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Dine with an MIT luminary for a good cause: Flash charity auction offers the opportunity to bid on lunch with MIT professors in support of COVID-19…

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., April 23, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Dream of dining and discussing space travel withformer NASA astronautand MITAerospace Engineering Professor,Jeffrey Hoffman? Want to grab a sandwich and talk sports analytics withBen Shields,former ESPN executive and Senior Lecturer at MIT Sloan?Perhaps you'd like to break bread and ponder the future of nanomedicine withPaula Hammond, the head of MIT's Department of Chemical Engineering?

Now is your chance. Agrassroots organizationof MIT staff and faculty members have launched acharity auctionoffering participants the opportunity to bid on lunches with over 50 luminaries at MIT. In addition, the group is runninga rafflewhereparticipants can contribute $5 to be entered into a drawing to win a lunch with the MIT faculty member of their choice from the auction.

The proceeds from the fundraiser will be disbursed to theCambridge Community Foundation's Cambridge COVID-19 Emergency Fundand theCambridge Mayor's Disaster Relief Fund for COVID-19with the help ofCommunity Giving at MIT.

As the global pandemic has erupted over the last month, MIT has worked to help the City of Cambridge weather the ongoing public health emergency. The Institute's assistance has included direct financial support, suspension of rent for tenants in MIT-owned properties, housing for emergency responders in unused MIT buildings, and other initiatives.

"I share with my colleagues a feeling of responsibility to help supportthose who've been affected by the current health crisis here in our home city of Cambridge," saysDavid V. Capodilupo, Assistant Dean ofMIT Sloan Global Programs."This is one smalland we hopefun and interestingway for us to give back to our local community during this challenging period."

Bidding for the fundraiser, which is modeled after Warren Buffett's annual charity auction, launched on April 16thandwill conclude on April 30th at 11:55pm. Winning bidders can choose between a conversation with their chosen faculty member via Zoom or an in-person lunch to take place after social distancing measures are eased.

"At a time of lockdowns and social distancing, this fundraiser can help build new and meaningful connections," says Longzhen Han, Assistant Director of theMIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program,who is spearheading the fundraiser. "Not only does MIT have brilliant faculty members, they are also very generous. We are thrilled that they are dedicating their time in this unique way to benefit a good cause close to home."

The auction website showcases the nearly 60 professors from over 10 different departments who have signed on to the effort. Each bio includes a fun factconsider it a conversation starterabout the faculty member.For instance,Jeffrey C. Grossman, the Department Head of Materials Science and Engineering, used to be a competitive ballroom dancer.Zeynep Ton, Professor of the Practice of Operations Management at MIT Sloan, played volleyball for Penn State and participated in two NCAA final four tournaments. MeanwhileRoberto Rigobon, Professor of Applied Economics at the school, once played in a rock band that had three number one hit songs in Venezuela.

Rene Richardson Gosline, a Senior Lecturer in the Management Science group at MIT Sloan, says she was inspired to join the effort because, "Instead of shuffling the deck, COVID-19 may calcify structural inequality and hit the vulnerable hardest. We must all do our part. At MIT, we say, "Of the world. In the world. For the world.' The #mitcharitylunches embody this ethos."

All donations to the auction are tax deductible. The organizers say they are open to engaging with local donor organizations interested in making matching gifts or providing other support.

"Our greatest weapon is the strength of our community," saysSharmila C. Chatterjee, Senior Lecturer in Marketing and the Academic Head for the MBA Track in Enterprise Management at MIT Sloan."We do well when every single member does well. Working together, as one, is the only way to make this happen."

For more information, clickhere.

About the MIT Sloan School of ManagementThe MIT Sloan School of Management is where smart, independent leaders come together to solve problems, create new organizations, and improve the world. Learn more at

For further information, contact:

Paul Denning


Patricia Favreau

Director of Media Relations

Associate Director of Media Relations





SOURCE MIT Sloan School of Management

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Dine with an MIT luminary for a good cause: Flash charity auction offers the opportunity to bid on lunch with MIT professors in support of COVID-19...

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Taiwan’s AI thermometer draws interest in SE Asia – Taiwan News

Taiwan develops AI infrared thermometer. (NHRI image) Taiwan develops AI infrared thermometer. (NHRI image)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) Many Southeast Asian nations have expressed interest in acquiring a next-generation infrared thermometer developed by Taiwan that is being touted as smart and able to reduce erroneous readings.

Designed by the National Health Research Institutes (NHRI), a government-sponsored and mission-oriented medical research center, the thermometer incorporates artificial intelligence (AI) technologies.

The AI feature allows the device to detect people's faces before reading their temperatures, which reduces errors due to interference by radiation emitted from objects held by the individual being measured for example, a cup of hot coffee or cold drink. The feature is particularly commercially attractive at a time when countries around the world are deploying thermometers to screen suspected patients of the coronavirus.

Compared to other types of contactless thermometer, the system delivered satisfactory results in an experiment of 200 people in open spaces, said Liao Lun-de (), assistant investigator of NHRIs Institute of Biomedical Engineering and Nanomedicine. The masks, hats, and glasses the individuals wore were not found to have affected the temperature readings.

The device will sound an alarm and automatically take photos of individuals whose temperatures exceed a certain level. The alerts will be dispatched to disease control staff so they can respond in an efficient and timely fashion.

The mechanism, which integrates real-time thermal sensor software and AI neuroscience, among other technologies, is also cost-competitive, as some thermometers are priced at over NT$200,000 (US$6,653) a unit, said Liao.

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Taiwan's AI thermometer draws interest in SE Asia - Taiwan News

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The World on its Knees –

April 14, 2020

Predictions about the disasters are useless, unless someone take a note of such predictions beforehand and be well prepared for the devastation or more effectively, prevent them from happening.

Yuval Noah Hariri is the celebrity author of the popular science bestsellers Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2014), Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (2016), and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century (2018).

In Sapiens he surveys the entire length of human history, from the evolution of Homo sapiens about 70000 years ago along with other human like species Homo neanderthals and Homo erectus, the development of their cognitive abilities, up to the political and technological revolutions of the 21st century.

Where as in Homo Deus he is examining possibilities of the future of Homo sapiens. The book's premise outlines that, in the future, humanity is likely to make a significant attempt to gain happiness, immortality and God-like powers. The book goes on to openly speculate various ways this ambition might be realised for Homo sapiens in the future based on the past and present. He predicts the possible consequences of a futuristic biotechnological world in which intelligent biological organisms are surpassed by their own creations. He speculate that we as a species will mutate ourselves into new God-like species, Homo Deus.

And we all believed that with its technological advancements in the fields of artificial intelligence (AI), bio technology and nano technology, human race is going to achieve that in the near future.

The scientific advancements in the field of AI predicted that by the year 2040, we would achieve technological singularity. Intelligence explosion, in which an upgradable intelligent agent will eventually enter a "runaway reaction" of self-improvement cycles, with each new and more intelligent generation appearing more and more rapidly, causing an 'explosion' in intelligence and resulting in a powerful superintelligence that may achieve self-awareness and qualitatively far surpasses all human intelligence.

The advancements in the field of medicines, bio technology and nano technology predicted that the death will be optional for us by the year 2040.

Advancements in space science and technology predicted that we will be capable of colonizing Moon, Mars and beyond.

We believed we have the best of the political systems governing the different parts of the world. Every system, be its communist, democratic, imperialistic or some other, boasted its own superiority over the other and claimed to be the best equipped to manage its population to the best of its knowledge. Most advanced countries boasted the best of the medical facilities that equipped to face any kind of medical problems, and ridiculed the others, the less privileged.

Our Gods and religious systems did not stay behind in this race and claimed the solutions to the each of the problems faced by the humanity and offered answers to the questions of our existence and purpose. Every God, every religion claimed its supremacy over the other and we did not hesitate to kill each other in the very name of the Gods supposed to protect and bring peace to humanity.

Then it hit us

Its not even a living thing. Just a few RNA (Ribonucleic Acid) strands covered with a protein sheath, so small that normal microscopes cant see it. It was there all along, but novel because of its new avatar or strain. It requires a living cell to start its activities and all it does is replicate itself. Nevertheless, in this process, it created havoc and chaos and succeeded to bring down the whole, mighty world down on its knees without any discrimination. The powerful, highly developed nations, their poor counterparts, democratic, communist or imperialistic, it treated them all the same. It did not see the religion, language, qualification, financial status, economical background or the geographical location and easily be termed as a great equalizer.

Yes, novel coronavirus.

We had several warnings. We had so many pandemics those wiped off millions of lives in the history. Apart from that, Bill Gates and former US President George W Bush and many others scientists and visionaries have warned well in advance about such out breaks and suggested the ways to be prepared.

There are few pictures and videos in social media going viral now about some books and movies, which predicted about the pandemics.

Funny thing about such predictions, including that of the famous Nostradamus are that they all surface after the event and everyone jumps into the bandwagon to say, Look, I told you so.

Predictions about the disasters are useless, unless someone take a note of such predictions beforehand and be well prepared for the devastation or more effectively, prevent them from happening.

Interestingly, in his latest book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, Yuval Noah Hariri discusses about challenges and possible solutions for 21 different things like Work, Liberty, Equality, Religion, Immigration, Terrorism etc., but misses a Health Pandemic.

Our Gods, religious, political, technological and medical systems did not know what hit them. Its proved beyond doubt that all Gods and religious systems, all kinds of political systems, scientific advancements have failed in their current avatars and they are not equipped to face a pandemic of this kind.

There is not a solution in the horizon. We have not reached a plateau as of today and the number of positive cases and deaths are steadily rising all over the world. Moreover, nobody knows for sure if there will be a solution and if at all, when.

And if we survive this pandemic, and I dont know how many would survive, the world as we know will change. A change like never seen before. However, a change thats the need of the hour.

The survivors of this new world order need to sit together and retrospect about the way we ran our world so far. They should determine if they need Gods and Religions, and if yes, in which format? They need to revamp all the political, technological, economical and medical systems in their current avatars and design totally new effective systems which are well equipped to run the world in a just and fair way.

A new world that gives every human being an equal opportunity of existence and well-being.

The Risen Ape is yet to find its ground in the larger schemes of things.

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Cashing in on the crisis: More FDA warning letters –

As the coronavirus overwhelms many parts of the world, fake treatments continue to spread throughout the internet.

Bogus claims have prompted the US Food and Drug Administration to take action against several individuals and companies, including prominent social media influencer Alex Jones of the site Infowars. The agency recently issued a warning letter to the conspiracy theorist demanding he stop promoting products he sells on his website as cures for the deadlyvirus.

The FDA cited several examples of Jones fake claims that date back to February. The letter stated,Described below, you sell products that are intended to mitigate, prevent, treat, diagnose, or cure COVID-19 in people. We request that you take immediate action to cease the sale of such unapproved and unauthorized products for the mitigation, prevention, treatment, diagnosis, or cure of COVID-19.

In one video posted on March 10, Jones claimed that "the patented Nano Silver we have, the Pentagon has come out and documented, and Homeland Security have said this stuff kills the whole SARS corona family, at point blank range.

In a subsequent broadcast, Jones advised listeners to boost your immune system, adding, We have the products that are documented on record to be good for your body, before promoting gels and toothpaste that he claims contain silver. The FDA has previously warned that colloidal silver is not safe or effective for treating any disease or condition.

Prior to the warning from the FDA, New York Attorney General Letitia James sent a cease-and-desist letter in March demanding Jones stop promoting his bogus medicine.

US Attorney General William Barr directed US attorneys' offices in every state to make enforcement a priority, and states' attorneys general are handing companies cease-and-desist letters demanding they stop misleading the public.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra issued a consumer alert that warned the public,Do not be hustled by opportunistic tricksters claiming to have a miracle cure. There is not a cure for COVID-19...I encourage anyone who has been the victim of a snake oil scam or who otherwise has information about products that are falsely touted as coronavirus treatments, tests, or cures to immediately file a complaint through my offices website.

Last month, the Missouri Attorney General sued prominent televangelist Jim Bakker and his company, Morningside Church Productions Inc., for claiming on a broadcast featuring a naturopathic doctor, that the product Silver Solution can cure coronavirus. This led to a joint warning letter from the FDA and FTC.

In the past few weeks, the FDA and FTC issued several more warning letters to companies claiming their products prevent, treat or cure coronavirus. This follows several other warning letters jointly issued by the agencies in early March.

A recent press release stated that The FDA considers the sale and promotion of fraudulent COVID-19 products to be a threat to the public health. We have an aggressive surveillance program that routinely monitors online sources for health fraud products, especially during a significant public health issue such as this one, said FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen M. Hahn.We understand consumers are concerned about the spread of COVID-19 and urge them to talk to their health care providers, as well as follow advice from other federal agencies about how to prevent the spread of this illness. We will continue to aggressively pursue those that place the public health at risk and hold bad actors accountable.

FTC Chairman Joe Simons added that there is already a high level of anxiety right now. What we dont need in this situation are companies preying on consumers by promoting products with fraudulent prevention and treatment claims. These warning letters are just the first step. Were prepared to take enforcement actions against companies that continue to market this type of scam.

Last month, the FDA and FTC jointly issued warning letters to Vital Silver, Quinessence Aromatherapy Ltd., Xephyr, LLC (who does business as N-Ergetics), GuruNanda, LLC, Vivify Holistic Clinic, Herbal Amy LLC, and The Jim Bakker Show for hawking teas, essential oils, tinctures and colloidal silver making coronavirus claims.

Several dietary supplement industry trade associations are also urging retailers to not stock products that make coronavirus claims.

The American Herbal Products Association, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, the Council for Responsible Nutrition and the United Natural Products Alliance recently issued a press release applauding the FDA forcalling out marketers who make illegal and unsubstantiated drug claims related to COVID-19.

The statement noted that the trade associationssupport the responsible sale and use of vitamins, minerals, herbs and other dietary supplements that provide many positive benefits promoting better health and wellness. As we face the unprecedented threat of this global pandemic, illegal and unsubstantiated drug claims misdirect consumers toward ineffective products, divert them from seeking critical medical care, and endanger the public health.

There are currently no products on the market that are approved to treat or prevent coronavirus. While there are investigational COVID-19 vaccines and treatments under development, these have not been fully tested for safety or effectiveness. Even if there was an ingredient that could treat or prevent the virus, dietary supplement companies are banned by DSHEA from making any disease treatment claims.

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Sudden resignation of ERC president stirs heated dispute over motives – Science Business

Mauro Ferrari resigned unexpectedly as president of the European Research Council, triggering a noisy public spat over why and how he left.

Ferrari, an Italian-American expert in nano-medicine, fired off an angry resignation memo provided first to the Financial Times castigating the European Commission for a largely uncoordinated cluster of initiatives. He said he pushed to have the ERC, which focuses on frontier research, launch a special funding round for COVID-19 research. As a result, he said, I have lost faith in the system itself and submitted his resignation on 7 April.

But that version of events was quickly disputed in Brussels. Christian Ehler, a German member of the European Parliament who leads research legislation, issued a late-night statement calling Ferraris actions a window-dressing public relations stand on the coronavirus crisis and it was a contradiction to the legal basis of the ERC.

Other sources said the agencys governing body, the 21-member Scientific Council, had decided days earlier to ask for Ferraris resignation. Among the issues was a belief that he was spending too much time on non-ERC, private activities.

The Commission issued a statement confirming Ferraris immediate resignation and noting that his contract as ERC president only gave him the legal powers of a special advisor to the Commission. Legally, it said, the Scientific Council defines the scientific funding strategy and methodologies of the ERC. It went on to thank him for the strong personal investment he made in the months leading up to his appointment 1 January.

When he took office on 1 January, Ferrari was allowed to continue some outside activities back in the US, where he had built his career in engineering, nanotechnology and medicine. Among these was a paid board position at a US biotech company, Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals. He also continued as an affiliate professor in pharmaceutical science at the University of Washington. But the arrangement was unusual for an agency like the ERC, and had already prompted some outside criticism. As European nations began entering COVID-19 lockdown last month, he was in the US, where his grown children work.

A Commission spokesman late on 7 April confirmed Ferraris resignation, but declined to elaborate. Ferrari couldnt be reached immediately for direct comment, but the Financial Times published his statement excoriating the ERC and the Commission.

In the statement, he said that he proposed that the ERC set up a special COVID-19 programme, because at a time like this, the very best scientists in the world should be provided with resources and opportunities to fight the pandemic. He said it was rejected unanimously by the Scientific Council without even considering what shape or form it may take. He added that he was later invited by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen for my input on COVID-19, which created an internal political thunderstorm inside the Commission bureaucracy.

The ERC, by law, funds research proposed directly by scientists based on their own judgment of whats important; they get the money - 2.2 billion in all for 2020 if peer review panels organised by the agency agrees with them. Ferraris statement says he knew his idea for top-down COVID-19 grants ran counter to the agencys normal bottom-up practice, but it was justified by the emergency.

Agency officials declined to comment publicly, but the MEP, Ehler, issued a public defence of the ERC, pushing back at Ferrari.

Besides calling Ferraris COVID-19 plan window-dressing, Ehler said Ferrari was never really acquainting with the independent nature of the ERC. He continued: We are sorry that things have turned out this way for a brilliant researcher and entrepreneur like Mr. Ferrari. However, this should not serve as argument to accuse the ERC or the EU of not doing enough.

The ERC focuses on fundamental rather than applied research and numbers among its existing grantees virologists, epidemiologists and others who have been doing basic research for the agency, and have now joined applied COVID-research teams in the Commissions other programmes.

They include 48.5 million for emergency Horizon 2020 collaborative projects for vaccines, cures and tools; 45 million to its Innovative Medicines Initiative; 80 million in financial support for German vaccine maker Curevac; and up to 164 million in grants to small business with COVID-19 solutions to develop.

On taking office in January, Ferrari quickly unveiled ambitious plans for the ERC. In an interview with Science|Business in February, he spoke enthusiastically of the need for what he called super-disciplinary research, in which scientists break out of their normal disciplines and think across domains. He was also a strong advocate of researchers helping to get their discoveries commercialised and into widespread use something he did repeatedly in his own career.

Ferrari, now 60 years old, is credited as one of the founders of nanomedicine. In 2016, his research team made headlines with a new cancer treatment that uses nanoparticles loaded with a chemotherapeutic to target metastatic cells directly, thereby minimising collateral damage to healthy tissue and allowing more sustained and aggressive treatment. Ferrari has around 480 publications to his name, with over 20,000 citations. He also holds dozens of patents for inventions including different varieties of nanoparticles for drug delivery.

Originally from northern Italy, he studied mathematics at the University of Padua before moving to University of California, Berkeley, where he studied for a masters and a PhD in mechanical engineering. He went on to become an associate professor at Berkeley and moved into medicine when he became a professor of bioengineering and mechanical engineering at Ohio State University.

Ferrari later moved to the MD Anderson Center and the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. In 2010 he became president and CEO of the Houston Methodist Research Institute.

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A new, inhaled siRNA therapeutic option for asthma – Advanced Science News




After more than 20 years of research, we are now witnessing a breakthrough of small interfering RNA (siRNA)-based therapies. In 2018, the first-ever siRNA drug, Onpattro, reached the market, followed by the approval of Givlaari in 2019, and many other clinical trials are in progress.

Holding the potential to treat a wide range of diseases from cancer to immunological disorders, siRNA therapeutics have received plenty of attention. With the support of a suitable delivery system, they can be directed to downregulate a specific target gene. Both approved siRNA drugs Onpattro and Givlaari are only able to reach the liver, however. Other organs that can be treated by loco-regional administration, such as the lung, are, in principle, good targets for siRNA therapies as well.

In this view, siRNA-baseddrugs could not only act as an ally in the battle against the current COVID-19pandemic but also against other severe lung diseases such as asthma. Despitethe great advances in asthma treatment, this disease still represents an unmetmedical need in about 510% of patients.Moreover, most of the available drugs work symptomatically rather than causally.

In a recent article published in WIREs Nanomedicine and Nanobiotechnology, Domizia Baldassi and Tobias Keil, graduate students in Prof. Olivia Merkels research group at the University of Munich, discuss the groups advances towards developing a nanocarrier that can deliver siRNA into T cells in the lung.

The aim of T-cell delivery is downregulation of GATA-3, the transcription factor of T helper 2 (TH2) cells overexpressed in asthmatic patients, which is recognized as a key factor in the asthmatic inflammatory cascade. Based on their observation that transferrin receptor is overexpressed in activated T cells, the researchers sought to find a virus-like tool to target activated TH2 cells specifically and efficiently in a receptor-mediated manner.

They accomplishedthis goal by creating a conjugate formed by transferrin and low-molecular-weightpolyethylenimine (Tf-PEI). On the one hand, they used a well-known cationic polymerto electrostatically interact with the negatively charged siRNA and protect itfrom degradation during the journey through the airways. And on the other hand,transferrin served as a targeting moiety to mediate a specific, targeteddelivery of siRNA only to activated T cells.

Since theendosomal escape is considered the rate-limiting step in cytoplasmaticdelivery of nanoparticle-based therapies, improving this aspect of theformulation was the focus, and Tf-PEI was blended with a second conjugatecomposed of melittin and PEI (Mel-PEI). Melittin is a well-known membranolyticagent from bee venom that was chemically modified to react in a pH-dependentmanner.

The researchersexploited the intrinsic lytic characteristic of the peptide to improve therelease of siRNA into the cytosol, reaching knockdown levels as high as 70% exvivo. But further steps such as the validation of these results in vivo on anasthma mouse model are needed, as well as possible alternative polymericmaterials.

In the process of developing a new pharmaceutical product, it is crucial to keep the administration route in mind. Spray drying is the most straightforward technique to produce inhalable particles for pulmonary delivery, according to the researchers. In a proof-of-concept study, they obtained nano-in-microparticles by spray drying PEI-pDNA polyplexes together with a cryoprotectant agent. After seeing promising results, their studies to obtain a dry powder formulation of siRNA-based polyplexes are ongoing.

Ultimately, both research fields will be combined and hopefully result in a new therapy for the treatment of severe, uncontrolled asthma and many other lung diseases, concluded Baldassi, Keil, and Merkel.

Reference: Tobias W. M. Keil et al. T-cell targeted pulmonary siRNA delivery for the treatment of asthma. WIREs Nanomedicine and Nanobiotechnology (2020). DOI: 10.1002/10.1002/wnan.1634

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