Helen is a freelance science journalist based in Berlin, Germany. Specializing in healthcare, life sciences, bioanthropology, biotech and innovation. 

Highlighted Work

Breaking Down Barriers to Improve Women’s Health

Women’s health is chronically underfunded both in the public and private sectors and has been for many years. No one knows this better than Piraye Yurttas Beim, CEO and founder of Celmatix, a women’s health biotech company focused on improving ovarian health.

Since founding Celmatix in 2009, she has been working hard with others in the sector to raise the profile of women’s health and encourage investment in the field. Prior to starting the company, Beim was an academic researcher who completed

Broadening the Scope of Clinical Trials: The Changing Role of Real-World Evidence

The role that real-world evidence, and the data that feeds into it, play in the clinical trials arena is changing. For many years, drug developers and regulators have collected real-world data (RWD) on adverse events linked to newly approved medicines. However, this data has not played a significant role in developing or executing pre-approval clinical trials.

The situation is now changing. “There’s always been a need to look at how drugs that are coming out of clinical trials behave in the rea

Bioelectric bacteria-powered sensor detects water contaminants in real time

Synthetic biology has been combined with electrical engineering to create a small bioelectric sensor that can sense water contaminants in just minutes.

The sensor is currently at the prototype stage and is not yet being produced commercially, but has already been used to detect thiosulfate, known to cause algal blooms, within 2 minutes and also the endocrine disruptor 4-hydroxytamoxifen (4-HT) within 3 minutes.

Detection methods for these environmental pollutants, and others such as nitrates a

Genomic Pathogen Surveillance in the Spotlight

The COVID-19 pandemic has really highlighted the need for effective genomic pathogen surveillance and allowed researchers around the world to hone their skills and technology. While these advances are not in doubt, whether they are maintained and used to help prevent new pandemics and fight global threats such as antimicrobial resistance remains to be seen.

Over the last decade, huge advances in technology have made genomic sequencing cheaper and more accessible, facilitating the tracking of ba

Edible, fluorescent silk tags could help stem tide of counterfeit medicines

A group of researchers based in the US and Korea have developed and tested an edible matrix code made of silk that can be attached to tablets or added to liquids as an anticounterfeiting measure. The tag is made of silk and is invisible to the eye, but can be picked up by specific optical filters on a smartphone camera that can pick up fluorescence.

Drug counterfeiting is an increasing problem. Every year it causes thousands of deaths and poisonings, and recent increases in online sales have on

The Changing Face of Newborn Screening

Thanks largely to genomic advances, an increasing number of advocates are pushing for the use of genome sequencing to improve newborn screening. While this would undoubtedly improve risk assessment for a range of genetic conditions, challenges such as costs and ethical concerns could hinder rollout on a wider scale.

Newborn screening for potentially harmful diseases has existed in some form for around 60 years. Robert Guthrie is widely credited with introducing the first so-called ‘heel prick’

Nature’s Painters: Making Sustainable Colors with Microbes

The production of textile dyes and food colorants can have a big environmental footprint. Biotech startups are rising to the challenge by engineering bacteria, fungi, and algae to sustainably produce natural colors.

Eight years ago, University of Cambridge researcher Jim Ajioka was in Nepal helping to produce a biosensor to detect arsenic in drinking water and was shocked at how poor the water quality was in the region.

“In Kathmandu, all of the textile industry just dumps its waste straight i

Investigation fails to replicate most cancer biology lab findings

The reliability of early-stage cancer biology research is called into question by an investigation that concludes more than half of experimental results can’t be replicated by independent scientists

Lab-based cancer research isn’t always easy to replicate, according to a new investigation

An eight-year-long investigation into the reliability of preclinical cancer biology research has found that fewer than half of the results published in 23 highly cited papers could be successfully reproduced.

What the EU's Single-Use Plastics Ban Means for the Bioplastics Industry

A European directive banning a range of single-use plastics came into law this month. How are the new regulations impacting industrial biotech companies developing bioplastics?

In an attempt to reduce staggeringly high levels of plastic pollution seen around the world, particularly in marine environments, the 27 EU member states and Norway agreed in 2019 to restrict ‘single-use plastics’ from being produced and sold in the EU.

The countries were given two years to implement the new regulations

How Blockchain Companies Are Helping Us Protect Our Genomic Data

Using genomic data and the blockchain network, it is now possible to send anonymous genetic information around the world in the blink of an eye. Meet the companies that want to help us protect and control our own genetic data.

As the cost of sequencing an individual genome falls and more people have access to their genomic data, a question has arisen about data ownership. Namely, who owns or should own the data that is generated by genetic tests? While this is a debated question, many feel stro

Biomaterials Are Making the Building Industry More Sustainable

There is a growing awareness of the waste and pollution caused by the building industry. New biomaterials are being created using waste products and microbes to solve these ecological problems.

“Using biological materials in buildings isn’t a new concept – we’ve built wooden structures for thousands of years,” said Gavin McIntyre, co-founder and Director of Business Development at Ecovative Design, a US-based biotech making materials with mycelium — part of the root system of mushrooms.

Increa

Contact lenses with gold nanoparticles can help correct colour blindness

Contact lenses embedded with gold nanoparticles have been used to help correct red–green colour vision deficiency. The researchers believe the lenses will be more comfortable, effective and safer for wearers than the options currently available.

Although many variations exist, the most common kind of colour vision deficiency or ‘blindness’ is when people have difficulty differentiating red from green. People with colour blindness, which mostly affects men, are able to live perfectly normal live

Biotech Drives the Water Purification Industry Towards a Circular Economy

Water purification has never been more important, but antiquated methods and a lack of innovation have held the sector back. Biotechnology proposes solutions that bring us one step closer to a true circular economy.

Rising populations and pollution levels mean that water purification is now more crucial than ever before. However, much of the industry is still using water treatment methods that originated over 100 years ago.

“Coming from biotechnology, I’m really surprised about how little inno

Earphone cameras watch your facial expressions and read your lips

A wearable device consisting of two mini-cameras mounted on earphones can recognise your facial expressions and read your lips, even if your mouth is covered.

The tool – called C-Face – was developed by Cheng Zhang at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and his colleagues. It looks at the sides of the wearer’s head and uses machine learning to accurately visualise facial expressions by analysing small changes in cheek contour lines.

“With previous technology to reconstruct facial expressio

What will it take for Germany to embrace digital health?

Germans are not fast adopters of digital technology. With a fondness for using cash and low uptake of social media compared with most countries, they fiercely guard their right to control how personal information, including health records, is shared.1 When the independent foundation Bertelsmann Stiftung compiled an index measuring 17 countries’ progress in healthcare digitisation in 2019, Germany ranked second from the bottom (the UK came sixth).2

But 2020 is proving a time of change. Jörg Deba
Photo by Pok Rie on Pexels

Prophet in the Sewer — Biodesigned

Environmental engineer Smruthi Karthikeyan started her postdoc with Rob Knight at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) in March 2020 only days before the state implemented its first Covid lockdown.

“I haven’t met most of my colleagues,” she told me.

Starting a new job during a pandemic is not ideal, but Karthikeyan was soon offered an unexpected opportunity. “I was mostly working on computational stuff, and then one day, my principal investigator called me saying, ‘You're an environme

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