AI Classification of Blood Cells Reaches Level of Human Experts

Technology Networks | November 13, 2019

Every day, millions of single blood cells are evaluated for disease diagnostics in medical laboratories and clinics. Most of this repetitive task is still done manually by trained cytologists who inspect cells in stained blood smears and classify them into roughly 15 different categories. This process suffers from classification variability and requires the presence and expertise of a trained cytologist. To improve evaluation efficiency, a team of researchers at Helmholtz Zentrum München and the University Hospital, LMU Munich, trained a deep neuronal network with almost 20.000 single cell images to classify them. The team lead Dr. Carsten Marr and medical doctoral student Dr. Christian Matek from the Institute of Computational Biology at Helmholtz Zentrum München as well as Prof. Dr. med Karsten Spiekermann and Simone Schwarz from the Department of Medicine III, University Hospital, LMU Munich, used images which were extracted from blood smears of 100 patients suffering from the aggressive blood disease AML and 100 controls. The new AI-driven approach was then evaluated by comparing its performance with the accuracy of human experts. The result showed that the AI-driven solution is able to identify diagnostic blast cells at least as good as a trained cytologist expert.

Spotlight

Since Haemophilus influenzae became the first organism to have its entire genome sequenced in 19951 , there are now thousands of completed genomes covering archaea, bacteria and eukarya. However, the term ‘completed genome’ (or sometimes ‘finished genome’) is overused, as the majority of sequenced genomes contain numerous gaps. These gaps correspond to repetitive regions and structural variants that are too large to be resolved by the short-read sequencing technologies often used to generate the genomes. This review outlines how researchers are now utilizing the advantages of nanopore long-read sequencing to address this challenge, delivering more accurate large genomes for a wide variety of applications.

Spotlight

Since Haemophilus influenzae became the first organism to have its entire genome sequenced in 19951 , there are now thousands of completed genomes covering archaea, bacteria and eukarya. However, the term ‘completed genome’ (or sometimes ‘finished genome’) is overused, as the majority of sequenced genomes contain numerous gaps. These gaps correspond to repetitive regions and structural variants that are too large to be resolved by the short-read sequencing technologies often used to generate the genomes. This review outlines how researchers are now utilizing the advantages of nanopore long-read sequencing to address this challenge, delivering more accurate large genomes for a wide variety of applications.

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PHARMA TECH

BlackRock and QLS Advisors Partner Through BlackRock Systematic to Invest in Biomedical Innovation

BlackRock and QLS Advisors | July 19, 2022

BlackRock and QLS Advisors LLC, a life sciences technology and advisory firm, have announced a partnership through BlackRock Systematic to develop data-driven investment solutions to help accelerate biomedical innovation. The partnership will leverage the firms’ combined Research and Development and investment experience, directing funding toward public and private companies that have the potential to create transformative therapies while seeking to earn attractive investment returns for clients. Biomedicine is at an inflection point: breakthrough therapies—with the potential to extend longevity and improve quality of life—are emerging at an ever-increasing pace. Funding these therapeutic development programs has the potential to deliver attractive investment returns, but as biomedicine has grown more complex, so have the risks to investors. QLS has developed proprietary technology for estimating the probability of success of clinical trials, a key driver of financial performance, and systematically incorporating these forecasts into fundamental valuation models and portfolio construction algorithms. Their approach applies machine learning techniques to a multitude of predictive factors including therapeutic characteristics, clinical trial design features, disease-specific characteristics, and drug company track records. This methodology, coupled with BlackRock Systematic’s global platform, proprietary analytics, and more than 35 years1 of data-driven investment experience, presents a differentiated approach to investing in life sciences companies. “BlackRock’s partnership with QLS applies sophisticated quantitative investment technologies to the intersection of finance, academia, and life sciences. QLS brings an industry-leading approach to investing in life sciences that complements the work that BlackRock Systematic is doing in our actively managed portfolios. We expect this will create compelling, differentiated solutions that can deliver attractive returns for our clients while providing funding for life-changing therapies.” Rich Kushel, Head of the Portfolio Management Group BlackRock Andrew Lo, QLS Co-founder and Professor of Finance at the MIT Sloan School of Management commented: “We founded QLS to improve the way financial resources are allocated to emerging therapies, with the goal of lowering the cost of capital in this important sector. With BlackRock, we gain a partner who is a recognized leader in data-driven investing and shares our passion for delivering investment returns with positive outcomes for society. We’re thrilled and honored to join forces with a firm that has such a strong and trusted global brand, broad network, and access to world-class investment resources.” BlackRock and QLS have also assembled a Scientific Advisory Council comprising renowned academics, medical doctors, and inventors. The Council will support sourcing, due diligence, and value creation through the members’ vast networks and decades of experience as industry leaders in their respective fields. The Council is expected to include Dr. Robert Langer, Institute Professor, MIT Department of Chemical Engineering, and founder of over 40 biotechnology companies including Moderna. Ms. Lita Nelsen, retired director of the MIT Technology Licensing Office; now consultant in technology licensing. Dr. Larry Norton, Senior Vice President, Norna S. Sarofim Chair in Clinical Oncology and Medical Director of the Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Center at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Past President of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, ASCO David Karnofsky Awardee, FASCO, FAACR. Dr. Richard H. Scheller, Chairman of Research and Development BridgeBio. Board of Directors BridgeBio, Alector, 23andMe, DICE and others. Former Executive Vice President Research and Early Development Genentech and former HHMI Investigator and Professor Stanford University Medical School. Dr. Phillip A. Sharp, Institute Professor, MIT Department of Biology, geneticist and molecular biologist who co-discovered RNA splicing, co-founded Biogen and Alnylam, and the recipient of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. About BlackRock Systematic BlackRock’s systematic investment platform brings together BlackRock’s community of systematic investors across equity, fixed income, and factor-based strategies. Systematic portfolios combine cutting-edge technology, scientific research, and human insight in the relentless pursuit of investment performance. With over 35 years of experience and nearly 200 professionals across the globe managing over US$200 bn in client assets as of March 31, 2022, BlackRock Systematic partners with clients to deliver quantitative alpha-seeking and factor-based investment solutions for the whole portfolio. About QLS Advisors LLC QLS Advisors LLC is a life sciences technology and advisory company based in Cambridge, MA, dedicated to fostering biomedical innovation. QLS employs a unique blend of fundamental and quantitative tools to help clients manage risk, assess reward, and develop investment and financing strategies for portfolios of healthcare-related assets.

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BUSINESS INSIGHTS

ILC Dover Becomes a Provider of Ascent / Entry Spacesuits for Boeing's Starliner

ILC Dover | May 27, 2022

ILC Dover, the leading provider of spacesuits since the Apollo era, announced that it was selected to be one of two providers of Boeing's Ascent/Entry Suit for the company's Commercial Crew Program and has developed a bespoke AES spacesuit for CST-100 Starliner crews. "We are proud to utilize our expertise to create a new AES for the Starliner spacecraft. Having worked with the Boeing team on the Starliner's landing airbags, which provide a safe, cushioned arrival to Earth from space, we understood the importance of delivering another quality product for this program." Patty Stoll, President of Space Systems and Engineered Solutions at ILC Dover The Boeing AES is based off ILC Dover's commercial Launch, Entry, and Abort suit, SOL™. ILC Dover worked with Boeing to tailor SOL for the Starliner spacecraft to provide protection for astronauts during the most critical phases of spaceflight, including launch, docking, re-entry and landing. With over 50 years of spacesuit experience, the AES suit was designed to provide maximum mobility to operate, enter and exit the spacecraft, as well as provide protection for astronauts in case of an emergency. "Our success is measured by those we've helped return to Earth safely for over 50 years of space travel and we will continue to provide spacesuits and soft solutions that will keep astronauts safe in the harsh environment of space," said Stoll. Working with ILC Dover's in-house fashion designer, the cover layer of the spacesuit was designed with a unique look for Starliner crew members. A replica of the Starliner AES will be on display on Florida's Space Coast at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex's new attraction called Gateway: The Deep Space Launch Complex. ILC Dover and Boeing worked with Adam Savage, television personality and longtime special effects designer and fabricator, to create the replica. About ILC Dover ILC Dover is a world-leader in the innovative design and production of solutions for biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, medical device markets as well as a leading supplier for the space industries. Our customers will attest to our relentless dedication to high value products, advanced technology, and responsive service, as our visionary solutions have improved efficiency while safeguarding people, product, and infrastructure in hazardous conditions through flexible protective solutions since 1947.

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BUSINESS INSIGHTS

Ginkgo Bioworks and Novo Nordisk to Collaborate on Expression Systems for Pharmaceutical Products

Ginkgo Bioworks and Novo Nordisk, | June 08, 2022

Ginkgo Bioworks the leading horizontal platform for cell programming, announced a collaboration with Novo Nordisk, a leading global healthcare company, to create novel expression hosts for pharmaceutical products. hundreds of millions of people are living with diabetes, obesity, and other serious chronic diseases, putting a strain on individuals, families, and healthcare systems. More effective medicines could improve treatment options for these people. Using synthetic biology, Ginkgo and Novo Nordisk will collaborate to unlock the potential of expression systems, which may accelerate and enhance the discovery and development of Novo Nordisk's biological medicines. "Novo Nordisk is constantly pushing the boundaries for innovative tools to bring new treatments to people living with diabetes and other serious chronic diseases. Using synthetic biology and the reprogramming of expression system genomes, we have the potential to engineer biological systems that will expand the chemical space of biological medicines." Brian Vandahl, Senior Vice President, Global Research Technologies, Novo Nordisk "It's an honor to work with partners like Novo Nordisk that not only have an incredible range of critically important products, but that also provide us with the opportunity to do meaningful work that could help so many patients," said Jason Kelly, CEO and cofounder of Ginkgo Bioworks. "At Ginkgo, we are always on the lookout for projects that will have an outsized impact on people's lives and well-being. We're excited to be working with Novo Nordisk in our efforts to use biology to create better medicines for patients with chronic diseases." Under the terms of the partnership, Ginkgo and Novo Nordisk will launch a multi-year collaboration. Ginkgo will receive an upfront R&D fee and is eligible to receive milestone payments as the parties advance in the collaboration. About Ginkgo Bioworks Ginkgo is building a platform to enable customers to program cells as easily as we can program computers. The company's platform is enabling biotechnology applications across diverse markets, from food and agriculture to industrial chemicals to pharmaceuticals. Ginkgo has also actively supported a number of COVID-19 response efforts, including K-12 pooled testing, vaccine manufacturing optimization and therapeutics discovery.

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