Scientists claim creation of a non-addictive opioid compound

In what has been called a potential“holy grail” of opioid research,scientists at Wake Forest BaptistMedical Center have created whatthey are calling a non-addictive opioidcompound, a result which could havewidespread repercussions for paintreatment and the ongoing opiateaddiction crisis.

Reported in the journal Proceedings ofthe National Academy of Sciences, thestudy profiles the synthetic opioidBU08028 which was tested on 12 non-human primates and found to not onlybe an effective pain killer but also to be free of adverse side effects such as decreased respiratory functionand, importantly, addiction.

“Based on our research, this compound has almost zero abuse potential and provides safe and effective painrelief,” says Mei-Chuan Ko, professor of physiology and pharmacology at Wake Forest Baptist and leadauthor of the study. “This is a breakthrough for opioid medicinal chemistry that we hope in the future willtranslate into new and safer, non-addictive pain medications.”

Ever since heroin was first synthesized in the late 1800s -and initially proclaimed to be free from the hazardsof abuse- research efforts have been ongoing in the quest to create an opioid analgesic which does notpromote addictive behaviour. And while advances in pharmacology over the past few decades haveproduced dozens of synthetic opioids currently in use for pain management, from effective pain killers likeoxycodone and the extremely potent fentanyl to opioid antagonists such as naloxone that block the body’sreceptor sites from taking in other opioids, the prospect of the addiction-free opioid has remained out ofreach.

But scientists see real potential in BU08028, which binds to two opioid receptors in the body named MOPand NOP like the known compound buprenorphine but is said to have improved activity over buprenorphineat NOP receptors. Researchers studied the behavioral, physiological and pharmacological effects ofBU08028 on non-human primates and found the drug to be highly potent and long-lasting in its analgesiceffect while not inhibiting respiratory or cardiovascular functioning or causing acute physical dependence.

“To our knowledge, the present study provides the first functional evidence in nonhuman primates thatBU08028 with mixed MOP/NOP agonist activities is an effective and safe analgesic without apparent abuseliability or other opioid-associated side effects,” say the study’s authors.

In a commentary on the new study, Dr. Jun-Xu Li of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciencesat the University of Buffalo has written of the opioid’s “double-edged sword.” “Despite their effectiveness,opioids produce many clinically significant side effects.” says Li. “For decades, research pursued the ‘HolyGrail’ of opioid analgesic research: the development of opioids that retain the analgesic efficacy withreduced side effects. [The new study] reports a systematic evaluation of a novel opioid, BU08028, may leadus one step closer to this ultimate goal.”

The use and abuse of opioids for pain treatment has reached crisis levels in Canada and the United States.Last year in Canada alone, 21.7 million opioid prescriptions were dispensed, a 20 per cent increase over theprevious half-decade.



What has the form of an octopus, was born in a lab and is powered by oxygen gas under pressure?

Welcome to the “octobot,” the world’s first entirely soft, 3D-printed, autonomous robot created by Harvard University researchers.

The octobot “may serve as a foundation for a new generation of completely soft, autonomous robots,” the researchers wrote in a paperthat appeared in the Aug. 25 issue of Nature, an international weekly journal of science.

Soft robotics is a budding field that aims to develop safer robots that can better adapt to natural environments, according to the research team led by Robert Wood and Jennifer A. Lewis, professors at Harvard’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Now that the octobot has been launched, researchers are hoping to give it a greater range of behaviors.

Next steps in its development include increasing the complexity of the fluidic controller—the system built into the robot that distributes hydrogen peroxide to catalyst sites so it can produce oxygen gas, Wood told Bloomberg BNA.  The pressurized gas inflates the octobot’s arms, resulting in bending.

As for other behaviors the researchers would like to see, “The first and simplest is effective locomotion,” Wood said. So, a walking octobot? Sounds like the stuff sci-fi dreams are made of.


Alexis Kramer has been with Bloomberg BNA since 2014 and serves as a legal editor for the Electronic Commerce & Law Report. She holds a B.F.A. from Long Island University and a J.D. and M.A. in International Affairs from American University’s Washington College of Law. Follow Alexis on Twitter at @alexis_s_kramer.

Corning Gorilla Glass SR+ to Protect Your Wearables From Scratches

Best Smartwatches

Corning’s tough Gorilla Glass, which has long protected smartphones, is heading to smaller screens.

Gorilla Glass SR+ is designed for wearable devices and promises a significant reduction in visible scratches, as well as better optical clarity and touch sensitivity.

While most folks store their smartphone or tablet in a pocket, purse, or protective case, everyday wearables like fitness trackers and smartwatches are exposed to the elements. So Corning needed to develop glass that could better endure bumps, knocks, and scrapes without losing functionality.

“In early 2015, Corning launched Project Phire with the goal of engineering glass-based solutions with the scratch resistance approaching luxury cover materials, combined with the superior damage resistance of Gorilla Glass,” Scott Forester, director of innovation products, said in a statement. “Corning Gorilla Glass SR+ delivers a superior combination of properties that is not available in any other material today—it is in a class of its own.”

In lab tests, the company managed “superior” scratch resistance—nearly at the level of “alternative luxury cover materials” like sapphire, which Apple uses to protect its Watch.

According to the company, Gorilla Glass SR+ delivers up to 70 percent better damage resistance against impacts, and 25 percent better surface reflection than its competition. Available now to manufacturers, Corning’s new composite is expected to be integrated into products launched later this year.

Last month, Corning revealed Gorilla Glass 5, which promises scratch resistance as well as better protection against a common smartphone pitfall: dropping your handset from “selfie height.”

Google Cast Now Fully Built Into Chrome

Google is making it even easier to extend the Web to the biggest screen in your home.

The Web giant on Monday announced that Google Cast is now built fully into Chrome, meaning you can beam content from your favorite websites to your TV using Chromecast without having to install or configure anything. In the past, showing content from Chrome meant having to download the Google Castbrowser extension, which has been around for two years.

Now, when you’re on a Cast-friendly website, and on the same network as a Cast device, you’ll see the Cast icon appear on your screen. Just press that and with a couple more clicks, you’ll be able to view that page on your TV or listen to music through your home speakers.

For websites that aren’t integrated with Cast, you’ll need to navigate to the Chrome menu and select “Cast…” to view that content on the big screen — an option Google rolled out last month.

“With Google Cast and Chrome, you can share what you love to watch with those around you,” Chrome Product Manager Stephen Konig wrote in a blog post. “We’re excited to make this available to everyone.”

To try out this new built-in Cast functionality, just make sure you’re running the latest version of Chrome.

Meanwhile, if you’re a Cast user and in the market for a new monitor, LG has you covered. The company on Monday unveiled new ultra-wide LG monitors, which feature built-in Google Cast, letting you easily stream your favorite shows and music from your smartphone or tablet to your computer screen.

LG has three new 21:9 ultra-wide monitors to choose from: a top-of-the-line 38-inch curved model (38UC99), available in mid-September for $1,499; a 34-inch 144Hz IPS curved model for gamers (34UC79G), coming in mid-October for $699; and a 34-inch flat model (34UM79M), available mid-November for $599.

Google announces Search In Apps, a new way to search for personal content

Android’s always been pretty good at search – it’s developed by the world’s biggest search company,so you’d hope so – but one thing that it’s always struggled with is searching content on your device,having removed it in Ice Cream Sandwich because the API was not up to scratch. Google isattempting to fix that today with the launch of the new ‘Search In Apps’ feature, which Codyuncovered part of during a recent Google app teardown.

InAppsSearch LgV20InApps

In Apps is basically an extension to the Google search bar. When searching something that’s’personal’ such as a name or place, scroll to the end of list of available searches – the one with ‘Web,”Images,’ ‘Shopping,’ ‘Maps,’ and more on it. The resulting ‘In Apps’ list will show results from appslike Google Messenger, Spotify, Twitter, YouTube, Gmail, Google Play Music, and Instagram. Moreapps are on their way, too: Google says Facebook Messenger, shown in the GIF but not live ondevices yet, is coming, as well as apps like Evernote, LinkedIn, Google Keep, and Todoist. If you don’twant an app appearing in the search results, individual apps can be turned off in the Settings menu.

The first phone to fully embrace this is the LG V20, which is of course the first phone to ship withAndroid 7.0 Nougat; in fact, the V20 will get a homescreen shortcut directly for searching in apps,which might be the icon Cody found in the aforementioned teardown, plus the ability to search LG’spre-installed apps. In Apps is appearing on devices running Nougat and Marshmallow, but it mayonly be live on devices running the beta Google app – it’s not very clear at the moment. Members ofthe Android Police team are seeing new or different search results showing up in the Phone tab, asare users on reddit, but it looks like this isn’t the same thing as the results that are in the In Apps tab.

InAppsM9 InApps6P

The cool thing about this feature is that it happens entirely on your phone – it does not require WiFi ora cellular connection to use, meaning it stays private to you and isn’t uploaded as part of the dataGoogle collects on you. In Apps appears to be rolling out now, so get searching, but keep in mind theconfusion mentioned above.

‘Star in a jar’ could lead to limitless fusion energy

New compact spherical tokamak design may overcome physics challenges
August 30, 2016

A test cell for the National Spherical Torus Experiment Upgrade with tokamak in the center. (credit: Elle Starkman/PPPL Office of Communications)

Physicists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL)* are building a “star in a jar” — a miniature version of the how our Sun creates energy through fusion. It could provide humankind with near limitless energy, ending dependence on fossil fuels for generating electricity — without contributing greenhouse gases that warm the Earth, and with no long-term radioactive waste.

But that requires a “jar” that can contain superhot plasma — and is low-cost enough to be built around the world. A model for such a “jar,” or fusion device, already exists in experimental form: the tokamak, or fusion reactor. Invented in the 1950s by Soviet physicists, it’s a device that uses a powerful magnetic field to confine plasma (superhot charged gas) in the shape of a torus.

Diagram of magnetic confinement in a tokamak; interactive version: (credit: EUROfusion)

There are many experimental tokamaks currently in operation, but they all face physics challenges, the PPPL physicists explain. “For example, they must control the turbulence that arises when superhot plasma particles are subjected to powerful electromagnetic fields. They must also carefully control how the plasma particles interact with the surrounding walls to avoid possible disruptions that can halt fusion reactions if the plasma becomes too dense or impure.”

Spherical tokamak: a new, compact “jar”

Spherical torus/tokamak design for a fusion nuclear science facility showing magnets and other systems and structures (credit: J.E. Menard et al./Nucl. Fusion)

So researchers at PPPL and in and Culham, England  are looking at ways of solving these challenges for the next generation of fusion devices, based on compact spherical tokamaks. They suggest that these could provide the design for possible next steps in fusion energy: a Fusion Nuclear Science Facility (FNSF) that would develop reactor components and also produce electricity as a pilot plant for a commercial fusion power station.

The detailed proposal for such a “jar” is described in a paper published in August 2016 in the journal Nuclear Fusion. “We are opening up new options for future plants,” said lead author Jonathan Menard, program director for the recently completed National Spherical Torus Experiment-Upgrade (NSTX-U) at PPPL. The $94-million upgrade of the NSTX, financed by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, began operating last year.

Spherical tokamaks are compact devices shaped like cored apples, compared with the bulkier doughnut-like shape of conventional tokamaks. The increased power of the upgraded PPPL machine and the soon-to-be completed MAST Upgrade device “will push the physics frontier, expand our knowledge of high temperature plasmas, and, if successful, lay the scientific foundation for fusion development paths based on more compact designs,” said PPPL Director Stewart Prager.

Next steps in fusion energy

ITER design (credit: ITER Organization)

The spherical design produces high-pressure plasmas  — the superhot charged gas (also known as the “fourth state of matter”) that fuels fusion reactions, using relatively low, inexpensive magnetic fields. This unique capability points the way to a possible next generation of fusion experiments to complement ITER, the international tokamak that 35 nations including the U.S. are building in France to demonstrate the feasibility of fusion power. ITER will be the largest in the world when completed within the next decade.

But ITER is a doughnut-shaped tokamak. “The main reason we research spherical tokamaks is to find a way to produce fusion at much less cost than conventional tokamaks require,” said Ian Chapman, the newly appointed chief executive of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority and leader of the UK’s magnetic confinement fusion research programme at the Culham Science Centre.

The 43-page Nuclear Fusion paper describes how the spherical design can provide the next steps in fusion energy. A key issue is the size of the hole in the center of the tokamak, which holds and shapes the plasma. In spherical tokamaks, this hole can be half the size of the hole in conventional tokamaks, and that enables control of the plasma with relatively low magnetic fields.

The smaller hole could also be compatible with a blanket system for the FNSF that would breed tritium, a rare isotope of hydrogen. Tritium will fuse with deuterium, another isotope of hydrogen, to produce fusion reactions in next-step tokamaks.

Superconducting magnets for pilot plants

For pilot FNSF plants, the authors call for superconducting magnets to replace the primary copper magnets in the FNSF. Superconducting magnets can be operated far more efficiently than copper magnets, but require thicker shielding. However, recent advances in high-temperature superconductors could lead to much thinner superconducting magnets that would require less space and reduce considerably the size and cost of the machine.

Included in the paper is a description of a device called a “neutral beam injector” that will start and sustain plasma current without relying on a heating coil in the center of the tokamak. Such a coil is not suitable for continuous long-term operation. The neutral beam injector will pump fast-moving neutral atoms into the plasma and will help optimize the magnetic field that confines and controls the superhot gas.

The researchers believe the upgraded NSTX and MAST facilities will provide crucial data for determining the best path for ultimately generating electricity from fusion. The research is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.

* PPPL, on Princeton University’s Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, N.J., is devoted to creating new knowledge about the physics of plasmas and to developing practical solutions for the creation of fusion energy. Results of PPPL research have ranged from a portable nuclear materials detector for anti-terrorist use to universally employed computer codes for analyzing and predicting the outcome of fusion experiments. The Laboratory is managed by the University for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the largest single supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the U.S.

Abstract of Fusion nuclear science facilities and pilot plants based on the spherical tokamak

A fusion nuclear science facility (FNSF) could play an important role in the development of fusion energy by providing the nuclear environment needed to develop fusion materials and components. The spherical torus/tokamak (ST) is a leading candidate for an FNSF due to its potentially high neutron wall loading and modular configuration. A key consideration for the choice of FNSF configuration is the range of achievable missions as a function of device size. Possible missions include: providing high neutron wall loading and fluence, demonstrating tritium self-sufficiency, and demonstrating electrical self-sufficiency. All of these missions must also be compatible with a viable divertor, first-wall, and blanket solution. ST-FNSF configurations have been developed simultaneously incorporating for the first time: (1) a blanket system capable of tritium breeding ratio TBR  ≈  1, (2) a poloidal field coil set supporting high elongation and triangularity for a range of internal inductance and normalized beta values consistent with NSTX/NSTX-U previous/planned operation, (3) a long-legged divertor analogous to the MAST-U divertor which substantially reduces projected peak divertor heat-flux and has all outboard poloidal field coils outside the vacuum chamber and superconducting to reduce power consumption, and (4) a vertical maintenance scheme in which blanket structures and the centerstack can be removed independently. Progress in these ST-FNSF missions versus configuration studies including dependence on plasma major radius

The first self-driving taxis started public trials in Singapore last week. The vehicles are produced by US start-up NuTonomy.

The first self-driving taxis started public trials in Singapore last week. The vehicles are produced by US start-up NuTonomy.

By Jeff Sanford

Toronto, Ontario — August 28, 2016 — Singapore is trying out the world’s first self-driving car service, MIT and DARPA have teamed up to put LIDAR on a microchip, a UK start-up is developing technology to allow autonomous vehicles (AVs) to do without pre-generated maps and Domino’s autonomous pizza delivery robot is starting trials in New Zealand.

– According to a report from Venture Beat, the “world’s first public trial of a self-driving car service has officially launched in Singapore today [Thursday] as US autonomous car startup NuTonomy beats Uber to the punch by a matter of days.” Last week it was reported that Uber would begin testing AVs in Baltimore this fall. Looks like a company from Cambridge, Massachusetts has beat Uber to the punch. According to the report, “The company raised a chunky $16 million in May of this year. The round was led by Highland Capital Partners but also included participation from EDBI, the corporate investment arm of the Singapore Economic Development Board. Earlier this month, NuTonomy revealed a partnership with Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) to initiate trials of an ‘autonomous mobility-on-demand transportation service.’

– The hype building around AVs is beginning to have something of the feel of the late 1990s tech boom that saw Internet stocks climb to hugely inflated prices. Today, the hype is around AVs, and the stories and press releases hailing the latest advance in AV tech are coming fast and thick. Here’s a perfect example: A press release explains how a company managed to put LIDAR—a radar-like device that uses lasers—on a computer chip that is “1,000 times cheaper” and scans “1,000 times faster” than other similar devices. This device will be key to helping to “revolutionize self-driving cars, drones, and robots.” LIDAR is considered one of the important technologies for AVs.

According to the release, the cost of LIDAR will come down in the year ahead. As it is, “commercially available high-end LIDAR systems can range from $1,000 to upwards of $70,000, which can limit their applications where cost must be minimized … The new LIDAR chips are produced on 300-millimeter wafers, making their potential production cost on the order of $10 each at production volumes of millions of units per year. They also have the potential to be much more robust because of the lack of moving parts.”

The new “on-chip LIDAR system” can detect objects at ranges of up to two metres, though the company hopes “to achieve a 10-metre range within a year. The minimum range is around 5 centimetres. We have demonstrated centimetre longitudinal resolution and expect 3-cm lateral resolution at 2 metres. There is a clear development path towards LIDAR on a chip technology that can reach 100 metres, with the possibility of going even farther.”

– A London-based autonomous driving startup called recently raised $2.7 million in a July financing on a promise to deliver fully autonomous vehicles to the market by 2019. This is two years ahead of similar projects announced by Ford and BMW according to a report on Quartz.

“ claims it will use more ‘sophisticated machine-learning that will help a vehicle understand its surroundings without the need to constantly compare its data against ultra-precise, three-dimensional maps created by radar systems,’ which is the approach being used by Ford and Google.” A vehicle will use a “convolutional neural network” to perceive an object’s depth instead of relying on data from high-resolution 3D maps. “This gives the vehicle greater autonomy, the startup says. ‘They will have an ability not to rely on existing 3D models,’ says Alex Flamant, an associate at Notion Capital, an investor in the startup. ‘There are a lot of incumbents not targeting this strategy because it’s not low-hanging fruit. It’s easier to rely on maps.’”’s approach “requires the vehicle to carry a lot more processing power on board.” The founder of the company estimates that a vehicle will need “three to four times as many computers as Google’s driverless car.” Nevertheless, “Observers of Europe’s artificial intelligence sector think has a shot at success. ‘There’s room for new teams who set out to solve specific problems along the value chain,’ says Nathan Benaich, a venture capitalist at Playfair Capital in London.”

This is the early “Wild West” days in the AV world when the companies that will define this space begin to carve out their territory.

– Uber announced this week it is buying up a self-driving truck company started by former Google employees. According to a report on Business Insider, “Otto is only a six-month-old startup, but it already has four trucks on the road 24/7 and is sprinting toward … the not-so-distant future of self-driving semis, where existing trucks can install one of Otto’s $30,000 kits to produce autonomous-driving capabilities.”

– Announcements of funding through stock issues in the AV world are picking up. This week a company named Quanergy raised $90 Million in Series B Funding. Quanergy is, according to a press release, “the leading provider of solid state LIDAR sensors and smart sensing solutions…” The parts maker, Delphi Automotive, that has announced it will create an AV system for cars, was involved in the financing. So was Samsung Ventures. According to industry experts, the LIDAR market is expected to exceed $1 billion by 2020 and $3 billion by 2022.

“Innovation in LIDAR technology represents one of the largest opportunities unfolding around the globe, and this infusion of funding will enable us to accelerate development, scale faster and expand our world-class engineering team,” said Dr. Louay Eldada, Quanergy CEO.

– A press release from the Toyota Research Institute reports that organization has partnered with the University of Michigan to accelerate artificial intelligence research.

“Research focused on artificial intelligence, robotics and autonomous driving at the University of Michigan (U-M) will get a major boost thanks to an initial $22 million commitment from the Toyota Research Institute (TRI),” according to the release.

A Toyota exec is quoted as saying, “…we are excited to expand our collective efforts to address complex mobility challenges through artificial intelligence … We look forward to collaborating with U-M’s research faculty and students to develop new intelligent technologies that will help drivers travel more safely, securely and efficiently. We will also focus on expanding the benefit of mobility technology to in-home support of older persons and those with special needs.” Under the agreement, TRI will provide an initial $22 million over four years for research collaborations with the U-M faculty in the areas of enhanced driving safety, partner robotics and indoor mobility, autonomous driving and student learning and diversity.

U-M also operates, “Mcity, a unique ‘mini-city’ on a 32-acre site on campus that allows researchers to test emerging vehicle technologies rapidly and rigorously in a safe, controlled environment.”

The release goes on to say that “The challenges that TRI faces with autonomous cars will leverage our labs’ research into complex behaviors, like merging and understanding the intention of other vehicles from their actions,” added Olson, associate professor at U-M … This collaboration is an effort to leverage robotics to improve quality of life in a variety of ways.”

– We have reported on this story before in this space, but any update on the pizza delivery robot that Domino’s Pizza is working on is a delicious bit of news.

The pizza chain has announced that it will trial a battery-powered delivery robot in the New Zealand city of Wellington, describing the bot as “the world’s first autonomous pizza delivery vehicle.” Known as DRU (Domino’s Robotic Unit), the four-wheel robot “was developed in Australia and is capable of completing deliveries within a 20-mile radius on a single charge. DRU stands at just under three-feet tall, and uses an array of sensors to avoid obstacles. Up to 10 pizzas can be stored in the bot’s heated compartment, which can be unlocked with a code that customers are given when they order.” This is real progress.

-Tech-based website The Verge reported this week that a “who’s-who of carmakers, technology companies, and ride-sharing startups are joining forces to pressure the federal government on the issue of self-driving cars.”

Ford, Google, Uber, Lyft, and Volvo announced Tuesday the formation of the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets, a lobbying group with the express purpose of advocating autonomous driving, according to the report. The story suggests, “It’s a power move by some of the most high-profile names behind the still nascent technology, made at a time when regulators and policymakers in Washington, DC, are still wrapping their heads around the concept of self-driving cars.”

The coalition will be headed by David Strickland, a former administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). “Self-driving vehicle technology will make America’s roadways safer and less congested,” Strickland said in a statement. “The best path for this innovation is to have one clear set of federal standards, and the Coalition will work with policymakers to find the right solutions that will facilitate the deployment of self-driving vehicles.”

According to the report, “The timing of the announcement is significant because NHTSA is about to convene the second of two public hearings on self-driving cars. The first was held in Washington, DC. The second is Wednesday at Stanford University in the heart of Silicon Valley.”

– Apparently all this talk of AVs is old news compared to a recent story in the corporate magazine produced by Airbus. According to the story the European plane-maker is hoping to produce a prototype of the world’s first autonomous flying taxi for “dense urban areas where traffic congestion is a real and growing problem.”

The company’s A3 division is a Silicon Valley-based organization focused on innovative products. The company is said to be working on “building a self-flying vehicle platform codenamed Vahana, which is designed to carry both individual passengers and cargo, which could also help it act as a last-mile provider for companies like Amazon.”

The leader of the project says a prototype could be “in the sky by 2017,” since the individual tech pieces needed to do that are “most of the way there,” including batteries, motor and basic avionic underpinnings. “One of the biggest challenges the team currently faces from an engineering standpoint is building a comprehensive obstacle avoidance system – like the ones that help Google’s driverless cars navigate roads, but optimized for skyborne vehicles.”