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Data can fight drug resistance

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Flu season is once again here and many South Africans will be turning to their trusted dose of antibiotics to resolve the outbreak as effectively as possible.  Despite this ongoing routine, South Africa is facing a huge problem.

A study led by Julia Gasson of the Western Cape Department of Health has revealed that local clinics are ignoring the guidelines on prescribing those antibiotics, and formal procedures are followed only 45% of the time.

Another global study, by the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy (CDDEP), Princeton University, ETH Zurich and the University of Antwerp, analysed human antibiotic consumption in 76 countries and found it has increased worldwide from 11.3 to 15.7 defined daily doses (DDDs) per 1,000 inhabitants per day between 2000 and 2015.

The results of these actions are far-reaching. Antibiotics have begun to lose their effectiveness and we are developing a resistance to them. And the problem is more complicated than we had first thought. In one case, it was found that antibiotic resistant patients with infections such as E. coli and Klebsiella pneumonia had contracted a specific gene that had its origins on Chinese pig farms.

A crucial step in combatting antibiotic resistance lies in technological evolution

As a solution, scientists are now looking towards the field of bacterial genomics to tackle the global issue of antibiotic resistance. Genomics refers to the branch of molecular biology concerned with the structure, function, evolution, and mapping of our genes. This process can provide clarity around resistance mechanisms and even the evolution of various strains of disease. Today the process of genomics has also  become highly automated, which has been greatly accelerated through a combination of parallel processing and the advancement in data management processes.

Due these advancements, we are now entering a world of personalised medicine, whereby individual patients can be sequenced and comparative genomic analysis can provide vital information around the progression of resistant strains of disease. Within this context, technology plays a pivotal role in allowing bioinformaticians to work with and transfer data to clinicians in an efficient and timely manner.

NetApp is assisting to achieve this through our ONTAP Cloud storage software, which allows for the protection of genomic data whilst adding the flexibility to simplify the use of public cloud. We are currently seeing this process in action through our work with PetaGene – a team which originated from Cambridge University PHDs who required a novel approach to the problem of storing data associated genomics. Additionally, we are deploying the new and improved NetApp StorageGRID which now automates tamper proof retention of critical personal data. With an increased focus on data analytics, StorageGRID customers retain and manage an unlimited amount of rich media, which is particularly useful for the field of genomics.

The key benefits of applying technology to scientific research

Unlike generic data reduction techniques, there are a few key benefits of applying the process of data management to the pursuit of tackling antibiotic resistance:

o   Increased collaborative efficiency, with smaller more portable files transferable over the NetApp data fabric

o   Use less storage capacity and lower costs

o   Leverage the flexibility of the cloud. With the NetApp data fabric, files can be seamlessly and securely moved to and from the cloud

o   Maintain interoperability with existing workflows and formats

The field of genomics, underpinned by efficient data management, is the way forward in combatting the global issue of antibiotic resistance. This of course needs to be coupled with the necessary behavioural changes where prescription guidelines are followed to the tee. Within South Africa, a country marred by drug resistant infectious diseases ranging from HIV through to malaria, the need to simplify collaboration in genomics with improved data management has never been more crucial.

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CES: So long, and thanks for all the beer!

Last week, the Las Vegas expo showed off its fun side with state-of-the-art technologies for enjoying beer, writes BRYAN TURNER

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From craft beer-making machines to robots that pour beer, CES had more beer than usual in Las Vegas last week. And even free beer if you found the right stand. Stampede’s saloon-style booth offered beer to visitors who tried out its latest drones, virtual reality, and other gaming products. No beer tech, though.

Here are some of the beer technologies that stood out:

LG HomeBrew – Craft beer made at home

LG’s HomeBrew craft beer-making machine,  debuted at CES 2019, brings the brewing process home thanks to single-use capsules,  a self-cleaning feature, and an algorithm optimised for fermentation. 

Like a Nespresso coffee machine, the beer maker uses capsules, which contain malt, yeast, hop oil and flavouring. At the press of a button, LG HomeBrew automates the whole procedure from fermentation and carbonation to ageing. A companion app lets users check HomeBrew’s status at any time during the process, from their handsets.

The beer machine not only offers a simple way to make craft beer, but also enhances the quality of beer it makes. The fermentation algorithm intelligently controls the fermenting process with precise temperature and pressure control. It automatically sanitises itself, using nothing more than hot water, ensuring everything is hygienically clean for the next batch.

Designed with discerning beer lovers in mind, HomeBrew allows for in-home production of batches of more than 4 litres of beer in a variety of styles. The following five distinctive, flavoured beers are available now: 

  • Hoppy American IPA
  • Golden American Pale Ale
  • Full-bodied English Stout
  • Zesty Belgian-style Witbier
  • Dry Czech Pilsner

The only catch? It takes about two weeks to make, depending on the beer type.

“LG HomeBrew is the culmination of years of home appliance and water purification technologies that we’ve developed over the decades,” said Dan Song, president of LG Electronics Home Appliance & Air Solutions Company. “Homebrewing has grown at an explosive pace, but there are still many beer lovers who haven’t taken the jump because of the barriers to entry, like complexity, and these are the consumers we think will be attracted to LG HomeBrew.”

Click here to read about the party speaker that holds beer and robots that pour beer.

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CES: Alienware gets Legend-ary

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At CES in Las Vegas last week, Dell’s Alienware released a family of high-end, thin, light, and affordable machines for both amateur and professional gamers – and a new identity.

Alienware marked CES 2019 as a brand milestone with the debut of a new design identity, Alienware Legend. It aims to set a new bar of excellence for what gamers want most – performance and function. Alienware says it evaluated multiple concepts and chose one that was the biggest and boldest departure from its current look.

Alienware Legend, says the company, stays true to the brand’s core design tenets, taking cues from its deep roots in sci-fi culture and its early industrial designs, to distinguish the brand from the rest of the industry. The new Legend design is optimised with cutting-edge thermal cooling technology to achieve and sustain overclocking power, improved AlienFX lighting, and ultra-thin screen borders. It also unveiled a new “three-knuckle hinge” design that reduces the overall dimension while creating a stronger assembly, all combining to yield a better gaming experience.

“We’re excited to come to this year’s CES with some truly groundbreaking products, next-gen software and strategic partnerships that will bring more people to experience PC gaming and advance the industry,” said Frank Azor, vice president and general manager of Alienware. “The legend design answers the call for more and better from our gaming community, and the new G Series laptops will make PC gaming even more accessible to those looking for high-performance gaming at a cost they can appreciate.”

Click here to read about Alienware Legend in action with the Area-51m and m-series laptops

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