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Tufts University Connection To Purdue Pharma’s Connection To OxyContin

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Tufts University is reviewing its connection to OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma in the wake of court documents filed last week detailing explosive allegations about the company, the mega-donors that own it and their alleged influence over the university’s medical school.

The court filing from Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey alleges that members of the Sackler family knew the opioid was causing overdoses and were involved in efforts to mislead doctors and the public about the powerful painkiller’s effects. They did not tell authorities about reports the drug was being abused and peddled on the street, it says.

The filing claims one member of the family, Richard Sackler, wanted to blame abusers, writing in a 2001 email that abusers “are the culprits and the problem” and that they “are reckless criminals,”.

The filing alleges that Purdue funded “an entire degree program at Tufts University to influence Massachusetts doctors to use its drugs.” Purdue sponsored an annual “Sackler Lecture” at Tufts on pain medicine, and Richard Sackler for many years held a seat on the school of medicine’s board, it alleges. (Purdue Pharma is unrelated to the university in Indiana.)

A Tufts spokesman, Patrick Collins, issued a statement Friday saying that the university has been and remains deeply committed to the highest ethical and scientific standards.

“The information raised in the Attorney General’s lawsuit against Purdue Pharmaceuticals and other defendants is deeply troubling,” it said. “We will be undertaking a review of Tufts’ connection with Purdue to ensure that we were provided accurate information, that we followed our conflict of interest guidelines and that we adhered to our principles of academic and research integrity. Based on this review, we will determine if any changes need to be made moving forward.”

It appears that members of the Sackler family have given money to many universities and museums over the years. Donations have resulted in their names being inscribed on campuses, including the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences and the Arthur M. Sackler Center for Medical Education at Tufts and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum at Harvard University.

The Boston Globe noted Harvard Art Museums have pointed out that the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation provides no continuing funding for the museum:

“Arthur Sackler generously donated the funds in 1982 that paid for the construction of the original building that housed the Arthur M. Sackler Museum at 485 Broadway. In 2014, the Arthur M. Sackler Museum was relocated to 32 Quincy Street, as part of the renovation and expansion of the Harvard Art Museums.”

Tufts provided similar background information in response to a question about the Somerville mayor’s call to remove the Sackler name from campus:

“The Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences was established in 1980 by Jean Mayer, then president of Tufts University, and the Board of Trustees to promote collaborative and interdisciplinary graduate education to advance health. In 1983, Jean Mayer and the Board of Trustees established the Arthur M. Sackler Center. In both cases, the naming gifts were provided to the university more than a decade before OxyContin was introduced to the marketplace.”

A lengthy 2017 feature in The New Yorker says he became wealthy marketing the tranquilizers Librium and Valium. It quoted Allen Frances, former chair of psychiatry at Duke University School of Medicine, saying that, “Most of the questionable practices that propelled the pharmaceutical industry into the scourge it is today can be attributed to Arthur Sackler.”

In 2014, Purdue medical liaison staff “succeeded in getting two Purdue unbranded curricula approved for teaching” to Tufts students, it alleges.

Purdue Pharma, based in Stamford, Conn., did not respond to requests for comment. The company sent a statement to WBUR saying Healey is attempting to vilify “a single manufacturer whose medicines represent less than 2 percent of opioid pain prescriptions rather than doing the hard work of trying to solve a complex public health crisis.”

It also said that “the complaint distorts critical facts and cynically conflates prescription opioid medications with illegal heroin and fentanyl, which are the leading cause of overdose deaths in Massachusetts.”

Almost 218,000 people in the United States died from overdoses related to prescription opioids between 1999 and 2017, according to the CDC. Overdose deaths from prescription opioids were five times higher in 2017 than they were in 1999.

It Seems That Wikipedia Has A Gender & Race Problem

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The world’s fifth-most-visited website has a long-running problem with gender bias: Only 18 percent of its biographies are of women. Surveys estimate that between 84 and 90 percent of Wikipedia editors are male. Quicksilver, is a software tool by San Francisco startup Primer designed to help Wikipedia editors fill in blind spots in the crowdsourced encyclopedia. Its under representation of women in science is a particular target. Quicksilver uses machine-learning algorithms to scour news articles and scientific citations to find notable scientists missing from Wikipedia, and then write fully sourced draft entries for them. 

The summaries it generates are intended to provide a starting point for Wikipedia editors, who can clean up errors and check the sources to prevent any algorithmic slip-ups contaminating the site.

Lab Develops Breathalyzer For Pot & Alcohol

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The breath test takes 4 minutes by sticking a Hound cartridge in the handheld unit and blowing on the tube for 30 seconds. Then removing the cartridge and inserting it into the larger unit called a breath processor. The Hound breathalyzer doesn’t report THC consumption levels, just its presence. Measuring THC is much trickier than alcohol. Alcohol is measured in parts per thousand, but because THC is about a billion times less concentrated than alcohol, the Hound has to measure the psychoactive marijuana component in parts per trillion.

National Highway Transportation Safety Administration(NHTSA)’s Crash Risk Study was inconclusive about whether marijuana impairment “contributes to the occurrence of vehicle crashes.”

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Sneakers Designed To Improve Athletic Performance

These shoes developed by Puma and MIT Design Lab, use bacteria to improve athletic performance.

Source: MIT Design Lab, powered by Biorealize
These shoes developed by Puma and MIT Design Lab, use bacteria to improve athletic performance.

 Puma and MIT Design Lab is developing products with a biological makeup. The idea behind this collaboration is that there is a more complete athletic experience when humans wear living, adaptable products.

“Deep Learning Insoles” and “Breathing Shoes.”

 Bacteria is the secret ingredient to the Deep Learning Insoles. Placed inside discreet crevices on the top layer of the insole, bacteria is able to detect compounds present in sweat. The bacteria then responds by changing the conductivity of the insole. The next layer registers these changes. The third and final layer broadcasts the information to the user’s smart device. Users can read all about their fatigue and performance level in real time.

The Breathing Shoe has a biologically active shoe material that is home to microorganisms. The material learns a user’s specific heat patterns and opens up ventilation based on those user-specific heat patterns. Every user winds up with a unique shoe.

Researchers Developed Narcotics Sensing Chip

Image result for Currently, there is a great demand for on-site drug testing," says Qiaoqiang Gan, PhD, associate professor of electrical engineering in the University at Buffalo School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

 

Qiaoqiang Gan, PhD, associate professor of electrical engineering in the University at Buffalo School of Engineering and Applied Sciences says currently, there is a great demand for on-site drug testing, and the high-performance chip they designed is able to detect cocaine within minutes. An inexpensive that can be produced using raw materials that cost around 10 cents.

Gan developed the new chip with a team that included first authors Jun Gao, a research associate of Material Sciences at Fudan University in China, and Nan Zhang, a PhD candidate at the University of Buffalo, along with colleagues from the UB Department of Electrical Engineering; the UB Research Institute on Addictions; and the UB Department of Community Health and Health Behavior in the UB School of Public Health and Health Professions.

The new chip is an engineered nanostructure that traps light at the edges of gold and silver nanoparticles. When biological or chemical molecules land on the chip’s surface, some of the captured light interacts with the molecules and is “scattered” into light of new energies. This effect occurs in recognizable patterns that act as fingerprints, revealing information about what compounds are present.

Because all chemicals — cocaine, opioids, and active ingredients in marijuana — have their unique light-scattering signatures, researchers can use the technology to quickly identify a wide range of chemicals.

This sensing method is called surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS), and it’s not new. But the chip that Gan’s team developed is noteworthy for its high performance and low cost.”SERS holds a lot of promise for rapid detection of drugs and other chemicals, but the materials required to perform the sensing are usually quite expensive,” Zhang says. “The chips used for SERS are typically fabricated using expensive methods, such as lithography, which creates specific patterns on a metal substrate. The chip was created by depositing various thin layers of materials on a glass substrate, which is cost-effective and suitable for industrial-scale production.

 

Virtual Reality In The Classroom

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VR along with related technologies, AR and MR shows genuine potential to enhance learning outcomes for students of all ages across a variety of disciplines.

The benefits of VR in particular are based around participatory as opposed to passive learning to drive greater knowledge retention.

The virtual tour has been promoted as the premier application for the utilization of VR in K-12 to date, allowing students to visit locations outside of the classroom without the associated cost of a real life field trip.

The medical sector has been another area of focus with a number of high profile trials taking place including those sponsored by Pearson and Microsoft. Virtual labs to support scientists in conducting otherwise dangerous or costly experiments are also an opportunity for scalable VR deployment going forwards and unlike virtual tour applications, offer potential for monetization. Language learning offers similarities to simulation based training experiences with existing provision to the consumer market expected to translate to institutional sales in the mid to long term.

Creative tools servicing specific vocational subjects like architecture, engineering and product design are also expected to be a key driver for VR adoption in universities but these solutions are typically provided to students without charge by providers looking to seed future users in industry.

Head mounted display (HMD) manufacturers including Oculus, Google and Microsoft are partnering with educational publishers and content providers to develop content for education. Shipments of VR headsets to the higher and further education sector are expected to reach 700,000 units in 2021 accounting for $150 million in revenue. PC based and all in one solutions (the combined purchase of a headset and mobile device) are each forecast to account for a sizeable share of shipments. Sales of higher priced AR headsets are expected to escalate later in the forecast period with major hardware releases slated for the back end of the decade.

In the K-12 market, the number of students accessing HMD based VR/MR/AR content in K-12 institutions is expected to grow from 2.1 million in 2016 to 82.7 million in 2021. The majority of use cases will be supported by all in one headsets.

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