Tag Archives: Canada

Maple syrup as an antibiotic helper?

This maple syrup research is from McGill University in Montréal, Québec (from an April 16, 2015 McGill University news release; also on EurekAlert),

A concentrated extract of maple syrup makes disease-causing bacteria more susceptible to antibiotics, according to laboratory experiments by researchers at McGill University.

The findings, which will be published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, suggest that combining maple syrup extract with common antibiotics could increase the microbes’ susceptibility, leading to lower antibiotic usage. Overuse of antibiotics fuels the emergence of drug-resistant bacteria, which has become a major public-health concern worldwide.

Prof. Nathalie Tufenkji’s research team in McGill’s Department of Chemical Engineering prepared a concentrated extract of maple syrup that consists mainly of phenolic compounds. Maple syrup, made by concentrating the sap from North American maple trees, is a rich source of phenolic compounds.

The researchers tested the extract’s effect in the laboratory on infection-causing strains of certain bacteria, including E. coli and Proteus mirabilis (a common cause of urinary tract infection). By itself, the extract was mildly effective in combating bacteria. But the maple syrup extract was particularly effective when applied in combination with antibiotics. The extract also acted synergistically with antibiotics in destroying resistant communities of bacteria known as biofilms, which are common in difficult-to-treat infections, such as catheter-associated urinary tract infections.

“We would have to do in vivo tests, and eventually clinical trials, before we can say what the effect would be in humans,” Tufenkji says. “But the findings suggest a potentially simple and effective approach for reducing antibiotic usage. I could see maple syrup extract being incorporated eventually, for example, into the capsules of antibiotics.”

The scientists also found that the extract affects the gene expression of the bacteria, by repressing a number of genes linked with antibiotic resistance and virulence.

All maple syrup samples used in the study were purchased at local markets in Montreal, then frozen until the beginning of each experiment, which involved a series of steps to produce the phenolic-rich extract.

Tufenkji, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Biocolloids and Surfaces, has also studied the potential for cranberry derivatives to fight infection-causing bacteria. The new study is co-authored by postdoctoral fellows Vimal Maisuria and Zeinab Hosseinidoust.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper which at this time (April 24, 2014) is not yet published,,

Polyphenolic Extract from Maple Syrup Potentiates Antibiotic Susceptibility and Reduces Biofilm Formation of Pathogenic Bacteria by Vimal B. Maisuria, Zeinab Hosseinidoust, and Nathalie Tufenkji. doi: 10.1128/AEM.00239-15 AEM [Applied and Environmental Microbiology].00239-15

My guess is that this paper will be behind a paywall. Fear not! There is a very informative 3 mins. or so video,

I particularly appreciated the maple leaf-shaped glass container (still full) which is shown prominently when the researcher mentions purchasing the syrup from local markets.

Reversing Parkinson’s type symptoms in rats

Indian scientists have developed a technique for delivering drugs that could reverse Parkinson-like symptoms according to an April 22, 2015 news item on Nanowerk (Note: A link has been removed),

As baby boomers age, the number of people diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease is expected to increase. Patients who develop this disease usually start experiencing symptoms around age 60 or older. Currently, there’s no cure, but scientists are reporting a novel approach that reversed Parkinson’s-like symptoms in rats.

Their results, published in the journal ACS Nano (“Trans-Blood Brain Barrier Delivery of Dopamine-Loaded Nanoparticles Reverses Functional Deficits in Parkinsonian Rats”), could one day lead to a new therapy for human patients.

An April 22, 2015 American Chemical Society press pac news release (also on EurekAlert), which originated the news item, describes the problem the researchers were solving (Note: Links have been removed),

Rajnish Kumar Chaturvedi, Kavita Seth, Kailash Chand Gupta and colleagues from the CSIR-Indian Institute of Toxicology Research note that among other issues, people with Parkinson’s lack dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical messenger that helps nerve cells communicate with each other and is involved in normal body movements. Reduced levels cause the shaking and mobility problems associated with Parkinson’s. Symptoms can be relieved in animal models of the disease by infusing the compound into their brains. But researchers haven’t yet figured out how to safely deliver dopamine directly to the human brain, which is protected by something called the blood-brain barrier that keeps out pathogens, as well as many medicines. Chaturvedi and Gupta’s team wanted to find a way to overcome this challenge.

The researchers packaged dopamine in biodegradable nanoparticles that have been used to deliver other therapeutic drugs to the brain. The resulting nanoparticles successfully crossed the blood-brain barrier in rats, released its dopamine payload over several days and reversed the rodents’ movement problems without causing side effects.

The authors acknowledge funding from the Indian Department of Science and Technology as Woman Scientist and Ramanna Fellow Grant, and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (India).

Here’s a link to and citation for the paper,

Trans-Blood Brain Barrier Delivery of Dopamine-Loaded Nanoparticles Reverses Functional Deficits in Parkinsonian Rats by Richa Pahuja, Kavita Seth, Anshi Shukla, Rajendra Kumar Shukla, Priyanka Bhatnagar, Lalit Kumar Singh Chauhan, Prem Narain Saxena, Jharna Arun, Bhushan Pradosh Chaudhari, Devendra Kumar Patel, Sheelendra Pratap Singh, Rakesh Shukla, Vinay Kumar Khanna, Pradeep Kumar, Rajnish Kumar Chaturvedi, and Kailash Chand Gupta. ACS Nano, Article ASAP DOI: 10.1021/nn506408v Publication Date (Web): March 31, 2015
Copyright © 2015 American Chemical Society

This paper is open access.

Another recent example of breaching the blood-brain barrier, coincidentally, in rats, can be found in my Dec. 24, 2014 titled: Gelatin nanoparticles for drug delivery after a stroke. Scientists are also trying to figure out the the blood-brain barrier operates in the first place as per this April 22, 2015 University of Pennsylvania news release on EurekAlert titled, Penn Vet, Montreal and McGill researchers show how blood-brain barrier is maintained (University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Montreal or Université de Montréal, and McGill University). You can find out more about CSIR-Indian Institute of Toxicology Research here.

Graphite research at Simon Fraser University (Vancouver, Canada) and NanoXplore’s (Montréal, Canada) graphene oxide production

Graphite

Simon Fraser University (SFU) announced a partnership with Ontario’s Sheridan College and three Canadian companies (Terrella Energy Systems, Alpha Technologies, and Westport Innovations) in a research project investigating low-cost graphite thermal management products. From an April 9, 2015 SFU news release,

Simon Fraser University is partnering with Ontario’s Sheridan College, and a trio of Canadian companies, on research aimed at helping the companies to gain market advantage from improvements on low-cost graphite thermal management products.

 

Graphite is an advanced engineering material with key properties that have potential applications in green energy systems, automotive components and heating ventilating air conditioning systems.

 

The project combines expertise from SFU’s Laboratory for Alternative Energy Conversion with Sheridan’s Centre for Advanced Manufacturing and Design Technologies.

 

With $700,000 in funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council’s (NSERC) College and Community Innovation program, the research will help accelerate the development and commercialization of this promising technology, says project lead Majid Bahrami, an associate professor in SFU’s School of Mechatronics Systems Engineering (MSE) at SFU’s Surrey campus.

 

The proposed graphite products take aim at a strategic $40 billion/year thermal management products market, Bahrami notes. 

 

Inspired by the needs of the companies, Bahrami says the project has strong potential for generating intellectual property, leading to advanced manufacturing processes as well as new, efficient graphite thermal products.

 

The companies involved include:

 

Terrella Energy Systems, which recently developed a roll-embossing process that allows high-volume, cost-effective manufacturing of micro-patterned, coated and flexible graphite sheets;

 

Alpha Technologies, a leading telecom/electronics manufacturer, which is in the process of developing next-generation ‘green’ cooling solutions for their telecom/electronics systems;

 

Westport Innovations, which is interested in integrating graphite heat exchangers in their natural gas fuel systems, such as heat exchangers for heavy-duty trucks.

 

Bahrami, who holds a Canada Research Chair in Alternative Energy Conversion Systems, expects the project will also lead to significant training and future business and employment opportunities in the manufacturing and energy industry, as well as the natural resource sector and their supply chain.

 

“This project leverages previous federal government investment into world-class testing equipment, and SFU’s strong industrial relationships and entrepreneurial culture, to realize collective benefits for students, researchers, and companies,” says Joy Johnson, SFU’s VP Research. “By working together and pooling resources, SFU and its partners will continue to generate novel green technologies and energy conversion solutions.”

 

Fast Facts:

  • The goal of the NSERC College and Community Innovation program is to increase innovation at the community and/or regional level by enabling Canadian colleges to increase their capacity to work with local companies, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
  • Canada is the fifth largest exporter of raw graphite.

I have mentioned graphite here before. Generally, it’s in relation to graphite mining deposits in Ontario and Québec, which seem to have been of great interest as a source for graphene production. A Feb. 20, 2015 posting was the the latest of those mentions and, coincidentally, it features NanoXplore and graphene, the other topic noted in the head for this posting.

Graphene and NanoXplore

An April 17, 2015 news item on Azonano makes a production announcement,

Group NanoXplore Inc., a Montreal-based company specialising in the production and application of graphene and its derivative materials, announced today that it is producing Graphene Oxide in industrial quantities. The Graphene Oxide is being produced in the same 3 metric tonne per year facility used to manufacture NanoXplore’s standard graphene grades and derivative products such as a unique graphite-graphene composite suitable for anodes in Li-ion batteries.

An April 16, 2015 NanoXplore news release on MarketWired, which originated the news item, describes graphene oxide and its various uses,

Graphene Oxide (GO) is similar to graphene but with significant amounts of oxygen introduced into the graphene structure. GO, unlike graphene, can be readily mixed in water which has led people to use GO in thin films, water-based paints and inks, and biomedical applications. GO is relatively simple to synthesise on a lab scale using a modified Hummers’ method, but scale-up to industrial production is quite challenging and dangerous. This is because the Hummers’ method uses strong oxidizing agents in a highly exothermic reaction which produces toxic and explosive gas. NanoXplore has developed a completely new and different approach to producing GO based upon its proprietary graphene production platform. This novel production process is completely safe and environmentally friendly and produces GO in volumes ranging from kilogram to tonne quantities.

“NanoXplore’s ability to produce industrially useful quantities of Graphene Oxide in a safe and scalable manner is a game changer, said Dr. Soroush Nazarpour, President and CEO of NanoXplore. “Mixing graphene with standard industrially materials is the key to bringing it to industrial markets. Graphene Oxide mixes extremely well with all water based solutions, and we have received repeated customer requests for water soluble graphene over the last two years”.

It sounds exciting but it would be helpful (for someone like me, who’s ignorant about these things) to know the graphene oxide market’s size. This would help me to contextualize the excitement.

You can find out more about NanoXplore here.

Canada’s cannabis biotech and InMed Pharma’s nanoparticle-based drug delivery system grant

Unfortunately, there’s not much detail about the nanoparticle-based drug delivery of what I gather is a form of cannabis useful in the treatment of glaucoma in this April 16, 2015 news item on Azonano,

InMed Pharmaceuticals Inc., a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company that specializes in developing safer, more effective cannabinoid-based therapies, today announced that it has been awarded a grant to further develop the Company’s proprietary nanoparticle-based delivery system for their leading drug candidate CTI-085 for glaucoma.

An April 15, 2015 InMed Pharmaceuticals press release goes on to describe the lead researcher and her past experience, as well as, providing a ‘we’re thrilled and will do wonderful things with this money’ quote,

The Mitacs grant was awarded to Dr. Maryam Kabiri, Ph.D., a researcher with extensive experience in developing nanoparticle-based delivery system. Dr. Kabiri will be working with Prof. Vikramaditya G. Yadav, whose research focuses on metabolic & enzyme engineering and customize novel biosynthetic enzymes that can convert biomass-derived feedstock into better fuels, pharmaceuticals and value-added chemicals. In conjunction with InMed, the Mitacs grant will be utilized to develop a novel delivery system for glaucoma therapy.

Dr. Sazzad Hossain, Chief Scientific Officer, states, “We are pleased to have met the Mitacs funding criteria for the advancement of our proprietary glaucoma delivery system. Not only does this bring us closer to our goals of initiating our Phase 1 trial, but it furthers our business development strategy of having a proprietary delivery system that can be licensed with existing drugs endangered by patent expiration. This “therapy extension” strategy used by drug makers can be a valuable asset to InMed upon successful completion of the program. Additionally, the incorporation of an existing medicine into a new drug delivery system can significantly improve its performance in terms of efficacy, safety, and improved patient compliance.”

About Mitacs
Mitacs is a national, private not-for-profit organization that develops the next generation of innovators with vital scientific and business skills through a suite of unique research and training programs, such as Mitacs-Accelerate, Elevate, Step, Enterprise and Globalink. In partnership with companies, government and universities, Mitacs is supporting a new economy using Canada’s most valuable resource – its people.

For more information on Mitacs, visit www.mitacs.ca.

About InMed
InMed is a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company that specializes in developing cannabis based therapies through the Research and Development into the extensive pharmacology of cannabinoids coupled with innovative drug delivery systems. InMeds’ proprietary platform technology, product pipeline and accelerated development pathway are the fundamental value drivers of the Company.

As is becoming increasingly common, there’s a major focus on business even from Dr. Sazzad Hossain, the company’s chief scientific officer who might be expected to comment on the science. Business used to be the purview of the chief executive officer, the chief financial officer, the chief operating officer,  and/or the chief marketing officer.

I did manage to dig up a bit of information about InMed which was called Cannabis Technologies until fairly recently. Daniel Cossins in a Dec. 1, 2014 article for The Scientist describes the current ‘cannabis pharmaceutical’ scene. The dominant  player on the scene is a UK-based company, GW but InMed merits a mention,

Leading scientists were consulted, including  biotech entrepreneur Geoffrey Guy, who had  previously shown interest in developing cannabis-based medicines. The government granted Guy’s company, GW Pharmaceuticals, a license to grow cannabis plants. Guy’s idea was to generate strains rich in particular cannabinoid compounds that act on the nervous system, then test the effects of various cannabinoid combinations on MS and chronic pain. “It was a case of patient experience guiding scientific exploration,” says Stephen Wright, director of research and development at GW.

In 2010, the company announced the UK launch of its first cannabinoid-based product: Sativex, an oral spray for the treatment of MS spasticity, became the world’s first prescription medicine made from cannabis extracts. Sativex is now approved for use by MS patients in 24 countries, including France, Germany, Italy, and Australia. GW has partnered with Bayer and Novartis to market the  product. It has also signed up with the American branch of Japanese pharma company Otsuka to commercialize the drug in the U.S., where it is currently in Phase 3 clinical trials for treating MS spasticity and cancer pain. Earlier this year, GW’s share price surged when the US Food and Drug  Administration (FDA) granted orphan status to its cannabis-derived antiseizure drug Epidiolex, meaning it will be fast-tracked through clinical trials.

The company’s success is blazing a trail. In recent years, a handful of North American companies have set out on a similar path toward producing cannabis-derived pharmaceuticals. At least one company is developing candidates based on synthetic cannabinoids — of which two are already on the market in the U.S. — while several others are extracting chemical cocktails from the plant. They’re all hoping to capitalize on the anticipated growth of the cannabis pharma space by taking advantage of mounting data on the plant’s therapeutic effects.

“Frankly, we looked at GW and saw that the shift toward pharmacological development of marijuana is  already happening,” says Craig Schneider, president and CEO of InMed Pharmaceuticals (formerly Cannabis Technologies), a Vancouver-based biotech focused on pharmaceutical marijuana. “We see the likes of Otsuka, Novartis, and Eli Lilly diving into the space, and we want to be part of that.”

Cossins’ article goes on to discuss cannibinoids providing a tutorial of sorts on the topic. Meanwhile following on the business aspects of this story, Yahoo Finance  hosts a June 25, 2014 article from Accesswire, which provides some insight into the company, which was still being called Cannabis Technologies, and its GW aspirations,

 Cannabinoids are a diverse set of chemical compounds that act on cannabinoid receptors on cells that repress neurotransmitter release in the brain. While tetrahydrocannabinol (“THC”) and cannabidiol (“CBD”) are the two most popular cannabinoids, there are at least 85 different cannabinoids isolated from cannabis exhibiting various effects that could prove therapeutic.

GW Pharmaceuticals plc (GWPH), a biopharmaceutical company focused on discovering, developing, and commercializing novel therapeutics from its proprietary cannabinoid platform, has become the cannabinoid industry’s poster child with a ~$1.4 billion market capitalization and promising data from the clinic for the treatment of Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.

In this article, we’ll take a look at another opportunity in the sector that many are calling the “junior GW” [InMed Pharma, formerly Cannabis Technologies], focused on leveraging its proprietary Cannabinoid Drug Design Platform to rapidly develop cannabinoid-based therapies.

Fully Integrated Platform Play

Cannabis Technologies Inc. (CSE:CAN) (CANLF) is a biopharmaceutical drug discovery and development company focused on cannabinoids that has been dubbed by many as the “Junior GW” in the space. By leveraging its proprietary Cannabinoid Drug Design Platform, management aims to identify new bioactive compounds within the marijuana plant that interact with certain genes.

According to Chief Science Officer Sazzad Hossain, the platform provides the bioinformatics tools necessary to isolate and identify chemical compounds in medical marijuana in months instead of years. The company plans to use the platform to isolate compounds targeting a specific disease and then outsource the early-stage research and trials to get to Phase I quickly and inexpensively.

The company’s initial focus is on the $12 billion ocular diseases market, including the $5.7 billion glaucoma market, where its CTI-085 is preparing to undergo Phase I clinical trials shortly after having completing preclinical trials. In addition to these areas, management also expressed interest in larger market places like pain and inflammation, as well as orphan diseases, cancers, and metabolic diseases.

Similar to GW Pharmaceuticals, the company also operates a breeding and cultivation division that’s responsible for creating its medicines in-house. The proprietary phyto-stock produced by the division sets the firm apart from some of its competitors that rely on third-parties to manufacture their treatments, since the fully-integrated operations are often both lower cost and greater quality.

They certainly have high business hopes for InMed Pharma. As for the science, the company has a Cannabinoid Science webpage on its site,

The majority of pharmaceutical and academic research & development being performed with cannabis revolves around the understanding of its active ingredients, the Cannabinoids

Currently there are between 80-100 cannabinoids that have been isolated from cannabis, that affect the body’s cannabinoid receptors and are responsible for unique pharmacological effects.

There are three general types of cannabinoids: herbal cannabinoids which occur uniquely in the cannabis; endogenous cannabinoids produced in the bodies of humans and animals and synthetic cannabinoids produced in the laboratory.

I was not able to find anything about the company’s nanoparticle-based delivery system on its website.

Digital life in Estonia and the National Film Board of Canada’s ‘reclaim control of your online identity’ series

Internet access is considered a human right in Estonia (according to a July 1, 2008 story by Colin Woodard for the Christian Science Monitor). That commitment has led to some very interesting developments in Estonia which are being noticed internationally. The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (Wilson Center) is hosting the president of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves at an April 21, 2015 event (from the April 15, 2015 event invitation),

The Estonia Model: Why a Free and Secure Internet Matters
After regaining independence in 1991, the Republic of Estonia built a new government from the ground up. The result was the world’s most comprehensive and efficient ‘e-government': a digital administration with online IDs for every citizen, empowered by a free nationwide Wi-Fi network and a successful school program–called Tiger Leap–that boosts tech competence at every age level. While most nations still struggle to provide comprehensive Internet access, Estonia has made major progress towards a strong digital economy, along with robust protections for citizen rights. E-government services have made Estonia one of the world’s most attractive environments for tech firms and start-ups, incubating online powerhouses like Skype and Transferwise.

An early adopter of information technology, Estonia was also one of the first victims of a cyber attack. In 2007, large-scale Distributed Denial of Service attacks took place, mostly against government websites and financial services. The damages of these attacks were not remarkable, but they did give the country’s security experts  valuable experience and information in dealing with such incidents. Eight years on, the Wilson Center is pleased to welcome Estonia’s President Toomas Hendrik Ilves for a keynote address on the state of cybersecurity, privacy, and the digital economy. [emphasis mine]

Introduction
The Honorable Jane Harman
Director, President and CEO, The Wilson Center

Keynote
His Excellency Toomas Hendrik Ilves
President of the Republic of Estonia

The event is being held in Washington, DC from 1 – 2 pm EST on April 21, 2015. There does not seem to be a webcast option for viewing the presentation online (a little ironic, non?). You can register here, should you be able to attend.

I did find a little more information about Estonia and its digital adventures, much of it focused on digital economy, in an Oct. 8, 2014 article by Lily Hay Newman for Slate,

Estonia is planning to be the first country to offer a status called e-residency. The program’s website says, “You can become an e-Estonian!” …

The website says that anyone can apply to become an e-resident and receive an e-Estonian online identity “in order to get secure access to world-leading digital services from wherever you might be.” …

You can’t deny that the program has a compelling marketing pitch, though. It’s “for anybody who wants to run their business and life in the most convenient aka digital way!”

You can find the Estonian e-residency website here. There’s also a brochure describing the benefits,

It is especially useful for entrepreneurs and others who already have some relationship to Estonia: who do business, work, study or visit here but have not become a resident. However, e-residency is also launched as a platform to offer digital services to a global audience with no prior Estonian affiliation – for  anybody  who  wants  to  run their  business  and  life in  the  most convenient aka digital way! We plan to keep adding new useful services from early 2015 onwards.

I also found an Oct. 31, 2013 blog post by Peter Herlihy on the gov.uk website for the UK’s Government Digital Service (GDS). Herlihy offers the perspective of a government bureaucrat (Note: A link has been removed),

I’ve just got back from a few days in the Republic of Estonia, looking at how they deliver their digital services and sharing stories of some of the work we are up to here in the UK. We have an ongoing agreement with the Estonian government to work together and share knowledge and expertise, and that is what brought me to the beautiful city of Tallinn.

I knew they were digitally sophisticated. But even so, I wasn’t remotely prepared for what I learned.

Estonia has probably the most joined up digital government in the world. Its citizens can complete just about every municipal or state service online and in minutes. You can formally register a company and start trading within 18 minutes, all of it from a coffee shop in the town square. You can view your educational record, medical record, address, employment history and traffic offences online – and even change things that are wrong (or at least directly request changes). The citizen is in control of their data.

So we should do whatever they’re doing then, right? Well, maybe. …

National Film Board of Canada

There’s a new series being debuted this week about reclaiming control of your life online and titled: Do Not Track according to an April 14, 2015 post on the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) blog (Note: Links have been removed),

An eye-opening personalized look at how online data is being tracked and sold.

Starting April 14 [2015], the online interactive documentary series Do Not Track will show you just how much the web knows about you―and the results may astonish you.

Conceived and directed by acclaimed Canadian documentary filmmaker and web producer Brett Gaylor, the 7-part series Do Not Track is an eye-opening look at how online behaviour is being tracked, analyzed and sold―an issue affecting each of us, and billions of web users around the world.

Created with the goal of helping users learn how to take back control of their digital identity, Do Not Track goes beyond a traditional documentary film experience: viewers who agree to share their personal data are offered an astounding real-time look at how their online ID is being tracked.

Do Not Track is a collective investigation, bringing together public media broadcasters, writers, developers, thinkers and independent media makers, including Gaylor, Vincent Glad, Zineb Dryef, Richard Gutjahr, Sandra Rodriguez, Virginie Raisson and the digital studio Akufen.

Do Not Track episodes launch every 2 weeks, from April 14 to June 9, 2015, in English, French and German. Roughly 7 minutes in length, each episode has a different focus―from our mobile phones to social networks, targeted advertising to big data with a different voice and a different look, all coupled with sharp and varied humour. Episodes are designed to be clear and accessible to all.

You can find Do Not Track here, episode descriptions from the April 14, 2015 posting,

April 14 | Episode 1: Morning Rituals
This episode introduces viewers to Brett Gaylor and offers a call to action: let’s track the trackers together.

Written and directed by Brett Gaylor

Interviews: danah boyd, principal researcher, Microsoft Research; Nathan Freitas, founder, and Harlo Holmes, software developer, The Guardian Project; Ethan Zuckerman, director, MIT Center for Civic Media*

April 14 | Episode 2: Breaking Ad
We meet the man who invented the Internet pop-up ad―and a woman who’s spent nearly a decade reporting on the web’s original sin: advertising.

Directed by Brett Gaylor | Written by Vincent Glad

Interviews: Ethan Zuckerman; Julia Angwin, journalist and author of Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance*

April 28 | Episode 3: The Harmless Data We Leave on Social Media
This episode reveals how users can be tracked from Facebook activity and how far-reaching the data trail is.

Directed by Brett Gaylor | Written by Sandra Marsh | Hosted by Richard Gutjahr

Interviews: Constanze Kurz, writer and computer scientist, Chaos Computer Club

May 12 | Episode 4: Your Mobile Phone, the Spy
Your smartphone is spying on you—where does all this data go, what becomes of it, and how is it used?

Directed by Brett Gaylor | Written and hosted by Zineb Dryef

Interviews: Harlo Holmes; Rand Hindi, data scientist and founder of Snips*

May 26 | Episode 5: Big Data and Its Algorithms
There’s an astronomical quantity of data that may or may not be used against us. Based on the information collected since the start of this documentary, users discover the algorithmic interpretation game and its absurdity.

Directed by Sandra Rodriguez and Akufen | Written by Sandra Rodriguez

Interviews: Kate Crawford, principal researcher, Microsoft Research New York City; Matthieu Dejardins, e-commerce entrepreneur and CEO, NextUser; Tyler Vigen, founder, Spurious Correlations, and Joint Degree Candidate, Harvard Law School; Cory Doctorow, science fiction novelist, blogger and technology activist; Alicia Garza, community organizer and co-founder, #BlackLivesMatter; Yves-Alexandre De Montjoye, computational privacy researcher, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab*

June 9 | Episode 6: Filter Bubble
The Internet uses filters based on your browsing history, narrowing down the information you get―until you’re painted into a digital corner.

Written and directed by Brett Gaylor*

June 9 | Episode 7:  The Future of Tracking
Choosing to protect our privacy online today will dramatically shape our digital future. What are our options?

Directed by Brett Gaylor | Written by Virginie Raisson

Interviews: Cory Doctorow

Enjoy!

Interactive haiku from Canada’s National Film Board

This comes from an April 2, 2015 posting on Canada’s National Film Board blog,

Designed to surprise, move, and inspire thought, Interactive Haiku will be released throughout the month of April, with 4 stories launching today. The project will also be featured at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, as part of Tribeca Film Institute Interactive’s “Interactive Playground.”

Recently, the NFB and ARTE [France, interactive platform] asked creators to experiment a new kind of short interactive work: the very short form, or digital equivalent of the haiku. The 12 winning proposals come from 6 different countries and were selected out of 162 submissions from 20 nations.

The projects are accessible online or via tablets.

All of the interactive haiku follow 10 creative rules. These include: a 60-second time limit; being accessible to an international audience, and creating an experience that nudges us to see the world differently.

Discover the first 4 of these bite-sized, mind-jolting experiences below, along with some creative footnoting, courtesy of their vanguard creators.

Don’t want to miss a haiku? Subscribe to receive an e-mail notification (top left corner)! A new haiku will be released every Monday and Thursday of April (except for Easter Monday.)

Here’s a description of the four haiku pieces released in the first batch (from the April 2, 2015 NFB posting),

Cat’s Cradle

by Thibaut Duverneix, David Drury, Jean-Maxime Couillard, Gentilhomme (Canada)

HAIKUS_03-CATS-CRADDLE_550px

A game of strings, frequencies, stars, and distances. Elegantly explore the theory of everything! (Experience Cat’s Cradle)

Who knew theoretical physics’ Superstring theory was such child’s play?!

“What is fascinating about [Superstring] theory is that it is extremely hard to prove – it forces mathematics and physics to work in an imaginary and deeply complex sandbox. The theory and its implications give rise to a wealth of poetic, even romantic, imagery, which is where our treatment begins.

In our interactive haiku, we propose a novel conception of this topic, treating it metaphorically with one of the most playful, simple and naive of childhood games: cat’s cradle.”

*

Speech Success

by Roc Albalat, Pau Artigas, Jorge Caballero and Marcel Pié (Spain)

HAIKUS_01-SPEECH-SUCCESS_550px

The crowd is huge, tightly packed, and merciless. All eyes are on you. Will you be cheered… or will you flame out? (Experience Speech Success)

“If the haiku is based on the poet’s amazement at the sight of nature, here we look at certain attitudes toward technology – our present environment.

[Our haiku] gives a parodic representation of online social relationships. The Internet works as a public screen through which we try to break our isolation and be recognized. Often, our public shows of vanity don’t find targets: that’s why we have created a virtual public. We’ve programmed this audience to react to mood: the spectators’ reaction varies according to the speaker’s emotional intensity. The aim is to be ironic about our attempts to be heard on the network: finally you find somebody on the other side of the screen that listens and understands you –  for 60 full seconds.”

*

Life is Short

by Florian Veltman and Baptiste Portefaix (France)

HAIKUS_11-LIFE-IS-SHORT_550px

From first to last words, everything goes by too fast. Relive the key moments of your life in a few seconds. (Experience Life is Short)

“As time goes by, our lives begin to appear shorter and shorter. And yet, we rarely take the time to stop and contemplate everything we’ve lived through and are still experiencing in the moment. Our haiku offers a quick opportunity to stop and reflect on time, memory, and our own inexorable demise. But pay attention! Life is Short can be only be enjoyed once – like life itself.”

*

Music is the Key of Life

by Theodor Twetman and Viktor Lanneld (Sweden)

HAIKUS_07-MUSIC-IN-THE-KEY-OF-LIFE_550px

Everyday objects possess an innate melody. Scan the barcodes of the objects around you and let the music play! (Experience Music is the Key of Life)

“Our haiku takes something ever-present but seldom noticed – the barcode – and makes it the star of the show. Relying on the camera, a tool seldom used in web applications, it brings interactivity beyond what’s on the screen, forcing the user to interact with physical objects that aren’t usually perceived as valuable or interesting.

In normal life, the barcode announces its presence with a simple beep noise when scanned at the supermarket. With our haiku, each code is given the opportunity to be noticed for its uniqueness, perhaps helping people notice and appreciate their beauty and the hard work they do.”

Enjoy!

Microbubbles reform into nanoparticles after bursting

It seems researchers at the Toronto-based (Canada), Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, have developed a new theranostic tool made of microbubbles used for imaging that are then burst into nanoparticles delivering therapeutics. From a March 30, 2015 news item on phys.org,

Biomedical researchers led by Dr. Gang Zheng at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre have successfully converted microbubble technology already used in diagnostic imaging into nanoparticles that stay trapped in tumours to potentially deliver targeted, therapeutic payloads.

The discovery, published online today [March 30, 2015] in Nature Nanotechnology, details how Dr. Zheng and his research team created a new type of microbubble using a compound called porphyrin – a naturally occurring pigment in nature that harvests light.

A March 30, 2015 University Health Network news release on EurekAlert, which originated the news item, describes the laboratory research on mice,

In the lab in pre-clinical experiments, the team used low-frequency ultrasound to burst the porphyrin containing bubbles and observed that they fragmented into nanoparticles. Most importantly, the nanoparticles stayed within the tumour and could be tracked using imaging.

“Our work provides the first evidence that the microbubble reforms into nanoparticles after bursting and that it also retains its intrinsic imaging properties. We have identified a new mechanism for the delivery of nanoparticles to tumours, potentially overcoming one of the biggest translational challenges of cancer nanotechnology. In addition, we have demonstrated that imaging can be used to validate and track the delivery mechanism,” says Dr. Zheng, Senior Scientist at the Princess Margaret and also Professor of Medical Biophysics at the University of Toronto.

Conventional microbubbles, on the other hand, lose all intrinsic imaging and therapeutic properties once they burst, he says, in a blink-of-an-eye process that takes only a minute or so after bubbles are infused into the bloodstream.

“So for clinicians, harnessing microbubble to nanoparticle conversion may be a powerful new tool that enhances drug delivery to tumours, prolongs tumour visualization and enables them to treat cancerous tumours with greater precision.”

For the past decade, Dr. Zheng’s research focus has been on finding novel ways to use heat, light and sound to advance multi-modality imaging and create unique, organic nanoparticle delivery platforms capable of transporting cancer therapeutics directly to tumours.

Interesting development, although I suspect there are many challenges yet to be met such as ensuring the microbubbles consistently arrive at their intended destination in sufficient mass to be effective both for imaging purposes and, later, as nanoparticles for drug delivery purposes.

Here’s a link to and citation for the paper,

In situ conversion of porphyrin microbubbles to nanoparticles for multimodality imaging by Elizabeth Huynh, Ben Y. C. Leung, Brandon L. Helfield, Mojdeh Shakiba, Julie-Anne Gandier, Cheng S. Jin, Emma R. Master, Brian C. Wilson, David E. Goertz, & Gang Zheng. Nature Nanotechnology (2015) doi:10.1038/nnano.2015.25 Published online 30 March 2015

This paper is behind a paywall but a free preview is available via ReadCube Access.

This is one of those times where I’m including the funding agencies and the ‘About’ portions of the news release,

The research published today was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Frederick Banting and Charles Best Canada Graduate Scholarship, the Emerging Team Grant on Regenerative Medicine and Nanomedicine co-funded by the CIHR and the Canadian Space Agency, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, the International Collaborative R&D Project of the Ministry of Knowledge Economy, South Korea, the Joey and Toby Tanenbaum/Brazilian Ball Chair in Prostate Cancer Research, the Canada Foundation for Innovation and The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation.

About Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, University Health Network

The Princess Margaret Cancer Centre has achieved an international reputation as a global leader in the fight against cancer and delivering personalized cancer medicine. The Princess Margaret, one of the top five international cancer research centres, is a member of the University Health Network, which also includes Toronto General Hospital, Toronto Western Hospital and Toronto Rehabilitation Institute. All are research hospitals affiliated with the University of Toronto. For more information, go to http://www.theprincessmargaret.ca or http://www.uhn.ca .

I was not expecting to see South Korea or Brazil mentioned in the funding. Generally, when multiple countries are funding research, their own research institutions are also involved. As for the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre being one of the top five such centres internationally, I wonder how these rankings are determined.

Graphene light bulb to hit UK stores later in 2015

I gather people at the University of Manchester are quite happy about the graphene light bulb which their spin-off (or spin-out) company, Graphene Lighting PLC, is due to deliver to the market sometime later in 2015. From a March 30, 2015 news item by Nancy Owano on phys.org (Note: A link has been removed),

The BBC reported on Saturday [March 28, 2015] that a graphene bulb is set for shops, to go on sale this year. UK developers said their graphene bulb will be the first commercially viable consumer product using the super-strong carbon; bulb was developed by a Canadian-financed company, Graphene Lighting, one of whose directors is Prof Colin Bailey at the University of Manchester. [emphasis mine]

I have not been able to track down the Canadian connection mentioned (*never in any detail) in some of the stories. A March 30, 2015 University of Manchester press release makes no mention of Canada or any other country in its announcement (Note: Links have been removed),

A graphene lightbulb with lower energy emissions, longer lifetime and lower manufacturing costs has been launched thanks to a University of Manchester research and innovation partnership.

Graphene Lighting PLC is a spin-out based on a strategic partnership with the National Graphene Institute (NGI) at The University of Manchester to create graphene applications.

The UK-registered company will produce the lightbulb, which is expected to perform significantly better and last longer than traditional LED bulbs.

It is expected that the graphene lightbulbs will be on the shelves in a matter of months, at a competitive cost.

The University of Manchester has a stake in Graphene Lighting PLC to ensure that the University benefits from commercial applications coming out of the NGI.

The graphene lightbulb is believed to be the first commercial application of graphene to emerge from the UK, and is the first application from the £61m NGI, which only opened last week.

Graphene was isolated at The University of Manchester in 2004 by Sir Andre Geim and Sir Kostya Novoselov, earning them the Nobel prize for Physics in 2010. The University is the home of graphene, with more than 200 researchers and an unrivalled breadth of graphene and 2D material research projects.

The NGI will see academic and commercial partners working side by side on graphene applications of the future. It is funded by £38m from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and £23m from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

There are currently more than 35 companies partnering with the NGI. In 2017, the University will open the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC), which will accelerate the process of bringing products to market.

Professor Colin Bailey, Deputy President and Deputy Vice-Chancellor of The University of Manchester said: “This lightbulb shows that graphene products are becoming a reality, just a little more than a decade after it was first isolated – a very short time in scientific terms.

“This is just the start. Our partners are looking at a range of exciting applications, all of which started right here in Manchester. It is very exciting that the NGI has launched its first product despite barely opening its doors yet.”

James Baker, Graphene Business Director, added: “The graphene lightbulb is proof of how partnering with the NGI can deliver real-life products which could be used by millions of people.

“This shows how The University of Manchester is leading the way not only in world-class graphene research but in commercialisation as well.”

Chancellor George Osborne and Sir Kostya Novoselov with the graphene lightbulb Courtesy: University of Manchester

Chancellor George Osborne and Sir Kostya Novoselov with the graphene lightbulb Courtesy: University of Manchester

This graphene light bulb announcement comes on the heels of the university’s official opening of its National Graphene Institute mentioned here in a March 26, 2015 post.

Getting back to graphene and light bulbs, Judy Lin in a March 30, 2015 post on LEDinside.com offers some details such as proposed pricing and more,

These new bulbs will be priced at GBP 15 (US $22.23) each.

The dimmable bulb incorporates a filament-shaped LED coated in graphene, which was designed by Manchester University, where the strong carbon material was first discovered.

$22 seems like an expensive light bulb but my opinion could change depending on how long it lasts. ‘Longer lasting’ (and other variants of the term) seen in the news stories and press release are not meaningful to me. Perhaps someone could specify how many hours and under what conditions?

* ‘but’ removed as it was unnecessary, April 3, 2015.

ETA April 3, 2105: Dexter Johnson has provided a thought-provoking commentary about this graphene light bulb in an April 2, 2015 post on his Nanoclast blog (on the IEEE [Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers] website), Note: Links have been removed,

The big story this week in graphene, after taking into account the discovery of “grapene,” [Dexter’s April Fool’s Day joke posting] has to be the furor that has surrounded news that a graphene-coated light bulb was to be the “first commercially viable consumer product” using graphene.

Since the product is not expected to be on store shelves until next year, “commercially viable” is both a good hedge and somewhat short on meaning. The list of companies with a commercially viable graphene-based product is substantial, graphene-based conductive inks and graphene-based lithium-ion anodes come immediately to mind. Even that list neglects products that are already commercially available, never mind “viable”, like Head’s graphene-based tennis racquets.

Dexter goes on to ask more pointed questions and shares the answers he got from Daniel Cochlin, the graphene communications and marketing manager at the University of Manchester. I confess I got caught up in the hype. It’s always good to have someone bringing things back down to earth. Thank you Dexter!

CelluForce celebrates a new investor but gives no details about research or applications

The most one can gather from the news item/press release is that CelluForce is researching applications in the oil and gas sector and that they’re very happy to receive money although there’s no indication as to how much. From a March 26, 2015 news item on Azonano,

CelluForce is pleased to announce an investment into the company by Schlumberger, the world’s leading supplier of technology, integrated project management and information solutions for the global oil and gas industry.

CelluForce’s March 25, 2015 press release does go on but there are no more details to be had,

This investment furthers the collaboration between CelluForce and Schlumberger to explore the use of CelluForce’s wood-derived nano-crystalline cellulose (CelluForce NCCTM) to enhance the productivity of oil and gas wells.

“We are very proud to be expanding our partnership with Schlumberger, the world’s leading oil and gas service company”, stated René Goguen, Acting President of CelluForce. “We have always believed that NCC applications hold promise extending far beyond the forest sector, and we see this investment from an international company as respected as Schlumberger as confirmation of this belief.”

NCC is a fundamental building block of trees that can be extracted from the forest biomass and has unique properties that offer a wide range of potential applications. Measured in units as small as nanometres, these tiny structures have strength properties comparable to steel and will have uses in a variety of industrial sectors.

The first small-scale NCC pilot plant was built and began operation in 2006 at FPInnovations’ laboratory in Montréal, Québec. Supported in part by Natural Resources Canada and the Ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles du Québec, the pilot plant operation led to a scalable NCC production process and placed Canada in the pole position of the global race towards commercial NCC manufacture. Based on the success of the small-scale pilot plant, CelluForce, a joint venture of Domtar and FPInnovations, was created which led to the construction of a demonstration plant at Domtar’s mill in Windsor, Québec, having a production capacity of 1000 kg of NCC per day.

This announcement follows the recent announcement by the Honourable Greg Rickford, Minister of Natural Resources, of a $4.0 million contribution by Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) to optimize the extraction process of NCC from dry wood pulp and develop applications for its use in the oil and gas sector.

The $4M Canadian federal government investment was mentioned in my Feb. 19, 2015 post (scroll down about 40% of the way).

I get the feeling CelluForce is trying to recover from a setback and I wonder if it has anything to do with their production facility’s stockpile of NCC (aka, CNC or cellulose nanocrystals), first mentioned here in an Oct. 3, 2013 post. There was much fanfare about producing NCC/CNC but there was and is no substantive demand for the material in Canada or anywhere else globally.

Canada has three facilities that produce CNC (CelluForce being the largest) and there are production facilities in other countries. To date, there is no major application for CNC but given its properties, there is substantive research into how it could be commercialized. My Nov. 25, 2014 post covers a recent US report about commercializing nanocellulosic materials, including CNC.

I hope that CelluForce is able to overcome whatever problems it seems to be experiencing. Certainly, investments such as Schlumberger’s hint at the possibility. I wish the management team good luck.