March 17, 2017

A Meat Revolution, AI Workplace Recruiters and More

By Grace Carr
Startup Grows Chicken Strips From Cells  

A Bay Area food-technology startup has developed the world’s first chicken strips grown from self-reproducing cells. Scientists, startups, and animal-welfare activists believe the new product could revolutionize the U.S. meat industry. The startup’s goal is to replace billions of cattle, hogs, and chickens with animal meat grown efficiently and humanely. Startups based in the Netherlands - including Memphis Meats and Mosa Meat – assert “clean meat” would help the food industry avoid grain, water, and waste-disposal costs. And big meat companies are taking notice: Tyson Foods Inc. – the largest U.S. meat company by sales – launched a venture-capital fund to invest in cell grown meat. American consumers ate an average of 90.9 pounds of chicken apiece in 2016 – nearly as much as beef and pork combined. Further, about 61 billion chickens are raised for meat annually world-wide. The cell-cultured meat startups are far from replacing the meat industry’s thousands of hatcheries, chicken barns, feed mills, and processing plants, but they are making progress and hope to soon be cost-competitive with conventional meat products. Memphis Meats hopes to begin selling its meat commercially by 2021.   

Will AI Transform the Workplace?  

Technology that allows navigation apps to find the most efficient route to a destination is on the verge of transforming the office by redesigning how to search for job candidates and maximize productivity. AI applications aim to analyze vast amounts of data and identify patterns to learn from experience and deliver better results. A company can provide a job description, and AI will collect and crunch data from a variety of sources to find people with desired talents and experience. Companies worried about turnover can use AI to identify employees likely to leave based on variables such as job length, distance from co-workers, or number of managers they have worked under. The software aims largely to spot promising resumes and widen the net to a more diverse pool of candidates than would have been selected otherwise. AI’s relentless focus on facts could eliminate prejudice, such as bias against a candidate’s race or appearance, from the hiring process. The system is still new and therefore it is not yet clear whether AI makes decisions that are as good as or better than those of human managers. While much testing remains to be done, AI technology could one day help managers select workers without overlooking deserving candidates.  

More people could benefit from BRCA breast cancer drugs  

A study in the UK found that up to a fifth of women with breast cancer may benefit from drugs that are currently reserved for less common cases caused by faulty genes. Researchers found that thousands of breast cancers share biochemical similarities to cases caused by BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations. Faulty BRCA genes account for roughly 1-5% of the 55,000 breast cancer cases diagnosed in the UK each year. PARP inhibitors designed to target tumors with defects in the genes can be used to treat these cancers. The drug blocks the action of an enzyme that helps cancer cells with faulty BRCA genes survive. The study suggests that 8,000 more people with breast cancer may also respond to these drugs. And because they specifically target cancer cells, PARP inhibitors have relatively few side effects. The study opens the door for trials to assess whether other patients might benefit from PARP inhibitors.   

Snus Helps Sweden Nearly Eliminate Smoking  

The Swedish government recently released data indicating that the proportion of men between 30 and 44 years old that smoke fell to 5% in 2016, making Sweden the first country to hit a tobacco “end game” target proposed by health professionals. Overall, only 8%of Swedish men smoke on a daily basis compared with the European Union average of over 25%. The proportion of Swedish women who smoke also continues to fall, and is now 10%. Since the 1970s, Swedes have been switching their cigarettes for snus – pouches of pasteurized and purified tobacco. While using snus is still less optimal  from a health standpoint than forgoing  tobacco altogether, Sweden has seen huge health gains made by people switching to snus or e-cigarettes. Research shows that if the Swedish success with snus is repeated in the UK, lung cancer rates would decrease more than 50%. The lung cancer death rate in Sweden is less than half the EU average, and it has the lowest rates of oral and pancreatic cancers in Europe. Allowing people to buy cigarette substitutes like snus and e-cigarettes holds the potential to improve the health of many countries.