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Jul 10, 2020

Supreme Court of Canada upholds genetic non-discrimination law

Posted by in categories: genetics, health, law

Canada’s highest court has issued a ruling today upholding a federal law preventing third parties, such as employers and insurance companies, from demanding genetic information from individuals.

In a 5–4 decision, the Supreme Court of Canada has decided the Genetic Non-Discrimination Act is a constitutional exercise of federal powers.

Jul 10, 2020

Microbial management

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, health

The human colon is home to a complex microbial ecosystem (microbiota), composed mostly of anaerobic organisms. Recent data suggest that gut microbes and their metabolites can affect human health through multiple mechanisms including altering the immune response , changing host cell metabolic states , and even affecting the response to immunotherapies.

The potential causative role of gut microbiota in health and disease is one of the most extraordinary findings of the past decade. Yet we are only starting to understand the multitude of mechanisms by which microbes promote changes in intestinal physiology, and how changes in the symbiotic relationship between the host and the resident microbiota contribute to the pathogenesis of both infectious and noninfectious diseases.

Jul 10, 2020

Study of 17 Million Identifies Crucial Risk Factors for Coronavirus Deaths

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, health

An analysis of more than 17 million people in England — the largest study of its kind, according to its authors — has pinpointed a bevy of factors that can raise a person’s chances of dying from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The paper, published Wednesday in Nature, echoes reports from other countries that identify older people, men, racial and ethnic minorities, and those with underlying health conditions among the more vulnerable populations.

“This highlights a lot of what we already know about COVID-19,” said Uchechi Mitchell, a public health expert at the University of Illinois at Chicago who was not involved in the study. “But a lot of science is about repetition. The size of the study alone is a strength, and there is a need to continue documenting disparities.”

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Jul 9, 2020

DARPA Program Seeks to Develop Novel Therapeutics for Combating Microbial Infections

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, health, military

Antibiotic resistance is on the rise and is recognized by both the CDC1 and the U.S. Military2 as a current – and formidable – global health threat. The U.S Department of Defense (DoD) has long documented the warfighter’s outsized risk of exposure to infectious disease, including the increasing number of multi-drug resistant (MDR) organisms that have challenged military wound care in Iraq and Afghanistan3. Despite this looming crisis, there has been a notable exodus of pharmaceutical companies from the antibiotic space, as well as several high-profile failures of biotechnology companies focused on antibiotic development4. Current therapeutics to combat microbial infections, including MDR microbes and bacterial biothreats, are insufficient to meet the growing need, and existing methods to develop new treatments are too slow and/or costly to combat emerging drug resistance in pathogenic microorganisms.

DARPA’s Harnessing Enzymatic Activity for Lifesaving Remedies (HEALR) program aims to utilize a new therapeutic design toolkit and novel strategies/modalities to effectively treat microbial infections. Specifically, HEALR seeks to develop new medical countermeasures (MCMs) by recruiting native cellular machinery to recognize and clear disease-related targets for treating these infections. These advances could result in host-driven degradation or deactivation of pathogen targets, which may not only inhibit but could stop the pathogen in its tracks.

“HEALR presents the opportunity to identify drugs that are safer, more effective, and better address drug resistance and bacterial infections than existing therapeutic modalities,” noted Seth M. Cohen, Ph.D., program manager for the DARPA HEALR program. “By harnessing innate cellular processes, such as those exploited by proteolysis targeting chimeras (PROTACs) and similar approaches, HEALR intends to achieve superior outcomes over existing therapies.”

Jul 9, 2020

Cyber Command will get a new version of its training platform this fall

Posted by in categories: cybercrime/malcode, health

U.S. Cyber Command’s new training platform is slated to deliver the second iteration this fall providing additional capabilities and user capacity, program officials said.

The Persistent Cyber Training Environment (PCTE) is an online client that allows Cyber Command’s warriors to log on from anywhere in the world to conduct individual or collective cyber training as well as mission rehearsal. The program is being run by the Army on behalf of the joint cyber force and Cyber Command.

Officials delivered the first version of the program to Cyber Command in February and the environment was used for the first time in Cyber Command’s premier annual tier 1 exercise Cyber Flag in June. The second version is expected to include additional capabilities, including allowing more users to conduct team or individual training.

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Jul 8, 2020

Cleaning Robots May Be the Future of Health for Humans

Posted by in categories: health, robotics/AI

Researchers at MIT are working with Ava Robotics to provide a sanitary solution to high foot traffic spaces.

Jul 7, 2020

Atlantic Coast Pipeline Canceled Following Years of Legal Challenges

Posted by in categories: climatology, health, law

Pipeline owners Dominion and Duke Energy announced Sunday they were cancelling the fossil fuel project due to mounting delays and uncertainty. They said the many legal challenges to the project had driven up the projected costs by almost half, from $4.5 to $5 billion when it was first announced in 2014 to $8 billion according to the most recent estimate.

Environmental and community groups, who have long opposed the project on climate, conservation and racial justice grounds, welcomed the news.

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Jul 7, 2020

Novavax Secures $1.6 Billion from U.S. Government for COVID-19 Vaccine Program

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, government, health

Gaithersburg, Md.-based Novavax said the funding will allow the company to participate in Operation Warp Speed, the government’s program that has a goal of supporting the development of hundreds of millions of vaccine doses by 2021. The funding granted to Novavax will support the late-stage clinical development of the vaccine candidate, including a pivotal Phase III study. Additionally, the funds will be used to establish large-scale manufacturing in order to deliver 100 million doses of NVX‑CoV2373 by the end of the year.

Stanley C. Erck, president and chief executive officer of Novavax, said the company was honored to partner with Operation Warp Speed, a program that is supporting multiple shots on goal against COVID-19 by backing multiple vaccine projects, including Moderna’s mRNA program and AstraZeneca’s vaccine candidate.

“The pandemic has caused an unprecedented public health crisis, making it more important than ever that industry, government and funding entities join forces to defeat the novel coronavirus together. We are grateful to the U.S. government for its confidence in our technology platform, and are working tirelessly to develop and produce a vaccine for this global health crisis,” Erck said in a statement.

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Jul 6, 2020

Translational Microbiomics Offsets Ecological Disruptions

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, health

Once an ecosystem is disturbed, restoring it can be difficult. And when the disturbed ecosystem is a patient’s microbiome, restoring the patient to health can be even more difficult. Just one ecosystem element that proliferates or diminishes beyond bounds may throw multiple elements into disarray, creating a dysbiosis that resists simple remedies.

Because a patient’s microbiome consists of interacting elements—including elements that extend beyond the microbiome itself—these elements cannot be seen in isolation. Rather, they are dynamic parts of a systemic whole. Touch any one of them, and the effects of doing so may ripple outward in unpredictable ways—unless the elements and their interactions are thoroughly understood.

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Jul 6, 2020

Compounds halt SARS-CoV-2 replication

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, chemistry, health

As the death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic mounts, scientists worldwide continue their push to develop effective treatments and a vaccine for the highly contagious respiratory virus.

University of South Florida Health (USF Health) Morsani College of Medicine scientists recently worked with colleagues at the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy to identify several existing compounds that block replication of the COVID-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2) within grown in the laboratory. The inhibitors all demonstrated potent chemical and structural interactions with a critical to the virus’s ability to proliferate.

The research team’s discovery study appeared June 15 in Cell Research, a high-impact Nature journal.

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