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Bioengineering and biotechnology

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The Washington Post

Writing for The Washington Post, Prof. Kevin Esvelt argues that research aimed at creating pandemic-causing viruses should be considered a matter of international security. “Natural pandemics may be inevitable. Synthetic ones, constructed with full knowledge of society’s vulnerabilities, are not,” writes Esvelt. “Let’s not learn to make pandemics until we can reliably defend against them.”

Bloomberg Businessweek

Orna Therapeutics, which was co-founded by MIT researchers, is working on “programming RNA with genetic code that instructs a line to split into several strands and then repair itself in the shape of a circle,” reports Bloomberg Businessweek reporter Angelica LaVito. “Delivering those messages via circles may produce a more stable, longer-lasting signal, potentially treating cancer, autoimmune disorders, and genetic diseases.”

Nature

Nature reporter Eric Bender spotlights MIT startup Kytopen, which has developed a microfluidic platform to create induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells and other forms of cell therapy. We want to do minimally invasive surgery,” says Kytopen co-founder Prof. Cullen Buie.

New York Times

New York Times reporter Steve Lohr spotlights the origin and history of MIT startup Gingko Bioworks, a synthetic biology company founded with a “shared belief that biology could be made more like computing with reusable code and standard tools instead of the bespoke experiments of traditional biology." Jason Kelly ’03, PhD ’08, one of the founders of MIT startup Ginkgo Bioworks and the company’s chief executive, explains that “the ultimate goal for Ginkgo is to make it as easy to program a cell as it is to program a computer.”

Bloomberg Radio

Bloomberg’s Janet Wu speaks with alumna Nan-Wei Gong PhD '13, co-founder of Figur8, an MIT startup applying AI to help diagnose musculoskeletal problems. “Figur8 is a tool that really brings lab experience into the field so everyone can quantify their musculoskeletal injuries,” says Gong. “We invented a wearable system that allows you to capture biomarkers of your musculoskeletal health and pinpoint injury through our AI algorithm.”

Fast Company

Professor Xuanhe Zhao and his colleagues have developed a new soft robotic prosthetic hand that offers the wearer more tactile control. “You can use it to grab something as thin and fragile as a potato chip, or grasp another hand in a firm-but-safe handshake,” writes Mark Wilson for Fast Company. “By design, this rubbery, air-filled hand is naturally compliant.”

Dezeen

Dezeen reporter Rima Sabina Aouf writes that MIT researchers have created an inflatable prosthetic hand that can be produced for a fraction of the cost of similar prosthetics. “The innovation could one day help some of the 5 million people in the world who have had an upper-limb amputation but can't afford expensive prostheses.”

Mashable

Engineers at MIT have developed a soft, inflatable, neuroprosthetic hand that allows users to carry out a variety of tasks with ease, reports Emmett Smith for Mashable. “People who tested out the hand were able to carry out quite complex tasks, such as zipping up a suitcase and pouring a carton of juice.”

The Boston Globe

Ginkgo Bioworks founders Jason Kelly PhD ’08, S.B. ’03 and Reshma Shetty PhD ’08 speak with Boston Globe reporter Scott Kirsner about the inspiration for and growth of the company, which is focused on manipulating genetic material to get living cells to perform new jobs. Shetty notes that the Ginkgo Bioworks team is “dedicated to making biology easier to engineer."

United Press International (UPI)

UPI reporter Brooks Hays writes that a new tool developed by researchers from MIT and other institutions can precisely control gene expression without altering the underlying gene sequence. “Scientists hope this new ability to silence any part of the human genome will lead to powerful insights into functionality of the human genome, as well as inspire new therapies for a variety of diseases and genetic disorders,” writes Hays.

New Scientist

Researchers from MIT and the Indian Institute of Technology Madras have developed a new technique to grow and culture human brain tissue in an inexpensive bioreactor, writes Christa Lesté-Lasserre for New Scientist. The researchers have now “reported the growth of a brain organoid over seven days. This demonstrates that the brain cells can thrive inside the chip.”

Boston Globe

A group of MIT scientists has announced a new plan, called the Future Founders Initiative, aimed at addressing gender inequities in the biotech industry, reports Anissa Gardizy for The Boston Globe. “If we can’t advance discoveries at the same rate for women and men, that means there are drugs, therapies, devices, and diagnostics that are not getting to where they can actually benefit people,” says President Emerita Susan Hockfield. “If as a region we want to continue to lead the world, the best thing to do is not squander our resources.”

BBC News

Graduate student Ashley Beckwith speaks with BBC Radio 5 about her work developing a new concept for growing wood in the lab, as part of an effort to supplement traditional forestry methods. "We dedicate a lot of resources to growing whole plants, when all we use really is a very small portion of the plant,” says Beckwith. “So somehow we needed to figure out a more strategic way to reproduce materials that isn't so reliant on the land."

Wired

Writing for Wired, Keith Gillogly spotlights how MIT researchers have devised a new technique that could lead to the development of lab-grown wood and other biomaterials. “The hope is that, if this becomes a developed process for producing plant materials, you could alleviate some of [the] pressures on our agricultural lands. And with those reduced pressures, hopefully we can allow more spaces to remain wild and more forests to remain in place,” says graduate student Ashley Beckwith,

Popular Mechanics

Popular Mechanics reporter Kyro Mitchell explores how MIT researchers have created a biodegradable medical patch that could be used to repair internal injuries. Mitchell notes that the patch “can be easily wrapped around robotic tools like a balloon catheter and a surgical stapler and then be inserted into the patient.”