QUT leading the charge for panel-powered car
A car powered by its own body panels could soon be driving on our roads after a breakthrough in nanotechnology research by a QUT team.
Researchers have developed lightweight "supercapacitors" that can be combined with regular batteries to dramatically boost the power of an electric car.
The discovery was made by Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr Jinzhang Liu, Professor Nunzio Motta and PhD researcher Marco Notarianni, from QUT's Science and Engineering Faculty - Institute for Future Environments, and PhD researcher Francesca Mirri and Professor Matteo Pasquali, from Rice University in Houston, in the United States.
The supercapacitors - a "sandwich" of electrolyte between two all-carbon electrodes - were made into a thin and extremely strong film with a high power density.
The film could be embedded in a car's body panels, roof, doors, bonnet and floor - storing enough energy to turbocharge an electric car's battery in just a few minutes.
The findings, published in the Journal of Power Sources and the Nanotechnology journal, mean a car partly powered by its own body panels could be a reality within five years, Mr Notarianni said.
"Vehicles need an extra energy spurt for acceleration, and this is where supercapacitors come in. They hold a limited amount of charge, but they are able to deliver it very quickly, making them the perfect complement to mass-storage batteries," he said.
"Supercapacitors offer a high power output in a short time, meaning a faster acceleration rate of the car and a charging time of just a few minutes, compared to several hours for a standard electric car battery."
Dr Liu said currently the "energy density" of a supercapacitor is lower than a standard lithium ion (Li-Ion) battery, but its "high power density", or ability to release power in a short time, is "far beyond" a conventional battery.
"Supercapacitors are presently combined with standard Li-Ion batteries to power electric cars, with a substantial weight reduction and increase in performance," he said.
"In the future, it is hoped the supercapacitor will be developed to store more energy than a Li-Ion battery while retaining the ability to release its energy up to 10 times faster - meaning the car could be entirely powered by the supercapacitors in its body panels.
"After one full charge this car should be able to run up to 500km - similar to a petrol-powered car and more than double the current limit of an electric car."
Dr Liu said the technology would also potentially be used for rapid charges of other battery-powered devices.
"For example, by putting the film on the back of a smart phone to charge it extremely quickly," he said.
The discovery may be a game-changer for the automotive industry, with significant impacts on financial, as well as environmental, factors.
"We are using cheap carbon materials to make supercapacitors and the price of industry scale production will be low," Professor Motta said.
"The price of Li-Ion batteries cannot decrease a lot because the price of Lithium remains high. This technique does not rely on metals and other toxic materials either, so it is environmentally friendly if it needs to be disposed of."
The researchers are part of QUT's Battery Interest Group, a cross-faculty group that aims to engage industry with battery-related research.
Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia
Bacteria become 'genomic tape recorders'
MIT engineers have transformed the genome of the bacterium E. coli into a long-term storage device for memory. They envision that this stable, erasable, and easy-to-retrieve memory will be well suited for applications such as sensors for environmental and medical monitoring.
"You can store very long-term information," says Timothy Lu, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science and biological engineering. "You could imagine having this system in a bacterium that lives in your gut, or environmental bacteria. You could put this out for days or months, and then come back later and see what happened at a quantitative level."
The new strategy, described in the Nov. 13 issue of the journal Science, overcomes several limitations of existing methods for storing memory in bacterial genomes, says Lu, the paper's senior author. Those methods require a large number of genetic regulatory elements, limiting the amount of information that can be stored.
The earlier efforts are also limited to digital memory, meaning that they can record only all-or-nothing memories, such as whether a particular event occurred. Lu and graduate student Fahim Farzadfard, the paper's lead author, set out to create a system for storing analog memory, which can reveal how much exposure there was, or how long it lasted. To achieve that, they designed a "genomic tape recorder" that lets researchers write new information into any bacterial DNA sequence.
To program E. coli bacteria to store memory, the MIT researchers engineered the cells to produce a recombinase enzyme, which can insert DNA, or a specific sequence of single-stranded DNA, into a targeted site. However, this DNA is produced only when activated by the presence of a predetermined molecule or another type of input, such as light.
After the DNA is produced, the recombinase inserts the DNA into the cell's genome at a preprogrammed site. "We can target it anywhere in the genome, which is why we're viewing it as a tape recorder, because you can direct where that signal is written," Lu says.
Once an exposure is recorded through this process, the memory is stored for the lifetime of the bacterial population and is passed on from generation to generation.
There are a couple of different ways to retrieve this stored information. If the DNA is inserted into a nonfunctional part of the genome, sequencing the genome will reveal whether the memory is stored in a particular cell. Or, researchers can target the sequences to alter a gene. For example, in this study, the new DNA sequence turned on an antibiotic resistance gene, allowing the researchers to determine how many cells had gotten the memory sequence by adding antibiotics to the cells and observing how many survived.
By measuring the proportion of cells in the population that have the new DNA sequence, researchers can determine how much exposure there was and how long it lasted. In this paper, the researchers used the system to detect light, a lactose metabolite called IPTG, and an antibiotic derivative called aTc, but it could be tailored to many other molecules or even signals produced by the cell, Lu says.
The information can also be erased by stimulating the cells to incorporate a different piece of DNA in the same spot. This process is currently not very efficient, but the researchers are working to improve it.
Environmental applications for this type of sensor include monitoring the ocean for carbon dioxide levels, acidity, or pollutants. In addition, the bacteria could potentially be designed to live in the human digestive tract to monitor someone's dietary intake, such as how much sugar or fat is being consumed, or to detect inflammation from irritable bowel disease.
These engineered bacteria could also be used as biological computers, Lu says, adding that they would be particularly useful in types of computation that require a lot of parallel processing, such as picking patterns out of an image.
"Because there are billions and billions of bacteria in a given test tube, and now we can start leveraging more of that population for memory storage and for computing, it might be interesting to do highly parallelized computing. It might be slow, but it could also be energy-efficient," he says.
Another possible application is engineering brain cells of living animals or human cells grown in a petri dish to allow researchers to track whether a certain disease marker is expressed or whether a neuron is active at a certain time. "If you could turn the DNA inside a cell into a little memory device on its own and then link that to something you care about, you can write that information and then later extract it," Lu says.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Ki-Bum Lee patents technology to Advance Stem Cell Therapeutics
Associate Professor Ki-Bum Lee has developed patent-pending technology that may overcome one of the critical barriers to harnessing the full therapeutic potential of stem cells.
One of the major challenges facing researchers interested in regenerating cells and growing new tissue to treat debilitating injuries and diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, and spinal cord trauma, is creating an easy, effective, and non-toxic methodology to control differentiation into specific cell lineages. Lee and colleagues at Rutgers and Kyoto University in Japan have invented a platform they call NanoScript, an important breakthrough for researchers in the area of gene expression. Gene expression is the way information encoded in a gene is used to direct the assembly of a protein molecule, which is integral to the process of tissue development through stem cell therapeutics.
Stem cells hold great promise for a wide range of medical therapeutics as they have the ability to grow tissue throughout the body. In many tissues, stem cells have an almost limitless ability to divide and replenish other cells, serving as an internal repair system.
Transcription factor (TF) proteins are master regulators of gene expression. TF proteins play a pivotal role in regulating stem cell differentiation. Although some have tried to make synthetic molecules that perform the functions of natural transcription factors, NanoScript is the first nanomaterial TF protein that can interact with endogenous DNA. ACS Nano, a publication of the American Chemical Society (ACS), has published Lee’s research on NanoScript. The research is supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
“Our motivation was to develop a highly robust, efficient nanoparticle-based platform that can regulate gene expression and eventually stem cell differentiation,” said Lee, who leads a Rutgers research group primarily focused on developing and integrating nanotechnology with chemical biology to modulate signaling pathways in cancer and stem cells. “Because NanoScript is a functional replica of TF proteins and a tunable gene-regulating platform, it has great potential to do exactly that. The field of stem cell biology now has another platform to regulate differentiation while the field of nanotechnology has demonstrated for the first time that we can regulate gene expression at the transcriptional level.”
NanoScript was constructed by tethering functional peptides and small molecules called synthetic transcription factors, which mimic the individual TF domains, onto gold nanoparticles.
“NanoScript localizes within the nucleus and initiates transcription of a reporter plasmid by up to 30-fold,” said Sahishnu Patel, Rutgers Chemistry graduate student and co-author of the ACS Nano publication. “NanoScript can effectively transcribe targeted genes on endogenous DNA in a nonviral manner.”
Lee said the next step for his research is to study what happens to the gold nanoparticles after NanoScript is utilized, to ensure no toxic effects arise, and to ensure the effectiveness of NanoScript over long periods of time.
“Due to the unique tunable properties of NanoScript, we are highly confident this platform not only will serve as a desirable alternative to conventional gene-regulating methods,” Lee said, “but also has direct employment for applications involving gene manipulation such as stem cell differentiation, cancer therapy, and cellular reprogramming. Our research will continue to evaluate the long-term implications for the technology.”
Lee, originally from South Korea, joined the Rutgers faculty in 2008 and has earned many honors including the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award. Lee received his Ph.D. in Chemistry from Northwestern University where he studied with Professor Chad. A. Mirkin, a pioneer in the coupling of nanotechnology and biomolecules. Lee completed his postdoctoral training at The Scripps Research Institute with Professor Peter G. Schultz. Lee has served as a Visiting Scholar at both Princeton University and UCLA Medical School.
The primary interest of Lee’s group is to develop and integrate nanotechnologies and chemical functional genomics to modulate signaling pathways in mammalian cells towards specific cell lineages or behaviors. He has published more than 50 articles and filed for 17 corresponding patents.
GSK names winners of 2014 Discovery Fast Track Challenge
GSK has announced the winners of its second Discovery Fast Track Challenge - a programme designed to combine the expertise of academic researchers with that of drug discovery scientists at GSK, to accelerate the search for new medicines.
Fourteen winning proposals were selected from 428 entries across North America and Europe. These proposals covered a wide range of approaches and disease areas, from searching for new antibiotics or antivirals, to discovering new treatments for cardiovascular and kidney diseases.
The winning scientists will work with GSK’s Discovery Partnerships with Academia (DPAc) and Molecular Discovery Research teams to test their hypotheses on targets and disease pathways against GSK’s extensive library of compounds.
If a compound is identified during this process that shows activity against these pathways or targets, the winning investigators could be offered a formal partnership with GSK, to refine these molecules and work together on the development of a potential new medicine.
Duncan Holmes, European Head of DPAc, said: “We believe there is a real advantage in bringing together the best in academia and industry to help take innovative ideas forward in drug discovery. The Discovery Fast Track Challenge is designed to find the best ideas for collaborative drug discovery from any therapeutic area, in any geography. We look forward to working with each of the winners to help identify novel quality pharmacologically active compounds for their targets and being part of the researcher’s journey in making a difference.”
The winning investigators, by region, are:
- Dr. John Burnett Jr, Mayo Clinic, and Dr. Siobhan Malany, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute: Discovery of anti-hypertensive agents
- Prof. Maureen Murphy, The Wistar Institute, Prof. Donna George and Prof. Julia Leu, The Perelman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania: Cancer therapy
- Prof. Stefan Strack, University of Iowa: Targeting mitochondrial fragmentation for neuroprotection
- Prof. Vanessa Sperandio, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center: Targeting bacterial infections
- Prof. Tania Watts, University of Toronto: Treatment of B-cell lymphomas
- Prof. Morris Brown, University of Cambridge (UK): Primary hyperaldosteronism
- Dr. Federica Briani, Università degli Studi di Milano (Italy): Targeting bacterial infections
- Dr. Christos Chatziantoniou, National Institute of Health and Medical Research (France): Chronic kidney disease
- Prof. Giulio Superti-Furga and Dr. Kilian Huber, CeMM (Austria): Cancer therapy
- Prof. Steve Jackson and Dr. Delphine Larrieu, University of Cambridge (UK): Treatment of inherited laminopathies
- Prof. Andrew Lever, University of Cambridge (UK): Targeting HIV infection
- Prof. Michael Marber, King’s College London (UK): Ischaemic heart disease
- Dr. Geerten van Nieuw Amerongen, VU University Medical Center (The Netherlands): Treatment of vascular leakage and edema
- Dr. Simon Wagner, University of Leicester (UK): Cancer therapy
Work on many of the winning Discovery Fast Track projects has already started and GSK expects the first compound screens to be completed by mid-2015.
About Discovery Fast Track Challenge
The Discovery Fast Track Challenge is designed to translate academic research into starting points for new potential medicines. The academic researcher provides a novel drug discovery concept that may include assay protocols and reagents. GSK provides a team of scientists to collaborate with the academic and applies its state-of-the-art capabilities to scale up, industrialise assays and analyse data. The target is screened against GSK compound collections and enabled to find novel quality pharmacologically active compounds. For Discovery Fast Track projects that both the academic partner and GSK wish to continue, both parties can enter into a DPAc agreement. The 2014 Challenge, expanded to include Europe in addition to North America, attracted 428 entries across a broad range of therapeutic areas from 234 universities, academic research institutions, and hospitals in 26 countries.
GSK: OUR CONTRIBUTION TO THE FIGHT AGAINST EBOLA
With the Ebola crisis in West Africa continuing, GSK is working closely with the World Health Organization (WHO), regulators and other partners to respond to the outbreak and to accelerate development of our investigational Ebola vaccine. The company explains here his works. We are working with the US National Institutes of Health’s Vaccine Research Centre (VRC) and other partners to advance development of our early stage GSK/NIH Ebola vaccine candidate. This investigational vaccine has shown promising results in pre-clinical (non-human) studies. Clinical development of the vaccine candidate is progressing at an unprecedented rate, with first phase 1 safety trials with the vaccine candidate underway in the USA, UK, Mali and Switzerland. These will study the safety of the vaccine and if it generates a good immune response to Ebola in humans. Initial data from the phase 1 trials are expected by the end of the year. The UK-led trials are being supported by funding from an international consortium involving the Wellcome Trust, the Medical Research Council and the UK Government. In parallel, funding from the consortium is enabling GSK to begin manufacturing thousands of additional doses of the vaccine. This means that, if the phase 1 trials are successful, we can begin the next phases of the clinical trial programme in early 2015 which will involve the vaccination of thousands of frontline healthcare workers in the three affected countries – Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. If the vaccine candidate is able to protect these healthcare workers as we hope it will, it could significantly contribute to efforts to bring this epidemic under control.
ALKERMES’ CORPORATE PRESENTATION TO BE WEBCAST AT THE CREDIT SUISSE 2014 HEALTHCARE CONFERENCE
Alkermes plc has announced that its corporate presentation will be webcast live at the Credit Suisse 2014 Healthcare Conference on Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014, at 11:00 a.m. MST (1:00 p.m. EST/6:00 p.m. GMT) from Phoenix, Ariz. The presentation may be accessed under the Investors tab on www.alkermes.com and will be archived for 14 days. Alkermes plc is a fully integrated, global biopharmaceutical company that applies its scientific expertise and proprietary technologies to develop innovative medicines that improve patient outcomes. The company has a diversified portfolio of more than 20 commercial drug products and a substantial clinical pipeline of product candidates that address central nervous system (CNS) disorders such as addiction, schizophrenia and depression. Headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, Alkermes plc has an R&D centre in Waltham, Massachusetts; a research and manufacturing facility in Athlone, Ireland; and manufacturing facilities in Gainesville, Georgia and Wilmington, Ohio.
IMPROVED DETERMINATION OF KEY ANALYTES IN FINE PARTICULATE MATTER
Thermo Fisher Scientific has developed an ion chromatography method with suppressed conductivity detection for sensitive determination of inorganic anions and carboxylic acids (fluoride, acetate, formate, mesylate, chloride, nitrate, succinate, malonate, sulfate, and oxalate) in airborne particulate matter (PM2.5). Application Note 1107: Determination of Anions and Carboxylic Acids in Urban Fine Particles (PM2.5) demonstrates that this new method can determine more analytes relevant to air contamination than either of the two standard methods currently in use. The determination is performed using a high-pressure ion chromatography system, the Thermo Scientific™ Dionex™ ICS-5000+ Reagent-Free™ HPIC™ system, equipped with a anion-exchange column, the Dionex IonPac AS11-HC column. The two standard IC methods currently used to determine the anion content of PM2.5 are the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Method 26A and ASTM International’s Standard Test Method ASTM D5085-02. However, the number of analytes detected and the method sensitivity of both approaches are inadequate when compared to newer technologies and current knowledge of air contaminants. Thus, organizations responsible for monitoring and managing air quality need new methods with greater sensitivity and expanded detection capabilities.
LANXESS RECORDS SOLID THIRD QUARTER 2014
The specialty chemicals company LANXESS is making rapid progress with its three-phase realignment program. With the implementation of the first phase, aimed at improving the competitiveness of the business and administrative structure, the Group plans to make total annual savings of EUR 150 million as of the end of 2016. LANXESS already expects savings of about EUR 20 million in the current year. The first phase of the realignment will result in a reduction of total headcount by about 1,000 positions worldwide by the end of 2016 –roughly half of which will be in Germany. The affected jobs will be mainly in the administrative and service units, marketing and sales, as well as in research and development. The headcount reduction will result in exceptional charges of EUR 150 million being incurred through the end of 2016 – including around EUR 100 million already in 2014. "The realignment lays the foundation for LANXESS to return to sustainable growth in the mid-term. Downsizing the workforce is a necessary measure to improve our competitiveness" said Matthias Zachert, Chairman of the Board of Management of LANXESS AG. The Group has agreed with the employee representatives on an everance program in order to implement the personnel measures at its German sites. The affected employees will be offered severance payments, advisory services and support in finding new jobs outside of LANXESS. "These job reductions are tough. However, we have reached a fair agreement with the employee representatives in Germany after a series of constructive negotiations," said Rainier van Roessel, Member of the Board of Management and Labor Relations Director of LANXESS AG. As of today, solutions have already been found for more than half of the roughly 500 employees affected in Germany. If the targeted number of job cuts has not been fully achieved when the severance program expires in a few weeks’ time, the Group cannot currently rule out dismissals for operational reasons. At its sites outside of Germany, too, the Group will implement the headcount reduction responsibly under country-specific arrangements.
Strong YMC-Triart anion exchanger
The innovative and proven YMC-Triart technology is now also available with a strong anion exchange functionality for
preparative chromatography applications.
This means that the process-related advantages of HPLC purifications can also be used for biopharmaceutical applications.
Customer advantages are:
- high throughput due to high flow rates at high pressure
- high loadability due to high dynamic binding capacity
- efficient column packing due to narrow particle size distribution
- optimised pore and particle size for biochromatography
- alkaline “cleaning-in-place“ (CIP) possible
Ideal for removal of DNA contaminations
MALVERN INSTRUMENTS ZETASIZER NANO PLAYS KEY ROLE IN RESEARCH TO DEVELOP 3D CELL CULTURES
Researchers at the School of Engineering and Materials Science, Queen Mary University London (QMUL), are using a Malvern Instruments Zetasizer Nano to provide particle size and charge data that is being used in the development of innovative hydrogel matrices for 3D cell culture. The Zetasizer Nano’s high performance electrophoretic light scattering capabilities are allowing researchers to better understand the nature of the electrostatic interactions between proteins and peptides. These measurements are crucial to developing bespoke cell culture platforms for the production of specific biologically significant hydrogel. By creating hydrogel structures based on the charge of target biomolecules, researchers at QMUL aim to develop a fabrication process for advanced cell cultures that accurately represents scenarios within healthy or diseased tissue. “Precise in vitro recreation of the complex biological environments is appealing for applications within drug screening, biological studies and tissue engineering” said Michal Lipka, PhD student from Dr Alvaro Mata’s research group. “As molecular size and charge define the parameters of these experiments, robust multivariate molecular analysis forms the bedrock of our research. The Zetasizer Nano has reliably delivered a substantial portion of this data and continues to help drive our research”. The Zetasizer Nano used in this work is one of a wide range of characterization systems available in the multi-disciplinary lab at the School of Engineering and Materials Science at QMUL. Dr Krystelle Mafina, Experimental Officer in Materials Characterization, handles all training for the instrumentation and services that allows the students to work correctly on the systems. “As part of the multi-disciplinary lab at QMUL, materials and biomaterials research groups throughout the university, from engineers and chemists through to biologists and physicists, are benefiting from access to analysis using the Zetasizer Nano” she said. Zetasizer Nano systems incorporate combinations of a particle size analyzer, zeta potential analyzer, molecular weight analyzer, protein mobility and microrheology measurements. They measure size and microrheology using dynamic light scattering; zeta potential and electrophoretic mobility using electrophoretic light scattering; and molecular weight using static light scattering. In addition to the Zetasizer Nano, the lab at QMUL encompasses a range of Malvern technology, including Mastersizer 2000 laser diffraction particle sizing and NanoSight Nanoparticle Tracking Analysis (NTA). NTA is a unique particle visualization technique that enables researchers to study the behaviour of particles and molecules over time. Many research groups at the university are using NTA alongside the Zetasizer Nano both to validate results and deliver greater insight into protein behaviour.