The Daily Dose: CRISPR scientists win the Nobel; The data on face masks presented in one place.

Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their roles in the discovery of the use of CRISPR in gene editing. Per Nature, “Doudna and Charpentier and their colleagues did critical early work characterizing the system, but several other researchers have been cited — and recognized in other high-profile awards — as key contributors in the development of CRISPR. They include Feng Zhang at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts, George Church at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, and biochemist Virginijus Siksnys at Vilnius University in Lithuania (see ‘CRISPR’s many pioneers’).” As usual, the awarding of prizes fails to paint a complete picture especially when associated with a specific discovery.

A startling investigation by the Associated Press and Frontline has unearthed the staggering degree to which the global PPE supply chain failed American frontline healthcare professional just when they needed it the most. According to the Associated Press, “This catastrophic collapse was one of the country’s most consequential failures to control the virus. And it wasn’t unexpected: For decades, politicians and corporate officials ignored warnings about the risks associated with America’s overdependence on foreign manufacturing, and a lack of adequate preparation at home.” This tragedy was only exacerbated by the Trump Administration’s failure to react quickly and decisively to early intelligence indicating that SARS-CoV-2 was extremely dangerous.

As the next wave of COVID-19 outbreaks creeps across Europe, governments are resorting to targeted lockdowns and face masks in the hope of keeping it in check. Scotland has closed its pubs. Brussels has also entered lockdown again. Berlin has imposed a night curfew. And Italy has mandated the use of facemasks out in public. This comes on top of closures in Paris and Madrid. Meanwhile, countries like the Czech Republic are registering new cases at all time highs.

COVID-19-deniers love the argument that face masks are useless. More knowledgeable ones love to cite SARS_CoV-2’s size and throw up their arms and say it’s useless. Yet, the real story is more complicated than that and the vast majority of the actual evidence out there indicates that even cloth barriers can play a role in preventing droplets carrying viruses to spread. It’s only a question of degree, with N95 masks at the top. Nature pulled together the data and discusses the protective capacity of various masks.

Mars or bust! We’re not at that point quite yet but the day the human race launches its first potential Martian settlers is definitely inching closer. Leading the charge? Elon Musk, of course. Per Observer, “The newest prototype of SpaceX’s moon-landing and Mars-colonizing spaceship, Starship, is expected to undergo its first high-altitude test flight this month. The giant spacecraft’s development site in Boca Chica, Texas has been extremely busy over the past few weeks with preparation for the big test.” Fingers crossed for a successful test launch.

Thanks for reading. Be careful. Be kind.

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