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Boron Radiation Therapy Company Forms with $40M Funding

Fusion beam system

Fusion beam system (TAE Technologies Inc.)

12 March 2018. A start-up enterprise, spun off from a fusion energy company, plans to develop radiation therapies for solid tumor cancers often considered difficult to treat with conventional methods. TAE Life Sciences, a majority-owned subsidiary of TAE Technologies Inc. in Foothill Ranch, California, is also raising $40 million in its first venture funding round.

TAE Life Sciences is developing treatments for solid tumor cancers using boron neutron capture therapy, a type of radiation treatment. Boron neutron capture therapy concentrates beams of neutron particles on cancer cells in tumors that take up a stable, non-radioactive isotope known as boron-10. The neutron rays are absorbed by boron-10 that breaks down and releases destructive alpha particles that kill the cancer cells. But the alpha particles move no further than the cancer cells infused with boron-10, thus sparing surrounding healthy tissue without boron-10.

TAE Life Sciences plans to take advantage of advances in accelerator-based beam processes by its parent company TAE Technologies Inc., also in Foothill Ranch. TAE Technologies is developing environmentally-friendly fusion energy sources using beams of high-energy hydrogen atoms that the company says is more stable and less energy intensive than previous fusion methods, as well as boron, another abundant element, in its fuel cycle.

Those beams, says TAE Life Sciences, will be aimed at boron-10 concentrations delivering therapeutic radiation doses in 1 or 2 sessions. The company says its first applications will be solid tumor cancers in head and neck tissue, as well as aggressive brain tumors such as glioblastoma, cancers also considered difficult to treat. TAE says it plans to package the beam-generating system in a free-standing device small enough to be used in hospitals that can deliver the beams with varying intensity as needed. Up to now, says the company, the lack of a compact, practical method for delivering the neutron beams discouraged use of boron neutron capture therapy.

TAE Life Sciences is raising $40 million its first venture financing, led by technology and life science investment company Artis Ventures in San Francisco. No other participants in the funding round were disclosed. Venture capital executive Bruce Bauer is TAE Life Sciences’ CEO. The company’s first neutron beam system is expected to be delivered to Neuboron Medtech Ltd., a Chinese company working in boron neutron capture therapy, or BNCT.

“BNCT has been investigated as a promising area of treatment for some time,” says Bauer in a company statement, “but challenged by the limited radiation options for convenient clinical practice. Now, TAE Life Sciences stands ready to offer a compelling and compassionate application of medical science innovation, increasing accessibility to treatment options for a challenging disease, and improving outcomes for patients around the world.”

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Turning Your Small Product into a Big Business

– Contributed content –

Doodling in notebook

(Raw Pixel, Pixabay)

12 March 2018. It might be hard to believe, but most big businesses out there started as a small idea. Huge fast food chains often start with one recipe or one idea. Drinks manufacturers don’t start with a vast range. They start with one product. Designers often start with one idea, which they then expand upon. Very few businesses start with hundreds of ideas and products, and even those that do may have many, many failures before they hit on that one idea that’s going to be a success.

Even the smallest of products can turn into massive businesses. Just look at this springs manufacturer, and now that it’s easier than ever to start up online, there’s nothing to stop you turning your small product, or a small idea, into a big business. Here’s what you need to do.

Develop that one idea

If you’ve got one product or service that you think could do well, don’t just create it and start selling on eBay. Take your time to develop your idea so that you are launching with something great, not just a random product.

Start by looking at your market. Does your product have any direct competition? If so, you need to do it better or cheaper. Think of how you can do this. Then, spend time developing and creating to get it just right. Then, research again. Take it into focus groups and get some feedback before going back to the drawing board. Take your time and get it right, instead of just throwing a half-baked idea out there.

Build your brand

One of the best ways to grow your business and sell well straight away is by creating a brand before you even launch. You’ll be more memorable, people will want to work with you, and the market will take you seriously. Work on designs and a professional logo. Start thinking of yourself as a brand, even if it’s just you making products in your shed.

Launch a website

If you want to be taken seriously, and you hope to make it big one day, act like you are big now. You’ve got a great product and memorable branding; now you need a professional website and an online presence. This is the best way to sell your products and reach a wider audience. It’s also a great way to go global without actually having to go anywhere. Look at all of your favorite online shops for ideas, but always remember to test it out first to make sure it works well as well as looking great.

Take it slowly

A common mistake many new businesses make is trying to expand too quickly. They launch as many products and offshoots as they can trying to flood the market. They get carried away and try to do too much too fast, without giving anything their full focus. Take your time. Do things right, get feedback and make changes, then get some more feedback. When you feel like you’ve found your feet and you are doing well, start expanding. What’s the rush?

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Trial Shows Patch Feasible for Heart Rhythm Detection

Zio patch

Zio patch (iRhythm Technologies Inc.)

12 March 2018. Results from a clinical trial show a wearable patch, applied and used by older adults in their homes, detects more heart rhythm problems than waiting to see a doctor, the usual way these problems are detected. Findings from the study were presented on 10 March at the annual scientific meeting of American College of Cardiology, in Orlando, Florida.

The study led by cardiologist Steven Steinhubl of Scripps Translational Science Institute in La Jolla, California and who presented the results, is testing the ability of sensors in a wearable patch used at home can detect arrhythmia, or irregular heart beat as well as electrocardiograms, or EKGs, taken at a doctor’s office. Arrhythmia is defined as any change from the normal sequence of electrical impulses regulating heart beats. Heart rhythm disorders prevent the heart from pumping adequate supplies of blood throughout the body, and can lead to blood clots, strokes, or damage to other organs.

The clinical trial recruited participants from the customers of Aetna health insurance, one of the sponsors of the study along with Scripps Research Institute and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a division of Johnson & Johnson. Candidates for the trial, age 55 and over, were first screened with a online system and data from insurance claims to find people with a moderate risk but no prior history of irregular heart beat. From this screening, 1,732 individuals were asked to wear a small patch device cleared by FDA called Zio, made by iRhythm Technologies Inc. in San Francisco.

The Zio device is worn on the chest over the heart and contains sensors to measure heart rhythms for up to 14 days, then is mailed it back to the doctor. People wearing the Zio can also record any suspected heart-related symptoms they encounter with a mobile app, online form, or paper logbook. In the clinical trial, participants were provided instructions for positioning and wearing the Zio, then asked to wear it during the first and last 2 weeks of a 4 month period.

Participants wearing the Zio patch were matched to 3,646 individuals of comparable age, sex, and risk of stroke-related heart rhythm problems using a standard screening scale. After 4 months, individuals without the patch were given a Zio to wear during the first and last 2 weeks of another 4 month period, using the same processes as the first group.

The study team looked primarily for reports of atrial fibrillation, a common form of irregular heart beat over the 4 month test periods. But the researchers also followed up after 12 months, looking for any incidence of atrial fibrillation during that time, as well as stroke. The study team is recording as well overall health care usage and costs of participants, who will be monitored for another 2 years.

The results show after 12 months more participants wearing the Zio, 6 percent, were found with atrial fibrillation than 2 percent of the comparison group receiving the usual care. More participants wearing the Zio also started therapy with anticoagulation drugs and other treatments for irregular heartbeat. No difference was found, however, in the incidence of stroke, about 2 percent in each group.

Somewhat more Zio wearers made visits ot their primary care doctors (79%) than the comparison group (75%), and the Zio group also made more outpatient cardiologist visits (32%) than the usual care participants (24%), but there were no differences between the groups in emergency room visits or hospitalizations.

“The quality of data collected through the patch,” notes Steinhubl in an American College of Cardiology statement, “is as good as what we see clinically.” The researchers conclude remote atrial fibrillation monitoring is feasible for patients and manageable by clinicians.

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Disclosure: The author owns shares in Johnson & Johnson.

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Infographic – How Tech Companies Make Money

Infographic: The Diverse Ways of Making Money in Tech | Statista
You will find more infographics at Statista

10 March 2018. At Science and Enterprise we report often on companies in the technology industry, particularly their R&D initiatives and partnerships, such as our story yesterday. Yet most of the giants in the industry make their money with technology, which is the subject of this weekend’s infographic.

Our friends at Statista provide this chart that offers insights into the business models of the top tech companies. It comes from Statista’s Digital Economy Compass collection, a set of informative graphics about the industry.

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Smartphone App, Device Shown to Measure Blood Pressure

Smartphone blood pressure system

Smartphone blood pressure system (Michigan State University)

9 March 2018. A smartphone-based system and app were shown in a pilot study with human subjects to measure a person’s blood pressure with about the same accuracy as some cuff devices normally used to gauge blood pressure. A team from Michigan State University in East Lansing and University of Maryland in College Park describe the system and test results in the 7 March issue of the journal Science Translational Medicine (paid subscription required).

The researchers led by Michigan State biomedical engineering professor Ramakrishna Mukkamala are seeking more convenient methods for measuring blood pressure. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a common condition affecting 1 in 3 adults in the U.S., or about 75 million people, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But barely more than half of people with the condition (54%) have their blood pressure under control, despite hypertension increasing the risk for heart disease and stroke.

Hypertension is a treatable condition, and as part of treatment, CDC recommends regularly checking blood pressure, but few people have the specialized equipment in their homes, usually inflatable arm cuffs. Mukkamala and colleagues developed their system as a way to make blood pressure measurement more readily available, without people needing to acquire a specialized device. Instead, the team designed their solution using the smartphone, the ubiquitous information technology in the hands and pockets of increasing numbers of people worldwide.

The system, designed by Michigan State doctoral candidate and first author Anand Chandrasekhar, uses the same basic principle as cuff-style blood pressure devices. These arm-cuff devices measure blood volume oscillations in the brachial artery, after the cuff is fully inflated, and then as the cuff is gradually deflated. The researchers’ device also measures blood volume oscillations, but with a different artery: the transverse palmar arch artery in the fingers.

The system combines circuitry built into a case for the smartphone, with a companion app. The back of the case has force and optical sensors for measuring blood volume oscillations that users press with their fingers in slowly increasing pressure. Readings from the sensors are transmitted to the app, which displays the measurements on a real-time chart, providing the person’s blood pressure as well as visual feedback on proper use of the device.

A critical milestone in developing the system, and focus of the team’s first set of tests with 30 volunteers, was whether novice users could understand the system and work it properly. “A key point was to see if users could properly apply the finger pressure over time,” says Mukkamala in a university statement, “which lasts as long as an arm-cuff measurement. We were pleased to see that 90 percent of the people trying it were able to do it easily after just one or two practice tries.”

The researchers then recruited 32 volunteers to test a prototype system against cuff devices. Participants were asked to take 2 to 4 blood pressure measurements with the smartphone system, as well as with a standard arm cuff, and a finger cuff, which inflates like an arm cuff, but measures blood pressure with the transverse palmar arch artery. The results show the smartphone system measures blood pressure with bias and precision error rates close to acceptable ranges dictated by medical instrumentation standards. The findings also show those error ranges were similar to rates returned by finger cuff devices.

The authors conclude that the smartphone blood pressure system has promise, but still needs work. The device, say the authors, can be improved with additional sensors, more versatile algorithms, and software improvements to provide warnings if blood pressure reaches dangerous levels. Michigan State and University of Maryland applied for a patent on the finger-pressure technology, with a company, Digitouch Health LLC, already licensing its rights.

The following video tells more about the system.

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What Exactly Is Pharmaceutical Market Access?

– Contributed content –

Blue and white capsules

(Max Pixel)

9 March 2018. Medicine is one of the most important resources in the world. We are able to cure life threatening diseases with a simple pill or manage chronic annoyances with an inhaler. The medical industry over the years has performed some miracles in the world and we have all benefited from the clever minds who reside behind it, but there are more things to consider when creating a drug.

In the medical world, pharmaceutical market access is a term which is commonly thrown around from place to place, but what does it actually mean? In short, market access is a process which is out in place to ensure that any patient who is appropriate for receiving a certain medicine is able to receive it at a decent price.

Pharmaceutical market access makes things more fair in the medical industry to make sure that if someone needs treatment, they are able to get it without spending the earth on their prescription. The process of pharmaceutical market access has a few different factors to adhere to, to ensure that it runs as smoothly as possible.

The first process is that of paying. Of course, we all know that medical companies want to make a decent profit for the drugs they create, but sometimes the prices are ridiculous and out of control. The only way to stop them from being able to charge a huge chunk of money is to be smart and go through committees to keep the pricing reasonable. It will of course vary a little depending on the value of the drug and also the type of treatment, whether it is a pill or injection and also the local area.

R&D process is another part of this process which make sure that anyone who invests in the medicine is as successful as they can be. It ensures that investments are kept stable and helps to manage the cost.

The market access process doesn’t just stick to one country either, they have to make sure that this process is valid all over the globe. The reason for this is of course that no medicine should be simply limited to one market, and there must be equal opportunity for people to get the medicine they need anywhere. Because of this the process of market access will go through a series of different legislation and make sure that it agrees with every single country where the drug will be available to buy.

Market access therefore is an important part of the drugs manufacturing and distribution process because it ensures that the drug is available wherever it may be needed and also that there is a good enough supply to go around. It is likely that this will include looking at the number of people who suffer from a certain disease in different parts of the country and different countries, then supplying these drugs according to the demand. It can be a lengthy process but it will always be a crucial part of the medical industry.

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A.I. Shown to Boost Cancer Clinical Trial Enrollment

Artificial intelligence graphic

(Seanbatty, Pixabay)

9 March 2018. Early results from a system using a supercomputer and artificial intelligence to match breast cancer patients to clinical trials shows faster screening and higher enrollment rates in these studies compared to manual methods. A team from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota described its experiences with the Watson supercomputer system made by IBM in a session of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society Annual Conference and Exhibition now underway in Las Vegas.

Clinical trials that recruit humans to test new drugs and medical devices face a chronic problem of enrolling individuals to participate. Data cited by drug maker Eli Lilly and Company show less than 1 percent of the U.S. population takes part in clinical trials, with nearly half of these studies not meeting their enrollment goals. These shortfalls often translate into longer times needed to complete clinical studies, with the vast majority of trials — 86 percent — taking longer than planned, resulting in longer waits for new drugs and higher costs.

This is particularly a problem with cancer trials. Among cancer patients, only about 5 percent enroll in clinical trials, says Tufia Haddad, a cancer specialist leading the project at Mayo Clinic , and who gave the conference presentation. “Novel solutions are necessary to address this unmet clinical need, advance cancer research and treatments, and, in turn, improve the health outcomes of patients” says Haddad in a joint statement.

To address this problem, Mayo Clinic tested IBM’s Watson supercomputer using the company’s software for matching patients to clinical trials. The solution says IBM takes advantage of Watson’s much greater processing speed and capacity, but also its use of natural language processing, a form of artificial intelligence that applies context and intricate rules of semantic understanding to the often unstructured data in physicians’ notes found in medical records, even in electronic form.

Watson processes these data and returns structured lists of patient characteristics that it matches up to the often complex eligibility criteria listed for clinical trials in databases, such as In addition to recommending suitable clinical trials, Watson also outlines its criteria for selecting and not selecting studies in which to participate.

Mayo Clinic and IBM tested Watson and its software with breast cancer patients beginning in July 2016. For its part, Mayo Clinic says it adapted its workflows and screening processes to Watson, including educating their patients about the availability of clinical trials, and including these studies in the patients’ care plans. In their evaluation, Haddad and colleagues calculated enrollment times and patient trial participants using Watson, compared to manual methods, often with spreadsheets.

The results show after 11 months an 80 percent increase in enrollment for clinical trials of systemic breast cancer treatments with Watson compared to manual methods. In addition, less time was needed with Watson to enroll patients in clinical trials.

Haddad says the Mayo Clinic’s patients benefited from this program. “The speed and accuracy of Watson and the team of screening coordinators,” she notes, “allow our physicians to efficiently develop treatment plans for patients that reflect the full range of options available to support their care.”

Mayo Clinic and IBM plan to expand the use of Watson for clinical trial matching to other types of cancer, with staff now trained to apply the technology to patients with lung and gastrointestinal cancers. The parties say they also plan to continue developing the system to cover other types of medical needs, including surgery, radiation, and supportive care.

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Disclosure: The author owns shares in IBM.

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Evotec Acquiring Sanofi Infectious Disease Portfolio

MRSA bacteria

MRSA bacteria ( National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)

8 March 2018. Drug discovery company Evotec AG is licensing 10 infectious disease R&D programs and their 100 employees from drug maker Sanofi, and opening new labs for this work in Lyon, France. The deal also calls for Evotec, based in Hamburg, Germany, to make its infectious disease research platform open to outside collaborators from academic labs, foundations, and other biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies.

Evotec discovers and develops drugs and biologics in the fields of neuroscience, pain, metabolic diseases, oncology, inflammation, and infectious diseases. The company generally works through collaborations with research labs and drug companies, providing target identification and validation, hit identification, and candidate development including biologics.

Sanofi, based in Paris, is licensing 10 of its research and early-stage clinical programs on infectious diseases to Evotec, which is also taking over Sanofi’s infectious disease research labs, with more than 100 workers. Evotec will integrate the former Sanofi labs into its infectious diseases operations, expanding its payroll to 150 employees. The Evotec labs will be located at a new facility in Lyon, France, with a commitment to stay in Lyon for 5 years. The first project at the new labs is expected to be discovery of anti-microbial candidates that use a different mechanism of action than current drugs.

“Research in the field of anti-infectives” says Elias Zerhouni, Sanofi’s president of global R&D in a joint statement, “is an area where building critical mass through partnering is particularly important. This new French-based open innovation center will benefit from the high quality science ecosystem.”

The agreement calls for Evotec to open its research and development work to outside collaborations with labs in academic institutions, government agencies, biotechnology companies, and pharmaceutical manufacturers, particularly at the new Lyon research labs. Much of Evotec’s current drug discovery work is done through collaborations, either “innovate” partnerships where Evotec earns milestone payments and royalties, or “execute” agreements performed for set fees.

Under the deal, Evotec is receiving a €60 million ($US 74 million) initial payment from Sanofi, which also agrees to provide “significant further long-term funding,” although additional financial details were not revealed. Sanofi retains rights to option — i.e., intent to license — undisclosed infectious disease programs for future development, manufacturing, and commercialization. Sanofi is retaining its vaccines division and global public health programs, which are not covered by this agreement.

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Peptide Hydrogel Boosts Cancer Immunotherapies

Microscopic view of StinGel

Microscopic view of StinGel (Hartgerink Research Group, Rice University)

8 March 2018. A team at Rice University in Houston developed an injectable gel material that in lab mice slows the release of cancer immunotherapy drugs, enhancing the treatments’ effectiveness and reducing the need for repeated doses. Researchers led by Rice University chemistry and bioengineering professor Jeffrey Hartgerink describe the material in the May 2018 issue of the journal Biomaterials (paid subscription required).

The Rice team is addressing a problem with stability and staying power of some cancer immunotherapies, treatments that invoke the immune system to attack cancer cells. A class of cancer immunotherapies called stimulator of interferon genes or Sting, agonists are showing promise in counteracting the ability of tumors to suppress the immune system, with some of these treatments now reaching clinical trials. Sting agonists on their own, however, break down and are cleared quickly by the body after injection, and as a result, require multiple injections. This instability, say the authors, also decreases the effectiveness of Sting agonists with more aggressive tumors.

Hartgerink and colleagues study hydrogels, water and polymer gel substances that mix with peptides, short chains of amino acids resembling simple proteins. Among the lab’s projects are multi-domain peptide hydrogels that resemble the framework structure of cells and provide an environment that encourages cell and tissue growth. Hydrogels can also be liquefied, making them injectable with a ordinary syringe directly to a tumor site, then return to their gel-like state after injection.

In this project, the researchers developed a peptide hydrogel they call StinGel to deliver Sting agonist cancer treatments. The hydrogel base of StinGel is positively charged and reassembles into a 3-D gel with a nanofiber matrix after injection. The team tested StinGel first in lab cultures, then in 6 groups of 10 mice, implanted with head and neck cancer cells, against Sting agonist drugs alone, and mixed with ordinary collagen hydrogels for comparison.

The results show the StinGel released Sting agonists over an extended period 8 times longer than the collagen hydrogel. In addition, 6 of the 10 the mice injected with StinGel survived for 105 days after their treatments, compared to 1 in 10 mice receiving the Sting agonists alone or with collagen hydrogel. And the StinGel-recipient mice developed a resistance to later cancer cell implants, suggesting the treatments induced an immunity to future occurrences of the cancer.

The authors conclude StinGel offers a feasible delivery method for Sting agonists, also known as cyclic dinucleotides, or CDNs. StinGel, says Hartgerink in a university statement, “provides a unique environment for the release of CDN that other gels just can’t match.” He adds, “We think that our StinGel approach has the potential to significantly broaden the scope of this powerful immunotherapy drug to a larger range of resistant cancers.”

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The Powerful Art Of Planning To Suit You

– Contributed content 

Looking at a bulletin board

(Startup Stock Photos,

7 March 2018. If you are a business leader, it’s likely you’re reading online — and finding web sites such as ours — for tips to improve your competence. With this, you are most likely being told a million different attitudes to keep and processes to learn. Some are useful, and some are not. Some work in your given circumstance and some do not. Here’s a rhetorical question – how many of them are interested in pursuing your strength as a business leader?

It might be that “don’t talk down to employees,” and “don’t ever turn up to work late,” are wonderful and appreciated lessons to learn from these platforms. But a huge list of don’ts can quickly pile up and leave you wondering which way to turn. This can be difficult, because as a business leader one of your sole priorities is knowing which way to turn. It’s as if the joke in the Simpsons regarding a book of wedding advice with one thousand don’ts has finally come to life!

As a business leader, you need to allow things to happen on your time frame. You must listen to advice, yes, but you must also chart a path for your business to take. When a new project comes up, you must plan it to suit you. Here’s how you can relay that to your entire firm, and allow this process to proceed along your lines.

Talk with respect

You are a business leader. You have authority. If you make decisions, it is completely your right to enforce them. However, make sure you keep them for when it truly matters. If you have a strong communicative flow with your staff, they are much more likely to listen to and understand the importance of your needs rather than become tired of yet another order.

They will work to help you. You might not even give solid justifications in the interest of time. Respect allows the team to respect you, which then culminates in tailoring habits around you. It won’t decrease staff morale. Instead, they will become emboldened by your brave new strategy. That’s a pretty useful thing to have at your side.

Use whole services

There are many services out there that provide a tailored method of completing a project you have your sights on. The best of these, such as BCI Worldwide interior commercial installations can provide you with an entire storage, transport and installation outfitting of whatever you have in mind. The benefit of a whole service is that you can communicate with one person directly. When you have to communicate with many different services, not only do you have to repeat your plans, but the chances of something getting in the way slowly increase and increase until a scheduling problem or oversight is almost one hundred percent certain.

Simplicity is close to divinity. If you hope to be the divine decision maker in your business, keep it simple. Lessen your communication with many specialist services. Focus on what matters and plan it around your desires.

Before long, you will find that the strong leadership you employ will allow the task to be completed closer (or exactly) as the vision you once imagined.

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