"Scientists are peeping toms at the keyhole of eternity." -- Arthur Koestler
- Researchers hard at work on cures for dementia and the flu.
- How much should you tip a robot?
- Flyover R&D efforts get funding
- Name that Flyover City!
February 3, 2020
On the trail of an antibiotic that can cure dementia
Photo courtesy Needpix
Scientists at the University of Kentucky might be on the cusp of a cure for early-onset dementia. Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a devastating disease, in which people begin to show loss of cognitive function as early as age 40. According to the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration, affects 50,000 to 60,000 Americans.
The UK researchers believe a class of antibiotics called aminoglycosides could eventually cure these patients.
At the heart of one genetics-based type of dementia is a gene mutation that disrupts a protein, making it non-functional. The antibiotics skip over the mutation, allowing the cells to function normally, thereby preventing early-onset dementia. The discovery was a happy accident, as the researchers found it when researching treatments for cystic fibrosis. The scientists caution that there is still a long way to go: The compounds need extensive testing to ensure that they are safe to use.
Duke researchers try to figure out the flu
You’d think a society that can put the internet in every pocket and create robots that deliver pizzas could stop the flu. But influenza is a sneaky predator, constantly shape-shifting to evade scientists’ best efforts at a universal solution.
Researchers at Duke University’s Global Health Institute are trying to figure out better ways to prevent and treat the flu. Their new study, published in the journal PNAS, looks at why influenza B, which spreads from humans to humans, seems to be on the rise. The confounding problem is that the flu virus genome is made up of RNA, not DNA, and evolves about a million times faster than humans. In fact, the flu mutates within a single flu-infected person, even as the snotstorm is raging. That’s why it’s so tough to keep vaccines up to date, and why vaccines are not 100% effective.
Here’s a tidbit that might make your own job seem a little less icky: The Duke researchers analyzed influenza B genomic data from thousands of hospital swabs containing flu virus and used computational analyses to learn how the viruses spread to different cities and countries. The holy grail is to develop a universal vaccine that doesn’t need to be updated every year.
Peri app helps you follow doctor's orders
Here’s an app that could be a godsend for doctors and patients who struggle to communicate with one another about a particular procedure or treatment: Peri. And the health platform just got a big leg up when its company, Raleigh-based MobileSmith, became part of AT&T’s Edge-to-Edge digital hospital solutions.
Peri is an app that helps prepare patients for treatments and helps them stay on track after a procedure. According to AT&T Healthcare Solutions, 17% of medical procedures are cancelled because patients did not follow pre-op instructions. Similarly, when patients don’t follow the doctor’s instructions following a procedure, health problems and costly repeat treatments can ensue. Peri comes to the rescue with timely reminders of doctor’s orders, keeping the patient and the procedure on track. In a nice touch, the app also integrates with Uber and Lyft to help make sure patients have a way to make it to the procedure on time.
How much do you tip a robot?
Photo courtesy Refraction AI
Ann Arbor startup Refraction AI has launched a new food delivery service. But not just any service. The company is piloting the REV-1, an autonomous robot that will bring your lunch to you within a 2.5-mile radius delivery zone.
The three-wheeled REV-1, which costs $4,000 to build, is five feet tall and is billed as lightweight (100 pounds), nimble, and speedy enough to operate in bike lanes and on the road—although its maximum speed is 15 MPH, which seems a bit pokey. But hey, it’s a robot. It’s autonomous. And it’s bringing lunch from your favorite restaurant.
The vehicle was created by Refraction founders Matt Johnson-Roberson and Ram Vasudevan, who are both engineering professors at the University of Michigan. You can check out video of the REV-1 here.
Johnson-Roberson says the REV-1 offers the benefits of lowered emissions and fewer traffic issues.
He told M Live, “We’re hoping this will be transformative for the way that we move goods around dense urban areas. We like to reduce congestion. A large amount of traffic is from deliveries … or ride hailing drivers. We want to figure out a way of addressing that to make cities more sustainable and more effective.”
Participating restaurants say the service offers significantly lower fees over conventional food delivery companies, which typically charge as much as 30%. Refraction charges 15%.
Boragen lands R&D deal for animal health
Boragen, a Durham-based chemical startup, has raised $2 million in financing from 14 investors. The company has the unusual mission of improving human and animal health through boron, a naturally occurring chemical element. Five chemists from Penn State started the company, which has attracted investments from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Bayer, among others.
Boron is commonly used to make fiberglass, bleach, cleaners, and many other products, but the company has big plans for new offerings, including fungicide and root protection for crops, the means of fighting parasites and dermatitis in animals, and innovations in human health. Boragen has also inked a deal with an undisclosed “global leading animal health company” to develop a treatment for canine atopic dermatitis, the second most common skin disease in dogs.
Biotech spinout provides manufacturing support for gene therapy
Columbus, OH-based Nationwide Children’s Hospital has launched a new company, Andelyn Biosciences, that will focus on manufacturing gene therapies for inherited diseases such as spinal muscular atrophy and Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
Gene therapy research has made tremendous strides in recent years, but keeping up with the rapid pace of development and scaling up to meet commercial needs has been a challenge. Andelyn plans to take advantage of Nationwide’s history of successful gene therapy research and provide manufacturing support, from clinical testing to therapy approval.
"Part of the reason we feel we can do this is because of our track record of success in doing it at the scale we've been doing it for several years," said Dennis Durbin, chief scientific officer of the Abigail Wexner Research Institute at the hospital. "We don't feel we're starting out from scratch here."
Andelyn will operate as a for-profit subsidiary of Nationwide Children's Hospital.
St. Louis launches Opportunity Zone website
2017’s tax overhaul bill brought with it the Opportunity Act, which allows for the creation of Opportunity Zones to help low-income communities across the country. The program provides tax incentives to spur long-term investments in new businesses in those communities and to boost economic development and job creation. St. Louis has 27 Opportunity Zones.
Now, St. Louis Development Corporation has launched a dedicated website to share information and help potential investors identify opportunities. In addition, it has partnered with a national project called The Opportunity Exchange, whose mission is to “help communities connect impactful Opportunity Zone projects with the right investors.”
Projects in St. Louis that are taking advantage of the Opportunity Zones program include the mixed-use redevelopment of the historic National Guard Armory, as well as construction of apartment buildings, hotels, office and retail space, and entertainment venues.
It's ... Name that Flyover city!
Useless information that is strangely fascinating.
While you’re still recovering from pro football’s biggest day, we thought we’d see if you can identify the notable football legend with the city in which he was born.
- Larry Fitzgerald is a wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals. Where was he born?
- Joe Montana, who earned the nicknames “Joe Cool” and “The Comeback Kid” was born in what city?
- Bruce Matthews played for the Houston Oilers for 19 seasons. What city did he hail from?
Click here for today's answers
Did you miss a newsletter, or simply wish to catch up on previous issues of Flyover Future? Then check out our newsletter archives here. View all complete issues of Flyover Future back to our initial launch date of August 5, 2019!
Please click the button below to share stories and offer suggestions or comments