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Newt on neuroscience

By | November 6, 2007

In a talk Monday (Nov 5) that received a standing ovation by several hundred neuroscientists, Newt Gingrich urged scientists to pester lawmakers for greater linkurl:research funding;http://www.the-scientist.com/2007/7/1/28/1/. As the former Speaker of the House put it, "This is a multi-trillion dollar budget. They can always find the money if they want to." Gingrich tasked audience members to spend at least 15 minutes every six months appealing to lawmakers for funding. "If those who know are t

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iGEM parts and patents

By | November 5, 2007

This year's iGEM linkurl:winners;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/53832/ tackled a rather abstract information processing task, but many of the projects had direct health applications. In addition to the bactoblood and HIV project, there was a heart stem cell project, non-antibiotic resistant bacteria, a detection system for infections, and more. I asked Jeff Way of Merck KGaA in Germany, who was at the Jamboree as a judge, whether pharma and biotech companies were starting to apply s

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Remembering Reich

By | November 5, 2007

In case you missed it, Saturday (Nov 3) marked the 50th anniversary of the death of Wilhelm Reich, who passed away in federal prison. He was serving out a two year sentence for ignoring an injunction obtained by the Food and Drug Administration that outlawed his device that accumulated "orgone energy," which he described as a "universal life energy." (Saturday was also the 50th anniversary of the day when the linkurl:first living being;http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laika entered o

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The brain in silico

By | November 5, 2007

At the linkurl:Society for Neuroscience's;http://www.sfn.org/ annual meeting today (Nov 5), linkurl:Kathie Olsen;http://www.nsf.gov/news/speeches/olsen/olsen_bio.jsp laughingly introduced linkurl:Kwabena Boahen's;http://www.stanford.edu/group/brainsinsilicon/goals.html talk with, "Good luck." Boahen, a Stanford bioengineering professor, went on to describe his ambitious goals of creating affordable linkurl:supercomputers;http://www.the-scientist.com/2007/8/1/44/1/ neuroscientists can use in simu

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And the iGEM winner is...

By | November 4, 2007

The envelope please: This year's iGEM winner is linkurl:Peking University.;http://parts.mit.edu/igem07/index.php/Peking The team's concept was to create division of labor among bacteria. A group of bacteria can respond to stimuli by adapting to different conditions. But what if the group could split into two, with each population able to behave differently in the same environment? So the team engineered two different systems, which controlled the spatial and temporal dimensions of differentiati

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iGEM awards, part one

By | November 4, 2007

After yesterday's intensive day of presentations, some in the iGEM crowd this morning look a little worse for wear. Several are sporting a square orange and black stamp on their cheeks, the stamp of the UCSF all-high school team. It got a little crazy at the pub last night, one of the organizers told me. (I can only guess that it was the legal-aged mentors, and not the high school students, who stayed out late stamping faces.) The UCSF team, whose project focused on intercellular organelles, is

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iGEM never sleeps

By | November 4, 2007

It's like a dorm party... but not. It's getting close to 9, the techno is blasting, a leftover spread of Mediterranean food goes dry on a long table, and hundreds of undergrads stand around talking in groups. Many of them are still standing by their posters -- their last chance to show off their work before the judges choose the winners tomorrow morning. The linkurl:team;http://parts.mit.edu/igem07/index.php/Ljubljana from last year's winning institution, the University of Ljubljana in Sloveni

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iGEM olive oil fix

By | November 4, 2007

Some of you may have read a recent New Yorker linkurl:expose ;http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/08/13/070813fa_fact_mueller?currentPage=1about adulterated olive oil -- in my family of cooks, it caused quite a panic. Well, one of the iGEM teams just presented a solution, and appropriately, it's the team from Naples, Italy. The problem, they say, is that currently all the quality control methods for olive oil are done by large expensive machines. Technically, for an olive oil to be classif

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iGEM bactoblood

By | November 3, 2007

A guy named Austin was wandering the halls of MIT's Stata Center this afternoon with a plasma bag. Its contents are a little darker and a little grayer than you'd expect blood to be - maybe the color of well-peppered Bloody Mary mix. It's also a little thinner. "We're having problems with the expression level of the hemoglobin," Austin told me when I poked at the bag. Austin Day is the brains behind the bactoblood project - bacterially produced hemoglobin - brought by the UC Berkeley team. I m

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iGEM, booze sensors and epidemic models

By | November 3, 2007

For most of the day today, the iGEM teams are breaking up into groups in which students present their projects. The range of projects is pretty dizzying. They are loosely divided into five tracks - energy, information processing, basic foundational projects, health and environment. I started out with a team called the Missouri Miners, from the University of Missouri, Rolla, who showed off two projects they had attempted - a biological timer, which fluoresces for a set amount of time when a cel

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