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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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Open source synthetic biology

By | November 3, 2007

I arrived in Cambridge tonight and headed out to a pub near MIT to find the linkurl:iGEM;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/53819/ crew, who were supposed to meet up for an informal get-together before the Jamboree, iGEM's international linkurl:synthetic biology;http://www.the-scientist.com/2006/1/1/30/1/ contest, starts tomorrow (Nov. 3). After peeking into a few bars I spotted a small group of young people wearing green t-shirts decorated with biotech company names and O-H molecules. We

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What makes an iGEM winner?

By | November 3, 2007

Covering iGEM is hard: choosing presentations based on what sounds cool won?t get you very far, because almost everything sounds cool. Who would say no to a microbial mass production system for blood (Berkeley) or RNAi components strung together to create a way to cure cancer (Princeton)? But with most of the projects so conceptually ambitious, one of the judges told me, sifting through them really requires squaring what was originally planned with what got accomplished. Ten or so groups have

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Huntingdon lab spared in court

By | November 2, 2007

A New Jersey court has ruled that an animal rights group cannot file a civil lawsuit against Huntingdon Life Sciences, a contract research organization in the U.S. and U.K. that has linkurl:long been the target;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/15730/ of militant animal rights group. Wednesday (Oct 31) a three-judge panel in the Appellate Division threw out a lawsuit filed by the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals charging Huntingdon with animal cruelty and n

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Synthetic biology square-off

By | November 2, 2007

This weekend, 59 teams of undergraduates will be descending on Cambridge, Mass., for the 4th annual International Genetically Engineered Machines competition, aka the linkurl:iGEM Jamoboree.;http://parts.mit.edu/r/parts/igem/index.cgi I'm heading up there tomorrow to blog the event live. The event is a synthetic biology contest that grew out of a short course held at MIT in 2003. Students - mostly undergrads - spend the summer designing and building genetic machines from a standard set of biolo

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The PhD pause - longer than ever?

By | November 2, 2007

Last night (Nov 1), Princeton president linkurl:Shirley Tilghman;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/15410/ elicited an audible response from an audience at the Chemical Heritage Foundation when she announced that the average age at which investigators receive their first NIH grant has climbed to 42.9 years. We all duly murmured astonishingly, as she called this the "LaGuardia effect" -- as in, scientists are spending more time circling in the air before they can land. (This got

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Linguistic chimp dies

By | November 1, 2007

Washoe, a primate pioneer in the study of non-human language acquisition, died Tuesday night (October 30th) of natural causes at her home on the campus of Central Washington University. She was 42 years old. The chimp was one of the first to learn American Sign Language when, in 1966, University of Nevada researchers Allen and Beatrix Gardner began teaching Washoe to sign. Washoe, who was named after the Nevada county where she lived with the Gardeners until 1970, would eventually acquire a voc

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Animal rights group targets neuroscientist

By | October 31, 2007

An animal rights group says it vandalized the home of a Los Angeles neuroscientist, adding yet another incident to a string of recent attacks on UCLA researchers. The incident is being investigated by the FBI and local authorities. An anonymous linkurl:statement;http://www.animalliberationpressoffice.org/communiques/2007-10-25_uclalondon.htm posted on the Web site of the North American Animal Liberation Press Office described in detail how the perpetrators, members of the Animal Liberation Fron

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