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Diverse biotech industry pumps millions into state, national economies

By Pete Bach
Gannett Wisconsin Media

BROTHERTOWN — The corn crop sprouting on Bill Hansen's 150-acre farm in Calumet County has a secret: It's fortified with special traits at the microscopic level.

Such genetic alterations begin with the corn seed, which allows it to grow into a plant resistant to rootworms and insects, disease and drought, as well as the popular herbicide Roundup.

It's important because encroaching weeds compete for the same moisture as crops; killing them without collateral damage to the corn makes for a more productive field with noticeably taller stalks, Hansen said.

Genetically altered crops have become the norm. Eighty percent to 90 percent of all soybeans planted in Wisconsin possess what the agricultural community refers to as biotech yield traits, said Kevin Jarek, crops, soils and horticulture agent for the University of Wisconsin-Extension in Outagamie County.

That's also true for 40 percent of the corn grown in the state.

"When you look at crops that have been grown with biotech improvements in the state, it's grown exponentially from where it was five or 10 years ago," Jarek said.

But Wisconsin's blooming biotech industry doesn't just protect corn. It helps protect the state's economic interests too.

The industry in Wisconsin, home to more than 400 biotech companies employing 34,000 people, is among the nation's largest.

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Next Generation Clinical Research Receives Dane County Small Business Award

Madison, Wisconsin-June 19, 2009- Next Generation Clinical Research is proud to announce it has been named one of this year’s recipients of the Dane County Small Business Award. This prestigious award recognizes small businesses in Dane County who are making strong contributions to our communities and economy.

“It is a great honor to be selected as one of the award recipients this year. This is especially exciting as we celebrate our tenth anniversary.” commented Laura L. Douglass, President & CEO of Next Generation.

Next Generation provides services to small and mid-sized pharmaceutical and biotech companies in the development of new drugs. The company manages clinical trials throughout the US and Canada while providing medical safety oversight and data management services. Douglass credits “employee expertise and adaptability” for company’s continued success in a fast paced and highly regulated industry. Next Generation’s work has supported the approval of new medications in areas of neurological disorders and kidney disease. Douglass relayed “It’s exciting to have a role in finding new cures and impacting people’s lives”.

Next Generation was also recognized for their community contributions as the company sponsors high school scholarships and contributes to numerous local charity and volunteer organizations. Next Generation received the award at a breakfast ceremony emceed by Jody Glynn Patrick of InBusiness Magazine with comments by Dane County Executive, Kathleen Falk. The award is coordinated by the University of Wisconsin Small Business Development Center with judges from different industry sectors each year. Award sponsors for 2009 included Centro Hispano, Chase, In Business Magazine, Madison Gas & Electric, Mid-West Family Broadcasting, Urban League of Greater Madison, UW-Madison Small Business Development Center, Wisconsin Business Development Finance Corporation.

ABOUT NEXT GENERATION – Next Generation is a Contract Research Organization (CRO) focused on providing clinical trial management services to small and mid-sized pharmaceutical and biotech organizations. The company was founded in 1999 and conducts novel, complex clinical trial projects throughout the United States and Canada.

Christine Wood-Tank
Next Generation Clinical Research
Phone: 608-835-5811

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Imaging software IB Neuro™ shows high correlation with tissue analysis

A preliminary study, led by cancer researchers at Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center (BNI-SJHMC) and Imaging Biometrics LLC (IB), has validated a magnetic resonance imaging perfusion (pMRI) technology with stereotactic tissue biopsy results. Using the proprietary technology contained in IB Neuro™, an accuracy of 95.6% was obtained when distinguishing tumor from post treatment radiation effects (PTRE). This makes IB Neuro™ the only perfusion analysis product directly validated with spatially accurate tissue samples.

IB Neuro™ uses dynamic susceptibility contrast (DSC) perfusion algorithms to provide information about blood volume and blood flow in the brain. These critical perfusion parameters are valuable for detecting the growth of new tumor blood vessels (angiogenesis). This angiogenic information allows clinicians to more accurately diagnose tumor aggressiveness and potentially predict responses to anti-tumor therapies. However, this rich information has not been widely accepted due to the lack of a reliable and standardized method for use in routine clinical patients.

Researchers at BNI-SJHMC have developed a unique method of correlating imaging measurements with biopsied tumor samples, which has shown promise in validating techniques using IB NeuroTM. Directly comparing pMRI measurements with brain tumor tissue biopsy samples could result in a long awaited standardized pMRI approach. This technology can potentially lead to safer, more efficient, and more accurate diagnosis and treatment of glioma patients.

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Sonic laser or "Saser"


It was an idea born out of curiosity in the physics lab, but now a new type of ‘laser’ for generating ultra-high frequency sound waves instead of light has taken a major step towards becoming a unique and highly useful 21st century technology.

Scientists at The University of Nottingham, in collaboration with colleagues in the Ukraine, have produced a new type of acoustic laser device called a Saser. It’s a sonic equivalent to the laser and produces an intense beam of uniform sound waves on a nano scale. The new device could have significant and useful applications in the worlds of computing, imaging, and even anti-terrorist security screening.

Where a ‘laser’,(Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation), uses packets of electromagnetic vibrations called ‘photons’, the ‘Saser’ uses sound waves composed of sonic vibrations called ‘phonons’. In a laser, the photon beam is produced by stimulating electrons with an external power source so they release energy when they collide with other photons in a highly reflective optical cavity. This produces a coherent and controllable shining beam of laser light in which all the photons have the same frequency and rate of oscillation. From supermarket scanners to DVD players, surgery, manufacturing and the defence industry, the application of laser technology is widespread.

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Prototype Nokia phone recharges without wires

Pardon the cliche, but it's one of the holiest of Holy Grails of technology: Wireless power. And while early lab experiments have been able to "beam" electricity a few feet to power a light bulb, the day when our laptops and cell phones can charge without having to plug them in to a wall socket still seems decades in the future.

Nokia, however, has taken another baby step in that direction with the invention of a cell phone that recharges itself using a unique system: It harvest ambient radio waves from the air, and turns that energy into usable power. Enough, at least, to keep a cell phone from running out of juice.

While "traditional" (if there is such a thing) wireless power systems are specifically designed with a transmitter and receiver in mind, Nokia's system isn't finicky about where it gets its wireless waves. TV, radio, other mobile phone systems -- all of this stuff just bounces around the air and most of it is wasted, absorbed into the environment or scattered into the ether. Nokia picks up all the bits and pieces of these waves and uses the collected electromagnetic energy to create electrical current, then uses that to recharge the phone's battery. A huge range of frequencies can be utilized by the system (there's no other way, really, as the energy in any given wave is infinitesimal). It's the same idea that Tesla was exploring 100 years ago, just on a tiny scale.

Full story.

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Crustacean shell with polyester creates mixed-fiber material for nerve repair

In the clothing industry it's common to mix natural and synthetic fibers. Take cotton and add polyester to make clothing that's soft, breathable and wrinkle free.

Now researchers at the University of Washington are using the same principle for biomedical applications. Mixing chitosan, found in the shells of crabs and shrimp, with an industrial polyester creates a promising new material for the tiny tubes that support repair of a severed nerve, and could serve other medical uses. The hybrid fiber combines the biologically favorable qualities of the natural material with the mechanical strength of the synthetic polymer.

"A nerve guide requires very strict conditions. It needs to be biocompatible, stable in solution, resistant to collapse and also pliable, so that surgeons can suture it to the nerve," said Miqin Zhang, a UW professor of material science and engineering and lead author of a paper now available online in the journal Advanced Materials. "This turns out to be very difficult."

After an injury that severs a peripheral nerve, such as one in a finger, nerve endings continue to grow. But to regain control of the nerve surgeons must join the two fragments. For large gaps surgeons used to attempt a more difficult nerve graft. Current surgical practice is to attach tiny tubes, called nerve guides, that channel the two fragments toward each other.

Today's commercial nerve guides are made from collagen, a structural protein derived from animal cells. But collagen is expensive, the protein tends to trigger an immune response and the material is weak in wet environments, such as those inside the body.

The strength of the nerve guide is important for budding nerve cells.

Full story.

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New antibiotics could come from a DNA binding compound that kills bacteria in 2 minutes

A synthetic DNA binding compound has proved surprisingly effective at binding to the DNA of bacteria and killing all the bacteria it touched within two minutes. The DNA binding properties of the compound were first discovered in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Warwick by Professor Mike Hannon and Professor Alison Rodger (Professor Mike Hannon is now at the University of Birmingham). However the strength of its antibiotic powers have now made it a compound of high interest for University of Warwick researchers working on the development of novel antibiotics.

Dr Adair Richards from the University of Warwick said:

"This research will assist the design of new compounds that can attack bacteria in a highly effective way which gets around the methods bacteria have developed to resist our current antibacterial drugs. As this antibiotic compound operates by targeting DNA, it should avoid all current resistance mechanisms of multi-resistant bacteria such as MRSA."

The compound [Fe2L3]4+ is an iron triple helicate with three organic strands wrapped around two iron centres to give a helix which looks cylindrical in shape and neatly fits within the major groove of a DNA helix. It is about the same size as the parts of a protein that recognise and bind with particular sequences of DNA. The high positive charge of the compound enhances its ability to bind to DNA which is negatively charged.

When the iron-helicate binds to the major groove of DNA it coils the DNA so that it is no longer available to bind to anything else and is not able to drive biological or chemical processes. Initially the researchers focused on the application of this useful property for targeting the DNA of cancer cells as it could bind to, coil up and shut down the cancer cell's DNA either killing the cell or stopping it replicate. However the team quickly realised that it might also be a very clever way of targeting drug-resistant bacteria.

Full story.

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A Billion Year Ultra-Dense Memory Chip

When it comes to data storage, density and durability have always moved in opposite directions - the greater the density the shorter the durability. For example, information carved in stone is not dense but can last thousands of years, whereas today’s silicon memory chips can hold their information for only a few decades. Researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC) Berkeley have smashed this tradition with a new memory storage medium that can pack thousands of times more data into one square inch of space than conventional chips and preserve this data for more than a billion years!

This video shows an iron nanoparticle shuttle moving through a carbon nanotube in the presence of a low voltage electrical current. The shuttle’s position inside the tube can function as a high-density nonvolatile memory element. (Courtesy of Zettl Research Group) “We’ve developed a new mechanism for digital memory storage that consists of a crystalline iron nanoparticle shuttle enclosed within the hollow of a multiwalled carbon nanotube,” said physicist Alex Zettl who led this research.

“Through this combination of nanomaterials and interactions, we’ve created a memory device that features both ultra-high density and ultra-long lifetimes, and that can be written to and read from using the conventional voltages already available in digital electronics.”

Full story.

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Seattle, WA and Elm Grove, WI (June 3, 2009) – Clario Medical Imaging and Imaging Biometrics announced today that their two products (zVision™ and IB Neuro™) have been integrated. Clario will be non-exclusively offering the IB Neuro plug-in for sale to current and future zVision customers. The combined software will be demonstrated at the upcoming SIIM ’09 meeting in Charlotte, NC.

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