The Daily Dose: Coronavirus quarantine sparks prison riots in Italy.

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Over the weekend, the COVID-19 outbreak entered a new phase with cities in Northern Italy going on lock down. Stringent guidelines have resulted in unforeseen complications in the country. As per the Guardian, “Six prisoners have died in Modena, Italy, after a prison riot broke out when detainees were informed that the new emergency decree includes restriction of face time with visiting relatives due to the coronavirus.” Meanwhile, Iran continued to be one of the hardest hit countries outside of China. According to state media, 595 new coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the past day including 43 new deaths. The new totals are now: 7,161 total infections and 237 deaths, with 2,394 confirmed recoveries.


Researchers are racing to develop new therapeutics and vaccines for the novel coronavirus. This involves some basic research that may indicate possible drug targets. One area currently being explored deals with how SARS-CoV-19 enters cells. As per Nature, “Genomic analyses of the new coronavirus have revealed that its spike protein differs from those of close relatives, and suggest that the protein has a site on it which is activated by a host-cell enzyme called furin.” If true, it is a cause for concern.Furin is found in variety of human tissues, including the lungs, liver and small intestines. That means there many ways the virus can gain entry into the human body.

Financial markets around the world continued to drop precipitously due to the COVID-19 outbreak and tumbling oil price sparked by lowered oil demand and a very public falling out between major oil producing countries, Saudi Arabia and Russia.

One path toward a possible COVID-19 vaccine currently under development approaches the problem through synthetic biology. As per STAT, “Although the Gates Foundation is spreading its bets among several cutting-edge vaccine platforms, including those using genetic material, one based on synthetic biology has real promise. ’We may need an approach that can get you millions and even billions of doses,’ said immunologist and physician Lynda Stewart, who directs the foundation’s vaccine research. Gates announced last month that it will funnel $60 million to Covid-19 research, including vaccines.” Conservative estimates indicate that a vaccine may make it to the market in 2021.


Scientific publishing companies continue to test different business models that allow them to provide Open Access to their content without shifting the financial burden from libraries to the research labs producing the content. One model comes from Annual Reviews. “To make a journal freely available, institutions would be asked for a contribution equivalent to their previous subscription—minus a 5% discount that Annual Reviews is offering to retain a critical mass of paying institutions.” An alternative model being adopted is from the Association for Computing Machinery. “ACM is asking the institutions that publish the most papers in its 59 journals to pay more than they do now for subscriptions—in some cases about 10 times as much, or $100,000 per year. The higher fees will allow all researchers at participating universities to publish an unlimited number of papers in ACM journals without paying APCs.”

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