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Neuro Therapy Company Spins-Off, Gains $20.8M Funding



8 February 2018. A company developing treatments for cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease is starting-up in Belgium, with a technology and financial backing from local and global businesses and investors. The new company, Syndesi Therapeutics in Louvain-la-Neuve, is a spin-off enterprise from the Brussels-based pharmaceutical company UCB, staked to €17 million ($US 20.8 million) from investors in Belgium and elsewhere in Europe and the U.S.

Syndesi Therapeutics is creating therapies for cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease with, according to the company, a different mechanism than other drugs so far. Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative condition affecting growing numbers of older people worldwide. People with Alzheimer’s disease often have deposits of abnormal substances in spaces between brain cells, known as amyloid-beta proteins, as well as misfolded tangles of proteins inside brain cells known as tau.

Syndesi’s approach focuses on the synaptic vesicle protein SV2A, the same target as drugs for epilepsy developed by UCB. Because Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive impairment are not disorders being addressed by UCB, the company is spinning-off Syndesi, and providing an exclusive license to early drug candidates targeting SV2A, but with no anti-epilepsy properties.

SV2A regulates release of neurotransmitters, chemicals in the brain affecting signals among nerve cells, particularly across synapses, the connections between nerve cells. Synaptic vesicles are tiny containers in the synapse holding and releasing neurotransmitters. SV2A provides a binding site for drugs treating epilepsy, like those offered by UCB, but UCB also discovered related small molecule, or low molecular weight, drug candidates targeting SV2A that address synaptic dysfunctions related to cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s. In addition, Syndesi says density of SV2A proteins is an indicator Alzheimer’s progression.

“Development of these small molecules that modulate the SV2A target in a distinct manner,” says Syndesi CEO Jonathan Savidge in a company statement, “represents an intriguing new approach for the treatment of cognitive deficits since they specifically target synaptic dysfunction, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease and other indications characterized by cognitive impairment.”

Syndesi is raising €17 million in its first venture funding round, with the financing led by venture investors Novo Seeds in Copenhagen and Fountain Healthcare Partners in Dublin and New York, both companies specializing in life science start-ups. Taking part in the funding are Johnson & Johnson Innovation, V-BIO Ventures, Walloon Investment Fund, and VIVES Louvain Technology Fund, which invests in spin-offs from l’Université catholique de Louvain (UCL) and start-ups in Belgium and neighboring countries. Proceeds from the financing are expected to support Syndesi through early proof-of-concept clinical trials.

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Disclosure: The author owns shares in Johnson & Johnson.

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Low Carb Diet, Biomarker Tracking Help Reverse Diabetes

Clinical trial key findings

Key findings from type 2 diabetes clinical trial (Purdue Research Foundation)

8 February 2018. A combination of low-carbohydrate diet, with close monitoring of health indicators and coaching via a mobile app are shown in a clinical trial to reverse type 2 diabetes, including reductions in medication and insulin therapy. A description of the program offered by Virta Health Inc. and results after 1 year of the trial appear in yesterday’s issue of the journal Diabetes Therapy.

Diabetes is a chronic disorder where the pancreas does not create enough insulin to process the sugar glucose to flow into the blood stream and cells for energy in the body. In type 2 diabetes, which accounts for at least 90 percent of all diabetes cases, beta cells in the pancreas produce some but not enough insulin, or the body cannot process insulin. According to the International Diabetes Federation, diabetes affects an estimated 425 million people worldwide.

Virta Health, based in San Francisco, offers a program of a diet low in carbohydrates with moderate protein intake that the company says reduces resistance to insulin that in many cases is the main driver of type 2 diabetes. Reducing starchy carbohydrates, says Virta, promotes nutritional ketosis, a condition where ketone bodies in the blood draw energy from fat cells rather than carbohydrates, and in the process reduce the oxidative stress and inflammation that trigger insulin resistance.

While this kind of a diet can help reduce the biological triggers behind type 2 diabetes, says the company, maintaining the regimen for an extended period can be difficult for many individuals, without close monitoring and feedback. The second part of Virta’s program provides individualized coaching and medical supervision, where patients track their key biomarkers and other health indicators, such as blood glucose and ketone levels, body weight, and medication use. These data are captured with a mobile app, where coaching and medical advice are provided remotely to individuals in the program. In addition, program participants receive social support in an online community.

Virta Health is testing the program in a 5-year clinical trial, with results from the study’s first year reported in the new paper. The trial recruited 349 adults with type 2 diabetes at Indiana University Health in Lafayette, also affiliated with Purdue University, led by diabetes specialist Sarah Hallberg, now an employee of Virta Health. Of the participants, 262 individuals enrolled in the Virta Health program, while 87 participants received the usual care for type 2 diabetes, consisting of regular primary care or endocrinologist visits, counseling by dieticians, and standard diabetes education.

The results show after 1 year Virta program participants exhibit fewer signs of type 2 diabetes than their counterparts receiving the usual care. Participants in the Virta program record 1.3 percent lower blood glucose levels (HbAic), while among the standard care participants HbA1c rose 0.2 percent. Virta participants likewise reduced their body weight by 12 percent, while the usual care group on average remained the same weight. Also, an indicator of insulin resistance, known as HOMA-IR, fell 55 percent among Virta participants, while rising 16 percent in the standard care group.

In addition, nearly all Virta participants (94%) were able to reduce or discontinue their insulin intake after 1 year, including 40 percent who stopped taking insulin completely, while use of diabetes drugs other than metforin dropped by nearly half (48%). Each group of participants reported 6 adverse events during the clinical trial, with no adverse effects among Virta participants related to the program.

“Due to the unique structure of the trial and use of telemedicine,” says Hallberg in a Purdue statement, “we helped prevent any significant hypoglycemic events. Instead of patients scheduling an office visit, they could log their blood sugar and ketone levels in the app. Then, both the patient and I could track their levels and make adjustments accordingly.”

The authors note participants in the study chose to take part in the Virta program or continue with the usual care, and thus were not randomly assigned to either group. In addition, all participants enrolled at the single Indiana site and were largely Caucasian.

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Open-Source Discovery Seeks Neglected Disease Drug

Mycetoma regions

Regions where mycetoma occurs (Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative)

7 February 2018. An international online collaboration is using an open process to discover new drug compounds to treat mycetoma, a slow-progressing inflammatory fungal disease occurring mainly in developing regions, which up to now is largely neglected. The initial draft manuscript of a paper outlining the project was posted on 2 February in the journal bioRxiv for comment by interested researchers worldwide.

The Mycetoma Open Source project is led and the paper authored by researchers from University of Sydney in Australia, Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative, or DNDi, in Geneva, Switzerland, and Medicines for Malaria Venture, also in Geneva. Mycetoma, also known as eumycetoma, results from a fungus entering the body through the outer skin layers, usually the feet among people walking barefoot. The disease progresses slowly but often results in an inflamed mass under the skin, which can spread to the bones, causing deformities, loss of function, and even death.

Mycetoma is found in tropical and sub-tropical regions, with cases reported in Chad, Ethiopia, India, Mauritania, Mexico, Venezuela, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. World Health Organization says the disease is so neglected that accurate data on its incidence and prevalence are not available. There are no known dedicated diagnostics, and the only treatments available are antibiotics. In some cases, says WHO, the disease is caught so late in its progression, amputation is often the only treatment.

In the paper, the team led by Sydney chemistry professor Matthew Todd and Erasmus microbiologist Wendy van de Sande are seeking collaborators to contribute to the discovery of compounds to treat mycetoma. The paper reports on an initial screening of 800 molecules, resulting in first in 215, then 35 candidates. Among the most active compounds is an analog of fenarimol, an anti-fungal agent known to act against against rusts, blackspot, and mildew fungi. DNDi reviewed fenarimol as a treatment for Chagas disease, a parasite-born disease.

The researchers so far narrowed down the fenarimol analogs to 4 candidates, with tests in lab cultures and with larvae models, and is asking for collaborators to continue the drug discovery process. The team plans to communicate online with Twitter and Reddit, and share files over GitHub.

The Mycetoma Open Source, or MycetOS. project hopes to follow the same successful path as an earlier  similar open-source malaria drug-discovery initiative. In a DNDi statement, van de Sande points out that the initial research team does not “own” the work done so far, and needs full-scale colleagues to carry it forward. “This early work merely starts a process of discovering potential new chemical entities for eumycetoma,” says van de Sande, “and we invite anyone interested to identify how they might contribute and participate as an equal partner in this search for a new treatment for this most neglected of tropical diseases.”

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Personal Brain Stimulation Shown to Boost Memory

Brain circuits illustration

(HypnoArt, Pixabay)

7 February 2018. A team of psychologists and neuroscientists developed techniques for monitoring and electrically stimulating key parts of the brain, personalized to each individual, which in tests show can improve a person’s memory. A description of the techniques and results of the tests appear in yesterday’s issue of the journal Nature Communications.

Researchers from the Computational Memory Lab at University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, led by the lab’s director and psychology professor Michael Kahana, are seeking to make electronic brain stimulation a more consistent and reliable technology for improving human memory. In earlier studies, the team found electrical stimulation alone could not produce consistent outcomes, with the results, including beneficial outcomes, often unrelated to the electrical pulses.

In addition, Kahana and colleagues questioned the usual targets of stimulation, namely the hippocampus and medial temporal lobe most associated with memory formation. Stimulating those regions often returns mixed results in enhancing memory functions, say the authors, and in their review of recent experimental research, identified a part of the lateral temporal lobe as a promising target. This part of the brain is associated with processing semantic memories: knowledge of objects, people, words, and facts.

The project, funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or Darpa, under its Restoring Active Memory program, had two objectives, as described by postdoctoral researcher and first author Youssef Ezzyat. “We developed a system to monitor brain activity and trigger stimulation responsively based on the subject’s brain activity,” says Ezzyat in a UPenn statement. “We also identified a novel target for applying stimulation, the left lateral temporal cortex.”

To monitor brain activity and apply the electrical stimulation, the researchers implanted electrodes into the left lateral temporal cortex and other regions of 25 patients at several cooperating hospitals already undergoing electroencephalographic or EEG monitoring inside the brain to help treat drug-resistant epilepsy. The participants performed free-recall memory tasks in 3 sessions of 45 minutes each to discover their individual brain activity patterns. These exercises helped construct personalized brain activity computer models, making it possible to tailor electrical stimulation for each individual.

Participants then performed new memory exercises using word lists, with the implanted sensors recording the individual’s brain signals and responding as needed with mild electrical impulses, not detected by the participants. “During each new word the patient viewed,” notes Ezzyat, “the system would record and analyze brain activity to predict whether the patient had learned it effectively. When the system detected ineffective learning, that triggered stimulation, closing the loop.”

The results show participants are more likely to remember words learned during the stimulation periods than in similar exercises where no stimulation is applied. In addition, words presented immediately before or after stimulation, are also more likely to be remembered, even if no stimulation is given at those precise moments. And words presented during stimulation of the left lateral temporal cortex are also more likely to be remembered than when stimulating other parts of the brain.

“Now we know more precisely,” says co-lab director Daniel Rizzuto, a co-author of the paper, “where to stimulate the brain to enhance memory in patients with memory disorders, as well as when to stimulate to maximize the effect.” Rizzuto is forming a new company, Nia Therapeutics LLC, to develop  neurostimulation therapies to treat memory impairment, based on the lab’s research. He is now the company’s CEO.

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Biotech, Univ. Lab Partner on Stem Cells for Alzheimer’s

Exosome illustration

Exosome illustration (National Cancer Institute)

6 February 2018. A biotechnology company specializing in stem cell therapeutics is licensing a process from Texas A&M University to produce exosomes — cellular delivery packages — from adult stem cells as possible therapies for Alzheimer’s disease. Financial aspects of the multi-year research agreement between Celltex Therapeutics Corp. in Houston, and Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Texas A&M College of Medicine in Bryan were not disclosed.

Celltex Therapeutics specializes in producing and storing individuals’ mesenchymal stem cells, adult stem cells derived from bone marrow and other soft tissues that can transform into a variety of skeletal and other tissue types. The company developed a process for extracting mesenchymal stem cells from a person’s adipose or fat tissues, then producing and storing large quantities of those stem cells for future regenerative therapies, if needed by that individual. The 7 year-old company says these banked stem cells can be used for treatments of vascular, autoimmune, and degenerative diseases.

The agreement gives Celltex an exclusive license to processes developed by the Institute for Regenerative Medicine for deriving exosomes with anti-inflammatory properties from mesenchymal stem cells. Exosomes are tiny — 40 to 150 nanometer — lipid-membrane containers in cells that gather up and secrete cytoplasm, the gel-like material outside the cell nucleus. While originally believed to carry out waste removal and other maintenance tasks, exosomes were shown in recent years to perform useful delivery functions carrying proteins and genetic material to other cells, and drawing increased attention from a range of biological disciplines.

The anti-inflammatory exosomes, in this case, will be used to treat brain inflammation and associated damage from Alzheimer’s disease. In the collaboration with Celltex, The institute’s director Darwin Prockop and colleagues will prepare mesenchymal stem cells, or MSCs, and derive exosomes with the desired characteristics to stop brain inflammation. The institute’s associate director Ashok Shetty will test the efficiency of the exosomes in reducing inflammation and repairing nerve cells in the brain.

“The agreement with Celltex,” says Prockop in a university statement, “is based on our more recent discovery that we can use MSCs to produce large amounts of a specific kind of exosomes that reduce inflammation, which is a process by which the body tries to repair injured tissues.” Prockop adds that, “we found that our anti-inflammatory exosomes decreased tissue damage in several animal models for human diseases, including diseases of the brain.”

In an April 2017 paper, Shetty and Prockop describe the use of exosomes derived from mesenchymal stem cells to repair nerve cell damage in lab mice from induced traumatic brain injuries and seizures, as well as providing long-term protection of cognitive and memory functions. “We are hopeful that this research might someday treat the disease effectively by stopping or delaying the neuronal damage,” notes Shetty. “Alternatively, exosomes may rejuvenate the networks of surviving but sick neurons via anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects.”

The joint research with Celltex will also test the abilities of exosomes from mesenchymal stem cells, or MSCs, in lab animals, but if successful, the lab hopes to have treatments ready for clinical trials within 3 years.

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Update, 7 February 2018: Correction in second paragraph.

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All-Weather Friends – How To Really Build Relationships with Other Businesses

– Contributed content –

Network graphic

(Qimono, Pixabay)

6 February 2018. While the relationship between your business and the customer is obviously the most important, there is the other, unwritten relationship rule that you need to follow, and that is making sure that you get along well with your contemporaries. Arguably, there are conflicting theories about whether you should “keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” or maybe you should take the “why can’t we all just get along?” approach to doing business. Whatever your personal opinion, your company’s reputation needs to be sealed. You can only do this by building effective relationships with other businesses, and what are the best ways to do this?

Be digital buddies

Reaching out to your contemporaries online isn’t the just digital equivalent of popping your head over the garden fence to introduce yourself, it helps to build solid relationships. The opportunities that present themselves online are infinite, and in fact, it could give you the inspiration to improve something that you weren’t so hot on in the first place. Something like blogging is an acquired skill, and by offering your services to write guest posts for these businesses, they can return the favor, and your relationship can blossom. There’s a nice post on Guest Post Tracker showing you how to write the perfect guest post. By sticking your neck out and offering up your services online, it’s a great way to build bridges, but it’s something that doesn’t require a huge amount of effort, especially not in terms of setting up meetings, networking, and so forth.

Go out in the field

Some businesses completely forgo the physical aspect of networking, but it’s this personal approach to doing business that sets you apart from many others out there. Networking events are still in rude health, and it would be foolish for you not to follow up an online relationship with another company, by speaking to them in person. After all, you can say a lot more in person than you can with an email! For those businesses that are still struggling to find their feet, networking events and trade shows are a perfect opportunity for you to showcase what you are capable of. Some people shudder at the thought of networking, but if you go with the intention of offering your services, but also the knowledge of who is out there, it’s not just going to benefit you, but you could put somebody else in contact with another business that specializes in a certain area.

Keep at it

Lots of people view networking as something to be done on occasion, purely for the purposes of growing your contacts. If you go about it with this attitude, people will begin to catch on to your ulterior motives. Instead, you should consider networking and the building of relationships with other businesses as an ongoing effort. It could take a while for it to become automatic, but once you understand that networking and nurturing relationships aren’t just about the business, but it’s about being there for others, and them being there for you, it benefits everyone.

It can be very difficult to grow your network, but it’s such an essential component of expanding your business capabilities that it needs to be done. If you view building relationships with other companies as something more than a box-ticking exercise, and you will get much more out of it.

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FDA Approves Wearable Epilepsy Seizure Detector

Embrace Watch

Embrace Watch (Empatica Inc.)

6 February 2018. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a device worn like a wristwatch that uses a machine-learning algorithm to detect convulsive seizures in people with epilepsy. The device, made by Empatica Inc. in Cambridge, Massachusetts is based on research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology by one of the company’s founders.

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder where nerve cell activity in the brain is disturbed, causing seizures with symptoms ranging from blank stares to tingling sensations to loss of consciousness. World Health Organization estimates some 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy, where in many cultures people with the condition face stigma and discrimination. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 3.4 million people in the U.S. have epilepsy, with children making up 470,000 of those individuals. While epilepsy can be treated in most cases, WHO says as many as 30 percent of episodes do not respond to treatment.

Empatica’s device approved by FDA, the Embrace Watch, embodies research by Rosalind Picard, director of MIT’s Affective Computing group that studies human psychology and computational technology, and a founder of the company. Picard’s research reveals connections between the experience of excitement, known as sympathetic activation, and subtle changes in electrical activity on the skin. A similar pattern of sympathetic activation occurs during seizures in people with epilepsy.

The Embrace measures this electro-dermal activity, and detects spikes in activity indicating a seizure. Because people experiencing convulsive seizures, known as tonic-clonic seizures, can cause confusion or lose consciousness during the episode, the watch is linked via Bluetooth to compatible Apple iOS and Android phones, with an app that alerts a caregiver. The core of the device is a machine-learning algorithm that according to the company is trained with data from epilepsy monitoring units in hospitals, and continues to be refined with data from newer device users. These specialized hospital units capture more complex data to recognize the onset of a seizure as early as possible.

Empatica cites studies showing the Embrace accurately detects tonic-clonic seizures in people with epilepsy, with low rates of false-positive alerts. An ongoing clinical trial in the U.S. and Italy is testing the Embrace in epilepsy monitoring units, with more than 100 participants. The results so far, says the company, show the device successfully detected all 40 tonic-clonic seizures that occurred, as verified by video-electroencephalogram, or EEG, images reviewed independently by experts.

The Embrace received its FDA clearance, known officially as 510(k) premarket notification, for the applicable section of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, on 26 January. The device was earlier approved by European regulators in April 2017. The Embrace is also being tested as part of a clinical trial of a drug to treat Dravet syndrome, a rare genetic brain disorder experienced by infants, with seizures similar to those in epilepsy.

This device is not the only smartwatch-based epilepsy detector. As reported in Science & Enterprise in February 2017, researchers at Johns Hopkins University are developing and testing an app called Epiwatch that uses an Apple watch to monitor and record episodes in people with epilepsy.

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Radiation, Biotech Companies Partner on Scar Therapy

SRT-100 skin treatment

SRT-100 skin treatment (Sensus Healthcare Inc.)

5 February 2018. Two companies taking different approaches to treating keloids — visible raised skin scars — are integrating their therapies to develop an anticipated treatment that removes and prevents the recurrence of these scars. Intellectual property and financial aspects of the collaboration between Sensus Healthcare Inc. in Boca Raton, Florida and BirchBiomed in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada were not disclosed.

Sensus Healthcare offers radiation treatments to treat skin disfigurations from scars and cancer other than melanoma, including removal of keloids. These raised scars generally produce more excess tissue than the original wounds to the skin, such as burns, cuts, severe acne, chickenpox, or in some cases surgical scars, tattoos, and cosmetic skin piercing. In addition, people of color are often more susceptible to keloids. They can grow slowly over time, become itchy or painful, and if near a joint, impede freedom of movement. Treatments tend to vary from person to person, with some therapies aimed at relieving discomfort from the keloid, rather than the scar itself.

Sensus’s main technology is called superficial radiation therapy that emits low-power X-rays. The company’s radiation devices send X-rays into the top layers of skin to destroy only keloid-producing cells, leaving remaining skin cells untouched. Sensus says its FDA-approved device, the SRT-100, can be used in outpatient settings. The company cites data showing up to 90 percent of keloids return after removal surgery, but when combined with SRT-100 treatments, recurrence rates drop to as low as 10 percent.

BirchBiomed is a spin-off enterprise from University of British Columbia in Vancouver, commercializing research by surgery professor Aziz Ghahary and company co-founder Ryan Hartwell. Their research discovered mechanisms for slowing production of excess tissue cells at the molecular level, making it possible to block the physiological processes causing keloids and other disfiguring scars. BirchBiomed’s lead product is a topical cream called FS2 that the company tested so far in an early-stage safety trial with 40 healthy volunteers.

Sensus and BirchBiomed plan to integrate the use of their SRT-100 and FS2 products to provide a treatment regimen to both remove keloid scars and prevent their return. Joe Sardano, president and CEO of Sensus Healthcare says in a company statement, “BirchBioMed has the means to provide cost-effective products that will work in conjunction with Sensus’s SRT to prevent and/or eliminate scarring.”

Birch Biomed’s CEO Mark Miller adds, “This is especially revolutionary given that expensive cosmetic treatments on the market show little, if any, efficacy in treating scars. Medical alternatives are also costly, painful for the patient and focused on healing wounds, not on preventing and eliminating scars altogether.”

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The President’s Fleet Is A Feat Of Human Engineering

– Contributed content –

5 February 2018. When it comes to mind-blowing science, most people think about cool chemicals that react in amazing ways, or mother nature performing in ways that laws of physics can’t understand. But it isn’t just the raw, natural science that is incredible; there are human-made wonders that are truly sublime, and the President of the United States has the best of the best on that front, as his modes of transportation would suggest: Air Force One, Marine One and ‘The Beast’.

It is the most literal way in which technology has changed the face of politics. They really are marvels to behold, true feats of human engineering, all of which have been specially designed and built to ensure the “leader of the free world” is able to perform his job to the best of his ability no matter what dangers threaten him.

So, without further ado, let’s have a closer look at these three astounding vehicles and discuss some of the amazing features they each boast:

Air Force One

Air Force One (

Air Force One

  1. The onboard electronics

This electronics system onboard this plane are so advanced it is able to withstand an electromagnetic pulse, jam enemy radar so that it is impossible to trace the plane’s flight path on a radar, has 85 secure phone lines, boasta a series of two-way radios, has flares on board that can be ejected in order to disarm any enemy missiles that may be directed toward it and has enough advanced secure communications equipment it can function as a mobile command centre, which is why it is frequently referred to as ‘The Flying White House’. All of this is incredible without it being on board a plane.

  1. A flight time of forever

That’s right, Air Force One has an unlimited range, meaning it can carry the President wherever he needs to go without the need to stop at all. How is this possible? Simple (sort of!). Air Force One has the capabilities to refuel mid-flight. What happens is, a special fuel-bearing plane arrives when Air Force One requires refueling and, thanks to a special fuel cap on its nose, is able to connect to a fuel line fed from above. It’s quite something.

  1. The speed of sound (almost)

Air Force One’s maximum speed is incredible, with this ginormous 75-meter plane possessing the ability to fly at speeds of 965 kilometers an hour, which is 75% of Mach 1. If you don’t know about Prince private jet yet, then definitely give them a look because, as you’ll see from their statistics, this is by far the fastest of the world’s presidential planes. In fact, according to reports, the F-16 fighter jets that were escorting Air Force One during the September 11 attacks had to ask pilot Colonel Mark Tillman to ease up on the throttle a bit. That’s impressive.

Marine One

Marine One (

Marine One

For those that don’t know what Marine One is, this is the specialty-built helicopter that accompanies the president around the country and sometimes even goes overseas. But what makes it so amazing s the features it has, some of which we have detailed below:

  1. This helicopter has the ability to cruise at a whopping 150-plus miles per hour and continue to fly at incredible speeds even if one of its three engines fails.
  2. It’s safety features should an attack happen are second to none thanks to its ballistic armour, anti-missile defense systems and missile warning abilities.
  3. It is also equipped with the same level of communications as Air Force One allowing the president to stay in contact with both the White House and The Pentagon no matter what.
  4. The sound-proofing is so phenomenal on board this plane that the President, and all those on board, are able to communicate with one another in a normal tone of voice.
  5. Oh, and it can comfortably seat 14 people on board.
The Beast

The Beast (

The Beast

The President’s car, known as The Beast, is one of the most exclusive cars on the planet, which is not surprising really given who it is tasked with transporting. What is surprising is some of the features this car possesses, all of which are feats of human engineering.

  1. Thick Hide: The body of this car is military grade armour that is five inches thick in its narrowest part and eight inches in its thickest. Not only this but the armour itself is made up of dual hardness steel, titanium, aluminium and ceramic, which is designed to break up any projectiles.
  2. Protected Fuel Tank: As you can imagine, the fuel tank on The Beast is armour-plated to minimize the chances of this being targeted as a weak-spot. Should there be a direct hit, however, the tank is filled with a special foam that expands on impact and prevents any explosion from happening.
  3. Kevlar Tires: Because the tires are made of kevlar, they are completely resistant to shredding and/or puncturing, while the steel rims on which they are housed ensure the car can continue driving at high speeds should the tires be destroyed.
  4. No Electric Windows: Every window on board The Beast boasts five layers of glass, as well as polycarbonate, which means it can withstand almost all bullet-fire, even armour piercing bullets. What’s more, apart from the driver’s window, none of them have the capacity to open, and even then the driver’s only lowers by three inches.
  5. Seal It Off: The doors are eight-inches thick and armour plated so that they can’t be penetrated by missile-fire. As such, they each way more than the cabin doors of a Boeing 757 aircraft. But that isn’t all because, once they are closed, they create a seal so that the occupants are protected from everything, even chemical attacks. The cabin even has its own supply of oxygen to ensure there are no weaknesses on this front.
  6. Bloody Nora: As part of the President’s defence precautions, bags of the President’s blood type (Rh-negative) are stored on board should he require an emergency blood transfusion at any moment.

As you can see from this overview, the science that has gone into the President’s transportation options is sublime, and part of the reason why it is widely considered to be the most advanced on the planet.

The opinions in this post are those of the contributor and not Science & Enterprise.

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Texas Vaccine Center Expanding R&D

Vaccine syringe


5 February 2018. A vaccine research center in Galveston, Texas is expanding its operations to add more basic and preclinical studies that lead to clinical trials resulting in more preventive and therapeutic vaccines. The new Sealy Institute for Vaccine Sciences is building on the current Sealy Center for Vaccine Development at University of Texas Medical Branch, or UTMB, at Galveston.

The new institute aims to ramp up research and development of vaccine candidates to meet what it sees as a growing global medical need. “We’ve had a lot of success but there is a need for more funding and more research and development of vaccines that will benefit people all over the world,” says Alan Barrett, professor of pathology and pediatrics at UTMB who is leading the new institute. Barrett adds that the institute aims to “create an environment where scientists can take their idea from discovery to phase 1 clinical trials.” Phase 1 trials are early-stage tests, usually for safety and to verify a drug’s activity in the body.

UTMB says it’s now one of 7 World Health Organization vaccine centers, as well as a designated center of excellence for vaccines to control emerging diseases such as Ebola and Zika. Much of the current work at the Sealy Center for Vaccine Development is conducting clinical trials for industry and academic labs, with the center now recruiting participants for studies of vaccines for dengue, rotavirus, Clostridium difficile, and a new formulation of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine.

The new institute plans to boost its basic and preclinical work, providing what it calls “robust financial support” over the next 5 years for researchers at UTMB. The institute expects to hold funding competitions for studies of vaccine candidates, with researchers also receiving technical guidance on preparing new vaccines for clinical trials. In addition, the institute plans to support research by and provide internships to students.

Barrett, however, is realistic about the challenge of developing new vaccines, with what UTMB says is now less than 50 vaccines for human disease in the world. “It’s a difficult, time consuming and expensive process to develop a new vaccine,” he notes, “but here at UTMB and at the Institute we are committed to developing a new vaccine in the next decade.” Barrett adds, “The addition of just one vaccine will be a tremendous success story.”

The Sealy and Smith Foundation provides the funding for the Sealy Institute for Vaccine Sciences. The foundation supports health initiatives in Galveston since the 1880s, and funds all or part of 33 endowed academic chairs including a chair in vaccinology, now held by Barrett.

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