What’s The Difference Between Covid-19 Coronavirus Vaccines

Coronavirus COVID-19 single dose small vials and multi dose in scientist hands concept. Research for new novel corona virus immunization drug.

The world can’t return to normal without safe and effective vaccines against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus along with a coordinated global vaccination programme.

Researchers have been racing to develop potential drugs that could help end the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. There are currently around 200 vaccine candidates and about a quarter passed preclinical tests and are now undergoing clinical trials.

What’s the difference between the various candidate vaccines?

A pie chart of candidates can be cut several ways. One is to slice it into six uneven pieces according to the technology (or ‘platform’) that’s used to produce the drug. Those six technologies can be grouped into three broader categories: dead or disabled viruses, artificial vectors, and viral components.

Dead or disabled viruses

Traditional vaccines contain a dead or disabled virus, designed to be incapable of causing severe disease while also provoking an immune response that provides protection against the live virus.

1. Live-attenuated viruses

Attenuated means ‘weakened’. Weakening a live virus typically involves reducing its virulence — capacity to cause disease — or ability to replicate through genetic engineering. The virus still infects cells and causes mild symptoms.

For a live-attenuated virus, an obvious safety concern is that the virus might gain genetic changes that enable it to revert back to the more virulent strain. Another worry is that a mistake during manufacturing could produce a defective vaccine and cause a disease outbreak, which once happened with a polio vaccine. MORE FOR YOUJapan Has Opened Hayabusa2’s Capsule, Confirming It Contains Samples From Asteroid RyuguDonald Trump’s Presidency Will End On The Day Of A Comet, A Meteor Shower And A Total Eclipse Of The SunIn A New Epidemiological Study, Daily Doses Of Glucosamine/Chondroitin Are Linked To Lower All-Cause Mortality

But using a live-attenuated virus has one huge benefit: vaccination resembles natural infection, which usually leads to robust immune responses and a memory of the virus’ antigens that can last for many years.

Live-attenuated vaccines based on SARS-CoV-2 are still undergoing preclinical testing, developed by start-up Codagenix and the Serum Institute of India.

2. Inactivated viruses

Inactivated means ‘dead’ (‘inactivated’ is used because some scientists don’t consider viruses to be alive). The virus will be the one you want to create a vaccine against, such as SARS-CoV-2, which is usually killed with chemicals.

Two Chinese firms have developed vaccines that are being tested for safety and effectiveness in large-scale Phase III clinical trials: ‘CoronaVac’ (previously ‘PiCoVacc’) from Sinovac Biotech and ‘New Crown COVID-19’ from Sinopharm. Both drugs contain inactivated virus, didn’t cause serious adverse side-effects and prompted the immune system to produce antibodies against SARS-CoV-2.

Sinopharm’s experimental vaccine has reportedly been administered to hundreds of thousands of people in China, and both drugs are now being trialled in countries across Asia, South America and the Middle East.

COVID-19 vaccine landscape (left) and platforms for SARS-CoV-2 vaccine development (right)
The global COVID-19 vaccine landscape (left) and Vaccine platforms used for SARS-CoV-2 vaccine … [+] Springer

Artificial vectors

Another conventional approach in vaccine design is to artificially create a vehicle or ‘vector’ that can deliver specific parts of a virus to the adaptive immune system, which then learns to target those parts and provides protection.

That immunity is achieved by exposing your body to a molecule that prompts the system to generate antibodies, an antigen, which becomes the target of an immune response. SARS-CoV-2 vaccines aim to target the spike protein on the surface of coronavirus particles — the proteins that allows the virus to invade a cell.

3. Recombinant viruses

A recombinant virus is a vector that combines the target antigen from one virus with the ‘backbone’ from another — unrelated — virus. For SARS-CoV-2, the most common strategy is to put coronavirus spike proteins on an adenovirus backbone.

Recombinant viruses are a double-edged sword: they behave like live-attenuated viruses, so a recombinant vaccine comes with the potential benefits of provoking a robust response from the immune system but also potential costs from causing an artificial infection that might lead to severe symptoms.

A recombinant vaccine might not provoke an adequate immune response in people who have previously been exposed to adenoviruses that infect humans (some cause the common cold), which includes one candidate developed by CanSino Biologics in China and ‘Sputnik V’ from Russia’s Gamaleya National Research Centre — both of which are in Phase III clinical trials and are licensed for use in the military.

To maximize the chance of provoking immune responses, some vaccines are built upon viruses from other species, so humans will have no pre-existing immunity. The most high-profile candidate is ‘AZD1222’, better known as ‘ChAdOx1 nCoV-19’ or simply ‘the Oxford vaccine’ because it was designed by scientists at Oxford University, which will be manufactured by AstraZeneca. AZD1222 is based on a chimpanzee adenovirus and seems to be 70% effective at preventing Covid-19.

Some recombinant viruses can replicate in cells, others cannot — known as being ‘replication-competent’ or ‘replication-incompetent’. One vaccine candidate that contains a replicating virus, developed by pharmaceutical giant Merck, is based on Vesicular Stomatitis Virus (VSV), which infects guinea pigs and other pets.

4. Virus-like particles

A virus-like particle, or VLP, is a structure assembled from viral proteins. It resembles a virus but doesn’t contain the genetic material that would allow the VLP to replicate. For SARS-CoV-2, the VLP obviously includes the spike protein.

One coronavirus-like particle (Co-VLP) vaccine from Medicago has passed Phase I trials to test it’s safe and has entered Phase II to test that it’s effective.

While there are currently few VLPs being developed for Covid-19, the technology is well-established and has been used to produce commercial vaccines against human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis B.

Viral components

All vaccines are ultimately designed to expose the immune system to parts of a virus, not the whole thing, so why not deliver just those parts? That’s the reasoning behind vaccines that only contain spike proteins or spike genes.

5. Proteins

Protein-based vaccines can consist of the full-length spike protein or the key part, the tip of the spike that binds the ACE2 receptor on the surface of a cell — ACE2 is the lock that a coronavirus picks in order to break into the cell.

Manufacturing vaccines containing the protein alone has a practical advantage: researchers don’t have to deal with live coronaviruses, which should be grown inside cells within a biosafety level-3 lab.

A vaccine against only part of the protein — a ‘subunit’ — will be more vulnerable to being rendered useless if random mutations alter the protein, known as ‘antigenic drift‘, but full-length proteins are harder to manufacture. The immune system can recognize either as an antigen.

One candidate vaccine based on protein subunits is ‘NVX-CoV2373’ from Novavax, where the spike subunits are arranged as a rosette structure. It’s similar to a vaccine that’s already been licensed for use, FluBlok, which contains rosettes of protein subunits from the influenza virus.

6. Nucleic acids

Nucleic-acid vaccines contain genetic material, either deoxyribonucleic acid or ribonucleic acid — DNA or RNA. In a coronavirus vaccine, the DNA or RNA carries genetic instructions for producing a spike protein, which is made within cells.

Those spike genes can be carried on rings of DNA called ‘plasmids’, which are easy to manufacture by growing them in bacteria. DNA provokes a relatively weak immune response, however, and can’t simply be injected inside the body — the vaccine must be administered using a special device to force DNA into cells. Four DNA-based candidates are in Phase I or II trials.

The two most famous nucleic-acid vaccines are the drugs being developed by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, partnered with BioNTech, and Moderna. Pfizer’s ‘BNT162b2’ and Moderna’s ‘mRNA-1273’ both use ‘messenger RNA’ — mRNA — to carry the spike genes and are delivered into cells via a lipid nanoparticle (LNP). The two mRNA vaccines have completed Phase III trials and preliminary results suggests they’re over 90% effective at preventing Covid-19.

As the above examples show, not only there are many potential vaccines but also various approaches. And while some technologies have already provided promising results, it remains to be seen which will actually be able to defeat the virus.

Full coverage and live updates on the CoronavirusFollow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website or some of my other work here

JV Chamary

JV Chamary

I’m a science communicator specialising in public engagement and outreach through entertainment, focusing on popular culture. I have a PhD in evolutionary biology and…

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TODAY

Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, joins the 3rd hour of TODAY to break down the differences between Moderna’s and Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine candidates. He also comments on speculation of another national shutdown and whether families should still get together over Thanksgiving. » Subscribe to TODAY: http://on.today.com/SubscribeToTODAY » Watch the latest from TODAY: http://bit.ly/LatestTODAY About: TODAY brings you the latest headlines and expert tips on money, health and parenting. We wake up every morning to give you and your family all you need to start your day. If it matters to you, it matters to us. We are in the people business. Subscribe to our channel for exclusive TODAY archival footage & our original web series. Connect with TODAY Online! Visit TODAY’s Website: http://on.today.com/ReadTODAY Find TODAY on Facebook: http://on.today.com/LikeTODAY Follow TODAY on Twitter: http://on.today.com/FollowTODAY Follow TODAY on Instagram: http://on.today.com/InstaTODAY Follow TODAY on Pinterest: http://on.today.com/PinTODAY#COVID19Vaccines#AshishJha#TodayShow

Billionaire Eric Lefkofsky’s Tempus Raises $200 Million To Bring Personalized Medicine To New Diseases

On the surface, Eric Lefkofsky’s Tempus sounds much like every other AI-powered personalized medicine company. “We try to infuse as much data and technology as we can into the diagnosis itself,” Lefkofsky says, which could be said by the founder of any number of new healthcare companies.. But what makes Tempus different is that it is quickly branching out, moving from a focus on cancer to additional programs including mental health, infectious diseases, cardiology and soon diabetes. “We’re focused on those disease areas that are the most deadly,” Lefkofsky says. 

Now, the billionaire founder has an additional $200 million to reach that goal. The Chicago-based company announced the series G-2 round on Thursday, which includes a massive valuation of $8.1 billion. Lefkofsky, the founder of multiple companies including Groupon, also saw his net worth rise from the financing, from an estimated $3.2 billion to an estimated $4.2 billion.

Tempus is “trying to disrupt a very large industry that is very complex,” Lefkofsky says, “we’ve known it was going to cost a lot of money to see our business model to fruition.” 

In addition to investors Baillie Gifford, Franklin Templeton, Novo Holdings, and funds managed by T. Rowe Price, Lefkofsky, who has invested about $100 million of his own money into the company since inception, also contributed an undisclosed amount to the round. Google also participated as an investor, and Tempus says it will now store its deidentified patient data on Google Cloud. 

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“We are particularly attracted to companies that aim to solve fundamental and complex challenges within life sciences,” says Robert Ghenchev, a senior partner at Novo Holdings. “Tempus is, in many respects, the poster child for the kind of companies we like to support.” 

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Tempus, founded by Lefkofsky in 2015, is one of a new breed of personalized cancer diagnostic companies like Foundation Medicine and Guardant Health. The company’s main source of revenue comes from sequencing the genome of cancer patients’ tumors in order to help doctors decide which treatments would be most effective. “We generate a lot of molecular data about you as a patient,” Lefkofsky says. He estimates that Tempus has the data of about 1 in 3 cancer patients in the United States. 

But billing insurance companies for sequencing isn’t the only way the company makes money. Tempus also offers a service that matches eligible patients to clinical trials, and it licenses  de-identified patient data to other players in the oncology industry. That patient data, which includes images and clinical information, is “super important and valuable,” says Lefkofsky, who adds that such data sharing only occurs if patients consent. 

At first glance, precision oncology seems like a crowded market, but analysts say there is still plenty of room for companies to grow. “We’re just getting started in this market,” says Puneet Souda, a senior research analyst at SVB Leerink, “[and] what comes next is even larger.” Souda estimates that as the personalized oncology market expands from diagnostics to screening, another $30 billion or more will be available for companies to snatch up. And Tempus is already thinking ahead by moving into new therapeutic areas. 

While it’s not leaving cancer behind, Tempus has branched into other areas of precision medicine over the last year, including cardiology and mental health. The company now offers a service for psychiatrists to use a patient’s genetic information to determine the best treatments for major depressive disorder. 

In May, Lefkofsky also pushed the company to use its expertise to fight the coronavirus pandemic. The company now offers PCR tests for Covid-19, and has run over 1 million so far. The company also sequences other respiratory pathogens, such as the flu and soon pneumonia. As with cancer, Tempus will continue to make patient data accessible for others in the field— for a price. “Because we have one of the largest repositories of data in the world,” says Lefkofsky, “[it is imperative] that we make it available to anyone.” 

Lefkofsky plans to use capital from the latest funding round to continue Tempus’ expansion and grow its team. The company has hired about 700 since the start of the pandemic, he says, and currently has about 1,800 employees. He wouldn’t comment on exact figures, but while the company is not yet profitable he says Tempus has reached “significant scale in terms of revenue.” 

And why is he so sure that his company’s massive valuation isn’t over-inflated? “We benefit from two really exciting financial sector trends,” he says: complex genomic profiling and AI-driven health data. Right now, Lefkofsky estimates, about one-third of cancer patients have their tumors sequenced in three years. Soon, he says, that number will increase to two-thirds of patients getting their tumors sequenced multiple times a year. “The space itself is very exciting,” he says, “we think it will grow dramatically.” Follow me on Twitter. Send me a secure tip

Leah Rosenbaum

Leah Rosenbaum

I am the assistant editor of healthcare and science at Forbes. I graduated from UC Berkeley with a Master’s of Journalism and a Master’s of Public Health, with a specialty in infectious disease. Before that, I was at Johns Hopkins University where I double-majored in writing and public health. I’ve written articles for STAT, Vice, Science News, HealthNewsReview and other publications. At Forbes, I cover all aspects of health, from disease outbreaks to biotech startups.

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Eric Lefkofsky

To impact the nearly 1.7 million Americans who will be newly diagnosed with cancer this year, Eric Lefkofsky, co-founder and CEO of Tempus, discusses with Matter CEO Steven Collens how he is applying his disruptive-technology expertise to create an operating system to battle cancer. (November 29, 2016)

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Pharmacies Don’t Know How to Dispose of Leftover Opioids and Antibiotics

Today (Dec. 30), a team of researchers from the University of California, San Francisco and the Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., published the results of an investigation into whether or not pharmacy workers could provide accurate information on the disposal of two classes of drugs: opioids and antibiotics. The results are frightening:

The researchers enlisted volunteers to place calls to nearly 900 pharmacies in California, posing as parents with leftover antibiotics and opioids from a “child’s” recent surgery. They asked the pharmacy employees on the line—either pharmacists or pharmacy technicians—how to deal with these unused drugs, and then the researchers compared those answers to the guidelines for correct disposal published by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The found that approximately 43% of pharmacy workers responded accurately on how to deal with antibiotics; just 23% knew what to do with opioids.

Drug disposal is one of those vexing problems where people generally want to do the right thing, but often simply don’t know how. As Hillary Copp, associate professor of urology at UCSF and the senior author of the study noted in a press release, “The FDA has specific instructions on how to dispose of these medications, and the American Pharmacists Association has adopted this as their standard. Yet it’s not being given to the consumer correctly the majority of the time.”

According to the FDA, unused medications should be put (without crushing any pills or capsules) in an “unappealing substance such as dirt, cat litter, or used coffee grounds;” that mixture should then be put into a sealed container like a secure plastic bag before it is thrown out. In addition, all personal information should be scratched out or otherwise destroyed.

Indeed, in 2017, a team of scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey and Environmental Protection Agency published a paper reporting the results of a study of 38 streams across the country. It found 230 human-created drugs and poisons. And there are significant knock-on effects of improper disposable: many of the drugs identified in the 2017 study are known to kill, harm the health of, or change the behavior of fish, insects and other wildlife. This, in turn, can impact the food chain, and eventually harm humans as well.

Antibiotics and opioids, the two drug classes that the Annals of Internal Medicine study looked at, are particularly malevolent when not disposed correctly.

When antibiotics are disseminated widely throughout the environment, it raises the chances of bacteria developing resistance to the drugs. Any bacteria that encounters an antibiotic, whether in the human body, or in a stream or pond, will attempt to survive. Those that do will pass their genes onto future generations of bacteria, fueling a growing global health concern: the World Health Organization has made it clear that antimicrobial resistance in microbes (which includes antibiotic-resistant bacteria), is one of the globes biggest impending public health challenges, given that it could eliminate some of medical science’s most effective tools against disease-causing organisms.

Meanwhile, research into the impacts of opioids on lab animals suggests that they respond to the drugs much like humans: by self-administering over and over, to their detriment. Scientists are still working on understanding how opioids in the waste stream impact animals living in the wild. One thing is for sure: opioids ARE in the global water supply. A 2018 review of the scientific literature found 22 opioids in wastewater and surface water samples from all over the world.

Perhaps the bigger issue with opioids, however, is that those prescribed them tend to keep them around. The results of a survey published in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2016 found that about 60% of Americans prescribed opioids kept their leftover meds for “future use,” and a number of recent studies and investigations have found that these drugs, when either shared with or surreptitiously taken by relatives and acquaintances, can lead to addiction and overdose.

On the flip side, other recent studies have noted that clearer guidance and take-back events can get people to not only get rid of unused opioids, but to do so in a way that’s environmentally sound. Given the ongoing American opioid crisis, any steps to get this class of deadly drugs off the street—and out of medicine cabinets—could be significant. This most recent study suggests that one place to start might be at the point-of-sale: the pharmacy.

By Elijah Wolfson December 30, 2019

Source: Pharmacies Don’t Know How to Dispose of Leftover Opioids and Antibiotics

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According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, addiction to prescription opioid painkillers is real. Of the 21.5 million Americans 12 or older who had a substance use disorder in 2014, 1.9 million had a substance use disorder involving prescription pain pills. Addicts aren’t just the stereotypical shady figures hiding in dark alleys to get a fix. They are average people turning to health care providers for medication that is highly addictive. Mayo Clinic experts agree that an opioid epidemic exists in the U.S. In this Mayo Clinic Minute, reporter Vivien Williams talks to pain medicine specialist Dr. Mike Hooten about the changing face of addiction. More health and medical news on the Mayo Clinic News Network http://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/

 

Smartphones Have Led to a Spike in Head and Neck Injuries As People Walk, Drive, Text and Play Games

The number of people who have injured their necks or heads while using using cell phones has spiked over the past two decades, with a sharp increase following the release of the iPhone, research has revealed.

Most people got hurt because they were distracted by their cell phones, and while in the home according, to the study published in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery.

The researchers used the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) database on emergency room visits from approximately 100 U.S. hospitals to carry out the study.

Of the 2,501 incidents occurring between January 1998 and December 2017, 37.6 percent involved patients aged between 13 to 29-years-old, with pre-teens most at risk. Of the total, 55 percent were female, 38.8 percent white.

The majority of patients hurt their head, followed by the face, including the eye and nose area, and lastly the neck. Lacerations were the most common injury, followed by contusions or abrasions and internal organ injuries—mostly traumatic brain injuries. For instance, some were hit in the face, or were harmed when batteries exploded. Some suffered concussion.

Head and neck injuries related to phones were relatively rare up until 2007, when rates shot up following the release of the Apple iPhone, followed by a much steeper rise to a peak in 2016, the researchers found.

Based on the 2,501 cases, the team estimated a total of 76,043 such injuries likely occurred across the U.S. between 1998 and 2017. Of those, an estimated 14,150 involved people who were distracted. That included 90 playing Pokémon Go.

A further 7,240 people were driving, 1,022 texting, and 5,080 patients were walking and using a smartphone.

Around 96 percent of Americans own a cell phone, according to the researchers.

Despina Stavrinos, associate professor of psychology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham who did not work on the study told Newsweek she wasn’t surprised by the findings “given how pervasive cell phones are in our everyday lives.”

She said as the numbers were taken from a database on medical settings, the findings could be an underestimate of the problem.

“A significant portion of the injuries were to children and adolescents, suggesting parents play an important role in educating their children on safe phone practices. Policy and behavioral interventions should continue to consider ways to prevent cell phone use in transportation settings,” said Stavrinos.

“Most of the injuries in this study occurred at home; however, a smaller yet significant portion occurred in traffic environments. Distracted walking, bicycling, and driving are common and extremely dangerous activities among youth that increases their risk of injury,” said Stavrinos, who co-authored a paper on that topic.

“Cell phones offer many advantages, but also pose risks if they are not used properly. This is definitely the case when it comes to using phones while driving or walking.”

By

Source: Smartphones Have Led to a Spike in Head and Neck Injuries As People Walk, Drive, Text and Play Games

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Bending and staring down at our phones for several hours, increases the stress on our neck and spine, leading to neck and back pain. Experts refer to this condition as text neck and it can eventually lead to serious consequences. Also, at night, when we stare at our smartphones, the light emitted from their screens makes our brain think that it is still daytime. So, our brain does not produce the sleep hormone melatonin, causing us to stay awake for long hours and thus, disturbing our circadian rhythm which regulates our every day bodily functions. This can lead to obesity, diabetes, cancer, etc. An interesting fact is that smartphone addiction has given rise to a new phobia called Nomophobia, short for no mobile phone phobia. It is basically the fear or anxiety of being without our phone.

Open Innovation In Japan Breaks New Ground In The Operating Room

Yoshihiro Muragaki (left) and Jun Okamoto (right) of Tokyo Women's University's Institute of Advanced Biomedical Engineering and Science

Yoshihiro Muragaki (left) and Jun Okamoto (right) of Tokyo Women’s Medical University’s Institute of Advanced Biomedical Engineering and Science pose in a version of the Smart Cyber Operating Theater (SCOT).JAPAN BRANDVOICE

Imagine undergoing surgery on a robotic bed that can automatically help perform a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan while an artificial intelligence (AI) system actively supports surgeons by suggesting various procedures. It sounds like a scenario from a Hollywood movie, but it’s reality in Japan.

Doctors at the Tokyo Women’s Medical University – Waseda University Joint Institution for Advanced Biomedical Sciences (TWIns) recently performed a groundbreaking brain surgery to treat essential tremor, a neurological disorder. It was the first clinical use of the latest version of the institution’s Smart Cyber Operating Theater (SCOT). Hyper SCOT, as it’s known, brings robotics and AI into the operating theater so that patients can have better post-surgical outcomes. It’s an impressive example of the many forms of open collaboration driving innovation in Japan.

A new frontier in surgery

Walking into the Hyper SCOT operating room at Tokyo Women’s Medical University, one gets the feeling of entering Sick Bay aboard the starship Enterprise from Star Trek. Silver doors slide open to reveal a sleek white room illuminated by variable-color lights. In the center are a pair of robots: an operating bed that swivels to position a patient under a large MRI scanner nearby, and a dual-armed industrial-style robot that can support a surgeon’s arms while operating. On the wall are high-resolution images of a patient’s brain. Surgeons can gesture to zoom in or change the images’ orientation, a feature inspired by the Tom Cruise film Minority Report.

As a next-generation operating room, SCOT can reduce risks and increase benefits for patients, says Muragaki.

As a next-generation operating room, SCOT can reduce risks and increase benefits for patients, says Muragaki.JAPAN BRANDVOICE

Hyper SCOT is designed to transform surgery from an analog process, where standalone equipment is not connected, into a digital process where data are shared. It can support surgical teams by providing them with a rich stream of data from networked medical tools as well as AI-powered advice on surgical options. SCOT also aims to improve precision by helping brain surgeons accurately navigate to a tumor site. Although MRI had only been available to surgeons before an operation, Hyper SCOT would enable them to get scans during the procedure, which could dramatically improve outcomes.

“If we have many kinds of information, we need some kind of strategy desk, like Mission Control at NASA,” says SCOT project leader Yoshihiro Muragaki, a professor in Tokyo Women’s Medical University’s Institute of Advanced Biomedical Engineering and Science. “Our moonshot is to make new eyes, brains and hands for surgeons. With SCOT, we can perform precision-guided therapy.”

Okamoto demonstrates a SCOT brain imagery gestural interface inspired by the film Minority Report at Tokyo Women's Medical University.

Okamoto demonstrates a SCOT brain imagery gestural interface inspired by the film Minority Report at Tokyo Women’s Medical University. JAPAN BRANDVOICE

A neurosurgeon himself, Muragaki conceived of the SCOT project and has spearheaded it since its inception in 2000. Back then it was known as the Intelligent Operating Theater, a version now known as Classic SCOT. Supported by a grant from the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED), the system began as an initiative to enhance interoperability among devices used in the medical theater, but the development team later added features such as multiple surgery cameras that can send imagery to remote consultants, usually senior surgeons. These advisors have a bird’s-eye view of the action as well as near-real time data streams of patients’ vital statistics. Since 2000, the technology has been used in some 1,900 cases, mostly brain surgeries. MRI has been key in detecting residual tumor tissue that escaped surgeons’ notice during operations.

“Even under a microscope, it’s very difficult to detect where brain tumor tissue ends and healthy tissue begins,” says Muragaki. “That’s why we need MRI during surgery. It’s a very powerful tool for removing tumors. But that also means we can only use MRI-compatible devices in the operating room and we must choose them carefully.”

Fruits of teamwork

With over 100 researchers, SCOT is the result of a complex collaboration between academia and the private and public sectors. Aside from the two universities in TWIns, Muragaki and colleagues are working with Hiroshima University and Shinshu University, where versions of SCOT are being evaluated in clinical settings. High-tech companies are also helping to develop SCOT, including Hitachi, Canon Medical, and Air Water. Another participant is Denso. It developed a medical-equipment middleware called OpeLiNK that is based on factory automation technology as well as ORiN, a platform created with the support of the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), a leading Japanese state-backed research center. Orchestrating all these players was essential in creating SCOT.

Another major benefit of SCOT is the ability to obtain scans using an MRI machine (right) during surgery.

Another major benefit of SCOT is the ability to obtain scans using an MRI machine (right) during surgery. JAPAN BRANDVOICE

“If one company tried to do this alone, it would want to use its own technology and keep rivals out,” says Muragaki. “That company wouldn’t succeed in integrating all the various technologies. That’s why public institutions are vital for this kind of open innovation project. They act like the frame in a traditional sensu Japanese folding fan, keeping everything together as the project unfolds.”

The collaborations that gave birth to SCOT were recently recognized when it picked up the Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare Award as part of the first Japan Open Innovation Prize. Sponsored by the Japanese government, the accolade was set up to promote initiatives that can serve as future role models for open innovation. In Japan, companies traditionally kept R&D in-house, even in recent years. But the public and private sectors have been pushing open innovation as a vehicle for enhancing competitiveness. Collaborations between government labs, corporations and universities are now flourishing. Major telecom carrier KDDI, for instance, launched the first of a series of Open Innovation Funds in 2012, aimed at investing in IT startups in Japan and overseas.

“There’s a growing recognition that if a company categorizes itself as a camera company, for instance, it is limiting itself,” Keiichiro Koumura, an official with major real estate company Mitsui Fudosan, recently told attendees at an open innovation seminar at Mitsui Fudosan’s Base Q in Tokyo. “Because as technology changes, cameras have become smartphones. One way to address this is open innovation.”

Keiichiro Koumura of Mitsui Fudosan (center left) and Hideaki Nagano of Samurai Incubate (center right) discuss open innovation during a seminar at Base Q in Tokyo.

Keiichiro Koumura of Mitsui Fudosan (center left) and Hideaki Nagano of Samurai Incubate (center right) discuss open innovation during a seminar at Base Q in Tokyo.japan brandvoice

Looking to the future

As for SCOT, Muragaki hopes to spread the technology to other hospital facilities such as intensive care units, and apply it to other forms of surgery such as vascular operations. He also hopes to take the technology overseas.

“Most doctors are resistant to change. Before they try SCOT, surgeons don’t regard it as something that’s necessary but once they give it a go, their view changes,” says Muragaki. “After brain surgeries, we want to try the technology on bone tumors, and keep going. If you could do all surgeries with SCOT, it would decrease risks and increase benefits. That’s something we can work toward.”

To find out more about SCOT, visit the university’s website here.

For more on the Japanese Government’s innovations and technologies, please click here.

Japan is changing. The country is at the forefront of demographic change that is expected to affect countries around the world. Japan regards this not as an onus but as

Source: Open Innovation In Japan Breaks New Ground In The Operating Room

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