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Business Briefing The remote-controlled, revolutionary contraceptive backed by Bill Gates

These are stories Report on Business is following Tuesday, July 8, 2014.

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Device nears trials
A challenge from Bill Gates two years ago has put science on the cusp of a revolutionary, remote-controlled method of birth control.

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Indeed, a new device from MicroCHIPS of Lexington, Mass., is set for preclinical trials next year, and could be available by 2018, according to Technology Review.

It's a fascinating method that, if successful and approved, would work via an implant that would last for 16 years.

According to MIT Technology Review's Gwen Kinkead in a report last week, the small device, which in millimeters is 20 by 20 by 7, would be implanted under a woman's skin.

It would then send into the body 30 micrograms of levonorgestrel each day via a battery-generated current that temporarily disables a seal in the tiny containers that hold the hormone.

It turns on or off via remote control.

This all began, Ms. Kinkead writes, when Mr. Gates asked Robert Langer of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, during a visit to his lab, if something like this could be done.

Mr. Langer, who co-founded MicroCHIPS, had already successfully tested what the company called an "implantable, wirelessly controlled and programmable microchip-based drug delivery" device.

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"Gates and his colleagues asked Langer if it were feasible to create birth control that a woman could turn on and off and use for many years," according to MIT Technology Review.

The former Microsoft Corp. kingpin and his wife, through their foundation, have supported the concept with more than $4.5-million in grants, according to other reports.

Vatican bank plans further reforms
Pope Francis today launched the second stage of reforming the Vatican bank as the institution's profit plunged.

The scandal-plagued Istituto per le Opere di Religione, which the pontiff is cleaning up aggressively, said today its 2013 profit sank to just €2.9-million, from €86.6-million a year earlier, for several reasons, including losses on its gold reserves.

"This is a time of major change in the Holy See, not only for the IOR, Cardinal-Prefect George Pell said in a statement.

"With the support of the Holy Father and the Council of Cardinals, we are creating simpler, more efficient structures for those serving the mission of the Catholic Church," he said as the institution unveiled plans to "implement a series of changes to governance and operations that will ensure continuity of service in the context of a broader reform of the economic and administrative structures" of the Vatican.

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Coutu profit falls
Jean Coutu Group (PJC) Inc.'s first-quarter profit fell sharply compared to a year ago when it realized gains from divesting its interest in U.S. drugstore giant Rite Aid.

First-quarter profit was $54.1-million or 29 cents per share, compared with $108.6-million or 51 cents in the year-earlier period, The Globe and Mail's Bertrand Marotte reports.

Longueuil, Que.-based Jean Coutu said the decrease in profit is due to a gain of $54.4-million booked in the first quarter of fiscal 2014.

Analysts had been expecting first-quarter earnings per share of 30 cents.

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