From stationary to flying qubits at speeds never reached before…. This feat, achieved by a team from Polytechnique Montréal and France’s Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), brings us a little closer to the era when information is transmitted via quantum principles.
A paper titled “High-Fidelity and Ultrafast Initialization of a Hole-Spin Bound to a Te Isoelectronic Centre in ZnSe” was recently published in the prestigious journal Physical Review Letters. The creation of a qubit in zinc selenide, a well-known semi-conductor material, made it possible to produce an interface between quantum physics that governs the behaviour of matter on a nanometre scale and the transfer of information at the speed of light, thereby paving the way to producing quantum communications networks.
Classical physics vs. quantum physics
In today’s computers, classical physics rules. Billions of electrons work together to make up an information bit: 0, electrons are absent and 1, electrons are present. In quantum physics, single electrons are instead preferred since they express an amazing attribute: the electron can take the value of 0, 1 or any superposition of these two states. This is the qubit, the quantum equivalent of the classical bit. Qubits provide stunning possibilities for researchers.
An electron revolves around itself, somewhat like a spinning top. That’s the spin. By applying a magnetic field, this spin points up, down, or simultaneously points both up and down to form a qubit. Better still, instead of using an electron, we can use the absence of an electron; this is what physicists call a “hole.” Like its electron cousin, the hole has a spin from which a qubit can be formed. Qubits are intrinsically fragile quantum creature, they therefore need a special environment.
Zinc selenide, tellurium impurities: a world first
Zinc selenide, or ZnSe, is a crystal in which atoms are precisely organized. It is also a semi-conductor into which it is easy to intentionally introduce tellurium impurities, a close relative of selenium in the periodic table, on which holes are trapped, rather like air bubbles in a glass.
This environment protects the hole’s spin – our qubit – and helps maintaining its quantum information accurately for longer periods; it’s the coherence time, the time that physicists the world over are trying to extend by all possible means. The choice of zinc selenide is purposeful, since it may provide the quietest environment of all semiconductor materials.
Polytechnique Montréal and CNRS of France, a team effort
Philippe St-Jean, a doctoral student on Professor Sébastien Francoeur’s team, uses photons generated by a laser to initialize the hole and record quantum information on it. To read it, he excites the hole again with a laser and then collects the emitted photons. The result is a quantum transfer of information between the stationary qubit, encoded in the spin of the hole held captive in the crystal, and the flying qubit – the photon, which of course travels at the speed of light.
This new technique shows that it is possible to create a qubit faster than with all the methods that have been used until now. Indeed, a mere hundred or so picoseconds, or less than a billionth of a second, are sufficient to go from a flying qubit to a static qubit, and vice-versa.
Although this accomplishment bodes well, there remains a lot of work to do before a quantum network can be used to conduct unconditionally secure banking transactions or build a quantum computer able to perform the most complex calculations. That is the daunting task which Sébastien Francoeur’s research team will continue to tackle.
In the race towards miniaturization, a French-US team—mostly involving researchers from the CNRS, Université de Lille, Université de Nantes and Argonne National Laboratory (US) as part of the Research Network on Electrochemical Energy Storage (RS2E)1—has succeeded in improving the energy density of a rechargeable battery without increasing its size (limited to a few square millimeters in mobile sensors). This feat was achieved by developing a 3D structure made of microtubes, the first step towards producing a complete microbattery. The first experiments have demonstrated the excellent conductivity of the battery’s solid electrolyte, whose highly encouraging performance is published in the journal Advanced Energy Materials on October 11, 2016.
In the era of connected devices, intelligent connected microsensors require miniature embedded energy sources with great energy density. For ultra-thin—or planar—microbatteries, increased energy density means using thicker layers of materials, which has obvious limitations. A second method—used by the authors of the publication—consists in machining a silicon wafer2 and producing an original 3D structure made of simple or double microtubes. 3D batteries keep their 1mm2 footprint area, but develop a specific area of 50 mm2—an enhancement factor of 50! These robust microtubes are large enough (of the order of the micron) to be coated with multiple layers of functional materials3.
The main technological challenge consisted precisely in depositing the different materials that make up the rechargeable battery in thin and regular layers on these complex 3D structures. Using the cutting edge technology of Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD), the materials perfectly took on the 3D shape of the template without blocking the tube structures. In this way the researchers created an insulating thin film, a current collector, a negative electrode, and a solid electrolyte. The various analyses and characterizations (synchrotron X-ray nanotomography and transmission electron microscopy4) show that the successive layers are of excellent quality, showing conformality of nearly 100%. The interfaces are clean (no interdiffusion between the different chemical elements), with no pinholes, cracks, or fissures detected.
Lithium phosphate, the electrolyte of this future 3D microbattery, is in solid form5. After depositing it using the same ALD technology, researchers showed that it has a high electrochemical stability window (4.2 V), high ionic conductivity, and low thickness (10 to 50 nm), which generates low surface resistance, all of which are very encouraging for the future performance of the 3D battery.
The next step will consist in using ALD to develop thin films of positive electrode materials in order to create the first functional 3D prototypes, which will certainly offer much greater performance than today’s planar microbatteries.
Learn more: New 3D design for mobile microbatteries
Researchers from the Graphene Flagship use layered materials to create an all-electrical quantum light emitting diodes (LED) with single-photon emission. These LEDs have potential as on-chip photon sources in quantum information applications.
Atomically thin LEDs emitting one photon at a time have been developed by researchers from the Graphene Flagship. Constructed of layers of atomically thin materials, including transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs), graphene, and boron nitride, the ultra-thin LEDs showing all-electrical single photon generation could be excellent on-chip quantum light sources for a wide range of photonics applications for quantum communications and networks. The research, reported in Nature Communications, was led by the University of Cambridge, UK.
The ultra-thin devices reported in the paper are constructed of thin layers of different layered materials, stacked together to form a heterostructure. Electrical current is injected into the device, tunnelling from single-layer graphene, through few-layer boron nitride acting as a tunnel barrier, and into the mono- or bi-layer TMD material, such as tungsten diselenide (WSe2), where electrons recombine with holes to emit single photons. At high currents, this recombination occurs across the whole surface of the device, while at low currents, the quantum behaviour is apparent and the recombination is concentrated in highly localised quantum emitters.
All-electrical single photon emission is a key priority for integrated quantum optoelectronics. Typically, single photon generation relies on optical excitation and requires large-scale optical set-ups with lasers and precise alignment of optical components. This research brings on-chip single photon emission for quantum communication a step closer. Professor Mete Atatüre (Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge, UK), co-author of the research, explains “Ultimately, in a scalable circuit, we need fully integrated devices that we can control by electrical impulses, instead of a laser that focuses on different segments of an integrated circuit. For quantum communication with single photons, and quantum networks between different nodes – for example, to couple qubits – we want to be able to just drive current, and get light out. There are many emitters that are optically excitable, but only a handful are electrically driven” In their devices, a modest current of less than 1 µA ensures that the single-photon behaviour dominates the emission characteristics.
The layered structure of TMDs makes them ideal for use in ultra-thin heterostructures for use on chips, and also adds the benefit of atomically precise layer interfacing. The quantum emitters are highly localised in the TMD layer and have spectrally sharp emission spectra. The layered nature also offers an advantage over some other single-photon emitters for feasible and effective integration into nanophotonic circuits. Professor Frank Koppens (ICFO, Spain), leader of Work Package 8 – Optoelectronics and Photonics, adds “Electrically driven single photon sources are essential for many applications, and this first realisation with layered materials is a real milestone. This ultra-thin and flexible platform offers high levels of tunability, design freedom, and integration capabilities with nano-electronic platforms including silicon CMOS.”
This research is a fantastic example of the possibilities that can be opened up with new discoveries about materials. Quantum dots were discovered to exist in layered TMDs only very recently, with research published simultaneously in early 2015 by several different research groups including groups currently working within the Graphene Flagship. Dr Marek Potemski and co-workers working at CNRS (France) in collaboration with researchers at the University of Warsaw (Poland) discovered stable quantum emitters at the edges of WSe2 monolayers, displaying highly localised photoluminescence with single-photon emission characteristics. Professor Kis and colleagues working at ETH Zurich and EPFL (Switzerland) also observed single photon emitters with narrow linewidths in WSe2. At the same time, Professor van der Zant and colleagues from Delft University of Technology (Netherlands), working with researchers at the University of Münster (Germany) observed that the localised emitters in WSe2 are due to trapped excitons, and suggested that they originate from structural defects. These quantum emitters have the potential to supplant research into the more traditional quantum dot counterparts because of their numerous benefits of the ultrathin devices of the layered structures.
With this research, quantum emitters are now seen in another TMD material, namely tungsten disulphide (WS2). Professor Atatüre says “We chose WS2 because it has higher bandgap, and we wanted to see if different materials offered different parts of the spectra for single photon emission. With this, we have shown that the quantum emission is not a unique feature of WSe2, which suggests that many other layered materials might be able to host quantum dot-like features as well.”
It employs 26,000 permanent employees (researchers, engineers, and administrative staff) and 6,000 temporary workers.
The National Committee for Scientific Research, which is in charge of the recruitment and evaluation of researchers, is divided into 47 sections (e.g. section 1 is mathematics; section 7 is computer science and control). Research groups are affiliated with one primary institute and an optional secondary institute; the researchers themselves belong to one section.
For administrative purposes, the CNRS is divided into 18 regional divisions (including four just for the region of Paris).
CNRS runs its research units either independently or in association with other institutions, such as INSERM or universities. In French these units are called laboratoires informally and unités de recherche in administrative parlance. They are either operated solely by CNRS (and then known as unités propres de recherche or UPR) or as mixed organizations (unités mixtes de recherche or UMR), respectively. Each research unit has a unique numeric code attached and is headed by a director (typically, a university professor or CNRS research director). A research unit may be divided into research groups (“équipes”).
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique research articles from Innovation Toronto
Researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin have invented a new flexible smart window material that, when incorporated into windows, sunroofs, or even curved glass surfaces, will have the ability to control both heat and light from the sun. Their article about the new material will be published in the September issue of Nature Materials.
Delia Milliron, an associate professor in the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering, and her team’s advancement is a new low-temperature process for coating the new smart material on plastic, which makes it easier and cheaper to apply than conventional coatings made directly on the glass itself. The team demonstrated a flexible electrochromic device, which means a small electric charge (about 4 volts) can lighten or darken the material and control the transmission of heat-producing, near-infrared radiation. Such smart windows are aimed at saving on cooling and heating bills for homes and businesses.
The research team is an international collaboration, including scientists at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility and CNRS in France, and Ikerbasque in Spain. Researchers at UT Austin’s College of Natural Sciences provided key theoretical work.
Milliron and her team’s low-temperature process generates a material with a unique nanostructure, which doubles the efficiency of the coloration process compared with a coating produced by a conventional high-temperature process. It can switch between clear and tinted more quickly, using less power.
The new electrochromic material, like its high-temperature processed counterpart, has an amorphous structure, meaning the atoms lack any long-range organization as would be found in a crystal. However, the new process yields a unique local arrangement of the atoms in a linear, chain-like structure. Whereas conventional amorphous materials produced at high temperature have a denser three-dimensionally bonded structure, the researchers’ new linearly structured material, made of chemically condensed niobium oxide, allows ions to flow in and out more freely. As a result, it is twice as energy efficient as the conventionally processed smart window material.
At the heart of the team’s study is their rare insight into the atomic-scale structure of the amorphous materials, whose disordered structures are difficult to characterize. Because there are few techniques for characterizing the atomic-scale structure sufficiently enough to understand properties, it has been difficult to engineer amorphous materials to enhance their performance.
“There’s relatively little insight into amorphous materials and how their properties are impacted by local structure,” Milliron said. “But, we were able to characterize with enough specificity what the local arrangement of the atoms is, so that it sheds light on the differences in properties in a rational way.”
Graeme Henkelman, a co-author on the paper and chemistry professor in UT Austin’s College of Natural Sciences, explains that determining the atomic structure for amorphous materials is far more difficult than for crystalline materials, which have an ordered structure. In this case, the researchers were able to use a combination of techniques and measurements to determine an atomic structure that is consistent in both experiment and theory.
“Such collaborative efforts that combine complementary techniques are, in my view, the key to the rational design of new materials,” Henkelman said.
Milliron believes the knowledge gained here could inspire deliberate engineering of amorphous materials for other applications such as supercapacitors that store and release electrical energy rapidly and efficiently.
The Milliron lab’s next challenge is to develop a flexible material using their low-temperature process that meets or exceeds the best performance of electrochromic materials made by conventional high-temperature processing.
“We want to see if we can marry the best performance with this new low-temperature processing strategy,” she said.
Controlling bubbles is a difficult process and one that many of us experienced in a simplistic form as young children wielding a bubble wand, trying to create bigger bubbles without popping them. A research team in CINaM-CNRS Aix-Marseille Université in France has turned child’s play into serious business.
They demonstrated they could immobilize a microbubble created from water electrolysis as if the Archimedes’ buoyant force that would normally push it to the surface didn’t exist. This new and surprising phenomenon described this week in Applied Physics Letters, from AIP Publishing, could lead to applications in medicine, the nuclear industry or micromanipulation technology.
While bubbles are observed frequently in nature, it is not easy to control their diameter, position or time of formation. Previous work by the French research team explored how to control the hydrogen and oxygen gas bubbles formed by the breakdown of water using electricity. They showed that if one of the electrodes is tip-shaped with a curvature radius at its apex ranging from 1 nanometer to 1 micrometer and an alternating electric current with deﬁnite values of amplitude and frequency was used, microbubbles could be produced at a single point at the apex of the nanoelectrode.
In the current work, the team has demonstrated a new and surprising phenomenon: the immobilization of a single microbubble in water. After a bubble is produced (at the apex of the nanoelectrode), it is immobilized by rapidly increasing the frequency of the electric current. It is a stable situation: No matter which direction the electrode moves, the bubble remains above and at the same distance from the electrode.
The scientists propose that the hydrogen or oxygen molecules enter the immobilized bubble through the lower surface and exit the bubble through the upper surface. The gas molecules are only produced at a single point at the apex of the nanoelectrode.
The team from CINaM-CNRS worked with researchers in acoustics who use ultrasounds for the detection and the characterization of microbubbles. They needed highly calibrated bubbles and the team proposed producing such bubbles using water electrolysis. The team incorporated a number of new ideas and methods in their approach. “While it is usual to consider that electrolysis is controlled by the electric potential, we show that the fundamental quantity is in fact the electric field which is why we use a tip-shaped electrode with a very small curvature radius at the apex,” said Juan Olives, a member of the research team. The use of an alternating current of sufficient frequency then produces “nanoelectrolysis”, which is the nanolocalization of the electrolysis reactions at a single point.
The greatest surprise in the findings was that, although nothing seems to move when you observe the experiment, in fact, all is moving in an apparent steady state, Olives said. Hydrogen and oxygen molecules are continually produced at the apex of the nanoelectrode, they move in the solution and in the bubble, they enter and leave the bubble, and there is a convection velocity in the solution and in the bubble. Everything is moving, except the surface of the bubble, Olives said.
Controlling microbubbles is critical to numerous applications in medicine including as ultrasound contrast agents, for breaking up blood clots, and for gas embolotherapy, which is the intentional blocking of an artery to prevent excessive blood loss. Controlling microbubbles is also important in the nuclear industry, where microbubbles in liquid sodium coolant can cause problems.
Researchers at Hiroshima University, CNRS, and Université de Strasbourg synthesized crystals with magnetic properties that can change continuously and reversibly, a world first.
The study was highlighted as a cover article of the journal “Inorganic Chemistry,” a publication of the American Chemical Society in March 2016.
Recently, the scientific community has had immense interest in new types of magnets with the potential to create the next generation of energy efficient devices through innovations using materials science techniques.
Common magnets, like those holding reminders on home refrigerators or turning car motors, are made of metal and metal oxides. Newer magnets can be made with organic molecules and can have a range of magnetic behaviors because of variations in their molecular structure.
That range of behavior includes the strongly magnetic ferrimagnetic state and the very weakly magnetic spin glass state.
The different seasons in Hiroshima, Japan can affect the humidity inside office and research buildings throughout the year. Crystals prepared in different seasons showed different magnetic properties even though their crystal structures were almost identical.
“To find the source of the different magnetic states, we prepared the crystals under controlled conditions of temperature and humidity,” said Li Li, first author of the research paper and a Ph.D. student in the Department of Chemistry at Hiroshima University.
The crystals synthesized by the research team can exist in either the ferrimagnetic or spin glass state, depending on the conditions of how they are synthesized. This is the first material known to reversibly and continuously transition between magnetic states.
As the crystals absorb water from the air, they undergo subtle structural changes responsible for the continuous transformation between ferrimagnet and spin glass. By applying pressure, the effect can be reversed. This allows fine-tuning of the magnetic states, and explains why the humidity in the research lab can affect the crystals.
Using the research team’s synthesis methods, increasing the pressure on the crystal changes the spin glass state into the ferrimagnet state and drying the crystal changes ferrimagnet into spin glass. Pressure and humidity are like dimmer switches to slide the crystal back and forth between the two states.
Additionally, the crystal is chiral, meaning it can exist in either one orientation or its own mirror image. These mirror image versions of the molecule are not superimposable, like right and left human hands.
Both right-handed and left-handed versions of the crystals can transition between the ferrimagnet and spin glass states. However, there are valuable applications exclusive to chiral molecules due to their unique chemical and optical properties.
“Our laboratory primarily researches chiral magnets, but this is the first time we found one compound with multiple magnetic states,” said Katsuya Inoue, Ph.D., one of the researchers involved and the leader of Hiroshima University’s Center for Chiral Science.
Chiral magnets can be used in spintronics devices, which are the current state-of-the-art data storage technology that use less power, are faster, and can store more information than previous generations of computer hard drives.
“We imagine that a chiral material with two or more magnetic states will provide further technological advantages because of its handedness,” said Inoue.
“This is a brand new breed of molecular material and it requires finesse to synthesize. Our results might not lead directly to immediate practical applications, but advances made in the science of chiral magnets are generating properties not experienced before, opening a bright future of new innovations,” said Inoue.
Researchers from the Institut Jacques Monod (CNRS/University of Paris Diderot), the Institute of Biology of the Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS/CNRS/Inserm), and the University of Bristol, have described for the first time in its totality the mechanisms by which DNA damaged by UV radiation is repaired, and how the proteins involved in this process cooperate to ensure its efficiency.
This work opens new perspectives not only in the fight against cancer but also in combating certain bacterial infections, and is published in Nature on August 3rd 2016.
The DNA of our cells is continuously damaged by numerous external agents, such as carcinogens contained in tobacco smoke or UV radiation emitted by the sun. If left unrepaired, this damage leads to mutations which ultimately favor the emergence of cancerous cells, which is why the cell must rapidly and efficiently repair its DNA. To do so, the cell employs a battery of enzymes which must act in a synchronous fashion to identify and repair the damaged parts of its genome. The complexity of this process has long stumped researchers trying to understand the mechanisms at play.
Thanks to new nanotechnologies, a team of scientists which brings together both physicists and biologists has been able to film, in real-time, the enzymes that repair DNA damage. This work started in 2012, when the team focused on the initial steps of the DNA repair mechanism. Today the team has revealed, for the first time, the repair process in its entirety.
A special type of microscope, which makes it possible to both manipulate and observe single molecules of DNA and proteins, has enabled the team to observe a single DNA molecule, damaged by UV. They added to it the RNA polymerase enzyme, the one naturally responsible for “reading” the lengths of the DNA code and initiating production of protein from this DNA code, but which can get “stalled” if it reads a segment of damaged DNA. It is thanks to this “stalling” that the cell recognizes that the DNA has been damaged and launches its repair. In practical terms, the team of scientists was able to observe a series of four proteins (named Mfd, UvrA, UvrB and UvrC) successively interacting with the RNA polymerase and coordinating among themselves and the UV-damaged DNA to enact the latter’s repair.
By determining the order in which these components acted and by characterizing the manner in which they “handed off” to each other in a kind of molecular relay-race, the team was able to define the critical steps of this process.
This work will ultimately lead to new applications, both in the fight against cancer and in efforts to treat pathogenic bacteria. Indeed, when cancer cells become resistant to chemotherapy or radiation therapy – the purpose of which is to damage the DNA of cancer cells – it is because these cancer cells have activated DNA repair and undone clinically-generated DNA damage. One can thus work towards preventing DNA repair during cancer therapy so as to prevent tumor resistance to therapy. It also turns out that some pathogenic bacteria, including those responsible for tuberculosis, use proteins very similar to Mfd to proliferate. Thus, identifying how these proteins work together to enact DNA repair could also be useful in fighting pathogenic bacteria.
Researchers from KU Leuven, the University of Strasbourg, and CNRS have discovered a new phosphor that could make next-generation fluorescent and LED lighting even cheaper and more efficient. The team used highly luminescent clusters of silver atoms and the porous framework of minerals known as zeolites.
Silver clusters consist of just a few silver atoms and have remarkable optical properties. However, current applications are limited, because the clusters tend to aggregate into larger particles, thus losing the interesting optical properties.
Professor Hofkens and his team from the Molecular Imaging and Photonics Unit have now found a way to keep the silver clusters apart by inserting them into the porous framework of zeolites. The result: stable silver clusters that maintain their unique optical properties.
From trial and error to brute force
A Franco-Japanese research group at the University of Tokyo has developed a new “brute force” technique to test thousands of biochemical reactions at once and quickly home in on the range of conditions where they work best. Until now, optimizing such biomolecular systems, which can be applied for example to diagnostics, would have required months or years of trial and error experiments, but with this new technique that could be shortened to days.
“We are interested in programming complex biochemical systems so that they can process information in a way that is analogous to electronic devices. If you could obtain a high-resolution map of all possible combinations of reaction conditions and their corresponding outcomes, the development of such reactions for specific purposes like diagnostic tests would be quicker than it is today,” explains Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) researcher Yannick Rondelez at the Institute of Industrial Science (IIS).
“Currently researchers use a combination of computer simulations and painstaking experiments. However, while simulations can test millions of conditions, they are based on assumptions about how molecules behave and may not reflect the full detail of reality. On the other hand, testing all possible conditions, even for a relatively simple design, is a daunting job.”
Rondelez and his colleagues at the Laboratory for Integrated Micro-Mechanical Systems (LIMMS), a 20-year collaboration between the IIS and the French CNRS, demonstrated a system that can test ten thousand different biochemical reaction conditions at once. Working with the IIS Applied Microfluidic Laboratory of Professor Teruo Fujii, they developed a platform to generate a myriad of micrometer-sized droplets containing random concentrations of reagents and then sandwich a single layer of them between glass slides. Fluorescent markers combined with the reagents are automatically read by a microscope to determine the precise concentrations in each droplet and also observe how the reaction proceeds.
After more than half a decade of speculation, fabrication, modeling and testing, an international team of researchers led by Drexel University’s Yury Gogotsi, PhD , and Patrice Simon, PhD, of Paul Sabatier University in Toulouse, France, have confirmed that their process for making carbon films and micro-supercapacitors will allow microchips and their power sources to become one and the same.
The discovery, which was reported in a recent edition of the journal Science, is the culmination of years of collaborative research by the team who initially created the carbide-derived carbon film material for microsupercapacitors and published the concept paper in Science in 2010. Since then, their goal has been to show that it’s possible to physically couple the processing center of an electronic device — the microchip — with its energy source.
“This has taken us quite some time, but we set a lofty goal of not just making an energy storage device as small as a microchip — but actually making an energy storage device that is part of the microchip and to do it in a way that is easily integrated into current silicon chip manufacturing processes,” said Simon, who led the research under the aegis of the French research network on electrochemical energy storage (RS2E), a spin-off of Le Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and France’s Ministry of Research. “With this achievement, the future is now wide open for chip and personal electronics manufacturers.”
It confirms a belief that the group has held since the materials were first fabricated — that these films are versatile enough to be seamlessly integrated into the systems that power silicon-based microchips that run devices from your laptop to your smart watch.
The challenges that the group faced in the development of the material were questions about its compatibility, its mechanical stability and durability for use on flexible substrates. With these answered, it opens up a myriad of possibilities for carbon films to work their way into silicon chips — including building microscale batteries on a chip.
“The place where most people will eventually notice the impact of this development is in the size of their personal electronic devices, their smart phones, fitbits89 and watches,” said Gogotsi, Distinguished University and Trustee Chair Professor in the Department of Materials Science Engineering who directs the A.J. Drexel Nanomaterials Institute in Drexel’s College of Engineering. “Even more importantly,” Gogotsi adds, “on-chip energy storage is needed to create the Internet of Things – the network of all kinds of physical objects ranging from vehicles and buildings to our clothes embedded with electronics, sensors, and network connectivity, which enables these objects to collect and exchange data. This work is an important step toward that future.”
LupuzorTM may become the first specific and non-immunosuppressant therapy for lupus, a disabling autoimmune disease that is currently incurable.
Discovered by Sylviane Muller’s team in the CNRS Immunopathologie et Chimie Thérapeutique laboratory, in Strasbourg, this peptide is the subject of a CNRS patent (granted in 2009) and has already successfully completed phases I and II of its regulatory clinical trials, supervised by ImmuPharma-France. An international phase III pivotal trial1, also managed by this company, will begin in a few days’ time in the US when the first patient starts the treatment, before the trial is extended to Europe. Phase III is the last stage in the testing of a candidate drug, before it can be given market approval. The launch of phase III was the subject of a meeting involving around a hundred physicians on December 11-12, in Paris.
Lupus2 is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects more than five million people worldwide (around 30,000 in France), 90% of whom are women. It is characterized by the production of autoantibodies that attack different organs (skin, joints, vascular system, brain, kidneys) and cause inflammation, hence the broad range of possible symptoms: skin lesions, joint pain, thromboses, psychotic episodes, etc. To alleviate this disease with many causes, only palliative treatments are available at present, most of which are non-specific: corticosteroids and immunosuppressants, but they also weaken the immune system. Although they can stop autoimmune attacks, they also render patients highly susceptible to multiple infections. It was therefore urgent to develop a more targeted therapy.
The team led by Sylviane Muller, who received the 2015 CNRS Medal of Innovation3, developed a family of peptides (protein fragments) that can specifically correct dysfunction of the immune system4. One of these peptides, called P1405, proved capable of delaying the development of lupus in affected mice, while preserving their immune systems’ ability to fight infective agents. Since then, phase I and II clinical trials have been carried out6 by the company ImmuPharma-France, which holds an exclusive license for the patents that protect this family of peptides, all owned by the CNRS or filed as joint property. During phase II trials, the disease regressed in 62% of patients after 3 months of treatment: this is the best result ever to have been achieved for this pathology.
Following these successes, ImmuPharma-France launched its pivotal phase III trial. In the same way as during the phase IIb trials, the candidate drug will be administered under double-blind conditions once a month by the subcutaneous route, at a rate of 200 µg per injection, but the duration of treatment will be extended to a year, as opposed to 3 months previously. Two hundred patients will be included in this trial, spread across 45 centers (10 in the US and 35 in Europe7). The first patients will be recruited in the US by the end of 2015. In Europe, the trial should be starting in mid-January in the first centers, which include those in France. Recruitment should be completed by mid-2016 and the final results are anticipated at the end of 2017.
The first Investigators’ Meeting for the phase III trial took place on December 11 and 12 in Paris, and involved around a hundred American and European physicians.
Once this final phase of clinical trials is completed, and provided the results confirm those of phase IIb, LupuzorTM could be put on the market and subsequently play a central role in the treatment of patients with lupus.
According to preclinical findings, LupuzorTM may also be effective in other chronic autoimmune pathologies, such as Sjögren’s syndrome (dry eye syndrome) or Crohn’s disease (an autoimmune disease that causes chronic intestinal inflammation). Fundamental studies on these promising leads are now underway in Sylviane Muller’s laboratory.