A one-day symposium, "Advancing Biomanufacturing for the Environment, Health & Industry," will be held on the University of Minnesota campus from 9:30-4 on Friday, June 1. The event will highlight the research outcomes of the Biocatalysis Initiative, an arm of the BioTechnology Institute, a Consortium member. External speakers are Michelle C. Chang (University of California, Berkeley) and Daniela Grabs (Arzeda). Poster prizes will be available; learn more and register here.
Patient-led medicine, powered by mobile technology like smartphones and wearable fitness trackers, is transforming health research. While these new tools have powerful potential, some of this research is not subject to federal regulations, raising quandaries about how to ensure adherence to independent review, informed consent and privacy standards. A new NIH-funded project, MobileELSI, will develop and disseminate recommendations for the ethical conduct of this emerging research. It's led by Consortium collaborators Mark Rothstein (University of Louisville), Charlisse Caga-anan (National Cancer Institute) and John Wilbanks (Sage Bionetworks); Consortium chair Susan M. Wolf is serving on the Working Group. The Consortium hosted an event, How Patients Are Creating Medicine's Future, in Dec. 2016, featuring four experts in the field; video can be viewed here.
In the 12 years since the University of Minnesota established its Office for Technology Commercialization (OTC) in 2006, more than 120 new companies have been founded based on the U's diverse research activities. Now, OTC is a finalist for an international award recognizing the best academic technology transfer units in the world. According to Twin Cities Business, the other nominees are comparable units at Indiana University, Johns Hopkins, Oxford and Yissum (Hebrew University of Jerusalem). Vice President for Research Allen Levine said "We are thrilled to see the University of Minnesota receive global recognition. . . . It is a testament to our efforts. . . to foster entrepreneurship, connect with the private sector and accelerate the transfer of knowledge to benefit the public good.” The winner will be announced on May 22 in London. Several faculty members affiliated with the Consortium have launched companies in partnership with OTC, including Kenny Beckman (University of Minnesota Genomics Center, Corebiome); Bruce Blazer (Clinical and Translational Science Institute, Tmunity Therapeutics); and Michael Sadowsky and Alexander Khoruts (BioTechnology Institute, CIPAC – Crestovo LLC).
An article in the Brainerd Dispatch describes a new collaboration between members of the Minnesota Precision Medicine Collaborative (MPMC) and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe; together, they will "investigate aspects of lung cancer and nicotine metabolism from commercial tobacco use that may be unique to the American Indian populations in Minnesota." As part of this effort, researchers will conduct two pilot studies, one on the rate of nicotine metabolism in members of the Band and one on a new approach to lung cancer treatment and early detection. Pamala Jacobson, one of the leaders of MPMC, emphasizes the need for researchers to take the time to establish authentic, honorable working relationships within communities affected by health disparities. "For precision medicine approaches to be effective, we have to know how to apply this exciting new science to all populations, not just healthcare systems in metropolitan areas or those serving high income patients," said Jacobson. "Conducting the needed research and implementing precision medicine to benefit the health of American Indians and other minority populations is a priority." In addition to Prof. Jacobson, Consortium chair Susan M. Wolf is also an MPMC leader. To learn more, click here.
Prof. Susanna Blumenthal has been appointed to a prestigious named professorship at the University of Minnesota Law School, assuming the title of the William L. Prosser Professor of Law on May 4. She is an affiliate faculty member of the Consortium and a scholar of American legal history who is the author of Law and the Modern Mind: Consciousness and Responsibility in American Legal Culture, which is "a thoughtful study of American law’s confrontation with insanity during the 19th century." (Los Angeles Review of Books). Consortium chair Susan M. Wolf also holds a named professorship in the Law School, endowed by Faegre Baker Daniels LLP, as well as the McKnight Presidential Professorhip of Law, Medicine & Public Policy.
The recent cluster of E. coli contamination, which is linked to romaine lettuce and has sickened people in 22 states, has just caused its first fatality. We don't yet know the source of the infection. The outbreak demonstrates gaps in the systems used to track food pathways in the US. According to an article in Wired, compared to Europe and Japan, "the procedures that might make [the US] food supply more traceable have been caught in a tug of war between federal officials, who want to solve outbreaks more quickly, and growers and shippers, who are resistant to investing in technology they don’t think they need." Amy Kircher, director of the Food Protection and Defense Institute, a Consortium member, is interviewed for the piece. She notes that "when there are records, they aren’t necessarily granular enough to be useful." Referring to a typical four-pack of tomatoes, Kircher explains that "'we assume those tomatoes come from the same source.' But because tomatoes from many farms get commingled at packing houses and then sorted for similarity of ripeness, size and color, that four-pack could contain tomatoes from four different farms." The article notes it's possible that blockchain – a "distributed, encrypted ledger that supports cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin – could also be used to build a record of every transaction that affects a piece of produce."