Scientists Discover First Nitrogen-Fixing Organelle within Eukaryotic Cell, Cover Story in April 12 Issue of Science

Modern biology textbooks assert that only bacteria can take nitrogen from the atmosphere and convert it into a form that is usable for life. Plants that fix nitrogen, such as legumes, do so by harboring symbiotic bacteria in root nodules. But a recent discovery upends that rule. In two recent papers, in Cell and Science, an international team of scientists describe the first known nitrogen-fixing organelle within a eukaryotic cell. The organelle is the fourth example in history of primary endosymbiosis — the process by which a prokaryotic cell is engulfed by a eukaryotic cell and evolves beyond symbiosis into an organelle.

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Bio-IT World Conference & Expo 2024 Opens in Boston

On April 15, the Bio-IT World Conference & Expo 2024 (April 15-17) opens in Boston. This conference is the world’s premier event showcasing the technologies and analytic approaches that solve problems, accelerate science, and drive the future of precision medicine. For over 20 years, the event has united a community of leading life sciences, pharmaceutical, clinical, healthcare, informatics, and technology experts in the fields of biomedical research, drug discovery & development, and healthcare from around the world. Participants have discussed important themes around digital and data transformations and their impact on people, process, and technology; how functions and departments have been impacted with the influx of data and data types and the ability to use artificial intelligence, machine learning, and IoT to derive value; solving real-world data challenges using real-world evidence and principles of Open Source & FAIR Data; data metrics and analytics used to measure impact; R&D efforts for unmet medical needs; creating the Lab of the Future; digital health tools that foster collaboration and innovation in digitalization of medicine; predictive and generative AI models to accelerate discovery and development; and more! This year’s Bio-IT World Conference & Expo will once again host the conversations that connect people, ideas, and opportunities that are advancing research and innovation. Join your peers for updates from inspiring keynotes, more than 200 presentations, and 3 days of interactive discussion. There is also the opportunity to attend virtually via live streaming if you cannot participate in person. You may register for the conference here.

[Bio-IT World Conference & Expo 2024]

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Novel Predictive Model for Explaining How Anti-Fibrotic Drugs Work

Dr. Jeff Saucerman

In drug discovery, the focus of machine learning and artificial intelligence tools has been on predicting outcomes without explanation or understanding of the biochemical pathways mediating those effects. But rigorous translation requires a solid science-based foundation to explain how a drug works, not just that it does, according to Jeff Saucerman, PhD, Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Virginia. To that end, Saucerman and his colleagues created a logic-based mechanistic machine learning (LogiMML) approach combining the strengths of machine learning with a previously developed mechanistic network model of the signaling that happens in cardiac fibroblasts. The behavior of the mechanistic model has been validated in hundreds of conditions and aided the design of later basic science experiments, he says. 

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Two Key Brain Systems Are Central to Psychosis, Stanford Medicine-Led Study Finds

When the brain has trouble filtering incoming information and predicting what’s likely to happen, psychosis can result, Stanford Medicine-led research shows. Functional brain signatures of 22q11.2 deletion syndrome and associated psychosis studied.

Inside the brains of people with psychosis, two key systems are malfunctioning: a “filter” that directs attention toward important external events and internal thoughts, and a “predictor” composed of pathways that anticipate rewards. Dysfunction of these systems makes it difficult to know what’s real, manifesting as hallucinations and delusions. The findings come from a Stanford Medicine-led study, published on April 12 in Molecular Psychiatry, that used brain scan data from children, teens, and young adults with psychosis. The results confirm an existing theory of how breaks with reality occur. The article is titled “Robust and Replicable Functional Brain Signatures of 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome and Associated Psychosis: A Deep Neural Network-Based Multi-Cohort Study.”

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What Makes Tiny Tardigrades Nearly Radiation-Proof

New research finds that the microscopic “water bears” are remarkably good at repairing their DNA after a huge blast of radiation.

Colored scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of a water bear, or tardigrade (phylum Tardigrada). Water bears are small, water-dwelling, segmented micro-animals with eight legs that live in damp habitats such as moss or lichen. (Credit: Steve Gschmeissner/Science Photo Library)

To introduce her children to the hidden marvels of the animal kingdom a few years ago, Anne De Cian stepped into her garden in Paris. Dr. De Cian, a molecular biologist, gathered bits of moss, then came back inside to soak them in water and place them under a microscope. Her children gazed into the eyepiece at strange, eight-legged creatures clambering over the moss. “They were impressed,” Dr. De Cian said. But she was not finished with the tiny beasts, known as tardigrades. She brought them to her laboratory at the French National Museum of Natural History, where she and her colleagues hit them with gamma rays. The blasts were hundreds of times greater than the radiation required to kill a human being. Yet the tardigrades survived, going on with their lives as if nothing had happened.

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Cancer Antibodies Inc. Unveils Ground-Breaking Biomarker Discovery for Breast Cancer, Including Triple-Negative Breast Cancer

New results reported at AACR 2024 Annual Meeting
On April 9, 2024, in a major leap forward in the battle against cancer, the non-profit cancer research organization Cancer Antibodies Inc. (CAI) announced a significant breakthrough in breast cancer research. Utilizing its innovative Oncotope Platform, CAI has identified and therapeutically validated a novel biomarker that exists as a surface antigen on breast cancer cells, including triple-negative breast cancer cells, while residing internally on the endoplasmic reticulum in normal cells. This discovery was presented at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting. (Editor’s note: The CAI Oncotope Platform is designed to rapidly identify multiple cancer-specific targets and simultaneously generate therapeutic antibodies against these targets.)

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BOC Sciences to Present Its Novel Solutions at 2024 TIDES USA Conference in Boston

TIDES USA 2024 is to be held in Boston from May 14 to 17, 2024, gathering industry leaders across the biotechnology and pharmaceutical landscape. It’s regarded as the largest and most renowned event in the industry to accelerate oligo and peptide therapeutics to market. BOC Sciences has been a part of the exhibitor list for several years, with footprints over TIDES Europe and USA. This year, BOC Sciences plans to bring some previous exhibits as well as some innovations.

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Dotmatics “Luma Lab Connect” Unlocks the Untapped Value of Lab Instrument Data to Accelerate Scientific R&D Decision-Making

On April 11, 2024, Dotmatics, a leader in R&D scientific software connecting science, data, and decision-making, announced the launch of LumaTM Lab Connect, helping R&D laboratories automatically ingest data from instruments or data sources and centralize it in one place to increase accuracy and accelerate decision-making. Luma Lab Connect extracts descriptive metadata and experiment results from files and makes data available from across labs and experiments enabling deeper exploration, analysis, and insights on one harmonized, low-code cloud platform, Dotmatics Luma™. Learn more about Luma Lab Connect.

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UK Biobank and DNAnexus Collaboration Earns Bio-IT World 2024 Innovative Best Practices Global Impact Award for 500,000 Whole Genomes Data Release

DNAnexus-Powered UK Biobank Research Analysis Platform Wins in IT Infrastructure High Performance Computing Category

On April 11, 2024, DNAnexus, Inc., the provider of the Precision Health Data Cloud, announced that its ongoing collaboration with UK Biobank will be recognized with the 2024 Innovative Best Practices Global Impact Award at the upcoming Bio-IT World Conference and Expo. The award highlights the purpose-built, cloud-based UK Biobank Research Analysis Platform that allows approved researchers to access and analyze UK Biobank’s vast database, including the recently added groundbreaking whole-genome sequencing data from 500,000 participants. Researchers from around the world are using the data to drive discovery of new diagnostics, treatments, and cures. More than 30,000 approved researchers from at least 90 countries have registered to use UK Biobank, the world’s most comprehensive source of biomedical data. These scientists are provided with the tools and computing power to analyze a vast wealth of de-identified health and lifestyle data via UK Biobank’s secure Research Analysis Platform, powered by DNAnexus.

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Effects of Genetic Mutations Become Knowable with “Super Minigene” System

Molecular biologists at Iowa State University report the potential for the effects of genetic mutations to be known using a “super minigene” system developed in the lab of Ravindra Singh, PhD, Professor of Biomedical Sciences. The approach essentially enables scientists to reconstruct pathogenic mutations in a test tube and then see the effect of those mutations in different cells—meaning, no genetically engineered mouse models requiring sophisticated equipment and highly skilled technical staff. In a proof-of-concept study published January 12, 2024 in Nucleic Acids Research (DOI: 10.1093/nar/gkad1259), Singh’s group created a truncated version of the entire survival motor neuron 2 (SMN2) gene, associated with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a major genetic disease linked to infant mortality. The researchers  validated the utility of the super minigene in monitoring SMN protein levels upon splicing correction and showed how it could be employed to capture cell type-specific effects of a pathogenic SMN1 mutation. The open-access NAR article is titled “A Super Minigene with a Short Promoter and Truncated Introns Recapitulates Essential Features of Transcription and Splicing Regulation of the SMN1 and SMN2 Genes.”

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