Medical imaging is one of the very best applications of technology — it allows us to peer inside of the human body without actually performing surgery. It’s non-destructive testing to the extreme, and one of the more interesting projects we’ve seen over the past year uses AC currents and an infinite grid of resistors to image the inside of a living organism. It’s called Spectra and it is the brainchild of [Jean Rintoul]. Her talk at the Hackaday Superconference is all about low cost and open source biomedical imaging.
We’ve seen some interesting medical imaging hacks in the Hackaday Prize over the years. There have been vein finders and even a CT scanner, but when it comes to biomedical imaging, the Spectra project is something different. Right now, it’s just good enough to image organs while they’re still inside your body, and there’s still a lot of potential to do more. Let’s take a closer look a how this works.
The idea behind Spectra is to use AC waves through a medium (a fruit, or a person, or a rat) and use tomographic techniques to image the interior. Specifically, this is called Electrical Impedance Tomography, and you can surprisingly build a small version of this with very, very minimal hardware.
Electrical Impedance Tomography works due to the fact that different tissue types have different resistances. By sending an AC wave (around 10kHz or so) through a body, the inside can be reconstructed. Everything from lung volume measurements to muscle and fat mass to cancers can be detected with this technique. Yes, you’ll still need a tech or an MD to interpret the data, but this is a very inexpensive way to image the human body compared to current technology.
As for why this matters, this is a fantastically cheap way to look inside a body. Preventative care in medicine doesn’t have an affordable imaging solution; if you need an MRI or CT scan, odds are you’re only going to get that when you’re sick. A CT scanner will cost millions of dollars and MRI machines are even more expensive. [Jean]’s prototype electrical tomography setup can be build for well under a thousand dollars — and it looks she even has a crowd funding campaign in the work to get more test hardware out into the world. Making this both open source and low cost makes the technology more accessibility. We hope this ultimately leads to better medical care for everyone, and [Jean] is on the cutting edge of this advancement.
Manufacturers of medical electrical equipment are required to test to the international electrical safety standard IEC 60601 Medical Electrical Equipment, General Requirements for Safety, to ensure that the design of the equipment is intrinsically safe. The standard specifies various type testing requirements for protection against potential electric hazards.
In the absence of a recognised international standard for testing the safety of electronic medical devices once they have entered service in a hospital or other medical facility, many electro biomedical engineering (EBME) departments have traditionally used IEC 60601-1 tests and limits as the basis for the routine testing of electrical devices.
In addition, some countries have taken matters a step further with the development of their own guidelines and protocols, for example, those for testing newly delivered medical devices, which is also known as acceptance testing. Other countries have specified the safety tests to be performed at regular intervals, referred to as routine testing or preventative product maintenance; and some have specified test requirements directly following service or repair. Some examples of these localised testing standards include MDA DB9801 in the United Kingdom, VDE 750/751 in Germany, AS/NZ 3551 in Australia and New Zealand, and NFPA-99 in the United States.
The new demands of IEC 62353
The introduction of IEC 62353, Medical Electrical Equipment, Recurrent Test and Test After Repair of Medical Electrical Equipment, seeks to streamline this situation and harmonise all standards that specify measures to ensure the safety of electromedical devices used in the diagnosis and treatment of patients. In particular, IEC 62353 defines a series of test requirements and associated pass/fail limits that are designed to ensure the in-service safety of electromedical devices and systems. The standard contains tables with allowable values relating to different editions of IEC 60601-1 and includes general requirements and further clauses for special types of medical electrical equipment and systems.
Although complementary with IEC 60601, the new standard is less complex and incorporates tests beyond those of type testing. Significantly, IEC 62353 recognises that the laboratory conditions described in IEC 60601 may not always be relevant to working locations and that some type test specifications could potentially damage equipment when it is used in service. The important differences introduced by IEC 62353 are described below.
Earth bond testing
One of the main differences is the use of a minimum test current of 200 mA for earth bond testing, compared with 25A required in IEC 60601-1. This test is designed to test the integrity of the low resistance connection between the earth conductor and any conductive metal parts, which in Class I devices may become live when there is a fault.
The use of a minimum 200 mA test current recognises the potential for high test currents to potentially be destructive or damaging to parts of the device under test that are connected to the protective earth, but which have a functional purpose such as screening.
Historically, problems linked to contact resistance have sometimes caused erroneous pass/fail readings when using test currents. However, new high intensity low current test technology is now available that overcomes this problem and enables valid earth bond tests to be successfully performed using highly portable battery powered testers.
Insulation resistance test
Unlike IEC 60601-1 tests, IEC 62353 provides details of methods for testing the insulation of the medical device. Three different test methods are detailed for assessing the insulation between mains parts and earth, between applied parts and earth and, finally, between applied parts and mains parts.
Research has shown that it is current rather than voltage that is the source of electricity related injuries or deaths. As a result there are stringent rules on the design of medical equipment to ensure that the patient or operator is not exposed to those currents that do not form part of the functional operation of the device. Those currents are called leakage currents. In the interests of helping to guarantee safer practice and the repeatability of test measurements, IEC 62353 defines two different types of leakage current tests:
Equipment Leakage Current. This is regarded as the total leakage deriving from applied parts, enclosure and mains parts combined to real earth.
Applied Part Leakage Current. This is the total leakage deriving from the combined patient connections within an applied part to earth and any conductive or nonconductive parts of the enclosure.
IEC 62353 specifies three methods that can be used to determine these types of leakage current. Each of these methods has certain benefits and disadvantages for use with certain types of equipment and careful consideration needs to be given to the selection of test method made in relation to individual circumstances.
Formalising preventative care
Importantly, by stipulating various test methods and pass/fail limits, IEC 62353 provides the basis for consistent data collection and the development of formal preventative maintenance procedures.
Although the onus will remain on the manufacturers of medical devices to advise on appropriate tests for their equipment, the new standard will clearly have a significant impact on medical service companies as well as EBME, medical physics, clinical engineering and other technical departments.
With the introduction of the new standard, care should be taken in the specification and selection of the medical safety analyser that is employed. If IEC 62353 is adopted, the tester must be properly configured to meet all the requirements of the new standard in terms of functionality, accuracy and repeatability. In particular, when using low current earth bond test methods, it is important to ensure that contact resistance is taken into account.
To help those likely to be affected by the introduction of IEC 62353, a free booklet, “A Practical Guide to IEC 62353,” is available that summarises the standard’s methods and requirements: www.rigelmedical.com.
John Backes is Product Manager at Rigel Medical.
When COVID-19 presented the world with the greatest health challenge in modern history, it was biomedical scientists who stepped up to develop diagnostic testing and vaccines to slow the spread of the disease.
But how did these in-demand scientists fare psychologically and in their careers amid pandemic pressures such as juggling child and/or elder care with work? Until now, that hasn't been measured.
A new Northwestern Medicine study is the first to measure resilience in biomedical scientists during the pandemic. The findings highlight the consequences of the pandemic for women scientists of all career stages who experienced greater household responsibilities while facing social pressure to advance their careers. The study was published Aug. 9 in JAMA Network Open.
Of the 635 biomedical scientists surveyed between Oct. 1 and Nov. 30, 2020, 61% reported experiencing a career or professional setback during the pandemic. A high measure of resiliency was often associated with a professional setback, the study found. Seemingly, resiliency did not pay off for many.
"Our data show that you can be as resilient as you want, but there are certain structural factors, such as gender or child care, that can hinder your professional advancement," said corresponding author Nicole Woitowich, executive director of the Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Sciences (NUCATS) Institute at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine who was formally trained as a biomedical scientist.
Scientists were expected to persevere in achieving professional goals, expectations and milestones despite facing disparate professional and personal challenges, said Woitowich, who also is a research assistant professor of medical social sciences at Feinberg.
"We had originally hypothesized that resilient scientists would be less likely to experience setbacks during the pandemic—so these results surprised us," Woitowich said.
The scientists collected data from biomedical scientists who were members of the National Postdoctoral Association. Participants self-reported demographic information including gender, race and ethnicity. Some 58% of respondents reported being female, 40% reported being male and 1% preferred not to say.
Survey respondents answered yes, no or unsure to the question, "Have you experienced career or professional setbacks as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?" They also completed the 10-item Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale, a test that measures resilience or how well one is equipped to bounce back after stressful events, tragedy or trauma.
"Resilience building is having a moment in medicine right now, and while I think it supports beneficial coping skills, it might not sufficiently counteract sociocultural and contextual pressures arising from gender disparities within the biomedical workforce," Woitowich said.
The scientists hope one outcome of this research will be an increase of focused strategies to support the professional advancement of women and gender-minority scientists, particularly in the wake of the pandemic.
Other Northwestern co-authors include Christine V. Wood and Lutfiyya N. Muhammad.
More information: Evaluation of Professional Setbacks and Resilience in Biomedical Scientists During the COVID-19 Pandemic, JAMA Network Open (2023). DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.28027
Citation: Study shows resilient biomedical scientists' careers took a hit during pandemic (2023, August 9) retrieved 24 August 2023 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2023-08-resilient-biomedical-scientists-careers-pandemic.html
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Cutting-edge biopolymer 3D printed heart valve technology and a rapid and accurate test to identify the most effective antibiotic treatment have commenced commercialisation in Western Australia to help millions globally.
Both WA designed technologies received 2023 CUREator grants, a national biotechnology incubator program run by Brandon BioCatalyst with funding from the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund and the CSIRO.
The 3D printed heart valve and the antibiotic diagnostic technology are being developed by newly formed WA companies, CoraMetix Pty Ltd and Cytophenix Pty Ltd respectively.
The next generation technologies have been developed at Perth’s Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research (Perkins). The University of Western Australia (UWA) and PathWest Laboratory Medicine WA supported the development of Cytophenix’s technology.
CoraMetix Pty Ltd’s development of the new 3D printed heart valves is led by biomedical engineer Dr Elena Juan Pardo, alongside cardiologist and expert in the field of heart valve intervention and innovation, Dr Abdul Ihdayhid.
Dr Juan Pardo, who led the research team at the Perkins and UWA said the commercialisation accelerator grant was an integral phase on the path to testing the concept of biopolymer-based 3D printed valves as a viable alternative to currently available animal-derived or carbon-fibre mechanical valves.
“Using a 3D printing technique called Melt Electrowriting we have designed and tested a patented biopolymer 3D printed heart valve scaffold which exquisitely and uniquely mimics the mechanical properties of native human valves,” Dr Juan Pardo said.
Dr Ihdayhid said each year millions of people worldwide suffer from narrowing of the aortic valve opening which can be fatal without valve replacement.
He said most valve replacements today rely on biological valves derived from animal tissue. These have a limited lifespan; they can fail within 5 years resulting in repeat high-risk valve surgery.
Dr Juan Pardo said, “Our 3D-printed solution will be cheaper to manufacture and require less ongoing medical intervention. Most importantly, we are designing a valve to remain functional for the rest of the patient’s life, negating the need for repeat surgeries.
“Our team of international experts in biomedical engineering and cardiology aim to deliver a next-generation heart valve that provides best-in-class performance and durability.”
“This CUREator grant means that we can continue our work here in Western Australia, to test our invention further, and bring it closer to realisation, and to the patients who need it most,” she said.
The global market for a current treatment, transcatheter aortic valve replacement, is estimated to grow from $4.4 billion USD is 2021 to around $13.4 billion USD by 2030.
Antibiotic resistance solution
WA company, Cytophenix Pty Ltd, is developing breakthrough diagnostic technology in the race to save millions globally from antibiotic resistant bloodstream infections.
Cytophenix Pty Ltd is a partnership between researchers led by UWA Forrest Prospect Fellow Dr Kieran Mulroney at the Perkins and other founders from UWA and local AI firm Three Springs Technology.
Dr Mulroney is also a 2023 Premier’s Science Award finalist. Cytophenix was recently announced as one of the Emerging Innovation Category finalists, and a Business News ‘Great for the State’ Platinum Award finalist in the 2023 WA Innovator of the Year Awards.
The technology has been peer reviewed and was published in the international medical journal The Lancet eBiomedicine in July 2022.
“Our technology, the flow cytometry-assisted antimicrobial susceptibility test (FAST), is a rapid and accurate test that identifies the best antibiotic to prescribe in just 3-5 hours,” Dr Mulroney said.
Current tests take 2-5 days to isolate infecting bacteria and identify effective antibiotics. Often results arrive too late to guide the choice of antibiotics used. In serious infection, every hour without effective antibiotics increases risk of death by 6.7%.
Across Europe, the US and Australia approximately 29 million blood cultures are performed annually, representing a market size of $850 million to $1.69 billion AUD.
“FAST is a ‘one-principle-fits-all’ platform, meaning it is applicable to essentially all combinations of bacteria, fungi, and the antibiotics that treat them. This includes novel and emerging pathogens,” he said.
Using a device that measures hundreds to tens of thousands of individual bacteria in just a few seconds, the technology detects the damage antibiotics cause to bacteria, and uses this information to recommend which antibiotic will be an effective treatment.
Across more than 19,000 individual test results from clinical samples, the technology has demonstrated the levels of real-world accuracy and precision required by regulatory agencies for clinical use.
“We can predict which antibiotics will be effective to treat that infection with 96.9 per cent accuracy,”.
Each year 1.27 million people worldwide die from infections resistant to antibiotics. Without effective antibiotics, patients deteriorate rapidly and can die within hours.
Perth physician, Dr Aron Chakera said, “Patients with serious infections cannot survive the several days it can take to return traditional antibiotic test results. Consequently, a broad spectrum, ‘one-size-fits-all’, antibiotic is typically prescribed.
“The biggest problem with prescribing broad-spectrum antibiotics is that it encourages some bacteria to become resistant to the antibiotics. This is a growing and serious problem world-wide.
“The overuse of broad-spectrum antibiotics is one of the key drivers in the spread of resistance to antibiotics”, he said.
The conference, established in 1993 by the Alternatives Congress Trust, offers a collaborative forum to advance the principles of the 3Rs—replacement, reduction, and refinement—in research and testing.
The Physicians Committee’s team of science and policy experts will lead eight scientific sessions and workshops, deliver five presentations, and showcase five posters on many aspects of advancing ethical science to Excellerate outcomes while reducing and replacing animal use.
The conference will be held Aug. 27 – 31, 2023, in Niagara Falls, Canada
Visit the meeting website
View the full program of events
Satellite Meeting* (8:30 to 10 a.m.): An Update on International Animal-Free Antibodies Efforts will convene organizations to discuss the current efforts to increase advocacy, education, and access to animal-free antibodies for biomedical research. *Invitation only
Workshop Session (11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.): Contemporary Challenges for the Animal Care Committees
Co-Chair: Ryan Merkley, director of research advocacy (Physicians Committee)
Speakers will address a range of critical challenges for animal care committees, from workload and regulatory loopholes to the development of nonanimal methods and responding to evolving public perceptions around the use of animals in experiments.
Presentation: Never Say “No”: An Analysis of Corner-Cutting Measures by IACUCs at Major Public Universities in the United States
Overview of the Designated Member Review (DMR) process, which allows proposed animal use protocols to gain approval with just a single Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) member review. Attendees will gain valuable insight from a data analysis of DMR usage and a discussion of the historical context and legal implications of DMR under U.S. federal law.
Workshop Session (9 to 10:30 a.m.): More Than the 3Rs – What Should Principles of Animal Ethics Look Like Today? will examine the key ethical principles to be considered before any animal is used in research.
Presentation: Bird’s Eye View: Strengthening Protections for Wild Animals in Research by Ron Baron, research advocacy coordinator (Physicians Committee), will explore the lack of research and regulation of wildlife species.
Workshop Session (11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.) An Auspicious Outreach Plan for Adverse Outcome Pathways in Higher Education
Co-Chair: Jessica Ponder, regulatory testing analyst (Physicians Committee)
This session will focus on practical strategies to enhance the prevalence of AOP-based lesson plans and course content, to provide the next generation of toxicologists with essential knowledge about this (AOP) framework. Attendees will learn about the significance of AOPs as a key tool for communicating the advantages and availability of New Approach Methodologies (NAMs) and for shaping the future of toxicology education.
#UseScienceNotAnimals World Café – Unilever (5:30 to 7:30 p.m.)
Members of the Physicians Committee, Phoebe Woodruff and Eryn Slankster-Schmierer, were invited to help coordinate the Unilever #UseScienceNot Animals World Café on Tuesday evening. The event will feature debates; a Science Slam; Tools and Approaches and Education and Training booths showcasing the Physicians Committee’s NURA and Summer Immersion programs, and a scavenger hunt with the chance to win prizes! Attendees will have opportunities to interact with mentors and enjoy vegan hors d’oeuvres.
ICAPO Meet-Up (7 a.m.)
Members of the International Council on Animal Protections in the OECD (ICAPO) are invited to meet on Tuesday morning. Contact the ICAPO secretariat at eslankster [at] pcrm.org (eslanksteratpcrmdotorg) for more information.
Workshop Session (9 to 10:30 a.m.): It’s How You Say It! Effective Science Communication to Promote Animal Replacement
Co-Chair: Catharine E. Krebs, PhD, medical research specialist (Physicians Committee)
Effective science communication is imperative in accelerating the important shift towards human-centered biomedical research and testing. It requires complex scientific concepts to be easily digestible; it requires the use of persuasive arguments that drive home the myriad costs of animal research; and it requires combating misinformation and hyperbole from high-powered pro-animal research interests that are firmly planted in the status quo. In this workshop, experts will present about effectively communicating the need to shift the research paradigm away from animals with a variety of stakeholders, including researchers, the media, and the public.
Workshop Session (11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.): Show Me the Animal Data! Animal Methods Bias in Publishing and Funding
Co-Chair: Catharine E. Krebs, PhD, Medical Research Specialist (Physicians Committee)
“Animal methods bias,” a preference for animal-based methods where nonanimal-based methods are suitable, is a barrier to developing and increasing the use of nonanimal research methods. The session will highlight challenges and solutions for mitigating animal methods bias in manuscript peer review and research funding.
Presentation: Confronting Animal Methods Bias in Scientific Publishing will outline the efforts needed to shift away from animals in biomedical research and testing. This presentation will (1) provide evidence of animal methods bias in publishing, including anecdotal accounts and survey results, (2) explore its consequences, including the conduct of unnecessary animal experiments and negative career repercussions, and (3) discuss ongoing work of the Animal Methods Bias Taskforce.
Workshop Session (9 to 10 a.m.): Science for Policy, Policy for Science: Engaging Policymakers to Advance Science and Ethics
A panel of experts will analyze the policy framework underlying the transformative innovations & applications like Organ-on-a-Chip, 3D-bioprinting, and related Microphysiological Systems (MPS). The implementation of discerning policies towards improving the drug development process, reducing the cost of medicine, streamlining biomedical research, improving safety and toxicity testing, and promoting sustainability will be evaluated through the societal, technological, and economic lens.
Presentation: Partnering with Policymakers to Advance NAMs: Strategies and Best Practices that Achieve Results by Elizabeth Baker, Esq., director of research policy (Physicians Committee)
Workshop panelist (9 to 10:30 a.m.): “Of Mice and Not Men: Empowering Next-Gen Scientists for Careers in NAMs”
Chair: Catharine E. Krebs, PhD, medical research specialist (Physicians Committee)
The focus of this solution-room workshop is to address the pervasive “animal data bias” entrenched in the contemporary scientific culture—where animal studies are all too often requested to validate human biology-based studies. Through a moderated panel discussion with audience participation, the goal is to collate ideas for a bottom-up approach to support next-gen NAM scientists in navigating the treacherous waters of grant and journal reviews to obtain funding, publish, and build a successful career without having to generate new animal data.
Symposium (9 to 10:30 a.m.): Refinement’s Impact on Research – A Critical Review
This session will address the practical impact of refinement on scientific progress and animal use. Attendees will hear from experts who have conducted refinement research and assessed its application in practice, and translatability to the human setting.
Presentation: Gaps and Considerations in Oversight and Research Limitations in Use of Human Nonhuman Animal Chimeras
Ann Lam, PhD, medical research program director (Physicians Committee)
Considering Xenotransplantation and Other More Viable Solutions to the Organ Shortage (Poster B2, Abstract #570)
Catharine E. Krebs, PhD, medical research specialist (Physicians Committee)
Poster will delve into the critical issues of the current organ shortage, highlight the potential of viable solutions such as xenotransplantation, and explore the promising frontier of safer, more ethical biotechnology solutions like organ bioprinting. The presentation will discuss the need for careful consideration and recommendations for shifting research and resources towards more tenable strategies: the prevention of end-stage chronic diseases; optimizing living donation, improving organ rejection management, expanding donor criteria, and advocating for opt-out donation systems.
Animal Use and Opportunities for Reduction in Carcinogenicity Studies for Pharmaceuticals (Poster C22, Abstract #706)
Eryn Slankster-Schmierer, regulatory testing specialist (Physicians Committee)
This poster provides recommendations to reduce the number of animals used in carcinogenicity studies by 46%, based on the New Drug Applications made publicly available from 2015-2019. The methods outlined include weight of evidence assessment using the 2022 ICH S1B R1 addendum, implementing microsampling of blood, replacing long-term studies in mice with short term transgenic studies, and extra control groups.
Analysis of Research Animal Numbers at U.S. Government-Funded Laboratories (Poster E29, Abstract #406)
Ryan Merkley, director of research advocacy (Physicians Committee)
Unlike other western nations, the U.S. lacks comprehensive data on vertebrate animals used in research. This poster will present the inconsistences found in a groundbreaking analysis of over 1,000 laboratories and discuss the significant effort needed to obtain this data. The session will provide recommendations for implementing new policy changes to enhance transparency around animal use and for improving ongoing collaborative efforts with members of U.S. Congress.
Sharp Increases in U.S. Animal Research Post-COVID (Poster E37, Abstract #71)
Jessica Ponder, regulatory testing analyst (Physicians Committee), Ryan Merkley, director of research advocacy (Physicians Committee), Elizabeth Baker, Esq., director of research policy (Physicians Committee)
Despite a slowly decreasing trend in usage of animals leading up to 2019, there was a sharp increase in nearly all AWA-covered species during 2020 and 2021. This reflects a pronounced disconnect between public health needs for human-relevant methods and our current research investment.
Engaging Congress to Influence Agencies: A Laser-Focus on Appropriations Legislation (Poster E22, Abstract #400)
Emily Anderson, policy advocate (Physicians Committee)
This poster highlights the U.S. appropriations process as an annual opportunity for advocates and stakeholders to engage with Congress to make progress for nonanimal approaches, through increased funding for nonanimal methods and changes to federal agencies’ policies and practices. It describes successful lobbying strategies and some successes for nonanimal approaches that the Physicians Committee has helped to secure in appropriations legislation in exact years.
Fever Pitch: Restoring Global Harmonization of Bacterial Endotoxins Testing (Poster A44, Abstract #264)
Jessica Ponder, regulatory testing analyst (Physicians Committee), Elizabeth Baker, Esq., director of research policy (Physicians Committee)
Present findings of stakeholder consensus that recombinant Factor C methods have been shown to meet performance criteria for analytical procedures as described by both ICH Q2 and USP <1225>, and stakeholder agreement around the immediate establishment of a compendial U.S. chapter to help restore global harmonization of endotoxins.
NURA offers free training to advance New Approach Methodologies in Toxicological Assessment (Poster D4, Abstract #393)
Eryn Slankster-Schmierer, regulatory testing specialist (Physicians Committee), Jessica Ponder, regulatory testing analyst (Physicians Committee), Phoebe Woodruff, research and regulatory affairs associate (Physicians Committee), Elizabeth Baker, Esq., director of research policy (Physicians Committee)
The Nevada INBRE Undergraduate Summer Boot Camp took place at the Wayne L. Prim campus at the University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe from June 26 to July 14, 2023. Twenty-two students curious about data and biomedical life science received the opportunity to gain research experience through many hands-on activities and discussion groups at camp.
Although having lab experience or an understanding of R coding might have been beneficial, it was not necessary.
“Everything within the boot camp is designed for the novice student,” Juli Petereit, director of the Nevada Bioinformatics Center and co-director of the Nevada INBRE Data Science Core, said. “We usually have students with varying experience levels who are grouped to support peer mentoring.”
Throughout the engaging three-week research program, students met with many researchers, were presented with several scientific technologies, and were involved with an ongoing large human gut microbiome study.
Additionally, working in the wet lab preparing samples for sequencing and analyzing the samples using bioinformatics and data science techniques gave students a feel for what research can look like. Participants engaged in safe lab procedures, DNA extraction, R coding, high-performance computing and much more; practices and skills that can be transferred to other areas. Toward the end of the boot camp, students presented their findings at a research seminar.
"This research was led by exquisite professionals who offered great help and clarification along the way,” Sarah Schott, a Nevada State College student participant, said. “I never felt pressure or frustration from my peers or my directors and it was very nice to conduct research with them all. My favorite camp experience was being surrounded by others like myself who are trying to get into a scientific field.”
While at Tahoe, teamwork played a vital role.
"These students spend three weeks together; building a community is very important,” Petereit said. “Science cannot be done by one and teamwork is an essential part of the boot camp.”
Students stayed in the dorms at the Lake Tahoe campus throughout the entirety of the program, helping further strengthen their bond. Moreover, students chose what they would like to explore within the data and research groups began to form. Outside of the research, students would hang out to have gaming nights, hiking trips, night swims and more.
The boot camp was supported by Assistant Professor of Nutrition Steven Frese and his lab.
“When Dr. Petereit approached me about supporting the program, one of the first things that I remembered was a summer research experience I participated in as an undergraduate,” Frese, with the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources, said. “It was the first time I got to see and do research at a Carnegie R1 university, and it was a fantastic experience that solidified my choice of career. I saw this as a great way to ‘pay it forward’ and help provide a similar opportunity for students in Nevada.”
The Frese Lab guided the ‘wet lab’ portion, which took place during the first week of the program. Frese and his graduate students instructed participants on techniques used within any microbiome research lab.
"Often, students are either exposed to wet-lab or dry-lab science but many times these two aspects of research are not combined; we wanted to develop a program that exposes students to a comprehensive research experience and builds their confidence allowing them to seek out other opportunities,” Josh Baker, INBRE director, principal investigator, and associate vice president for research, said. “Training the next generation of scientists is an essential part of our grant’s mission.”
Nevada INBRE is a National Institutes of Health (NIH) program created to help build biomedical infrastructure in underfunded states and to help promote biomedical research educational opportunities. Thanks to their support, the program is at no cost to accepted students, including room and board.
The program first began during summer 2022, held on the main University campus. The 2023 program was a great success and plans for summer 2024 are already in the works.
Students interested in applying must be at least 18 years old and active undergraduate students at any NSHE institution at the time of application and boot camp. The application will open in January 2024.
NSHE faculty interested in participating in or supporting this program, please email email@example.com.
Some of the student participants were asked about their biggest takeaways, what skills they developed, their favorite camp experience and if they would recommend the program to others. Their answers are shared below.
I came in with little experience and came out with heaps of knowledge! I feel much more confident in my wet-lab abilities like pipetting and general lab safety. This boot camp exposed me to the program R making me feel more assured in my ability to analyze data. Furthermore, I loved going to the beach and exploring everything around the Lake.
I had a love-hate relationship with coding before, especially after struggling with robotics and the worldwide hour of code during elementary school. It almost deterred me from applying for this program. However, my experience with learning R here was surprisingly enjoyable and straightforward, despite the challenges that arise from both coding and research. I thoroughly enjoyed my time here and believe it significantly contributed to enhancing my research analysis, question 1 formulation and coding skills.
I had never used a programming source before, but I learned how to program, interpret data and intercept data. I also came to know how to input my scientific findings and properly display them with the help of a computer or an analytics program. I would certainly recommend this program to other students looking to gain research experience or that might be intimidated to start science. I, as a semi-experienced undergraduate, was taught techniques that will make future research exciting and thrilling.
The camp offered ample opportunities for research skill-building. I had the opportunity to delve into DNA sequencing, access terminal commands, tap into high-performance computers and more. These tools and techniques unlocked a new realm of possibilities for future research. This isn’t merely a camp to learn; it’s a platform to challenge and most importantly, discover yourself in the world of research.
Being in Lake Tahoe for three weeks was amazing and the food at the campus was delicious. The most amazing part of the program was being able to collaborate with the Frese Lab and work with human survey data. It was a new experience for me and it informed me of the possible issues that can arise when working with real people’s responses and data storage.
I gained knowledge in R-coding and its purpose without any previous experience which I can apply in the future working in a laboratory. I would have to say my favorite experience was the karaoke night a big group of us has in the dining hall; it was a blast! The location itself was a whole experience. Lake Tahoe is very beautiful. This program provides hands-on experience in the wet lab and with data science; I definitely recommend this program to other students.
My participation in the Nevada INBRE Microbiome boot camp has tremendously influenced my academic career. Learning from instructors that prioritize teaching and mentoring while also taking the time to assist each student in shaping their thoughts and future has profoundly influenced me and my future.
VILLAGE MEDICAL OPENS AT FIRST ILLINOIS WALGREENS STORE: The integration of health care and retail pharmacy convenience that Deerfield-based Walgreens is working for is making itself evident in Elk Grove Village with the first Village Medical at Walgreens primary care practice in the Chicago area.
The doctors' practice at 641 Meacham Road is a primary care practice located alongside a Walgreens pharmacy location. It features eight test rooms and on-site labs.
Primary care offerings include management of chronic conditions by Village Medical physicians and advanced practice providers in close collaboration with Walgreens pharmacists, as well as treatment of everyday illnesses and injuries, Walgreens said in a press release. Village Medical accepts a wide range of health insurance, including Medicaid and Medicare, and patients receive care at home and by telehealth, as well as at the Walgreens locations, the statement said.
The release stated that the number of people in Illinois with three or more chronic diseases is growing and is expected to reach 3 million by 2030. Walgreens estimates in the release that, through better prevention and treatment of chronic disease, some 45,400 lives in Illinois could be saved annually.
“From keeping up with appointments to managing chronic conditions, new and current prescriptions and more, managing their health care can be overwhelming for patients,” John Driscoll, Walgreens executive vice president and president, U.S. health care, said in the statement. “With Walgreens and VillageMD’s combined expertise in pharmacy and primary care, patients have a convenient location in their community to get the right care, at the right time for positive, long-term health outcomes.”
Walgreens, majority owner of VillageMD, has Village Medical at Walgreens locations in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Texas, Kentucky, Indiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, Georgia and Rhode Island.
Through Village Medical, Village Medical at Home, Summit Health, CityMD and other practices, VillageMD serves millions of patients with 20,000 employees at 700 practice locations in 26 markets.
AFTER 11 DAYS, LORETTO HOSPITAL WORKERS WIN WAGE INCREASES: Loretto Hospital workers would see increased minimum wage rates for all workers represented by Service Employees International Union Healthcare Illinois under a tentative labor agreement reached Thursday.
About 200 employees staged an 11-day strike, picketing for wage increases and safe staffing.
“We know we could make more at another hospital, but we stay here because we care about our patients and community,” said Carla Haskins, a Loretto patient care tech and bargaining committee member, in a statement. “This contract isn’t just a win for us — this is a win for all of Austin. This fight has always been about securing quality health care for Loretto patients and Austin community members — a community we workers belong to ourselves. This contract is a major first step that will help Loretto retain and hire more workers to address the staffing crisis.”
Loretto employees, ranging from mental health workers and radiology technicians to housekeepers and dietary staff, began striking on July 31. Aside from pay hike demands, SEIU Healthcare Illinois, which represents 90,000 workers in the state, was striking over what it described as unsafe staffing levels. The union reports Loretto is facing a significant staffing crisis, with certain positions understaffed by 25% to 35%.
Union leaders and workers have said they believe the labor shortage could be alleviated if Loretto raised wages. Read more.
ACORN GENETICS CLOSES ON $1M: As a teenager, Ana Cornell wanted genetic testing for herself and her sister, after her father was diagnosed with a hereditary disease. But she was frustrated to find the cost of such genetic sequencing testing was way too high.
As a bioengineering student at Northwestern University, she learned that sequencing did not have to be outrageously expensive, so she set out to try to fix a system she says is "fundamentally broken."
"I found it wasn't just me: Many people aren't getting genetic testing, either because they can't afford it or they're afraid of disclosure of their health information," Cornell said.
Her path to find another way led to founding Acorn Genetics at age 19, receiving a Thiel Fellowship in 2021 and dropping out of school to develop low-cost genetic testing, to "democratize sequencing," literally working out of her parents' garage.
This month, Acorn Genetics announced it has closed on a $1 million in pre-seed funding. Cornell, now 23, and a crew of about seven full-time employees work out of Portal Innovations offices in Fulton Market are now shopping her DNA testing equipment, AcornLab, to specialty clinics.
Cornell says the test, which uses an automated workflow of DNA extraction, PCR and third-generation graphene nanopore/nanoribbon sequencing, can test for conditions in 15 minutes for the cost of about $50, without the DNA or genetic information ever leaving the clinic, allowing for greater privacy.
The company is starting out testing for sickle cell anemia and moving into other blood disorders, she said. Her aspirations include testing for markers for cystic fibrosis, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and cancers. Going further, Cornell said she envisions her test helping fulfill the need for handheld sequencers. And, perhaps, Acorn Genetics could grow beyond the medical field, she said, into agriculture through "bio-farming sequencing."
GOHEALTH REJECTS FOUNDERS' BUYOUT BID: A special committee of Chicago-based GoHealth's board has rejected an offer from its two biggest shareholders to buy the remainder of the company for $20 a share.
"We believe the proposal undervalues GoHealth and fails to recognize the strength of our business today as well as our compelling future prospects,” the special committee said in a statement. “We have confidence in the leadership team's ability to execute the company's long-range strategic plan."
The move comes amidst a mixed bag of second-quarter results.
GoHealth also today reported second-quarter revenue of $142.8 million, down from about $158.7 million in the same quarter last year but up sharply from a consensus analyst estimate of $116.5 million, according to Bloomberg. The company’s net loss for the second quarter was $3.27 per share, an improvement over a loss of $5.28 a share in second-quarter 2022 but higher than a consensus estimate of a $2.92-a-share loss on an adjusted basis, according to Bloomberg.
The May 18 offer for the remaining Class A common stock of GoHealth, which sells Medicare plans online, was from Centerbridge Partners, a New York-based private-equity firm, and NVX Holdings. As of the company's proxy filing in April, the two controlled a combined 61% of GoHealth’s voting power.
As of the May 18 offer date, GoHealth co-founder Clinton Jones was CEO of NVX, and co-founder Brandon Cruz was president. They are GoHealth’s nonexecutive chairmen.
EZIKE ON SINAI, MEDICAID AND MORE: Sinai Chicago needs more support amid industrywide financial challenges and changes to Medicaid, says CEO Dr. Ngozi Ezike.
Ezike made the case to the City Club of Chicago this week, saying that the largest safety net provider in Chicago was operating on a “shoestring budget,” a reality that many safety-net hospitals face.
Being a safety-net means "absolutely taking everyone, welcoming everyone in the doors regardless of the ability to pay and that’s a very intense mission that’s hard to maintain,” Ezike said at Wednesday’s event, moderated by WTTW's Brandis Friedman.
About 70% of Sinai’s patients are on Medicaid, Ezike said, adding that about 5% have private insurance and the rest have Medicare plans. And while Sinai’s payor mix has been heavily dominated by Medicaid for years, the resumption of an eligibility process is further complicating circumstances as thousands of Illinoisans are being kicked off the Medicaid rolls this year. As of Aug. 1, more than 47,000 residents lost Medicaid coverage and more are expected in months to come.
Fewer people on Medicaid doesn’t mean fewer people will come to Sinai and other providers for care; it only means they will no longer have a way to pay for care when they seek it. Read more.
BIOMEDICAL SCIENTISTS MAY HAVE STEPPED UP DURING COVID, BUT THEY ENDED UP TAKING A STEP BACK: A Northwestern Medicine study measuring resilience in biomedical scientists finds that a majority reported experiencing a career or professional setback during the early days of the pandemic, the health system said in a press release.
Of 635 biomedical scientists surveyed between October 1, 2020, and November 30, 2020, 61% reported experiencing a career or professional setback during the pandemic. The study was published Aug. 9 in JAMA Network Open.
“Our data shows that you can be as resilient as you want, but there are certain structural factors, such as gender or child care, that can hinder your professional advancement,” corresponding author Nicole Woitowich, executive director of the Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Sciences (NUCATS) Institute at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said in the release.
Scientists were expected to persevere in achieving professional goals, expectations and milestones despite facing disparate professional and personal challenges, Woitowich said in the release.
“We had originally hypothesized that resilient scientists would be less likely to experience setbacks during the pandemic — so these results surprised us,” she said.
Participants self-reported demographic information including gender, race and ethnicity. Of the respondents, 58% reported being female, 40% reported being male and 1% preferred not to say.
PATIENT EXPERIENCE CAN'T TAKE BACKSEAT TO HOSPITALS' WOES: In a Modern Healthcare Q&A, leaders of two Chicago-based organizations, Camille Haycock, senior vice president of patient experience at CommonSpirit Health, and Patrick Ryan, chair and CEO at Press Ganey, talked how health care organization must prioritize patient engagement amid growing competition.
CommonSpirit's Haycock said that consumers want convenience and easy access, a frictionless experience whether it is shopping, making dinner reservations, paying bills or accessing health care.
Press Ganey's Ryan pointed out that "Health care is much different from a general consumer experience because the stakes are so much higher and it’s an elongated interaction. You’re developing a relationship that’s likely to go on for some time. It’s not just one purchasing moment. What people want is access, information, communication and coordination of care across their journey."
One struggle getting in the way of a seamless patient experience is staffing, Haycock said.
"But we’re working to mitigate shortages and increase access, including through virtual nursing approaches and nurse residency programs," she said. "We’re developing a pipeline not only for nurses but other providers. We have a lot of physician workforce initiatives and academic partnerships to build that pipeline."
"Staffing and access are definitely improving," Ryan said. "It’s not anywhere near where consumers would want it to be. What they want is same-day visits. And there are organizations that can get you a same-day visit and can get you through the system fairly quickly. There’s a lot of great work going on, but I think staffing is still a challenge for most organizations."
AT A GLANCE
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider scuttling Purdue Pharma’s $6 billion opioid settlement, taking up a Biden administration appeal that contends the accord improperly shields the Sackler family members who own the company.
High court review threatens Purdue Pharma’s bankruptcy reorganization plan, which includes the opioid settlement as well as an agreement by the Sacklers to deliver up ownership of the company.
The plan would end a mountain of litigation against the OxyContin maker and funnel billions of dollars toward efforts to abate the opioid crisis. Family members have agreed to pay as much as $6 billion to those suing. Read more.
Astellas Pharma US, based in Northbrook, said in a release that the U.S. Food & Drug Administration has accepted its supplemental New Drug Application (sNDA) for Cresemba, seeking approval for the treatment of invasive aspergillosis or invasive mucormycosis in pediatric patients.
Cresemba is already approved by the FDA for the treatment of IA and IM in adults. IA and IM are a major cause of morbidity and death among immunocompromised and hospitalized pediatric patients, Astellas said in the release.
"Since its approval over eight years ago, CRESEMBA has been helping adult patients and their physicians fight certain life-threatening fungal infections when they are often critically ill with other diseases," Lynn Fenicchia, senior vice president and Head of U.S. Medical Specialties Business Unit at Astellas said in the release.
Health Care Service Corp. intends to offer Medicare Advantage plans in nearly 100 more counties across Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas next year.
The expansion represents the third consecutive year that Chicago-based HCSC has significantly expanded where it offers Medicare Advantage and Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug plans under Blue Cross & Blue Shield licenses.
After the expansion, HCSC says it will offer plans in more than 82% of counties in the states it serves as it focuses on rural and underserved areas. HCSC still needs state regulatory approval for the expansion and would not provide additional details on which Illinois counties it would offer Medicare Advantage plans. Read more.
A federal judge Thursday ordered the Justice Department to release nearly $5 million in assets seized from Outcome Health founder Rishi Shah after he was charged with fraud.
Even though Shah was convicted earlier this year, $4.9 million in investments should not have been frozen because they were made before the crimes occurred, the judge ruled.
Prosecutors froze about $55 million in total assets, mostly holdings in startups and investment funds, owned by Shah and Shradha Agarwal, a co-founder of Outcome Health who also was convicted of fraud in April. Shah, however, owned about 80% of the assets. Read more.
OSF HealthCare said in a statement that patients who are enrolled in Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Illinois Medicaid plans will be able to access all OSF HealthCare hospitals and physicians as part of their insurance plan.
"Medicaid is an incredible asset in the communities we serve as many of our patients count on this program for medical coverage assistance," Bob Sehring, chief executive officer of OSF HealthCare, said in the statement. "We are glad to partner with Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Illinois to expand options for Medicaid beneficiaries."
"Across the communities we serve, we have the opportunity to impact 200,000 lives through this new partnership," Michael Wells, president of OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center and interim president of OSF Children’s Hospital of Illinois, said in the statement.
PEOPLE ON THE MOVE
Andrew Chang has been selected as UChicago Medicine’s new vice president and chief marketing officer, joining the health system from VillageMD on Aug. 28.
Chang served as vice president of marketing at VillageMD. Before joining VillageMD, he served as executive director of marketing and physician outreach at Piedmont Healthcare, a 22-hospital system based in Atlanta.
Mike Doyle has joined the senior leadership team at health care management consulting firm Impact Advisors as a vice president, serving on the firm’s IT advisory enterprise analytics team.
Doyle previously led Health Catalyst's analytic services business and played significant roles in client delivery and sales, according to a press release from Chicago-based Impact Advisors.