• Sandia Stimulates Marketplace Recovery with Free Technology Licenses

    Sandia National Laboratories has announced a new, fast-track licensing program to rapidly deploy technology to a marketplace reeling from the effects of COVID-19. The move is designed to support businesses facing widespread, often technical challenges resulting from the pandemic.

  • The $90 Trillion Question Is How to Get People Back to Work

    Officials from Rome to Washington are urgently mapping out plans to loosen lockdowns and begin rebooting their economies even as the coronavirus pandemic still rages across swaths of the globe.
    Enda Curran, Frank Connelly, and Suzi Ring write in Bloomberg that, trouble is, there’s no master plan.
    The juggling act for policy makers will be to reopen without triggering a second wave of infections that leads to a fresh round of lockdowns and yet more economic damage. History serves as a warning: the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, the world’s worst health crisis until this one, hit in three waves before finally being contained.

  • Why It Is So Hard to Produce What’s Needed to Tackle Coronavirus

    Manufacturers are stepping up to meet the severe shortage of ventilators prompted by the current coronavirus pandemic – and not just companies in the medical industry. Numerous firms from the aerospace and defense sectors, and even Formula One, have offered their services. Peter Ogrodnik writes in The Conversation that in the UK, domestic appliance maker Dyson, defense contractor Babcock and the Ventilator Challenge U.K. consortium (including leading firms such as Airbus and Ford) have all received orders to make thousands of new ventilators to meet the government’s target of an extra 30,000. Rather than simply helping scale up production of existing products, these firms are working with designs that have never before been used or tested in real settings. While all efforts are welcome, there are likely to be some major challenges for manufacturers trying to enter the medical devices sector for the first time. Journalists reported with amazement that the first batch of devices from the Ventilator Challenge UK consortium would include just 30 units. But there are some good reasons why novel ventilators can’t simply be turned out in large amounts with just days’ notice.

  • How Economists Are Trying to Answer Coronavirus Questions

    Epidemiologists, virologists and other health experts are throwing everything they have at understanding the new coronavirus, hoping to develop treatments, vaccines and strategies to slow its spread and limit its toll. Eduardo Porter writes in the New York Times that economists, too, have broken from other work to explore what they can add to understanding a world upended by disease.
    Every Monday, the National Bureau of Economic Research puts out a batch of “working papers,” offering an early view of research from the world’s top economists. The most recent list included a paper on how more intensive testing for the coronavirus would allow for less strict quarantines, a piece about how mobility restrictions reduced the spread of the disease in China, one on how to assess the costs and benefits of different policies to reduce the coronavirus transmission rate and another about strategies to ensure compliance with stay-at-home orders in Italy.
    One study just published looked at pandemics back to the 14th century, concluding that they inhibit investment and increase savings for decades, depressing an economy’s central interest rate. Another evaluated the short-term macroeconomic shock from the virus and assessed ways to respond.

  • Scott Morrison Indicates “Eliminating” COVID-19 Would Come at Too High a Cost

    Scott Morrison has made clear his view that any attempt to eliminate COVID-19 entirely in Australia would carry too high an economic cost, while Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy says such an aim would require “very aggressive” long-term border control.
    Michelle Grattan writes in The Conversation that the national cabinet will soon receive advice from its medical experts on various scenarios for the way ahead, but the Prime Minister, speaking at a joint news conference with Murphy on Tuesday, effectively ruled out the most ambitious.
    New Zealand is trying for elimination, but has had to go into a stringent lockdown to pursue it. Elimination was the policy adopted in the source of the virus – Wuhan in China.

  • Huawei and the Third Offset

    In order to effectively mitigate the security risks posed by Huawei, the U.S. Department of Defense needs to fund and integrate cutting-edge technologies from the private sector. Offset strategies are intended to counterbalance an adversary’s military advantages by developing asymmetric technological strengths.

  • Not All Privacy Apps Are Created Equal

    New privacy laws like Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) have spawned a new industry of companies and platforms advertising that they can anonymize your data and be compliant with the law. But MIT researcher Aloni Cohen says that he has his doubts about these claims, and his team’s latest work shows that there’s reason to be skeptical.

  • BARDA, Department of Defense, and SAb Biotherapeutics to Partner to Develop a Novel COVID-19 Therapeutic

    A therapeutic to treat novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is moving forward in development through a partnership between the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), the Department of Defense Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Defense (JPEO - CBRND), and SAb Biotherapeutics, Inc. (SAb), of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
    Using an interagency agreement with JPEO’s Medical CBRN Defense Consortium, BARDA transferred approximately $7.2 million in funding to (JPEO - CBRND) to support SAb to complete manufacturing and preclinical studies, with an option to conduct a Phase 1 clinical trial.
    The therapeutic, called SAB-185, is part of a new class of immunotherapies that relies on SAb’s platform technology to produce fully human polyclonal antibodies as the basis for the drug. This technology produces the antibodies without the need for blood donations from people who have recovered from the virus; this approach produces greater quantities of the drug than the traditional human antibody donor methods.

  • GSK, AstraZeneca in Talks to Help U.K. Government on Virus Tests

    U.K. pharmaceutical giants GlaxoSmithKline Plc and AstraZeneca Plc are in talks to set up a lab to explore new ways of testing for the coronavirus to help overcome shortages of diagnostic materials, according to a person with knowledge of the plans.
    Suzi Ring and James Paton write in Bloomberg that the drugmakers will evaluate the use of different raw materials needed to carry out the tests and use their know-how and resources to help other companies or the U.K.’s National Health Service increase production, according to the person, who asked not to be identified because the details of the discussions aren’t yet public.
    U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock pledged Thursday to increase coronavirus testing to 100,000 a day by the end of April. 


  • Coronavirus: China Floods Europe With Defective Medical Equipment

    As the coronavirus rages across Europe, a growing number of countries are reporting that millions of pieces of medical equipment donated by, or purchased from, China to defeat the pandemic are defective and unusable. Soeren Kern writes for the Gatestone Institute that the revelations are fueling distrust of a public relations effort by Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Communist Party to portray China as the world’s new humanitarian superpower. Two examples: In Spain, the Ministry of Health revealed that 640,000 coronavirus tests that it had purchased from a Chinese supplier were defective. In addition, a further million coronavirus tests delivered to Spain on March 30 by another Chinese manufacturer were also defective. The Czech news site iRozhlas reported that 300,000 coronavirus test kits delivered by China had an error rate of 80 percent. The Czech Ministry of Interior had paid $2.1 million for the kits.

  • These Drugs Don’t Target the Coronavirus—They Target Us

    In another example of the blinding speed at which science is moving during the pandemic era, researchers at Aarhus University in Denmark will start a clinical trial of a drug named camostat mesylate tomorrow—barely 1 month after Cell paper showed the compound can prevent the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, from entering human cells.
    Kai Kupferschmidt writes in Science that one reason the Danish researchers can act so fast is that camostat mesylate is already licensed in Japan and South Korea to treat pancreatitis, a potentially fatal inflammation of the pancreas. Enough safety data were available to convince an ethical panel to greenlight the trial.
    The trial also illustrates a new approach to combatting the virus. Thousands of researchers around the world are investigating existing drugs as potential therapies for COVID-19, most of them looking at antivirals, such as remdesivir, developed to treat Ebola, or Kaletra, a combination drug against HIV. But Nevan Krogan, a molecular biologist at the University of California, San Francisco, sees another opportunity: “The virus can’t live by itself, right? It needs our genes and proteins in order to live and to replicate.” Camostat mesylate is one of several candidate drugs that block those interactions. They don’t target the virus, but us, the host.

  • How the Coronavirus Pandemic Is Killing Cash

    There is much talk about how COVID-19 will change the world. There is less about how it is simply accelerating trends that were already underway. Merryn Somerset Webb writes in MoneyWeek that one to keep a particular eye on is a theme we have been watching for some time – the death of cash.
    No one wants to touch cash today. It’s always been known to be pretty filthy stuff; now it isn’t just grubby, it is potentially lethal. No wonder, then, that the use of cash has halved in the last week and that “card only” signs are appearing everywhere. Some large chains stopped taking card payments altogether (even before lockdown) and the contactless upper limit has been moved from £30 to £45.

  • There Are Many COVID-19 Tests in the U.S. – How Are They Being Regulated?

    When it comes to COVID-19 testing in the United States, the situation is about as messy as it gets. The U.S. went from having no tests, or assays, available for COVID-19 diagnostics to having multiple different tests available in a span of just a few weeks. Today more than 230 test developers have alerted the Food and Drug Administration that they are requesting emergency authorization for their tests; 20 have been granted. And 110 laboratories around the country, including my own, are also using their own tests. Having this number of diagnostic tests available to detect a single virus in such a short time frame is unprecedented.

  • British American Tobacco Working on Plant-Based Coronavirus Vaccine

    British American Tobacco, the maker of brands including Lucky Strike, Dunhill, Rothmans and Benson & Hedges, has said it has a potential coronavirus vaccine in development using tobacco plants. Mark Sweney writes in the Guardian that BAT has turned the vast resources usually focused on creating products that pose health risks to millions of smokers worldwide to battling the global pandemic.
    BAT said its US biotech subsidiary, Kentucky BioProcessing (KBP), has moved to pre-clinical testing and that it will work on the vaccine on a not-for-profit basis.
    BAT said it had cloned a portion of the genetic sequence of the coronavirus and developed a potential antigen. The antigen was then inserted into tobacco plants for reproduction and, once the plants were harvested, the antigen was purified. It is now undergoing pre-clinical testing.

  • Doctor Says “Knock-on-Effects” of Pandemic Chaos Could Be Deadlier than Virus

    The disruption being wrought on Israeli healthcare by the coronavirus crisis could kill more people than the disease itself, a leading doctor has claimed.
    The Times of Israel reports that the warning by Anthony Luder, director of the Pediatric Department at Ziv Medical Center in Safed, came as an influential think tank raised alarm bells that the “collateral” effect of the coronavirus crisis could lead to more deaths than the virus, and after a minister said he was worried about people taking their own lives.
    “We may have more suicides than deaths from coronavirus,” Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said on Tuesday, suggesting that the economic consequences will push some Israelis to kill themselves if the lockdown is kept in place for too long.
    Luder fears that a potentially lethal domino effect of the crisis will be felt in the very health system that is treating coronavirus patients. “It’s entirely plausible that more people will die of the knock-on effects than of coronavirus itself,” he told The Times of Israel.