Dreamt Of A Research Lab In The Cloud?

Dreamt Of A Research Lab In The Cloud?

IBM is making this a reality with their new chemistry lab called RoboRXN. It combines AI models, a cloud computing platform & robots to create new molecules, enabling research all the while sitting at home. What does this mean in the long run for researchers in university and industry labs?

Crux of the Matter

Cooking Chemicals In The Cloud With IBM
The algorithms used in RoboRXN are autonomously designed (AI) and executed (automation) with the remotely accessible lab (Cloud) with bare minimum human intervention.

How Does It Work?

  • Scientists log on to the online platform via a web browser. Then they draw the skeletal structure of the molecular compounds they want to create on a black canvas.
  • The platform uses machine learning (ML) to predict the ingredients required and the order in which they should be mixed.
  • Then the outcome of the chemical reaction required to form that compound, is predicted using neural ML translation architecture.
  • Then instructions are sent to a robot in a remote lab to execute and the report is sent back to the scientists with the results.

What’s The Translation Architecture Used Here?
Similar to translating French to English, this mechanism translates the language of chemistry by converting reactants (substance that undergoes change) and reagents (substance used for chemical analysis) to products.

IBM uses the SMILE (simplified molecular-input line-entry) representation, which describes and stores the structure of a compound using short ASCII strings, which is computer understandable.

How Does It Help In The Long Run?
Traditionally, new drugs and materials require an average span of 10 years and an exorbitant budget to be highlighted in the market. During this time, there is a continuous repetition of experiments to synthesize new compounds. Say, kneading a pizza dough for the first time requires many hits and trials.

With automated, predictive platforms like RoboRXN, the process would speed up & since lesser physical resources will be consumed, the cost of drug development will reduce too. Like the step by step recipe of Pizza!

Research That Is Immune To Pandemics
With the advent of such cloud-based online platforms, medical experts can focus on their ideas and react faster to health crises like the ongoing Covidid-19 pandemic, with just a steady internet connection. Currently social distancing has slowed down research in labs that use offline servers for storage of their integral data and therefore work resources can only be accessed in person.

What If Your New Labmate Is A Robot?
Using a similar concept, a startup called Kebotix has designed a self-driving lab wherein a robotic system predicts a desired compound’s recipe and then removes unrelated designs from the input database.

Then it feeds the results back in it’s learning pipeline, to make better decisions for the next round, till the correct ingredients are found for the compound and a sample is created, without any human supervision.

Or You Could Use Electronic Lab Notebooks (ELNs)?
ELN is a computer program designed to replace paper laboratory notebooks. They are used to document the entire research, experiments, and procedures performed in a lab and can be encrypted and are thus secure from cyber attacks. Such digital copies are easier to search upon, simplify the data copying process, and support multiple user collaborations while ensuring a cloud backup happens every time.

University-Industry Cloud Based Collaborations
Earlier this year, Oxford University announced a collab with Amazon Web Services, after the latter provided £7 million for their cloud-based R& D in the Data Science, AI, and Robotics division.

Such partnerships will allow other companies and colleges to follow suit and work together towards a common goal, in order to utilize the best of their respective resources while thinking “cloud-first”.

  • The Human Genome Project (HGP) was an international scientific research project with the goal of determining the base pairs that make up human DNA. It remains the world’s largest collaborative biological project. Planning started after the idea was picked up in 1984 by the US government, the project formally launched in 1990, and was declared complete on April 14, 2003.
  • Boston Dynamics is an engineering and robotics design company founded in 1992 as a spin-off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Boston Dynamics is best known for the development of a series of dynamic highly-mobile robots, including BigDog, Spot, Atlas, and Handle. Spot, Boston Dynamics’ robot dog is the first commercially available robot from them.
  • Salesforce.com, inc. is a cloud-based software company headquartered in San Francisco, California. It provides customer relationship management (CRM) service. The company was founded in 1999 by former Oracle executive Marc Benioff and has partnered with Facebook and Apple on various projects.

Who Is World’s Top Research Paper Provider Now?

Who Is World's Top Research Paper Provider Now?

As per the Nikkei Asian Review, China has now taken the lead in releasing the most number of scientific research papers in the natural sciences. Starting from the EV market, to cryptocurrency creation, China has been a top contender in many industries worldwide. But what all efforts go behind such victories?

Crux of the Matter

What Do The Numbers Say?
Based on peer-reviewed papers published in scientific journals, China has 19.9% scientific papers published as compared to US’ 18.3%. U.S, Germany, and Japan are 2nd, 3rd, and 4th respectively after China.

US v/s China
US remains the leader in terms of the number of research papers cited – 24.7% – but China is not far behind at 22%. Their specializations differ too, with China focusing more on materials science, chemistry, engineering, computer science, and mathematics, with 1.87 million researchers.

US on the other hand concentrates more on clinical medicine and basic life sciences, with a total 1.43 million researchers.

China Wants To Be The Superpower Now?
FBI investigations have found 200 Chinese talent recruitment programs, that are connected with violations of U.S. laws, including grant fraud, theft of trade secrets, and misuse of export controls.

John Brown, the FBI’s assistant director for counterintelligence said last year how the Chinese government knows that economic strength and scientific innovation are the keys to global influence and military power. He added that this would help them overtake the US as a global superpower.

US Researchers Corrupted By The Chinese?
About a year back, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute in Florida US had announced the forced resignations of its president, Alan List, VP Thomas Sellers, and 4 researchers.

This wasn’t just a conflict of interest but reportedly they were being paid by the Chinese Communist Party under their “Thousand Talents” program, that recruits foreign scientists for its own purposes.

As a counter move the Trump administration recently announced how Beijing funded institutions will need to register as “foreign missions,” with a different set of rules applicable to them.

Worldwide Research Influence
Confucius Institutes are based on public educational partnerships between colleges and Chinese universities. Out of the 550 such institutes worldwide, 80 are based in the U.S., including Stanford University and Savannah State University, Georgia.

This reportedly gives Beijing an upper hand in monitoring teaching materials and academic events by threatening to withdraw funding for the research.

The Harvard Connection
China’s education ministers have time and again denounced Western values from seeping into classrooms. But it is surprising that the Chinese elite still send their kids to ivy league schools worldwide.

The most famous case: Xi Mingze, daughter of Xi Jinping, the President of China, who studied English & Psychology and graduated from Harvard University.

  • The Journal des sçavans, was the earliest academic journal published in Europe. The first issue appeared as a twelve-page quarto pamphlet on Monday, 5 January 1665.
  • The American Psychological Association (APA) is the largest scientific and professional organization of psychologists in the United States. The General Format of APA is most commonly used to cite sources in academic papers.
  • The C9 League is an official alliance of nine universities in mainland China, initiated by the Chinese Central Government. People’s Daily, an official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, refers to the C9 League as China’s Ivy League.

Damaged DNA Repair Formula discovered by researchers at IIT-H

One of the premier institutes of India, IIT Hyderabad in partnership with IIT Guwahati, has claimed that its researchers have unravelled working of a protein that repairs damaged DNA. The team has discovered the mechanism by which these repair proteins assemble when DNA is under threat. The researchers studied the action of one specific protein, called alkB homolog 3 (ALKBH3) and stumbled upon this positive result.

Crux of the Matter
  • With the increasing awareness about the impact of DNA damage, efforts were being made globally to understand how these repair proteins work.
  • The results of the study conducted by IIT-H researchers in collaboration with Arun Goyal, Professor at the Department of Biosciences and Bioengineering, IIT-Guwahati, was recently published in Nucleic Acid Research, a peer-reviewed journal.
  • According to the reports, any damage to DNA is caused by the sudden appearance of a harmless mole to catastrophic diseases like cancer.
  • The finding is an output of both an academic exercise and therapeutic interventions.
  • One of the co-authors of the paper, Anindya Roy believes that the knowledge gained from these studies can be beneficial from a cancer edradication perspective.

DNA or Deoxyribonucleic acid is a molecule composed of two chains that coil around each other to form a double helix carrying genetic instructions for the development, functioning, growth and reproduction of all known organisms and many viruses. Friedrich Miescher discovered DNA in 1869, although scientists did not understand DNA was the genetic material in cells until 1943. Prior to that time, it was widely believed that proteins stored genetic information.Every human being shares 99% of their DNA with every other human. More Info

IIT-Bombay Research Finds Evidence of River 'Saraswati'

According to new research by the Physical Research Laboratory in collaboration with IIT-Bombay has reported ‘unequivocal evidence’ of existence a perennial river ‘Saraswati’ on the plains of northwestern India which researchers find mentions in the ancient texts of Rig Veda. 

Crux of the Matter
  • The research has been published in the journal ‘Scientific Report’ of Nature Publishers which is in the public domain. 
  • According to the researchers, the river a flowed roughly along the course of the modern Ghaggar.
  • The scientists behind the study were Anirban Chatterjee, J S Ray and Anil Shukla of PRL, and Kanchan Pande from IIT-Bombay.
  • The research studied the temporal changes of sediment provenance along a 300 km stretch of the Ghaggar river basin using different dating methods.
  • The researchers provide evidence for the river Saraswati being perennial and its flow from the Higher Himalayas between 7,000 BC and 2,500 BC along which the Harappans had built their early settlements between 3,800 BC and 1,900 BC.
  • The decline of the Saraswati due to rapid drying-up of the channels led to the collapse of the Harappan civilization.
  • Research finds Saraswati’s sources in the glaciated regions of the Higher Himalayas, similar to the Ganga, Yamuna and Sutlej which is the only likely path.
  • The ancient course of present-day Ghaggar could have been through the distributaries of the mighty Sutlej River. 
  • Jyotiranjan S. Ray, explains that ‘the uninterrupted flow of the perennial Saraswati started 80,000 years ago, and continued until 20,000 years ago. Extreme aridity of the last glacial period diminished the river, only for it to regain its strength 9,000 years ago and flow freely for the subsequent 4,500 years.’

Indus Valley Civilisation or Harappan Civilisation was a Bronze Age civilisation in the northwestern regions of South Asia, lasting from 3300 BCE to 1300 BCE. Along with ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, it was one of three early civilisations of the region comprising North Africa, West Asia and South Asia. Its sites stretched from northeast Afghanistan, through much of Pakistan, and into western and northwestern India. It flourished in the basins of the Indus River, which flows through the length of Pakistan, and along with a system of perennial, mostly monsoon-fed, rivers that once coursed in the vicinity of the seasonal Ghaggar-Hakra river in northwest India and eastern Pakistan. The civilisation’s cities were noted for their urban planning, baked brick houses, elaborate drainage systems, water supply systems, and new techniques in handicraft. The large cities of Mohenjdaro and Harappa very likely grew between 30,000 and 60,000 individuals. Harappa, the first of its sites to be excavated early in the 20th century. More Info

CO2 Eating Bacteria Developed by Israeli Scientists

On 27th November, a study by Weizmann Institute of Science (WIS) in central Israel has developed a bacteria fed only with carbon dioxide. The breakthrough capable of curbing greenhouse gases was achieved by Israeli scientists managed to wean bacteria off of sugar and feed them only on carbon dioxide available in the atmosphere

Crux of the Matter
  • Bacteria builds the entire biomass of their body from the carbon in the air.
  • It is predicted that it may help develop future technologies that reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
  • The bacteria were completely weaned off sugar, through a nearly decade-long process.
  • The Israeli scientists were able to “reprogram” E.coli bacteria that consume sugars & release carbon dioxide, so they use carbon dioxide from the environment and produce the sugars they need to build their body.
  • The researchers mapped the genes and inserted a gene in the bacteria that allows them to receive energy from a substance called formate.
  • At each stage of the process, the cultured bacteria received a diminishing amount of sugar, and at the same time gained an abundance of carbon dioxide and formate.

The Weizmann Institute of Science is a public research university in Rehovot, Israel, established in 1934, 14 years before the State of Israel. It was founded by Chaim Weizmann and his first team, among them Benjamin M. Bloch, as the Daniel Sieff Research Institute. It offers only graduate and postgraduate degrees in the natural and exact sciences. It is a multidisciplinary research centre, with around 3,800 scientists, postdoctoral fellows, PhD and M.Sc. students, and scientific, technical, and administrative staff working at the Institute. More Info