Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a remarkable tool where a small device is implanted in the body with leads carefully placed at critical spots in the brain. The tool can help manage symptoms of some neurodegenerative diseases. Now, a new generation of devices from Medtronic offers additional tools to patients and doctors. We also look at remote laboratories, creating artificial proteins, using artificial intelligence to detect HIV and the emergence of the Delta COVID-19 variant in the United States.
Each week, we highlight five things you need to know about in the life sciences industry. Here’s the latest.
On June 8, the Food and Drug Administration approved Medtronic’s DBS device known as SenSight Directional Lead System. The device allows physicians to both capture brain activity and deliver neurostimulation to treat some symptoms associated with movement disorders like Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy. The device is the first of its kind to both read and provide stimulation to the brain. The approval and successful commercialization of this device is a step toward an eventual cure for movement disorders that affect millions globally.
Strateos announced the successful closing of its $56 million series B financing round. The capital will be used to expand its existing remote access laboratory platform. The company currently operates two remote laboratories and has a software platform that helps clients design and automate laboratory workflows. The platform is designed to assist with drug discovery and development efforts. It allows research teams to connect remotely from anywhere in the world and automate a portion of their tedious research efforts to help achieve new and faster scientific discoveries.
3. Artificial proteins never seen in the natural world are becoming new COVID-19 vaccines and medicines
In an effort to rapidly develop safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, scientists used advanced computing techniques to create artificial proteins as a targeted delivery mechanism. The ability to create unique, and in many cases “nano,” proteins may prove to be a major breakthrough in the ability to understand and leverage biology in a range of other applications. It’s important to keep in mind that proteins are the key building blocks of our cells (which can contain 42 million proteins on average), and it has been a long-held belief that we would never be able to understand the complex and apparently spontaneous rules that govern these structures.
However, new technologies and developments in AI have allowed scientists to create artificial therapeutic structures that can be produced in a faster, more cost-effective manner with dramatically higher efficacy than natural proteins. Cutting-edge technology, such as DeepMind, is shining new light on what AI can help us learn about biologic and chemical interactions, and it will undoubtedly play an increasingly important role in the development of next-generation medicines.
4. Smartphone AI app aims to improve detection of early-stage HIV, increasing patients’ access to health care
Researchers from University College London and the Africa Health Research Institute have developed a smartphone app to interpret rapid HIV test results. The app uses deep learning technology and is trained on a library of more than 11,000 HIV test result images. In a study performed by the developers, the app was used to interpret 40 HIV tests and compare the results to those of professionals. On average, the professionals correctly interpreted the data 92% of the time compared to the app’s 98.9% accuracy. Past estimates of professional accuracy range from 80% to 97%.
“Having spent some time in KwaZulu-Natal with fieldworkers organizing the collection of data, I’ve seen how difficult it is for people to access basic healthcare services. If these tools can help train people to interpret the images, you can make a big difference in detecting very early-stage HIV, meaning better access to health care or avoiding an incorrect diagnosis,” said the study’s first author, Valérian Turbé, of the UCL London Centre for Nanotechnology.
For vaccinated people in the United States, it has been become somewhat easier to think that the pandemic is behind us and that a full return to normal life is around the corner. For those unable to be vaccinated, including children under 12, that feeling of normalcy is harder to grasp. And, the continued spread of the Delta variant in the U.S. and elsewhere is starting to highlight that we may not be as close to that return to normalcy as we hope, according to this Nature article.