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August 26, 2016

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Technology Review
May 6, 2010

Crackdown targets counterfeiting network equipment

The federal government said Thursday that it has won 30 felony convictions and seized $143 million worth of counterfeit network computer equipment manufactured in China.
MIT Research News
May 6, 2010

New Insights into the Mystery of Natural HIV Immunity

A new finding from the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard may have implications for designing an effective AIDS vaccine.
When people become infected by HIV, it’s usually only a matter of time, barring drug intervention, until they develop full-blown AIDS. However, a small number of people exposed to the virus progress very slowly to AIDS — and some never develop the disease at all.

In the late 1990s, researchers showed that a very high percentage of those naturally HIV-immune people, who represent about one in 200 infected individuals, carry a gene called HLA B57. Now a team of researchers from the Ragon Institute of Massachusetts General Hospital, MIT and Harvard has revealed a new effect that contributes to this gene’s ability to confer immunity.
Read Full Article at MIT News Office
MIT Research News
May 6, 2010

Genes as Fossils

MIT researchers discover the DNA responsible for creating fossil-like molecules found in ancient rocks.
When exactly did oxygen first appear in Earth’s atmosphere? Although many physical and chemical processes are thought to be responsible for that profound transformation, scientists have tried to answer at least part of that question by looking for the origin of oxygenic photosynthesis — the process that organisms use to split water to make oxygen — in rocks that are billions of years old. One way they try to pinpoint the start of that process is by searching for biological links between the distant past and the present. Specifically, they study molecules known as biomarkers that are produced by modern organisms and can be traced to the origins of certain biological processes because they are found in rocks that are 2.5 billion years old.

One biomarker that had been proposed for such research is a type of lipid, or fat molecule, known as 2-methylhopanoid. This substance was thought to be a good biomarker because it has been found in ancient rocks (where it is referred to as 2-methylhopane) and is also produced in the modern environment by cyanobacteria, which are oxygen-producing bacteria located in shallow marine environments.
Read Full Article at MIT News Office
Technology Review
May 6, 2010

Neanderthal Genome Rewrites Human Evolution

Genetic evidence suggests there's a little Neanderthal in all of us.
Last year, an international team of researchers announced that they had completed the first draft of the Neanderthal genome--more than three billion nucleotides, sequenced from three-minute samples of bone powder. Now, in two papers published today in Science, the group reveals in-depth analyses of the data and provides an unparalleled glimpse at human evolution. By comparing Neanderthal DNA with that of living humans from around the world, the scientists have found evidence that--sometime between 50,000 and 80,000 years ago--modern humans and Neanderthals interbred. Archeologists' traditional view of human evolution, gleaned from carbon dating, skeletal structure, fossil location, and, more recently, Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA, posits that humans today are descended from a small group of individuals that migrated out of Africa and dispersed throughout the world. But the new research shows that modern humans in Africa have a lower percentage of the Neanderthal genome than non-Africans do--implying that the founder group that left Africa interbred with Neanderthals before moving on to populate the other continents. "Likely, it took place somewhere in the Middle East or in northern Africa, perhaps at the gateway as they were migrating out for the first time," says Harvard University geneticist David Reich, who performed the population genetics analyses.
Technology Review
May 5, 2010

How ISPs Could Combat Botnets

Focusing on the top 50 infected networks could eliminate half of all compromised machines.
Convincing Internet service providers to pinpoint infected computers on their networks could eliminate the lion's share of zombie computers responsible for churning out spam and initiating other online threats, according to a new analysis. The researchers analyzed more than 63 billion unsolicited e-mail messages sent over a four-year period and found more than 138 million unique internet addresses linked to sending out the spam. Typically such machines have been hijacked by hackers and are corralled into a vast network of remote-controlled system known as a "botnet."
Technology Review
May 5, 2010

A Better Platinum Catalyst for Fuel Cells

New material could cut the use of expensive platinum by 80 percent.
A new type of catalyst could lead to fuel cells that use a fifth of the platinum they use now. The new material, developed by researchers at the University of Houston, Technical University of Berlin in Germany, and the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, CA, consists of nanoparticles with cores made of a copper-platinum alloy and an outer shell that is mostly platinum. The material is up to five times as efficient as regular platinum. Platinum and platinum alloys are the most efficient catalysts for speeding up chemical reactions in hydrogen fuel cells. Platinum is the only metal that can withstand the acidic conditions inside such a cell, but it is expensive, and this has limited the broad, large-scale applications of fuel cells. Furthermore, about 90 percent of the world's platinum supply comes from just two countries--South Africa and Russia.
Technology Review
May 5, 2010

Insulin in a Pill

A drugmaker is testing an alternative to diabetes injections, but many sizable hurdles remain.
Late last year, Denmark-based Novo Nordisk quietly started phase 1 clinical trials of a pill that it hopes to market as an alternative to insulin injections. Offering patients with diabetes the chance to avoid painful needles has long been the holy grail of some pharmaceutical companies, especially Novo, a leader in diabetes treatment for much of its 87-year history. Novo's entry into clinical testing puts the company ahead of the pack of drugmakers trying to encapsulate insulin into an easy-to-swallow dose. The fact that Novo entered phase 1 testing with little fanfare is apropos, however, considering the checkered history of insulin drug development. Insulin is a protein that rapidly degrades in the stomach and upper portion of the small intestine, making it almost impossible to deliver orally. Several drugmakers have attempted to deliver insulin via the lungs, most notably Pfizer, which introduced its inhalable insulin drug, Exubera, in 2006. But the product flopped--patients balked at the clumsy inhaler and doctors questioned whether it might endanger the lungs. Several other drugmakers, Novo among them, abandoned their attempts to make inhalable insulin in the wake of Exubera's failure.
ILP Insider
May 5, 2010

MIT Faculty Spotlight: Paula Hammond

Improving Materials Nanolayer by Nanolayer for the Patient, the Soldier, and the Environment
In the laboratory of MIT’s Paula Hammond, Bayer Professor and Executive Officer, Department of Chemical Engineering, researchers are working to effectively combine materials in ways that cannot be done with traditional methods. To do this, her team designs, synthesizes, and pieces together macromolecule polymers at the nanoscale. “We look at how we can assemble materials into larger systems that have a desired function,” she explains. “We feel there are a number of materials we can bring together intimately in a way that is difficult to do using normal combination and blend approaches,” she says. Today, those composite systems are incredibly diversified from novel biomaterials to new electrochemical energy systems.
Paula Hammond Layer-By-Layer Assembling
Hammond’s lab involves layer-by-layer nanoscale materials assembly by introducing various charged species into a film layers at a time. “We have control over each nanolayer by alternating charge - we are building films by alternating layers of positive and negative charge,” explains Hammond. “By manipulating these structures we can create some fairly complex materials systems. It becomes a very universal tool.”

Because the process is water-based, it is highly adaptable to a range of applications.

Wound Healing Biomaterials
Creating biomaterials is a water-based assembly process and therefore ripe for Hammond’s group to explore. “Our nanoscale biomaterial assembly process makes itself amenable to a large range of natural materials – polysaccharides such as chitosan, cellulose, and dextran, as well as proteins.” Because a significant number of drugs being developed now are either peptides or active proteins possessing a charge, specific functions, and secondary and tertiary structures, Hammond is seeking to assemble these very complex molecules into films without changing their function. “That allows us to incorporate a very broad range of systems to deliver biologic drugs, to combine them with synthetic drugs and other nanomaterials while maintaining their activity” she says.

This approach expedites combining very different drugs into one matrix. “We can do that at very high loading because a major part of the film is actually the drug, as opposed to trying to dissolve what is often a small quantity of drug into a degradable plastic,” explains Hammond. Further, her team can create stacks of drug in different layers, thus influencing the timing and delivery of the drugs.

Soldier Nanotechnologies
Some of Hammond’s wound healing research stems from her involvement in MIT’s Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies (ISN), which she co-founded with fellow MIT faculty in 2002. ISN’s stated aim is to develop technologies that can make soldiers less vulnerable to enemy and environmental threats – including wounds and fractures.

In April 2010, Hammond formed a research agreement with Ferrosan A/S, a Danish company that designs bandages used in wound healing and blood clotting. An ILP member, Ferrosan connected with Hammond’s work through the ISN. Their agreement involves coating Ferrosan’s collagen bandages with Hammond’s multilayer films in a way such that they are able to remediate bleeding and infection: two essential treatments for the wounded solider. These multi-layer film coatings contain vancomycin, a powerful antibiotic, and anti-inflammatory agents. “We now have combination films that release large amounts of antibiotic followed by a very slow but continuous stream with a great deal of control,” says Hammond.

“We are very excited about implementing new technologies to provide modes of protection for the soldier,” says Hammond. Since 2007, her ISN project has focused on wound healing, specifically using these novel drug release films. Hammond also holds an NIH grant for coating of orthopedic and other biomedical implants, and she hopes to expand this work into the area of fracture healing and bone tissue engineering. Toward this end, she has initiated a research relationship with the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Maryland.

Solar and Electrochemical Energy Systems
The same kind of nanoscale assembly control applied in biomaterials provides controlled transport through the cell and electrochemical function in the cell. Says Hammond, “Those two combined allows us to look at these materials in a number of electrochemical energy applications and to design new active electrochemical electrodes.” All of this is about regulating the flow of electrons, the flow of protons, and introducing inorganic materials into the film that have the ability to undergo photocharged generation, for example, and transport of the carriers that are relevant for electrochemical energy. The hoped for end result will be new, more-efficient energy production and storage solutions.

“In the electrochemical energy area, we are very interested in bringing together the material elements that allow us to generate a charge and then carry it to its appropriate electrode,” says Hammond of the basis for a broad range of higher-capacity batteries, supercapacitors, and other electrochemical devices.

Scientist, Leader, and Mentor
Hammond’s career aim was honed in junior high school thanks to a far-sighted, motivating chemistry teacher. “I got excited that we had a real lab and I was able to do chemistry experiments where I saw transformations that I generated by combining different materials,” she recalls. “It fascinated me that you could start with two very different things and come up with a third that was entirely different.” From that point on Hammond approached the world with the goal of becoming a chemical engineer. She ultimately earned her undergraduate and PhD degrees in chemical engineering from MIT and has made the university her research home.

Hammond realizes that her own spark was lit by the influence of one person. So she in turn is involving herself in advancing science careers in chemical engineering for others, including youths and minority groups that may not have considered the possibility. Says Hammond, “Increasing diversity is so important to increasing the level of excellence we have across the board in science and engineering in the nation.”

In April 2010, Hammond was named Scientist of the Year at the Harvard Foundation’s Albert Einstein Science Conference. As an honoree, Hammond had the opportunity to address an audience of high school students – the very age she was when she found her love of chemical engineering. “I realize the power of just one person,” she says. “One person did that for me and I am hoping I can do the same thing for other young people. Even singular contacts can have an enormous impact and I am proud to be a part of someone else’s journey in science and engineering.”
ILP Insider
May 5, 2010

MIT Faculty Spotlight: Rosalind Picard

MIT’s Rosalind Picard Takes the Pepsi Challenge…and Others
Getting face-time with MIT‘s Rosalind Picard means one thing to students and colleagues. But it may often represent something entirely different to those who are the subjects – and frequent beneficiaries – of her research. That research centers largely on sensor-based analysis of our inner state of emotional arousal to determine what’s really going on, brain-wise, behind the sometimes inscrutable public countenance we present to others. Rosalind Picard As founder and director of MIT’s Affective Computing Research Group at MIT’s Media Lab, Dr. Picard has developed a range of high tech tools that help measure an individual’s emotional state, which he or she may have difficulty expressing verbally, and whose facial expressions and other body language, offer few if any clues. These technologies, says Picard, can help in a range of applications – from improving the accuracy of reading consumer reactions to products during focus groups, to providing better methods of helping people with emotional disabilities such as those found on the autism spectrum or with other challenges.

The author of nearly two hundred scientific articles and chapters in multidimensional signal modeling, computer vision, pattern recognition, machine learning, human-computer interaction, and affective computing, Picard is an international leader in envisioning and inventing innovative technology.

Little wonder, then, that in April of 2009 she co-founded Affectiva, Inc., where she serves as chairman and chief scientist at the company, whose mission is to provide “respectful solutions for the measurement and communication of emotion.”

Much of Affectiva's claim to fame comes from its first product, the Q Sensor, a commercial version of the MIT iCalm sensor. The Affectiva Q Sensor is a wearable, washable biosensor that measures and communicates emotional arousal as people go about their daily lives. The sensor measures body temperature, electro-dermal, and three-axis accelerometer activity.

In the case of consumer product and other companies, the hope is that, using the sensor and other tools, marketers conducting focus groups on behalf of a company will be able to gain actionable insights on consumer likes and dislikes to improve product success.

“We know that self-reported feeling is very inaccurate,” said Picard recently in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. “We’ve measured when people say they like something, but their face is leaking all kinds of disgust.”

Soft drink and snack purveyor PepsiCo is only one of a number of prominent companies that have demonstrated an interest in Affectiva’s technologies. The company was especially interested in finding out why focus group participants claimed to like prototype versions of the company’s new lines of healthier products only to have them flop once they had gone to market.

Using video- and sensor-based analysis to read and evaluate a range of reactions (facial expressions, galvanic skin response and other measures that indicate interest, memorability, confusion, agreement, etc.), Picard hopes to produce answers to the questions PepsiCo, Bank of America and other companies are raising in order to better address consumer needs.

Perhaps even more difficult to read are those on the autism spectrum.

“Often people who fall on the autism spectrum have motor systems that don’t reflect their internal emotional states the way the motor systems of non-autistic individuals do,” notes Picard,

“When you or I are frustrated or stressed we look tense and may move differently. But a person with autism may often look relaxed when they are highly agitated. Because people often misread what is happening emotionally in those with autism, the Q Sensor provides a way to measure an autistic person’s internal state and see whether it matches the outside appearance. It provides an early warning system that lets a teacher or parent, for example, find and mitigate the stress-inducing conditions before they produce a bigger problem such as a melt-down or shut-down.”

The Q Sensor has other applications beyond autism, adds Picard. She notes that it is being used at Boston’s Children’s Hospital in an epilepsy-monitoring program. The product is also expected to find uses in sleep research, address anxiety disorders and bi-polar depression, and more.

“The fact is that, when you build something that collects a lot of good quality data, you find that it’s useful for many potential applications,” emphasizes Picard.

It also helps to have a team of high-quality individuals working with you in such an endeavor.

“I have the privilege of working with many outstanding students, postdoctoral associates, and visiting scientists in my group at MIT and with collaborators outside MIT,” she observes on her web page. “Our research has been enormously enriched by the diversity of backgrounds, cultures, personalities, and perspectives of these individuals working together.”

On its face and at its heart, it’s an ambiguity-free sentiment that is both mutual and hints at many more breakthroughs to come in the field of affective computing.
ILP Insider
May 5, 2010

Making the Right Connections at MIT

British Telecom’s (BT) Strategic Relationship
Jeff Patmore, Head of Strategic University Research for British Telecom (BT), knows the value of making the right connections at MIT, connections which will help BT and its businesses. In fact, BT, one of the world’s leading providers of communication solutions, is so committed to the concept of connections that it has named its new laboratory in the MIT Media Lab’s new facility, “BT’s Lab for a Connected World.”

Jeff Patmore

BT‘s most significant investment at MIT and longest-lived relationship is with the Media Lab, but BT is also deeply involved with the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), the Research Lab for Electronics (RLE), MIT Sloan School and the School of Engineering. And BT has been a member of the MIT Industrial Liaison Program (ILP) for more than 10 years.

“BT’s strategic relationship with MIT is one of the key pillars to the company’s open innovation strategy, ensuring BT people have access to leading-edge technical and business thinking,” says Patmore.

To derive maximum value from BT’s relationships with MIT requires face time with academics and students to identify opportunities that can serve both the company and MIT. But spending time at MIT is not just a matter of attending consortium meetings or conferences or meeting with faculty through ILP visits, although BT does all of these. Patmore believes in the importance of embedding BT at MIT. Specifically, one of his people, Steve Whittaker, Head of University Programs US, and a Visiting Scientist at the Media Lab, spends three of every four weeks at MIT, headquartered at BT’s lab. And Patmore manages to spend at least one or two weeks at MIT twice a year to meet with people through ILP and other relationships.

Value of Interesting Conversations
In his nearly eight years as Head of BT’s Strategic University Research, Patmore has learned the importance of seeking out the right places at MIT to take advantage of encountering people to engage in interesting conversations.

“It’s about sitting down over a coffee and having conversations about innovation and new technology. Those conversations wander around and we think about how these new technologies might affect us in both business, but also in the way in which we work. And it’s that intersection that happens all the time we’re here that allows us to think differently about our business,” Patmore explained in a recent video http://ophelia.media.mit.edu/downloads/bt.html

Patmore is particularly proud of the results of one of those serendipitous conversations, in this case, with Dr. William Lucas outside the Café in the lobby of Building 7. Lucas, whom Patmore knew from BT’s involvement with the Cambridge-MIT Institute, is now Director of Research for the Gordon-MIT Leadership Program (GEL) in the School of Engineering. Intrigued by Lucas‘s description of GEL, Patmore offered to host a summer intern at BT Research. Patmore interviewed junior Tanya Goldhaber (‘10, MechE) and immediately offered her the internship. “She had so much drive and enthusiasm that she ‘bounced,’” describes Patmore. Tanya spent the summer of 2009 at BT working on the future of TV services. “She did extremely well, designing a new type of interface for TV content whereby friends make recommendations in real time through Social Networks at the same time that a recommendation engine is running. Tanya designed a new way to interface with services that is a radically different way of doing this. We were very, very impressed with her.”

Tanya has continued to work with BT following her summer internship, producing an animated visualization of future TV services for BT sales and marketing people.

Research on Future TV
At the same time, BT has connected with other researchers at MIT around the topic of Future TV: Marie-Jose Montpetit at RLE, Henry Holtzman at the Media Lab, Professor Muriel Medard, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and RLE, and Dr. David Clark at CSAIL. Patmore is also chatting with MIT Sloan people on a potential business model. “Working across departments is helping BT bring new ideas to develop new services,” explains Patmore.

“Managing” Serendipity
Patmore believes that this could not have been done without BT embedding people within the Institute, spending real time with academics and students. “Managing” serendipity is what Patmore calls it, placing oneself in a position where good things can happen so that occasionally they do happen. “If we only attended a consortium meeting or a conference, this wouldn’t be so likely.” Interjected Steve Whittaker, “Our ‘strategy for serendipity’ is not confining ourselves to very specific objectives and targets. Our belief is that if we are a part of the ecosystem, we can add value.”

Recently, Patmore was invited by Prof. Medard and Dr. Montpetit to give a lecture to a class of engineering students on Superfast Broadband fiber-to-the home that BT has introduced in the UK, covering both strategy and technology. “The students are very conversant with deep engineering, but Medard and Montpetit wanted to expose them to how such technology can be used in the real world. Both Steve and I are very happy to give back to MIT in this way,” explains Patmore.

Key Client Program and Projects for MBA Classes
Shortly after taking over as Head of Strategic University Research, Patmore established a Key Client Program at BT to develop a strong set of links to the BT businesses: BT Openreach, BT Retail, BT Wholesale and BT Global Services. Three times a year, Patmore meets with each of 12 key clients from the groups to inform them of new research and learn about important issues. Depending upon the issue, Patmore formulates a problem for an MBA class (short, very focused business issue) or a research question for BT Research or a university or collaboration between the two.

The idea of using MIT MBA students to focus on key strategic business issues over a few weeks originated with MIT Sloan School’s Henry Birdseye Weil several years ago. Since then, Patmore has applied this model to the UK where in 2009 there have been four MBA and two MPhil projects at the University of Cambridge, all providing insight into core issues. At MIT this year, BT has provided two new projects for the Digital Business program, which are providing strategic input to the company in Cloud Computing and Enterprise 2.0.

Open to Opportunities
BT derives tremendous value from working with ILP, according to Patmore. Tony Knopp, BT’s Senior Liaison Officer at the ILP, identifies interesting people that BT would not necessarily interact with – a tremendous amount of brainpower. Patmore emphasizes, “You have to be open to opportunities, not expecting that every meeting with a faculty member will produce a result.” Sometimes it’s simply an introduction and Patmore and others keep the faculty member in the back of their minds. “But 9 out of 10 times, something comes out of the meeting that will be of use. Tony helps us maintain a very broad relationship with MIT.”

“MIT is full of incredibly bright people. If we get the model right, there is enormous value,” concludes Patmore.

ILP Insider
May 5, 2010

MIT’s Plasma Science & Fusion Center

Supercharged, Super-Fast, and High-Powered
It’s official. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) is open for business. Not that the Institution was ever really closed to WHOI-industry research partnerships. It was just that making contact with scientists scattered across the seven seas was a formidable challenge only an ocean-going Match.com with an R&D bent could hope to address. That’s not the case anymore, thanks to a new business outreach initiative, says Daniel Stuermer, Vice President of Business Development in WHOI’s Office for Applied Oceanography. (Office Phone: +1 508 289 3556; email: dstuermer@whoi.edu)
MIT Research News
May 5, 2010

Pattern Seen in Governments’ Currency Policies

Small-time money transfers from migrants shape key decisions on foreign exchange, research shows.
Every day around the world, vast numbers of migrants wire money back to their home countries, trying to support families and friends in need. In fact, these transfers of money — “remittances” — constitute a significant part of the global economy.

Consider that in El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, and Jordan, the level of remittances exceeds 15 percent of each nation’s gross domestic product (GDP), the value of all goods and services produced annually. In 2004, 42 countries in the developing world received remittances greater than 5 percent of GDP. Or try this for perspective. There are about 31,000 McDonald’s franchises around the world, often serving as symbols of unstoppable globalization. But there are 410,000 worldwide offices of the money-transfer firm Western Union, notes David Andrew Singer, an assistant professor of political science at MIT, and remittances are a rapidly growing phenomenon. Money transfers to developing countries totaled $31 billion in 1990, but more than $300 billion in 2007.
Read Full Article at MIT News Office