Category Archives: Science: Biology

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New Data from PASA Illuminates State of African Primates


Chimpanzee West Africa Action for Chimpanzees

Tita was rescued from the pet trade and is learning how to be wild at PASA member sanctuary Chimpanzee Conservation Center in Guinea.

The data are clear that African apes and monkeys are under siege.

The Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA)—the largest alliance of wildlife centers in Africa—released its 2020 census of African primates today. The report sheds new light on the state of the continent’s primates by combining census data collected by PASA member sanctuaries with information on the threats to wild primates and projections of human population growth in Africa. Taken together, the data provide a striking view of the complex challenges facing Africa’s great apes and monkeys.

“The data are clear that African apes and monkeys are under siege,” said Gregg Tully, Executive Director of PASA. “We run the very real prospect of losing some species in our lifetime, so we at PASA are using this report to start a broader dialog – one that considers the full context around primate conservation.”

The report is the role of human population growth in the fight to save great apes and monkeys from extinction. Human population in Africa is projected to grow from the current 1.3 billion to 2.5 billion in 2050. One fifth of the population is currently considered “very food insecure” and an additional 144 million people are classified as “moderately food insecure.” Forests and other wild habitat are already disappearing due to mining, forestry, and agricultural activity, and population growth will accelerate that loss, creating conflict with wildlife and escalating the risk of disease outbreaks.

“PASA members already face these realities,” continued Tully. “Wildlife crime, disease, habitat loss, and grinding poverty are the backdrop of their work. So they have built the relationships and resiliency needed to make lasting change.”

The report notes that PASA member sanctuaries employed nearly 700 African nationals and contributed over $6M to local economies – this in a year when the COVID-19 pandemic decimated their revenues.

While so far no primates in Africa are known to have contracted the disease, all sanctuaries in the Alliance implemented strict biosecurity protocols and many had staff sheltering on site for months, rather than risk bringing in the disease.

Despite the challenges, the need for sanctuary care has not diminished. PASA members rescued 239 primates – a 22% increase over 2019 – from poaching, the pet trade, and exploitative entertainment environments.

“Sanctuaries are crucial for long-term primate survival,” Tully said. “They can be a safe haven, a source of lifelong care, or a stop on a journey that leads back to the wild. But given what we see in this report, I worry that our efforts may not be sufficient. This urgency fuels our work – and these data are one tool to change the trajectory for these amazing animals.”

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Red Nucleus Acquires iTakeControl


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Red Nucleus (“RN”), a premier provider of learning, performance, and process solutions for the life sciences industry, announced that it has acquired iTakeControl (“ITC”), a leading provider of clinical operations and medical affairs technology and services focused on rare disease and specialty pharma.

ITC’s mobile platform collects patient-reported outcomes and real-world evidence in virtual- and home-based clinical trials and enhances data science in drug development. The ITC platform allows patients to record and submit videos and at-home assessments in compliance with FDA regulations. The company also provides research-related consulting and strategy planning services. ITC’s solutions align closely with RN’s existing R&D business, and ITC offers many of the solutions RN’s clients require.

With the acquisition, RN enhances both its product portfolio and its service offering in core verticals. ITC’s technology application joins RN’s product suite, including a global labeling compliance tool (DirectusPRO), a learning and engagement platform (Unify), off-the-shelf training courses (LSTI), and a gaming platform (Rcade).

“ITC is a wonderful addition to the Red Nucleus family. In this new era of virtual and remote clinical trials, ITC offers study sponsors and participants innovative technology to facilitate a more convenient, forward-thinking, and patient-friendly data collection approach. With its technology, ITC removes roadblocks so that in-need patient populations can participate in these critical trials in a way that’s better for them. With ITC, our service and product offerings as well as therapeutic area coverage are strengthened,” said Red Nucleus CEO Ian Kelly. “RN wants to make a difference for our clients and society, and ITC is a great way for us to do so.”

Chris Jones, ITC co-founder, adds, “Joining Red Nucleus accelerates our impact on novel endpoints and our mission to expand and improve the nature of clinical research for both patients and sponsors. We can now do so with the global footprint, technology investment, and the caring, attentive culture Red Nucleus has created.”

The transaction closed in March 2021.

For more information, please contact

Jeff Warwick

jwarwick@rednucleus.com

About Red Nucleus

Red Nucleus is the premier provider of strategic learning, performance, and process solutions exclusively for the life sciences industry. Our global solutions engage and inspire teams across the commercial and R&D spaces and are designed to boost understanding, efficacy, and compliance. Squarely focused on the life sciences industry for close to 30 years, Red Nucleus takes pride in our long-term relationships with industry leaders, as well as our strategic partnerships with innovative startups. Red Nucleus is headquartered in Yardley, PA. The company also has offices in Malvern, PA; Boston, MA; Toronto, Canada; the United Kingdom; India; and Japan. Visit http://www.rednucleus.com to learn more.

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Alucio™ Adds Presentation Builder Tool to its Beacon Scientific Exchange Platform


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Tom O’Connell, Alucio’s COO said, “Within the parameters of our industry, MSLs continue to be interested in customizing and personalizing medical content to ensure it’s relevant for HCPs and KOLs they are meeting with. This new feature will allow them to do this in an intuitive and compliant way”.

Alucio™, a fast-growing provider of cloud-based software for the life sciences industry, today announced the addition of a new presentation builder feature to its Beacon scientific exchange platform. Beacon is an innovative, content management and HCP engagement platform built specifically for MSLs and other field medical professionals.

This new interactive tool will enable MSL users to create and save custom presentations, subject to medical and regulatory constraints, through an intuitive interface. As a result, users will be able to tailor their presentation content to match the specific information needs of their audiences while remaining fully compliant with industry and company guidelines.

All business rules and slide logic can be configured and set by each life science company on a presentation level using Beacon. As with other features, all data and metrics associated with the usage of the presentation builder will be captured by the platform for analysis and reporting purposes.

“We are excited about the integration of this presentation builder capability within Beacon,” commented Tom O’Connell, Alucio’s Co-Founder and COO. “Within the parameters of our industry, MSLs continue to be very interested in customizing and personalizing medical content to ensure it is relevant for healthcare professionals and KOLs they are meeting with. This new feature will allow them to do this in an intuitive and compliant way.”

Users also reacted positively to this new Beacon content management enhancement.

Selina Tam, a senior industry director and Alucio product advisory board member, shared her perspectives. “As someone who regularly develops medical content for field use, I’m always working to ensure that our educational materials are as effective as possible. I really appreciate that Beacon allows for content tailoring and advances targeted scientific exchanges while staying compliant.”

To learn more about Beacon and its content management capabilities, please contact the company at sales@alucio.io.

About Alucio:

Alucio is dedicated to the development of innovative software applications specifically for the life sciences industry. Alucio’s flagship product, Beacon, is a cloud-based scientific exchange platform that enhances scientific dialogue and engagement between life science companies and healthcare professionals. For more information, please visit the company’s website http://www.alucio.io or contact Lisa Amin at lamin@alucio.io (925) 788-3533.

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ChromoTek and Absolute Antibody Collaborate on Recombinant Engineered Antibodies


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The Nanobody-IgG fusions showcase the power of antibody engineering to open up experimental possibilities and facilitate new avenues of research.

ChromoTek GmbH, part of Proteintech specializing in Nanobody-based reagents, and Absolute Antibody Ltd., a leading provider of recombinant antibody technology, today announced a partnership to offer recombinant engineered antibodies to scientists worldwide. The chimeric antibodies were originally derived from alpaca Nanobodies and engineered onto mouse and rabbit Fc domains to open up new research applications. Available antibodies target key fluorescent proteins commonly used as tags for protein visualization, as well as the structural protein vimentin.

The original Nanobodies, the smallest known antibody format, were generated by ChromoTek from the binding domains of alpaca heavy chain antibodies. Absolute Antibody used antibody engineering to fuse the Nanobodies onto mouse IgG1 and rabbit Fc domains, generating bivalent antibodies that extend the research applications of the original Nanobodies. For example, the engineered antibodies provide increased apparent affinity due to avidity effects in e.g. immunofluorescence experiments, as well as enable detection with different secondary antibodies to permit new co-labeling approaches. Alternatively, the engineered antibodies can be conjugated to an increased number of fluorophores for direct detection. In addition, they allow for immobilization on Protein A beads, resins or plates.

The chimeric antibodies are all recombinantly produced for ensured batch-to-batch reproducibility, high purity and low endotoxin levels. Available targets include the green fluorescent protein GFP, TurboGFP, and mNeonGreen, as well as an antibody targeting the structural and type III intermediate filament protein vimentin.

“ChromoTek is proud to offer our renown Nanobodies, cited in more than 2,000 scientific publications, in new innovative formats,” commented Dr. Marion Jung, CEO of ChromoTek. “We are launching these chimeric antibodies as part of Proteintech’s recombinant antibody portfolio leveraging market access synergies.”

“Our new collaboration combines ChromoTek’s industry-leading Nanobody reagents with Absolute Antibody’s recombinant antibody engineering expertise to offer scientists new and unique research tools,” said Dr. Michael Fiebig, Vice President Product Portfolio & Innovation at Absolute Antibody. “The Nanobody-IgG fusions showcase the power of antibody engineering to open up experimental possibilities and facilitate new avenues of research.”

The recombinant engineered antibodies are available in both the Absolute Antibody and Proteintech catalogs. The original Nanobodies are also available via ChromoTek.

About ChromoTek GmbH

ChromoTek pioneered the development and commercialization of Nanobody-based research reagents. As a market and product leader for high quality and reliable Nanobody-based reagents, we assist scientists’ research world-wide. In addition, ChromoTek is a trusted service provider of custom-made Nanobodies for the pharmaceutical industry. Founded in 2008 ChromoTek has been acquired by Proteintech Group, Rosemont, IL in October 2020. Visit chromotek.com and ptglab.com for more information.

About Absolute Antibody, Ltd.

Absolute Antibody is a rapidly growing company with a vision to make recombinant antibody technology accessible to all. We offer antibody sequencing, engineering and recombinant production as custom services, as well as a unique catalog of recombinant antibodies, engineered into new and useful formats. Visit absoluteantibody.com for more information.

Contact:

Lisa Merolla    

Senior Director of Marketing

+1 617-377-4057 (extension 610)

l.merolla@absoluteantibody.com

Lucie Borchardt

Digital Marketing Specialist

+49 89 12414880

l.borchardt@chromotek.com

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BioFactura Funded $13 Million Contract Option for its Smallpox Biodefense Therapeutic


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Dr. Darryl Sampey, President and CEO of BioFactura, stated, “Funding of our first option confirms the commitment of BARDA to support development of this important product. We look forward to continuing our close collaboration with BARDA as we move into the pathway to FDA approval.”

BioFactura, Inc. today announced a contract option activation of over $13 million by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as part of BioFactura’s prime contract valued at up to $67.4 million for the advanced development of a smallpox biodefense therapeutic. This product has the potential to fulfill an unmet need in preparedness, augment current medical countermeasures and guard against potential resistance.

This option activation will continue to support ongoing product development beyond the base period of performance to include process optimization and assay qualification. The contract for the development of the smallpox biodefense therapeutic consists of a previously funded base phase, valued at approximately $9.5 million, and multiple option phases over a total of five years. This first option award continues BARDA’s financial and programmatic support as BioFactura has successfully met all base milestones including demonstration of humanized product efficacy and commencement of formal interactions with the FDA. Further options that may be activated will support clinical manufacturing, additional non-clinical development studies to support an Investigational New Drug filing, and a first-in-humans Phase 1 clinical study.

While smallpox was declared eradicated in 1980 by the World Health Organization after an extensive vaccination campaign, the threat of bioterrorism and/or inadvertent release remains. Although TPOXX® (Tecovirimat, SIGA Technologies, Inc.) received FDA approval for smallpox treatment in 2018, Variola Virus (VARV), the causative agent for smallpox infections in humans, can become resistant to treatment suggesting that the best medical countermeasure approach would utilize complementary therapeutics that mitigate resistance such as BioFactura’s monoclonal antibody-based Smallpox Biodefense Therapeutic.

Dr. Darryl Sampey, President and CEO of BioFactura, stated, “Funding of our first option confirms the commitment of BARDA to support development of this important product. We look forward to continuing our close collaboration with BARDA’s program and technical groups as we move into manufacturing and the regulatory pathway to FDA approval.”

Dr. Jeffrey Hausfeld, BioFactura’s Chairman of the Board and Chief Medical Officer, stated, “Forecasting potential threats to our citizenry, and the proper planning and mitigation of associated risks are examples of lessons learned and amplified as a result of the COVID pandemic. BioFactura is proud to be part of this collaborative partnership with BARDA in order to further align the mission and goals of governmental agencies and private biotechnology firms for the benefit, welfare, and security of our population.”

This project has been funded in whole or in part with federal funds from the Department of Health and Human Services; Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response; Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, under Contract No. 75A50119C00054.

About BioFactura, Inc.

BioFactura, Inc. (Frederick MD) develops and commercializes high-value biodefense medical countermeasures and biosimilars (i.e., follow-on biologics or generic biopharmaceuticals) using its patented StableFast™ Biomanufacturing Platform, the optimal system for bringing these drugs to market with faster, lower cost, superior-quality manufacture. For over 15 years, BioFactura has been advancing life-saving medicines from the research bench to the patient using its innovative drug development and manufacturing technologies. Current and past programs include biodefense drugs against smallpox and Ebola, novel medicines for cancer, and low-cost/high-quality biosimilars for autoimmune and infectious diseases. http://www.biofactura.com

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THE BIG THIRST Author Charles Fishman Joins JAIN for a Timely Conversation About Water


“Charles Fishman see the future technology of water better than almost anyone else I know.” Aric Olson, President Jain Irrigation, Inc.

Jain Irrigation, Inc., the world leader in irrigation technology, is proud to host author Charles Fishman in a special episode of its twice-weekly JAIN Irrigation Training Series free webinars titled “THE BIG THIRST Author Charles Fishman Joins JAIN for a Timely Conversation About Water,” on Friday, February 26, 2021, at noon Pacific Time. The webinar is open to the public and free to attend by registering online at https://jainsusa.com/training/the-big-thirst/.

February 2021 marks the tenth anniversary of the publication of THE BIG THIRST: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water. JAIN Irrigation Training Series host Richard Restuccia will talk with Charles Fishman about what predictions THE BIG THIRST got right, where it missed and why the next ten years will be the most intense and innovative period for water in history. They’ll also discuss Fishman’s most recent book, ONE GIANT LEAP: The Impossible Mission that Flew Us to the Moon, and lessons from the historic space program for the water industry.

The popular free JAIN Irrigation Training Series is a live twice-weekly webinar designed for agriculture dealers, landscape distributors, contractors, and other irrigation professionals presented each Wednesday and Friday. The recorded webinars’ free streaming video playbacks are available on the Jain Irrigation, Inc. website and in audio podcast format for streaming or download through Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify iHeart Radio, Stitcher, and TuneIn. For more information, visit https://jainsusa.com/trainings/.            

About Charles Fishman

Charles Fishman is an acclaimed author, journalist, and historian. His books include One Giant Leap, A Curious Mind (with Brian Grazer), The Wal-Mart Effect, and The Big Thirst. He is a three-time winner of the Gerald Loeb Award, the most prestigious prize in business journalism.

ABOUT JAIN IRRIGATION

Jain is a fully integrated global food/plant production company recognized by Harvard Business to be one of five global sustainability champions and the G-20 for lifting people out of poverty. Our irrigation manufacturing capabilities include everything from behind the pump to the flush valve at the end of the lateral and everything in between, including drip irrigation. We lead the industry in manufacturing technology, owning both our extrusion and mold manufacturing equipment providers. Jain conducts plant science research globally across various food crops and is staffed with some of the world’s leading research scientists. With the Gandhi Library, Jain now houses the prominent collection of the world’s best plant science knowledge in a single facility. Our agronomic knowledge is integrated from our world-class tissue culture operations through our food processing businesses. We research, educate, advance, manufacture, finance, propagate plants, and purchase produce for processing, all to fulfill the Jain mission, “leave this world better than you found it.”

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ZAP Surgical Caps 2020 With 18 New System Orders for its Novel ZAP-X Gyroscopic Radiosurgery Platform


ZAP Surgical Systems, Inc. today announced 18 new system orders in 2020 for its recently commercialized ZAP-X® Gyroscopic Radiosurgery® platform. The news marks an extraordinary increase in year-over-year order volume. Having recently launched a robust global infrastructure, orders originated from both hospital and free-standing centers in the United States, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Japan, and other countries.

“ZAP started 2020 with highly ambitious goals. By mid-year however, COVID dashed many hopes of achieving those original plans,” said Richard Rosene, executive vice president of global sales and marketing. “The market has obviously responded favorably to ZAP-X, and we’re incredibly grateful to have surpassed global pre-pandemic sales targets for the year. Given the COVID challenges faced by our customers in the hospital and private sectors, it’s a remarkable accomplishment.”

Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) is a well-studied and effective treatment for many brain cancers including primary and metastatic brain tumors. Considered an alternative to surgery for many such indications, SRS is an outpatient procedure that often provides equivalent outcomes, yet requires no surgical incision, and little to no patient recovery period.

ZAP-X is also acclaimed for being the first and only vault-free SRS delivery system, thus typically eliminating the need for costly shielded radiation treatment rooms. Deploying a modern linear accelerator to produce radiation, ZAP-X also obviates the regulatory and heightened security requirements for providers to host live radioactive isotopes within their clinics.

“Historically, the associated costs and complexities of delivering SRS meant the vast majority of radiosurgery occurred primarily in the largest, most well-funded academic hospitals. We estimate this paradigm has left nearly 90% of potential SRS patient candidates without adequate access,” said Dr. Adler, CEO of ZAP Surgical Systems, and professor emeritus of neurosurgery and radiation oncology at Stanford University. “ZAP-X has effectively broken down those barriers to now make it feasible to bring world-class SRS to more patients in more places.”

For more about the ZAP-X Gyroscopic Radiosurgery platform, please visit: https://zapsurgical.com/. Detailed system overview animations can be found at https://youtu.be/9ph-cdb5QO0.

About ZAP Surgical Systems, Inc.

ZAP Surgical Systems, Inc. designs and manufactures the ZAP-X® Gyroscopic Radiosurgery™ platform. ZAP was founded in 2014 by John R. Adler, MD, professor emeritus of neurosurgery and radiation oncology at Stanford University, and CEO of ZAP Surgical Systems. Dr. Adler is also the inventor of the CyberKnife® and founder of Accuray, Inc. FDA-cleared in 2017, ZAP-X utilizes a modern linear accelerator to eliminate the historical use of Cobalt-60 and the related costs and challenges of handling live radioactive isotopes. ZAP-X also incorporates a unique vault-free design that typically eliminates the need for costly shielded treatment rooms. Learn more at http://www.zapsurgical.com.

Contact:

Mark Arnold

Senior Vice President, Marketing

ZAP Surgical Systems, Inc.

Email: marka@zapsurgical.com

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Assemblymember Bonta Introduces AB 534 to Protect Endangered Sea Life


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As we move into the future, we can have both productive crabbing operations and oceans that are safe for whales and sea turtles. Whale-safe ropeless crabbing gear is already available; now we’re just implementing a deadline that crabbers can work with to make the necessary transition.

While California has long been a leader in wildlife conservation and sustainable fishing operations, our crabbing industry continues to use antiquated trapping gear that needlessly kills or injures endangered whales and sea turtles. These crabbing operations deploy pots or traps with vertical lines that frequently entangle whales and other marine life. That’s why today, Assemblymember Rob Bonta, along with cosponsors Social Compassion in Legislation and The Center for Biological Diversity have introduced AB 534, The Whale Entanglement Prevention Act. This bill will require the California Dungeness crabbing community, and other trap fisheries, to use ropeless gear by November 1, 2025, effectively making California a leader in whale protection.

“California is a global leader in technology and innovation, yet we continue to crab with archaic technology that puts our cherished marine wildlife at risk,” said Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland). “As we move into the future, we can have both productive crabbing operations and oceans that are safe for whales and sea turtles. Whale-safe ropeless crabbing gear is already available; now we’re just implementing a deadline that crabbers can work with to make the necessary transition. That’s why I’ve authored this vital bill, which reaffirms California’s commitment to ocean conservation and sustainable crabbing operations, while also making the state a leader in crabbing technology that can be exported and used around the world.”

“It is heartbreaking to see so many whale entanglements happening off the coast of California. I have been documenting the entanglement issue and the fight to save whales by advocating that ropeless gear be adopted by the state trap fisheries,” said Leah Sturgis, Vice President of Wildlife Protection, Social Compassion in Legislation. “It’s unbelievable that we have tolerated the loss of so much marine life, in particular the endangered pacific blue whale, of which there are only a few thousand left. So many lives could be saved with the use of this technology.”

Due to changing ocean conditions, entanglements in commercial and recreational crabbing are harming California’s marine life, including threatened and endangered whales and sea turtles. When a whale gets tangled in crabbing gear, it often drowns because it cannot reach the surface to breathe. Entanglements also cause these animals to suffer painful injuries or die lingering deaths when ropes wrap through their mouths or around their tails and flippers, cutting into their flesh and bones, and impairing their ability to feed or swim.

Following several years of record-breaking numbers of entanglements reported off California, the Department of Fish and Wildlife recently enacted regulations to reduce the number of endangered blue whales, humpback whales, and leatherback sea turtles getting entangled in commercial Dungeness crabbing gear. However, the regulations have not eliminated entanglement risk and rely heavily on constant data collection and analysis to inform the implementation of potential risk-reduction measures. This may only trigger management actions after entanglements occur and rely on closures—including delaying the start of the season or ending it early—as the primary way to reduce risk which creates uncertainty for crabbers about where and when they’ll be able to crab.

“Whales and other marine life have long been exploited by humans, nearing the point of extinction,” said Judie Mancuso, CEO and founder of Social Compassion in Legislation. “It’s time we prioritize and protect our most magnificent ocean creatures and put whale entanglements in the past.”

Ropeless gear (also known as “pop-up” or “buoyless” gear) is the only way to eliminate entanglement risk while permitting crabbing to continue. The gear allows traps on the seafloor to be remotely called to the surface and removes the static vertical lines in the water column that entangle whales, sea turtles, and other animals. Specifically, the ropeless system—either a stowed rope and buoy or a lift bag—sits on the seafloor attached to trap and contains an acoustic modem and GPS that records its location. When fishers return to that location, a signal from a second paired modem on their boat using high-frequency sound waves triggers the buoy or a lift bag to come to the surface. The traps can then be hauled up using traditional crabbing practices.

Various types of ropeless crabbing gear are currently being tested in Canada and on the East and West Coasts of the United States, and such gear is used in a lobster fishery in Australia. California, already a global center for technological innovation, has an opportunity to play a leading role in promoting gear that will save whales, sea turtles, and other animals here and around the world. Given the fatal impacts of entanglements on a variety of marine species and the economic harm closures can cause on commercial crabbers, requiring the use of ropeless gear in all trap and pot fisheries managed by California should be required as soon as possible.

“Deadly entanglements of whales and sea turtles is a serious problem with a simple solution: ropeless crabbing gear,” said Kristen Monsell, Oceans Legal Director, Center for Biological Diversity. “California has been plagued by a rising number of horrific whale entanglements in recent years. Now we can lead the way in helping the crabbing industry convert to more humane new technologies and nurture an innovative new industry.”

AB 534 is Authored by:

Assemblymember Rob Bonta represents the 18th Assembly District, which includes the cities of Oakland, Alameda, and San Leandro and is the Assistant Majority Leader. For more information on Assemblywoman Rob Bonta, visit https://a18.asmdc.org/.

AB 534 is Cosponsored by:

Social Compassion in Legislation’s (SCIL) mission is to save and protect animals in the wild, on the farm, and in homes through public policy advocacy in California and beyond. SCIL works closely with legislators to sponsor compassionate legislation and steer regulations that affect animals, as well as fight legislation that does harm. The non-profit partners with other organizations aligned with their values to amplify a voice for the voiceless. To learn more about SCIL and current legislations, please visit https://socialcompassioninlegislation.org/.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places. For more information, please visit https://biologicaldiversity.org/.

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Thriving Giant Tortoise Population Discovered at Galapagos Volcano


Researchers with the Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative (GTRI) on an expedition to Alcedo Volcano in the northern part of Isabela Island, Galapagos, recently conducted a complete census of the tortoise population there (‘Chelonoidis vandenburghi’), resulting in population estimates far surpassing what was expected for this species. A total of 4,723 individual tortoises were located and marked, and scientists on the expedition noted the remarkable recovery of the region’s habitat overall following the eradication of destructive feral goats in 2006.

The area of the volcano covered during the expedition was concentrated to the summit and eastern and southern slopes of Alcedo Volcano, between 1,300-3,700 feet above sea level, as well as the interior of the caldera — where approximately 90% of the tortoise population is located due to the availability of food in these areas. Washington Tapia, Director of the GTRI for Galapagos Conservancy and leader of the expedition, confirmed that crews marked 1,745 females, 1,794 males and 1,184 juveniles. Data suggest that this is a healthy population: in nature, a population of such a large size, with many older as well as younger individuals, and that has one male for each female — as is the case of the Alcedo volcano tortoises — is considered a completely viable population.

“Although we have much data yet to process, I estimate that the population exceeds 12-15,000 tortoises total in this region,” Tapia said.

Other positive data from the expedition include the discovery of two new tortoise nesting areas located on a northwestern plateau and on an eastern slope.

Danny Rueda, director of the Galapagos National Park Directorate (GNPD), indicated that the expedition revealed that this is the population of giant tortoises in the best condition in Galapagos. However, it is not free of threats, as invasive species such as rats and feral cats were also found.

“Finding such a large number of tortoises on Alcedo Volcano confirms that the management programs implemented in that environment have been successful. The eradication of goats and donkeys in 2006 has allowed the giant tortoise population here to flourish. In addition, abundant vegetation was found, which guarantees a permanent source of food for this species,” added Rueda.

As a result of the management actions implemented by the GNPD and its collaborators during the last six decades, Galapagos is likely home to around 60,000 giant tortoises including populations of the different species — a number that, according to Tapia, is still low considering that more than 200,000 tortoises were removed from the Archipelago in previous centuries.

About Galapagos Conservancy: For the past 35 years, Galapagos Conservancy has helped protect the unique biodiversity and ecosystems of Galapagos by supporting research, conservation, outreach, and building a sustainable society. Galapagos Conservancy is the only US-based organization focused on protecting the Galapagos archipelago. The Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative is a collaborative effort of Galapagos Conservancy, Inc. and the Galapagos National Park Directorate.

Images: Available at https://www.flickr.com/gp/galapagosconservancy/U4tub8; all images must be credited to: Joshua Vela / Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative (Galapagos Conservancy)

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DuPont-Initiated Research Uncovers Key to Maximizing Production of Clean Water


IMAGE: ENRIQUE GOMEZ/PENN STATE AND GREG FOSS/UT AUSTIN

“As we look to increase access to fresh water and enable a water optimized world, we are energized by this research that demonstrates more sustainable ways to purify, conserve and reuse water,” said HP Nanda, global vice president and general manager, DuPont Water Solutions

Through funding and leadership of DuPont Water Solutions, researchers recently found that the density of water filtration membranes, even at the atomic scale, can greatly affect how much clean water can be produced with reverse osmosis membranes. The study demonstrated that precise control of density can increase membrane efficiency by 30 to 40 percent resulting in more water filtered with less energy — potentially making water purification and desalination processes more sustainable, productive, and affordable.

DuPont Water Solutions, the leading manufacturing of reverse osmosis and desalination membranes, along with the National Science Foundation, initiated, funded and supported the research.

While conventional knowledge suggested that greater membrane thickness reduced how much water could flow through a membrane, DuPont researchers found that thicker membranes could be more permeable. DuPont initiated the research to better understand levers that could improve their membranes’ ability to increase the production of clean water while using less energy.

In addition to DuPont Water Solutions, researchers from Penn State, The University of Texas at Austin, Iowa State University, and Dow Chemical Company were engaged in the research and recently published the key findings as to the impact of density of water filtration membranes in the January 1, 2021 issue of Science. The article was also highlighted as the cover of this issue.

The researchers found that the thickness does not matter as much as avoiding highly dense nanoscale regions, or “dead zones.” The researchers determined desalination membranes are inconsistent in density and mass distribution, which can hold back their performance. Homogenizing density at the nanoscale is a previously unidentified key to increasing how much clean water these membranes can create, while using significantly less energy.

“As we look to increase access to fresh water and enable a water optimized world, we are energized by this research that demonstrates more sustainable ways to purify, conserve and reuse water,” said HP Nanda, global vice president and general manager, DuPont Water Solutions. “With this knowledge of the impact of uniform membrane density, at a nanoscale, on water transport we can continue to innovate the next generation of membranes that will not only help reduce global water scarcity, but also minimize energy consumption and environmental impact.”

“Through research partnerships with leading universities, we are able to better understand previously unmeasurable properties of membrane technology,” said Jeffrey D. Wilbur, a DuPont scientist with expertise in membrane chemistry who helped lead the research team. “This knowledge will give us more advanced control of our membrane design and manufacturing, advancing the performance of our membranes for our customers doing the essential work of water purification.”

Desalination membranes remove salt and other chemicals from water, a process critical to the health of society, cleaning billions of gallons of water for agriculture, energy production and drinking. Reverse osmosis membranes work by applying pressure to the salty feed solution on one side. The minerals remain in the feed while the water passes through. Although more efficient than non-membrane desalination processes, this process still takes a large amount of energy in water treatment plants and improving the efficiency of the membranes could reduce that burden.

“We found that how you control the density distribution of the membrane itself at the nanoscale is really important for water-production performance.” said Enrique Gomez, professor of chemical engineering and materials science and engineering at Penn State, who led the research. Manish Kumar, associate professor in the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering at UT Austin, co-led the work.

The team used multimodal electron microscopy, which combines atomic-scale detailed imaging with techniques that reveal chemical composition, to determine that desalination membranes are inconsistent in density and mass. The researchers mapped the density variations in the polymer film in three dimensions with a spatial resolution of approximately one nanometer — that’s less than half the diameter of a DNA strand.

The team developed 3D reconstructions of the nanoscale membrane structure using state-of-the-art electron microscopes at the Materials Characterization Lab of Penn State. They modeled the path water takes through these membranes to predict how efficiently water could be cleaned based on polymer structure. The Texas Advanced Computing Center helped visualize these simulations, and most of the calculations were performed on Stampede2, TACC’s supercomputer, by Biswajit Khara and Baskar Ganapathysubramanian of Iowa State.

The team continues to study the structure of the membranes, as well as the chemical interactions involved in the desalination process. They are also examining how to develop the best membranes for specific materials, such as sustainable yet tough membranes that can prevent the formation of bacterial growth.

DuPont Water Solutions (DWS) is a leader in sustainable water purification and separation technologies, including ultrafiltration, reverse osmosis (RO) membranes and ion exchange resins. DuPont designs and produces the most widely used RO membrane technology in the world — trusted globally by municipalities, industries, manufacturers, commercial markets, and families requiring clean, healthy water.

About DuPont Water & Protection

DuPont Water and Protection is a global leader in creating water, shelter and safety solutions for a more sustainable world; enabling its customers to win through unique capabilities, global scale and iconic brands including Kevlar®, Nomex®, Tyvek®, Corian® Design, GreatStuff™, Styrofoam™, and FilmTec™.

About DuPont

DuPont (NYSE: DD) is a global innovation leader with technology-based materials, ingredients and solutions that help transform industries and everyday life. Our employees apply diverse science and expertise to help customers advance their best ideas and deliver essential innovations in key markets including electronics, transportation, construction, water, health and wellness, food and worker safety. More information can be found at http://www.dupont.com.

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DuPont™, the DuPont Oval Logo, and all trademarks and service marks denoted with ™, ℠ or ® are owned by affiliates of DuPont de Nemours, Inc. unless otherwise noted.

For further information contact:

Anna Gemolas, DuPont

Anna.Gemolas@dupont.com