This robot not only flies, it compresses to enter small spaces.

The FSTAR hybrid (flying sprawl-tuned autonomous robot) is not only a robot capable of flying like a quadricopter, but of driving in difficult terrain and transforming itself to access reduced spaces, using the same engines, as you can see in the following video.

FSTAR will be presented at the 2019 International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Montreal on 21 May.

Developed at Ben-Gurion University in the Negev by Mechanical Engineering professor David Zarrouk and his graduate student, Nir Meiri, the FSTAR adjusts its width to crawl or run on flat surfaces, climb large obstacles and climb very separate walls, or go through a tunnel, pipe or narrow spaces.

He can also run on the ground at speeds of up to 2.6 meters per second, as Zarrouk explains:

We plan to develop larger and smaller versions to expand this family of extensive robots for different applications, as well as algorithms that will help exploit the speed and transport cost of these flying robots/drivers.

Reducing energy costs associated with cooling buildings by up to 50% is possible with this new wood.

A ‘cooled wood’ can reduce the cost of air conditioning a home by 50%, because this new wood-based material, designed by scientists at the universities of Maryland and Colorado, successfully reflects heat or infrared radiation.

Buildings account for more than 40% of total U.S. energy demand, almost half of which is used for heating and cooling.

Eight times stronger
This wood is eight times stronger than natural wood, is highly reflective and capable of passive radiative cooling.

To achieve this, the researchers improved the qualities of the material by compressing the wood that has been stripped of its lignin (polymers that help harden plant cells), and impregnated it with impressive mechanical and radiative cooling properties.

The complete denitrification and deification process not only makes the wood significantly stronger, but also produces partially aligned cellulose nano fibers, giving the cooling wood its highly solar-reflective surface and high infrared emissivity.

This is the “most expensive medicine in the world”: the gene medicine revolution is about to become mainstream.

On Friday, the US FDA gave the green light to Zolgensma, which is already known as “the most expensive drug in the world”. And not for less, since its final price has been set at 2,125,000 dollars. However, if we look only at the price we will be forgetting the most interesting thing about this genetic treatment for spinal muscular atrophy: with dozens of therapies waiting to be approved, its short-term future is also that of gene medicine around the world.

The revolution of gene medicine becomes mainstream

A medicine for SMA. Spinal Muscular Atrophy is an autosomal recessive inherited neuromuscular disease (i.e., both parents must carry the gene responsible for the disease). It affects approximately one in 6,000-10,000 people and manifests itself as a progressive loss of muscle strength caused by the involvement of motor neurons in the spinal cord that prevents nerve signals from being properly transmitted to the muscles (with consequent atrophy).

It is not the only drug available to treat SMA. In Spain, for example, Spinraza was also the subject of controversy a few years ago because of its high price. However, Novartis’ Zolgensma goes one step further because it is presented as the first major gene therapy available to the general public. A therapy that can cure the disease with a single application.

The medicine to come. According to the FDA and if all goes well, in 2025 there will be between 10 and 20 gene therapies in the North American market. Treatments for haemophilia or muscular dystrophy await approval by the highest American authority. Although not only to the approval, of course.

Because the arrival of the Zolgensma opens up many debates, especially regarding the financing of these medicines. Novartis has already started negotiations with US insurance companies to allow payment plans and try to introduce this type of therapy in the clinic at prohibitively expensive prices. Above all, because as has happened again it is reasonable to think that in the next few years the price of these treatments will fall dramatically.

Patients, pharmacists and health systems. In Europe, where the public has a much more important role in health systems, the debate is also open, and we must prepare to deal with it with all the guarantees of transparency and fairness. Last week the BMJ published a report calling into question the close relationship between pharmaceuticals and patient associations in the United Kingdom. The fact that gene medicine is becoming mainstream is great news, but (as we see) in the next few years all the world’s health systems are going to be tested. We need to get down to work.