, while tropelastin is a precursor material for elastin. The synthetic vessels will likewise be lined with endothelium, the natural lining of blood vessels, drawn in this case from blood.

The project calls for Vande Geest and colleagues to produce prototype synthetic vascular grafts for testing in small and large lab animals, rats and sheep, to verify their functional and mechanical properties. The tests include trials with endothelium cells in the lining of grafts from adult sheep as well as umbilical cord blood. The goal is a blood vessel graft, ready for clinical trials, compatible with a recipient’s immune system, and does not result in vascular disease from closure or blood clots.

“We believe our method of mimicking native artery microstructure and mechanics will result in a successful tissue-engineered graft,” notes Vande Geest, “and this grant will support trials to perfect both our experimental and computational approach.”

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Simple Business Tips To Avoid Electrical Accidents In The Workplace

– Contributed content –

Computer servers

(Edgar Oliver, Pixabay)

Health and safety

24 January 2018. Other than money, one of the main reasons to ensure that you don’t run into any tech problems is for the health and safety of your employees. Not only do you disrupt the workflow, but you could end up doing serious damage to the workplace while risking the lives and health of those who work for you. It’s best to do everything you can to prevent such accidents, and keep everything running smoothly. It does take more time and effort to ensure this, but it will save you significant amounts of time and money in the long run.


If you use a lot of electrical equipment in the workplace, it’s likely that you have to do a lot to keep it maintained. For example, you need to make sure that it remains cleaned and protected from any damages. In an office, you likely have many computers; each of which needs to keep operating for the sake of efficiency. Letting any of these fall into a bad physical state would be a mistake. It’s important that you have equipment checks every now and then to ensure everything is up to scratch, else you might run into more than just a malfunction. has an article of good practices to follow in this context if you need some more information.  Electrical fires are seriously dangerous, and should be prevented at all costs! Even if the equipment you’ve gotten is new and unused, you should still make sure it’s been checked before you proceed with it, as you never know if you’ve been given a faulty product. Even the biggest companies can make mistakes, so don’t leave anything to chance.


Other than checks, you still need to make sure you can maintain your equipment without any issues. In many workplaces, When you have a lot of electrical equipment all together in one place, it can get hot very quickly, which is a huge safety risk if you can’t control that temperature. You should check out sites like for some examples of air conditioners you can get for this purpose. Even if the heat damage doesn’t end up causing something serious like fire; if your server room were to overheat, you would be looking at an office-wide shut-down.


While it doesn’t apply to all workplaces, there are still some that need to make sure their equipment is safe from harsh weather. For example; when it comes to manual labors such as building, you want to make sure you’re not leaving any electricals out when the weather turns. It might not seem like such an issue at first, but even something as simple as an extension cord can be a serious hazard that you should avoid. Investing in protective sheltering, or simple waterproofs can help you avoid this situation altogether.

Electrical faults are a common cause of many workplace accidents, so it’s important to know how you can avoid them yourself. Making sure you’re observant of all of your operations can help reduce this risk, as you can identify when a situation can turn out to be dangerous.

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T-Cell Therapy Company Gains $100M in Venture Funds

T-cells illustration

T-cells (

23 January 2018. A 2 year-old company developing treatments for cancer and other diseases that activate or suppress the immune system with genetically engineered T-cells is raising $100 million in its first venture funding round. Tmunity Therapeutics Inc., in Philadelphia, is a spin-off enterprise from the medical school at University of Pennsylvania.

The company was founded by Carl June, a pioneer in immunotherapies and director of UPenn’s Center for Cellular Immunotherapies, along with 5 colleagues specializing in immunology, cell biology, and gene therapy. Tmunity has exclusive licensing and collaboration agreements with UPenn to develop treatments initially for cancer, but also infectious diseases and autoimmune disorders, based on research by the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies. These agreements give the company access to lab facilities and talent at UPenn and University of Minnesota.

Tmunity says its technology covers discovery, development, and production of T-cells, from initial selection of cells from a patient to their genetic modification, commercial-scale replication, and delivery back into the patient. The platform also allows for combination with other agents or technologies, and seeks to improve its production processes to remain economical for patients. Among the technologies adapted with Tmunity’s processes are gene editing and delivery of healthy genes to replace aberrant or mutated genes.

The company’s first products are expected to address disease targets identified by UPenn’s researchers with T-cells engineered to express chimeric antigen receptors, known as CAR T-cells, with proteins that bind to and destroy cells expressing characteristic proteins for the disease. Much of the early work at UPenn with CAR T-cells addressed blood-related cancers like leukemia. Tmunity, however, first plans to develop treatments for 2 solid tumor cancers — e.g., breast, skin, or lung cancer — with CAR T-cells, as well as other engineered T-cell receptor proteins. The company says 5 more CAR T-cell and 2 more engineered T-cell receptor programs are in preclinical stages.

Tmunity is raising $100 million in its current financing round with original seed investors Lilly Asia Ventures and UPenn joining new investors Ping An Ventures and biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences. Also taking part in the funding round is Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy that supports research on immunotherapies by more than 300 researchers at academic and industry labs. Joining the finance round as well is Be The Match BioTherapies, an affiliate of the National Marrow Donor Program that provides cells for cancer research, and stores and analyzes patient samples.

Other scientific founders of Tmunity are:

 – Bruce Levine, professor of gene therapy and director of UPenn’s Clinical Cell and Vaccine Production Facility

 – Yangbing Zhao, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at UPenn and director of the university’s T Cell Engineering Laboratory

 – Anne Chew, executive deputy director of UPenn’s Center for Cellular Immunotherapies

 – James Riley, professor of microbiology at UPenn

 – Bruce Blazar, associate vice president of the Academic Health Center at University of Minnesota, vice dean for clinical investigation, and chief of the university’s Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program.

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Start-Up Licenses Children’s Myopia-Control Contact Lens

DISC lens

DISC lens used in preclinical tests (Hong Kong Polytechnic University)

23 January 2018. A start-up enterprise spun-off from Hong Kong Polytechnic University is licensing the technology for a customized contact lens that controls and prevents further myopia in children. Terms of the licensing agreement with Vision Science and Technology Co. Ltd. in Hong Kong, including financial details, were not disclosed.

Myopia, another name for nearsightedness, occurs when the length of the eye, from front to back, grows beyond the ability to focus on objects far away. People with myopia can see objects up close, such as reading and computer screens, but find it difficult to see objects in the distance. When undiagnosed, the condition can lead to eye strain and headaches. Myopia has a particularly high occurrence among people of East Asian heritage; National Eye Institute in the U.S. cites recent (2016) data showing by age 15, 69 percent of people in East Asia have myopia, compared to 42 percent of Americans, and 5.5 percent of individuals in Africa.

Researchers at PolyU, led by optometry professors Chi-ho To and Carly Lam, developed the Defocus Incorporated Soft Contact, or DISC, lens to correct myopia in children. DISC is a bifocal lens designed with concentric circles, having a correction zone in the center and alternating defocusing and correction zones on the periphery. The lens provides a clear image on the retina and a defocused, or blurred, image in front of the retina, which together simulate normal vision. A self-correcting mechanism then allows the eyes in children wearing the lens to grow and develop more like normal than myopic eyes. The lenses are custom-fitted for each user.

To, Lam, and colleagues tested the DISC lens in a 2-year clinical trial among 128 school-age children with myopia in Hong Kong. Participants in the trial were randomly assigned to wear either the DISC lens or a single-vision lens for comparison. Overall, myopia progressed 25 percent more slowly among the children wearing DISC lenses, who also experienced less elongation of their eyes, the growth pattern that supports myopia. Participants wearing the DISC lens for longer periods were also more likely to experience less progression of their myopia, with children wearing the lens for 5 hours or more a day reporting 46 percent less myopia progression than participants with single vision lenses.

PolyU protects DISC technology with patents from mainland China, U.S., Australia, and Europe. Vision Science and Technology Co., founded in 2016, licenses the technology and is recruiting a network of optometrists in Hong Kong to measure and fit the lenses for wearers. Among the fitting centers, as the company calls them, is PolyU’s optometry clinic, which will also train other optometrists in the device. The company plans to manufacture DISC lenses with a silicon hydrogel that the company says allows 4 to 8 times more oxygen to the eyes than conventional lens materials, allowing for longer wearing times.

Vision Science and Technology received financial support and incubation from university and local Hong Kong entrepreneurial sources.

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Institute Using Software to Boost Results Reproducibility

Gosia Trynka and Charles Fracchia

Gosia Trynka, left, and BioBright CEO Charles Fracchia (Wellcome Sanger Institute)

22 January 2018. A genomics research lab in the U.K. is adding software to automate data collection that its developer says can improve the productivity of scientists and reproducibility of their findings. The Immune Genomics Group at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in Hinxton, England is the latest site to use lab automation software by BioBright, a 3 year-old company in Boston.

BioBright is developing software, called Darwin Sync, that claims to augment and extend the work of biologists to better document their actions as the work proceeds. This documentation, says BioBright, can help address a chronic and apparently growing problem of reproducibility in lab findings. Darwin Sync, says the company, collects data generated by lab instruments, while at the same time uses voice recognition to capture researchers’ verbal comments to help document their work. Transcripts of those comments can be retrieved later as needed. Researchers’ lab notes are traditionally recorded by hand, a process that can interrupt the work flow in a lab, and increase the amount of time required for experiments.

A June 2015 study in the journal PLoS Biology estimates more than half of all preclinical research is irreproducible, with a total price tag of $28 billion. About a year later, the journal Nature published results from a survey of 1,576 scientists, with half (52%) calling the inability to reproduce results from other labs “a serious crisis.” More than 900 of respondents in the Nature survey came from biology or academic medical labs.

Among respondents in the Nature survey from biology and medicine, two-thirds to three-quarters say they failed to reproduce experiments done by other researchers, and at least half of the group admitted to failed attempts of reproducing their own results. One-third of respondents overall, including 4 in 10 in medicine, say they are taking concrete steps to counter the reproducibility problem, such as better documentation and standardization of experimental methods.

The Immune Genomics lab at Wellcome Sanger Institute, led by geneticist Gosia Trynka, studies genomic factors affecting diseases of the immune system, including autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and celiac disease. The data generated by Trynka and colleagues require complex collection and analytical methods, where errors in these processes could disrupt months of work by researchers.

“Genomic experiments are very sensitive to many variables in the lab,” says Trynka in a joint statement. “BioBright’s tools will not only save us time in analyzing our data, they will allow us to measure variables that we wouldn’t otherwise have measured easily. The information will enable us to correct for the variability, leading to more reproducible results.”

BioBright’s software, as reported in Science & Enterprise in March 2017, was field tested at New York University in a neuroscience lab studying activities of neurons, or nerve cells, in the brain particularly their coordination to control human behavior, with implications for decision-making, speech, and brain-machine connections. The results show researchers in the lab using the system can work alone rather than in pairs, with accuracy of activities such as implanting brain electrodes improved by more than 20 times.

The company is a spin-off enterprise from MIT and Harvard University. Founder and CEO Charles Fracchia is on a leave of absence from MIT’s Media Lab and the lab of George Church at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.

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Blood Disorder Drug Maker Acquired in $11.6B Deal

Drop of blood on finger

(Alden Chadwick, Wikimedia Commons)

22 January 2018. The global pharmaceutical company Sanofi is buying Bioverativ Inc., a developer of biologics to treat hemophilia and other rare blood disorders. The agreement for Paris-based Sanofi to acquire Bioverativ, in Waltham, Massachusetts, is valued at $11.6 billion.

Bioverativ is a spin-off enterprise from the biopharmaceutical company Biogen, founded in 2016. The company has two biologic therapies already approved to treat hemophilia A and B, Eloctate and Alprolix, respectively. Hemophilia is an inherited disorder, where a genetic defect causes the proteins needed to mix with platelets allowing blood to coagulate are missing. About 8 in 10 people with the condition have hemophilia type A, where the protein clotting factor 8 is missing. In type B, clotting factor 9 is missing. Factor 9 is made in the liver, and circulates dormant in the blood stream until a blood vessel is damaged, when it is activated by other proteins that set in motion the processes to form a clot.

Eloctate is a synthetic protein that joins clotting factor 8, missing in people with hemophilia A, to a part of immunoglobulin G antibodies to extend the time Eloctate works in the body. Likewise, Alprolix fuses with clotting factor 9, needed by people with hemophilia B, to extend the therapy’s working activity time. Both biologics, says Bioverativ, are derived from human cell lines.

The company’s pipeline also has a treatment in late-stage clinical trials for cold agglutinin disease, a rare form of anemia where the immune system mistakenly attacks red blood cells. Bioverativ gained the technology for this therapy in 2016, when it acquired another biotechnology enterprise, True North Therapeutics. The biologic, code-named BIVV009, is a synthetic antibody that received orphan drug status from regulatory authorities in the U.S. and Europe.

Bioverativ is also developing with Sangamo Therapeutics a treatment using genome editing for inherited blood disorders sickle cell disease and beta thalassemia. Sangamo’s technology adapts an earlier form of genome editing known as  zinc-finger nucleases, where synthetic enzymes modify DNA sequences, including corrections or insertions. Sangamo says it engineers the proteins to predictably and consistently bind with longer DNA sequences for a range of inherited diseases.

In the merger deal, Sanofi is acquiring all outstanding shares of Bioverativ stock for $105 a share, for a total cost of $11.6 billion. That price is 64 percent higher than Bioverativ’s closing share price on 19 January. Sanofi is using its cash on hand and taking on new debt to raise the purchase funds.

Sanofi is creating another treatment for hemophilia called fitusiran that uses RNA interference to silence aberrant genes preventing production of the missing clotting factors. Fitusiran, developed in partnership with biotechnology company Alnylam, has a somewhat troubled history. In September 2017, FDA ordered Alnylam to suspend its intermediate- and late-stage clinical trial of fitusiran, when one of the trial’s participants died. FDA lifted the hold in December, allowing the trial to resume.

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Infographic – Artificial Intelligence in Smartphones

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

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

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

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