The Daily Dose: COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues globally; Lilly ups its stake in gene therapy acquisitions.

The United States has joined the growing list of countries actively vaccinating its citizens against COVID-19, in this case using the Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA vaccine ( Unfortunately, it comes at a time when public health professionals are facing unprecedented hostility from the populations that they serve. Per the Associated Press, “Across the United States, state and local public health officials such as Coleman have found themselves at the center of a political storm as they combat the worst pandemic in a century. Amid a fractured federal response, the usually invisible army of workers charged with preventing the spread of infectious diseases has become a public punching bag. Their expertise on how to fight the coronavirus is often disregarded.

“Some have become the target of far-right activists, conservative groups and anti-vaccination extremists who have coalesced around common goals: fighting mask orders, quarantines and contact tracing with protests, threats and personal attacks.

“The backlash has moved beyond the angry fringe. In the courts, public health powers are being undermined. Lawmakers in at least 24 states have crafted legislation to weaken public health powers, which could make it more difficult for communities to respond to other health emergencies in the future.”

With all the positive news regarding COVID-19 vaccines, something has been getting lost in the hype and hope. Scientists still don’t know how long immunity to SARS-CoV-2 lasts after infection. A recent study in Science Immunology investigated and concluded, “RNAemia, but antibody responses in acute illness were insufficient to predict inpatient outcomes. Pseudovirus neutralization assays and a scalable ELISA measuring antibodies blocking RBD-ACE2 interaction were well correlated with patient IgG titers to RBD. Outpatient and asymptomatic individuals’ SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, including IgG, progressively decreased during observation up to five months post-infection.” The importance of pinning down how long immunity lasts is crucial for the vaccination basis.

Big Pharma continue to jump on the gene therapy band wagon big time. Per Fierce Biotech, “Eli Lilly has joined the ranks of big pharma companies building a position in gene therapy, paying $26.50 per share to take control of New York-based Prevail Therapeutics and its two clinical-stage development programs… The startup’s lead therapy—PR001—has now advanced into phase 1/2 testing for GBA1-positive PD as well as neuronopathic Gaucher disease, along with a second candidate (PR006) for frontotemporal dementia with GRN mutations.” This is Lilly’s second major gene therapy acquisition recently.

STAT is featuring a heartbreaking look at the devastation Alzheimer’s disease takes on families. An Iranian photojournalist documents the “patience, love, and devotion” a wife shares for her husband who is suffering from late stage Alzheimer’s.

Mission complete. Scientists in Japan are celebrating the successful return of their asteroid sampling spacecraft. Per Nature, “Japan’s mission to bring asteroid dust back to Earth has succeeded. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) confirmed on 14 December that a capsule from spacecraft Hayabusa2, which landed in the Australian desert last week, contained black grains from asteroid Ryugu.” Can’t wait for the asteroid analysis data to be made public.

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

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