Category Archives: Biotechnology

Chinese scientists will be the first to use CRISPR gene editing in human patients

A lung cancer diagnosis is serious business. But in China, scientists are using a revolutionary technique to treat lung cancer: Chinese scientists are preparing to set a world’s first by treating lung cancer patients with immune cells modified using the CRISPR–Cas9 gene editing technique. The team of clinical researchers hopes the modified immune cells will […]

Magnetic nanoparticles may reveal early traces of cancer

Students at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston are doing some amazing research with nanotechnology. This is a promising report in the battle against cancers:

Nanoscale magnets offer a new way to find faint, early traces of cancer in patients, according to Rice University students working on a method to capitalize on the magnets’ properties. Three Rice computational and applied mathematics students are refining a program to analyze magnetic relaxometry signals from iron-oxide nanoparticles that find and attach themselves to cancerous cells.

Rice seniors Brian Ho, Rachel Hoffman and Eric Sung have developed a novel way to analyze data for cancer researchers who hope to use magnetic nanoparticles to locate signs of cancer that X-rays would never spot.

All magnets (or materials prone to magnetism) have magnetic “moments,” like invisible needles that can move and react to magnetic fields, even if their physical hosts can’t.

These ghostly needles align when exposed to an external magnetic field; when the field is removed, they “relax” once again. Relaxometry measures this latter characteristic. It turns out the moments relax at a very different rate when they belong to nanoparticles that are bound to cancer cells.

The students are working with Rice adviser Béatrice Rivière, the Noah G. Harding Chair and a professor of computational and applied mathematics, and doctors at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston to develop computer programs that analyze “traces” of these moments as they relax. Albuquerque, N.M.,-based Senior Scientific, in collaboration with MD Anderson, is developing a commercial relaxometry platform for the early detection of cancer.

 Read more about the research here.

Top 10 Medical Innovations for 2016

Health care continues to be a hot topic for our society, and in 2016 no doubt we will see more discussion. Innovative ideas and actual breakthroughs are exciting, and I look forward to seeing new technologies transform the health care industry.

One of the big advances is in the area of new vaccines to treat the world’s deadliest epidemics:

Check out these top 10 medical innovations from Cleveland Clinic’s 2016 Medical Innovation Summit a few months ago.


Disguised Nanoparticles Slip Past Body’s Immune Defense

Blood cellsNanotechnology is changing the way scientists look at sub particles, and the medical experts look at the body. Now researchers say that they have found a way to smuggle drug-carrying nanoparticles past the body’s immune system, by cloaking them to resemble real human blood cells. The use of hybrid nanoparticles that combine both man-made and human cells is just starting to get some attention, with opinions ranging from some doubt to huge support:

Man-made nanoparticles — created from plastic or metal — can be designed to deliver a cargo of drugs to specific areas of the body. But they are often attacked and swallowed up by the body’s natural defence system, which sees them as foreign invaders.

The disguised particles are not only able to evade detection, but also exploit the natural properties of platelets to treat bacterial infections and to repair damaged blood vessels more effectively than conventional ways of delivering drugs, report the team. The researchers were led by Liangfang Zhang at the University of California, San Diego, and published their work in Nature on September 16.

Read it here:

Funding cuts impact the magic of new science

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 4.27.38 PMThis is an Op-ed story from USA Today that caught my eye for a number of reasons. Yes, deep budget cuts will always impact research and development projects, whether at the federal level or in your own company. Scientific discovery isn’t free most of the time. Secondly, this piece contains a lot of interesting links and statistics that you might find helpful and interesting.

The author contends that Innovation and economic vibrancy lose out when Congress skimps on scientific research. What are your thoughts?

New science is the closest thing to magic needed to solve seemingly intractable problems in every domain from medicine and manufacturing to energy and the environment.

The U.S. is number one in global spending on research and development — for now. That leadership is rapidly eroding: In other countries, unlike here, spending (as a share of GDP) is holding steady, or even rising in places like South Korea, Australia and China. And, more critically, U.S. spending on basic research — the seed corn of the future — is retreating faster.

Economist Robert Solow won the 1987 Nobel Prize for proving what many already knew intuitively: technology innovation is the engine of economic growth and brings huge societal benefits.(search technology remains”) In fact, economic historian Joel Mokyr has called technology progress the only true “free lunch” in public policy: with innovation, society gets back far more than it pays out. And basic research is the foundation.

But in today’s budget battles in Washington D.C., policymakers and bureaucrats are more focused than ever on “useful” science. The problem is that foundational innovation is rarely obvious in advance to anyone, much less to those inside the Beltway. The demand that research be “useful” is, ironically, antithetical to what ultimately yields some of the world’s most useful productive advances.

Accordingly, here are five facts Congress should keep in mind when thinking about funding American science.

1. The federal government funds over 90 percent of all basic research— the pursuit of knowledge. That makes sense. Corporations are near-term focused and pursue industrial research for visible profits; even Google’s “long term” looks out at most five to 10 years for profitability . The government should fund long-term science and resist the temptation and lobbying to spend on industrial-class projects. Leave industry to industry which has both the money and appetite.

2. Nearly 90% of federal R&D money is controlled by just five of the 29 civilian government research agencies. Congress should increase the diversity of authority and spread money and decision-making out among more agencies. The future is far too uncertain for science’s promise to rest in the hands of so few. Moreover — and more radically — funding authority should be shifted largely to the hundreds of research universities themselves where the work actually happens.

3. Federal research money increasingly goes to old guys and gals. The share of National Institute of Health grants awarded to researchers over 60 years old is greater than for those under 40. This stems from bureaucratic risk aversion and is antithetical to creativity. The fix? Trust. Again, let the research universities identify the talent. It’s not that university managers are inherently more honest or egalitarian than their federal counterparts — though, as a minimum, concentration of the power-of-the-purse does create perverse incentives — it’s just that there are many more of the former, and they are on the front lines. Proximity and diversity of decision-making are our friends here. Analogies are imperfect, but one cannot imagine letting a few federal agencies make the hiring decisions for every local school.

4. A rising tide of regulations is crushing scientists and wasting taxpayer money. The government’s own surveys show that researchers waste nearly half their time on administrative tasks. That’s nuts. To ensure accountability, surely 21st century software can be designed to Uber-ize unproductive bureaucratic drudgery.

5. Some good news: philanthropy is now the fastest-growing funding source for university research constituting nearly 30% of total budgets. Congress should increase incentives for philanthropic — and private corporate — spending here. How about an enhanced tax credit for undirected funding of basic research?

What’s more, polls — which we know influence politicians — show that over 80% of the public supports government funding of R&D, even in our budget-constrained times.

We should keep in mind the law formulated by mathematician, physicist, writer and futurist, Arthur C. Clarke: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Mark P. Mills, Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow, is author of Basic Research and the Innovation Frontier.