Science & Enterprise subscription

Follow us on Twitter

  • Results from a clinical trial show a combination of two synthetic antibodies reduces deaths in hospitalized Covid-1…
    about 11 hours ago
  • New post on Science and Enterprise: Antibodies Help Some Hospitalized Covid-19 Patients #Science #Business
    about 11 hours ago
  • ... Crocodile on the Tarcoles River in Costa Rica, for #NaturePhotographyDay ... February 2020.
    about 1 day ago
  • Oystercatcher for #NaturePhotographyDay ... Cape May, New Jersey. June 2019.
    about 1 day ago
  • Two biotechnology companies are designing therapies to deliver edited genes to treat Friedreich’s ataxia and amyotr…
    about 1 day ago

Please share Science & Enterprise

Antibodies Help Some Hospitalized Covid-19 Patients

Hospital room

(Fernando Zhiminaicela, Pixabay.

16 June 2021. Results from a clinical trial show a combination of two synthetic antibodies reduces deaths in hospitalized Covid-19 patients with no earlier immune response. The findings, released by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. in Tarrytown, New York and not peer-reviewed, are from a late-stage trial in the U.K. testing multiple therapies among hospitalized patients.

Health authorities up to now authorized several treatments for Covid-19 infections, but nearly all of those therapies are for non-hospitalized patients with mild to moderate symptoms.. The Recovery trial, short for Randomised Evaluation of Covid-19 Therapy, began in May 2020 to test a range of treatments among patients hospitalized in the U.K. with severe respiratory disease from their infections. A team led by researchers from University of Oxford is enrolling some 40,000 participants mainly in the U.K., but also Nepal and Indonesia.

The trial is run as a collection of smaller studies testing different therapies alone or in combination with hospitalized adults and children. One of the studies is testing Regeneron’s Covid-19 therapy called Regen-Cov, a cocktail of two monoclonal antibodies, synthetic proteins acting like antibodies to neutralize specific pathogens. The antibodies in this case are casirivimab and imdevimab designed to block infections from the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The two antibodies act against different parts of the protein covering the virus’s spike that penetrates and infects cells. The combination of two antibodies, says the company, limits the chance for a viral mutant or variant to escape neutralization.

Different results from patients with or without natural antibodies

Results from an early- and mid-stage trial testing the cocktail with hospitalized patients show the treatment reduces risks of death and need for mechanical ventilation more among patients with no previous natural antibodies from Covid-19 infections than patients who already have these antibodies. From these findings, the late-stage or phase 3 Recovery trial is looking specifically at differences in response to Regen-Cov among patients already with antibodies, called seropositive, and those without antibodies or seronegative.

Among Recovery trial participants in the U.K., 9,785 were randomly assigned to receive an 8,000 milligram infusion of Regen-Cov with the usual hospital care or the usual care alone, between September 2020 and May 2021. Among the 3,153 seronegative patients, the rate of death — the trial’s main efficacy measure — among those receiving Regen-Cov was 24 percent after 28 days, compared to 30 percent for patients receiving the usual hospital care alone, a statistically reliable difference. Adding in seropositive patients and those with unknown antibody status, the results show no difference between Regen-Cov recipients and non-recipients, 20 and 21 percent respectively.

FDA cleared Regen-Cov in November 2020 as a therapy for people age 12 and older with Covid-19 infections, mild to moderate symptoms not requiring hospitalization, and considered at high risk of progressing to severe illness. High risk individuals include those over 65, obese, pregnant, or having a chronic condition such as diabetes or heart disease. As reported by Science & Enterprise earlier this month, FDA updated the emergency use authorization or EUA to include lower doses injected under the skin, instead of infusions for non-hospitalized patients.

“Definitive phase 3 trials have now demonstrated,” says Regeneron president and chief scientist George Yancopoulos in a company statement, “that Regen-Cov can alter the course of Covid-19 infection from prevention, to very early infection, all the way through to when patients are on a ventilator in the hospital.” Yancopoulos adds, “We intend to rapidly discuss these results with regulatory authorities, including in the U.S. where we will ask for our EUA to be expanded to include appropriate hospitalized patients.”

More from Science & Enterprise:

*     *     *

Signs You’re Selling the Wrong Product

– Contributed content –

Tablet and laptop

(Anthony Shkraba, Pexels)

16 June 2021. The right person can sell practically anything with the right tenacity and the right information. It doesn’t mean that it’s the right thing to sell, though. You should work on selling the right products in your business, as without doing that, you’re going to fail at it. Any great salesperson can sell the right product, but you have to find it first.

If you start out by trying to sell a product that isn’t a good fit for your business, you will find that you are at a huge disadvantage. You could find yourself selling wholesale vape cartridge options to others and realize that it’s the best thing that fits your business, but a business that sells vaping pens and cartridges is hardly going to branch out into cabbages and produce, right? You have to make sure that you’re not at a huge disadvantage from the outset, and we’ve got four clear signs that you’re selling the wrong product in your business.

  1. The industry is in decline. If you’re in the thick of selling but you find that your sales are slowing right down, you need to work on deciding whether you have to change the way you sell things. You may need an exit strategy and that means ensuring that you know of other products you can sell instead.
  2. You’re not being treated well. If you are in a role where you are trying to sell business to business, you need to make sure that you can sell your products and that the businesses that you choose to sell to are treating you well at the same time. You may be selling to the wrong company if you’re not being treated as well as you could be, so make sure that you look at the companies that you sell to and decide whether they are those you really want to network with.
  3. The product has terrible reviews. You want to sell products that others want to buy, and a consistent flow of bad reviews shows the world that something is wrong, and you don’t want your business name tied to a product that others are not raving about. Choose products that make sense and that people already love. When you do this, you’re going to see that others will love it and write reviews, too.
  4. Competitors are beating you. A big part of sales is competitors beating you out of the product sales figures. It happens. However, if your competitors are providing customers with more value than you can, you need to decide whether you are making the right choices with the right products.

When it comes down to it, your business is dependent on you selling the right things and these signs should tell you that you’ve chosen wrongly. The products that you sell can define your business, and the right choice can make or break it. Choose well from the get-go and you will find your profit margins are going to go up.

Editor’s note: The views in this post are the contributor’s and not those of Science & Enterprise, which does not condone or support production or use of electronic cigarettes.

*     *     *

Biotechs Partner on Crispr Therapies for Neuro Disorders

Adeno-associated virus

Adeno-associated virus (Jazzlw, wikimedia Commons)

15 June 2021. Two biotechnology companies are designing therapies to deliver edited genes to treat Friedreich’s ataxia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. Financial terms of the agreement between Crispr Therapeutics in Zug, Switzerland and Cambridge, Mass., and Capsida Biotherapeutics Inc. in Newbury Park, California were not disclosed.

The two companies are collaborating on treatments that work inside the body, called in vivo therapies, for these neurological diseases that deliver functioning edited genes with engineered adeno-associated viruses. Friedreich’s ataxia is a rare disorder caused by a mutation in the FXN gene that codes for the protein frataxin. People inheriting two defective copies of the FXN gene, one from each parent, are likely to develop the disease, which allows nerve fibers in the spinal cord and peripheral nerves to degenerate and become thinner.

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder where neurons or nerve cells controlling muscles in the body begin to waste away, and can no longer send or receive signals from the brain or spinal cord. As the nerve cells stop functioning, the muscles in the limbs, and later speech and breathing muscles, begin weakening and eventually stop functioning. Most people with the disease die of respiratory failure.

Improved AAV targeting limits off-target effects

Crispr — short for clustered, regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats — makes it possible to edit genomes of organisms harnessing bacterial defense mechanisms that use RNA to identify and monitor precise locations in DNA. At Crispr Therapeutics and in most other cases, the actual editing is done by Crispr-associated protein 9, or Cas9, enzyme that programs RNA to cut DNA at precise points in genomes, making it possible to delete, insert, or correct defects in human genomes.

Capsida Biotherapeutics creates engineered adeno-associated viruses to deliver gene therapies. Adeno-associated viruses or AAVs are benign, naturally occurring microbes that infect cells, but do not integrate with the cell’s genome or cause disease, and generate at most a mild immune response. Capsida says it modifies AAVs to reduce adverse events from gene therapies with better targeting that limits off-target effects and also makes possible lower treatment doses.

Crispr Therapeutics and Capsida are partnering on design, development, and production of in vivo therapies for the two neurological diseases. Crispr Therapeutics is taking the lead on a Friedreich’s ataxia treatment, while Capsida is leading on a therapy for familial ALS, an inherited form of the disease affecting five to ten percent of all cases. Each company has the option of co-developing or co-commercializing the other partner’s treatment candidates, where the partners would share R&D and commercialization costs, as well as profits on the joint products. In addition, Capsida is responsible for process development and manufacturing of clinical-stage candidate products, and has an option for manufacturing commercial products once they reach that stage.

“The combination of Capsida’s AAV engineering platform and Crispr Therapeutics’ gene-editing platform has the potential to enable transformative gene-edited therapies for patients with neurological diseases,” says Crispr Therapeutics CEO Samarth Kulkarni in a statement.

More from Science & Enterprise:

*     *     *

Here’s How the Pandemic Made Businesses Smarter

– Contributed content –

Remote meeting screen

(Charles Deluvio, Unsplash)

15 June 2021. The pandemic will remain in history as a period of wins and losses. The health crisis has affected the world, claiming many lives in the process. The emergency response has been unanimous all around the world: Let’s shut down everything. As a result, it is fair to say that the business environment has changed dramatically.

However, the dramatic situation has encouraged people to find creative solutions to survive. The COVID-19 crisis has encouraged a boost of creative engineering inside the business world. Here are some of the most valuable innovations during the pandemic and why we believe they are here to stay.

Quick and reliable tests

Covid tests will remain part of a necessary routine for a long time. Travelers and professionals who can’t socially distance already rely on expensive covid tests to support their projects. International travelers should present a valid and negative covid test upon boarding their plane, both on departure and arrival in many countries. Unfortunately, tests do not exclude quarantine and self-isolation on return. For professionals who can’t socially distance, tests can be daily.

However, tests are still in their infancy. Many remain expensive while delivering a high margin of errors. Some laboratories have been developing innovative and reliable covid tests, such as a Canadian lab looking at testing antibodies via a pinprick of blood. The results are available within the hour for a unit cost of approximately $US 1.60 per test. Other tests are also experimenting with measuring covid-19 markers through breath or via a smartwatch app. In a society where covid-19 is likely to remain a long-term risk, making tests accessible, affordable, and intuitive will be a game-changer.

Social distancing in stores and venues

More and more stores have been actively looking at replacing physical interactions with machines. Fast-food restaurant McDonald’s had already introduced digital boards where customers can pass their orders. But the appetite for smart, digital technology has grown rapidly during the pandemic. Many restaurants have transformed their ordering systems, using a QR-code app that is accessible directly at the table. This allows customers to pass their orders and pay without interacting with a waiter. Japanese restaurant chain YO!, which was already famous for its conveyor belt franchise in the UK, Australia, Russia, and UEA, has put the conveyor belt to good use during the pandemic.

Using an app on their smartphones, the food is made to order and distributed via the conveyor belt. Using a printed circuit board for control, tables receive a light signal (red, orange, and green) to know where their food is. The conveyor belt stops in front of the right table to deliver. Businesses interested in a similar system will need to digitize their service for an app, a conveyor-like delivery solution, and custom-made electronic parts following the appropriate PCB assembly guidelines. A change of layout and design may be necessary for the safety of your customers.

Digitalized workplace and remote teams

Remote teams are here to stay. According to a Gartner CFO survey shows that almost three-quarters of businesses plan to maintain remote work permanently. Virtual offices will reduce physical office space and costs while increasing the talent pool. Digital security, accessibility, and WFH are reshaping the business world.

The pandemic has contributed to a tech renewal in the business environment. Companies have had to adapt to the new challenges, and we can expect these tech transformations are here to stay and grow.

*     *     *

Diverse Genomic Variation Analytics Panel Created

Population genetics

(National Human Genome Research Institute, NIH)

14 June 2021. A synthetic biology company and genetics research service are providing analytics on population genomic variations they say are more racially and ethnically diverse. Twist Bioscience Corp. in South San Francisco is offering the Twist Diversity SNP panel in a collaboration with Regeneron Genetics Center in Tarrytown, New York.

Twist Bioscience develops synthetic genetic materials on a silicon platform, patterned after semiconductors, instead of traditional plastic plates and receptacles. This process, says the company, overcomes conventional limitations and inefficiencies to design and construct genes, oligonucleotide collections for Crispr genome-editing RNA, and libraries of genetic variations. Twist says its process based on semiconductors makes it possible to reduce the chemical reaction volumes required, but at the same time increase production throughput by a factor of 1,000. As a result, says the company, it can produce 9,600 genes on a single chip, while traditional plastic lab plates produce a single gene in the same space.

Twist Bio uses its technology to produce the Twist Diversity SNP panel, a collection of some 1.4 million granular variations, called single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs (pronounced snips) that occur throughout the human genome. The company says it creates the panel from more than 600,000 DNA probes, single strands of DNA with identifying markers for detecting complementary DNA sequences.

Adding in underrepresented races and ethnic groups

Regeneron Genetics Center is a subsidiary of the biotechnology company Regeneron that applies high-throughput genomic sequencing to discovery of new treatments. The center sequences exomes that cover the exons, or protein coding regions of the human genome. Exomes account for only a small part, 1 to 2 percent, of base pairs in the genome, but they represent about 85 percent of all disease causing mutations. The Regeneron center then correlates results of the whole exome sequencing to de-identified medical records.

For the Twist Diversity SNP panel, Regeneron is providing high-throughput sequencing for population genomic research, a branch of the field that assesses genetic variations associated with occurrences of disease in a population. Many of the genetic databases used in population studies, say the companies, are based largely on people of European descent. As a result, many races and ethnic groups are underrepresented in these studies, which limits their value is discovering new therapies with worldwide applicability.

“Collaborating with Regeneron to optimize the assay with content from multiple ethnicities,” says Emily Leproust, Twist Bio’s CEO in a company statement, “enables increased characterization of diverse populations to improve understanding around disease and potentially therapeutic development as well.”

Twist Bio says its Diversity SNP panel can be accessed separately to find the presence of specific genetic variants or integrated with the company’s Human Comprehensive Exome panel to provide an ethnicity-neutral reference standard for evaluating genomic sequencing results. The company says the service also supports more complex genetic analyses and makes it possible for pharma and biotech labs to consolidate separate genomic, exome, and custom sequencing panels.

More from Science & Enterprise:

*     *     *

Infographic – U.S. Public Split on Geoengineering

Geoengineering opinions

(Pew Research Center)

12 June 2021. As climate change forecasts become increasingly dire, so are calls increasing to consider measures that directly alter climatic conditions, called geoengineering or hacking the planet. A recent survey by Pew Research Center shows the U.S. public is divided on pursuing steps like cloud seeding or solar geoengineering that spreads reflective particles in the atmosphere to disperse direct sunlight.

Policy makers are cautiously exploring these geoengineering steps. Cloud seeding projects that distribute in the atmosphere silver iodide particles simulating ice are already underway in chronic drought-ridden Western states. And a report in March from the National Academies recommends at least considering geoengineering to deal with climate change.

Public opinion appears to reflect this cautionary approach. About half (50%) of the U.S. public believes cloud seeding can make a difference in affecting climate change, barely more than the 45 percent who feel cloud seeding will not make a difference. For solar geoengineering, more than half in the U.S. (53%) believes it can make a difference in addressing climate change, while about four in 10 (41%) feel it can help deal with climate change.

Majorities of older Americans, those born in 1946 or before, are most willing to believe these geoengineering steps can make a difference in climate change, while similar majorities of Generation Z Americans, born in 1996 or before, feel these measures will not make a difference. And political party also affects views on geoengineering. Solid majorities of Republicans feel geoengineering can make a difference with climate change, while similar majorities of Democrats are skeptical of geoengineering.

Pew Research Center polled online 13,749 adults representative of the U.S. population taking part in the center’s American Trends Panel. The sample includes an oversample of Gen Z adults from the Ipsos Knowledge Panel. The survey took place 20 to 29 April 2021.

More from Science & Enterprise:

*     *     *

DNA Data Search, Retrieval Medium Designed

Digital DNA

(Pete Linforth, Pixabay.

11 June 2021. A bioengineering team created a practical technique for using DNA as a medium to store and retrieve vast and rapidly growing volumes of data. Researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology describe their process in yesterday’s issue of the journal Nature Materials (paid subscription required).

Advances in informatics, such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of things, and autonomous vehicles, are expected to create massive data volumes that stretch current data storage facilities, such as data centers, to their limits. These demands will likely lead to a need for ever-larger physical plants, higher power consumption, and much higher costs, but building more of these large and expensive facilities is becoming increasingly unfeasible and not sustainable.

Researchers from MIT and the Broad Institute affiliated with MIT and Harvard are seeking methods that take advantage of DNA’s data storage potential. The lab of MIT biological engineering professor Mark Bathe studies the structural properties of DNA, particularly for nanoscale applications, including therapeutics, computing, and data storage.

In the article, Bathe and colleagues note DNA’s capacity for ultra-high density data storage. Instead of coding data as 0s and 1s as in digital media, DNA codes data in the four bases found in DNA molecules: adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine, or A – C – G – T. Stored data are then written in these synthesized nucleic acids, which are chemically stable and thus can last for long periods of time. Genetic sequencing routines can read and decode the stored DNA data into the original file.

Burning the haystack to find the needle

Holding back adoption of DNA for storing data are its high cost and lack of a practical method for retrieving the desired data. Synthesizing DNA can be done but it’s still much too expensive for large-scale use, at least for now. In the paper, the MIT/Broad team addressed the second issue, a practical retrieval method. “You’re going to have a pile of DNA,” says Bathe in an MIT statement, “which is a gazillion files, images or movies and other stuff, and you need to find the one picture or movie you’re looking for. It’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack.”

In addition, retrieving data today requires sequencing DNA with polymerase chain reaction or PCR, a basic amplification technique. PCR adds a primer sequence to the target DNA sample to jump-start the process. For most other uses, adding the primer does not affect the outcome, but for data retrieval, the primer could get confused with DNA other than the data sought for retrieval. And enzymes used for PCR amplification could also consume other DNA data in the pool. “You’re kind of burning the haystack to find the needle,” notes Bathe, “because all the other DNA is not getting amplified and you’re basically throwing it away.”

The researchers devised a technique for this retrieval problem. The team uses a tiny capsule of silica — silicon dioxide, a naturally occurring substance in quartz, sand, and human soft tissue — to store DNA data files. Each impervious silica particle is coded with a strand of DNA acting like a bar code with metadata to identify and describe data in the particle. The search process uses PCR primers with fluorescent properties that illuminate when matching the metadata encoded in the DNA bar code. The authors say each capsule can store up to the equivalent of a gigabyte of digital data.

The team demonstrated the process with 20 digital images coded into DNA. Each image required some 3,000 nucleotides, building block molecules in nucleic acids, which the authors say is equivalent to about 100 bytes of digital data. The authors say the demonstration shows the technique returns searches, including Boolean searches, with an accuracy of 1 in 1 million files.

Bathe envisions a short-term need for storing DNA data from medical specimens, such as Covid-19 tests, as well as a longer-term need for archival data storage, where data are not intended to be retrieved frequently. Bathe and postdoctoral researcher James Banal, the paper’s first author, are founders of the start-up company Cache DNA developing DNA data storage and retrieval with uniquely identified micro- to nanoscale capsules.

More from Science & Enterprise:

*     *     *

Plant-Based Material Designed to Replace Plastics

Uses of plant-based material

Uses of plant-based alternative to plastic (Xampla Ltd.)

10 June 2021. Biochemists created a polymer film derived from soy proteins in a sustainable process that can replace many of today’s single-use plastics. A team from University of Cambridge in the U.K. and the spin-off company Xampla Ltd. describe the material and process in today’s issue of the journal Nature Communications.

Researchers from the lab of Cambridge chemistry professor Tuomas Knowles are seeking alternative materials to plastics made into one-off uses like dishwasher and laundry soap tablets, as well as non-degradable films used in packaging and other consumer products. Proteins from plants offer a potential feedstock for these alternatives, but in their natural state plant-based proteins are often insoluble in water, requiring many chemical modifications and purifications. The team set out to find an economical, environmentally-friendly, and scalable method to produce a plastic-like material to replace today’s single-use plastics.

For this process, Knowles and colleagues used the spider as a model. Spiders produce their silk from proteins that self-assemble into a strong, flexible material. “Because all proteins are made of polypeptide chains, under the right conditions we can cause plant proteins to self-assemble just like spider silk,” says Knowles in a university statement. “In a spider, the silk protein is dissolved in an aqueous solution, which then assembles into an immensely strong fiber through a spinning process which requires very little energy.”

Mechanical properties similar to engineered plastics

Researchers in this case started with a soy protein isolate, readily available as a waste product from making soybean oil. The team mixed the protein isolate in water and acetic acid, the main ingredient in vinegar, to form a slurry, then exposed the mix to ultrasound and and 90 degree C heat (194 F). The resulting solution then cools and the protein chains self-assemble into a network forming a densely-packed hydrogel, a water-based polymer gel. The solvent in the hydrogel then evaporates, leaving a clear transparent film. The team later added glycerol, a naturally occurring compound used in pharmaceuticals, as a plasticizer to produce a more uniform and flexible film.

In lab tests, the film exhibited physical and mechanical properties similar to engineered plastics. And the material could also be produced with lithographic templates to add micro- or nanoscale patterns into the film, to make the surface repel water as well as add colors to the film. In another demonstration, the team successfully coated ordinary paperboard with the film, to protect the board surface much like lamination. The authors point out their process uses no toxic solvents, nor other non-biodegradable products.

“The key breakthrough here,” says postdoctoral researcher and co-author Marc Rodriguez Garcia, “is being able to control self-assembly, so we can now create high-performance materials.” He adds, “There is a huge, huge issue of plastic pollution in the world, and we are in the fortunate position to be able to do something about it.”

Knowles is scientific founder of Xampla, also in Cambridge, a three year-old enterprise commercializing this process. The company is producing alternative feedstocks from plant proteins for microcapsules using engineered plastics, as well as films and coatings. Knowles is an adviser to Xampla, while Rodriguez Garcia is head of research and the paper’s first author Ayaka Kamada is a research scientist at the company. The university filed for patents on the technology.

More from Science & Enterprise:

*     *     *

U.S. to Buy Covid-19 Antiviral Drug in $1.2B Deal


(Ranys Tuunainen, Pixabay)

9 June 2021. Two U.S. government health agencies agreed to purchase some 1.7 million doses of a Covid-19 antiviral drug, once the drug receives clearance from FDA. The deal for molnupiravir, a broad-spectrum oral antiviral therapy originally designed in academic labs, could bring global drug maker Merck as much as $1.2 billion once the Food and Drug Administration authorizes or fully approves the drug.

Molnupiravir is an antiviral drug in capsule form designed to prevent RNA viruses, such as SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses, from replicating. The drug is a ribonucleoside analog, a synthetic form of a nucleic acid component that blocks replication of SARS-CoV-2 viruses after infection, thus limiting its spread and severity. Molnupiravir is based on academic research and originally developed as a potential therapy against a wide range of viral diseases by Drug Innovation Ventures at Emory, or Drive LLC, a not-for-profit biotechnology enterprise wholly owned by Emory University in Atlanta.

Drive LLC licensed the drug, originally code-named EIDD-2801, to Ridgeback Biotherapeutics in March 2020 for further development as an oral therapy against the then-emerging SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. In May 2020, as reported by Science & Enterprise, Merck gained exclusive worldwide rights to take EIDD-2801, later renamed molnupiravir, through clinical trials and commercialization.

Funding from HHS and DoD

The latest round of clinical studies is testing molnupiravir as a therapy for patients testing positive for Covid-19 infection, but with mild to moderate symptoms that do not require hospitalization. An earlier mid-stage trial failed to show clinical benefit for hospitalized Covid-19 patients. The current late-stage trial is testing molnupiravir against a placebo with 1,850 individuals testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 and with at least one high-risk factor for severe disease (e.g. older age or a chronic disease), but not hospitalized.

In the trial, participants are randomly assigned to receive 800 milligrams of molnupiravir or a placebo twice a day for five days. The study team is mainly looking for numbers of participants who die or need hospitalization, as well as individuals experiencing adverse events or who discontinue taking part because of the drug.

Under the new agreement, the U.S. government plans to buy some 1.7 million doses of molnupiravir once the drug receives an emergency authorization or full biologic license from FDA, expected in the second half of 2021. Merck would receive $1.2 billion from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, part of Department of Health and Human Services, and the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense in Department of Defense.

Merck says it aims to produce molnupiravir for patients worldwide as well as those in the U.S. Rob Davis, president of Merck notes in a company statement that “In addition to this agreement with the U.S. government, we are actively engaged in numerous efforts to make molnupiravir available globally to fulfill Merck’s commitment to widespread access.” Merck says it has non-exclusive licensing agreements with manufacturers of generic drugs to make molnupiravir available in 104 low- or middle-resource countries, at tiered pricing levels reflecting their national incomes.

More from Science & Enterprise:

*     *     *

Apple Expands Health Data, Trends, Sharing

Apple iPhone screen shots

Screen shots, L-R, of iPhone sharing, walking steadiness, and trends health app features. Click on image for full-size view (Apple Inc.)

8 June 2021. Apple Inc. is adding new data collection, reporting, and sharing features to its iPhone and watch health apps supported by its latest operating system upgrades. The company announced the health app features running on the iOS15 and watchOS8 operating systems yesterday at its annual worldwide developers conference.

Apple offers its Health App that measures a number of health indicators with its mobile devices, such as physical movements and activity in the iPhone and heart rate in the Apple watch. In addition, a related health Research App enables wearers to take part in research studies using the devices for data collection and uploading to the cloud for analysis. As reported in Science & Enterprise, Apple devices are used in research to collect data on Parkinson’s disease symptoms and to detect depression. The company earlier sponsored studies on women’s health, heart health and movements, and hearing loss using the Research App.

Apple’s iPhone health app is adding a new feature to track the steadiness of a person’s walking. This feature uses motion sensors in the iPhone and built-in algorithms to monitor walking behavior and surfaces for signs of instability indicating a better chance of falling. The company cites World Health Organization data showing more than 37 million people a year require medical attention from falls. Apple also says this feature is result of real-world data from more than 100,000 participants in the company’s heart and movement study.

In addition, the iPhone health app now calculates trends for 20 data indicators such as heart rate and amount of sleep over time. And the health app can also track data over time from third-party devices like blood glucose monitors. The iPhone app also allows for routinely sharing health indicators, including trends data, with designated family members or clinicians. And health app users will have the option for storing verifiable immunization records and lab test results, including Covid-19 vaccines and tests, in the app.

Track personal health and family members

The Apple watch is adding more health-related features as well. The watch is adding a mindfulness app for users to engage in deep breathing and focusing exercises. And the watch will capture respiratory rate, measured as breaths per minute, during sleep, for the health app with data trends tracked over time.

Apple believes the new health features will help users better care for their own health and family members, particularly older adults. “We’ve added powerful features that give users the most comprehensive set of insights to better understand their health trends over time,” says Apple’s chief operating officer Jeff Williams in a company statement. “Many people around the world are caring for someone, and we want to provide a secure and private way for users to have a trusted partner on their health journey.”

The new health app features are now available for developers, and will be introduced to users next month in “beta” or early-access form. Apple plans to make most features available to iPhone and watch users in the fall as iOS15 software updates, although some features may need more recent hardware versions to run.

More from Science & Enterprise:

*     *     *