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Model Biotech Materials Sharing Agreement Unveiled

Lab jars and beakers

(jdn2001cn0, Pixabay)

15 Oct. 2018. A document with standard legal language for terms and conditions of sharing biotechnology materials is now available for academic and industry research labs. The Open Materials Transfer Agreement, or OpenMTA, appears as a commentary in the 11 October issue of the journal Nature Biotechnology.

Materials transfer agreements, or MTAs, are legal documents designed to encourage sharing of lab materials, such as biological specimen samples, and their associated data. These documents contain language ostensibly to protect the interests of the respective labs and researchers, but in some cases, they become too complex and restrictive, adding more time and costs into starting up a collaboration. Many of these documents were first written in the 1990s, before the web became ubiquitous and much of today’s large-scale genomic research began. Even with a standard template proposed by National Institutes of Health, many institutions continue to write their own MTAs, forcing labs eager to collaborate into protracted negotiations.

OpenMTA aims to provide a simple standardized tool to encourage sharing of biological materials, including their redistribution and commercialization. The document offers provisions promoting greater access to labs’ materials collections — e.g., patient blood or tissue samples, DNA specimens, and engineered seed samples — by removing fees for sharing those materials other than preparation and shipping costs. And when those materials are shared, originating labs may request attribution and reports in return for that access.

In addition, materials gained under OpenMTA may be reused by the receiving lab without restriction. Moreover, the document does not restrict the parties from redistributing the materials, either as sales or donations, in their original states or modified, as well as part of derivative works or in a collection. And OpenMTA applies to all types of labs without restrictions: academic, government, industry, or community labs.

OpenMTA, say its proponents, is expected to encourage translation of biotechnology research into marketable products and services by removing unneeded restrictions and providing a predictable template that reduces costs of collaboration. The agreement is also expected to ease collaborations across boundaries, particularly among smaller labs and those in less well-resourced regions.

OpenMTA is a product of BioBricks Foundation in San Francisco, an organization that aims to open up biotechnologyto make products of the science more widely available, and OpenPlant Synthetic Biology Research Centre, an initiative in the U.K. of John Innes Centre, Earlham Institute, and University of Cambridge. In June 2017, Science & Enterprise reported on a BioBricks program with a biotechnology company to produce 10,000 synthetic genes made available at no cost to researchers.

The document’s developers believe OpenMTA will change the way many labs interact with each other. “In five years’ time my ideal is for the OpenMTA to be the default option for the transfer of research materials,” says Linda Kahl, Senior Counsel for Biobricks Foundation and first author of the Nature Biotechnology article in a John Innes Center statement. “Instead of automatically placing restrictions on materials, people will ask whether restrictions on use and redistribution are appropriate and instead use the OpenMTA to promote sharing and innovation.”

Kahl and colleagues tell more about OpenMTA in the following video.

More from Science & Enterprise:

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Is Content Still King For Online Marketing in 2018?

– Contributed content –

Chart on laptop screen

(Negative Space, Pexels.com)

14 Oct. 2018. If you have done any kind of work in social media, blogging, SEO, or websites, then you are likely to have heard the phrase that content is king. It sounds like a little bit of a buzzword, but what does it really mean? These days it seems like it is more relevant than ever, simply because consumers are more particular about who they shop with, and in the tech world that we are living in, that needs to all be kept up to scratch too. Businesses need to be able to stay relevant, stay engaging, and creating great content so that you are attracting more and more customers to your business.

Content really is a key part of marketing, and it seems like that is always going to be the way. But in a competitive world, how can you go about creating some stellar content to make sure that your customers are happy, as well as using it as a tool to help attract others to the business? Here are a few ideas to help.

Create a blog

If your website does not yet have a blog, then you are missing out on a really key way to share and create content. Blogging is the way forward for marketing online and being able to be found online, so you need to get blogging right away. If you haven’t got anyone to create the content for you, then you could look to outsource the copywriting using a site like GrowthSupermarket.com, for example. It shouldn’t be dismissed because you don’t have anyone that can spare the time, simply because it is an important tool that does need to be made use of.

Set goals

It can be all very well talking about how content is king, but if you haven’t got a plan for it all, to what end is it king? You need to have a strategy or plan in place so that you can know what you are working towards. Are you just going to churn out content on your website or social media channels like Instagram.com? Or do you have a plan to offer something new to newsletter subscribers or get a certain number of comments per post? Decide on the vision that you have for the content that you plan to create, and then it can make it much easier to see that vision through.

Your ideal customer

Content is king. But if you create the wrong kind of content for your customers or followers, then they are going to swiftly leave. So it is really important that you know who your ideal customers are. What is their age demographic? What type of current affairs would they be interested in or how do they spend their money? For example, if you offer bargains and share a lot of great deals as part of your content, your customers obviously love a bargain too. So if you were then to share a post about  luxury holidays, it wouldn’t suit the audience that you have. Knowing your ideal customer helps to make the best content possible.

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Six Ideas for Combating Cancer, the Emperor of Maladies

– Contributed content –

Mammogram

(Health.mil)

13 Oct. 2018. There are a lot of illnesses and diseases in the world, but it is fair to suggest that none of them is quite as destructive or devastating as cancer. You have to think about all the cases of this in the world, and all the different forms of cancer there are in society. This is a disease that has caused so many deaths in the world, and often continues to confound the medical world.

Anybody who has had any dealings with cancer will know what a terrible disease it can be, and it is natural to lose hope with stuff like this. But, the advantage is that there are advancements in medicine every day that allow for new treatments and discoveries to emerge in the battle against cancer. Here are six different ideas that you can use to help fight cancer if you (or a loved one) have had a recent diagnosis.

  1. Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is one of the most common ways of treating cancer, and this is the treatment that most people are offered. There are many types of chemotherapy drug on the market, and they vary depending upon the type of cancer a person has. Chemotherapy can be administered intravenously, or via tablet form, and is generally taken in cycles. This can have unpleasant side-effects, such as nausea, hair loss, and other nasty things, but it is known to be an effective way of treating cancer.

  1. Radiotherapy

Another of the treatments that people might be offered when facing cancer treatment is radiotherapy. Now, there are a lot of things that need to happen in order for radiotherapy to be an option, and it can sometimes depend on where the cancer is, and how far advanced it is. There have been great developments these days, and there are machines that can administer the most accurate radiotherapy doses possible.

  1. New drug trials

Every single month there are new drug trials being carried out all across the world. And the good news for a lot of patients is the fact that there are more and more options being presented all the time to help them deal with their cancer treatment effectively. For example, recent reports show that a personalized breast cancer trial has helped to advance the use of 7 drugs that can be used to help treat those combating breast cancer.

  1. More tests

In addition to the current trials and existing drugs that are being used, it is important to make sure that there are a lot of tests being carried out. There are always scientists in a lab somewhere trying to carry out tests with syngeneic mouse models in order to help them gain a better understanding of the way cancer works and what can be done to fight it. These are absolutely crucial tests that play a major role in the process of fighting this disease, and they are an excellent way of making things better.

  1. Palliative care

Sometimes, if the cancer has progressed too far, it cannot be beaten back, and will eventually overcome the patient. In these situations, palliative care is the approach that needs to be taken in order to ensure that the patient is as comfortable and pain-free as possible for the duration of their care and treatment. This is often done using a variety of different painkilling drugs, as well as managing symptoms effectively too. Palliative care is an important part of the process of treating cancer, and something that must be considered for the future.

  1. Positivity

Sometimes a positive mental attitude can make all the difference when it comes to battling cancer. Of course, it is not a medical treatment, and will not magically heal you, but having an upbeat mentality can help a lot when it comes to trying to get better. Make sure you always approach everything with the best possible mentality, and this will help you go a long way toward achieving this.

There are a lot of things that you need to keep in mind when it comes to cancer treatment. Of course, this is not a journey you need to take yourself, and you will have oncologists, and medical teams to help look after you. But, it is useful to know what you are dealing with, and what you have to do to help yourself through this process as much as possible. It’s going to be a tough ride, but these 6 ideas can help you go a long way toward fighting this terrible illness.

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

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Infographic — More Women PhDs Awarded in US than Men

Women and men PhDs chart

Click on image for full-size view. (Council of Graduate Schools, Statista)

13 Oct. 2018. We don’t keep track of the number of male and female researchers on Science & Enterprise, but it seems that the number of women we report on increased in the past few years. The impression seems to be supported by a chart this week from our friends at Statista, taken from new report by the Council of Graduate Schools, this weekend’s infographic. Those data show more women than men receiving doctorate degrees in the U.S. in the 2016-17 academic year.

Overall, women represent 53 percent of PhD degrees granted compared to 47 percent for men. Among science and engineering degrees, women received a majority of doctorates in health sciences (70%), social and behavioral sciences (61%), and biological and agricultural sciences (53%). In other so-called STEM fields, however, men still lead in engineering (77%), mathematics and computer science (75%), and physical and earth sciences (66%).

In other fields we follow, business degrees are split about evenly between the genders, and women received more doctorates in education by more than a 2-to-1 margin.

Science & Enterprise returns with its regular editorial posts on Monday, 15 October.

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Insurance-Related Finance Troubles Providers Don’t Advertise

– Contributed content –

Pen and calculator

(PXHere.com)

12 Oct. 2018. We purchase insurance for a wide variety of assets and situations as a money-saving measure above all else. Eating the costs of a personal injury, a car accident, a home disaster and the like is enough to send anyone’s finances spiraling. However, the savings you could gain from your insurance provider aren’t always as clean cut as you might like them to be. Here are some of the unexpected costs that can come back to bite you and what you can do about them.

The wait

After an accident, that insurance payout can be one of the critical divides between you and financial distress. However, costs can mount while you’re waiting, and you might be out of pocket for some time. It’s crucial to organize your financial life and put together an emergency budget to scale back costs while you wait, as delays are the most common complaint across the board with insurance providers.

Not what you were expecting

Sometimes, you’ve been waiting and waiting and when the payout finally comes, it’s clear that it’s not enough to cover what you need to. If you don’t get what you believe you deserve from your insurance provider, you can negotiate them, and you can complain to your insurance commissioner to make sure that you correct the record.

They don’t always pay out

Even worse than getting less of a payout than you expected is getting no pay-out at all. Insurance denials can happen for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes customers fall into insurance traps that mean their policies no longer cover them. However, many denials are made in bad faith and suing your insurance might be the only option at your disposal. If you can’t find any reason on your policy agreement as to why you might have been denied, it may be time to get some legal help involved.

Cover this, but not that

Following an accident, such as a car accident, it might be common that an insurer asks you to sign a release once they’ve agreed to cover some costs. However, if you sign a release too early, you might lose out. Other costs can arise as a direct result of the original accident, or whatever you made the claim for. If you sign the release early, you will get full coverage on what’s agreed upon, but you can’t turn to your provider again for the costs that follow.

How to avoid the most common complaints

Simply put, you need to know that your insurer isn’t ready to pull a fast one on you. The best way to do that is to look at their complaints record. If they have a high rate of denials, delays, or other common complaints, it might be worth looking for another provider.

The simple reality is that living without insurance is a much more dangerous proposition, financially, than living without it. However, that doesn’t mean you have to sit down and accept every cost that comes your way. Be prepared to fight, negotiate and to ensure you get the coverage you pay for.

Editor’s note: The opinions in this post are the contributor’s and note those of Science & Enterprise.

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Exploring The Leading Causes Of Road Accidents

– Contributed content –

Car crash

(Gareth Harrison, Unsplash)

12 Oct. 2018. Like anything in life, driving on modern roads comes with a certain amount of risk. Even if you drive very carefully most of the time, it will only take a split second for an accident to occur, with loads of different aspects causing this sort of trouble. To help you to take control of this area, this post will be exploring some of the more common issues which can result in a car accident, giving you an idea of what can be done to make sure that you’re not putting yourself at risk. With all of this in mind, you should have the power to make the roads safer.

Drinking/drugs: Mind altering substances are always the last thing you want to have in your system when you’re on the road. Lowering your reaction times, making you feel more confident, and even causing you to pass out while at the wheel, these sorts of chemicals are one of the leading problems on today’s roads. To make sure that you’re never at risk, you need only keep yourself properly sober before you decide to hit the road.

Digital distractions: Like drinking or taking drugs, using a smartphone while you’re driving is another way to cause major distractions. Replying to a text message, answering a call, or doing anything else which takes your focus away from the road in front of you is never a good idea. Hands free devices exist to make this easier, but even these tools aren’t always completely safe. Instead, it’s usually best to simply avoid using technology until you’ve made a complete stop in a safe place.

Poor weather: Weather like rain, fog, and snow is all very common in some parts of the world. Making it hard to see the road and control your car, conditions like this can make driving very dangerous, and contribute to a large amount of the accidents people have. Making this better is much like the other areas in this post; simply avoid driving when the weather is bad. If you have no choice but to drive, it will be a good idea to get some training to help you deal with it.

Other drivers: Even if you drive as well as you can, there is always the risk of other drivers when you’re on the road. There is very little which can be done to avoid this risk, with the only action you can take being after an accident has taken place, making it difficult for people to feel safe when they are driving. If you are ever in an accident which wasn’t your fault, you can hire an attorney to help you out. At the very least, this will help you to get the money you need for the hospital treatments you’ve had to pay for as a result.

With all of this in mind, you should be feeling ready to make your time on the road much safer. A lot of people struggle in this area, finding it hard to know how to keep themselves safe. In reality, though, driving is only as safe as you make it for yourself, and this can mean making some changes if you want to avoid an accident.

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Can You Automate Truck Deliveries Without Human Contact?

– Contributed content –

Forklift truck

(PXHere.com)

11 Oct. 2018. Nobody enjoys truck deliveries. For customers, who are stuck at home waiting for the delivery to occur – most couriers are unable to provide a detailed timeline or real-time itinerary of the vehicle – this is a long and painful experience. Similarly, drivers have their own criticism about being at the receiving end of complaints from customers or manufacturers who fail to understand that unexpected obstacles on the road might slow your journey down.

Besides, it’s fair to say that for those involved with a delivery truck, human contact can be overrated. From the perspective of the driver, the human contact they seek is the one from their friends and relatives – unfortunately, the journey takes them away from their loved ones. From the perspective of the customer, there’s no need for interaction; they only want to receive their parcel(s). In other words, when science asks how you can automate truck deliveries and reduce interactions, businesses tend to agree with the principles.

The technology exists already

In fact, it’s not the latest plot for your favorite sci-fi series. Self-driving trucks already exist. Researchers from Sweden have developed software inspired by animal biological behaviors in their environment to control crewless trucks. Similarly, other self-driving trucks are being tested, with Ford vans being trialed for food deliveries in the U.S. and Tesla and Uber running their first driverless vehicles trials – with varying levels of success. To put it simply, technology doesn’t represent any major challenges in creating a truck that doesn’t need a driver.

Challenges, however, do exist. As trucks are heavy vehicles that can cause serious damages to others and to the goods they transport, it’s essential to clarify some legal and practical points before making driverless commercial vehicles a reality.

But legally, nobody can ignore the risks

Ultimately, accidents can happen outside of the scenarios prepared and anticipated by software engineers. In fact, being injured in a crash by a truck is not an uncommon occurrence, with almost 12% of accidents involving a truck or a bus. The current tests and research have demonstrated that driverless vehicles are not completely safe – crashes with minor to fatal consequences have been linked to self-driving vehicles. In the eye of the law, the responsibilities for the accident is blurry. Currently, the truck could be found at fault, which would shift the responsibility to the company owning the truck. However, self-driving software developers and truck manufacturers are still exempt from blame for no good reason. As a result, an unmanned vehicle isn’t authorized in most commercial interaction.

What happens to the actual delivery?

Additionally, without a manned area, it is impossible to check that the delivery has landed safely. The available technology isn’t currently able to unload and review the merchandise without human intervention. Additionally, a truck that is controlled via software and online input could become a target for hackers, meaning that precious or potentially harmful items could easily disappear assuming a hacker finds their way into the truck control system.

Are driverless trucks the future? The current risks of an unmanned operation are too high to ignore. While this isn’t to say that future generations may not receive parcels from self-driving trucks, today’s market requires a driver to keep roads and customers safe.

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On the Road Again

Route 66 sign

(LSC, Pixabay)

10 Oct. 2018. Science & Enterprise is taking off the rest of this week, and will be posting only contributed items during this time. We will resume our regular editorial posts on Monday, 15 October.

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Small Business Grant Aims to Cut Animals in Toxicity Testing

Lab mouse

(tiburi, Pixabay)

10 Oct. 2018. A grant from National Institute of Health supports work by a start-up enterprise in Indiana to better estimate doses needed to test drugs for toxicity and reduce the number of animals needed for those tests. The $245,000 award from National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, or NCATS, went to Dream Tech LLC, a spin-off company from Indiana University in Bloomington.

Dream Tech LLC is the creation of environmental engineer Kan Shao who heads the Computational Risk Assessment Laboratory in the university’s school of public health. The company, originally named KS and Associates, licenses and commercializes Shao’s work in statistical modeling for chemical risk assessments, particularly for regulatory decision making. A federal law enacted in 2016 calls for new methods for testing the toxicity of chemicals, with one of those methods called the benchmark dose modeling method.

A benchmark dose is a dose or concentration of a drug that produces a predetermined response rate for adverse effects. Models for calculating benchmark doses usually return a range, with the lower limits indicating a safe human dosage level. While Shao says benchmark dose models are an improvement over previous statistical methods, current modeling methods and software are still out of date. He specifically cites software provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a public health institute in the Netherlands.

“Dream Tech,” says Shao in a university statement, “is developing a method to incorporate existing information to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of dose-response assessment, which addresses a chemical’s toxicity.” His approach uses adaptive statistical models that incorporate real-world data to make dose-response assessments. These models, often called Bayesian statistics, calculate probabilities in dynamic environments, where adding new or updated data alter or increase confidence in the outcomes. Bayesian models are the basis of many machine learning algorithms that calculate the changing probability of various outcomes with addition of new data.

In the new 1-year project, Shao and Dream Tech propose developing a web-based program based on Bayesian statistics for calculating benchmark doses for toxicology testing. Current real-world data and historical data, says Shao, will be used to perform online calculations of plausible dosage targets. In addition, Shao plans to demonstrate that these Bayesian models are more precise than current computational methods, with one of the outcomes being less need for toxicology tests with live animals.

“Dream Tech’s online dose-response modeling system,” he notes in a university statement in December 2017, “also provides probabilistic estimates for the most important quantities, which cannot be achieved by current dose-response modeling systems.”

The NCATS award was made under NIH’s Small Business Technology Transfer or STTR grant program. STTR grants are funds set aside from the agency’s research budget for collaborations between small businesses and academic or not-for-profit research labs. In STTR and related Small Business Innovation Research, or SBIR grants awarded to small businesses alone, the first phase of a typical project establishes its technical and commercial feasibility — as is the case with this grant — and if successful, can be extended in a second phase to develop the technology into working prototypes or for clinical trials.

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Brain-Controlled Home Rehab for Stroke in Development

Brain cell networks

(Gerd Altmann, Pixabay)

10 Oct. 2018. A robotic system for home use to help people recovering from a stroke regain use of their upper bodies is in development by an engineering lab, rehabilitation hospital, and 2 companies in Texas. The 3-year project led by University of Houston is funded by a $750,000 grant from National Science Foundation.

Stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted, cutting the oxygen needed by brain cells to function. The vast majority (85%) of strokes are caused by blood clots, while many other strokes are caused by blood vessel leakage in the brain. Nearly 800,000 people in the U.S. have a stroke each year, with paralysis and weakness in the limbs among the results. Recovery, often in rehabilitation clinics, can take months or years of continuous exercises.

The program to develop a brain-controlled upper-limb robot-assisted rehabilitation device for stroke survivors is led by Houston engineering professor Jose Contreras-Vidal, co-director of the university’s Building Reliable Advances and Innovation in Neurotechnology, or Brain center, an NSF-funded lab shared with Arizona State University. While 8 in 10 stroke patients experience upper-limb weakness or paralysis of some kind, less than 2 in 10 (18%) experience full recovery, according to data cited by Contreras-Vidal and colleagues. At the same time, only about 3 in 10 people recovering from stroke (31%) receive outpatient rehabilitation.

The researchers are building a robotic system for in-home and clinical use that stroke survivors can control with their thoughts. The initial version of the system focuses on rehabilitating the individual’s upper limbs. The device resembles a rowing machine and is designed to build plasticity in the brain and restore motor functions in the hands and arms. The proposed system will be driven by thoughts captured from a device similar to an electroencephalogram or EEG to read changes in brain activity, with algorithms translating neural signals to robotic commands.

The system is also expected to collect data and monitor the user’s progress in real time, which will be fed back to the individual, as well as provide diagnostics for the physician. The project’s final deliverable is a safe, easy-to-use, and effective robotic rehab system that adapts to progress made by the user and provides data for rehab professionals monitoring that progress.

Contreras-Vidal’s lab in the Brain center studies methods for measuring neural activity in the brain and rehab devices to restore neural, motor, and sensory functions. Joining the team is the company Harmonic Bionics in Austin, a 2 year-old enterprise developing rehab robotics for stroke and spinal cord injury, expected to will build the actual device. Another partner in the project is National Instruments, an established engineering and instrumentation company, also in Austin, that will develop the brain-computer connection module, expected to resemble a headset. Also joining the project is the Houston rehabilitation hospital TIRR Memorial Hermann, a current collaborator with Contreras-Vidal, where the system will be tested.

“We want to break that wall between the lab and home,” says Contreras-Vidal in a university statement. “We want to build a system that can be used at home with FDA approval.”

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