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Making Company Airwaves Safe for WiFi

People who surf the net at home on wireless "WiFi" networks often wish they could roam untethered with the same laptop at work. Usually that's not possible. For one thing, inexpensive, standardized technology that makes these networks so popular in homes, at Starbucks (SBUX), and in other wireless hot spots includes standard encryption that corporate network managers hate because it is so easy to hack. "Everyone knows how to break it. You can do it in 10 minutes," says Pankaj Manglik, a founder of startup Aruba Wireless Networks.

Manglik and co-founder Keerti Melkote have designed tools to let the corporate IT guys lock down the airwaves. The main component is a secure wireless network switch that sits in the wiring closet next to the other critical network devices. That switch applies control mechanisms to packets of data that travel over the air, allowing legitimate users onto the network, blocking others, and keeping the systems people briefed. Aruba has filed for patents and begun talking with potential customers in financial services and other sectors. Environmentalists have long reviled golf courses because of their profligate use of water and dependence on pesticides and herbicides. One solution might be new varieties of a grass called seashore paspalum, which were discovered in South Africa and adapted by researchers at the University of Georgia.

Because the grass has deep roots and is saltwater-tolerant, it can flourish on less than half the water and fertilizer needed for the Bermuda grass favored for golf courses. Paspalum also eliminates the need for most herbicides and pesticides: Small quantities of salt can be used to kill weeds.

The new varieties have already been adopted at 39 courses in the U.S., including the venerable Sea Island Golf Club in Georgia, and a further 50 links in Malaysia, China, the Middle East, and the Caribbean. Jim Torba, superintendent at Bayshore Golf Course in Miami Beach, says he used to spend $300,000 a year on water for Bermuda and tufted dwarf grasses. Since resodding the course last May with the new variety of paspalum, he has slashed his water bill by 80% and drastically cut back on pesticides. What's more, says University of Georgia turf researcher Ronny Duncan, paspalum's dense, waxy feel has won favorable reviews from some golfers. Duncan says the grass works best in the warmer climates. The hormone estrogen has taken considerable heat for its probable role in breast-cancer development, but it brings advantages, too. Motherhood, it seems, protects the brain by washing it with estrogen and other hormones. Craig H. Kinsley, associate professor of neuroscience at Virginia's University of Richmond, told a recent meeting of the Society of Neuroscience that female rats that have had two or more litters of pups do much better in tests of memory than rats with no young. Mother rats' brains also undergo structural changes that may protect them against Alzheimer's. Estrogen, which increases in the brain during pregnancy, may strengthen neurons, says Kinsley.

Other substances appear to be brain boosters: A team of Tufts University researchers told the meeting that rats fed on blueberry supplements equal to one cup daily in humans for two months showed improved memory performance. Blueberries are very high in antioxidants, which shield cells from the rogue molecules that speed the aging process. Cancer researchers have long been trying to figure out a way to goad the body's immune system into attacking tumors. Toward that end, they have developed dozens of vaccines that typically target a specific protein on the surface of cancer cells. Genzyme Corp. (GENZ) in Framingham, Mass., is exploring a radically different approach: electrically fusing an immune-system cell to an entire cancer cell. The hope behind the fusion technique, developed by Dr. Donald Kufe and Dr. Jianlin Gong of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, is that the resulting vaccine, tailored to each patient, will have an easier time finding and destroying malignant cells that might otherwise evade detection.

In November, Genzyme announced that it had started enrolling 30 kidney-cancer patients in its first clinical trial of the vaccine, conducted at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. Patients will have some cancer cells surgically removed and fused to dendritic cells, which have the power to initiate a full-blown immune-system response. The resulting molecules will be administered to the patient through multiple injections in the thigh and abdomen. Once infused, the molecules should be able to trigger a response that will target whole cancer cells with greater efficacy than other experimental vaccines.

Dr. David Avigan of Beth Israel, the lead investigator, says kidney cancer, one of the deadliest forms of the disease, is particularly hard to treat because it quickly spreads through the body. "Our hope," he explains, "is to demonstrate the potential of innovative vaccines for the treatment of cancer, without harmful side effects."

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