A Biotech Lab in the Cloud, Backed by Peter Thiel | Inc.com

Why is new drug development so comparatively torpid when app development is so torrid?

The founders of Emerald Therapeutics, D.J. Kleinbaum and Brian Frezza, think it comes down to the difficulty of running experiments in the life sciences. A typical new experiment takes a month to set up — a month during which a scientist with a decade of education might find herself lugging around jugs of reagent or pipetting. And that’s when nothing goes wrong.

"There are these major roadblocks to doing research that all involve the energy you have to sink into the lab itself," said Frezza on Tuesday evening, speaking at the opening of the new Emerald Cloud Laboratory in South San Francisco. The ECL is Frezza and Kleinbaum’s solution to the friction they believe is holding back progress in their field.

Dubbed ECL-1, because it’s intended to be the first of many, the gleaming warehouse-like space is filled with state-of-the-art instruments for DNA sequencing, gas chromatography, nuclear magnetic resonance and other standard types of experiments. It’s also filled with robots that prep and carry out the trials, with minimal oversight from human operators. Thanks to the high degree of automation, a team of two or three technicians can carry out up to 50 experiments simultaneously. “It’s all about each experiment being ‘push a button, walk away,’” Kleinbaum said during a tour of the facility.

The protocols themselves are uploaded to ECL’s servers remotely by clients. (Hence the “Cloud” part.) Frezza and Kleinbaum liken the arrangement to Amazon Web Services, which triggered an explosion in the number of new internet startups by removing the need to own one’s own servers as a barrier to entry.

Running experiments over the cloud is cost-competitive and far more time efficient; in Emerald’s old lab, average setup time was a mere 25 minutes. But it’s also superior in terms of standardization and reproducibility, with the environment engineered to control for and measure a host of variables, from ambient air temperature to the length of rubber tubing, that often get overlooked. Capturing so much more data this way gives investigators what Kleinbaum calls “full computational closure,” and it’s a big part of the ECL’s value proposition. “If we’re asking people to experiment out of place and out of time, it’s not enough to just give them an equivalent experience,” he says. “We have to give them a richer experience.”

If Kleinbaum and Frezza are sensitive to the needs of researchers, it’s because it was in that role that they started Emerald Therapeutics in 2010. Attempting to raise funding for their effort to develop a novel therapy for persistent viral infections, the co-founders, who’ve been best friends since they grew up together in Philadelphia, were on the verge of giving up and heading back to the east coast when Peter Thiel personally persuaded them to stay in town. A few weeks later, his Founders Fund wrote them their first check. They’ve raised more than $13 million to date.

Work on their viral cure is ongoing but deep in stealth mode. Frezza says it will be perhaps a year before they’re ready to talk about it publicly. Meanwhile, in the next 18 months they plan to invest another $7 million in the ECL, more than doubling the number of different experiments it’s capable of carrying out.


With the bionic butterflies, for the first time Festo combines the ultralight construction of artificial insects with collision-free flying behaviour in a collective. For coordination purposes, the eMotionButterflies make use of a guidance and monitoring system, which could be used in the networked factory of the future. 


Captives #B04

Documentation from artist Quayola of a stone sculpture being formed with an industrial robot to create a work combining the contemporary and the classical:

Captives is an ongoing series of digital and physical sculptures, a contemporary interpretation of Michelangelo’s unfinished series “Prigioni” (1513-1534) and his technique of “non-finito”.

The work explores the tension and equilibrium between form and matter, man-made objects of perfection and complex, chaotic forms of nature. Whilst referencing Renaissance sculptures, the focus of this series shifts from pure figurative representation to the articulation of matter itself. As in the original “Prigioni” the classic figures are left unfinished, documenting the very history of their creation and transformation.

Mathematical functions and processes describe computer-generated geological formations that evolve endlessly, morphing into classical figures. Industrial computer-controlled robots sculpt the resulting geometries into life-size “unfinished” sculptures.

More Here


For the BionicANTs, Festo has not only transferred the delicate anatomy of ants, but also their cooperative behaviour to the world of technology. Like their natural role models, they communicate with each other and work together according to clear rules to solve a common task.


The 1/6th scale collectible figure line from threezero based on characters from the film Chappie will launch this month. The fully-articulated Chappie collectible stands at 12” (30.5cm) tall and features highly detailed paint and weathering replicating his appearance on screen. Chappie also includes light-up LEDs and an AKS-74 rifle accessory.
Pre-order will begin on March 16th 9:00AM Hong Kong time at www.threezerostore.com for 230 USD / 1780 HKD with International Shipping included in the price.
An exclusive, alternative paint variation of Chappie with additional accessories (rings and chain with $ sign), will also be available at www.threezerostore.com for the same price. Please follow our updates for full info.

Check the album here for more images:

threezero 已取得《超人類:卓比》CHAPPiE的1:6人偶版權,劇中擁有人性的高智能的人氣機械人CHAPPiE即將開始預購!
另外我們特別為《超人類:卓比》CHAPPiE製作了一個threezerostore限定塗裝版本,全身加上獨特紋身及潮流金器將劇中後期CHAPPiE形象完全重現!同樣是定價HKD1780 / 230 USD (包括郵遞費用)。

5月23日に日本公開のニール・ブロムカンプ監督最新映画『チャッピー』より、主人公のロボット「チャッピー」をアクションフィギュア化! 予約販売は日本時間3月16日10:00AMよりthreezeroストア www.threezerostore.com にて開始。価格は230USD(送料込み)。1/6スケール、全高約12インチ(30.5cm)のフル可動フィギュアです。劇中の姿を忠実に再現したハイ ディテールな造形と、リアルなウェザリングを 含む緻密な塗装が見所です! 目にはLED点灯ギミックを搭載。アクセサリーとしてAKS-74ライフルが付属します。
また、threezeroストア限定品として、別カラー版もご用意! 指輪やゴールド・ネックレスのアクセサリーも付属し、お値段は同じ230USDです。

Robotics gloves develop to give stroke patients therapy at home.

A team of European researchers have been developing robotic gloves aimed at helping stroke victims to receive advanced therapy at home. The SCRIPT project (Supervised Care and Rehabilitation Involving Personal Tele-robotics) has led to two prototypes that help develop hand and wrist movement while recording monitoring and recording the patient’s ability to perform a variety of tasks.
The system is designed to allow patients to continue receiving therapy at home once in-clinic rehab sessions are over. The hope is that well targeted therapy in the comfort of the home will lead to meaningful improvements in patients that may otherwise plateau in their motor ability.
Dr Farshid Amirabdollahian, a senior lecturer in adaptive systems at the University of Hertfordshire’s School of Computer Science who co-ordinated the project, said: “This project focused on therapies for stroke patients at home. Our goal was to make motivating therapies available to people to practise at home using this system, hoping that they have a vested interest to practise and will do so. We tried this system with 30 patients and found that patients indeed practised at home, on average around 100 minutes each week, and some showed clinical improvements in their hand and arm function.”

Robot model for infant learning shows bodily posture may affect memory and learning

An Indiana University cognitive scientist and collaborators have found that posture is critical in the early stages of acquiring new knowledge.

The study, conducted by Linda Smith, a professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, in collaboration with a roboticist from England and a developmental psychologist from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, offers a new approach to studying the way “objects of cognition,” such as words or memories of physical objects, are tied to the position of the body.

"This study shows that the body plays a role in early object name learning, and how toddlers use the body’s position in space to connect ideas," Smith said. "The creation of a robot model for infant learning has far-reaching implications for how the brains of young people work."

The research, “Posture Affects How Robots and Infants Map Words to Objects,” was published today in PLOS ONE, an open-access, peer-reviewed online journal.

Using both robots and infants, researchers examined the role bodily position played in the brain’s ability to “map” names to objects. They found that consistency of the body’s posture and spatial relationship to an object as an object’s name was shown and spoken aloud were critical to successfully connecting the name to the object.

The new insights stem from the field of epigenetic robotics, in which researchers are working to create robots that learn and develop like children, through interaction with their environment. Morse applied Smith’s earlier research to creating a learning robot in which cognitive processes emerge from the physical constraints and capacities of its body.

"A number of studies suggest that memory is tightly tied to the location of an object," Smith said. "None, however, have shown that bodily position plays a role or that, if you shift your body, you could forget."

To reach these conclusions, the study’s authors conducted a series of experiments, first with robots programmed to map the name of an object to the object through shared association with a posture, then with children age 12 to 18 months.

In one experiment, a robot was first shown an object situated to its left, then a different object to the right; then the process was repeated several times to create an association between the objects and the robot’s two postures. Then with no objects in place, the robot’s view was directed to the location of the object on the left and given a command that elicited the same posture from the earlier viewing of the object. Then the two objects were presented in the same locations without naming, after which the two objects were presented in different locations as their names were repeated. This caused the robot to turn and reach toward the object now associated with the name.

The robot consistently indicated a connection between the object and its name during 20 repeats of the experiment. But in subsequent tests where the target and another object were placed in both locations — so as to not be associated with a specific posture — the robot failed to recognize the target object. When replicated with infants, there were only slight differences in the results: The infant data, like that of the robot, implicated the role of posture in connecting names to objects.

"These experiments may provide a new way to investigate the way cognition is connected to the body, as well as new evidence that mental entities, such as thoughts, words and representations of objects, which seem to have no spatial or bodily components, first take shape through spatial relationship of the body within the surrounding world," Smith said.

Smith’s research has long focused on creating a framework for understanding cognition that differs from the traditional view, which separates physical actions such as handling objects or walking up a hill from cognitive actions such as learning language or playing chess.

Additional research is needed to determine whether this study’s results apply to infants only, or more broadly to the relationship between the brain, the body and memory, she added. The study may also provide new approaches to research on developmental disorders in which difficulties with motor coordination and cognitive development are well-documented but poorly understood.