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Insilico Medicine presents experimentally validated model for drug discovery at NeurIPS 2019

Insilico Medicine presents experimentally validated model for drug discovery at NeurIPS 2019
Insilico Medicine, a biotechnology company developing an end-to-end drug discovery pipeline utilizing next-generation artificial intelligence, is proud to present its paper “A Prior of a Googol Gaussians: a Tensor Ring Induced Prior for Generative Models” at the 33rd Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS).

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Syphilis infection rates in dialysis patients exceed general population

Syphilis infection rates in dialysis patients exceed general population


Credit: Phil Jones, AU senior photographer

AUGUSTA, Ga. (Oct. 15 , 2019) – Syphilis rates, like other sexually transmitted disease rates in the United States, are soaring, and the first known study to examine syphilis rates in patients with kidney failure found an incidence greater than three times that of the general population.

Neurosyphilis, in which the brain and entire central nervous system can be affected by the bacterium, whose impact ranges from asymptomatic to deadly, was the second most common syphilis type they found, investigators report in the Clinical Kidney Journal.

That neurosyphilis finding prompted the investigators to suggest that whenever a dialysis patient develops confusion, a syphilis test be part of their evaluation.

“It doesn’t have to be this way. Syphilis is completely treatable and preventable,” says Dr. Stephanie L. Baer, infectious disease physician at the Medical College of Georgia and chief of Infection Control and Epidemiology at the Charlie Norwood Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Augusta.

A key problem is most of us don’t recognize our risk and don’t get tested or treated, potentially with a single dose of penicillin when caught early, says Baer, the study’s corresponding author.

Patients with end stage renal disease, a condition that requires kidney dialysis or a transplant, likely also don’t realize they may be at even higher risk because of a higher incidence of associated factors, including infection with human immunodeficiency virus, as well as other infections like hepatitis and herpes, that can damage the kidneys, says Dr. Stan Nahman, nephrologist and associate chair of translational research in the MCG Division of Nephrology and a coauthor.

Despite the increased risk in these patients and increasing overall rates of sexually transmitted diseases, theirs was the first assessment of syphilis rates among people with end stage renal disease. Others have found latent syphilis — where the infection, which can lie dormant for years, is not yet causing problems — is prevalent in dialysis units in Taiwan, Saudi Arabia and France.

The MCG and VA investigators screened 759,066 patients from 2004-10 using the United States Renal Data System and found 383 had syphilis, a rate more than three times that of the general population, and 83 of the infected patients had neurosyphilis.

They add now that dramatic increases in rates of syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases in the United States in more recent years mean there likely has been a commensurate increase in rates in kidney failure patients.

In their study, the highest syphilis incidence per 100,000 patients was in Delaware, Washington, D.C., and New Mexico; and patients with the infection tended to be younger, black and non-Hispanic.

The relative risk for syphilis was significantly increased in patients who also had other often sexually transmitted viral infections like HIV, hepatitis C and B and herpes.

Studies have shown patients with HIV have a fourfold higher risk of end stage renal disease than others of the same age and gender. HIV infection increases the risk of kidney damage and syphilis, and syphilis infection increases the risk of HIV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nahman says confusion in dialysis patients also is relatively common and can result from a host of problems like an electrolyte imbalance, a stroke as well as the reality that dialysis, while generally effective, is not as efficient as healthy kidneys at removing toxins from the body. While the standard workup for patients with confusion includes syphilis testing, Nahman suspects the reason testing may not happen is that syphilis is likely not considered a frontline sexually transmitted disease. “We are confirming that routine testing should be done,” Baer says.

Neurosyphilis is curable but left undetected and/or untreated can result in permanent damage to the central nervous system. The combination of HIV and untreated syphilis is a risk factor for neurosyphilis.

Generally speaking, if your doctor does not know or consider you at risk for syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, you likely are not tested for them, Nahman and Baer agree. They recommend that their colleagues be proactive in asking all their sexually active patients about risk.

In fact, pregnant women are the only group reliably tested for syphilis, yet rates of congenital syphilis, syphilis passed from mother to baby during pregnancy that can result in miscarriage or severe lifelong physical and neurological problems for the child, also are soaring because of lack of prenatal care, Nahman says.

There has been a 71% increase in syphilis and a 185% increase in congenital syphilis since 2014, according to the CDC. Chlamydia cases have increased 19% and gonorrhea 63% in the same timeframe.

This month, the CDC reported the fifth consecutive year of increases in the three sexually transmitted diseases and most “alarming” was newborn deaths from syphilis. There were a total of 1,306 congenital syphilis cases reported in 2018; the most since 1995. The case rate spiked 40% in one year alone and 185% since 2014.

Georgia is among the top 10 states with the highest number of HIV diagnoses in 2017, according to the CDC, and among the top five states for rates of syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Groups like Georgia Department of Public Health and the East Central Georgia Health District are working to address the soaring rates of sexually transmitted diseases including using obvious increases in syphilis rates to improve HIV prevention and testing and vice versa, Baer says.

The antibiotic penicillin is the recommended treatment for syphilis and, when diagnosed within a year of infection a single injection may suffice. Individuals with neurosyphilis may need a two-week course given intravenously, sometimes followed by injections. The presence of HIV may affect treatment outcomes and dialysis treatment also may affect treatment. The kidneys typically excrete penicillin, Baer says, so dialysis patients may actually need a smaller dose, another aspect that needs exploration.

Baer suspects that one reason rates of many infections that can be spread by sexual contact are increasing is because of the good news that an HIV infection generally can now be well managed, so the concern about HIV exposure has decreased and so have some safe sex practices. Safe sex practices include being tested and using condoms as well as other plastic barriers in any areas where bodily fluids are exchanged. Those with multiple sexual partners or whose only sexual partner has multiple sexual partners are at increased risk.


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Researchers uncover novel virus type that may shed light on viral evolution

Researchers uncover novel virus type that may shed light on viral evolution


Credit: FIGURE ADAPTED FROM Infection, Genetics and Evolution. 75 (2019) 103975. © 2019 Published by Elsevier B.V.

Viruses are non-living creatures, consisting of genetic material encased in a protein coat. Once the virus infects a living organism, it can replicate itself and continue on. But what happens if a virus lacks the proper tools to infect an organism? How can it propagate?

An international collaboration led by scientists at Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology (TUAT) in Japan has uncovered a novel virus that may help answer those questions. They published their results online, ahead of print, on July 22 in Infection, Genetics and Evolution, an Elsevier journal.

Viruses constantly change, combining and recombining into different varieties of themselves. They gain and lose function and either die out or become stronger than ever. This process occurs especially quickly on pig farms, where many pigs interact in filthy environments – it’s the ideal setting for viruses to evolve. The team, led by Professor Tetsuya Mizutani, corresponding author on the paper and Director at the Research and Education Center for Prevention of Global Infectious Disease of Animal, TUAT, discovered a unique virus in such a location.

“Recombination among different viral families occurs at pig farms all over the world,” Mizutani said. “These recombinant viruses have the potential to connect with a host in a novel way.”

It is known that normal enterovirus G (EV-G) presents as diarrhea in pigs. In this study, the researchers found a new type 2 of EV-G in the pigs’ feces. They also found that this new EV-G type 2 can’t possibly invade a host cell on its own.

“The recombinant virus we found in this study has no structural proteins,” Mizutani said. “This means the recombinant virus cannot make a viral particle.”

Viruses must make a viral particle to invade a living host cell. Without it, they cannot enter a host cell and use its facilities to replicate itself. According to Mizutani, this particular virus may be partnering up with a “helper virus” to gain access to a host cell, but the mechanism underlying this process is unclear.

“We may be facing an entirely new system of viral evolution,” Mizutani said. “We are wondering how this new virus came to be, how it infects cells or how it develops a viral particle. Our future work will be on solving this mystery of viral evolution.”


Other contributors from the Research and Education Center for Prevention of Global Infectious Disease of Animal at Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology include Ryo Imai, Mami Oba, Shoichi Sakaguchi, Rongduo Wen, Kaixin Li, Yukie Katayama, Yuki Naoi, Shinobu Tsuchiaka and Tsutomu Omatsu. Sakaguchi is also affiliated with Osaka Medical College. Other contributors include Makoto Nagai of Azabu University; Makoto Ujike, Ruka Kimura and Moeko Kido of the Laboratory of Veterinary Infectious Diseases at Nippon Veterinary and Life Science University; Tsuneyuki Masuda, Moegi Kuroda and Hiroshi Yamazato of the Kurayoshi Livestock Hygiene Service Center; and Shinji Makino of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

This work was supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and the Global Innovation Research of Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology.

About Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology (TUAT):
TUAT is a distinguished university in Japan dedicated to science and technology. TUAT focuses on agriculture and engineering that form the foundation of industry, and promotes education and research fields that incorporate them. Boasting a history of over 140 years since our founding in 1874, TUAT continues to boldly take on new challenges and steadily promote fields. With high ethics, TUAT fulfills social responsibility in the capacity of transmitting science and technology information towards the construction of a sustainable society where both human beings and nature can thrive in a symbiotic relationship. For more information, please visit

About Research and Education Center for Prevention of Global Infectious Disease of Animal at TUAT:
The Center was established in April 2011 to aim the eradication of internationally important livestock infection. Important livestock infectious disease research department, infectious disease epidemiology elucidation department, and is made up of livestock infection economic analysis studies elucidate sector and a total of four department of planning and coordination department. As well as carry out the overseas research and advanced and effective technology development, produced a human resources you have deepened the knowledge about the importance livestock infection, by practicing the epidemic prevention activities, such as infectious disease endemic areas of the country, infectious diseases across borders It is the goal to build effectively suppress possible regime of occurrence. Veterinary epidemiology, veterinary hygiene, epidemiology, animal health economics, international infection control Theory and education research, joint research, lectures students, trainees, students with overseas research institutes and universities on the importance infectious disease epidemic prevention -training education, and the importance of infectious diseases research foot-and-mouth disease, we are social activities, such as university public lectures?For more information, please visit

Original publication:
Ryo Imai, Makoto Nagai, Mami Oba, Shoichi Sakaguchi, Makoto Ujike, Ruka Kimura, Moeko Kida, Tsuneyuki Masuda, Moegi Kuroda, Rongduo Wen, Kaixin Li, Yukie Katayama, Yuki Naoi, Shinobu Tsuchiaka, Tsutomu Omatsu, Hiroshi Yamazato, Shinji Makino, Tetsuya Mizutani.
A novel defective recombinant porcine enterovirus G virus carrying a porcine torovirus papain-like cysteine protease gene and a putative anti-apoptosis gene in place of viral structural protein genes.
Infection, Genetics and Evolution, Volume 75, 2019, 103975, ISSN 1567-1348.


Tetsuya Mizutani, DVM, PhD.

Director, Professor,

Research and Education Center for Prevention of Global Infectious Disease of Animal, TUAT, Japan.

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Alfalfa and potassium: It’s complicated

Alfalfa and potassium: It’s complicated


Credit: Deborah Samac

Has anyone ever told you to eat a banana when you have a muscle cramp or eye twitch? That’s because bananas have potassium. Potassium is an important nutrient for humans, and an even more important nutrient when it comes to alfalfa.

With an economic value of $9 billion annually in the United States, alfalfa is the most valuable crop behind corn and soybeans. Because of its high nutritional content, alfalfa is a common feed source for farm animals like cattle, horses, sheep and goats. So, understanding this relationship between alfalfa and potassium is a worthwhile goal.

“Potassium plays a role in many processes within an alfalfa plant,” says Jacob Jungers, a researcher at University of Minnesota. “For example, it’s important for converting sunlight to energy, transporting molecules and growing new cells.”

However, too much potassium can be a problem. “When alfalfa plants are given more potassium than they need, the concentration of potassium in the tissues increases,” says Jungers. “This is called luxury consumption.”

Our bodies do this too. We store certain vitamins in our fat cells when we consume more than we need.

This increased concentration of potassium affects the nutritional balance of alfalfa as a feed source for livestock. High potassium concentrations are especially concerning if fed to lactating dairy cows. “In addition to being costly for growers, over-fertilization can put dairy cows at risk of milk fever,” says Jungers. Milk fever is a metabolic disease cows can get around the time of calving that causes weakness, and sometimes even death.

So, Jungers and his team wanted to identify potassium fertilization rates that increase yield and nutritive value, while reducing potassium concentration in the tissue.

Researchers experimented with five different rates of potassium fertilizer on alfalfa fields. Throughout the four-year study, they took measurements of the yield, nutritive value, and potassium concentrations in the plant tissue. Soil samples were also taken to track the potassium levels in the soil.

“Potassium fertilization increased alfalfa yield, but decreased forage quality,” says Jungers. “This tradeoff was consistent among all alfalfa cultivars in the study.” Intensively harvested alfalfa did differ in overall yield, but it did not differ in its yield response to potassium fertilization.

When applied at recommended levels, potassium fertilization is important for high alfalfa yields. However, potassium fertilization will not prolong alfalfa stand life or productivity beyond the third production year.

“Many soil types are abundant in potassium, but relatively little is available to crops at any given time,” he says. “The amount of potassium that might someday be available to crops is largely dependent on soil texture, moisture, and other environmental factors.” Potassium fertilizer rates for alfalfa should be determined based on expected yield, soil test levels, and if the crop will be fed to cows.

The next steps in this work may be to consider the timing of potassium fertilization. In this study, potassium fertilizer was incorporated in the soil prior to planting the first year. Then, it was applied in the spring the following years. In the Midwest, application of potassium fertilizer is common in the fall or after the first cutting.

Understanding tradeoffs between alfalfa yield and quality is important for fertility management and sustainable production. Measuring and reporting these tradeoffs helps growers make the best decisions for their operations.


Read more about this research in Agronomy Journal. This work was funded by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture Fertilizer Research and Education Council and the Midwest Forage Association.

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Sweetened drinks represented 62% of children’s drink sales in 2018

Sweetened drinks represented 62% of children’s drink sales in 2018

None of the 34 top-selling sweetened children’s drinks met expert recommendations for healthier drinks for children


Credit: Bill Kelly, Kelly Design Company

Hartford, Conn. — Fruit drinks and flavored waters that contain added sugars and/or low-calorie (diet) sweeteners dominated sales of drinks intended for children in 2018, making up 62 percent of the $2.2 billion in total children’s drink sales, according to Children’s Drink FACTS 2019, a new report from the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the University of Connecticut.

In contrast, the report–funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation–found that healthier drinks, such as 100 percent juice, represented just 38 percent of children’s drink sales that year. The report also found that companies spent $20.7 million to advertise children’s drinks with added sugars in 2018, primarily to kids under age 12.

Some companies have developed drinks that may be healthier for children, such as juice and water blends that do not contain added sweeteners, and these companies have begun to advertise them to parents and children, researchers say. However, common nutrition-related claims and images of fruit on packages of sugary fruit drinks and flavored waters make it difficult for parents to easily identify the healthier drinks for their children.

“Beverage companies have said they want to be part of the solution to childhood obesity, but they continue to market sugar-sweetened children’s drinks directly to young children on TV and through packages designed to get their attention in the store,” said Jennifer L. Harris, PhD, MBA, lead study author and the Rudd Center’s director of Marketing Initiatives. “Parents may be surprised to know that pediatricians, dentists, and other nutrition experts recommend against serving any of these drinks to children.

Researchers assessed the top-selling brands of children’s drinks–including 34 sweetened drinks (fruit drinks, flavored waters, and drink mixes) and 33 drinks without added sweeteners (100 percent juice, juice-water blends, and one sparkling water)–analyzing sales, advertising spending, children’s exposure to TV advertising, nutritional content, and product packaging. Brands with at least $10 million in sales in 2018 were included.

Confusing Package Claims and Hidden Low-Calorie Sweeteners

Study authors also say that package claims on sweetened children’s drinks and similarities between claims on sweetened and unsweetened drinks can confuse parents about their nutritional content. Sugar-sweetened children’s fruit drinks typically contained just 5 percent juice or less, but according to the report, 80 percent of those packages included images of fruit and 60 percent claimed to have “less” or “low” sugar or “no high fructose corn syrup.” Children’s drinks with and without added sweeteners also had similar package sizes and types, flavor names, use of fruit imagery, and front-of-package claims for products.

In addition, low-calorie sweeteners, such as sucralose and stevia, were found in 74 percent of children’s sweetened drinks, including drinks that also contained added sugars, but there was no mention of low-calorie sweeteners on the front of packages.

“You shouldn’t have to be a nutritionist to figure out whether or not a product is healthy for your child,” said Maria Romo-Palafox, PhD, RD, study author and assistant professor of Nutrition and Dietetics at Saint Louis University.

“The fronts of the packages make children’s drinks look healthy, but there’s no way to know which ones have added sugars or low-calorie sweeteners reading the front. You have to read the nutrition facts panel on the back and you have to know the names of low-calorie sweeteners, such as acesulfame potassium and sucralose, to realize they are in the product,” she added.

This report follows a consensus statement released in September by health and nutrition experts that recommended that children under age 5 should not consume any drinks with added sugars or low-calorie sweeteners, and that they should consume limited amounts of 100 percent juice.

Other Key Findings

Positive Outcomes

Beverage manufacturers made some progress in developing and advertising healthier drinks for children.

  • More companies sold unsweetened juice-water blends, which are healthier than sweetened children’s drinks and contain only juice and water. The majority contain less than 50 calories in one box or pouch.

  • With the exception of one sugar-sweetened children’s fruit drink, licensed characters only appeared on children’s drinks without added sweeteners (primarily 100 percent juice)–a significant improvement compared to 2014.

  • Kraft Heinz was the only company to advertise sugar-sweetened drinks directly to children on children’s TV, including Kool Aid Jammers and Capri Sun Roarin’ Waters.

Opportunities for Improvement

However, companies continued to extensively promote sweetened children’s drinks, and many children’s drinks were high in sugar despite healthy-sounding claims.

  • Children ages 2 to 11 saw more than twice as many TV ads for children’s sweetened drinks than for children’s drinks without added sweeteners.

  • One-third of all children’s fruit drinks contained 16 grams or more of sugar per serving–equivalent to 4 teaspoons, which is more than half of the maximum amount of added sugars experts recommend for children per day.

  • Of the 100 percent juice children’s drinks studied, only 4 of 13 came in appropriate sized boxes or pouches for a toddler (age 1 to 3 years). Some contained more than 6 ounces of juice, which is the maximum recommended daily amount for preschoolers (age 4 to 6 years).

Report recommendations include:

  • Beverage manufacturers should clearly indicate that products contain added sugars and/or low-calorie sweeteners and the percent juice content on the front of children’s drink packages.

  • The Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI)–the voluntary, industry self-regulatory program–should establish nutrition standards that conform with health expert recommendations. Specifically, drinks with added sugars and/or low-calorie sweeteners should not be advertised directly to children.

  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration could require that products with nutrition-related claims on packages meet minimum nutrition standards and prohibit the use of fruit and vegetable images on drink product packages that contain little or no juice.

  • State and local taxes on sugary drinks should include children’s fruit drinks and flavored waters to raise the price and discourage purchases.


About the UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity

The Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the University of Connecticut is a multidisciplinary center dedicated to promoting solutions to childhood obesity, poor diet, and weight bias through research and policy. The Rudd Center is a leader in building broad-based consensus to change diet and activity patterns by conducting research and educating policy makers. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter at and on Facebook at

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Path to becoming an Applications Scientist

Path to becoming an Applications Scientist

I am a Stem cell biology postodoc looking to transition outside academia. I recently did an informational interview with an applications scientist and was very fascinated by the role. It seems like something that will suit my personality well too. What are some things that I should know about being an applications scientist? Are there any courses I can take to increase my knowledge of the business of Biosciences? The person I spoke to did a micro MBA at UCSD and found it super useful. However I do not have access to such courses at my institute.

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Biotecnika Times – Newsletter 16.10.2019 – ICAR-NET 2019, Govt Food Research Junior Analyst

Biotecnika Times – Newsletter 16.10.2019 – ICAR-NET 2019, Govt Food Research Junior Analyst

Biotecnika Times – ICAR-NET 2019, Govt Food Research Junior Analyst ICAR-NET 2019 : Check Eligibility, Application Details & Deadline Agricultural Scientist Recruitment Board (ASRB) ICAR-NET 2019 notification has been released. Interested candidates can check out all of the details on the centres, prescribed educational qualifications, age limit, application fees, application procedure, instructions and more given […]

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Harnessing plasmonics for precision agriculture worldwide

Harnessing plasmonics for precision agriculture worldwide

A Moore Inventor Fellowship is supporting a Duke engineer in her quest to develop a small, inexpensive hyperspectral camera


Credit: Jon Stewart, Duke University

DURHAM, N.C. — Maiken Mikkelsen wants to change the world by developing a small, inexpensive hyperspectral camera to enable worldwide precision farming practices that would significantly reduce water, energy, fertilizer and pesticide use while simultaneously increasing yields. While that goal sounds like a tall task for a simple camera, it’s one that has now been greenlighted by a 2019 Moore Inventor Fellowship.

“The Moore Inventor Fellowship is opening a new avenue of research to me,” said Mikkelsen, the James N. and Elizabeth H. Barton Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Duke University. “It is enabling me to explore new applications for my technology that could benefit the environment and mankind in a profound way, and I am grateful that the Moore Foundation allows me to pursue those.”

The cameras most people think of and use every day only capture visible light, which is a small fraction of the available spectrum. Other cameras might specialize in infrared or x-ray wavelengths, for example, but few can capture light from disparate points along the spectrum. And those that can suffer from a myriad of drawbacks, such as complicated machinery that can break, slow functional speeds, bulkiness that can make them difficult to transport, handle by hand or place on drones, and costs that range from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Mikkelsen, however, is working on an approach can be implemented on a single chip, can snap a multispectral image in a few trillionths of a second, and produced and sold for just tens of dollars.

“It wasn’t obvious at all that we could do this,” said Mikkelsen. “It’s quite astonishing actually that not only does this work in preliminary experiments, but we’re seeing new physical phenomena that we did not expect that will allow us to speed up how fast we can do this detection by many orders of magnitude.”

The physical phenomenon behind Mikkelsen’s technology is called plasmonics — the use of nanoscale physical phenomena to trap certain frequencies of light.

Mikkelsen and her team fashion silver cubes just a hundred nanometers wide and place them only a few nanometers above a thin layer of gold. When incoming light strikes the surface of a nanocube, it excites the silver’s electrons, trapping the light’s energy — but only at a certain frequency.

The size of the silver nanocubes and their distance from the base layer of gold determines that frequency, while controlling the spacing between the nanoparticles allows tuning the strength of the absorption. By precisely tailoring these spacings, researchers can make the system respond to any electromagnetic frequency they want.

To harness this fundamental physical phenomenon for a commercial camera, Mikkelsen and her colleagues have demonstrated a sort of “superpixel” – a pixel made from a grid of nine individual detectors each tuned to a different frequency of light. When any spot on the pixel’s grid captures its specific frequency, it heats up, which in turn creates an electric voltage in a layer of pyroelectric material sitting directly below it. That voltage is then read by a bottom layer of a silicon semiconductor contact, which transmits the signal to a computer to analyze.

“Commercial photodetectors have been made with these types of pyroelectric materials before, but they always suffered from two major drawbacks — they haven’t been able to focus on specific electromagnetic frequencies and have operated at very slow speeds due to the thick layers of the material needed to absorbs enough incoming light,” said Mikkelsen. “But our plasmonic detectors can be tuned to any frequency and trap so much energy that we only need a thin layer of pyroelectric material, which greatly speeds up the process.”

While the first proof-of-concept experiments will use a three-by-three grid capable of detecting nine frequencies, Mikkelsen plans on scaling up to a five-by-five grid for a total of 25 frequencies. And there’s no shortage of applications that are primed to take advantage of such a device.

Surgeons can use hyperspectral imaging to tell the difference between cancerous and healthy tissue during surgery. Food and water safety inspectors can use it to tell when a chicken breast is contaminated with dangerous bacteria. But the application that Mikkelsen has set her sights on is precision agriculture. While plants may only look green or brown to the naked eye, the light reflected from their leaves and flowers outside of the visual spectrum contains a cornucopia of valuable information.

“Obtaining a ‘spectral fingerprint’ can precisely identify a material and its composition,” said Mikkelsen. “Not only can it indicate the type of plant, but it can also determine its condition, whether it needs water, is stressed or has low nitrogen content, indicating a need for fertilizer. It is truly astonishing how much we can learn about plants by simply studying a spectral image of them.”

Hyperspectral imaging could enable precision agriculture, allowing fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides and water to be applied only where needed. This has the potential to reduce pollution while saving water and money. Imagine a hyperspectral camera mounted on a helicopter or drone mapping a field’s condition and transmitting that information to a tractor designed to deliver fertilizer or pesticides at variable rates across the fields.

It is estimated that the process currently used to produce fertilizer accounts for up to two percent of the global energy consumption and up to three percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. At the same time, researchers estimate that 50 to 60 percent of fertilizer produced is wasted. Accounting for fertilizer alone, precision agriculture holds an enormous potential for energy savings and greenhouse gas reduction, not to mention the estimated $8.5 billion in savings each year, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

Several companies are already pursuing these types of projects. For example, IBM is piloting a project in India using satellite imagery to assess crops in this manner. This approach, however, is very expensive and limiting, which is why Mikkelsen envisions a cheap, handheld detector that could image crop fields from the ground or from inexpensive drones.

“Imagine the impact not only in the United States, but also in low- and middle-income countries where there are often shortages of fertilizer, pesticides and water,” said Mikkelsen. “By knowing where to apply those sparse resources, we could increase crop yield significantly and help reduce starvation.”

Launched in 2016 to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Moore’s Law, the revolutionary prediction that anticipated the exponential growth of computing power, the program embraces the spirit of Gordon Moore’s passion for science and penchant for inventing.

This year, the foundation considered more than 200 final-round nominations, from which five fellows were selected to pursue innovative projects with the potential to bring about significant change. Each fellow receives a total of $825,000 over three years as well as networking and entrepreneurial support to drive their invention forward.

“The Moore Inventor Fellowship recognizes the quality of the individual, as well as the quality of the idea,” said Harvey V. Fineberg, president of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. “The ultimate goal is to convert the ideas into inventions that can change the world.”


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Cloning ~3000 bp DNA fragment into a Plasmid vector.

Cloning ~3000 bp DNA fragment into a Plasmid vector.

Hello all, I have a question:

Has anyone successfully cloned a DNA Fragment between 2500-3000 bp into any of the plasmid vectors from Thermo Fisher's aLICator LIC cloning and expression system?

We've been trying to clone our particular fragment (about 2700bp) into the pLATE 31 vector (about 4500 bp) using DH5alpha and Novablue competent cells, but we haven't had success. I was wondering if anyone has used this LIC cloning system for fragments around 2500 to 3000 bp. How did it work? Were you successful? If not, what would you reccomend instead?

Thanks a lot, guys.


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