Tag Archives: research

Article: “The Business of Burps: Scientists Smell Profit in Cow Emissions”

Cattle produce more methane than many large countries. A solution could be an ecological and financial breakthrough–and a Swiss biotech company may be on the cusp.

By Adam Satariano May 1, 2020

LANCASTER, England— Peaches, a brown-and-white Jersey cow weighing 1,200 pounds, was amiably following Edward Towers through a barn on a sunny March morning when the 6-year-old dug in her front hooves.

Mr. Towers, a 28-year-old farmer whose family owns Brades Farm, near Britain’s rugged Lake District, slapped Peaches gently to move her along. She didn’t budge. Already muddy from a morning herding hundreds of cows to a milking session, Mr. Towers leaned all his weight into Peaches’ ample backside, until she finally stepped through a metal gate that would hold her head still for an exam.

Deepashree Kand, a scientist studying animal nutrition, stepped forward with a device about the size of a grocery-store scanner. As David Bowie’s “Changes” played on the radio, Ms. Kand pointed a green laser at the cow’s nostril and waited for Peaches to belch.

Ms. Kand’s employer, a Swiss company called Mootral, is studying whether an altered diet can make cattle burp and fart less methane–one of the most harmful greenhouse gases and a major contributor to climate change. If they were a country, cows would rank as the world’s sixth-largest emitter, ahead of Brazil, Japan and Germany, according to data compiled by Rhodium, a research firm.

It is a well-known problem that has had few promising solutions. But in the last five years, a collection of companies and scientists has been getting closer to what would be an ecological and financial breakthrough: an edible product that would change cows’ digestive chemistry and reduce their emission of methane.

Several companies are pursuing a seaweed-based compound, and a Dutch firm, DSM, is testing a chemical supplement with promising results. Mootral is one of the furthest along. By mixing compounds from garlic, citrus and other additives into a pellet that’s mixed with a cow’s regular diet, the start-up has surprised scientists by significantly and consistently cutting the toxic output of animals like Peaches.

At Brades Farm, Ms. Kand kept her laser steady. Changes in the light beam would measure the methane in Peaches’ burps, which she produced about once every four minutes. Soon, there was a subtle flex in the cow’s neck, and Ms. Kand’s device put out a few readings: 32 to 38 parts per million.

“That’s good,” Ms. Kand said. “A reduction of about 30 percent.”

The drop was consistent with the findings of several peer-reviewed studies of Mootral’s food supplement. Additional trials are underway in the United States and Europe. The product is being tested at dairy and meat farms, including a Dutch farm used by McDonald’s for studying new techniques in its supply chain. The venture capitalist Chris Sacca, who became a billionaire with early bets on Uber and Twitter, has invested.

Many questions of viability remain. Mootral must prove that its product works on different breeds of cows and in different climates. It has had success in areas with mild weather, like Northern Europe, but is now conducting experiments in hotter locations.

Most urgent, the company must find its place in the coronavirus economy. An investment round that was scheduled to close in March fell apart because of the crisis. The start-up’s business model depends on convincing typically conservative livestock and dairy companies that they will receive credits they can sell in the unpredictable and largely unregulated carbon-offset market for using what is basically Gas-X for cows.

But if Mootral or one of its competitors can withstand the challenges of the coronavirus era and hold up at scale, the result could be one of the simplest and fastest ways to cut a major source of greenhouse-gas emissions.

“It is something, to be honest, that I never expected,” said Gerhard Breves, a longtime livestock researcher in Germany who performed one of the first independent tests of Mootral’s product and is now an unpaid member of its advisory board.

‘An existential threat’

Cows are a digestive miracle. Inside their stomach is an oxygen-free environment with a steady temperature, similar to the fermentation tanks used to make beer. Microbes decompose and ferment materials like cellulose, starch and sugars. Cows can eat just about anything–grass, hay, cornstalks, rapeseed–and turn it into energy for producing milk and meat.

“They could live on wood,” said Mootral’s director of science, Oliver Riede, a molecular biologist who started his career studying vaccines and infection management.

But just as a midnight pizza can come with a gaseous cost, a cow’s digestive system has a way of retaliating. Methane is a main byproduct of the enzymes that help break down the food. The gas can’t be turned into energy, so as it builds up, a cow must burp, sending little puffs of pollution into the atmosphere. (A small amount is released by farting.) Up to 12 percent of a cow’s energy intake from food is lost this way.

There are about 1.4 billion cattle globally, each emitting the equivalent of 1.5 to 2.5 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year, roughly half the output of an average American car.

As awareness of cattle’s environmental impact has reached the mainstream, thanks to compelling media campaigns by environmentalists and Netflix documentaries, the meat and dairy industries have felt the effects. Sales of alternative milks and meat substitutes have soared. Vegetarianism and veganism have spread.

“This is an existential threat,” said Joe Towers, Edard Towers’s older brother, who also works at Brades Farm. “Farmers are keen to improve and show they aren’t the bad guys.”

‘Want to smell it? It smells like fart’

Mootral’s main research lab is at the base of a lush valley, in a former mining region of Wales. The company’s work on cows dates to 2010, when a group of researchers participated in a European Union research effort to explore ways to reduce methane from cattle.

The team, working for a company called Neem Biotech, had studied garlic’s antimicrobial properties in humans. In lab trials, the scientists found that it also reduced methane in cows thanks to allicin, the same strong-smelling compound that’s produced when a garlic clove is cut with a knife. But the company was small and didn’t see a business case for the finding, so the work didn’t go any further.

In 2012, Neem was sold to a life sciences company, Zaluvida, that developed over-the-counter diet and allergy supplements. One product, derived from compounds found in prickly pears, gave people the sensation of feeling full. Another helped with digestion.

Zaluvida’s founder, Thomas Hafner, bought Neem intending to work on drugs for people, but during a review of past research, a colleague found the methane work in a computer file named “Mootral.” It explained how allicin interacted with microbes inside a cow’s stomach.

After becoming rich by manipulating the human digestive tract–he sold the supplements business for about $150 million in 2014–Mr. Hafner saw an opportunity in doing the same with cows. By 2016, he put a team of scientists to work testing different combinations of garlic extracts.

The challenge, they learned, was finding the right balance between delivering the maximum amount of allicin without triggering adverse effects. The chemical targets enzymes in the cow’s gut that create methane. Too much could harm the cow’s ability to process food, or give the milk and meat a garlic flavor.

“The first thing a farmer will ask is, ‘What will this do to my animal?'” said Mr. Riede, the Mootral science director.

Allicin is volatile, and the team struggled at first to come up with a consistent blend that would work across members of a herd of cattle. In the lab, researchers used bacteria from the stomachs of sheep–members, like cows, of the ruminant family–to see how certain combinations would change methane levels.

Seniors–amazing research positions about to expire on Handshake!

Clinical Research Database Analyst, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA

Opportunity expires March 18, 2020

The Department of Dermatology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital is looking for a programmer to provide database and programming support for clinical and research databases that both exist and are to be developed. Working under the very general direction of the research administrator, principle investigators, and clinical medical directors, the incumbent develops and maintains complex databases for specific clinical utilizations, and broad based research studies on skin diseases, skin-cancer and cost of care. Develops data collection tools for multiple studies and ensures regulatory compliance of all data collection.

Research Assistant, Bauer Lab, Boston, MA

Opportunity expires March 31, 2020

We seek a highly motivated and organized individual to join our efforts to study novel genetic treatment approaches for blood disorders. We are particularly focused on applying genome editing technologies to develop novel treatments for hemoglobinopathies. The selected candidate will work on computational and experimental research projects.

Research Position in Translational Neuro-Oncology Lab, Nationawide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, OH

Opportunity expires March 31, 2020

The Rajappa Lab is accepting applications for a Research Position from backgrounds in Neuroscience, Tumor Immunology, or Cancer Biology. Our team is part of the Institute for Genomic Medicine (IGM) at the Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, which is at the forefront of using genomic sequencing in the clinical setting to predict best health outcomes for patients and is one of the driving forces shaping precision medicine. Our passion and vision is to rapidly translate research discoveries into lasting treatment options for pediatric patients afflicted with Central Nervous System (CNS) tumors. Specifically, our laboratory is studying the mehcanisms that potentiate low to high grade glioma progression. We use transgenic brain tumor mouse models that recapitulate low to high grade glioma progression and correlate our findings with peripheral blood and tumor specimens from patients with CNS tumors. These models also serve as a platform to explore the contribution of the tumor microenvironment and myeloid cells in low grade glioma progression and also test novel therapeutic agents aimed at impairing malignant transformation. Furthermore, modulating myeloid-derived cell population recruitment using JAK 1/2 Inhibitors prior to malignant tumor progression has shown translational promise.

Clinical Research Assistant I- Ophthalmology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, MA

Opportunity expires April 1, 2020

The Division of Ophthalmology of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) provides the highest level of eye care and serves as an important referral center for New England. The Longwood Medical Eye Center of the BIDMC Division of Ophthalmology is accepting applicants for a two-year clinical research assistant position under the supervision of Dr. Jorge, Arroyo, MD, MPH> Dr. Arroyo is an Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Retina Service at BIDMC. His research interests include evaluating surgical outcomes follow vitreoretinal surgery, developing novel procedures such as endoscopy-assisted surgical techniques and pneumatic vitreolysis, and improving our understanding of retinal pathology in conditions such as retinal detachments, diabetic retinopathy, and retinal vein occlusions.

HSS Research Assistant- Dept of Medicine (IROC), Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, NY

Opportunity expires April 7, 2020

The Research Assistant is an integral member of the research team responsible for a variety of tasks essential to the conduct of clinical research. This position involves a great deal of patient contact as well as interaction with physicians of various specialties in the hospital. Duties include recruitment of patients, assessment of eligibility criteria, administration of questionnaires, coordination of study visits, drawing blood, obtaining specimen from the operating room, bypassing of biospecimens, obtaining regulatory approvals, and maintaining accurate databases. S/he will have proven abilities to work autonomously, bearing independent responsibility to ensure data accuracy and timely follow through of study procedures. Opportunities for mentorship, authorship, and presentation at international meetings exist for the right candidate.

One-of-a-kind opportunity to work in a Microbiology & Immunology lab at Columbia University!

Dr. Christian Schindler, parent of recent MBBC major Joseph Schindler, is once again inviting a Middlebury College student to intern in his Columbia University lab. Students interested in the opportunity may contact him directly with a cover letter, résumé, and one letter of recommendation from a science faculty member. He also shares that “there are a number of Junior Faculty in the Department who would be delighted to host Middlebury summer interns, and should reach out to them directly. They are welcome to mention my name.”

Faculty members include:

Hachung Chung

Tony (Yeufeng) Huang

Mimi (Chi-Min) Ho

Middlebury a Top Producer of Fulbrights!

We are delighted (once again!) to be a 2019-2020 #Fulbright Top Producing Institution! Congratulations to our 15 students and young alumni who are teaching English or researching in 14 countries through @Fulbright in 2019-2020! Fulbrighters foster mutual understanding, share knowledge across communities, and improve lives around the world. Interested in applying? See go/fulbright to learn […]

Are You a Pre-Dental Student Interested in Research?

Apply to this position with Brigham Health!

Research Assistant II – Long Term Oral Health

Working independently and under general supervision from a Principal Investigator or manager provides support to clinical research. May be responsible for the following activities: coordination of clinical research project/protocol, subject recruitment, developing. Individual should be able to use independent judgment, in concert with the Principal Investigator, of the suitability of potential participants for clinical studies, developing and implementing strategies for recruiting, advertising, collecting and organizing subject data; scheduling subjects for study visits, performs telephone screening, clinical tests such as EKGs; maintaining and updating data generated by the study. Coordinates recruitment office activities overseeing the work of more entry level staff.

PRINCIPAL DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES:

  1. Coordinates the implementation, both internally and externally, of clinical studies. 
  2. Initiates and maintains contact with study participants, via: telephone and/or mail. Responsible for screening applicants, ensuring they meet all appropriate criteria for the study, and in concert with the Principal Investigator make independent judgement as to the eligibility of the potential subject. May be required to perform clinical tests such as saliva collection.
  3.  Develops and implements patient recruitment strategies. 
  4. Develops, organizes and/or maintains human research subject information database for study. Required to input data, and present weeklyreports.
  5. In conjunction with the Principal Investigator/Project Leader, develops and prepares research protocols including, design, data collection systems, internal review board approval (IRB) applications/amendments and annual reports. Responsible for preparing payment request for human research subjects, outside agencies and etc. 
  6. Assist the PI and Project Leader with preparation for presentations and written published article. 

Supervisory Responsibilities:

  1. Responsible for the supervising, monitoring and coordinating of the recruitment office and staff. 
  2.  Responsible for weekly staff meetings to ensure compliance with recruiting procedures, policies and practices. 
  3. Responsible for purchases and supplies. 
  4. Responsible for training and orienting new staff. 
  5. In conjunction with the principal investigator or manager assist in the hiring, firing, evaluating and disciplining of recruitment office staff. 
  6. Performs all other duties, as required.

Qualifications:

  • BS or BA.
  • At least one-year experience in research setting.
  • Sound independent judgment and competence in research methodologies.
  • Working knowledge and proficiency with the following computer software preferred: Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. 

SKILLS/ ABILITIES/ COMPETENCIES REQUIRED: 

  • Ability to work independently.
  • Excellent interpersonal skills are required for working with the study participants.
  • Good oral and written communication skills.Knowledge of clinical research protocols.
  • Knowledge of computer programs, database, etc.Excellent organizational skills and ability to prioritize a variety of tasks.
  • Careful attention to detail.
  • Ability to demonstrate professionalism and respect for subject rights and individual needs.

Learn more and apply on Handshake! Application deadline is April 30, 2020.

Looking to Move to New York or Boston? These Research Positions Could Be For You!

Learn more and apply on Handshake!

Gartner Research Campus Access for Faculty, Staff, and Students

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Are you interested in the most current and cutting edge information about technology? Are you researching or looking to invest in new technology and want industry-leading research to help you make the decision? Is your department looking to teach current IT-related topics? Do you need in-depth insights across all facets of technology – including communications, telecom, mobile, digital business, AI, Internet of Things (IoT), and cyber-security?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might be interested in Middlebury’s access to the Gartner Campus Access Research service.  Gartner is a leading information technology research and advisory company that provides easy-to-understand summaries of complex ideas and extensive, in-depth qualitative and quantitative analysis for a variety of IT topics.   

Middlebury’s subscription to Gartner includes access to both Gartner Magic Quadrants and Hype Cycles. 

  • Magic Quadrants help you get educated quickly about a market’s participants, maturity, and direction.  Magic Quadrants focus on the subtle differences between vendors in markets that are highly mature or newly emerging, and map vendor strengths against your specific need.
  • Hype Cycles are based on graphic representations of the maturity and adoption of technologies and applications which help discern technology hype from what’s viable
  • Special Reports are time-sensitive research reports focused on critical issues in technology. 
  • Regularly updated Complimentary Research selections of cutting-edge research from Gartner analysts
  • Webinars that can help you to build impactful, transformative strategies, based on real-life examples

Students can benefit by using Gartner to find research for assignments, learn where IT is headed and how it will shape our world, discover an area of interest, or even get ideas on careers. Gartner’s research enriches the educational experience by providing timely, objective real-world examples and content.

Faculty: Gartner Campus Access research enables professors to bring timely, objective real-world examples and content to the classroom, enriching the educational experience. 

Staff can access information on how to improve infrastructure, validate technology decisions, analyze trends in the industry, and understand best practices.

Gartner’s Campus Access research is licensed for use and is accessible to Middlebury College faculty, staff, and students at no cost.   To access Gartner, go to http://go.middlebury.edu/gartner.  Access is through Single-Sign-On (SSO) so you will need to authenticate using your Middlebury username and password.