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In Case You Missed It …

(tigerlily713, Pixabay)

29 July 2018. Among our favorite stories on Science & Enterprise are when interesting science becomes a business opportunity. Last Wednesday, we reported on Convelo Therapeutics, a spin-off enterprise from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, commercializing research by its two geneticist founders that stimulate stem cells to replenish damaged myelin around nerve cells in the brain. Myelin is the waxy substance protecting nerve cells that gets destroyed by multiple sclerosis. The company emerged from stealth mode when the founders published papers in two Nature journals on Wednesday.

Here are other stories we covered last week:

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How Much Is Your Job Costing You?

– Contributed content –

Behind the wheel

(Jeshoots, Pexels.com)

29 July 2018.  Here’s something that you may not have thought of before: how much is your job costing you? We’re used to thinking of the amount of money that a job brings in, but there are always expenses attached to having a job. We all need clothes to wear, after all! In most cases, these expenses are incidental, and don’t affect your finances all that much. But in some cases, the opposite is true: your job could be hurting your finances, and not in a small way, either. Below, we take a look at the ways in which employment can cost you money. If you’re affected by four or more ways, it might be time to begin looking for new work.

Overly loyal

Corporations aren’t all that loyal to their workers, so should you be loyal to your employer? Not always. Research has shown that people who switch jobs end up earning more money than those who stay with just one employer. Of course, sometimes you like your company, they’ve been good to you, and so on – but there’ll come the point whether they’re really worth taking a several thousand dollar pay cut just to work there. Look for another company, and you should be able to negotiate a higher wage,

The commute

Unless you’re working from home, you’re going to have some sort of commute. In an ideal world, that would mean a gentle five-minute stroll from your home to the office. But of course, this isn’t an ideal world. If you’re like most people, you’ll have a long drive to and from work. It’s worth counting up exactly how many miles you’re putting in during your commute each week…and then checking what that’s equal to in gas. If your gas isn’t paid for by your company (and most isn’t), then a big percentage of your income could be spent on the commute…which you hate anyway!

Long hours

We’re working longer hours than ever before, and our wages haven’t been bumped up to reflect the longer hours, either. But OK, that’s something we’ve just had to get used to. There’s a knock-on effect for those long hours, though. We’re all pretty tired, and by the time we get home, all we want to do is slump in front of the television and then hit the hay. As such, few of us make an effort to prepare a lunch for the following day, which means we have to “grab and go.” Needless to say, this is the much more expensive option! Just times five dollars by the number of days you work each year…and you’ll see that you’re spending more than you’d like on fuel to keep you working hard throughout the day.

Unsafe conditions

We all want to think that our employers are working with our best intentions in mind, but this, sadly, is not always the case. Sometimes, our employers can cut corners that put us in harm’s way. Of course, if we’re seriously injured while at work, then that’s going to cause us financial troubles, be it through hospital bills or time away from work. Fortunately, the law may be on your side to help you claim money for your injuries. Work with workers compensation law firms, and see if you have a case. You might not have had a say in the injury, but you can have a say in how it affects your finances.

Man in suit

(Anders Kristensen, Pexels.com)

Stressful work

Our work affects our health in ways that are less direct than conventional injuries, too. If our work is overly stressful, then we’re putting ourselves at risk of many medical conditions, including heart problems, obesity, and diabetes. Any one of these issues could cause you significant cash in the form of doctor visits, but more importantly, you’ll be taking your life in your hands – and there’s no amount of money that that’s worth.

Looking the part

In some positions, it’s not what you know; it’s who you know. And in some positions, it’s not who you know, but how you look. Let’s be real here: it’s impossible to have a high-flying job, or any job where appearances matter in any way, while wearing battered old clothes. And as we all know, top-quality suits are not that cheap. What are you paying just to keep up appearances?

Time to get away

There’s a good piece of advice that’s probably too idealistic to put into practice: have a life that you don’t need to escape. Or in other words, you’ll have such a satisfying life that there’ll be no reason to go on vacation. If you’re being pushed to the limit at your work, then it won’t be long before you need to take some time to get away and rest on a beach somewhere. Travelling should be something you do because you enjoy it, not because you need to do it to restore the energy you’ve lost just by doing your job.

Childcare expenses

Everyone knows that having a child is expensive. And when they arrive, you suddenly find yourself working even harder, so you can get a better paying job to give them the future you dream for them. You may even take extra shifts, just to give your wage a boost. However, there’s a flip side to this: every time you or your partner are unable to take care of your children throughout the day, they need to be in childcare. Might they be better served by one of you cutting down your hours, and looking after the children?

No time for own venture

You can be an employer, or you can be an employee. Once they’re in the ‘employee’ bracket, it can be difficult to make the switch to an employer. You might have a terrific idea for your business, but because your job is pushing you to the limit, you don’t have any time to get things started! And in the long run, that’ll limit how much money you could earn, especially if it was a good idea.

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Infographic – U.S. Smoking Rate Hits New Low

Chart: smoking in the U.S.

Share of Americans who smoked a cigarette in the previous week. Click on image for full-size view. (Statista)

28 July 2018. News about research on cancer is perhaps the single most covered medical condition on Science & Enterprise. While many new technologies and therapies are discovered to detect and treat various types of cancer, changes in lifestyle can help hold off a cancer diagnosis, beginning with a stop to smoking. And not only cancer, but smoking cessation can also reduce heart disease and respiratory diseases such as COPD.

That message is sinking in, according to new data from the Gallup organization, this weekend’s infographic. These data, displayed in a chart published yesterday by our friends at Statista, show fewer than 1 in 6 Americans, or 16 percent, smoked a cigarette in the past week. In 1954, according to Gallup, nearly half (45%) were lighting up in the previous week.

The reduction in cigarette smoking is particularly evident among younger people. In 2000, about 1 in 3 (34%) of people age 18 to 29 smoked a cigarette in the previous week. By 2018 that rate has been cut by more than half, to 15 percent.

More from Science & Enterprise:

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Scientific Reasons Doctors Are Correct (Most Of The Time)

– Contributed content –

MD with stethoscope

(George Hodan, Public Domain Pictures)

28 July 2019. From the 1990s to 2010, there were 80,000 medical malpractice lawsuits in the USA. Of those successful suits, around 7% died while the rest were injured or not affected whatsoever. Compared to other actions in this country, this is a tiny percentage which shows one thing: doctors are right most of the time. There are a few bad apples, yet the majority of the group is knowledgeable and skillful enough to tackle challenging scenarios.

People often take it for granted even though it’s incredibly impressive. So, to put it into perspective, here are the secrets to their success. These are the reasons why they are correct most of the time.

The prep

A man or a woman doesn’t wake up in the morning and feel like they are lifesavers. Today, there is a thorough program which candidates have to pass if they want to become a doctor. Usually, it takes around five to seven years depending on the specialization. That’s 2,555 days in total. During this time, they are checked regularly and go on various courses. Plus, there is the incredible amount of studying to keep up with the workload. By the end of the course, they are by no means infallible yet their knowledge is vast. And, they never stop learning.

The technology

To say it is all down to the individual is wrong. Doctors are part of a team which includes nurses, tech, and the patients themselves. While nurses and patients play a major role, they are human and make mistakes. Technology doesn’t bear the same responsibility. High volume counting tech ensures the medication is perfect. Then, an LTC medication dispensing cabinet stores the drugs once they are counted to avoid errors. These are two illustrations without mentioning an MRI scanner or x-ray machine or encrypted antivirus software. Technology covers their back and helps pick up on their boo-boos.

The consequences

Although there were only 80,000 medical malpractice suits in the last twenty years, the tide is turning. Lawyers are more accessible and willing to work for free if they don’t win. Plus, the culture is money-focused and everyone wants their pound of flesh. More than half of US doctors say they have had their day in court recently. And, the payouts are getting bigger and bigger. The impact on the individual is inevitable: they are going to check and double check. No one wants to be the reason a patient didn’t make it, and they don’t want a judge or a jury to get involved either. The best way to avoid this scenario is to be perfect.

The patient

Once upon a time, patients did everything they were told because they were less entitled. Now, there is Google and anyone can self-diagnose. In fact, 80% of women try to figure out what is wrong with them by going online. Doctors hate this because it undermines their authority, yet it keeps them honest too. They know they can’t use jargon or a lack of knowledge to lie. Thanks to Google, they are as culpable as ever.

Why do you think doctors tend to make the right decisions?

Editor’s note: The opinions in this post are those of the contributor, not Science & Enterprise.

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Challenges Seek Solutions for Chronic Diseases, Oral Drugs in Animals

Puppy at veterinarian

(12019, Pixabay)

27 July 2018. Two new crowdsourcing competitions announced this week are seeking ideas on broadening the scope of drugs being developed for companion animals, and making drugs easier to give to pets and farm animals. The challenges offer total prize packages of $15,000 to $20,000, with submission deadlines in late August and mid-September, 2018.

The challenges are conducted by InnoCentive in Waltham, Massachusetts that conducts open-innovation, crowdsourcing competitions for corporate and organization sponsors, which in both of these cases are anonymous. Free registration is required to see full details of the competitions.

One of the challenges is seeking to broaden the scope of medications for companion pets to cover more chronic diseases. Most drugs developed for pets today, says the sponsor, are to treat infections from parasites and viruses, while chronic diseases that remain a problem for companion animals are given less attention. Among drugs developed for humans, however, more attention is given to chronic disease. The sponsor asks challenge participants to propose techniques for extending the knowledge of human health targets to companion animals, to speed new treatments to market and help make them less expensive.

The challenge has a total prize purse of $15,000, with at least one prize awarded of no less than $5,000. InnoCentive calls this type of competition an ideation challenge, which requires a brief (2-page) proposal. Ideation proposals can contain ideas originating from the participants, the public domain where no restrictions are applied, or third-parties where participants have the rights to propose solutions with those ideas. Participants are asked not to submit confidential information in their proposals. The deadline for proposals is 26 August 2018.

A second competition is seeking new methods for giving systemic drugs to livestock and companion animals, as a replacement for injections, which often require trained personnel to administer and are unpleasant for both the animals and their owners. The sponsor is asking for ideas for better ways to give pets and livestock biological treatments, preferably oral medications, that stimulate the immune system to protect against disease or act as therapeutics against existing disorders.

This challenge has a total purse of $20,000, with division of the prize money made by the sponsor after review of the proposals. InnoCentive calls this type of competition a theoretical-licensing challenge that requires submission of a written proposal. In a theoretical challenge, participants generally describe an idea still in development and not yet reached the proof-of-concept stage. Proposals often contain detailed descriptions, specifications, and requirements for bringing the idea closer to fruition as an actual product or service. The sponsor expects to ask for non-exclusive rights to the ideas proposed by the entries, with proposals due by 17 September 2018.

More from Science & Enterprise:

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Drug Discovery System Designed to Identify Difficult Targets

Nerve cells in brain

Nerve cells in brain (NIH.gov)

27 July 2018. A lab in the U.K. developed a system for discovering new therapies that identify therapy targets linked to enzymes, some found in neurodegenerative diseases, previously considered too difficult to address. A team from the MRC (Medical Research Council) Laboratory for Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England describe the system in yesterday’s issue of the journal Cell.

Researchers led by molecular biologist Anne Bertolotti are seeking better treatments for neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s disease, as well as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. One hypothesis behind the onset of these diseases is the increasing prevalence of misfolded proteins and the build-up of these defective proteins, with the likelihood of this condition increasing with age. Bertolotti’s group studies the mechanisms contributing to protein defects, including those controlling phosphorylation, or the levels of phosphates in proteins, involved in a large number of cellular functions, with changes in phosphate levels often controlled by specific enzymes.

One of those enzymes is known as a phosphatase, which removes phosphates from proteins. While regulation of phosphatases is considered a promising strategy in principle for affecting phosphorylation in proteins, phosphatases up to now were considered too difficult to address with today’s drug molecules. Bertolotti and colleagues developed a screening process beginning with a technique called surface plasmon resonance, a non-invasive optical biosensing method that uses light to excite characteristic electrons returning oscillation patterns to identify specific molecules. In this case, the process yielded a phosphatase component called R15B with the potential to modify phosphate levels in proteins.

With R15B as the target, the researchers screened for protein molecules with the ability to inhibit only this component, returning a small molecule compound identified as Raphin1 that stops the actions of R15B. In lab cultures, the team found Raphin1 could temporarily limit the effects of R15B, and keep cells from producing a high volume of defective proteins. With defective proteins reduced, cells could function more normally and correct the effects of the defective proteins.

The researchers tested Raphin1 further in lab mice induced with Huntington’s disease, an inherited disorder in which nerve cells in certain parts of the brain degenerate. The condition is caused by a defect in a chromosome where a portion of the DNA repeats many more times than normal, and because the disease starts in the DNA, it is passed along from parents to children. The team found Raphin1, given to mice as an oral drug, can cross the blood-brain barrier, reduce phosphorylation, and limit production of the defective proteins responsible for Huntington’s disease.

The researchers believe their drug discovery process can be extended to other precise phosphatase targets previously considered undruggable. Precision targeting is important to prevent unintended adverse effects. “For decades,” says Bertolotti in an institute statement, “with no way to selectively target phosphatases, research into them has lagged behind kinases and they’ve been described as undruggable. Our new system is only a first step, but we hope cracking this problem will stimulate phosphatase research and drug development.”

The authors filed for patents on their techniques. In addition, Bertolotti is a founder of the biotechnology company CamPhos Therapeutics Ltd. in Cambridge that began earlier this year.

More from Science & Enterprise:

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Launching A Cosmetics Brand Is Not As Easy As You Think

– Contributed content –

Cosmetics kit

(AlexVan, Pixabay)

27 July 2018. Lots of people dream of launching a new cosmetics band and making millions of dollars. However, the process is considerably more complicated than most folks imagine. With that in mind, this article will draw your attention towards some of the essentials steps you need to take, and how much investment you’re going to require. Unfortunately, bringing new cosmetic products to the market will require substantial funds. If you overlook any of the things mentioned below, there is a reasonable chance you could get into trouble. If that happens, you might lose your new company long before it starts to make a profit.

Designing the products

Regardless of whether you plan to create perfumes, soaps, or anything else; you will have to deal with the cost of paying experts to design your products. You might need to find a sodium lactate supplier in many instances, alongside specialist companies that can provide you with all the chemicals you require. While you can design the cosmetic items yourself; that is never a sensible move because people are going to use these products on their skin. So, unless you have a wealth of experience and qualifications in chemistry; you will never get the desired results without professional help. You also need to make sure you don’t infringe on anyone else’s patents.

Testing the products

Depending on where you live in the world; you might have to pay for various forms of testing before you can bring a cosmetic product to the market. That usually involves sending samples of your solution off to dedicated labs where professionals will assess the item. If those people have any issues with your product; you might have to go back to the drawing board to ensure you utilize their advice. The testing phase is where you will spend most of your money, and so it’s sensible to conduct as much research as possible ahead of time. The last thing you want to do is run out of cash because that could ruin your ambitions.

Packaging and distributing the products

Lastly, you’ll have to think about packaging and distributing the cosmetic products you create from your warehouse. It is vital that you use attractive branding to ensure customers recognize your solutions the moment they see them on the shelves in their local store. When it comes to distribution; you might benefit from striking a deal with a mainstream distributor. If you can get another established company to stock your product, many others will follow suit. Of course, you are also free to arrange meetings with buying teams at some of the most popular cosmetic stores. However, that can involve a lot of work.

As you can see from the information on this page; there is a lot to learn when it comes to starting a cosmetics brand and getting the business off the ground. However, the goal is more than achievable if you continue your research and leave no stone unturned. The most challenging part of the process is usually budgeting for the endeavor and making sure you don’t run out of money before your items are on the shelves. Good luck.

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Experimental Drug Extends Survival, Reverses Inherited ALS Damage

ALS patient in clinical trial

Patient with inherited ALS taking part in clinical trial of experimental drug. (Mike Worful, Washington University in St. Louis)

26 July 2018. An experimental drug designed to silence a protein associated with inherited forms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, is shown in tests with lab rodents to extend survival and reverse some neuromuscular damage. Findings from an academic-industry team funded in part by National Institutes of Health and led by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis appear in the 16 July issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder where neurons or nerve cells controlling muscles in the body begin to waste away, and can no longer send or receive signals from the brain or spinal cord. As the nerve cells stop functioning, the muscles in the limbs, and later speech and breathing muscles, begin weakening and eventually stop functioning. Most people with the disease die of respiratory failure. There are currently no cures for ALS, and few effective treatments for slowing progression of the disease.

About 1 in 10 cases of ALS are inherited conditions, and about 1 in 5 of the inherited cases is traced to a mutation in the superoxide dismutase 1 or SOD1 gene. Some 200 mutations in the SOD1 gene are associated with ALS that change the amino acids in proteins expressed by the gene. In addition, the mutations cause the gene to over-express, where reducing these protein levels could help patients with ALS.

The team led by Washington University neurologist Timothy Miller tested an experimental drug designed to reduce production of SOD1 proteins. The drug, now code-named BIIB067, was developed by the biotechnology company Ionis Pharmaceuticals  in Carlsbad, California and licensed to biopharmaceutical company Biogen for clinical trials. Ionis creates antisense drugs, which uses short DNA or RNA sequences, called oligonucleotides, designed to complement a specific gene sequence. Antisense drugs, says Ionis, interact precisely with a specific sequence of RNA, with many of the therapies in its pipeline binding to messenger RNAs, or mRNAs, and blocking the production of disease-causing proteins.

Miller and colleagues tested a newer formulation of the drug designed to more efficiently block SOD1 production in lab mice and rats. The animals were genetically modified to carry a mutated SOD1 gene, and after a few months began to display difficulty in walking and feeding. The mutated mice were randomly assigned to receive 2 doses of antisense oligonucleotides like BIIB067 or a placebo, after 50 and 92 days. Mice given BIIB067 lived 5 weeks or 22 percent longer than those given the placebo. The same pattern occurred in rats, where the animals given the drug lived 8 to 9 weeks longer than placebo recipients.

The lab rodents given the antisense drug also showed more qualitative improvements than those receiving placebos. Mice and rats given the drug were more likely to maintain their weight than placebo recipients. And 9 week-old mice with the mutated gene also improved some muscular functions over the next 8 weeks when given the drug, while mice receiving the placebo continued to decline. Other signs of neuromuscular damage declined in both drug and placebo recipients, although placebo recipients declined faster than those getting the drug.

Biogen and Ionis are testing BIIB067 in an early stage clinical trial among 84 participants with ALS in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. The trial is testing the drug’s safety and tolerability, to find an optimum dosage, but the study team is also measuring SOD1 protein levels in participants’ cerebrospinal fluid.

More from Science & Enterprise:

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BASF, UC-Davis Partner on Human Milk Sugars

Breastfeeding mother

(Badarsk, Pixabay)

26 July 2018. The global chemical company BASF and a research institute at University of California in Davis are investigating complex sugars found in human breast milk, and their role in maintaining healthy gut microbes. Financial and intellectual property details of the two-year agreement between BASF, based in Germany, and UC-Davis’s Foods for Health Institute were not disclosed.

The collaboration aims to learn more about complex carbohydrates called human milk oligosaccharides that researchers, including those at UC-Davis, highlight for their association with favorable health outcomes. Several faculty at Foods for Health Institute were on teams that in 2016 published papers in the journals Science and Cell showing relationships between the state of human milk oligosaccharides in mothers and the health of their babies. The findings indicate human milk oligosaccharides, largely indigestible milk molecules, help feed microbes that colonize the gastrointestinal tracts in infants.

BASF is developing a human milk oligosaccharide product 2’-fucosyllactose, fermented in its own labs that the company says helps develop healthy gut microbes and supports the immune system. In its research findings, says BASF, 2’-fucosyllactose is shown to stop inflammation of mucous membranes, and may play a role in protection against allergies and development of normal brain functions. Earlier in July, the company announced plans to produce and make 2’-fucosyllactose widely available by early next year.

The collaboration aims to develop and validate new types of human milk oligosaccharides as bioactive compounds with benefits going beyond the gastrointestinal tract. Faculty members Daniela Barile, David Mills, Helen Raybould, Xi Chen, and Bruce German from the Foods for Health Institute plan to study new applications for human milk oligosaccharides, or HMOs, with BASF providing their expertise on fermentation products and development of nutritional compounds, as well as funding for the project.

“This project will employ a range of microbiological and physiological studies,” says Barile in a BASF statement, “employing cutting-edge glycomics and metagenomics tools to explore how HMOs interact with the human host and the microbes within them.”

The collaboration with UC-Davis is part of BASF’s California Research Alliance that engages university labs in the state to study issues involving inorganic materials and biosciences. Researchers from UC campuses in Berkeley, Davis, Riverside, San Diego, and Santa Barbara take part, as well as Cal Tech and Stanford. Since the program began in 2014, it yielded 25 journal papers and 6 patent applications.

More from Science & Enterprise:

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Meds for Those Employee Headaches

– Contributed content –

Man with headache

(pheee, Pixabay)

26 July 2018. It’s fair to say that employees are the life force of your business. Without the best employees around, your company will struggle on the market. Your reputation will take a serious hit, and your customer reception will be in the dumps. While all this is true, it can’t be ignored that employees can cause or be part of the biggest headaches that you’ll face as a business owner. Let’s look at some of the issues that employees can be a part of, how to solve them or just avoid them completely.

Personal injuries

The first issue that you must be aware of is personal injury claims. Personal injuries have become a major problem for businesses. It’s become such a terrible issue that the UK government has actually considered abolishing and changing laws that allow injured employees to sue businesses. In the USA there are thousands of PI claims every year and while you might dismiss them, be aware they can result in damages ranging in hundreds of thousands of dollars. Small business won’t survive that bill, so what can you do?

Well, you can arrange workers compensation. This means that if an employee is injured, they’ll get the compensation they need and won’t need to sue. You can also make sure that your business has the best general liability insurance package available that will provide the protection you need.

Holiday leave and sick days

What do you do when your employees head off on holiday through the summer months? Suddenly, you can find yourself with an office that is half empty. Does that sound familiar? Of course, it does because it affects every business. The answer is that you need to hire temp staff, but unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. Try hiring employees and telling them they’ll only be needed for a few weeks or even a few days and see what happens. The answer is nothing.

The solution is to instead use a temp agency. They’ll get the workers you need for you, and they’ll make sure they are aware they’re only needed part-time. There’s nothing more awkward or difficult than hiring someone part-time who think they are becoming a main part of the team. This does happen, often due to mistakes managing the situation.

Harassment and bullying

It’s important to be aware that physical injuries aren’t the only issue that can lead to a lawsuit with your employees. You need to watch out for problems with bullying and harassment as well. Sexual harassment is a particularly prominent issue today, and it does exist in almost every industry. If you want to avoid the lawsuits you need to stamp it out, recognizing what behavior is acceptable and what isn’t.

Poor customer interaction

Finally, you might find that some employees are rubbing customers the wrong way. Customer service is a part of virtually every job and position these days. If you have employees that aren’t able to fulfill this area of the job, you need to find someone who can before it starts to impact the business reputation.

Editor’s note: Opinions in this post are those of the contributor and not Science & Enterprise.

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