Archive for March, 2007

RNA Psuedoknots and the Universcale

I am in a hurry today, so this is going to be brief.

I was checking out the latest over at DIGG, and came across this cool flash applet make by Nikon Japan called Universcale that takes you from picometers to billion of light years in scale, showing objects (albeit, I expected a little bit more quality here) from neutrons to the edge of the universe.

Also, I’m reporting on a new discovery in the realm of viral research. Researchers at the Niels Bohr institute used optical tweezers to grab the ends of an RNA molecule produced by a bird flu virus. They found that the viral-encoded RNA has psuedoknots that cause human RNA polymerase to create the wrong protein (for human), but right for the virus! Check out more at the Science Daily article.

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Biofuels Outlook Update

Invest in biofuels today. At least, 2 people think you should — Vinod Khosla of Khosla Ventures, and Dr. Jens Riese of McKinsey & Co. who gave keynote speeches at the World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioprocessing.

An article from TheAutoChannel discussed this in further detail, but I want to highlight some important points from the post:

In a speech titled “The Role of Venture Capital in Developing Cellulosic Ethanol,” Khosla outlined the range of technologies currently being commercialized to convert cellulosic biomass to transportation fuels. Khosla said that the U.S. Department of Energy’s recent grants to cooperatively fund biorefineries that produce ethanol from cellulose is an acknowledgment that the technology is moving faster than expected. He said that a 100 percent replacement of petroleum transportation fuels with biofuels is achievable, and predicted that ethanol from cellulose technology will be cost competitive with current ethanol production by 2009.

Dr. Jens Riese of McKinsey & Co. also addressed the World Congress plenary session with a speech titled “Beyond the Hype: Global Growth in the Biofuels Industry.” Riese predicted that global annual biofuel capacity would double to 25 billion gallons over the next five years and could reach 80 billion gallons – meeting 10 percent of world transportation fuel demand, enough to replace the annual oil production for fuel of Saudi Arabia – by 2020. According to McKinsey & Company’s model, biofuels can economically replace 25 percent of transportation fuel with crude oil above $50 per barrel. He concluded that the race is on to build a biofuels industry and that companies should invest now.

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World Innovation Forum

I’m planning a trip to California to do some business development and go to the World Innovation Forum amongst other things. The conference is from April 17-18, so if you want to join me, fire me an email because I would love a wingman on this mission! Seriously. (Oh, and there’s an unwritten student rate if you ask nicely …)

I ripped off a bit of content here from the HSM website for the World Innovation Forum, but I want to show you some of the people that are going to be speaking at this event:

CLAYTON CHRISTENSEN Disruptive Innovation

Author of The Innovator’s Dilemma, the business bestseller that outlines Christensen’s revolutionary theory of disruptive innovation

RENÉE MAUBORGNE Blue Ocean Strategy

“Blue Ocean Strategy challenges everything you thought you knew about strategy” (Business Strategy Review)

RAY KURZWEIL A Look into the Future

“The restless genius” (Wall Street Journal), “the ultimate thinking machine” (Forbes), “the rightful heir to Thomas Edison” (Inc. Magazine), and one of 16 “revolutionaries who made America” (PBS)

LYN HEWARD Creativity & Innovation at Cirque du Soleil

Lyn Heward is the creative fire behind Cirque du Soleil–one of the most innovative and creative companies in the world today–helping it grow to distinct 13 troupes that perform on a global stage

VINTON G. CERF Internet: An Engine of Innovation

Google’s Chief Internet Evangelist and widely considered to be the “Father of the Internet”

MICHAEL THIENEMAN A Model of Innovation: Whirlpool

Thieneman’s global position ensures innovative products and features across all of Whirlpool’s brands, reflected in an annual sales total of more than $19 billion

RICK RASHID Microsoft: Research, Product Development, and Future Technologies

As Senior Vice President, Research, Rick Rashid oversees Microsoft Research’s worldwide operations.

In November 2006 I attended the World Science Forum, which is another conference put on by HSM in New York. It was a great conference, where I had the opportunity to meet Francis Collins, Marvin Minsky, and listen to presentations made by some of the worlds greatest minds. I highly suggest getting the chance to get out to at least one of there.

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Genotyping Becomes More Affordable

A new machine called OpenArray(TM) from BioTrove, Inc. now allows genomic research to conduct genotyping (SNP) analysis across much larger patient groups.

As described on Traditional Medicine:

Unlike other technologies, which can genotype hundreds of thousands of SNPs in a few patient samples, OpenArray allows researchers to analyze SNPs across tens of thousands of patient samples – dramatically expanding study size and data significance. OpenArray SNP genotyping is also more efficient than previous technology because of its flexible design. A single OpenArray plate holds as few as 16 or as many as 3072 separate assays, which can be run against 48-144 samples per plate. Since the OpenArray NT Imager can process three OpenArray plates at once, it can generate more than 9000 data points in less than 10 minutes, ultimately generating over 100,000 data points per day with a single employee.

This is a huge step forward in genetics research, but we are still awaiting the $1 genomic sequence. Right now we are bordering on the $1000 dollar genome, which was talked about by Michael J. Heller, Ph.D., Departments of Bioengineering/Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of California, San Diego – yesterday at the Cambridge Healthtech Institute’s “Next Generation Sequencing Applications and Cast Studies” conference in San Diego, CA.

If you’re wondering just how competitive this space is, there is a $10 million X-Prize for Genomics that was issued by Craig Venter, for the first team to successfully sequence 100 human genomes in 10 days. Details of the prize are as follows:

The $10 million X PRIZE for Genomics prize purse will be awarded to the first
Team that can build a device and use it to sequence 100 human genomes within 10
days or less, with an accuracy of no more than one error in every 100,000 bases
sequenced, with sequences accurately covering at least 98% of the genome, and at
a recurring cost of no more than $10,000 per genome.

As it seems, the race is on!

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