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Mapillary, the crowdsourced database of street-level imagery, has been acquired by Facebook

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Mapillary, the Swedish startup that wants to take on Google and others in mapping the world via a crowdsourced database of street-level imagery, has been acquired by Facebook, according to the company’s blog. Terms of deal aren’t being disclosed.

The Mapillary team and project will become part of Facebook’s broader open mapping efforts. Mapillary also says its “commitment to OpenStreetMap stays”.  Writes Mapillary co-founder and CEO Jan Erik:

From day one of Mapillary, we have been committed to building a global street-level imagery platform that allows everyone to get the imagery and data they need to make better maps. With tens of thousands of contributors to our platform and with maps being improved with Mapillary data every single day, we’re now taking the next big step on that journey.

As Erik notes, Facebook is known to be “building tools and technology to improve maps through a combination of machine learning, satellite imagery and partnerships with mapping communities”. Mapping has immediate use-cases for the social networking behemoth, such as Facebook Marketplaces and its local business offerings, while another application is augmented reality.

This saw it recently acquire another European startup, Scape, news that TechCrunch broke in February. Founded in 2017, Scape Technologies was developing a “Visual Positioning Service” based on computer vision which lets developers build apps that require location accuracy far beyond the capabilities of GPS alone. The technology initially targeted augmented reality apps, but also had the potential to be used to power applications in mobility, logistics and robotics. More broadly, Scape wanted to enable any machine equipped with a camera to understand its surroundings.

Mapillary is also the latest “open” project to join and now be funded by Facebook. Last December, it quietly acquired U.K.-based Atlas ML, the custodian of “Papers With Code,” the free and open resource for machine learning papers and code.

Returning to Mapillary, the startup is keen to stress that it will continue being a “global platform for imagery, map data, and improving all maps”. “You will still be able to upload imagery and use the map data from all the images on the platform,” says Erik. It is also changing the license to permit commercial use:

Historically, all of the imagery available on our platform has been open and free for anyone to use for non-commercial purposes. Moving forward, that will continue to be true, except that starting today, it will also be free to use for commercial users as well. By continuing to make all images uploaded to Mapillary open, public, and available to everyone, we hope to enable new use cases, and grow the breadth of coverage and usage to benefit mapping for everyone. While we previously needed to focus on commercialisation to build and run the platform, joining Facebook moves Mapillary closer to the vision we’ve had from day one of offering a free service to anyone.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/06/18/mapillary-facebook/

Bioengineer

COVID-19 vaccine does not damage the placenta in pregnancy

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CHICAGO — A new Northwestern Medicine study of placentas from patients who received the COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy found no evidence of injury, adding to the growing literature that COVID-19 vaccines are safe in pregnancy.

“The placenta is like the black box in an airplane. If something goes wrong with a pregnancy, we usually see changes in the placenta that can help us figure out what happened,” said corresponding author Dr. Jeffery Goldstein, assistant professor of pathology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a Northwestern Medicine pathologist. “From what we can tell, the COVID vaccine does not damage the placenta.”

The study will be published May 11 in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology. To the authors’ knowledge, it is the first study to examine the impact of the COVID vaccines on the placenta.

“We have reached a stage in vaccine distribution where we are seeing vaccine hesitancy, and this hesitancy is pronounced for pregnant people,” said study co-author Dr. Emily Miller, Northwestern Medicine maternal fetal medicine physician and assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Feinberg. “Our team hopes these data, albeit preliminary, can reduce concerns about the risk of the vaccine to the pregnancy.”

The study authors collected placentas from 84 vaccinated patients and 116 unvaccinated patients who delivered at Prentice Women’s Hospital in Chicago and pathologically examined the placentas whole and microscopically following birth. Most patients received vaccines – either Moderna or Pfizer – during their third trimester.

Last May, Goldstein, Miller and collaborators from Northwestern and Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago published a study that found placentas of women who tested positive for the COVID-19 virus while pregnant showed evidence of injury (abnormal blood flow between mother and baby in utero). Pregnant patients who want to get vaccinated to avoid contracting the disease should feel safe doing so, Miller said.

“We are beginning to move to a framework of protecting fetuses through vaccination, rather than from vaccination,” Miller said.

In April, the scientists published a study showing pregnant women make COVID antibodies after vaccination and successfully transfer them to their fetuses.

“Until infants can get vaccinated, the only way for them to get COVID antibodies is from their mother,” Goldstein said.

The placenta’s role in the immune system

The placenta is the first organ that forms during pregnancy. It performs duties for most of the fetus’ organs while they’re still forming, such as providing oxygen while the lungs develop and nutrition while the gut is forming.

Additionally, the placenta manages hormones and the immune system, and tells the mother’s body to welcome and nurture the fetus rather than reject it as a foreign intruder.

“The Internet has amplified a concern that the vaccine might trigger an immunological response that causes the mother to reject the fetus,” Goldstein said. “But these findings lead us to believe that doesn’t happen.”

The scientists also looked for abnormal blood flow between the mother and fetus and problems with fetal blood flow – both of which have been reported in pregnant patients who have tested positive for COVID.

The rate of these injuries was the same in the vaccinated patients as for control patients, Goldstein said. The scientists also examined the placentas for chronic histiocytic intervillositis, a complication that can happen if the placenta is infected, in this case, by SARS-CoV-2. Although this study did not find any cases in vaccinated patients, it’s a very rare condition that requires a larger sample size (1,000 patients) to differentiate between vaccinated and unvaccinated patients.

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Other Northwestern study authors include Dr. Elisheva Shanes and Chiedza Mupanomunda. Dr. Leena B. Mithal and Sebastian Otero from Lurie Children’s Hospital also are study authors.

The study was funded by The Friends of Prentice, the Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute, the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (grant number K08EB030120) and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (grant number K23AI139337), part of the National Institutes of Health.

https://news.northwestern.edu/stories/2021/05/covid-19-vaccine-does-not-damage-the-placenta/?fj=1

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Source: https://bioengineer.org/covid-19-vaccine-does-not-damage-the-placenta-in-pregnancy/

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Bioengineer

History of giants in the gene: Scientists use DNA to trace the origins of giant viruses

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Scientists investigate the evolution of Mimivirus, one of the world’s largest viruses, through how they replicate DNA

2003 was a big year for virologists. The first giant virus was discovered in this year, which shook the virology scene, revising what was thought to be an established understanding of this elusive group and expanding the virus world from simple, small agents to forms that are as complex as some bacteria. Because of their link to disease and the difficulties in defining them–they are biological entities but do not fit comfortably in the existing tree of life–viruses incite the curiosity of many people.

Scientists have long been interested in how viruses evolved, especially when it comes to giant viruses that can produce new viruses with very little help from the host–in contrast to most small viruses, which utilize the host’s machinery to replicate.

Even though giant viruses are not what most people would think of when it comes to viruses, they are actually very common in oceans and other water bodies. They infect single-celled aquatic organisms and have major effects on the latter’s population. In fact, Dr. Kiran Kondabagil, molecular virologist at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, suggests, “Because these single-celled organisms greatly influence the carbon turnover in the ocean, the viruses have an important role in our world’s ecology. So, it is just as important to study them and their evolution, as it is to study the disease-causing viruses.”

In a recent study, the findings of which have been published in Molecular Biology and Evolution, Dr. Kondabagil and co-researcher Dr. Supriya Patil performed a series of analyses on major genes and proteins involved in the DNA replication machinery of Mimivirus, the first group of giant viruses to be identified. They aimed to determine which of two major suggestions regarding Mimivirus evolution–the reduction and the virus-first hypotheses–were more supported by their results. The reduction hypothesis suggests that the giant viruses emerged from unicellular organisms and shed genes over time; the virus-first hypothesis suggests that they were around before single-celled organisms and gained genes, instead.

Dr. Kondabagil and Dr. Patil created phylogenetic trees with replication proteins and found that those from Mimivirus were more closely related to eukaryotes than to bacteria or small viruses. Additionally, they used a technique called multidimensional scaling to determine how similar the Mimiviral proteins are. A greater similarity would indicate that the proteins co-evolved, which means that they are linked together in a larger protein complex with coordinated function. And indeed, their findings showed greater similarity. Finally, the researchers showed that genes related to DNA replication are similar to and fall under purifying selection, which is natural selection that removes harmful gene variants, constraining the genes and preventing their sequences from varying. Such a phenomenon typically occurs when the genes are involved in essential functions (like DNA replication) in an organism.

Taken together, these results imply that Mimiviral DNA replication machinery is ancient and evolved over a long period of time. This narrows us down to the reduction hypothesis, which suggests that the DNA replication machinery already existed in a unicellular ancestor, and the giant viruses were formed after getting rid of other structures in the ancestor, leaving only replication-related parts of the genome.

“Our findings are very exciting because they inform how life on earth has evolved,” Dr. Kondabagil says. “Because these giant viruses probably predate the diversification of the unicellular ancestor into bacteria, archaea, and eukaryotes, they should have had major influence on the subsequent evolutionary trajectory of eukaryotes, which are their hosts.”

In terms of applications beyond this contribution to basic scientific knowledge, Dr. Kondabagil feels that their work could lay the groundwork for translational research into technology like genetic engineering and nanotechnology. He says, “An increased understanding of the mechanisms by which viruses copy themselves and self-assemble means we could potentially modify these viruses to replicate genes we want or create nanobots based on how the viruses function. The possibilities are far-reaching!”

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Reference

Authors: Kiran Kondabagil and Supriya Patil

Title of original paper: Coevolutionary and Phylogenetic Analysis of Mimiviral Replication Machinery Suggest the Cellular Origin of Mimiviruses

Journal: Molecular Biology and Evolution

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/molbev/msab003

Affiliations: Department of Biosciences and Bioengineering, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, Powai, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

About Dr. Kiran Kondabagil from IIT Bombay

Dr. Kondabagil is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biosciences and Bioengineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay. He is also the Principal Investigator of the Molecular Virology Lab in the department. He has been a Post-doctoral Fellow and Assistant Professor at The Catholic University of America, Washington DC. He has about 9 journal articles, 3 book chapters, and 8 patents to his name. His chief areas of interest are bacteriophages, molecular microbiology, and gene targeting.

https://rnd.iitb.ac.in/research-glimpse/history-giants-gene-scientists-use-dna-trace-origins-giant-viruses

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Source: https://bioengineer.org/history-of-giants-in-the-gene-scientists-use-dna-to-trace-the-origins-of-giant-viruses/

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ZDNET

Microsoft brings Threat and Vulnerability Management capability to Linux

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threatvulnerabilitymaclinux.jpg

Microsoft is enabling IT pros to keep tabs on the security of their Linux devices using the company’s Defender for Endpoint product (formerly known as Microsoft Defender Advanced Thread Protection). The Threat and Vulnerability Management (TVM) capabilities already available for Windows, and Windows Server are now also in public preview for macOS and Linux as of today, May 11. And Microsoft plans to bring TVM to Android and iOS devices later this summer, officials said today.

TVM allows users to review recently discovered vulnerabilities within applications and potential misconfigurations across Linux and remediate any affected managed and unmanaged devices. Users currently can discover, prioritize and remediate more than 30 known unsecure configurations in macOS and Linux with this capability. Initially, Microsoft is supporting RHEL, CentOS and Ubuntu Linux, with Oracle Linux, SUSE and Debian being added shortly, according to a Microsoft security blog post.

The ability to assess secure configurations in threat and vulnerability management is a component of Microsoft Secure Score for Devices. It also will be part of Microsoft Secure Score all up once generally available.

In other Patch Tuesday news, Microsoft rolled out the 21H1 of the Windows Holographic OS today. This is the version of Windows 10 that works on HoloLens devices, not 21H1 for regular PCs. (Windows 10 21H1 still has yet to start rolling out to mainstream users and remains in preview.)

Windows Holographic 21H1 (build 20346.1002) features the new Chromium-based Edge; more granular controls in the settings app; support for “Swipe to Type” in the holographic keyboard; a new Power menu; the ability to display multiple user accounts on the sign-in screen and more.

Today also is the last day that several versions of Windows 10 will get security updates. Windows 10 1803 for Enterprise and Education, Version 1809 for Enterprise and Education and Version 1909 Home/Pro are all at end-of-service as of today. Users should upgrade to a newer version of Windows 10 to continue to get security updates.

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Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/microsoft-brings-threat-and-vulnerability-management-capability-to-linux/#ftag=RSSbaffb68

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ZDNET

Intuit lowers Q3 guidance, raises FY 2021 outlook

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Intuit on Wednesday said it is lowering its guidance for third quarter revenue. Sales and operating income in the quarter were lower than expected, the financial software maker said, due to the extension of the IRS tax filing deadline to May 17. 

However, the company said it is raising its full year fiscal 2021 outlook for total revenue, GAAP and Non-GAAP operating income, and GAAP and Non-GAAP earnings per share.

Intuit will report its Q3 results on May 25. 

“The velocity of our innovation is accelerating, delivering benefits for our customers and growth across the company,” CEO Sasan Goodarzi said in a statement. “We’re proud of the progress we’ve made and expect to exceed the top end of our guidance for the full year.” 

For Q3, the company expects to report revenue of $4.165 billion to $4.170 billion, down from the prior guidance range of $4.605 billion to $4.655 billion. It expects non-GAAP diluted earnings per share of $6.00 to $6.05, down from the prior range of $6.75 to $6.85.

Intuit said it will update full fiscal 2021 guidance on its Q3 earnings call. 

In February, the company reported Q2 results that fell below expectations due to the delayed tax season.

Tech Earnings

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Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/intuit-lowers-q3-guidance-raises-fy-2021-outlook/#ftag=RSSbaffb68

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