New bird flu poses “serious threat”, scientists say; “This is a very, very serious disease in those who have been infected. So if this were to become more widespread it would be an extraordinarily devastating outbreak”

New bird flu poses “serious threat”, scientists say

Wed, May 1 2013

By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) – A new strain of bird flu that is causing a deadly outbreak among people in China is a threat to world health and should be taken seriously, scientists said on Wednesday. The H7N9 strain has killed 24 people and infected more than 125, according to the Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO), which has described it as “one of the most lethal” flu viruses. The high mortality rate, together with relatively large numbers of cases in a short period and the possibility it might acquire the ability to transmit between people, make H7N9 a pandemic risk, experts said. “The WHO considers this a serious threat,” said John McCauley, director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Influenza at Britain’s National Institute for Medical Research. Speaking at a briefing in London, experts in virology said initial studies suggest the virus has several worrisome characteristics, including two genetic mutations that make it more likely to eventually spread from person to person. “The longer the virus is unchecked in circulation, the higher the probability that this virus will start transmitting from person to person,” Colin Butte, an expert in avian viruses at Britain’s Pirbright Institute, said. Of the some 125 people infected with H7N9 so far, around 20 percent have died, approximately 20 percent have recovered and the remainder are still sick. The infection can lead to severe pneumonia, blood poisoning and organ failure. “This is a very, very serious disease in those who have been infected. So if this were to become more widespread it would be an extraordinarily devastating outbreak,” Peter Openshaw, director of the center for respiratory infection at Imperial College London, told the briefing. Read more of this post

Cancers Share Gene Patterns; Cancer will increasingly be seen as a disease defined by its genetic fingerprint rather than by the organ where it originated

May 1, 2013

Cancers Share Gene Patterns, Studies Affirm

By GINA KOLATA

Scientists have discovered that the most dangerous cancer of the uterine lining closely resembles the worst ovarian and breast cancers, providing the most telling evidence yet that cancer will increasingly be seen as a disease defined primarily by its genetic fingerprint rather than just by the organ where it originated.

The study of endometrial cancer — the cancer of the uterine lining — and another of acute myeloid leukemia, published simultaneously on Wednesday by Nature and The New England Journal of Medicine, are part of a sprawling, ambitious project by the National Institutes of Health to scrutinize DNA aberrations in common cancers.

Over the past year, as part of this project, researchers have reported striking genetic changes in breast, colon and lung cancers that link them to other cancers. One kind of breast cancer was closely related to ovarian cancer. Colon cancers often had a genetic change found in breast cancer. And about half of squamous cell lung cancers might be attacked by drugs being developed for other cancers. Read more of this post

Robot Aids in Therapy for Autistic Children

Updated May 1, 2013, 12:03 p.m. ET

Robot Aids in Therapy for Autistic Children

By SHIRLEY S. WANG

SAN SEBASTIÁN, Spain—A two-foot-tall robot therapist may help children with autism learn to be more social, according to intriguing findings from a study being presented this week at the annual conference of the International Society for Autism Research here.

Results from the new study of 19 children with autism—thought to be the largest trial to date of such technology—found that kids improved their conversation skills more when interacting with the robot, compared with sessions with a human therapist alone. Parents reported these children had greater improvement at home as well.

Researchers long have been interested in using technology to help treat autism, a developmental condition characterized by social deficits and repetitive behavior, because many of these children seem particularly interested in computers, iPads and other devices—often more so than they are interested in people. Read more of this post

Xero: A billion-dollar software company that had five years in stealth at the bottom of the planet – New Zealand

Xero: A billion-dollar software company that had five years in stealth at the bottom of the planet

BY HAMISH MCKENZIE 
ON MAY 1, 2013

Xero, a cloud-based accounting company that has so far raised $67 million in venture capital, had one hell of a stealth period. By spending its first five years operating only in New Zealand, the company was able to not only build up a strong product – “The Apple of accounting,” as its marketing line goes – but also test it on a sizable market of paying customers, all while evading the attention of legacy competitors. Now, as it is making a serious push in the US, Xero suddenly looks like a major threat to Intuit’s QuickBooks, the dominant player in accounting software, which is attempting to transform itself into an online business.

But that protracted “stealth” period in a quiet southern corner of the planet is not the only thing that’s unconventional about Xero. Because New Zealand’s venture capital sector is so undeveloped (read: barely existent), Xero’s founder and CEO Rod Drury had to think of creative options to raise money for the company. While the biggest venture deal possible in New Zealand at the time, 2007, was about $2 million, Drury had grand plans for Xero from day one. Fresh from selling his company AfterMail to Quest for $15 million in cash, he wanted to hire 50 people from the start and decided the company needed $15 million. He didn’t want to raise money from Silicon Valley VCs because he didn’t want to face the pressure of quickly selling the company to a large company, so he instead decided to list Xero on the New Zealand Stock Exchange. Read more of this post

The Value of Big Data Isn’t the Data. It’s the narrative.

The Value of Big Data Isn’t the Data

by Kristian J. Hammond  |  11:00 AM May 1, 2013

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It is clear that a new age is upon us. Evidence-based decision-making (aka Big Data) is not just the latest fad, it’s the future of how we are going to guide and grow business. But let’s be very clear: There is a huge distinction to be made between “evidence” and “data.” The former is the end game for understanding where your business has been and where it needs to go. The latter is the instrument that lets us get to that end game. Data itself isn’t the solution. It’s just part of the path to that solution.

The confusion here is understandable. In an effort to move from the Wild West world of shoot-from-the-hip decision making to a more evidence-based model, companies realized that they would need data. As a result, organizations started metering and monitoring every aspect of their businesses. Sales, manufacturing, shipping, costs and whatever else could be captured were all tracked and turned into well-controlled (or not so well-controlled) data.

I would argue that what you want and what you need is to turn that data into a story. A story explains the data rather than just exposing it or displaying it. A narrative that gives you context to today’s numbers by exploring the trends and comparisons that you need in order to make sense of it all. The belief that Artificial Intelligence can support the generation of natural language reporting from data is what drove me to help found our company, Narrative Science. I fundamentally believe that a machine can tackle and succeed at freeing insight from data to provide the last mile in making big data useful, and this belief was the driver in building out a technology platform that makes it real. Read more of this post

Without explanation, the Shenzhen government has ended a seven-year incentive plan for the city’s much-hyped LED lighting sector

Shenzhen’s LED incentive plan comes to sudden end

Staff Reporter, 2013-05-02

Without explanation, the Shenzhen government has ended a seven-year incentive plan for the city’s much-hyped LED lighting sector, reports Guangzhou’s Southern Metropolis Daily. The original plan by the city government called for building a 130 billion yuan (US$21 billion) LED industry in Shenzhen from 2009 to 2015, according to Sui Shirong, head of Shenzhen Light Emitting Diode Industry. An official who wished to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the issue told the daily that the industry is facing falling prices amid oversupply. Read more of this post

The number of bond funds that own stocks has surged to its highest point in at least 18 years and could expose investors to unexpected losses

May 1, 2013, 8:09 p.m. ET

Bond Funds Running Low on…Bonds

By JOE LIGHT

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The number of bond funds that own stocks has surged to its highest point in at least 18 years, another sign that typically conservative investors are taking bigger risks to boost returns. Regulators generally allow funds to hold a mix of assets, but the scale of bond funds’ shift into stocks is unusual, fund experts said, and could expose investors to unexpected losses. Read more of this post

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