Dutch startup Avy completes successful test flight of solar-powered drone (watch video)

Avy, a Dutch solar drone manufacturer, has announced a successful test flight of its fixed-wing drone, marking a milestone in bringing long-haul flights one step closer to being emission-free. The drone is equipped with custom solar foil developed by Wattlab to reflect and absorb more sunlight, and is designed to be used for urgent medical…

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EU-Startups

Atlanta-based Speedscale now has $2.2 million more to grow its API test automation business

It only took a few weeks after its Y Combinator demo day debut for the Atlanta-based API test automation company Speedscale to raise its first $ 2.2 million.

Founded by longtime developers and Georgia Institute of Technology alumni Ken Ahrens, Matthew LeRay and Nate Lee, the trio had known each other for roughly 20 years before making the jump to working together.

A circuitous path of interconnecting programming jobs in the DevOps and monitoring space led the three men to realize there was an opportunity to address one of the main struggles new programmers now face — making sure that updates to API integrations in a containerized programming world don’t wind up breaking apps or services.

“We were helping to solve incident outages and incidents that would cause downtime,” said Lee. “It’s hard to ensure the quality between all of these connection points [between applications]. And these connection points are growing as people add APIs and containers. We said, ‘How about we solve this space? How could we preempt all of this and ensure maintaining release velocity with scalable automation?’ ”

Typically companies release new updates to code in a phased approach or in a test environment to ensure that they’re not going to break anything. Speedscale proposes test automation using real traffic so that developers can accelerate the release time.

“They want to change very frequently,” said Ahrens, speaking about the development life cycle. “Most of the changes are great, but every once in a while they make a change and break part of the system. The state of the art is to wait for it to be broken and get someone to fix it quickly.”

The pitch SpeedScale makes to developers is that its service can give coders the ability to see the problems before the release. They automate the creation of the staging environment, automation suite and orchestration to create that environment.

“One of the big things for me was when I saw the rise of Kubernetes was what’s really happening is that engineering leaders have been able to give more autonomy to developers, but no one has come up with a great way to validate and I really think that Speedscale can solve that problem.”

The Atlanta-based company, which only just graduated from Y Combinator a few months ago, is currently in a closed alpha with select pilot partners, according to LeRay. And the nine-month-old company has raised $ 2.2 million from investors, including Sierra Ventures from the Bay Area and Atlanta’s own Tech Square Ventures, to grow the business.

“APIs are a huge market,” Ahrens said of the potential opportunity for the company. “There’s 11 million developers who develop against APIs… We think the addressable market for us is in the billions.”

Startups – TechCrunch

This new blood test predicts which COVID-19 patients will develop severe infection

As the COVID-19 cases continue to shoot up across the globe, scientists are still trying to understand the disease’s behavior to stop it and prevent future outbreaks. 

According to the report, as of mid-August 2020, more than 22M laboratory-confirmed cases have been documented worldwide, with over 770K deaths. To date, numerous possible treatments for COVID-19 have been thrust into the spotlight by public health officials. 

Although it’s public knowledge that the virus develops severe symptoms mostly in patients with comorbidities, weak immune systems, or other underlying conditions, there have been numerous exceptions across the globe. It has been seen that even healthy patients with absolutely no underlying conditions, have developed severe symptoms or even died due to the COVID-19. 

Scoring system for COVID-19 testing

Recently, scientists have developed a scoring system for the first time that can accurately predict which hospitalised patients will develop a severe form of COVID-19. 

The blood test was developed by researchers at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences in Dublin and the US. It is published in The Lancet’s translational research journal EBioMedicine.

Called as the Dublin-Boston score, the measurement enables clinicians to make more informed decisions when identifying patients who may benefit from therapies, such as steroids, and admission to intensive care units. Previously, clinicians didn’t have any sort of COVID-19-specific prognostic scores to refer to for decision making.  

But now, the blood test measurement can accurately predict how severe the infection will be on Day-7 after measuring the patient’s blood for the first four days. The 4-day change in IL-6:IL-10 ratio was chosen to derive the Dublin-Boston score.

How does it work?

According to the researchers, the blood test works by measuring the levels of two molecules that send messages to the body’s immune system and control inflammation. 

One of these molecules, interleukin (IL)-6, is pro-inflammatory, and a different one, called IL-10, is anti-inflammatory. The levels of both are altered in severe COVID-19 patients. 

Depending on the changes in the ratio of these two molecules over time, researchers have developed a scoring system where each 1-point increase was associated with 5.6 times increased odds for a more severe outcome.

“The Dublin-Boston score is easily calculated and can be applied to all hospitalised Covid-19 patients,” says RCSI Professor of Medicine Gerry McElvaney, the study’s senior author and a consultant in Beaumont Hospital. 

The Dublin-Boston score uses the ratio of IL-6 to IL-10 because it significantly outperformed measuring the change in IL-6 alone. Despite high levels in the blood, using only IL-6 measurements as a COVID-19 prognostic tool is hindered by several factors. IL-6 levels within the same patient vary over any given day, and the magnitude of the IL-6 response to infection varies between different patients. 

Talking about the limitations, researchers say, “This study has inherent limitations. While the number of patients is more than three-fold larger than prior similar studies in medically ill patients, the sample size is still small, and lacks a replication cohort.”

“More informed prognosis could help determine when to escalate or de-escalate care, a key component of the efficient allocation of resources during the current pandemic. The score may also have a role in evaluating whether new therapies designed to decrease inflammation in COVID-19 provide benefit,” he adds.

The research was funded by the Elaine Galwey Research Fellowship, American Thoracic Society, National Institutes of Health, and the Parker B Francis Research Opportunity Award.

Main image credits: Jarun Ontakrai/ Shutterstock

Startups – Silicon Canals

[Virgin Hyperloop One in THE VERGE] Virgin Hyperloop selects West Virginia to test its futuristic transport system

Virgin Hyperloop One announced its plan to build a $ 500 million certification center to advance its vision of the future of high-speed transportation in West Virginia. The state will serve as a locus for testing, developing, and validating the technology that underpins the still-theoretical hyperloop system.

Read more here.

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Black Glove Holdings targets Nigeria amid exclusive deal to deploy COVID test kits – Nairametrics

Black Glove Holdings targets Nigeria amid exclusive deal to deploy COVID test kits  Nairametrics
“nigeria startups when:7d” – Google News

Fake labs, travel frustrations, passengers allege COVID-19 test Scams at airport – Nairametrics

Fake labs, travel frustrations, passengers allege COVID-19 test Scams at airport  Nairametrics
“nigeria startups when:7d” – Google News

Juno Bio launches a vaginal microbiome test kit — targeting the women’s health data gap

Entrepreneur First -backed Juno Bio has launched a home test kit for women wanting to get a better understanding of their vaginal microbiome while also contributing data to further research into women’s health.

The vaginal microbiome refers to the community of microbes and bacteria that naturally live in the vagina. Variances in the vaginal microbiome are thought to have implications for women’s health conditions — such as recurrent bacterial-vaginosis or a higher risk of contracting an STI, and even preterm birth and infertility. But a historical lack of research into women’s health issues means there’s still a long way to go to fully understand what’s going on. (Or indeed how to intervene to correct an unhealthy imbalance.)

That’s where Juno Bio wants to come in.

Last year the 2018-founded U.K. startup ran a study in the U.S. that gathered samples from more than 1,000 women to build up a repository of data on the vaginal microbiome. That initial data set underpins the commercial Vaginal Microbiome Test kit it’s launching today — at a cost of $ 149 (which includes free shipping).

Women who pay to be screened will receive a test kit in the post. They then carry out a sample gathering procedure at home, passing a Q-tip-like swab across the walls of their vagina for around 20 seconds and sealing the sample in the tube provided (with stabilizing agents) to return it by post to Juno Bio for analysis.

Once the sample has been processed the user will be invited to log in online and view her results, with the option to book a one-on-one call with a Juno Bio “vaginal coach” to discuss the data.

It’s worth emphasizing that the startup is being careful to caveat what kind of service it’s offering.

A disclaimer on its website states the tests are “currently exclusively intended to be used for wellness purposes” — and it further adds: “The tests we offer are not intended to diagnose or treat disease, or to substitute for a physician’s consultation.”

Juno Bio confirms the test is purely a commercial offer for now — although it says it’s working on “a regulated version” so it will be able to inform clinical decision making in this area in the future, starting with the U.S., which is its initial market focus (though test kits are also available in the U.K.).

“For sure we’re not replacing a doctor here,” says CEO and co-founder Hana Janebdar, in a call with TechCrunch. “There’s really two buckets of women, if you like, that tend to join the Juno Study or pre-order a test. And the first woman is someone who wants to be very proactive about her general wellness and wants to know more about her body — and this is one of the best ways that you can learn about your microbes and what that means for your vaginal wellness and your pH etc.

“The other women are women who may have had recurrent bacterial vaginosis or recurrent infections and want to know more about what it is that’s causing it potentially — and so she wants a comprehensive picture of her vaginal microbiome. Because if you go and try and figure out, right now, what is causing your bacterial vaginosis using existing methods of diagnosis they’re not always the most helpful. So while that should always be the first port of call, and women should always go to their doctor when they think they have an issue, this is an incredibly important resource when it comes to wellness for a lot of women.”

“There are 10% of women in America, for instance, who have recurrent bacterial vaginosis — which is just one condition of the vaginal microbiome. And it’s one of the highest recurrent rates in medicine,” she adds. “And partly because the diagnostics are terrible in this space.”

Another of the startup’s investors is life sciences giant Illumina, which is providing the DNA sequencing technology it’s using to analyse the samples, per Janebdar.

“This is the first comprehensive vaginal microbiome test kit that’s available that’s next-generation sequencing-based,” she says of the test kit. “Obviously vaginal testing has existed for a while but no one has really used next-generation sequencing — which is the technology that enables a really comprehensive picture of what all the microbes that are in the vagina are. And that’s what’s needed to A) unravel the vaginal microbiome and its impact on women’s lives and fertility and health, and then B) to give women actually the full picture of what those microbes are.”

“The conditions that have been associated with the vaginal microbiome — like BV, or recurrent yeast infections or even the downstream conditions like pelvic inflammatory disease — they’ve historically been poorly characterized. So the diagnosis that have existed to date have been [poor at determining] when and what women have these conditions and therefore what the best treatments should be,” she adds.

Janebdar says the prevailing scientific understanding has been that a Lactobacillus dominant vaginal microbiome is healthy — but more recent studies suggest a more nuanced understanding is needed.

“What’s become clear in the literature is that maybe that’s not always the case. And also the type of Lactobacilli is important. And also there’s really important differences between the vaginal microbiomes and what healthy might look like for Caucasian women versus African American women, for instance,” she notes.

Her background includes a degree in biology and a masters in biochemical engineering — including specific work on microbiome science. It was via her experience of the research field that she says she realized there was a huge gap in women’s health research.

Juno Bio CEO and co-founder, Hana Janebdar (Photo credit: Juno Bio)

“What really shocked me was that while there was this explosion of research and work and commercialization of the gut microbiome and the soil microbiome and every microbiome under the earth that you could think of, the vaginal microbiome had been relatively ignored,” she says, going back to 2017-18 and her inspiration for the startup.

“It really shocked me because of all the microbiomes the vaginal microbiome was the most readily accessible, the most readily associated with the conditions that could improve women’s lives and there were so many women that have these conditions — it was really a sense of hang on, what is going on? And why is this just so incredibly ignored?” she adds. “This needs to be fixed.

“As an Afghan woman — women’s rights and the fact that women are ignored, and medical health research has been sidelined when it comes to women — it’s a very core part of my actual experience as well.”

Juno Bio’s ultimate goal is to gather enough data and understanding to be able to offer “microbial interventions” that can be used to correct problematic imbalances, per Janebdar.

“One of the saddest things… is the fact that microbial interventions could work but having it in this wishy-washy, probiotic, kombucha land has meant that people haven’t fully realized its real potential — and it’s really exciting that in the gut microbiome space, which is analogous to us, first the first time this year you’re seeing sort of phase three approved microbial interventions for the gut. So I see the vaginal space as analogous to that. And this is the kind of stuff that the Juno data-sets will unlock.”

Those shelling out to donate their vaginal microbiome data to Juno Bio’s repository are promised it will be “anonymized” — though clearly links will be retained to some individual data points, such as age and ethnicity.

The startup’s privacy policy can be found here — where it writes: “The information we use in Research is often summarised, aggregated, or combined across a group of subjects to minimize the chance of identification.”

“In the event we require use of individual-level Personally Identifiable Information in Research or for other purposes, we will reach out to you and obtain specific consents applicable to such other use,” it adds.

Juno Bio is being advised by Dr Gregory Buck, Ph.D., who was the principal investigator on the Vaginal Human Microbiome Project (VaHMP) and the Multi Omic Microbiome Study Pregnancy Initiative (MOMS PI) — two studies that were part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health Human Microbiome Project.

Commenting in a statement about the launch of the test kit, Buck said: “While previous studies have worked to characterize the vaginal microbiome, these studies have often been limited in population size, utilize limited gene sequences and lack metadata. As a result, present studies now lack data and a comprehensive strain bank of vaginally associated microbes. Having dedicated much of my career to researching microbiomes of the female reproductive tract, I am confident that the Vaginal Microbiome Test will create one of the richest research repositories of data for future research into vaginal health and related issues. Not only that, but it will help change the stigma around vaginal wellness for the better.”

Startups – TechCrunch

The Mom Test

Just finished reading "The Mom Test" – how to talk to the customers and learn if your business is a good idea when everybody is lying to you

"Mom Test" refers to framing questions in a way even our mom can't lie to us.

1) Don't share our idea upfront

People will lie and protect our feelings.

Instead, focus on learning their current and past behaviors. This is a fact-finding mission, not a feel-good session.

2) Ask about specifics in the past, rather than hypothetical / generic future

Good:

  • "when is the last time you use a cookbook"
  • "why did you use it"
  • "have you tried other methods e.g. watching Youtube cooking video"
  • "how do you currently deal with this problem"
  • "why do you bother"

Bad:

  • "would you use an app for cookbook"
  • "would you pay for this"
  • "do you like the idea?"

Opinions can be a false signal. We want to get facts to understand a user's pain point and behavior.

3) Avoid bad data

  • compliments
  • fluff (generics, hypothetical, the future)
  • ideas (understand the motivation behind an idea suggestion, rather than take the idea at face value)

Anchor your discussion and subtly pivot away from these.

4) Prepare you list of 3 learning goals

The 3 most important things you want to learn from the person.

If you don't know what you're trying to learn, you shouldn't bother before having this conversation

5) Casual coffee chat instead of a formal meeting

In a formal interview setting in a meeting room, people will tend to just go through the motion and check off the boxes. You want them to feel like they are sharing / venting to a friend.

6) Segment your customer and talk to the right people

Don't just talk to the most senior and important person.

[Personal experience] when my team was consulting for a mall business, our best insights of shopper behaviors came from talking to concierge, customer service, and shop sales staff.

7) Successful learning can be "X is not a problem"

Don't get married to our problem. You are here putting on the hat of an investigator: is there a pain point

8) For B2B

Go into a meeting with the mentality of not trying to sell, but in search of an industry and customer advisor.

The author laid out a Vision-Framing-Weakness-Pedestal-Ask framework with an example below:

"Hey Pete,

I'm trying to make desk rental less of a pain for new businesses (Vision). We're just starting out and don't have anything to sell, but want to make sure we're building something that actually helps (Framing).

I've only come at it from a tenant's side and I'm having a hard time understanding how it works from the landlord's perspective (Weakness). You've been renting out desks for a while and could actually help me cut through the fog. (Pedestal).

Do you have time next couple weeks to chat (Ask)."

Customers don't always know what they want. But unmistakably, they know their pain points and issues. Asking the wrong questions – and getting false signals – is arguably more dangerous and costly than not talking to customer.

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Startups – Rapid Growth and Innovation is in Our Very Nature!

Walmart to test drone delivery of grocery, household items in battle with Amazon – ETRetail.com

Walmart to test drone delivery of grocery, household items in battle with Amazon  ETRetail.com
“nigeria startups when:7d” – Google News

[MeMed in The Times of Israel] MeMed partners with Italy’s DiaSorin to commercialize bacteria vs virus test

MeMed Diagnostics, a Haifa-based firm that develops diagnostic solutions to monitor the body’s immune state, said it will partner with Italian diagnostic firm DiaSorin to commercialize a test that is able to distinguish between bacterial and viral infections.

Read more here.

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