hopes

health

Canada says stronger response needed to fight coronavirus, PM hopes to avoid major shutdown

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadians need to do more to tackle a second wave of the coronavirus by slashing the number of personal contacts they have with others, health authorities said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: People walk in the Eaton Centre shopping mall, as the provincial phase 2 of reopening from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions begins in Toronto, Ontario, Canada June 24, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio/File Photo

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said more targeted measures could help avert another major national shutdown of the kind that hammered the economy earlier in the year.

Released modeling updates show the cumulative death toll in the country could range between 10,285 and 10,400 by Nov 8. Cumulative cases could be between 251,800 and 262,200 by the same date.

“(The) long-range forecast indicates that a stronger response is needed now to slow the spread of COVID-19,” chief public health officer Theresa Tam told a briefing.

“If we decrease our current rate of contacts by 25% the epidemic is forecast to come under control in most locations,” she said.

Canada has recorded 10,074 deaths and 228,542 cases so far and is breaking daily records for the number of new cases.

Suncor Energy SU.TO, Canada’s second-biggest oil producer, confirmed 19 infections among workers at its Firebag oil sands site in Alberta, dating back to Oct. 18. All of those affected are in isolation at home or other locations, spokeswoman Erin Rees said.

Suncor shut down part of the site where 17 of the employees worked, but the outbreak has not affected oil production, she said.

Some provinces are reintroducing bans on indoor dining and limiting the size of gatherings.

Manitoba, which has the highest rate of active cases per capita among provinces, said it would tighten restrictions starting on Monday. In Winnipeg, where most cases are located, all restaurants and bars will close to in-person dining.

Trudeau said authorities know more now about the pandemic than they did six months ago.

“There are things we can do to help to control the pandemic, the second wave, without – we hope – having to impose a nationwide shutdown,” he told the briefing.

Additional reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg and Moira Warburton in Toronto; Editing by Kirsten Donovan, Aurora Ellis and Sonya Hepinstall

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Vaccine hopes rise as Oxford jab prompts immune response among old as well as young adults

LONDON (Reuters) – One of the world’s leading COVID-19 experimental vaccines produces a immune response in both young and old adults, raising hopes of a path out of the gloom and economic destruction wrought by the novel coronavirus.

The vaccine, developed by the University of Oxford, also triggers lower adverse responses among the elderly, British drug maker AstraZeneca Plc, which is helping manufacture the vaccine, said on Monday.

A vaccine that works is seen as a game-changer in the battle against the novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 1.15 million people, shuttered swathes of the global economy and turned normal life upside down for billions of people.

“It is encouraging to see immunogenicity responses were similar between older and younger adults and that reactogenicity was lower in older adults, where the COVID-19 disease severity is higher,” an AstraZeneca spokesman said.

“The results further build the body of evidence for the safety and immunogenicity of AZD1222,” the spokesman said, referring to the technical name of the vaccine.

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is expected to be one of the first from big pharma to secure regulatory approval, along with Pfizer and BioNTech’s candidate, as the world tries to plot a path out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The news that older people get an immune response from the vaccine is positive because the immune system weakens with age and older people are those most at risk of dying from the virus.

If it works, a vaccine would allow the world to return to some measure of normality after the tumult of the pandemic.

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said a vaccine was not yet ready but he was preparing logistics for a possible roll out mostly in the first half of 2021.

FILE PHOTO: A test tube labeled with the vaccine is seen in front of AstraZeneca logo in this illustration taken, September 9, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo/File Photo

Asked if some people could receive a vaccine this year he told the BBC: “I don’t rule that out but that is not my central expectation.”

“The programme is progressing well, (but) we’re not there yet,” Hancock said.

COMMON COLD VIRUS

Work began on the Oxford vaccine in January. Called AZD1222 or ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, the viral vector vaccine is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus that causes infections in chimpanzees.

The chimpanzee cold virus has been genetically changed to include the genetic sequence of the so-called spike protein which the coronavirus uses to gain entry to human cells. The hope is that the human body will then attack the novel coronavirus if it sees it again.

Immunogenicity blood tests carried out on a subset of older participants echo data released in July which showed the vaccine generated “robust immune responses” in a group of healthy adults aged between 18 and 55, the Financial Times reported earlier.

Details of the finding are expected to be published shortly in a clinical journal, the FT said. It did not name the publication.

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The US now seems to be pinning all of its hopes on COVID-19 therapies and vaccines

Almost eight months after the White House first announced it would move from containment to mitigation efforts to stop the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic, the Administration is now pinning its hopes on vaccines to inoculate the population and therapies to treat the disease.

Months after announcing it would be working with technology giants Apple and Google on a contact tracing app (and nearly two months after Google and Apple rolled out their exposure notification features) and initiating wide spread testing efforts nationwide with the largest national pharmacies (which never received the coordinated support it needed),  the Administration appears to be giving up on a national effort to stop the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic.

In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said that the US is “not going to control the pandemic… We are gonna control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation.”

The admission is a final nail in the coffin for a federal response that could have involved a return to lockdowns to stop the spread of the virus, or national testing and contact tracing and other mitigation measures. Meadows statement comes as the US experiences a second peak in infection rates. There are now over 8.1 million cases and over 220,000 deaths since the first confirmed infection on US soil on January 20. 

Now, the focus is all on the vaccines, therapies and treatments being developed by large pharma companies and startups alike that are making their way through the approval processes of regulatory agencies around the world.

The vaccines in phase three clinical trials

There are currently 12 vaccines in large scale, late-stage clinical trials around the world, including ones from American companies Novavax, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna Therapeutics, and Pfizer who are recruiting tens of thousands of people in the US and UK to volunteer for testing.

In China, the state run pharmaceutical company Sinopharm has filed its application to China’s regulatory commission for the approval of a vaccine and hundreds of thousands of civilians have already been vaccinated under emergency use approvals from the Chinese government, according to a report in the New Yorker. Meanwhile the privately held Chinese pharmaceutical company, Sinovac, is moving forward with phase three trials for its own vaccine in Brazil, Bangladesh and Indonesia. Another

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Cyanobacteria: Small candidates as great hopes for medicine and biotechnology

IMAGE

IMAGE: The team headed by Dr Paul D’Agostino will sequence 40 symbiotic and rare terrestrial cyanobacteria for the production of new active agents and to explore the potential for applications in…
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Credit: Paul D’Agostino

In order to unlock the genetic potential of unusual cyanobacteria for the production of new active agents and to explore the potential for applications in biotechnology, the team headed by Dr Paul D’Agostino has been awarded a competitive whole-genome sequencing grant from the Joint Genome Institute (JGI) in the USA.

An ever-growing global population, an increasing standard of living and environmental challenges such as anthropogenic climate change, ocean pollution, the declining availability of arable land and dwindling fossil resources – these are today’s global challenges. Therefore, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research has dedicated the Science Year 2020/21 to the topic Bioeconomy with the aim of meeting these challenges with little heroes. The “stars” of bioeconomy are proteins, algae, microorganisms, and other tiny creatures with great impact.

At the Chair of Technical Biochemistry at TU Dresden, the researchers will now focus on some of the oldest of such little superheroes: cyanobacteria. There are about 2000 species of cyanobacteria and many of these species have been poorly researched. Dr Paul D’Agostino, Professor Tobias Gulder and their team – including cooperation partners Michelle Gehringer (TU Kaiserslautern), Michael Lakatos and Patrick Jung (both Hochschule Kaiserslautern) – hope that unusual cyanobacteria will yield promising results and make an innovative contribution to bioeconomy.

“Microorganisms produce valuable organic molecules with great potential for many applications. It is important to know that unusual organisms often also produce novel bioactive agents. The discovery of such new, bioactive molecules is essential if one thinks, for example, of new medical challenges such as the coronavirus and the progressive development of resistance to established active agents. Within the scope of this project, we therefore want to investigate the genetic potential of very unusual cyanobacteria for the production of innovative active pharmaceutical ingredients,” explains Gulder.

As a first step, the team will predict the potential of natural compounds by sequencing the genomes and subsequent bioinformatic analysis.

The results can then be translated into the targeted discovery of new molecules using modern methods of synthetic biology and biotechnology. As a final step, the project will focus on the production and characterization of these natural compounds and on the application of the enzymes producing these compounds as biocatalysts for the development of sustainable chemical processes.

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Small candidates as great hopes for medicine and biotechnology

Cyanobacteria: Small Candidates as Great Hopes for Medicine and Biotechnology
The team headed by Dr Paul D’Agostino will sequence 40 symbiotic and rare terrestrial cyanobacteria for the production of new active agents and to explore the potential for applications in biotechnology. Credit: Paul D’Agostino

An ever-growing global population, an increasing standard of living and environmental challenges such as anthropogenic climate change, ocean pollution, the declining availability of arable land and dwindling fossil resources—these are today’s global challenges. Therefore, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research has dedicated the Science Year 2020/21 to the topic Bioeconomy with the aim of meeting these challenges with little heroes. The ‘stars’ of bioeconomy are proteins, algae, microorganisms, and other tiny creatures with great impact.


At the Chair of Technical Biochemistry at TU Dresden, the researchers will now focus on some of the oldest of such little superheroes: cyanobacteria. There are about 2000 species of cyanobacteria and many of these species have been poorly researched. Dr. Paul D’Agostino, Professor Tobias Gulder and their team—including cooperation partners Michelle Gehringer (TU Kaiserslautern), Michael Lakatos and Patrick Jung (both Hochschule Kaiserslautern) – hope that unusual cyanobacteria will yield promising results and make an innovative contribution to bioeconomy.

“Microorganisms produce valuable organic molecules with great potential for many applications. It is important to know that unusual organisms often also produce novel bioactive agents. The discovery of such new, bioactive molecules is essential if one thinks, for example, of new medical challenges such as the coronavirus and the progressive development of resistance to established active agents. Within the scope of this project, we therefore want to investigate the genetic potential of very unusual cyanobacteria for the production of innovative active pharmaceutical ingredients,” explains Gulder.

As a first step, the team will predict the potential of natural compounds by sequencing the genomes and subsequent bioinformatic analysis. The results can then be translated into the targeted discovery of new molecules using modern methods of synthetic biology and biotechnology. As a final step, the project will focus on the production and characterization of these natural compounds and on the application of the enzymes producing these compounds as biocatalysts for the development of sustainable chemical processes.


Artificial cyanobacterial biofilm can sustain green ethylene production for over a month


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