Painless biomaterial plaster for wounds and wrinkles wins science award

Falling Walls 2017
PHOTO / Falling Walls

Berlin, 10 November 2017. German start-up Jenacell has been named the “2017 Science Start-up of the Year”. Its product, a wound dressing made of pure cellulose, is the first of its kind to quickly and painlessly treat extensive burns.

Unlike conventional dressings, the Jenacell plasters are made of a moist, semitransparent and completely natural material that doesn’t adhere to wounds. The company’s nanocellulose, which is biotechnologically produced by bacteria, is also used for aesthetic treatments, such as smoothing wrinkles.

“Jenacell impressed the jury with its incredibly innovative product, which plays a particularly important role in the field of medicine. Each year in Germany, around 30,000 people are treated for burns, including many children. Rapid and painless treatment using Jenacell’s wound dressing represents a tremendous step forward,” said Dr Stefan von Holtzbrinck, CEO of the Holtzbrinck Publishing Group and head of the Falling Walls Venture Jury, explaining the jury’s choice of the start-up from Jena.

A total of 24 science based start-ups from around the world were invited to present their business ideas at Falling Walls Venture in Berlin. Among the participants were companies based in Canada, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, Austria, Great Britain, the United States and Germany. Each company had five minutes to present their business model to the international jury of entrepreneurs, scientists and journalists.

The 24 finalists at Falling Walls Venture had been nominated by leading universities and venture capital firms: Evonik Industries, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, the University of Cambridge and the Royal Academy of Engineering, London, among others, sent their best science based start-ups to compete for the title of Falling Walls Science Start-Up 2017. In 2017, both New York University and Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan, held preliminary competitions and sent their winners to Berlin.

Falling Walls Venture is an initiative of the Falling Walls Foundation and generously supported by its global partners Siemens, Boehringer Ingelheim and Evonik and takes place in cooperation with international partner universities and research institutions.

About the Falling Walls Foundation
The Falling Walls Foundation is a non-profit organisation in Berlin which holds the international Falling Walls Conference each year on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. At the Conference, around 20 leading scientists from around the world are each given 15 minutes to present their breakthroughs in the natural and social sciences, business and technology. The Falling Walls Foundation also coordinates the Berlin Science Week. For the second year in a row, the event will bring scientists from institutions all over the world to Berlin from 1 to 10 November. The Falling Walls Foundation is supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres, the Robert Bosch Stiftung and the Berlin Senate, as well as by numerous scientific institutions, foundations and companies. More information can be found at


A fingerprint test will tell if you have used cocaine

Scientists have developed a highly sensitive fingerprint test that can take less than a minute–about 30 seconds–to confirm whether someone has used cocaine.

The breakthrough from the University of Surrey, is a result of the first large scale study of cocaine users and could pave the way for the detection of a range of other Class A substances such as heroin, ecstasy among others.

finger printThe non-invasive technology could greatly improve routine drug testing by law enforcement agencies such as the police, prisons, courts among others. It will likely be more portable and more hygienic than testing blood, urine or saliva is currently done in drug abuse detection.

Cocaine is an addictive stimulant made from the coca plant native to South America. It produces a short­-term euphoric feeling of energy and talkativeness. Physical effects include a potentially dangerous increase in heart rate and blood pressure.

The study published today (September 22) involved taking fingerprints from a group of patients seeking treatment at drug rehabilitation centres, as well as a larger group not known to be drug users. All of those taking part washed their hands before the test in a variety of ways, and then samples were collected on a prepared chromatography paper. The paper chromatography is a method for separating dissolved substances such as colours and dyes from one another.

The fingerprint is developed using chemicals, so that the ridges of the fingerprint (and therefore the identity of the donor) can be established prior to analysis.  Cocaine users excrete traces of two chemicals benzoylecgonine and methylecgonine. Both are excreted by the body’s sweat glands when it metabolizes or break down the cocaine. These chemical are present in fingerprint residue and these traces can still be detected even after hand washing.

The research published in Clinical Chemistry, was carried out with partners from the Netherlands Forensic Institute and Intelligent Fingerprinting. The team, led by Dr Catia Costa and Dr Melanie Bailey from the University of Surrey, developed a new technique to analyse the levels of cocaine detected in the fingerprints. They used chromatography paper to take the sample as part of a technique known as paper spray mass spectrometry.

Dr Costa said: “Paper spray mass spectrometry is gaining increasing popularity in forensic circles because it is incredibly sensitive and is very easy to set up a testing system – the units will save laboratories time.

“This is the first time it has ever been used to detect the presence of drugs in fingerprints, and our results show the technique was 99% effective in detecting cocaine use among the patients.”

Dr Bailey said: “This is a real breakthrough in our work to bring a real time, non-invasive drug-testing method to the market that will provide a definitive result in a matter of minutes – we are already working on a 30 second method.”

“And, as with previous methods we have developed, it is non-invasive, hygienic and can’t be faked – by the nature of the test, the identity of the subject, and their drug use, is all captured within the sample itself.”

“This exciting research clearly demonstrates the important role that fingerprints can play in simplifying drug screening, and complements our own parallel developments in portable, point-of-use diagnostic tests. These activities confirm the value of a fingerprint as a diagnostic matrix,” added Dr Jerry Walker, Intelligent Fingerprinting’s CEO.

“We have supported the University of Surrey research programmes for the last four years, and Dr Bailey and her team have shown time and again that they are the world’s leading group in fingerprint diagnostics research using mass spectrometry. We congratulate them in continuing to expand knowledge in the revolutionary field of fingerprint-based diagnostics.”

At a glance:

Title of the study: Rapid, Secure Drug Testing Using Fingerprint Development and Paper Spray Mass Spectrometry.

Authors: Catia Costa, Roger Webb, Vladimir Palitsin, Mahado Ismail, Marcel de Puit, Samuel Atkinson, and Melanie J. Bailey.

Published: Clinical Chemistry on 22nd September 2017.


US pharmaceutical company defends 5,000% price increase – BBC News

The head of a US pharmaceutical company has defended his company’s decision to raise the price of a 62-year-old medication used by Aids patients by over 5,000%. Turing Pharmaceuticals acquired the rights to Daraprim in August. CEO Martin Shkreli has said that the company will use the money it makes from sales to research new treatments. The drug treats toxoplasmosis, a parasitic affliction that affects people with compromised immune systems. After Turing’s acquisition, a dose of Daraprim in the US increased from $13.50 (£8.70) to $750. The pill costs about $1 to produce, but Mr Shkreli, a former hedge fund manager, said that does not include other costs like marketing, manufacturing and distribution, which have increased dramatically in recent years.

Source: US pharmaceutical company defends 5,000% price increase – BBC News

World, meet the Edible Battery | Rising Stars | OZY


Solar panels and wind turbines are everywhere these days, but the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow. Meaning, the more panels and turbines you build, the more you need a backup for rainy days (literally). Storing excess solar and wind energy would be ideal, but conventional batteries wear out quickly, sometimes catch fire, often leak toxic crud and leave behind heavy metal waste when they go. That leaves unconventional batteries — say, power cells built out of something cheap, plentiful and nonflammable that’s also utterly nontoxic. Maybe, since we’re dreaming here, even safe enough to eat. Make that, safe enough to eat and drink, and somewhere Jay Whitacre’s ears perk up. For the past five years, the Carnegie Mellon professor and a team of engineers at his startup, Aquion Energy, have been developing a long-lived, eco-friendly and inexpensive battery out of nothing more than salt water and other simple components. This isn’t a battery that will juice your phone or your car, at least not directly; instead, it’s intended for big power farms that could soak up excess electricity during the day — for instance, from home solar systems — and then shoot it back out at night when the sun’s down. The French consulting firm Yole Développement figures this “stationary storage” market could be a $13.5 billion opportunity by 2023, compared with less than $1 billion this year.

Source: Jay Whitacre and the Edible Battery | Rising Stars | OZY

Climate change hits poor farmers hardest, Bill Gates says – Humanosphere

The world’s poor farmers are at the greatest risk when it comes to the negative effects of climate change, Bill Gates said. The Microsoft founder and philanthropist wrote a blog post that warns that inaction on climate change will harm people living at the bottom. And he includes a call-to-action to prevent worst-case scenarios. “Yes, poor farmers have it tough. Their lives are puzzles with so many pieces to get right – from planting the right seeds and using the correct fertilizer to getting training and having a place to sell their harvest. If just one piece falls out of place, their lives can fall apart,” Gates wrote. “I know the world has what it takes to help put those pieces in place for both the challenges they face today and the ones they’ll face tomorrow. Most importantly, I know the farmers do, too.” The call comes at the same time meetings in Bonn, Germany, seek to move forward negotiations for the Paris meeting on climate change. Gates and his foundation are pressing leaders to enact solutions to climate change and put forward the needed money. The Green Climate Fund, a financing mechanism designed to assist developing counties deal with the effects of climate change and reduce emissions, has raised just $10 billion – a long way from its target of $100 billion by 2020.

Source: Climate change hits poor farmers hardest, Bills Gates says – Humanosphere