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BioTechCircle News®

February 2012

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Issue 104 Part b


Subcategory: Crops

How Science Aims to Feed Seven Billion People
Catherine Clabby BBC News (22-Feb-12)
Profiles 4 areas of research: enhancing photosynthesis; crops that grow in
marginal land (too wet, too dry, too few nutrients, etc.); enhanced nutritional
value of food crops; data, producing detailed maps of soil and plant health.

Arable Farmers Must Embrace New Tech or Risk Being Overtaken
Caroline Stocks Farmers Weekly (01-Feb-12)
Arable farmers across Europe need to embrace new technologies or risk
slipping further into the shadow of low-cost producer countries such as
Brazil. Genetically modified crops, precision farming, min-till systems and
hydrogen power need to be used.

Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2011
ISAA (01-Feb-12)
A 94-fold increase in hectarage from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to 160
million hectares in 2011 makes biotech crops the fastest adopted crop
technology in the history of modern agriculture. Top 3 countries:U.S., Brazil,
Argentina. Table, global map.

Plants Use Circadian Rhythms to Prepare for Battle with Insects
R & D Magazine (14-Feb-12)
Plants whose clocks were in phase with the insects were relatively resistant,
whereas the plants whose clocks were out of phase were decimated by the
insects feeding on them. Link to video.

New Study Sheds Light on Genetics of Rice Metabolism
RIKEN (08-Feb-12)
Describes a natural way to bioengineer improved rice grain varieties by
selectively increasing production of useful metabolites, boosting the
nutritional value of crops.

Harvard Development Expert: Evidence Stacking up against Biotechnology Critics
Calestous Juma Technology + Policy (13-Feb-12)
Emerging evidence shows that nearly half of biotechnology crops were grown
in developing countries. The adoption rate of biotechnology crops was 11% in
developing countries against 5% in industrialized countries.

Subcategory: Energy/ Fuel

Extreme Biofuels and Those Heat-seeking X Bugs
Biofuels Digest (16-Feb-12)
A newly-discovered extremeophile bacterium in Yellowstone National Park
may unlock new opportunities for low-cost conversion of cellulose to
affordable, sustainable biofuels.

Fuel from Market Waste
Dr.-Ing. Ursula Schließmann Fraunhofer (01-Feb-12)
Mushy tomatoes, brown bananas and overripe cherries: waste from
wholesale markets has ended up on the compost heap at best. Researchers
have developed a new facility that ferments this waste to make methane,
which can be used to power vehicles.

Biosolar Bkthrough Promises Cheap, Easy Green Electricity
R & D Magazine (02-Feb-12)
Describes a process that improves the efficiency of generating electric power
using molecular structures extracted from plants. The biosolar breakthrough
has the potential to make "green" electricity dramatically cheaper and easier.

Subcategory: Environment

Q&A: A Slow-motion Crisis
Paul Falkowski Nature (29-Feb-12)
Nature Outlook talks to Rutgers University environmental scientist Paul
Falkowski about the effects of human activity and climate change on

As ‘Yuck Factor’ Subsides, Treated Wastewater Flows from Taps
Felicity Barringer New York Times (09-Feb-12)
With climate change threatening to diminish water supplies in the fast-growing
Southwest, more cities are considering the potential of reclaimed water.

Time of Year Plays Big Role in Impact of Heat and Drought
R & D Magazine (15-Feb-12)
Researchers found that droughts reduced grass growth most in early June,
while heat waves reduced grass growth only during late July. Neither drought
nor heat waves in August or September seemed to have an effect on grass

Subcategory: Evolution Research

The Origin of Photosynthesis Revealed
Rutgers (20-Feb-12)
Discusses the early events leading to photosynthesis, the result of the
sequencing of 70 million base pair nuclear genome of the one-celled alga
Cyanophora, an organism equivalent to the lung fish, in that it maintains some
primitive characteristics.

Subcategory: Materials

A Spider Web's Strength Lies in More Than its Silk
National Science Foundation (01-Feb-12)
Study of spider webs shows that web durability depends not only on silk
strength, but on how the overall web design compensates for damage and the
response of individual strands to continuously varying stresses.


Subcategory: Bio Pharma

Will New Business Models Enhance or Endanger Drug Discovery?
Stewart Lyman Xconomy (16-Feb-12)
Biotech business models are unsettled and in flux. Virtual companies and
smaller, focused businesses represent the current flavor-of-the-month for
many investors, writes Lyman.

Subcategory: Bioethics

Ethics and Genomic Research: ‘Genomethics’
Katherine Morley Genomes Unzipped (31-Jan-12)
Discusses what should happen to ‘incidental’ findings, i.e. potentially
interesting results from genomic analyses that are not directly related to the
condition under study.

Hypocritical Oaths
Nature (08-Feb-12)
History judges some research as unethical, despite approval at the time. What
kind of work deemed as accepted today will be denounced by future

Subcategory: Collaboration

Let the Games Begin
Genome Web (08-Feb-12)
The success of games like Foldit has shown researchers how useful it can be
to put a problem in front of a wide group of gamers and science buffs to get
help in solving it. Other researchers are now creating games for a variety of
scientific fields.

The Evolving Social Media Lifecycle in Pharma
Pharma Voice (01-Feb-12)
THOUGHT LEADERS: Nagaraja Srivatsan, Dileep Srinivasan, and Alexander
Gochtovtt. Podcast.

Subcategory: Patent/Intellectual Property Issues

U.S. Patent Law Retains Key Differences with Europe and Canada
Alex Philippidis Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (09-Feb-12)
Even after the overhaul, U.S. patent law will still hold to sharp differences
compared to key areas of the world when it comes to prior user rights,
pregrant examination, and postgrant review. Details of differences.

Caveats in Patent Overhaul Could Pose New Challenges for Smaller Biopharmas
Alex Philippidis Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (13-Feb-12)
New patent law expands the prior user rights defense against infringement
beyond business method patents to patents covering all technologies. Third
parties have to demonstrate commercial use of an invention at least 1 year
prior to the filing date.


Subcategory: Data Integration

Ahead in the Cloud – A New Home for Clinical Trial Data
Elly Earls Pharmaceutical Technology (31-Jan-12)
A third party provides an online platform or 'cloud' on which members of a
particular organisation who have the necessary security clearance, as well as
their collaborators in different locations, can share resources, software and

Subcategory: Regulatory/ Government

Where Have All the Unreported Clinical Trials Gone?
Ed Silverman Pharmalot (15-Feb-12)
Although the Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act requires
mandatory reporting of summary clinical trial results within one year of
completion on ClinicalTrials.gov, one BMJ paper found that only 22%
adhered to the mandate.


Subcategory: Microorganisms

Engineered Bacteria Target Tumors
David Pittman BioTechniques (30-Jan-12)
Bioluminescent bacteria can target solid tumors and bypass healthy cells.
Broad applicability to all types of solid tumors because, despite the various
differences in their composition, all tumors foster this sort of bacterial growth.

Subcategory: Miscellaneous

Delivering RNA with Tiny Sponge-like Spheres
Anne Trafton MIT News (27-Feb-12)
Novel delivery vehicle packs RNA into microspheres so dense that they
withstand degradation until they reach their destinations. Method holds
promise for treating cancer, other diseases.

Subcategory: Nanotechnology

DNA Robots to the Rescue
Megan Scudellari BioTechniques (16-Feb-12)
Nanorobot, constructed using a computer-aided design tool called DNA
origami, is a hexagonal barrel, 35 nanometers in diameter. It successfully
delivers antibodies to kill cancer cells and bacterial proteins to activate T cells.

Subcategory: Oral Solid

Easier to Swallow
Jeff Shimizu et al. Drug Discovery & Development (21-Feb-12)
Capsule technology provides a faster, cost-effective, and convenient means
for the controlled release of drugs to specific sites in the GI tract. Quantitative
data, such as temperature and pH, can be measured and recorded during the process.


Subcategory: Bioethics

White House Bioethics Commission Tackles Genomic Data
GenomeWeb (03-Feb-12)
Is it ethical to allow our healthcare system to practice without a systems
infrastructure for decision support? To discard person-specific DNA data
that has unknown significance? How does genomic consent differ from
standard consent?

Subcategory: Education

Not as Easy as it Sounds
GenomeWeb (09-Feb-12)
A new report with seemingly simple recommendations to improve the state of
science education in the US will actually be challenging to implement, say

Subcategory: General

The State of Life Science Research
Lindsay Hock, Paul Livingstone R & D Magazine (09-Feb-12)
R&D Magazine asked research leaders from three life science industry
sectors—big pharma, medical devices, and independent research
organizations—to discuss the present and the future of life science.

Subcategory: Misc. Drugs

The 11 Most Expensive Medicines in America
Medical Billing & Coding (06-Feb-12)
Compilation of the highest annual cost medicines used to treat conditions in
the U.S., starting with the drug Soliris, costing $409,500 per year.


Subcategory: Federal

“Medicine Is Swallowing the Federal Budget:” George Will at AAOS
Brian Buntz Medical Device and Diagnostic Industry (12-Feb-12)
Much of the US government debt is fueled by medical expenses. Before the
healthcare reform legislation was passed, 50 cents of every healthcare dollar
was from the government, says expert.


Subcategory: Miscellaneous

Swimming through the Blood Stream: Stanford Engineers Create Wireless,
Self-propelled Medical Device

Andrew Myers Stanford University News (22-Feb-12)
A new class of medical devices can be implanted or injected into the human
body and powered wirelessly using electromagnetic radio waves. Applications
include everything from diagnostics to minimally invasive surgeries.

Charge Your Phone (and Your Car) from Afar
Kevin Bullis Technology Review (09-Feb-12)
Charging systems that send power farther through the air will soon be on sale.
Uses for portable electronics could be followed by wireless power for heart
pumps and other medical implants.


Subcategory: Materials

UA Researchers Find the Healing Properties of a Spider’s Web
Denise Henry The University of Akron (16-Feb-12)
Novel synthetic material is similar to a specific kind of silk spun by an orb
spider. It looks like beads-on-a-string in a circular web. The beads are glue
droplets. Design can potentially be used as strong and flexible sutures
containing medication.

Inspired by Gecko Feet, UMass Amherst Scientists Invent Super-Adhesive

Janet Lathrop University of Massachusetts Amherst (16-Feb-12)
"Geckskin" device is about 16 square inches and can hold a maximum force of
about 700 pounds while adhering to a smooth surface such as glass. Can be
released with negligible effort and reused many times with no loss of


Subcategory: Mobile Medicine

Consult A Doctor to License Its Telehealth Platform to Hospitals, Clinics
Brian T. Horowitz eWeek (03-Feb-12)
Telehealth could be valuable to patients in remote areas or many miles from a
hospital. In states such as Massachusetts, patients may have to wait a month
or longer to see a doctor.


Subcategory: Bioethics

Did Deen Have a Duty to Disclose?
Amy Swinderman Drug Discovery News (14-Feb-12)
Should Ms. Deen, celebrity chef have continued to peddle her gravy-laden,
drippin’-with-butter dishes, knowing that consuming such meals on a regular
basis can contribute to obesity, diabetes and a host of other conditions?

Subcategory: Miscellaneous

The Boy Who Played With Fusion
Tom Clynes Popsci (14-Feb-12)
Describes a young boy's boundless appetite for knowledge, who built a
reactor that could hurl atoms together in a 500-million-degree plasma
core—becoming, at 14, the youngest individual on Earth to achieve nuclear


Subcategory: Gene Sequences

Norway to Bring Cancer-gene Tests to the Clinic
Ewen Callaway Nature (02-Feb-12)
Norway is set to become the first country to incorporate genome sequencing
into its national health-care system. A pilot program will use latest
tumour-sequencing techniques to help guide cancer care.

Subcategory: Oncology

Newly Identified Fusion Genes in Lung and Colorectal Cancer may Guide
Treatment with 'Targeted' Drugs

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (13-Feb-12)
Novel gene abnormalities discovered in a subpopulation of lung and colorectal
tumors could potentially identify patients with a good chance of responding
to highly specific "targeted" drugs already in use for treating other cancers.


Subcategory: Financial Management (not funding)

Which Pharma Spent the Most R&D on Each Drug?
Ed Silverman Pharmalot (10-Feb-12)
Which drugmaker made the best use of their R&D dollars? And which did the
worst job? Best: Amgen, spending $33.2 billion on R&D with 9 drugs
approved ($3.7 billion/drug). Worst? Astra Zeneca, with almost $11.8 billion
per drug approval.

Subcategory: Government/ Approvals

FDA Outlines Path for Lower-priced Biotech Drugs
Matthew Perrone PharmPro (09-Feb-12)
The Food and Drug Administration's guidelines are the final step in a
decades-long effort to lower the price of biotech drugs, high-tech injectable
medications that cost the nation billions of dollars each year.

Subcategory: Oncology

Cancer's Growing Burden: The High Cost of Care
Marilynn Marchione Bioscience Technology (26-Feb-12)
Patients have to pay more for their premiums, more for their copayments,
more for their deductibles. It's become harder to afford what we have, and
what we have is becoming not only more costly but also complex.

Subcategory: OTC/ Non-prescription

Report: OTC Medicine Saves Billions
Drug Discovery & Development (01-Feb-12)
A study released by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA),
found that for every dollar spent on over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, the
U.S. healthcare system saves $6 to $7—providing $102 billion in value each


Subcategory: Diagnostic Test Systems

Toxic Alcohols
Matthew D. Krasowski Clinical Laboratory News (01-Feb-12)
Ethylene glycol, methanol, and isopropanol, found in products that are
inexpensive and readily obtainable, can cause significant harm to individuals
who ingest them. Rviews characteristics of toxic alcohols, recent advances in
their laboratory analysis.

Subcategory: Drug Discovery

Secrets of Ancient Chinese Remedy Revealed
Bioscience Technology (13-Feb-12)
Chinese herbalists have treated malaria for over 2000 years by using a root
extract, commonly known as chang shan, from a type of hydrangea that grows
in Tibet and Nepal. Studies suggest it could be used to treat many
autoimmune disorders.

Sea Sponge is Possible Source of New Drugs
Laboratory Equipment (29-Feb-12)
Biological studies have shown that these naturally occurring, carbon-based
molecules found in sea sponges have the potential to kill malaria bugs and
even stop cancer cells from spreading.

Subcategory: E-Medicine

Health Care IT: HIMSS12 Conference: 10 Innovative Health Care IT Highlights
Brian T. Horowitz eWeek (28-Feb-12)
New devices and medical software try to address concerns about privacy and
security in remote-monitoring applications.

Subcategory: Epigenetics

Diet Can Make More Attractive Great Grandchildren
Laboratory Equipment (09-Feb-12)
When obesity-supressing diet was continued in lean mice over 5 generations,
the epigenetic effects were inherited; the proportion of lean and healthy mice
in each subsequent generation increased, without any change to the genetic
code of the mice.

Subcategory: Genomics

One Genome from Many
Virginia Gewin Nature (02-Feb-12)
Individual genomes can be extracted from the slurry of genetic material.
"Approach is exciting because it finally opens up a window to determine how
entire microbial communities work."

Subcategory: Neurology

Unique Languages, Universal Patterns
Peter Dizikes MIT News (23-Feb-12)
Linguist reveals how modern English resembles Old Japanese, and other
surprising convergences between far-flung tongues.

Subcategory: Proteomics

Protein Structures Give Disease Clues
UC Davis (01-Feb-12)
Discoveries about the 3-D shape and structure of biological molecules may
lead to new ways to treat or prevent diseases such as breast cancer and
Alzheimer’s disease.


Subcategory: Cardiology/ Vascular Diseases

Stem Cells Used to 'Heal' Heart Attack Scars
James Gallagher BBC News (13-Feb-12)
Using stem cells gathered from the patient's own heart, doctors report the
amount of scar tissue was halved. The small safety trial showed an
"unprecedented" increase in new heart muscle.

Researchers Identify New Gene Mutations that Cause Heart Disorder
Howard Hughes Medical Institute (16-Feb-12)
Defects in the gene that encodes the human body’s largest protein, the muscle
protein titin, are responsible for more cases of the disease than are caused by
all other known mutations.

Scientists Make Strides Toward Fixing Infant Hearts
R & D Magazine (06-Feb-12)
Researchers have turned stem cells from amniotic fluid into cells that form
blood vessels. Their success offers hope that such stem cells may be used to
grow tissue patches to repair infant hearts.

Subcategory: Immunology/ Infectious Diseases

Growing Up on Farms Lowers Food Allergies
Laboratory Equipment (09-Feb-12)
Spending early life in a complex farm environment increased the number of
regulatory T-lymphocytes, the cells that damp down the immune system and
limit immune responses.

Subcategory: Metabolism: Obesity, Diabetes

Protein May Play Role in Obesity, Diabetes, Aging
Bioscience Technology (15-Feb-12)
Fat and muscle cells in patients with type 2 diabetes become resistant to
insulin, which normally causes them to take in glucose from the blood. The
protein TBC1D3 keeps the insulin pathway open, so the cells can continue to
take up glucose.

Subcategory: Musculoskeletal

Smallest Tools Could Give Biggest Results in Bone Repair
R & D Magazine (07-Feb-12)
Approach to healing or regenerating bone, tendon, and ligaments could also be
used for reattaching ligaments to bone after sports injuries and healing large
bone defects during spinal fusion, facial reconstruction or trauma.

Subcategory: Neurology

Alzheimer’s Marker Linked to Deficits in Healthy Adults
Drug Discovery & Development 02-Feb-12
Many researchers believe that interventions to slow or halt the progression of
Alzheimer’s will be most effective during middle age, before irreparable
damage to the brain is done.

Memory Formation Triggered by Stem Cell Development
Riken (24-Feb-12)
Scientists have discovered an answer to the long-standing mystery of how
brain cells can both remember new memories while also maintaining older

Complex Wiring of the Nervous System may Rely on just a Handful of Genes
and Proteins

Salk Institute (10-Feb-12)
Findings might eventually shed new light on a number of clinical disorders
related to faulty nerve cell functioning, such as ALS, which is also known as
Lou Gehrig's disease.

Discovery of Extremely Long-lived Proteins may Provide Insight into Cell Aging
and Neurodegenerative Diseases

Salk Institute (03-Feb-12)
Findings may prove relevant to understanding the molecular origins of aging
and such neurodegenerative disorders as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's

The Mystery Behind Anesthesia
Technology Review (01-Feb-12)
Mapping how our neural circuits change under the influence of anesthesia
could shed light on one of neuroscience's most perplexing riddles:

Scientists Identify Link between Size of Brain Region and Conformity
Wellcome Trust (21-Feb-12)
Researchers have found a link between the amount of grey matter in one
specific brain region, the lateral orbitofrontal cortex, and an individual’s
likelihood of conforming to social pressures.

Subcategory: Oncology

Cancer Therapy More Potent When It Hits Two Targets
Bioscience Technology (27-Feb-12)
Simultaneous targeting of two different molecules in cancer is an effective way
to shrink tumors, block invasion, and stop metastasis. May improve the
effectiveness of combination treatments that include drugs like Avastin.

Traitorous Immune Cells Promote Ovarian Cancer
Drug Discovery & Development (21-Feb-12)
Ovarian tumors don't necessarily break "free" of the immune system, rather
dendritic cells of the immune system seem to actively support the tumor's
escape. It might be possible to restore the immune system by targeting a
patient's own dendritic cells.

Silver Compounds Are Toxic to Cancer
Laboratory Equipment (03-Feb-12)
The internet is awash with stories of how silver can be used to treat cancer.
Now, lab tests have shown that it is as effective as the leading chemotherapy
drug - and may have fewer side-effects.

Rethinking Immunotherapy for Brain Tumors
Life Science Digest (22-Feb-12)
Observations suggest that proper activation of the immune system in patients
with central nervous system (CNS) tumors could be beneficial. Table of 8
companies advancing such research, .

UT Arlington Team Magnetizes Carbon Nanoparticles for Cancer Therapy
University of Texas (23-Feb-12)
Describes a method that uses magnetic carbon nanoparticles to target and
destroy cancer cells through laser therapy. Treat,emt could be effective in
cases of skin and other cancers without damaging surrounding healthy cells.

Subcategory: Pain Management

Neuron Memory Key to Taming Chronic Pain
Bioscience Technology (14-Feb-12)
Future medications will target an established pain memory trace as a way of
reducing pain hypersensitivity.

New "Omics" Technique Taps into Unknown Metabolome
Janelle Weaver BioTechniques (23-Jan-12)
Researchers using untargeted metabolomics identify a new candidate
therapeutic target for chronic pain.


Subcategory: Biomarker

Following a Trail of Blood: A New Diagnostic Tool Comes of Age
Bioscience Technology (15-Feb-12)
Blood derived from the human umbilical cord has yet to be fully mined for its
vital health information. Detailed analyses of umbilical cord blood (UCB),
identifying a total of 1,210 proteins, a crititcal step in the discovery of

Scientists ID 1,210 Proteins in Cord Blood
Laboratory Equipment 15-Feb-12
The proteins identified are associated with 138 different metabolic and disease
pathways and provide invaluable information for the identification of
biomarkers—early warning indices of disease, toxic exposure or disruptions in
cellular processes.

Subcategory: Databases

The Answer Is There
Paul Livingstone R & D Magazine (15-Feb-12)
Regulations addressing environmental, safety, or health concerns have brought
the need for better data management into sharp focus. Embedded product
compliance produces time and cost savings.

Subcategory: Evolution Research

A Biodiversity Discovery That Was Waiting in the Wings--Wasp Wings, That Is
National Science Foundation (23-Feb-12)
A better understanding of how cells grow and enable organisms to assume
their characteristic sizes and shapes could shed light on diseases that involve
cell growth, including cancer and diabetes.

Subcategory: Gene Sequences

DNA Sequencing to Go
David Rotman Technology Review (17-Feb-12)
A disposable DNA sequencer about the size of a USB memory stick can be
plugged directly into a laptop or desktop computer and used to perform a
single-molecule sensing experiment. The device is expected to sell for $900.

Subcategory: Imaging

Electron Holography Produces First Image of a Single Protein
Technology Review (24-Jan-12)
The behaviour and function of proteins is largely determined by their shape.
A non-destructive method for imaging single proteins could help solve one of
the biggest challenges in biology, namely, to understand and model the
structure of proteins.

Subcategory: Oncology

New Test Detects Cancer in Blood
Laboratory Equipment (06-Feb-12)
Highly sensitive blood analysis provides information that may soon be
comparable to that from some types of surgical biopsies.

Cancer Breath Test Enters Clinical Trials
Katherine Bourzac Technology Review (14-Feb-12)
Clinical trial shows breath test can spot lung cancer with 83% accuracy,
distinguishes between several different types of the disease. The accuracy of
the test matches what's possible with low-dose computerized tomography
imaging of the lungs.


Subcategory: Collaboration

Open Source May be the Answer for Pharma and Biotech
Connie Wong Xconomy (17-Feb-12)
Rather than one pharmaceutical company performing all tasks internally, from
discovering new drugs to bringing the medications to market, it would look to
other partnering resources for its discovery, research and testing needs.

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