Medicago is growing a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidate in a relative of the tobacco plant right now.
- Canadian biotech company Medicago is growing a vaccine candidate in Nicotiana benthamiana.
- An Australian relative to tobacco, plant-based vaccines could be cheaper and more reliable than current methods.
- Medicago just completed phase 3 clinical trials of an influenza vaccine, which could be a game-changer for vaccine production.
Credit: alphaspirit / Adobe Stock<p>Clark <a href="https://www.medicago.com/en/newsroom/medicago-begins-phase-i-clinical-trials-for-its-covid-19-vaccine-candidate/" target="_blank">says</a> it's important to attack the novel coronavirus from all sides.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Creating a sufficient supply of COVID-19 vaccines within the next year is a challenge which will require multiple approaches, with different technologies. Our proven plant-based technology is capable of contributing to the collective solution to this public health emergency."</p><p>Unlike many common vaccines, VLP vaccines contain no genetic material. You won't get infected by it, which is always a risk in live vaccines. </p><p>This SARS-CoV-2 vaccine is not the only project on Medicago's hands. The company <a href="https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03301051" target="_blank">just completed</a> phase 3 clinical trials on an influenza. While no plant-based vaccine has been approved for use, the company hopes to replace the more cumbersome and expensive egg-based model, or at least offset some of the costs of that model. The plant model could help researchers adapt more quickly to the ever-changing influenza strains each season. </p><p>Plants offer a wonderful alternative to the current vaccination model. Besides price, VLP vaccines scale much easier and faster. If the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine works, Medicago <a href="https://www.medicago.com/en/newsroom/medicago-begins-phase-i-clinical-trials-for-its-covid-19-vaccine-candidate/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">believes</a> they can produce a billion doses a year, by far the most ambitious yield to date. At a time when speed, cost, and reliability are all essential factors in vaccine development, we should put tobacco to better use: healing instead of harming. </p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Facebook</a>. His new book is</em> "<em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08KRVMP2M?pf_rd_r=MDJW43337675SZ0X00FH&pf_rd_p=edaba0ee-c2fe-4124-9f5d-b31d6b1bfbee" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy</a>."</em></p>
Noise pollution is terrible for our health, yet we don't discuss it often enough.
- Excess noise leads to elevated fatigue, stress, blood pressure elevation, and negative attitudes.
- Increased levels of noise have been shown to negatively impact our ability to learn.
- A new study shows that noise levels have dropped significantly during quarantine.
Daily LEX8h over time in California, Florida, New York, and Texas.<p>As with much else in our nation, <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2018/02/city-noise-might-be-making-you-sick/553385/" target="_blank">noise is also political</a>.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The two largest sources of environmental noise are transportation and industrial activity. The cars for which early noise ordinances helped clear the streets have amplified that noise to a universal, inescapable level. Industrial areas, often designated for land close to the poorest nonwhite areas in a city, are even worse."</p><p>Industrial noise ranges from 80 dB to 109 dB (for workers regularly near furnaces and excavation sites). Police sirens come in at 120 dB; police helicopters, regular features in cities like Los Angeles, churn out 85 dB of sound. </p><p>Despite the numerous social and economic problems we've endured due to the pandemic, bright spots have emerged. Pollution levels in Wuhan, Italy, Spain, and the USA <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969720323378" target="_blank">dropped</a> by as much as 30 percent following quarantine. This <a href="https://www.insider.com/before-after-photos-show-less-air-pollution-during-pandemic-lockdown" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">photo</a> of New Delhi went viral in May after only a few months of reduced transportation. Now local officials in India are attempting to <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/05/world/asia/india-delhi-pollution.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">keep levels down</a>. </p><p>The sky isn't the only region to benefit. So have our ears—and by extension, our nervous systems.</p><p>That's the consensus of a group of researchers at the University of Michigan. In a new <a href="https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/abb494" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Environmental Research Letter</a>, published in the journal IOP Science, they write that social distancing practices have greatly reduced environmental noise. By measuring noise levels from the iPhones and Apple Watches of 5,894 participants, they observed a noticeable drop in noise exposure.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"COVID-19 social distancing measures were associated with an approximately 3 dBA reduction in personal environmental sound exposures; this represents a substantial and meaningful reduction in this harmful exposure."</p>
Why Noise Pollution Is More Dangerous Than We Think | The Backstory | The New Yorker<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ae7b6bd4cac5a7abdec0d9246cc793ec"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Is_5X2z2b0k?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Study participants live in some of the noisiest states in the nation: California, Florida, New York, and Texas. In total, the team analyzed data from 516,729 monitored days. The study began in November 2019, so by a chance of luck, the team recorded sound exposure levels before quarantine as well as after lockdowns began. Interestingly, the team noticed noise was lowest on Mondays, rising throughout the week to peak on Saturdays.</p><p>With so many moving pieces affecting the environment, noise pollution tends to get overlooked. Excess noise is another way we unnecessarily tax nature, as well as ourselves. Though mental health is declining for a number of people due to isolation, and a global Depression is <a href="https://time.com/5876606/economic-depression-coronavirus/" target="_blank">predicted</a> for 2021, we cannot let that blind us to important research emerging on real-world interventions to ease our footprint. </p><p>Humans are loud and wasteful animals. The <a href="https://www.latimes.com/projects/california-fires-damage-climate-change-analysis/" target="_blank">worst wildfires</a> in California's recorded history are ravaging vineyards, mountains, and entire towns. With <a href="https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-10-11/southern-california-braces-for-another-hot-week" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">another heatwave</a> returning to California this week, these fires will likely pick up in intensity. Our current lifestyles are not sustainable, and we can only ever be as healthy as the planet we inhabit.</p><p>Noise pollution is an under-discussed problem. Increased sound exposure destroys ecosystems and wreaks havoc on our nervous systems. If anything, we can learn from these small victories for when society completely opens back up—and, hopefully, apply a lesson or two from what we've learned.</p><p>For example: say no to Amazon's drone delivery fleet, which is expected to regularly <a href="https://theconversation.com/drones-to-deliver-incessant-buzzing-noise-and-packages-116257" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">raise noise</a> levels across the country. Some technologies are simply not worth the cost. Our hearing (and much more) depends on it. </p><p>-- -- </p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Facebook</a>. His new book is</em> "<em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08KRVMP2M?pf_rd_r=MDJW43337675SZ0X00FH&pf_rd_p=edaba0ee-c2fe-4124-9f5d-b31d6b1bfbee" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy</a>."</em></p>
A study in the hospitality industry shows the importance of design, including during a pandemic.
- Ohio State University researchers found that the right type choice drives up donations in the hospitality industry.
- Warmth-focused versus competence-focused messages were matched with handwritten or machine-written typefaces.
- This research could help restaurants and hotels make targeted design choices as they struggle to survive.
94 percent of men in the study have this mutation, which explains why men are more likely to die.
- Since the pandemic began, we've wondered why some people suffer terribly while others show no symptoms.
- A team at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute discovered a genetic mutation responsible for the production of "auto-antibodies."
- These findings could change treatment protocols and vaccine development moving forward.
The coronavirus is mutating. Now what?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bd204431582dd80799581c29db3aa84b"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Djy3WNLz_mM?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><h3>The Findings</h3><p>The genetic mutations slow down interferon—a group of signaling proteins released in the presence of viruses—production and function. This particular mutation makes these patients vulnerable to certain pathogens, such as the flu. Of the 659 patients initially tested in the Spring, 23 carried gene errors, rendering them unable to produce the necessary antiviral interferons to fight off COVID-19. </p><p>They then tested 987 patients, of which 101 produced auto-antibodies. All of these patients had trouble fending off the ravages of the virus. By testing people for these mutations, the team believes they can predict who will suffer most from the virus, even before they become infected. </p><p>Interestingly, 94 percent of patients that develop harmful antibodies are men, which helps explain why men are <a href="https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2020/04/studies-find-men-more-prone-covid-19-death#:~:text=Risk%20of%20death%202.4%20times%20higher%20in%20men&text=In%20the%20case%20series,%20men,29.7%25;%20P%20=%200.016)." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">more likely to die</a> from COVID-19. Cassanova is now investigating whether the production of these auto-antibodies is linked to X chromosomes. Even small genetic errors, the team says, could be responsible for this phenomenon. </p>
Photo: Drazen Zigic / Shutterstock<h3>Why It Matters</h3><p>If researchers can pinpoint genetic markers in healthy patients, this could open up an entirely new testing protocol. People with this genetic mutation will know they are at higher risk for life-threatening problems, and will be able to take precautions until a vaccine is developed. </p><p>This could also affect treatment protocols. The team is looking into procedures that strip these auto-antibodies from patients' blood, for example. They're also investigating protective genetic factors by studying asymptomatic patients. Just as the virus exploits the above genetic mutation, others are naturally protected. They want to know why. </p><p>In regards to the vaccine, this research helps identify high-risk groups. People carrying this genetic mutation could receive the vaccine first, if these studies hold up.</p><p>With all of the above work happening at the center, it's no wonder Cassanova concludes, "Our lab is currently running at full speed."</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
What does sports fandom look like in the new normal?
- With the masses huddled at home and glued to our screens, the last several months of frozen competition provided an opportunity for sports franchises to experiment with creative modes of fan engagement, often involving multiple media channels.
- On another level, this is a challenge that wasn't prompted by COVID-19 and won't go away when COVID-19 does.
- Franchise marketers are accelerating their digital transformation processes, finding innovative ways to connect with fans online, with VR, community building and repackaging classic content.
Head back to the stadium – virtually<p>After months of deprivation, fans are panting to see their favorite teams. For the moment, they are so eager to return to live sports that they are ecstatic over any live game broadcast. On July 5, some 5.7 million people tuned in to the Southampton v. Manchester City match, making it the Premier League's most-watched match ever. </p><p>But as time goes by, the shine of live sports will wear off. An empty stadium is disappointing both for viewers at home and for players. The NFL's "virtual draft" event in April drew a larger audience (15.6 million) than Monday Night Football did last weekend (14 million), even though the former was little more than a televised Zoom call while the latter was a marquee matchup between two of the hottest teams in the league, the Chiefs and the Ravens.</p><p>The time has come for the sports industry to find creative ways to harness technology for the next generation of fan engagement. What can we learn about the future based on what worked best during the pandemic?</p>
Breathe new life into regurgitated content<p>Filling up gaps in the programming schedule with reruns of classic games worked well at first, but returns are diminishing. Success requires networks to put more work into their content choices.</p><p>Tommy Stimson, managing director at Qualitative Insights, <a href="https://marumatchbox.com/4-actions-fan-engagement-sports-covid-19/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">points out</a> that fans aren't very interested in games from the last 10-12 years. Footage from these games is already widely available online, plus "The known outcome and familiarity with the content makes the reruns less-than-satisfying." Instead, Stimson recommends showing iconic, historical sports moments that most of today's fans haven't seen or experienced. </p><p>Fans appreciate reruns far more when the footage is interspersed with new analysis and commentary, either from current players or from the athletes who were playing at the time. One of the darlings of Netflix's pandemic-era programming lineup, Michael Jordan's <em>The Last Dance </em>documentary, which followed the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls on their title run, drew an average of 5.6 million viewers for each of its ten episodes.</p><p>Many teams hosted social media-integrated "watch parties," where former players shared their personal memories and fielded questions from fans while streaming classic games, and fans were delighted with the multi-screen experience, which dovetailed perfectly with game rerun telecasts. <a href="https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/survey-sports-with-empty-stadiums-means-millions-of-americans-will-be-engaging-from-home-301094037.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">One poll</a> found that 76 percent of U.S. fans want more watch party-style viewing options moving forward.</p>
Screenshot of New England Patriots re-watch party ad
Credit: Facebook<p>Networks would also do well to tap into the <a href="https://bigthink.com/culture-religion/money-sports-success" target="_self">deeper reasons</a> why people follow sports, by sharing narratives about how teams come together as a unit, or times when players overcame adversity. Viewers are eager for behind-the-scenes content that reveals how players stay in shape, how managers set strategies, or the motivating factors behind decisions to trade, draft, and otherwise acquire talent.</p><p>As brands collect more viewer data, they can also deliver more personalized content experiences that engage fans more deeply. </p>
Invite fans to vote for in-game elements<p>Giving fans ways to have a real effect on in-game elements is another winner for the sports industry. Juventus has long been a trail-blazer for digital transformation, so it's no big surprise to see the storied soccer franchise leading the way again.</p><p><span></span>Juventus <a href="https://www.socios.com/new-goal-celebration-song-for-juventus-is-revealed/" target="_blank">invited fans to vote</a> for its new in-stadium goal celebration song using Socios, a token-based voting and rewards platform, to ensure that the results wouldn't be sabotaged by rival fans or manipulated by hackers.</p>
Credit: Twitter<p>Fans overwhelmingly chose Blur's "Song 2," and were rewarded by <a href="https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-7868543/Juventus-fans-chose-iconic-Blur-track-goal-anthem-pioneering-blockchain-vote.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">hearing the song four times</a> in the first back-to-business game between Juventus and Cagliari. </p> <p>Socios has been doing some interesting work in the digital fan engagement realm beyond the Juventus example. Its parent company, Chiliz, partners with teams to issue blockchain-based, franchise-branded coins. Apollon Limassol FC decided to put on a head-to-head skills challenge between players, with <a href="https://medium.com/chiliz/apollon-fc-apl-fan-token-sells-out-in-6-minutes-generating-100k-f3bc6a98e75d" target="_blank">fans using tokens to vote</a> on the matchups. In esports, itself a social distancing-friendly concept, fans of Spanish team Heretics were able to vote on which players would go head to head in Fortnite death-matches.</p>
Encourage fans to connect together at home<p>Part of the beauty of sports is that it forges relationships. Season ticket holders connect with neighboring seatmates in the stadium; families bond over a shared love for their teams; friends come together to watch the big match and analyze it ceaselessly during and after the game.</p> <p>It's difficult to translate this to a situation where even private socializing is frowned upon, but it's not impossible. </p> <p>To build hype as the NFL season neared, Pepsi <a href="https://www.marketingdive.com/news/pepsi-delivers-tailgate-in-a-box-to-football-fans-hankering-for-game-day/584016/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">tapped into this demand</a> with a "Tailgate-in-a-box" kit that includes an outdoor projector and a range of Pepsi products. The kit is valued at $5,000 and was delivered to sweepstake winners, so it's unclear how this will translate into the general market, but the opportunity is clear. Pepsi is also experimenting with a "tailgate tour" that brings live music and outdoor games to fans viewing from home. </p> <p>The <a href="https://www.sportbusiness.com/2020/09/nba-leverages-microsoft-partnership-to-revolutionize-virtual-fan-experience/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">NBA led the way recently</a> by offering 320 fans the opportunity to "attend" games in the Orlando bubble. At-home viewers logged in through Microsoft Teams, and their streamed likenesses were beamed onto 17-foot video boards set up around the courts. The tech made it look like viewers were sitting next to each other, plus participants could interact with each other and see and hear their reactions in real time. The NBA has other plans to allow fans to chat during games, display a real-time statistical overlay, and introduce gaming elements as well. </p>
Credit: Instagram<p>Technological advances, including <a href="https://bigthink.com/what-would-it-take-to-create-a-fully-immersive-virtual-reality" target="_self">virtual reality</a> (VR) and augmented reality (AR), offer teams new ways to offer virtual fan experiences.</p> <p>Another option that could become very popular is <a href="https://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2020/05/27/virtual-reality-sports-fans-broadcasts/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">audio AR</a>. Powerful recording equipment picks up the minutiae of sounds that make up the audio backdrop of in-stadium viewing, and then broadcasts it to at-home viewers. AR allows the noise to grow louder or fainter as viewers "move" closer to or further away from the action. Brands can even add crowd sounds, like gasps at a near miss or the shouts of vendors, to enhance the experience. </p> <p>In Japan, an app called Remote Cheerer allowed fans to capture their real-time reactions to on-field action and actually play triggered sounds in the stadium, instead of the canned crowd noise we've hearing in our MLB, NFL and NHL telecasts. This type of solution keeps fans at home more engaged and makes even the passive TV watching experience more authentic.</p>