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This post is more than two years old, but remains popular.  For an updated discussion, read How to Buy SAS Visual Analytics on this blog.

Thanks to a white paper recently published by an H-P engineer, we now have a better idea about what it takes to implement SAS Visual Analytics, SAS’ in-memory BI and visualization platform.

(Note: SAS has taken down the white paper since this post was published).

(Updated again June 27:   SAS has reposted an edited version of the white paper, with interesting parts removed.  The paper currently posted at this link is not the original.)

It’s an interesting picture.

A few key points:

(1) Implementation is a science project.  

Quoting from the paper:

…too often the needed pre-planning does not occur and the result is weeks to months of frantic activity to address those issues which should and could have been addressed earlier and…

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More Notes on SAS


Last week’s post on SAS provoked numerous comments on this blog, and over on Hacker News. Here are some excerpts. I’ve edited for length and grammar. Feel free to read the originals.

SAS employee Scott Mongeau writes:

Journeying through the vast graveyard of open source vanity projects I come in on as a mop-up-agent on in any given month, one espies a dystopian wasteland of ruined towers and battered factories strung together with bubble-gum and tape.

If you want to see a vanity project, check out the SAS rock collection.

This comment comes from a lead architect at a major European financial services organization:

We’ve just completed a large SAS upgrade project. While we had no interest in SAS Viya, SAS legacy remains an important part of our landscape…

Would we invest in SAS if we were starting today from scratch? No.

But none of SAS’s biggest customers…

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Artificial Skin That “Feels” Temperature Changes

Reporter: Irina Robu, PhD

Engineers and scientists at California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and ETH Zurich developed an artificial skin capable of detecting temperature changes using a mechanism similar to the biological mechanism that allow snakes to sense prey through heat.  In those organs, ion channels in the cell membrane of sensory nerve fibers expand as temperature increases. This dilation allows calcium ions to flow, triggering electrical impulses.

The material used is a long chain molecule found in plant cells which gives the skin its temperature sensing capabilities. The team chose pectin because the pectin molecules in the film have a weakly bonded double-strand structure that contains calcium ions. As temperature increases, these bonds break down and the double strands “unzip,” releasing the positively charged calcium ions.

This would make pectin sensors useful for industrial applications, such as thermal sensors in consumer electronics or robotic skins to augment human-robot interactions. However, they need to change the fabrication process as that the current process leads to the presence of water which tends to bubble or evaporate at high temperatures.


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Broad Institute launches Merkin Institute for Transformative Technologies in Healthcare

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN


NEWS / 10.10.17

Broad Institute launches Merkin Institute for Transformative Technologies in Healthcare

By Broad Communications

Endeavor will fund development of technologies for diagnostics, therapeutics, and data

The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard announced today a new commitment by Dr. Richard Merkin, President and CEO of Heritage Provider Network, to create the Merkin Institute for Transformative Technologies in Healthcare at the Broad Institute.

Technologies have a powerful ability to accelerate biological research across many different fields. Recent examples include such advances as DNA-encoded libraries that make it possible to screen simultaneously hundreds of thousands of chemicals to identify drug leads; blood biopsies to monitor changes in cancers without the need for surgical biopsies; diverse methods to precisely alter DNA and RNA sequences in living cells and organisms; and data platforms that aggregate large genomic information to drive scientific discovery.

However, technology development is often hard to support through traditional grants. The Merkin Institute will address this opportunity by funding novel, early-stage ideas aimed at advancing powerful technological approaches for improving how we understand and treat disease.

“Biomedicine is in the midst of a remarkable revolution driven by advances in technologies that allow scientists to collaborate and gain insights in ways that were hardly imaginable just a few years ago,” said Eric S. Lander, president and founding director of the Broad Institute. “These technologies are letting us pinpoint the causes of disease, identify biomarkers, screen many thousands of potential therapeutics, and collect and share information in novel ways. Putting these tools in the hands of scientists around the world can have a huge effect on biomedical progress, and the Merkin Institute for Transformative Technologies in Healthcare will be a key player in advancing this.”

“I am honored to establish this institute at the Broad,” said Merkin. “For over three decades I have been deeply committed to transforming healthcare through encouraging innovation and challenge, and I see this partnership as essential to realizing this vision. I am excited to see the transformative technologies that this new endeavor will yield.”

The Merkin Institute for Transformative Technologies in Healthcare will be led by Broad core institute member David R. Liu, who is the Richard Merkin Professor and Director of the Merkin Institute for Transformative Technologies. The institute will draw on the expertise of researchers at the Broad, Harvard, MIT, and the Harvard-affiliated hospitals. Initial projects are expected to span areas such as genome editing, pathogen detection, cancer diagnostics and monitoring and data sciences for genomic medicine.

“Our vision for the Merkin Institute of Transformative Technologies in Healthcare is to serve as a scientific connector and stimulator that inspires, identifies, and incubates novel research opportunities to improve how we detect, prevent, and treat disease,” said Liu, who is also a Harvard University professor of chemistry and chemical biology and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. “We plan to use Dr. Merkin’s support to initiate and test early-stage, high-impact projects–and to help turn these ideas into promising realities for doctors and patients.”

The Merkin gift also allows the Broad Institute to continue the successful Merkin Institute Fellows program, which has supported 14 outstanding early-career scientists since 2009.


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Skin Regeneration Therapy One of First Tissue Engineering Products Evaluated by FDA

Reporter: Irina Robu, PhD

Under the provisions of 21st Century Cures Act the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved StrataGraft regenerative skin tissue as the first product designated as a Regenerative Medicine Advanced Therapy (RMAT) produced by Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals. StrataGraft is shaped using unmodified NIKS cells grown under standard operating procedures since the continuous NIKS skin cell line has been thoroughly characterized. StrataGraft products are virus-free, non-tumorigenic, and offer batch-to-batch genetic consistency.

Passed in 2016, the 21st Century act allows FDA to grant accelerated review approval to products which meet an RMAT designation. The RMAT designation includes debates of whether priority review and/or accelerated approval would be suitable based on intermediate endpoints that would be reasonably likely to predict long-term clinical benefit.

The designation includes products

  • defined as a cell therapy, therapeutic tissue engineering product, human cell and tissue product, or any combination product using such therapies or products;
  • intended to treat, modify, reverse, or cure a serious or life-threatening disease or condition; and
  • preliminary clinical evidence indicates the drug has the potential to address unmet medical needs for such disease or condition.

According to Steven Romano, M.D., Chief Scientific Officer and Executive Vice President, Mallinckrodt “We are very pleased the FDA has determined StrataGraft meets the criteria for RMAT designation, as this offers the possibility of priority review and/or accelerated approval. The company tissue-based therapy is under evaluation in a Phase 3 trial to assess its efficacy and safety in the advancement of autologous skin regeneration of complex skin defects due to thermal burns that contain intact dermal elements.


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Unlocking the Secrets of 3D Printing

Reporter: Irina Robu, PhD

Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory discovered interesting ways to advance the capabilities of two-photon lithography, a high-resolution 3D printing technique capable of producing nanoscale features which unleashes the potential for X-ray computed tomography to analyze stress or defects noninvasively in embedded in 3D printed medical devices or implants. Two-photon lithography stereotypically requires a thin glass slide, a lens and an immersion oil to help the laser light focus to a fine point where curing and printing occurs. The findings were published in the journal of ACS Applied Material and Interfaces.

In the paper, researchers describe cracking the code on resist materials improved for two-photon lithography and forming 3-D microstructures with features less than 150 nanometer which is better in comparison to previous techniques which build structures from ground up, limiting the height of the objects.

According to LLNL researcher James Oakdale, “In this paper, we have unlocked the secrets to making custom materials on two-photon lithography systems without losing resolution”, because the laser light refracts as it passes through the photoresist material, the cornerstone is discovering how to match the refractive index of the resist material to the immersion medium of the lens so the laser could pass through unimpeded.

Investigators can now use X-ray computed tomography as an analytical tool to copy the inside parts without cutting them open and to investigate 3D printed objects by fine-tuning the material’s x-ray absorption. The only limiting factor is the time it takes to build, so the researchers are investigating how to speed up the process.

These techniques could be used to harvest and probe the internal structure of targets for the National Ignition Facility, as well as optical and mechanical metamaterials and 3D-printed electrochemical batteries.



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Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.


During menopause a woman’s ovaries stop working—leading to hot flashes, sleep problems, weight gain, and worse, bone deterioration. Now scientists are exploring whether transplanting lab-made ovaries might stop those symptoms. In one of the first efforts to explore the potential of such a technique, researchers say they used tissue engineering to construct artificial rat ovaries able to supply female hormones like estrogen and progesterone. A research carried out at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, suggests a potential alternative to the synthetic hormones millions of women take after reaching middle age. A paper describing the findings was published in Nature Communications.


Women going through menopause, as well as those who have undergone cancer treatment or had their ovaries removed for medical purposes, lose the ability to produce important hormones, including estrogen and progesterone. Lower levels of these hormones can affect a number of different body functions. To counteract unpleasant symptoms, many women turn to combinations of hormone replacement medications—synthetic estrogen and progestin. Pharmacologic hormone replacement therapy (pHRT) with estrogen alone or estrogen and progestogens is known to effectively ameliorate the unpleasant symptoms. But hormone replacement carries an increased risk of heart disease and breast cancer, so it’s not recommended for long-term use. In these circumstances artificial ovaries could be safer and more effective.


Regenerative medicine approaches that use cell-based hormone replacement therapy (cHRT) offer a potential solution to temporal control of hormone delivery and the ability to restore the HPO (Hypothalamo-Pituitary-Ovarian) axis in a way not possible with pHRT. Scientists have previously described an approach to achieve microencapsulation of ovarian cells that results in bioengineered constructs that replicate key structure-function relationships of ovarian follicles as an approach to cHRT. In the present study the scientists have adapted an isogeneic cell-based construct to provide a proof-of-concept for the potential benefits of cHRT.


Tissue or cell encapsulation may offer effective strategies to fabricate ovarian constructs for the purpose of fertility and/or hormone replacement. Approaches using segmental ovarian tissue or whole-follicle implantation (typically with a focus on cryopreservation of the tissue for reproductive purposes) have resulted in detectable hormone levels in the blood after transplantation. Previous studies have also shown that autotransplantation of frozen-thawed ovarian tissue can lead to hormone secretion for over 5 years in humans.


Although these approaches can be used to achieve the dual purpose of fertility and hormone replacement in premenopausal women undergoing premature ovarian failure, they would have limited application in postmenopausal women who only need hormone replacement to manage menopausal symptoms and in whom fertility is not desirable. In full development, the technology described in this research is focused on hormone replacement, would meet the needs of the latter group of women that is the postmenopausal women.


The cell-based system of hormone replacement described in this report offers an attractive alternative to traditional pharmacological approaches and is consistent with current guidelines in the U.S. and Europe recommending the lowest possible doses of hormone for replacement therapy. In the present research sustained stable hormone release over the course of 90 days of study was demonstrated. The study also demonstrated the effective end-organ outcomes in body fat composition, uterine health, and bone health. However, additional studies will be required to determine the sustainability of the hormone secretion of the constructs by measuring hormone levels from implanted constructs for periods longer than 3 months in the rat model.


This study highlights the potential utility of cHRT for the treatment and study of conditions associated with functional loss of the ovaries. Although longer-term studies would be of future interest, the 90-day duration of this rodent model study is consistent with others investigating osteoporosis in an ovariectomy model. However, this study provides a proof-of-concept for cHRT, it suffers the limitation that it is only an isogeneic-based construct implantation. Scientists think that further studies in either allogeneic or xenogeneic settings would be required with the construct design described in this report in the path towards clinical translation given that patients who would receive this type of treatment are unlikely to have sufficient autologous ovarian cells for transplantation.




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