In many parts of the U.S., winter weather brings snow and though students might happily think “day off” with its onset, many others see the powdery material in less positive light. State and local agencies spend over $2.3 billion dollars in “snow and ice control operations” because snow-related weather events account for approximately 22 percent of vehicle crashes and 19 percent of fatalities. Part of the solution to the dangerous conditions caused by snow and ice has been to salt roads, which researchers believe have reduced crashes by 88 percent. However, salted roads cause damage to cars, which in turn might increase drivers’ vulnerabilities to accidents. Alternatives to salt could decrease the danger of wintery conditions.

Last August, a warehouse explosion took place in the Chinese city of Tianjin. The tragedy claimed the lives of 165 people and injured almost 800 more. In addition to the loss of life and property, the incident had other far-reaching effects. Because Tianjin is a port city, ships scheduled to dock had to be rerouted after the explosion. As a result, sites within a 10-mile radius faced a supply chain disruption. Estimates claim that the economic impact of the accident could potentially reach $8 billion. So what exactly caused the explosion? An initial investigation pointed to widespread corruption and bribery that contributed to the improper storage of hazardous materials in close proximity to residential areas. Unfortunately, a recent Chinese probe revealed the chemical safety failures went even further.

According to a report by ProPublica, pipeline accidents have killed more than 500 people, injured over 4,000 and cost the U.S. nearly $7 billion in property damages since 1986. Though this might seem relatively insignificant compared to the 32,675 deaths due to road accidents in 2014 alone, critics argue that oil and gas pipelines can and should be safer, an initiative that begins with improving our country’s aging pipelines or more immediately, the type of coatings the oil and gas industry uses to protect them.

Though botulinum neurotoxins are among the most poisonous biological substances known to man, celebrities and many others continue to spend hundreds on “Botox” injections to induce muscle paralysis and hopefully, the appearance of youth. Less well known is that Botox is used to treat a variety of medical conditions including spasms, dystonias and headaches, and also to manage pain. Botulinum toxins act by preventing the release of acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter present at the neuromuscular junction that mediates movement, which prevents it from being released and subsequently blocks muscle contraction enabling muscle fibers to relax. But in some patients, the use of botulinum-based therapies for many years can result in the development of detectable antibodies against botulinum toxin that can lower or even abolish the drug’s therapeutic response.

Most famous for its juggernaut cell phone business, Samsung entered the life sciences arena in 2011 with the intention to become an expert in manufacturing biologics. The actions it’s taken in the time since definitely support that proclamation. From investing $2 billion to building multiple production plants, it is now the largest for-hire biologics manufacturer in the world. In addition to its contract manufacturing plans, Samsung has a division devoted to making its own biosimilars of biologics whose exclusivity periods are expired or close to expiring. This aim, in itself, would not be especially noteworthy. Other companies have adopted the same strategy. What’s particularly striking about Samsung’s biosimilar initiative is the company’s claims that it can manufacture the copycat drugs at half the cost of Western drug-makers. A stunning declaration to make in a time when many people remain uncertain about the quality, safety, and efficacy of biosimilar products despite the purported cost savings due to increased competition.

In May 2015, Brazilian authorities first noticed that a virus native to Africa, the Zika virus, was spreading in their country. What happened next, however, could not be predicted: the Zika virus was linked to thousands of children being born with microcephaly. What has authorities especially worried is many believe the outbreak will spread throughout the Americas and some countries have advised women to avoid pregnancy until 2017. The Zika virus provides an example of a virus-induced developmental toxicity, defined as any alteration in child development due to an environmental insult. However, manmade specialty chemicals and pollutants can similarly affect child development. Because specialty chemicals used in common items such as water bottles or chairs are not often tested in pregnant and breastfeeding women to determine their ability to cross the placenta, specialty chemical companies can still do more to determine the extent to which their chemicals may expose women and their fetuses to negative side effects. In order to make such progress, new laboratories and research efforts must be undertaken by specialty chemical companies, while new technologies and software can assist in the organization of this information.

When many hear the word “virus,” they don’t immediately think “anticancer therapy;” however, researchers in the field are trying to change this thought process. In October 2015, the FDA approved the injectable formulation, Imlygic, a virus-based therapy for the treatment of melanoma lesions in the skin. The therapy was engineered from the herpes simplex virus 1 and modified to prevent the attenuation of the virus by selectively binding to and destroying cancer cells. Additionally, the binding of the virus-based drug induced the secretion of cytokine GM-CSF, a protein that initiates an immune response to support the destruction of cancer cells. Doctors administer the therapy by directly injecting the virus into melanoma lesions, where it replicates inside of cancer cells and eventually leads to cancer cell death and cell rupture.

The hazards of plastic pollution are well-known to many, including the potential to poison and entangle animals, and even to resurface in the human food supply where the chemical additives can prove especially harmful for the most vulnerable among us. In this milieu, CPG companies have taken an interest in biodegradable plastic—plastic that can decompose due to the action of living organisms, usually bacteria. Though biodegradable plastics are not necessarily made from biomaterials such as plants, CPG companies have more seriously considered biodegradability as a positive functionality of plastic (along with durability, strength, etc.) and its use often appeals to an increasingly environmentally conscious consumer base.

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