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Miscellaneous | Biotech Blog

We have just moved into our new location.

09 Apr 09 | Filed in Miscellaneous with 3 Comments

This will be the last posting at this location.

Please go to our new site at

Looking forward to seeing you there.

ECI Biotech Blog is moving to more fancy quarters.

08 Apr 09 | Filed in Miscellaneous with 1 Comment

The ECI Biotech Blog has become a victim of its own success. The parent company, ECI Biotech Recruiters is a very specialized recruiting firm in biotech, while the blog serves a more general audience. As a result, we have been receiving many resumes from good candidates who just don’t happen to fit what we do. So many in fact, that it has become difficult to connect with them and let them know that we cannot help. We’ve resorted to just emailing these folks back, which seems a bit cold.

So some time this week the blog will be moving to its new home at We look forward to seeing you there.

Stem Cell research from an eighth graders perspective.

05 Apr 09 | Filed in Miscellaneous with 7 Comments

My girlfriends granddaughter, Jordan is in the eighth grade. But she has the maturity of someone twice her age. She is an honor roll student whose dream is to one day be a journalist. So I decided to give her a taste of journalism by lettng her write a post on the biotech blog. Since she is so young, I had expected her to just blindly agree with me and accept that stem cells are the greatest thing since sliced bread. She threw me a curve.

The following are Jordan’s feelings on Stem Cell research.

“Stem Cell research has been a hot topic for a while now. Scientists have evaluated the many pros and cons that this new idea carries. So the major question remains. Do we proceed with this innovative and demanding task?

Personally, I somewhat disagree. This issue has an extremely large backbone with several branching points, so I’ll begin with the thoughts I have mainly considered. First off, our world is already overpopulated. As of now, we are slowly diminishing our natural resources, many of which are nonrenewable. Sure, there’s the ‘Go Green’ option, but who is to say the majority will actually take that path. And even if they do, will that be enough to compensate for the large population increases caused by successful stem cell research?

With the longer life expectancy using the stem cell, overpopulation will reach an explosive high. Maybe if people would decide to concieve fewer children or every country had the law China has allowing only one child per family, we would all be in a better living environment. Do you really think one child per famly will be embraced in the United States? Since that most likely will not happen, we must plan for the future.

If we use stem cells there must be limitations or restrictions. Otherwise, we could do serious damage to our planet with the human population increase. Second of all, is this really worth it? This project will require tens of billions of dollars in testing and evaluating. Can we honestly afford it? Our economy is already in a free fall and budget deficits in the trillions of dollars. Do we really have the opportunity to spend this amount of money? Clearly, stem cells would be a huge technological advancement, but is this the best time to do it?

Yes, millions of people can be healed, bettered or even saved from death: but how long have we gone without it? I believe that death is unavoidable in many cases. As I previously stated above, limitations are necessary. Lastly, will stem cells have a positive affect overall? With such a new and powerful approach we all must consider the risk of error or major blunder. If stem cell research and other modern biotech techniques fell into the wrong hands–perhaps Muslim extremists willing to die for their cause–would superbugs be created that would kill millions or even wipe out life on the earth?

Maybe I’m seeing this with the glass half empty or maybe with negative emotions, but all I’m saying is before we continue we must strongly consider the actions we take. Who knows, maybe Stem Cell research could be the greatest advancement in history. Or it could end humanity as we know it. All I can say is that the future will quite possibly hold a life-changing discovery for mankind.”

Pretty heavy stuff for an eighth grader to have to worry about. And when I was growing up, I had to worry about the Russians, the Cold War and the Atomic Bomb. Will it ever change, or will mankind keep on marching blindly towards an unavoidable disasterous end?

With thoughtful young people like Jordan and her peers around, perhaps there is hope.

Wyeth CEO to receive $53 million severance package.

30 Mar 09 | Filed in Miscellaneous with 1 Comment

The CEO at Wyeth will be getting $53 million because of the Pfizer deal. This certainly goes past being just a golden parachute. I think it can be more accurately described as a platinum parachute. It is estimated that a total of 15 executives at Wyeth will receive payouts in the range of $1 million to almost $5 million.

Last year Bernard Poussot, Wyeth’s CEO received total compensation of $21.2 million, which was up a whopping 79% from the prior year. Other items he was paid for included a $132,000 housing allowance and $101,000 for home security.

Sorry for the inactivity

27 Mar 09 | Filed in Miscellaneous with 0 Comments

I’ve been out sick with the flu for pretty much the entire week. Just starting to get a little better. Hopefully I’ll be back to normal and do some posting over the weekend.

Discussion between a PhD Christian and PhD Darwinist at the Creation Museum

22 Mar 09 | Filed in Miscellaneous with 19 Comments

You Tube Video of a discussion on religion between Dr Georgia Purdom, a PhD in Molecular Biology from Ohio state, who does research at the Creation Museum and Dr Michael Shermer who is a firm believer in Darwin. Very interesting stuff. One thing that did surprise me is that the two of them managed to remain relatively respectful of the others views, which was refreshing.

Although she is convinced that he will suffer eternal damnation and burn in hell forever while she will sit at the right hand of God, and he is convinced that she’s a wild-eyed far right wacko doing psudo-science. But they were respectful about it.

Discussion between a PhD Christian and PhD non christian

New jacket being developed that will let you “feel” the movies.

19 Mar 09 | Filed in Miscellaneous with 0 Comments

Researchers from Phillips Electronics are working on a jacket that can be worn in a movie theater. The jacket will be lined with vibration motors. The initial purpose of this jacket is to study the effects of touch on a movie viewer’s emotional response to what the characters are experiencing. It will be introduced at the IEEE sponsored World Haptics Conference in Salt Lake City.

Currently the jacket is not designed to make you feel as though you were punched in the stomach or shot in the shoulder. Right now the inventors just want to have you feel the various emotions that a character in a movie might feel. For instance, to make you feel anxiety, they would be able to make a shiver go up your spine and create the feeling of tension in the limbs. During a chase scene or fight scene the jacket would create a pulsing on the wearers chest to simulate an elevated heartbeat and shortness of breath. 

But they acknowledge that it would be a short step to make a jacket that would affect the viewer much more directly. The same thing could be done with pants as well. “Is that a microprocessor controlled actuator in your pants, or are you just happy to see me?”  

The jacket currently contains 64 independently controlled actuators distributed across the arms and torso. They are arrayed in 16 groups of four and linked along a serial bus. Each group shares one microprocessor. Current drain is said to be so low that it can easily operate for an hour or more on two AA batteries.

Another market I could see this product being useful in would be the music industry. We try to simulate a rock concert experience by blasting our stereo system, but this jacket could add to the experience. So save your money. These souped up clothes will be on the racks at WalMart very soon.

Their current goal is to make the wearer feel subtle changes. However, Hollywood has never been known for being subtle. They would no doubt bring this to the next level.

Some states attempting to turn back the clock on Stem Cell Research!

17 Mar 09 | Filed in Miscellaneous with 0 Comments

Just when I thought the stem cell debate was finally over and reason had won out over religous fervour. Several states are attempting to put through laws prohibiting stem cell research within their borders.

Mike Reynolds, a politician from Oklahoma believes the Federal Government and President Obama have taken things too far. Several days after the limits on federal funding for stem cell research were lifted, the Oklahoma state house received a bill that would make the research illegal. Fortunately the bill has not yet passed, but it may.

And incredibly, it isn’t just in Oklahoma!

A bill in Georgia is also being fought over by pro and anti stem cell research groups. The bill in Georgia outlaws the use of cloning to make a human embryo, but fortunately does not preclude using human embryos from other sources.

In Mississippi the House passed a bill that forbids the University of Mississippi to use state funds for research that would destroy a human embryo.

And last week in George W. Bush territory, a bill was filed in the Texas legislature that would ban the use of state funds for stem cell research.

Louisiana now prohibits research on embryos made in vitro fertilization or IVF clinics.

I’m not entirely surprised about some of the above states that are passing these laws. But even Arizona has a law that says university researchers cannot use state funds to manipulate embryonic stem cells. And another Arizona law prohibits Arizona scientists from experimenting with any type of human embryo or fetus.

Those of us who are in favor of stem cell research need to keep our eyes and ears on our politicians to ensure they don’t try to take our states down that same path.

Waste of taxpayer money?

12 Mar 09 | Filed in Miscellaneous with 3 Comments

I just ran across an article describing a government grant for $860,000 received by a scientist to study 75,000 crickets to determine human survivablilty due to global warming. I can’t help feeling this is a total waste of money. Maybe I’m wrong, but I see very little similarity between human reproduction and lifestyles and that of the cricket. Now if he were studying apes or chimps or at least small mammals like mice, I’d be more likely to accept the study as being wortdhwhile.

We procreate as much for the entertainment value as for survival. If it happens to be a hot night, we just put on the air conditioner or jump into the swimming pool. Do crickets do the same? Is there a Studio 54 where boy crickets go to meet girl crickets? Do they get dressed up in their best cricket clothing and superfly hats? Is there a cover charge? (That would help explain the $860,000) After they meet, do they go to a seedy Roach motel? All important things science needs to know.

And crickets are not necessarily affected by temperature increases in the same way humans are. I’d be curious to see if I’m the only person who thinks this is a waste of taxpayers money.

Following is the article. Let me know what you think.

How well crickets adapt to rising temperatures may provide clues about whether or not humans can survive global warming.

UCF scientist Wade Winterhalter landed an $860,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for an innovative study that fuses global warming models with a biological model that predicts the reproduction patterns of the striped ground cricket, also known as the Allonemobius socius.

If successful, Winterhalter’s study could provide insights into the impact of global warming on other creatures, their life cycles and their migration patterns - and it could further the understanding of how global warming will affect mankind.

“We, as scientists, are no longer trying to determine if global warming is occurring or if it will be ‘bad’ for our native wildlife or our domesticated plants and animals,” said Winterhalter. “Those questions have already been answered. What this project does is determine exactly how ‘bad’ it is going to get and how much time we have before these negative consequences will occur.”

This is one of the first research projects that links Atmospheric Oceanic General Circulation Models that predict rises in temperature over time with a sound biological model that successfully predicts breeding patterns of a creature.

Winterhalter is working with UCF biology professor Kenneth Fedorka and genetic experts at Cornell University. The study concludes in 2011, but Winterhalter is already analyzing some preliminary data.

Winterhalter chose crickets because their life and reproduction cycles are triggered by temperature cues. When it gets colder, they lay diapause eggs that can survive through winter before hatching. When it is still warm, they lay eggs that develop quickly into crickets. Crickets in the northern U.S. are better at laying the dormant eggs, while those in the south are better are reproducing quickly while it is still hot.

Winterhalter and his team took cricket samples in summer 2006, and he is now working on breeding a second generation of crickets that is enduring current temperature conditions and those expected in 2025 and 2050. The next generation of the crickets will face temperatures expected in 2065 and 2080, and the final group will see temperatures expected in 2100. Altogether, the temperature will increase by 6 degrees Celsius (10.8 degrees Fahrenheit) from the start to finish of the study.

Winterhalter is simulating the daily and seasonal changes crickets are expected to experience during a growing season. Temperatures in the incubators start off low in the morning, increase until a little after noon and then decrease in the evening and into the night, when the lights shut off. In the morning, the lights come back on and the cycle begins again.

The entire experiment will include about 75,000 crickets, which eat carrots and kitten chow. ($860,000 will buy a lot of carrots and kitten chow)

Existing studies show that when creatures are faced with changes in their environment, the impact can range from slow adaptation to extinction.

Winterhalter expects that once the study is finished, his innovative approach will be adapted to fit other creatures, such as lizards and frogs.

“One of the most exciting aspects of this project from a scientific perspective is that we are attempting to build a bridge between two fields that historically have had very little interaction,” Winterhalter said. “By bringing together both climatologists and evolutionary ecologists, this project has the potential of making major advances in both fields.”

Note: I do agree that bringing together both climatologists and evolutionary ecologists is a good thing. But almost a million bucks to study 75,000 crickets? That’s almost $12 bucks a cricket. How much kitten chow will a cricket eat?

The three million dollar drip.

12 Mar 09 | Filed in Miscellaneous with 1 Comment

This article appears to be an ad in disguise, but having been a project engineer in a previous life, I can appreciate the point they are trying to put across. I wouldn’t be surprised if this incident really happened.

At a large west-coast pharmaceutical plant, a batch of a sophisticated injectable drug was in the fill/finish stage when something went wrong. The product was being pumped from a portable transfer vessel through a 90° hose connection at the base of the vessel. The connection was a standard 2-bolt high pressure clamp that bolted together metal-to-metal.

Nobody knows exactly what went wrong but the best guess is that the portable vessel was moved slightly after the clamp had been put in place. This movement turned the joint slightly, not enough for it to be obvious but enough to compromise the clamp’s ability to maintain a seal. The two halves of the clamp met before they applied full pressure on the ferrules and the gasket – a common occurrence with some low-cost clamps.

During the transfer process it was noticed that the connection dripped, though very slightly, and transfer was terminated. Had the drug being transferred been less sensitive and less stringently controlled, the result might have been limited to the loss of a few drops of product and the need to replace the faulty clamp.

In this instance, however, the drops of product and loss of a little production time were totally unimportant. The question was: Did any ambient air enter the transfer line through the break in the coupling? And, since it could not be proven to the FDA that outside air did not enter the process through the clamp, the entire batch, $3 million in value, had to be scrapped.

Needless to say, the plant’s engineering staff immediately set out to find a way to prevent any such recurrence. The cost of a fix for this problem was secondary: security was the singular goal.

They succeeded when they located a source for a sanitary clamp perfectly adapted to this application, one that had already accumulated a long record of fault-free service. The clamp is one of a line of precision-made hygienic clamps from L.J. Star Inc., designed specifically for pharmaceutical and biotech applications. And the cost turned out to be only $92.15, per installation.

The clamp design utilizes a two-pin hinge that ensures uniform gasket compression and a unique groove profile to further improve clamping efficiency. Clamps are 316 stainless as standard with either domed hex nut or wing-nut closures. A wide range of sizes and options are available. In this case the L.J. Star applications engineer recommended a 2-inch model SH Type I clamp with an ergonomic standard wing-nut closure. The company purchased three of these clamps for immediate use, with more to follow. And, at last contact, high-value product was being transferred from portable vessels through these couplings on a routine basis with no problems encountered.

The moral of the story? Don’t try to save a couple bucks when millions are at stake. You gotta spend money to make money.

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