Connect with us

Technology

Circle of life sciences: Ireland’s medtech start-up ecosystem

Voice Of EU

Published

on

Enterprise Ireland’s Alan Hobbs explains how Ireland’s indigenous life sciences start-ups grew from a wealth of multinational experience.

Read more life sciences stories

What’s the recipe for a thriving life sciences start-up ecosystem? It starts with a sizeable portion of the major multinational players in the industry converging in one space. Like a good sourdough starter, this combination activates and grows under the right conditions. It swells with experience and talent, spawning serial innovators backed by a wealth of experience. At least, that’s the traditional Irish recipe.

According to Alan Hobbs, the life sciences industry in Ireland is so active that exact figures change almost daily. When I spoke to the Enterprise Ireland lead for high-potential life sciences start-ups earlier this month, he estimated that there are about 180 domestic life sciences companies in Ireland employing in excess of 25,000 people and generating sales above $6bn per year. These indigenous life sciences companies span pharma, biotech, diagnostics and therapeutics, but the lion’s share are medical device businesses.

“Before the large multinationals were here, a lot of our medical-based device talent was going overseas for opportunities. But these companies allowed them to come back and build their careers in Ireland,” said Hobbs.

‘The more experienced entrepreneurs in medical devices are on their third and fourth company’
– ALAN HOBBS

Discussions around the life sciences industry in Ireland often centre on the fact that the majority of the world’s biggest pharma, biotech and medtech companies have operations here. Less attention has been paid to how being such a crucial node in this global network has generated a thriving indigenous industry.

Experienced professionals working in life sciences multinationals may have innovative ideas of their own that don’t fit the R&D roadmap of their employer, Hobbs explained. “So they’re encouraged and facilitated to go off and spin out their own start-up. And in some cases they’re supported financially,” he said.

This cycle of larger companies spawning new entities is particularly advantageous in an industry as complex as medtech. These emerging entrepreneurs come with deep domain expertise, experience of building a product and established industry contacts. And this cycle has already produced a number of serial entrepreneurs.

“If you look at the more experienced entrepreneurs in medical devices now, they’re on their third and fourth company. So they’ve got a ready-made network, ready-made management teams. They know the process, they know how it works. The regulatory process, the clinical trials – all of that skillset is here,” said Hobbs.

The next stage for these serial entrepreneurs, then, is angel investment, furthering the cycle that generates more local life sciences entrepreneurship. “Look at the west of Ireland in particular. It has been well documented. We’re very fortunate there,” said Hobbs. “There is a series of high net-worth angel investors that are spawning start-ups and they’re acting as non-executive directors, advisers, mentors, chairpersons and funders.”

The baseline of industry experience that underpins life sciences entrepreneurship also supports the investment side, as these angels are capable of identifying the long-term opportunities. In some cases, Hobbs explained, these angel investors leverage their global connections. “We have some start-ups over the last couple of years where the initial IP came in from the US. For example, the Mayo Clinic and other big institutes were prepared to license basic IP into an Irish entity because they knew of the ecosystem here that could help exploit it and develop products and a company out of it,” he said.

‘When you start up a medical device company, it’s a very expensive journey you’re going on’
– ALAN HOBBS

Early-stage funding is crucial for any start-up but in medtech in particular, it’s a necessary lifeline. “When you start up a medical device company, it’s a very expensive journey you’re going on and it takes quite some time,” said Hobbs.

Bringing a medical device to market can take years of design, trials and validation, not to mention the regulatory requirements. “The more non-dilutive money you can raise early in the process, the more value you can build in your company before you take on VCs. And that means you preserve as much equity as you can,” advised Hobbs.

Enterprise Ireland recently launched its supports for non-dilutive funding from EU programmes such as the European Innovation Council and Horizon Europe. The agency has established a dedicated website, HorizonEurope.ie, where potential applicants can find out more about the programme and explore past Irish success stories, of which there have been many. Irish research and innovation secured more than €1bn in support from Horizon 2020, the pre-cursor to Horizon Europe, and Hobbs expects to see continued success under the new programme.

Life sciences companies can also avail of non-dilutive funding from the Irish Government’s Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund. Just last week, healthcare solutions in areas such as cancer treatments and chronic knee osteoarthritis were among the 29 projects awarded in the latest €95m funding round.

Funds such as these help to somewhat offset the challenge of securing early-stage funding, and for that there’s also Enterprise Ireland and the aforementioned angels. With the latter, Hobbs has noticed a trend of investors going in earlier with much larger sums to support life sciences companies. This can be a risky move but the depth of native life sciences knowledge makes these bets look more promising.

“You have a serial entrepreneur, somebody who has gone again, so they’ve already gone through a start-up in life science and med device. They’ve a fairly good idea about what works and how it works,” said Hobbs. The process will still take a lot of time and money, but investors can take a lower risk on a safe bet.

Another way in which Ireland is producing promising investments is through BioInnovate, the flagship programme within Enterprise Ireland’s life sciences division. This clinical immersion programme gives its selected fellows nine months to just observe clinical environments and see where opportunities may lie.

The ideal opportunity will identify a substantial addressable market with an unmet clinical need that, if addressed, can improve patient outcomes. These three key ingredients make for a highly attractive investment proposition. Add in the ability to decrease associated costs and Hobbs said, “It’s a slam dunk.”

‘Remote diagnostics monitoring has really been accelerated because of Covid’
– ALAN HOBBS

When it comes to emerging opportunities in life sciences investment, Hobbs cited, “AI, machine learning, diagnostics, imaging and electroporation [the use of an electric pulse to introduce DNA or drugs into cells].” And, of course, the biggest trend of 2020: remote healthcare.

Hobbs said that a number of Enterprise Ireland client companies “exploded growth-wise” over the last year as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic. “Remote diagnostics monitoring has really been accelerated because of Covid, and it has actually helped us because it has opened the HSE and other health systems around the world to adopting technology earlier.”

Hobbs praised Prof Martin Curley, the HSE’s director of digital transformation, and his team in particular for what has been achieved in Irish healthcare in the past year. “Credit to them. They’ve opened the doors and they’ve been very, very helpful,” said Hobbs.

Irish companies such as Wellola, which supports remote GP consultations, and PatientmPower, which has a device that enables remote monitoring of respiratory conditions, have directly supported Ireland’s Covid-19 response. Others such as BlueDrop Medical, whose medical device allows diabetes patients to check for signs of a developing foot ulcer at home, are perfectly poised to succeed in a connected health future.

The digital transformation of healthcare has taken a leap forward under Covid-19, accelerating what has long been the future plan for the HSE. Sláintecare, the Government’s roadmap for the future of Irish healthcare is all about moving more and more medical interventions away from the hospital, and Irish medtech companies have already begun laying the foundations to make this possible.

And it all begins with that recipe to feed life sciences innovation. “It’s a combination of the experience we have, the people that are there, the multinationals that are there, our repeat entrepreneurs, serial entrepreneurs, then the funding that’s available,” said Hobbs.

Source link

Technology

Microsoft vulnerabilities down for 2021 • The Register

Voice Of EU

Published

on

Despite a record number of publicly disclosed security flaws in 2021, Microsoft managed to improve its stats, according to research from BeyondTrust.

Figures from the National Vulnerability Database (NVD) of the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) show last year broke all records for security vulnerabilities. By December, according to pentester Redscan, 18,439 were recorded. That’s an average of more than 50 flaws a day.

However just 1,212 vulnerabilities were reported in Microsoft products last year, said BeyondTrust, a 5 percent drop on the previous year. In addition, critical vulnerabilities in the software (those with a CVSS score of 9 or more) plunged 47 percent, with the drop in Windows Server specifically down 50 percent. There was bad news for Internet Explorer and Edge vulnerabilities, though: they were up 280 percent on the prior year, with 349 flaws spotted in 2021.

BeyondTrust commented that analysis had been simplified by Microsoft’s move to the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS), although an unfortunate side effect meant that security gurus can now determine the impact of administrative rights on critical vulnerabilities.

“From 2015 to 2020,” said the report, “removing admin rights could have mitigated, on average, 75 percent of critical vulnerabilities.”

It’s a very good point: keeping permissions to the bare minimum is excellent practice, although difficult to enforce.

The decline in vulnerabilities marks a change for Microsoft. In 2016, the count of vulnerabilities stood at 451, according to the report. By 2020 they had leapt to 1,268. A drop, even if only to 1,212, is a first. It’s just as well since between 2019 and 2020, there was a 48 percent rise in vulnerabilities year on year.

And the trendiest categories are…

The report also drilled into vulnerability categories. Topping the table with 326 and 588 vulnerabilities respectively were Remote Code Execution and Elevation of Privilege flaws, with the latter up from 559 in 2020. RCE was itself down in 2021 from 345 in the prior year.

Explaining the apparent explosion in Edge and Internet Explorer numbers (349 vulnerabilities up from 92 in 2020), BeyondTrust pointed to a consolidation in the browser market and a renewed focus on browser attacks as exploited plugins (such as Flash) were dropped and bug bounties made reporting vulnerabilities more financially attractive. It also pointed out that only six were critical (a record low).

The decline in Windows vulnerabilities was attributed to Microsoft’s efforts to improve the security architecture of its supported products, as was the fall in Windows Server holes. The move from security as an afterthought to something front and center is also a factor, even if it has taken a few iterations of operating systems.

That said, there were some spectacular holes in the company’s products during 2021. Last year’s Exchange Server vulnerabilities, for example, left many administrators scrambling to patch systems. 2021’s stability, from the standpoint of Microsoft’s vulnerabilities, must be considered alongside the rapid rises of previous years.

As the report authors note, simply patching the problems might not deal with the underlying issues. Removing admin rights and privileges also play a part in reducing the attack surface. ®

Source link

Continue Reading

Technology

Ford’s new car safety tech can automatically reduce vehicle speed

Voice Of EU

Published

on

The new Ford Geofencing Speed Limit Control system alerts a driver when the car breaks a speed limit – then slows down the vehicle.

Speed limit signs may soon be a thing of the past as Ford is now trialling connected vehicle technology that can automatically reduce a car’s speed in certain zones to improve road safety.

Up to 29pc of all road fatalities in Europe, depending on the country, are pedestrians and cyclists, according to a 2020 report by the European Transport Safety Council. Setting up speed limits in certain areas is one of the frontline measures to minimise road accidents.

Future Human

Now, US carmaker Ford is testing its new Geofencing Speed Limit Control system across two German cities, Cologne and Aachen, to see if the technology can help in making roads safer, preventing fines for drivers and improving the appearance of roadsides.

A geofence is a virtual parameter in a real-world area. It is often used by mobility companies and start-ups, such as Ireland’s Zipp Mobility, to identify and enforce low-speed zones in cities.

How does it work?

Ford’s new system uses geofencing technology to alert a driver through the dashboard when the vehicle enters an area with a designated speed limit. It then lowers the vehicle speed to match the limit automatically.

However, the driver can override the automated system and deactivate speed limit control at any time. They can also use the technology to set their own geofencing zones at speed as low as 20kmph.

“Connected vehicle technology has the proven potential to help make everyday driving easier and safer to benefit everyone, not just the person behind the wheel,” said Michael Huynh, manager of City Engagement Germany at Ford Europe.

“Geofencing can ensure speeds are reduced where – and even when – necessary to help improve safety and create a more pleasant environment.”

Ford already has in-built assistance technologies that help drivers ensure they are abiding by speed limits. However, the new geofencing speed limit control system is the first that can automatically reduce a vehicle’s speed without the driver’s intervention.

Eyes on the road

The year-long trial that runs until March 2023 is collaboration between the Ford City Engagement team, city officials in Cologne and Aachen, and Ford software engineers in Palo Alto, California.

Together with colleagues in Aachen, the Palo Alto engineers developed technology that connects the vehicle to the geofencing system for GPS tracking and data exchange.

Germany has more than 1,000 types of road signs, which can often confuse drivers and distract them from the road ahead. Geofencing technologies such as the new Ford system can help drivers stay focused.

“Our drivers should benefit from the latest technical support, including geofencing based assistant systems that enable them to keep to the speed limits and fully concentrate on the road,” said Dr Bert Schröer of AWB, a Cologne waste disposal company involved in the trial.

10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.

Source link

Continue Reading

Technology

Pushing Buttons: Why linking real-world violence to video games is a dangerous distraction | Games

Voice Of EU

Published

on

Welcome to Pushing Buttons, the Guardian’s gaming newsletter. If you’d like to receive it in your inbox every week, just pop your email in below – and check your inbox (and spam) for the confirmation email.

Sign up for Pushing Buttons, our weekly guide to what’s going on in video games.

Remember how, in the wake of yet more awful shootings in the US this month, Fox News decided to blame video games rather than, you know, the almost total absence of meaningful gun control? Remember how I said last week that the video-games-cause-violence “argument” was so mendacious and nakedly manipulative that I wasn’t going to dignify it with a response?

Well, here I am, responding, because the supposed link between video games and real-life violence is one of the most persistent myths that I’ve encountered over the course of my career, and it has an interesting (if also infuriating) history.

Many video games have violent content, just as many films and TV series have violent content (and of course many books, as anyone who has endured a Bret Easton Ellis novel will attest). And it makes intuitive sense that the interactivity of games – especially shooting games – might appear more troubling, from the outside, than passive media such as film. (I gotta say, though, that in 25 years of playing video games I have never seen a scene as violent or upsetting as, say, a Quentin Tarantino movie.)

But the idea that exposure to these violent games turns people into killers in real life is comprehensively false – and it deflects attention from the actual drivers of real-world violence, from inequality to access to firearms to online radicalisation. It is a very politically motivated argument, and one that makes me instantly suspicious of the person wielding it. The NRA, for instance, trots it out on the regular. Donald Trump, inciter of actual real-life violent riots, was fond of it too. Why might that be, I wonder?

First, the facts: there is no scientifically credible link between video games and real-life violence. A lot of the studies around this issue are, in a word, bad – small sample sizes, lab conditions that have no relation to how people engage with games in the real world – but the best we have show either no link at all between violent games and violent thoughts or behaviour, or a positive correlation so minuscule as to be meaningless. A review of the science in 2020, which looked at and re-evaluated 28 global studies of video games and violence, found no cumulative harm, no long-term effect, and barely even any short-term effect on aggression in the real world. It concluded that the “long-term impacts of violent games on youth aggression are near zero”.

This seems self-evident: video games have been a part of popular culture for at least 50 years, since Pong, and violent games have existed in some form since Space Invaders, though they’ve gotten more visually realistic over time. If video games were in some way dangerous – if they significantly affected our behaviour, our emotional responses – you would expect to have seen widespread, cross-cultural changes in how we act. That is demonstrably not the case. Indeed, overall, violent crime has been decreasing for more than 20 years, the exact period of time during which games have become ubiquitous. Though it would be unscientific to credit video games with that effect, you would think that if the generations of people who’ve now played Doom or Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto were warped by it, we might be seeing some evidence of that by now.

It is true that some perpetrators of mass murders – such as the Columbine shooters – were fans of video games. But given that the great majority of teenagers are fans of video games, that doesn’t mean much. More often than a fixation on violent media – of all kinds – mass shooters display an obsession with weapons or explosives or real-life killers, an interest in extremist views, social ostracisation. These are not otherwise well-adjusted people suddenly compelled to real-world violence by a game, or a film, or a Marilyn Manson album.

The history of the “video games cause violence” argument goes back even further than video games themselves: it’s an extension of the panic that flares up whenever a new and supposedly morally abject form of youth culture emerges. In the 1940s, when New York’s mayor ordered 2,000 pinball machines to be seized so that he could performatively smash them up, it was arcades; during the satanic panic of the 1980s and beyond, it was metal music. Since the mid to late 90s, it’s been video games, and no amount of studies debunking any link between them and real-world violence seems to make a difference.

So why does this argument keep showing up? In short: because it’s an easy scapegoat that ties into older generations’ instinctive wariness of technology, screen time and youth culture, and it greatly benefits institutions like the NRA and pro-gun politicians to have a scapegoat. Whenever video games are implicated in a violent event, there is usually stunning hypocrisy on display. After the El Paso shooting in 2019, Walmart removed violent video game displays from its stores – but continued to sell actual guns. Fox News, the TV network that platforms Tucker Carlson and the great replacement theory with him, is happy to point out that the perpetrator of a mass shooting played video games, while remaining oddly quiet on the racist ideas that show up in these shooters’ manifestos.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t examine video game violence at all, or question it. Does every game that involves sneaking up on enemies need a gratuitous neck-breaking animation when you succeed in overpowering a guard? Why do games so often resort to violence as the primary method of interaction with a virtual world? Do we really need more violent media – couldn’t we be playing something more interesting than another military shooter? These are valid and interesting questions. But they have nothing to do with real-world violence.

What to play

‘The most interesting anti-violent video game I’ve played’. This week, we recommend 2015’s Undertale
‘The most interesting anti-violent video game I’ve played’. This week, we recommend 2015’s Undertale Photograph: Toby Fox

Back in 1994, video game magazine Edge ended its review of Doom with this infamous line: “If only you could talk to these creatures, then perhaps you could try and make friends with them, form alliances… Now that would be interesting.” Nearly 30 years later, “talk to the monsters” jokes and memes still crop up, even if nobody remembers where it originally came from.

Turns out that reviewer had a point, though, as proved by 2015’s Undertale, probably the most interesting anti-violent video game I’ve played. In this lo-fi role-playing game, you get into fights with plenty of monsters, but instead of battering them into submission you can win them over by talking them down and showing them mercy, which is often the more difficult option. In most games, there’s no question about what you do when a monster turns up in your path: this one makes you interrogate yourself. I interpreted it at the time as social commentary on pacifism and community, and looking back, I don’t think that was too much of an overreach.

Available on: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Approximate play time: 6-10 hours

What to read

  • I’m going to start with a book this time: Lost in a Good Game: Why We Play Video Games and What They Can Do For Us, by Pete Etchells. A researcher and lecturer in biological psychology, Etchells’ perspective on video games is both relatable and extremely well-informed. He looks at the evidence (or lack of evidence) behind all the most pervasive beliefs about video games, and in the end he makes the case that most of the effects that they have on individuals and society are actually positive. It’s a reassuring read that I often recommend to worried parents who don’t play games themselves.

  • Grand Theft Auto V, perhaps the poster child for morally bankrupt video games that supposedly corrupt the youth, has now sold 165 million copies, following its launch on PS5 and Xbox Series X earlier this year. This makes it one of the most popular entertainment products of all time in any medium, and yet strangely, in the nine years since it was released, we have not seen the emergence of roving gangs of teenagers looking to act out their chaotic GTA Online shootouts in real life. Funny that.

What to click

Gibbon: Beyond the Trees review – short, simple and lovely to play

Activision Blizzard’s Raven Software workers vote to form industry’s first union

Question Block

Will return next week. If you have anything you’d like me to answer, just email me on pushingbuttons@theguardian.com!

Source link

Continue Reading

Trending

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates 
directly on your inbox.

You have Successfully Subscribed!