Combining AI and Zebrafish to Accelerate Drug Discovery

As part of our SLAS Europe 2022 coverage, we speak to Dr. Javier Terriente, Co-founder and Chief of Drug Development at ZeClinics, about how zebrafish could be the future for discovering new therapeutics.

Please could you introduce yourself and tell us about your role at ZeClinics?

My name is Javier Terriente, and I have a PhD in molecular biology. I spent 15 years in academia, and in 2013 we founded ZeClinics. I am the co-founder of ZeClinics, but I have also been leading the scientific side of the company. I was the scientific director until a couple of years ago, and today I am the chief of drug development.

Essentially, my role now within the company is to lead our internal drug development programs, and I also help with the implementation of new technologies like artificial intelligence and so on. In a way, I would say that I am the chief innovative officer in the company.

ZeClinics is a contract research organization (CRO) specializing in zebrafish research. Why was ZeClinics founded, and what are some of its core missions and values?

First and foremost, ZeClinics was founded on the basis of our expertise, which we felt could bring something new to the industry. As an academic, I had a lot of experience working with zebrafish. I was very much focused on basic research problems, but we understood from early on that the zebrafish could bring a lot of biological and experimental advantages to the industry that may be useful for drug discovery, target discovery, and understanding the safety of new compounds and more. So, we thought, ‘Why not?’. Why not create a company that can bring that expertise to the industry? Our company started small and has grown to 40 people – and we hope to grow more in the future.

In terms of core missions and values, I would say that our main mission is excellence and quality. We think – and hope – that we are always providing the best scientific output with the best quality, in terms of data management, in terms of scientific quality, and in terms of translatability of the results to humans.

I would say this excellence is what really drives us. The second mission that we have is to accelerate research. Within everything that we do, we seek to get drugs to patients earlier and at the lowest possible cost.

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Einride’s Driverless Electric Pod Approved for US Public Roads

The Swedish startup’s electric trucks will carry out a test on public roads in Q3 this year.

By Stephanie MlotStephanie Mlot

Swedish transport company Einride got the green light to operate autonomous electric trucks without a driver present on US public roads.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration approved the company’s “Pod” for public roads, which counts as an industry first for this type of driverless truck.

A sleek black-and-white box on wheels, the Einride Pod doesn’t have room for a human driver. Instead, a remote operator monitors and can step in to control the vehicle if necessary. As these are effectively electric trucks and will be transporting heavy goods, it comes as no surprise that the range is estimated to be 124 miles on a fully-charged battery.

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JHU Applied Physics Lab’s Dragonfly drone is heading to Saturn’s largest moon

A rendering of JHU APL’s Dragonfly on Saturn’s moon Titan.

By Stephen Babcock 

NASA’s next bold mission: To put a drone on a moon — the largest moon of Saturn, to be precise.

This week, the U.S. space agency picked a project led by Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab (APL) that would send a rotorcraft lander to Titan as the next mission for its New Frontiers Program.

The 10-ft. by 10-ft. robotic lander, called Dragonfly, will have eight rotors and fly like a large UAV. The mission is the first of its kind for NASA, both in the type of vehicle being used to land on another world, and its approach to landing at multiple sites.

Dragonfly will be tasked with exploring dozens of locations across the moon. Titan holds special appeal for scientists, as it’s considered to be the world in our solar system that’s most like Earth, especially the planet’s early development. So with Dragonfly, they’ll look to take measurements and samples with an eye toward exploring how what’s happening there could improve understanding of how life came to inhabit our own planet.

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This Warehouse Robot Reads Human Body Language

Machines that understand what their human teammates are doing could boost productivity without taking jobs.

RODNEY BROOKS KNOWS a fair bit about robots. Besides being a pioneer of academic robotics research, he has founded companies that have given the world the robot vacuum cleaner, the bomb disposal bot, and a factory robot anyone can program.

Now Brooks wants to introduce another revolutionary type of robot helper—a mobile warehouse robot with the ability to read human body language to tell what workers around it are doing. Robots are increasingly working in close proximity to humans, and finding ways to maximize human-machine teamwork could help companies boost productivity and perhaps lead to new kinds of jobs rather than robots replacing people. But giving robots the ability to read human cues is far from easy.

Brooks’ new company, Robust AI, unveiled its mobile robot, Carter, designed to work in warehouse facilities, last week. “The analogy here is a service dog,” Brooks says via video call. “It obeys you; you can modify its behavior, and it’s there to help you.”

Robust AI’s robot, Carter, looks like the kind of dolly you’d find at a home improvement store, but it has a motorized base, a touchscreen mounted above its handlebar, and a periscope with several cameras. It uses these cameras to scan the surrounding scene, allowing its software to identify workers nearby, and it attempts to infer what they are doing from their pose and how they are moving. If a human worker needs to move several boxes, for example, they can approach a Carter robot moving autonomously and, by grabbing the handlebar, take manual control. The robot can be configured to perform a variety of different tasks using a “no code” graphical interface—for example, to follow a person around a warehouse, carrying items that are picked from shelves.

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Watch the nuclear-powered flying hotel that can stay airborne for years with 5,000 passengers

A video of ‘Flytanic’ has the internet divided

By  Ameya Paleja

A concept video of Sky Cruise, a giant flying machine that can carry 5,000 passengers and has all the luxuries of the world, has gone viral on the internet. The maker of the video claims that such an aircraft built in the future would have no carbon footprint, The Independent reported.

The concept of a floating world in itself is not new and has been described even in Jonathan Swift’s works from the 18th century, much before the Wright Brothers made their first flight. Fans of animated movies might have also come across the concept in 1986 Japanese movie, Castle in the Sky.  

While such references in the past have relied on the ‘virtues of materials’ which make up the world to give them such flying powers, the concept, as shown above, borrows from modern-day technology to project a possible future.

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Made in Israel: First AI-designed Antibody Could Lead to Eradication of Tumors 

A computer may design the perfect antibody to fight cancer in a breakthrough for medicine. Prof. Yanay Ofran explains why testing it on mice can be misleading, and what limits creativity in biotech companies: ‘They’re searching for a new biology and trying to treat it using old technology. We do the opposite.

In recent weeks certain doctors and patients with terminal cancer in Australia have been participating in a highly important experiment. The doctors are injecting the patients with an antibody that they hope will activate a molecule familiarly known as IL-2, which is naturally produced in the human body and can eradicate tumors.

What makes the experiment unusual is that the antibody they’re injecting wasn’t produced by living tissue, but rather by computers in the laboratory of Biolojic Design in Rehovot. The antibody, known as AU-007, is the first to be designed by computer and reach the stage of clinical trials. It evokes keen hopes because if it works, it paves the way for the development of a new kind of drug based on computational biology and big data.

Like practically every drug that enters clinical trials on humans, Biolojic Design’s antibody was first tested on mice. All evinced positive reactions to the treatment. In the 17-day trial period of the study, the antibody led to the complete elimination of the tumors in ten of 19 mice, and significantly inhibited the development of tumors in the nine other mice.

Prof. Yanay Ofran, founder and CEO of Biolojic Design, is keeping his enthusiasm strictly curbed. “We have a joke we tell at conferences. ‘We have great news for all the mice in the audience. We’ve managed to infect and sicken them with 1001 diseases and cure them.’ The lingua franca of the drug development world, the empiric language it uses, is animal studies. You have to show success with an animal trial or you won’t be able to raise money, the regulator won’t let you test it on people, and doctors won’t refer their patients to the trial.”

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AMAZON WILL LAUNCH DRONE DELIVERY FOR CALIFORNIA RESIDENTS WITH PRIME AIR ELIGIBLE ITEMS

By Cortney Drakeford

Some California residents will begin receiving their Amazon deliveries from drones later this year.

On Monday, Amazon announced it plans to use drones for customer deliveries in Lockeford, California. The move will mark the first time the e-commerce company will use drones to deliver packages to customers in the United States.

The Amazon drones will deliver packages to the backyard of  Lockeford, California residents. The area is located around 40 miles south of Sacramento.

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World First Room Temperature Quantum Computer Installed in Australia

A quantum-HPC integration serving more than 4,000 researchers.

By Francisco Pires 

The world’s first on-premises, room-temperature quantum computer has just been installed in Pawsey’s Supercomputing Research Centre, in Australia. Developed by Australian start-up Quantum Brilliance, the quantum accelerator doesn’t require any exotic cooling methods to maintain quantum coherence, and has even been developed for installation in a typical rack system. The new quantum accelerator will thus be taken for a spin in tandem with Pawsey’s new, state-of-the-art Setonix, its HPE Cray Ex supercomputer.

The room-temperature achievement was unlocked due to Quantum Brilliance’s approach to quantum computing; instead of the more common ion chains, silicon quantum dots, or superconducting transmon qubits, Quantum Brilliance took advantage of specifically implanted nitrogen-vacancy centers in synthetic diamonds (where a carbon atom is replaced by a nitrogen one).

These vacancy centers amount to defects in the diamond’s structure, which feature a photoluminescence capability that allows for the qubits’ spin states to be read based on the emitted light’s characteristics, without directly interacting with the qubits. A number of techniques, such as magnetic or electric fields, microwave radiation, or light (Quantum Brilliance uses a green laser technology for this purpose) can be used to directly manipulate the nitrogen-vacancy center’s qubits. Quantum Brilliance’s qubits are described by the company as being in the “middle of the pack” for coherence times and performance, being slower than superconducting qubits, but faster than the trapped-ion approach of some other providers.

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Ep. 88 with Matt Pines

Watch our interview with Matt Pines on Youtube or listen on the Futurati Podcast website. 

In recent months there has been a flurry of activity in the government related to cryptoassets, how to regulate them, and what their implications for national security will be. Though it’s common to endorse a simplistic narrative in which Bitcoin and the government are flatly opposed to each other, the truth is more nuanced. We’ve invited Matthew Pines to the Futurati Podcast to talk to us about these issues.

Matthew is a Managing Consultant at the Krebs Stamos Group, a cybersecurity and geopolitical risk advisory firm. He has over ten years of experience helping the government and private sector firms address pressing security and resilience challenges. As a National Security Fellow at the Bitcoin Policy Institute, he applies rigorous analytical methodologies to help policy-makers understand the implications of Bitcoin as an emerging technology for the benefit of the nation. He holds a master’s degree in Philosophy and Public Policy (with Distinction) from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a bachelor’s degree in Physics and Philosophy (with Honors) from Johns Hopkins University.

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Elon Musk: SpaceX will build over 1,000 Starships to move 1 million humans to Mars

Starship | First test vehicle.

By  Chris Young

They’re basically very ‘modern Noah’s Arks.’

It’s not so long ago, in the grand scheme of things, that SpaceX was struggling to make it to orbit.

Last week, May 31, marked the 10-year anniversary of the completion of SpaceX’s first Dragon mission, COTS 2, to and from the International Space Station. 

Only a few years before, on September 28, 2008, the company reached orbit on its fourth attempt with Falcon 1.

Despite his PR inelegance and all his deadline exaggerations, it’s hard to argue against SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s impressive track record when it comes to spaceflight — his most far-out statements are known to cause even skeptical space enthusiasts to froth at the mouth. 

Still, Musk’s latest claim shared on Twitter, alongside a slide deck for a presentation he recently gave at SpaceX, will likely prove divisive.

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PRACTICAL POWER BEAMING GETS REAL

A power-beaming system developed by PowerLight Technologies conveyed hundreds of watts of power during a 2019 demonstration at the Port of Seattle. 

By PAUL JAFFE

A century later, Nikola Tesla’s dream comes true,

WIRES HAVE A LOT going for them when it comes to moving electric power around, but they have their drawbacks too. Who, after all, hasn’t tired of having to plug in and unplug their phone and other rechargeable gizmos? I

t’s a nuisance.Wires also challenge electric utilities: These companies must take pains to boost the voltage they apply to their transmission cables to very high values to avoid dissipating most of the power along the way.

And when it comes to powering public transportation, including electric trains and trams, wires need to be used in tandem with rolling or sliding contacts, which are troublesome to maintain, can spark, and in some settings will generate problematic contaminants.Many people are hungry for solutions to these issues—witness the widespread adoption over the past decade of wireless charging, mostly for portable consumer electronics but also for vehicles.

While a wireless charger saves you from having to connect and disconnect cables repeatedly, the distance over which energy can be delivered this way is quite short. Indeed, it’s hard to recharge or power a device when the air gap is just a few centimeters, much less a few meters. Is there really no practical way to send power over greater distances without wires?

To some, the whole notion of wireless power transmission evokes images of Nikola Tesla with high-voltage coils spewing miniature bolts of lightning. This wouldn’t be such a silly connection to make. Tesla had indeed pursued the idea of somehow using the ground and atmosphere as a conduit for long-distance power transmission, a plan that went nowhere.

But his dream of sending electric power over great distances without wires has persisted.To underscore how safe the system was, the host of the BBC science program “Bang Goes the Theory” stuck his face fully into a power beam.Guglielmo Marconi, who was Tesla’s contemporary, figured out how to use “Hertzian waves,” or electromagnetic waves, as we call them today, to send signals over long distances.

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Putting the metal to the pedal! Robotic taxi service gets green light to begin charging passengers for DRIVERLESS rides in San Francisco

By FIONA JACKSON

  • Regulators in California have approved the state’s first ever autonomous taxis
  • Robot cab company Cruise can now charge for driverless rides in San Francisco
  • They are confined to offer trips between 10pm and 6am in less congested areas
  • Previously it could only offer free rides to passengers without a backup driver 

We are one step closer to never having to parallel park again — as regulators in the US have given the green light to the first commercial fleet of driverless taxis in California. 

Robotic taxi service Cruise received approval to offer rides in San Francisco. 

It will be the first time an autonomous ride-hailing service in the state has been allowed to charge for rides that will have nobody else in them besides the passengers.

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