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How Your Company Can Make a Positive Impact on the World

– Contributed content –

Earth on phone screen

(Daniel Frank, Pexels.com)

16 Jan. 2019. We all know we should be doing more to help the planet, and most of us are very good in our day to day lives. We recycle, we’re careful with water and we opt to have our bills sent to us paper free- we might even carry our own bag and water bottle with us instead of buying single use plastics. However, are you as careful when it comes to your business? Here are ten ways you can impact the world more positively.

1. Create a business that does good

If you’re at the start of your journey in business and are wondering what to sell or specialize in, why not consider something that will impact the world in a positive way? You could sell solar panels or other environmentally friendly products. You could make it your mission to only use recyclable, sustainable products that haven’t caused harm to animals or the environment.

2. Consider where your fuel is coming from

The fuel we buy and use as a company can have a huge effect on the environment. From your company cars to generators and powering your buildings, think about where this energy is coming from. Buy from low carbon energy suppliers to reduce scope 2 emissions. Consider switching to electric vehicles, and use renewable energy wherever possible.

3. Cut plastic consumption

In the U.S. alone, over four million disposable pens are thrown away every day. On top of this there are printer cartridges, plastic cups from water machines and lots of other single use plastics which contribute massively to the problem we currently have. Use refillable where possible. If you manufacture products, look into alternate packaging and other ways you can reduce the amount of plastic you use.

4. Recycle efficiently

Chances are you’re careful when you recycle at home, putting everything into the correct bins. But are you as careful when it comes to your business? Invest in good recycling systems to split up things like paper, plastic and glass, and teach staff how to properly use them

5. Think about the suppliers you use

Choose suppliers that use eco-friendly and sustainably sourced materials. Things like recycled paper, low VOC paints and sustainably sourced wood are all a smart move. It’s a small way you can do your bit.

6. Switch off appliances

Leaving computers, appliances and lights on is still a common occurrence in businesses. Even standby mode uses power so start turning things off properly at the end of each day. These kinds of actions have a massively accumulative effect when we all work together and do our bit.

7. Use laptops instead of desktops

Did you know that laptops use much less power than desktops? Modern laptops can be equally as powerful, and could be perfectly adequate for what your workers need. An easy way to stop wasting fuel, since laptops use around eighty percent less power than desktop computers.

8. Go paper free

We live in a digital age but still use far too much paper. Most things can be done online these days so don’t print things like invoices and receipts if you don’t need to. Utilize email instead.

9. Encourage carpooling or cycling to work

Carpooling, or rewarding employees for walking or cycling to work helps to reduce emissions. Fit secure bike racks at your premises with locks making it easy for workers to hop onto their bicycles.

10. Partner with a charity

There are many advantages to partnering your business with a charity- for both you, and for them. It creates networking opportunities and a positive brand appeal for you, and they get to raise money for their cause. You could pledge a certain percentage of your profits to them.

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Shutdown Delays FDA Peanut Allergy Drug Review

Closed sign

(Tim Mossholder, Pexels.com)

15 Jan. 2019. Regulatory review of a drug to prevent allergic reactions to peanuts appears to be delayed by the shutdown of some U.S. government operations. The industry newsletter Biopharma Dive reports today that the Food and Drug Administration has funds for only some of its functions, and review of drugs like Aimmune Therapeutics’ preventive treatment for peanut allergies is not one of them.

As the political impasse that blocks funding for about a quarter of the U.S. government extends into its 25th day, FDA is continuing some of its public health functions, particularly in high-risk issues and emergencies. The agency is also relying on funds still in its coffers from user fees paid by companies for review of their products. These funds do not require appropriations from Congress, and FDA is continuing reviews of products for which user fees are already paid.

Aimmune Therapeutics, in Brisbane, California, develops a form of immunotherapy for food allergies, starting with peanuts. The company’s technology known as Codit exposes people with food allergies to increasing amounts of the allergens over 6 months, thereby desensitizing the individuals to the allergen. Codit, says Aimmune, enhances conventional oral immunotherapies by precisely controlling the amount of offending food protein ingested by people with food allergies and establishing treatment routines that start with very small amounts and gradually increasing the amounts over time.

As reported by Science & Enterprise in November 2018, a late-stage clinical trial of Aimmune’s peanut allergy preventive treatment code-named AR101 shows the treatment desensitizes children and adolescents with peanut allergies against reaction-causing proteins in peanuts for one year. Based on these and other clinical trial results, the company submitted its application to FDA for regulatory approval on 21 December 2018, the day before the shutdown began.

Unfortunately for Aimmune, user fees do not apply to blood and allergy-related products, according to a series of tweets today from FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, and reported by Biopharma Dive. “More specifically, for products not covered by a user fee program, like most blood and allergenic extract products,” tweets Gottlieb, “FDA does not have carryover user fee funding to continue reviewing pending or accepting new applications.”

Biopharma Dive quotes sources at Aimmune that say the company paid user fees as part of its application for AR101. The company did not answer further requests for comment from Biopharma Dive.

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3-D Printed Implants Treat Spinal Cord Injury

Man in wheelchair

(PXHere)

15 Jan. 2019. Customized implants, produced on a 3-D printer and seeded with stem cells, are shown in tests with lab animals to restore nerve signals and functioning after a spinal cord injury. A neuroscience and engineering team from University of California in San Diego describes its process and results in yesterday’s issue of the journal Nature Medicine (paid subscription required).

Spinal cord injuries are often caused by a sudden, traumatic blow to the spine that bruises or tears into spinal cord tissue, resulting in fractures or compression to vertebrae, or in some cases severing the spinal cord. Depending on severity, people with spinal cord injuries often suffer loss of feeling or motor function in the limbs, and in some cases complete paralysis. According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, spinal cord injuries occur in 54 out of 1 million people in the U.S., adding some 17,500 new cases each year.

A team led by UC-San Diego neuroscience professor Mark Tuszynski and medical engineering professor Shaochen Chen are seeking faster and more reliable treatments for spinal cord injury to regenerate and repair damaged nerve cells and tissue. Because of the complex nature of the spinal cord, progress on treatments for this condition is slow up to now.

Tuszynski, Chen, and colleagues devised a solution with an implant to repair the injury containing stem cells to regenerate new neurons, or nerve cells, seeded in a 3-D printed bio-friendly scaffold. The stem cells are precursors of mature neurons that transform and grow into functioning cells, particularly axons, the long thread-like extensions of neurons that send and receive electrical signals. Spinal cord injuries break or impair those electrical signals, resulting in loss of motor functions or paralysis.

The scaffold is made from hydrogel, a water-based polymer resembling natural spinal cord tissue. Chen’s lab studies micro- and nanoscale 3-D printing with biocompatible materials, particularly for stem cells, and for this application, used continuous projection printing, a process analogous to photo-lithography in producing semiconductors. The scaffolds were custom-designed based on MRI images of recipients’ spinal cord injuries, each 2 millimeters in thickness. Around the scaffold’s core are circular bins for holding the neural stem cells and micro-scale channels that direct the growth of the neurons and axons to optimize their healing effects.

“Like a bridge, it aligns regenerating axons from one end of the spinal cord injury to the other,” says Chen in a university statement. “Axons by themselves can diffuse and regrow in any direction, but the scaffold keeps axons in order, guiding them to grow in the right direction to complete the spinal cord connection.”

Continuous projection printing is a high-speed process, which enabled production of each rat scaffold in less than 2 seconds. To prove the concept under more realistic clinical conditions, the researchers used continuous projection printing to produce implants modeled on MRI scans of human spinal cord injuries in about 10 minutes.

The researchers implanted the stem cell-seeded scaffolds in lab rats induced with spinal cord injuries. The results show the implants promote regeneration of nerve cells with axons extending into and integrating with the rats’ spinal cords. After a few months, spinal cord tissue regrew in the recipient rats, rejoining the severed sections. Blood vessels in and around the repaired spinal cords also were restored, enabling a return of motor functions in the rats hind limbs.

“In recent years and papers,” notes Tuszynski, “we’ve progressively moved closer to the goal of abundant, long-distance regeneration of injured axons in spinal cord injury, which is fundamental to any true restoration of physical function.”

Chen and co-first author Wei Zhu, are founders of a spin-off enterprise Allegro 3D in San Diego. The company develops 3-D bioprinting technologies for replacement tissue and regenerative medicine, including for nerve cells.

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Lighten The Load: Making Business Ownership Less Complex

– Contributed content –

Stack of books

(Kimberly Farmer, Unsplash)

15 Jan. 2019. When you talk to a lot of new business owners, the main reason a lot of them will give for wanting to work for themselves will be the chance to do a job which they enjoy. Having the chance to choose your field gives you the power to dictate how each of your days goes, shaping your life and changing the way you feel about your work.

Of course, though, being the owner of something like this doesn’t always come easily. In fact, a lot of small business owners find themselves doing more bad work than good, and this post is going to be showing you exactly how to move this work away from your court.

Training

If you have employees working for you, it’s very unlikely that they spend every moment of their days busy and stuck for time. Instead, they will have loads of freedom to get their work done in their own time, and this could be a waste. By offering training to those who are willing, you can move some of the work which you have to do into their schedules. Of course, you will usually have to pay more for people when you’ve given them new skills. This will be worth it, though, as it will give you the chance to focus just a little bit more time on making money, and this could be a great way to move forwards.

Employment

Some jobs will be simply too big for someone to handle during their downtime, and you may not have any employees who are willing to take on the extra stress. In this case, employing someone new to help out can be an excellent route to go down. This will be very expensive, but can be worth it when you’re dealing with something like accounting. There are loads of areas in the field of business which are complex enough to force people to study for years before they can work in them. While this is a shame, it isn’t something which you can overcome without getting a little bit of support.

Outsourcing

FInally, as the last area to consider, and the best for those with very low budgets, outsourcing has become easier than ever before in recent years. If you run a hospital, for example, you won’t have a huge amount of money coming in and out. This means that you may not need to hire someone directly to do it, instead using a medical accountant company to help you out with it all. This is usually one of the cheapest ways to get work done, with companies being able to spread savings amongst all of their customers.

With all of this in mind, you should be feeling ready to take on the challenge of making your role as a business owner less complex. A lot of people struggle in this area, finding it hard to stay dedicated to something when they doing all of the boring work. Of course, though, it doesn’t have to be this way, even when times are tough.

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Designing Strawberry Varieties for Japanese Farms

Strawberries

(pasja1000, Pixabay)

14 January 2019. An agricultural genomics company in Israel and auto maker Toyota began a joint project to design new varieties of strawberries to grow on Japanese farms. Financial and intellectual property aspects of the agreement between NRGene in Ness Ziona, Israel and and Toyota in Aichi, Japan were not disclosed.

While Toyota’s main business is cars and trucks, the company takes part in scientific initiatives to improve the environment and boost the local economy in Japan. As part of this program, Toyota developed a genomic sequencing technology it calls Genotyping by Random Amplicon Sequencing-Direct, or GRAS-Di, mainly for agricultural applications. GRAS-Di is a high-throughput sequencing engine that requires little sample preparation or other specialized equipment.

In a test of the technology with a variety of rice published in January 2018, Toyota researchers identified more than 10,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms or genomic variations distributed throughout the rice genome, missing only a few of these variations. Toyota licensed GRAS-Di technology to several Japanese and European partners.

NRGene is a genomics analysis company serving the agricultural biotechnology industry.The company uses big data analytics and artificial intelligence algorithms to analyze genomes of plants and animals to boost the speed and quality of breeding, as well as design new crop varieties to meet environmental and economic challenges. One of NRGene’s services is de novo genome assembly, which puts together short DNA sequences to resemble an organism’s original chromosomes. The company says it used this toolkit to assemble more than 400 genomes of various species, including wheat and strawberries.

In the new initiative, Toyota and NRGene will design new varieties of strawberries that can thrive in weather and soil conditions found in Japan. With Japan’s population aging, particularly its farm population, the country faces threats of food sustainability and self-sufficiency. Thus varieties of strawberries that can be grown easily in Japan are highly sought after.

Toyota is providing its initial genomic analysis of strawberries to NRGene for assembly of new varieties more suitable for Japan. Hiroyuki Enoki, Toyota’s group manager for GRAS-Di, is presenting findings from its analysis of strawberries today at the International Plant and Animal Genome conference in San Diego. The genome assembly task is not expected to be simple. The strawberry genome is highly complex, making 8 copies of each gene; by comparison, humans make 2 copies.

“As global demand for food continues to rise,” says NRGene founder and president Gil Ronen in a company statement, “we enthusiastically support any project that improves food security and quality, and reduces the environmental footprint of crop production.” Ronen adds, “This approach has the potential to be an economical and sustainable alternative to importing strawberries, a key horticultural product with one of the largest markets in Japan.”

More from Science & Enterprise:

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RNA Therapy Studied for Parkinson’s Side Effects

Kathy Steece-Collier

Kathy Steece-Collier (Michigan State University)

14 Jan. 2019. Medical researchers are developing a treatment for a frequent side-effect of Parkinson’s disease drugs using a corrective RNA molecule to reverse the condition. The 5-year project at Michigan State University in Grand Rapids is funded by a $2.8 million grant from National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, part of National Institutes of Health.

A team led by neuroscience and translational research professor Kathy Steece-Collier is seeking a solution for dyskinesia, abnormal involuntary movements that resemble fidgeting or wriggling in some Parkinson’s disease patients. Dyskinesia can occur in varying degrees of intensity, but in some people becomes disruptive and even painful. Parkinson’s disease occurs when the brain produces less of the substance dopamine, a neurotransmitter that sends signals from one neuron or nerve cell to another. As the level of dopamine lowers, people with Parkinson’s disease become less able to control their bodily movements and emotions.

Dyskinesia often occurs as a complication of a levadopa, a common drug taken for Parkinson’s disease. In the body, levodopa converts to dopamine and helps reduce the disease’s symptoms. Levodopa is often combined with carbidopa to prevent levodopa from releasing prematurely, which allows for lower doses, reducing side effects such as nausea and vomiting. The occurrence of dyskinesia in some patients, however, sharply limits levodopa treatments, and as reported by Science & Enterprise in August 2017 also occurs with newer dopamine agonist implants.

In earlier research, Steece-Collier and colleagues found dyskinesia damage to neurons occurs in the striatum, part of the brain’s basal ganglia that governs voluntary movement. Neuron extensions that communicate signals called dendrites have tiny spines that interact with dopamine. While levodopa helps grow new spines on neurons in the striatum, in cases of dyskinesia, the spines cease to fully function. In addition, researchers identified a calcium channel in brain cells, called CaV1.3, as a target for therapies, since a surplus in calcium is associated with the spines’ retraction on dendrites.

“The catch is the new spines appear to not allow neurons to connect normally,” says Steece-Collier in a university statement. “In effect, you get miswiring, which can result in dyskinesia.”

Also from earlier research, including studies with lab rats, the researchers traced dyskinesia to single variation in the BDNF gene, which provides code for brain-derived neurotrophic factor protein. This protein promotes the survival and maintenance of neurons or nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, particularly in synapses, or junctions, between nerve cells where the neuron-to-neuron communications take place. Their findings show levodopa has less effect when this one genetic variation, known as rs6265, occurs.

The Michigan State team proposes a test of synthetic RNA to correct for the variant BDNF gene. The Steece-Collier lab induced in lab rats a brain condition with the human rs6265 variation in BDNF genes. Researchers plan to transfer a synthetic form RNA with coding instructions to nerve cells into the lab rats, with a benign virus often used in gene transfers. The synthetic RNA, known as a short hairpin RNA for its molecular structure, carries instructions to CaV1.3 channels in nerve cells to reduce their calcium production.

Preliminary tests indicate the RNA transfer technique prevents development of dyskinesia in lab rats over extended periods, even in cases of high doses of levodopa, and can also reverse some dyskinesia symptoms. If these further preclinical tests are successful, the researchers plan to advance the technique to clinical trials.

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Essentials Modern Entrepreneurs Need to Master

– Contributed content –

Bar graph, arrow

(Gerd Altmann, Pixabay)

14 Jan. 2019. As a modern entrepreneur, there are a lot of things you need to get right when you are running your business. There are a lot of things that have to happen in order for you to improve your company, and many aspects of the modern world need to be taken into account. It is really important that you do as much as possible to ace entrepreneurship, and do what you can to improve the way the business is run.

In the world of modern business, there are a lot more concerns than there have been before, and it is important to be knowledgeable and prepared as a business owner. You have to face these potential issues head on and make sure you tackle them in a bid to take your company on to bigger and better things. This is important to keep in mind because you have to understand what it takes to make your business better, not to mention staying competitive. Here are some of the essentials all modern business owners need to ace!

Digitizing the business

You have to make sure you do what you can to ensure that the business goes digital as much as it possibly can. There are a lot of things that play a big part in helping the world of modern business unfold successfully, but digitizing the business is perhaps the most important. IT services, and setting up a strong digital footprint, have to rank among the most important ways of digitizing the business properly.

Marketing

Marketing is one of the most important things you can do to bring your business a greater level of success. There are a lot of things that need to occur when it comes to improving your marketing, and taking things to the next level. Try to make sure you have a great mixture of outbound and inbound marketing strategies to use, as these are going to go a long way toward helping you get the best possible results for your company.

Understand and overcome issues

There are plenty of issues that are going to plague your time as a business owner, and you need to make sure you think carefully about how you can overcome these problem. Some of the biggest challenges faced by business owners are lack of money and trying to get the right kind of marketing strategy. This is something that you need to make sure you face head-on and try to overcome as much as you possibly can.

Transparency

One of the most important things to consider in this day and age is the fact that customers, and the public in general, value transparency very highly. This is something that you need to make sure is a major focus for your business. The more you can do to sort this out, the better it will be for the future. You need to be a business that people can trust, and the way to achieve this is to make sure you are as transparent as possible, and open and upfront with people.

There are a lot of things that you need to keep in mind, and it is important that you ace all of this if you are going to ace your business ownership. Entrepreneurs need to make the most of the modern landscape, but this means you need to understand what you’re dealing with, as well as overcoming obstacles. There are a lot of things that play a part in this process, and you have to make sure you use the ideas on here to help you.

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Start-Ups Saying No Thanks to Venture Capital

Calculator cash calendar

(Rawpixel, Unsplash)

13 Jan. 2019. Yesterday, we reported on 2018 being a banner year for venture capital, with $99.5 billion invested in start-up enterprises, the largest annual total since the dot-com era. But according to the New York Times, there’s a small and vocal movement of entrepreneurs looking for other ways to raise money.

The story is based on interviews with entrepreneurs finding other ways to fund their start-ups, and leaders of groups of similar like-minded business founders. While the writer Erin Griffith talked to some tech entrepreneurs, the question remains whether there are realistic alternatives to venture capital for science-based start-ups.

The main objection to the venture-capital model among these business founders is the demands levied by venture investors on new companies. Venture investors typically look for fast growth, often with an unrelenting focus on the bottom line. When companies are founded for more than financial returns — such as meeting community needs — exponential growth is not needed or even desired. In most cases, venture investors expect an exit in the foreseeable future, the term for a big financial payback event, such as acquisition or initial public offering, or IPO, of stock.

Griffith quotes Mara Zepeda, an organizer of the group Zebras Unite with start-up founders, investors, and foundations as members who advocate for more ethical industry practices including more gender and racial diversity. “The tool of venture capital is so specific to a tiny, tiny fraction of companies,” Zepeda tells Griffith. “We can’t let ourselves be fooled into thinking that’s the story of the future of American entrepreneurship.”

Josh Kopelman, a venture investor at First Round Capital, tells Griffith that venture investments are not for every start-up. “Big problems have occurred when you have founders who have unwillingly or unknowingly signed on for an outcome they didn’t know they were signing on for,” says Kopelman. “I sell jet fuel,” he adds, “and some people don’t want to build a jet.” First Round Capital conducts an annual survey of start-up entrepreneurs with findings that support Kopelman’s comments.

Science start-ups are different, sort of

New enterprises commercializing research have an advantage over other start-ups, including many tech companies, namely their valuable intellectual property. Scientific start-ups usually license the rights to develop their founders’ discoveries from the institutions where they work, a practice encouraged in the U.S. by the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980. That law gives to universities and other research institutions the intellectual property of their researchers, if initially funded by the taxpayers.

The start-ups then can license the technology developed further by their companies to larger enterprises, such as pharmaceutical companies. As shown in the links below, since August 2018 some of those licensing deals eclipse the financial returns of many tech IPOs or acquisitions, although the payouts often depend on meeting designated developmental and regulatory milestones over time.

Another option, one probably similar to the way many tech start-ups operate, is begin offering services that generate revenues to at least supplement investments. In 2014, Science & Enterprise reported on a panel at that year’s annual meeting of American Association for the Advancement of Science, with several companies using joint ventures and research collaborations to fund their operations, as well as outside investors.

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Simple Ways to Boost Business Productivity

– Contributed content –

Laptops on a conference table

(Rawpixel, Pexels.com)

13 Jan. 2019. A slow-running business can cause headaches for most entrepreneurs. When you put all of your energy into running it properly, overseeing all of the processes, and making sure that everything is going smoothly, it’s particularly frustrating when things are slow – and definitely much worse when it’s just not speeding up.

If this goes on for a while, it’s time to find a permanent solution to the problem. You could, after all, run the risk of seeing your business fail if it goes on for too long and you’re certainly not making any more money before it’s back to normal again.

Here is a handful of tips in terms of speeding up your business productivity and finding a way to keep it at a steady pace for good. Just keep in mind that this shouldn’t be at the cost of your employees, though, and boosting their productivity should not mean that they need to work extra hours.

Give your employees a pep-talk

While we’re on the topic of treating your employees right, we might as well start off with talking about how you can boost their morale. If your business has been slow for a while, chances are quite high that they are bored and that their morale is low as well.

Nobody enjoys working somewhere that is tediously slow, after all, and this downtime has probably been frustrating for them as well.

Start by letting them know how much you appreciate them and that you’re working on getting things back to normal. You need them now more than ever, after all, and should focus all of your efforts on making sure that they are on your side. A good old-fashioned ped-talk is the best way to start things off so get this over with right away.

Find faster solutions

Whatever kind of business you’re in, there are ways to make each and every process a bit quicker. As a fulfillment business, for example, you could consider improving your warehouse picking systems so that the distance between each task is a bit shorter – and so that the system simply works a lot quicker.

All of those programs on your computer could probably need a boost as well, by the way, and you can spend some time on finding the best and fastest ones for your company. Treat yourself to a better communication and collaboration system as well, by the way, and you might notice that everything within your office is suddenly moving a lot faster than it used to just a few weeks ago.

Reward your team for their hard work

Finally, there is no better way to boost both the morale in your office and your employees’ productivity than by rewarding them for their hard work. Incentives are, after all, what makes the world go around – and it will certainly make your office go around as well, as long as you do it right. Have a look at this article to get started and learn about the best ways to reward your team.

Now you should have what you need to get things started again and see your business get back to normal. It doesn’t have to take much, after all, and treating your most valuable asset right will always benefit your business, in the long run.

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Infographic – Venture Finance Reaching Dot-Com Levels

Venture capital by year

Click on image for full-size view (Statista)

12 Jan. 2019. Venture capital investments in the U.S. during 2018 reached the highest levels since the height of the dot-com era, as shown in this weekend’s infographic. Venture funding last year totaled $99.5 billion, the largest annual outlay since 2000, when financiers invested $119.6 billion, according to the quarterly MoneyTree Report, and reported yesterday by our friends at Statista. The MoneyTree Report is a joint project of the accounting and consulting firm PwC and technology market research company CB Insights.

Internet services received the largest share of investments, totaling $36.7 billion, while health care companies attracted $20.3 billion and mobile-telecommunications enterprises brought in $14.8 billion last year. Recent examples listed below, reporting on venture funding for companies commercializing scientific research, show the scale of those investments. Venture capital is, of course, a topic followed by Science & Enterprise since we began.

While total dollar investments are reaching dot-com era levels, conditions today may be different from those frenetic days. According to the experts analyzing the data, the higher volume of investments is made up of larger deals going to later-stage companies, rather than start-ups with “.com” in their names. Thus, say the analysts, there’s less chance of an investment bubble than in 2000.

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