People Power

By Catherine

Written by Catherine Bolgar


Imagine charging your phone with electricity made from your own body. That day isn’t so far away. New technology is being developed to convert our bodies’ sweat, heat and motion into electricity. Here’s how.

Sweat: Scientists have developed a small, tattoo-like patch that turns lactate, one of about 800 chemicals in perspiration, into electricity.

“We do energy-harvesting from the body, with sweat as a biofuel,” says Joseph Wang, chair of nanoengineering and director of the Center for Wearable Sensors at the University of California at San Diego.

Researchers used the adhesive, stretchable, flexible tattoo to power a digital watch. “When the person started to sweat, we could see that the watch was turning,” Dr. Wang reports.

The biofuel patch uses an enzyme as a biocatalyst. “The tattoo has two printed electrodes with the enzyme. We later did the same thing on textile that’s in contact with the skin,” Dr. Wang says.

The patch generates 100 microwatts per square centimeter—too weak to charge a phone, but enough for a low-power biomedical device such as a glucose sensor or, eventually, a pacemaker. The device could be woven into headbands or underwear to capture sweat. It might even have military applications by obviating the need to carry batteries.

The beauty is, they’re inexpensive,” Dr. Wang says. “They’re printable devices with low-cost fabrication.”

Lactate isn’t the only potential bodily biofuel. Scientists are studying how glucose can power batteries as well as bodies. Researchers at Université Joseph Fourier in Grenoble, France, are working on implantable biofuel cells that would power artificial organs. And scientists at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia, are developing sugar-powered batteries that can store more energy than in lithium-ion batteries.

Heat: “We waste 60% of our energy through heat,” says Gang Chen, head of the mechanical engineering department and professor of power engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “There is interest in recovering this heat and turning it into electricity.”

iStock_000004171296_SmallOne way batteries can convert heat into electricity is by taking advantage of thermodynamic cycles. As temperatures rise, battery voltage decreases. If a battery is charged at a high temperature and then cooled, the voltage increases. “The idea requires you to heat and cool the battery and cycle back and forth,” Dr. Chen explains.

Another method is thermoelectric. It’s possible to generate electricity when one side of a semiconductor is hot and the other cold. Such differentials are everywhere. For example, body temperature is hotter than ambient temperature, Dr. Chen points out, but devices need to be designed to maintain that difference.

The thermoelectric approach is closer to application. A thermoelectric battery can already be used to power a watch, while researchers at Yonsei University and the Korea Institute of Science and Technology, both in Seoul, have developed a wearable thermoelectric generator.

Motion: Piezoelectric systems harvest energy from pressure or vibrations caused by walking, driving cars on roads, or machinery operating in factories.

One recent advance is an energy-generating cloth developed at South Korea’s Sungkyunkwan University. Their piezoelectric nanogenerator is flexible and can be folded, rolled and stretched to capture energy from movement. Indeed, researchers at the École de Technologie Supérieure in Montreal, Canada have created a chin strap that captures electricity from chewing.

iStock_000000157491_SmallThen there’s locomotion. “When we walk, we apply light forces to footwear—around 1,000 newtons, or about 1.3 times the weight of a person,” says Tom Krupenkin, president of InStep NanoPower LLC and professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Up to 20 watts of energy is dissipated as heat into footwear without being used for anything. If we can capture and utilize a small part of that, it can be useful.”

InStep NanoPower uses a process called reverse electrowetting in which fluids harvest energy and convert it into electricity in an insole. Electronics included in the insole, powered by walking, would allow sensors to track basic data such as steps taken. But more important applications might be possible. By integrating GPS, accelerometers and temperature sensors the insoles could help locate, say, a jogger who has suffered a heart attack; someone buried in the rubble of a collapsed building; or a firefighter lost in a smoke-filled building. The insoles could even extend a phone’s battery life by using Bluetooth communications as a relay to cellular networks.


Catherine Bolgar is a former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal Europe. For more from Catherine Bolgar, contributors from the Economist Intelligence Unit along with industry experts, join the Future Realities discussion.

Photos courtesy of iStock

Accelerating Market Opportunity in a Global Landscape

By David

Pharmaceutical and biotech companies strive to deliver the best medicines and therapies to their patients, but are faced with numerous industry challenges including increasing competition, globalization, lower margins and patent expiration. Additionally, these companies also face a greater frequency of regulatory authority interaction and therapeutic innovation, particularly those focused on small target populations.

Consequently, pharmaceutical and biotech organizations often struggle to manage and maintain documentation throughout the development lifecycle. Functional areas such as Quality Assurance, R&D and Regulatory often create and manage their own silos of content that cannot be effectively synchronized. This is especially true when disparate systems are unable to talk to each other.

Pharmaceutical and biotech companies often face unforeseen risks that can reduce the effectiveness and compliance of their systems – especially when facing the challenges of controlling changes across multiple sites in a global enterprise.

Finally, regulatory requirements can challenge the most dedicated and process-driven organizations. With numerous regulatory areas to focus on, and frequent regulation change without notice, problems arise. Without effective management, regulatory hurdles can quickly clog the new product pipeline.

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An Online Quality and Compliance Platform

Pharmaceutical and biotech companies need an effective way to adapt and manage their processes to meet these pressing industry challenges. Dassault Systèmes License to Cure for BioPharma solution has been designed to help companies be more reactive and responsive to market needs while providing an effective governance model.

Disparate silos of information can be united into one online platform, helping companies digitally share their quality, compliance, and regulatory activities across their global operations. License to Cure helps businesses transition from outdated practices to a connected and transformative environment where companies can collaborate with their supply chain partners and regulatory agencies, both pre- and post-market. This transparency between early clinical activity, through manufacturing, and on to full commercialization is essential to success.

As a web-enabled solution, user interfaces provide easy viewing, access and printing of controlled documents across organizations. Full life cycle management of controlled documents reduces time to search and collect information, and automatically provides an audit trail for full traceability. This interface enables simultaneous collaboration by multiple authors and reviewers, and streamlines the approval process.

Data can be captured, reviewed, processed and approved through an interface that works as a single point of access to compliance content. This helps pharma and biotech companies to integrate their Quality Management Systems (QMS) across their global operations. With secure, audited data sharing, users can access documents and data from anywhere, allowing them to adhere to quality processes and minimize duplication of information.

Designed for the highly-regulated life sciences environment, License to Cure for BioPharma provides end-to-end document and workflow management in alignment with regulatory guidelines. This serves to reduce costs, improve efficiencies and accelerate submission of applications to the appropriate regulatory bodies.

License to Cure for BioPharma provides seamless and continuous data flow to accelerate innovation, enabling enterprise organizations to improve yields, reduce the number of issues and minimize recall occurrence, thereby improving both product quality and quality processes needed to reduce risk.

With an integrated, end-to-end solution, businesses can transform the way they bring innovative therapeutic solutions to patients. To find out more, download the solution brief.

Improving Drug Development Efficacy Through Operational Efficiency

By David

The drug development process has become increasingly expensive and focused on improved returns on investment. With average development taking 12 – 15 years, only one in 25 drug programs are released to the commercial market.  Yet, after all this time and investment, the patent expires after only 20 years.  Meanwhile, the time needed for drug discovery is lengthening and becoming more costly as well. Companies are facing high operational costs and high development failure, leading to fewer, lesser quality candidates entering clinical phases.

Another challenge is the move towards ‘personalized medicine’, as research indicates these therapies are more effective. This is forcing a shift from blockbuster drugs to targeted solutions for smaller populations. Pharmaceutical companies have opportunity here, but must also find a way to deliver new types of therapeutics while reducing costs and time-to-market.

New drug development requires a combination of innovation and operational efficiency. To achieve new levels of productivity, Life Science companies must learn to capture and build-upon their existing knowledge base by harvesting and sharing the data that already exists within their organizations.


Putting Big Data to Work

As in all industries, there has been a vast increase in data generated by Life Sciences organizations, which will help the industry become more efficient and effective. If data was aggregated and disseminated to its potential, predictive modeling of biological processes and drugs could become more sophisticated and commonplace. This would enable better identification of probable candidate molecules that could be developed into a successful drug. The wealth of new data and improved analytical techniques will enhance future innovation and fuel the drug-development pipeline.

Tools for analyzing and interpreting this data have not been developed and implemented at the same rate, and data without analysis are worthless. Pharmaceutical companies must find ways to mine, integrate and gain knowledge from all this data to improve analytical capabilities.

Eliminating the Silos

Leveraging the existing information that is created, and then stored during drug development, requires the ability for contributors across the enterprise to collaborate and have access to common knowledge.  Departmental silos of data must be eliminated so that digital data is captured and shared between functions. This requires a flexible process and system that can capture, manage and document all the data.  This level of visibility and collaboration sets the foundation for predictive analytics, which can provide the insight needed to accelerate and improve innovation.

Optimizing Therapeutic Development

Dassault Systèmes Designed to Cure Industry Solution Experience provides a business and scientific platform that can deliver collaborative virtual design, knowledge-driven innovation, as well as the predictive analytics needed to address current industry challenges.

Based on the unique BIOVIA portfolio, the solution integrates the diversity of science, experimental processes and information requirements across R&D, QC and manufacturing.  This solutions supports data-driven insight that is key to accelerating and improving innovation. Utilizing a highly integrated, streamlined information gathering and processing system, multi-disciplinary teams can connect to the high quality information at any time, from any location. By unifying siloed applications and enabling seamless data management, Designed to Cure enables scientists within a collaborative global ecosystem to achieve better insights and deliver safe and efficacious drug candidates faster.


To learn more about Designed to Cure Industry Solution Experience provided by Dassault Systèmes, download the solution brief.

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