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Biological engineering

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Bloomberg News

Biobot Analytics, a startup founded by Mariana Matus ‘18 and Newsha Ghaeli ‘17, has raised $20 million in funding for its work with wastewater epidemiology, reports Carey Goldberg and Janet Wu for Bloomberg News. “This past year, wastewater epidemiology changed from being an obscure niche area of science to becoming a central pillar of the response to the Covid-19 pandemic,” says Matus. “And now, in the later stages of the pandemic, it’s becoming a central pillar of preparing for the next pandemic.” 

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.”

CBS Boston

A new tabletop device developed by researchers from MIT and other institutions can identify Covid-19 variants in a person’s saliva, reports CBS Boston. “We tried to limit the number of user steps to make sure it was as easy as possible,” explains graduate student Devora Najjar.

WHDH 7

WHDH spotlights how MIT and Harvard researchers are creating wearable biosensors that could be used to detect Covid-19 in a person’s breath. “At the end of the day, what we wanted to do was basically to blend both to potentially produce a product that was more easily incentivized patients to both wear a mask and to get tested,” explains Luis Soenksen of the Abdul Latif Jameel Clinic for Machine Learning in Health.

CBS Boston

A new sensor developed by MIT and Harvard researchers can be embedded in a face mask and used to alert the wearer if they have Covid-19, reports CBS Boston. “Small disposable sensors can diagnose the wearer of the mask within 90 minutes," reports CBS Boston. "The technology has been used before to detect Ebola and Zika, but now researchers are embedding it into face masks and lab coats as a new method to safeguard health care workers.”

Boston Globe

Researchers from MIT and Harvard have developed a new sensor technology that can be embedded in a face mask to detect whether the wearer has Covid-19, reports Pranshu Verma for The Boston Globe. “We worked hard, sometimes bringing nonbiological equipment home and assembling devices manually,” says Luis Soenksen of the Abdul Latif Jameel Clinic for Machine Learning in Health. “It was definitely different from the usual lab infrastructure we’re used to working under, but everything we did has helped us ensure that the sensors would work in real-world pandemic conditions.”

Fast Company

Researchers from MIT and Harvard have developed a face mask outfitted with sensors that can detect if the wearer has Covid-19, reports Adele Peters for Fast Company. “If testing and sensing at a biological molecular level could be done in a format that can follow people around instead of people having to go to the clinic, maybe you can encourage people to get more testing done,” says Luis Soenksen, a Venture Builder at MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel Clinic for Machine Learning in Health.

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 MIT researchers have developed a new technique for labeling and retrieving DNA files, “a breakthrough that could help shrink the carbon footprint of the rapidly expanding digital world.”

NPR

Prof. Linda Griffith joins Terry Gross of NPR’s Fresh Air to discuss how studying endometriosis could help unlock some of the mysteries of tissue regeneration. "The regeneration of the endometrium is weirdly not studied as much as it should be," she says. "But it's fascinating because you get about a centimeter of growth of tissue that has beautifully formed blood vessels, an immune system, all of the structures of the tissue — over a period of about two weeks."

Science

In an editorial for Science, Prof. Sangeeta Bhatia, Prof. Emerita Nancy Hopkins and President Emerita Susan Hockfield underscore the importance of addressing the underrepresentation of women and minorities in tech transfer. “The discoveries women and minority researchers are making today have great potential as a force for good in the world,” they write, “but reaching that potential is only possible if paths to real-world applications are open to everybody.”

New York Times

Prof. Linda Griffith is on a mission to change the conversation about endometriosis “from one of women’s pain to one of biomarkers, genetics and molecular networks,” writes Rachel E. Gross for The New York Times. “The endometrium is inherently regenerative,” says Griffith. “So studying it, you’re studying a regenerative process — and how it goes wrong, in cases.” 

Stat

Prof. Emerita Nancy Hopkins speaks with Rebecca Sohn of STAT about the Boston Biotech Working Group’s goal of increasing the number of women leaders and entrepreneurs in biotech and her hopes for the future of women in biotech and the sciences. “You want people to feel that they are free to participate in all the things wherever it leads them,” says Hopkins. “So I think the goal is just that people who really want to do this [pursue biotech] don’t face any greater barrier than anybody else. That everybody has equal access and education to do as they want to.”

Forbes

To better understand what gives mucus its disease-protecting properties, MIT researchers created synthetic mucins, writes Forbes contributor Jackie Rocheleau. Understanding the antimicrobial properties of mucus “could offer a whole new way of treating infectious disease,” says Prof. Laura Kiessling.