Beijing is the undisputed king of coal, but the announcement at the United Nations General Assembly this week was cautiously welcomed by climate experts.
A finding of C.T.E. can help explain violence and erratic behavior by former football players, but it will not give a clear picture of why Phillip Adams fatally shot seven people, including himself.
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Senti Biosciences, a company developing cancer therapies using a new programmable biology platform, said it has raised $105 million in a new round of financing led by the venture arm of life sciences giant, Bayer.
The company’s technology uses new computational biological techniques to manufacture cell and gene therapies that can more precisely target specific cells in the body.
Senti Bio’s chief executive, Tim Lu, compares his company’s new tech to the difference between basic programming and object oriented programming. “Instead of creating a program that just says ‘Hello world’, you can introduce ‘if’ statements and object oriented programming,” said Lu.
By building genetic material that can target multiple receptors, Senti Bio’s therapies can be more precise in the way they identify genetic material in the body and deliver the kinds of therapies directly to the pathogens. “”Instead of the cell expressing a single receptor… now we have two receptors,” he said.
The company is initially applying its gene circuit technology platform to develop therapies that use what are called chimeric antigen receptor natural killer (CAR-NK) cells that can target cancer cells in the body and eliminate them. Many existing cell and gene therapies use chimeric antigen receptor T-cells, which are white blood cells in the body that are critical to immune response and destroy cellular pathogens in the body.
However, T-cell-based therapies can be toxic to patients, stimulating immune responses that can be almost as dangerous as the pathogens themselves. Using CAR-NK cells produces similar results with fewer side effects.
That’s independent of the gene circuit,” said Lu. “The gene circuit gets you specificity… Right now when you use a CAR-T cell or a CAR-NK cell… you find a target and hope that it doesn’t affect normal cells. We can build logic in our gene circuits in the cell that means a CAR-NK cell can identify two targets rather than one.”
That increased targeting means lower risks of healthy cells being destroyed alongside mutations or pathogens that are in the body.
For Lu and his co-founders — fellow MIT professor Jim Collins, Boston University professor, Wilson Wong, and longtime synthetic biology operator, Phillip Lee — Senti Bio is the culmination of decades of work in the field.
“I compare it to the early days of semiconductor work,” Lu said of the journey to develop this gene circuit technology. “There were bits and pieces of technology being developed in research labs, but to realize the scale at which you need, this has to be done at the industrial level.”
So licensing work from MIT, Boston University and Stanford, Lu and his co-founders set out to take this work out of the labs to start a company.
“When the company was started it was a bag of tools and the know-how on how to use them,” Lu said. But it wasn’t a fully developed platform.
That’s what the company now has and with the new capital from Leaps by Bayer and its other investors, Senti is ready to start commercializing.
The first products will be therapies for acute myeloid leukemia, hepatocellular carcinoma, and other, undisclosed, solid tumor targets, the company said in a statement.
“Leaps by Bayer’s mission is to invest in breakthrough technologies that may transform the lives of millions of patients for the better,” said Juergen Eckhardt, MD, Head of Leaps by Bayer. “We believe that synthetic biology will become an important pillar in next-generation cell and gene therapy, and that Senti Bio’s leadership in designing and optimizing biological circuits fits precisely with our ambition to prevent and cure cancer and to regenerate lost tissue function.”
Lu and his co-founders also see their work as a platform for developing other cell therapies for other diseases and applications — and intend to partner with other pharmaceutical companies to bring those products to market.
“Over the past two years, our team has designed, built and tested thousands of sophisticated gene circuits to drive a robust product pipeline, focused initially on allogeneic CAR-NK cell therapies for difficult-to-treat liquid and solid tumor indications,” Lu said in a statement. “I look forward to continued platform and pipeline advancements, including starting IND-enabling studies in 2021.”
The new financing round brings Senti’s total capital raised to just under $160 million and Lu said the new money will be used to ramp up manufacturing and accelerate its work partnering with other pharmaceutical companies.
The current timeframe is to get its investigational new drug permits filed by late 2022 and early 2023 and have initial clinical trials begun in 2023.
Developing gene circuits is new and expanding field with a number of players including Cell Design Labs, which was acquired by Gilead in 2017 for up to $567 million. Other companies working on similar therapies include CRISPR Therapeutics, Intellius, and Editas, Lu said.
After an awkward fall 11 seconds into his first Boston University game left him a quadriplegic, he dedicated his life to advocacy for similarly disabled people.
Bringing millions of students back to campus would create enormous risks for society but comparatively little educational benefit, an economist says.
Campaign rallies like those planned by Trump and other social gatherings could spread infections this summer. People should adhere to wearing masks and continue social distancing, public health researchers say.
A new small study out of Harvard and Boston University is targeting the use of soft robotic exosuits among stroke survivors. The aim is to demonstrate how such technologies could impact the rehabilitation of patients suffering hemiparesis, a kind of paralysis that impacts muscles and limbs on one side of the body.
The results so far seem promising. Among the six patients involved in the study, walking speed has been improved by an average of 0.14 meters a second. The patients are also able to walk 32 meters further on average during a six minute interval, with one walking more than 100 meters further.
The suit itself is small and soft, weighing around 11 pounds, including battery. Electronics aside, it’s largely fabric-based, with actuators mounted on the wearer’s hip. Those are used to assist movement in the ankles by way of attached cables. The system can be worn on either side of the body.
“The vast majority of people who have had a stroke walk slowly and cannot walk very far. Faster and farther walking after physical therapy are among the most important outcomes desired by both, patients and clinicians. If neither speed nor distance are changed by a therapy, it would be difficult to consider that therapy to be effective,” study co-author and Harvard Wyss faculty member Lou Awad says in a release.“The levels of improvement in speed and distance that we found in our exploratory study exceeded our expectations for an immediate effect without any training and highlight the promise of the exosuit technology.”
Awad says the team is “eager” to explore the results in settings outside of the lab. The team’s findings were published in IEEE Open Journal of Engineering in Medicine and Biology (OJEMB).
With high school disrupted, a growing number of schools are waiving standardized testing requirements for 2021 applicants.
At the same time, tech companies that enable remote learning are finding a surge in usage and signups. Zoom Video Communications, a videoconferencing company, has been crushing it in the stock market, and Duolingo, a language teaching app, has had 100% user growth in the past month in China, citing school closures as one factor.
But Kristin Lynn Sainani, an associate professor of epidemiology and population health at Stanford, has a fair warning to those making the shift: Scrappiness has its setbacks.
“[The transition to online] is not going to be well-planned when you’re doing it to get your class done tomorrow,” said Sainani, who has been teaching online classes since 2013. “At this point, professors are going to scramble to do the best they can.”
As the outbreak spreads and universities respond, can edtech startups help legacy institutions rapidly adopt online teaching services? And perhaps more tellingly, can they do so in a seamless way?