AI Could Drive Fusion Breakthrough at Plasma Physics Lab

Researchers at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab say that new artificial intelligence techniques could bring the dream of clean, limitless fusion energy closer to reality. In a new paper published in the journal Nature, scientists from Princeton University, which operates the lab, and Harvard University, say that “deep learning” AI could help overcome one of the problems that fusion reactors encounter: sudden disruptions that halt reactions and damage the reactors.

“This research opens a promising new chapter in the effort to bring unlimited energy to Earth,” said Steve Cowley, director of PPPL. “Artificial intelligence is exploding across the sciences and now it’s beginning to contribute to the worldwide quest for fusion power.”

The researchers developed an AI tool that forecasts disruptions using two massive databases created by the DIII-D National Fusion Facility operated by General Atomics in California and the Joint European Torus in Britain.

Researchers believe AI will help control as well as predict disruptions in the larger fusion reactors that are planned for the future.

“Artificial intelligence is the most intriguing area of scientific growth right now, and to marry it to fusion science is very exciting,” said Bill Tang, a principal research physicist at PPPL, coauthor of the paper, and astrophysics professor at Princeton University who supervises the AI project. “We’ve accelerated the ability to predict with high accuracy the most dangerous challenge to clean fusion energy.”

Unlike traditional computer programs, which follow a set of prewritten instructions, deep learning AI programs learn and change their behavior based on data they receive. The AI was trained using Princeton University’s Tiger cluster of GPUs (computer chips originally intended for computer graphics but used for high powered applications).

Researchers believe their AI is close to 95 percent accurate at predicting disruptions and only gives false alarms 3 percent of the time. The next step is to use deep learning to control disruptions before they form rather than just predicting them at the last minute.

Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, Princeton University, James Forrestal Campus, Box 451, Princeton 08543. 609-243-2000. Steve Cowley, director.

Research News

OncoSec, 24 North Main Street, Pennington 08534. Daniel O’Connor, CEO.

OncoSec, a Pennington-based company developing cancer immunotherapies, is partnering with Duke University School of Medicine to test OncoSec’s TAVOPLUS therapy in combination or sequence with a vaccine administered with OncoSec’s novel electropulse delivery system. The research will be led by Dr. Herbert Kim Lyerly, a professor at Duke.

“We are eager to expand our immunotherapy research in breast cancer through this collaboration with OncoSec. We have previously demonstrated, in a variety of breast cancer models, that local delivery of IL-12 stimulates an anti-breast cancer immune response with applicability beyond end-stage cancer. This delivery system has the potential to be a foundational therapeutic in the treatment of early-stage disease,” said Lyerly.

“The translational work with TAVOPLUS has been very encouraging and we are excited to explore the potential of OncoSec’s IL-12 plasmid delivery technology to enhance immune responses targeting HER2+ tumors and to elicit superior T-cell and B-cell responses to HER2 in a variety of preclinical breast cancer models.”

Minority Certification

LionOBytes, 2 Research Way, Princeton 08540. 609-531-0899. Arun Upadhyay, CEO.

LionOBytes, an IT and software company, has been awarded Minority Business Enterprise certification by the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), New York and New Jersey affiliate. The NMSDC advances business opportunities for certified MBEs and connects them to other corporate members.

“This certification represents another milestone for LionOBytes and will provide us with more extensive vendor opportunities, particularly in acquiring government contracts, and position us as a preferred vendor for large corporations,” said founder and CEO Arun Upadhyay. “We are extremely proud to be joining the list of other distinguished minority-owned enterprises in the New York and New Jersey area and across the country.”

LionOBytes opened its Research Way headquarters in March.

Management Move

Certara, 100 Overlook Center, Suite 101, Princeton 08540. 888-708-7444. Edmundo Muniz, chief executive officer.

Certara, a pharmaceutical research consulting company, has appointed four executives in its Sim­cyp division. Simcyp is a computer modeling technology used to inform drug development.

Rob Aspbury joins Simcyp as COO; Frederic Yves Bois is the division’s new senior scientific advisor and head of mechanistic modeling; Will Redfern is now vice president of quantitative systems, toxicology, and safety; and Noriko Okudaira is now senior consultant/scientific advisor supporting Certara’s clients locally in Japan.

“I am delighted to welcome Rob, Frederic, Will, and Noriko to the Simcyp team. It is a testament to the major scientific and technological advances that Simcyp continues to make that we are able to attract staff of this caliber,” said Steve Toon, Simcyp president and managing director. “Focusing on safety and efficacy, the team will build on Simcyp’s position, delivering confidence in drug development, drug target selection, and drug label enrichment.”

Aspbury was previously vice president of Covance Strategic Solutions, Biosimilars. Bois was research director of the French National Institute for Industrial Environment and Risks. For six years he also served in parallel as professor and chair of mathematical modeling for systems toxicology at UTC and INERIS.

Redfern previously worked for AstraZeneca R&D in Cambridge, Great Britain, where he was principal scientist for safety and mechanistic pharmacology. Okudaira most recently worked for Daiichi Sankyo, where she served as director of the clinical pharmacology department.


Philip C. Scozzari, 86, on April 15. He was the founder and CEO of Scozzari Builders in Ewing. His company constructed the Mercer County Courthouse and other local landmarks.

Mary P. Habres, 67, on April 12. She was a former human resources manager for the state of New Jersey who founded her own company, Encore Home Staging and Redesign, after retiring in 2007. She ran the business, along with Encore Perception Marketing, from 2009 through May, 2018.

Stuart Carothers, 95, on February 2. He was a former executive director of Recording for the Blind and founder of the Princeton Area Community Foundation. A memorial gathering is scheduled for Friday, May 31, at 2 p.m. at Princeton Cemetery followed by a reception at Mather-Hodge Funeral Home.

Patricia Rasche McPherson, 82, on March 16. She was director of Princeton Homemakers Services and also worked as a nurse at New Jersey Neuropsychiatric Hospital and Carrier Clinic.

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