DAILY DOSE: Meet Pfizer’s variant hunters; China bans children from playing more than 3 hours of video games a week.

The world has become somewhat obsessed with coronavirus variants. Rightly so. That’s why it should come as no surprise that Pfizer has dedicated scientists actively searching for and cultivating newly found variants in its labs. Per STAT, “Hundreds of millions of doses have been injected worldwide, but at the Pearl River research center where the vaccine was created, the pace has not let up. A team of ‘variant hunters,’ as they call themselves, race to track changes in the fast-mutating SARS-CoV-2. A ‘virus farmer’ grows the latest variants so researchers can test how they fare against the vaccine. And a colleague known as the ‘graphing unicorn’ converts the data into intelligible results overnight.” It’s comforting to know that pharmaceutical companies aren’t resting on their laurels. https://bit.ly/3gKTrQ0

The COVID-19 pandemic has put the non-scientific public in direct proximity with cutting edge science and scientific practices. First it was PCR COVID-19 tests. Then it was mRNA vaccines. The education system in Wales is now introducing its student body to the practice of ozone disinfecting. Naturally, parents have some questions. Per the Guardian, “A £3.3m scheme to provide schools in Wales with machines that disinfect classrooms after a Covid outbreak has prompted calls for reassurance over their safety. The Welsh education ministry said on Monday that all schools, universities and colleges in Wales would be supplied with ozone disinfecting machines for cleaning up Covid-hit classrooms.” https://bit.ly/3Dubwf4

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For months, there has been a collective moan from the scientific community in the United States every time the intelligence report on the origins of COVID-19 is mentioned. Naturally, they felt wary considering how politicized the subject has been. As everyone knows by now, the report was inconclusive. Nature reported on the reaction of scientists in the U.S. “Many researchers welcome what seems to be a dispassionate investigation, after more than a year of politicization around how COVID-19 began. ‘I am glad to see us having a more nuanced discussion about this now,’ says Stephen Morrison, director of global health policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC. However, researchers also hope that the intelligence community will reveal more about its process, and are keen to hear about further investigations, either spearheaded by the World Health Organization (WHO) or independent of the agency. ‘This is an immensely complicated problem,’ says David Relman, a microbiologist at Stanford University in California. ‘No one expected this to be figured out by summer.’” https://go.nature.com/38msqho

The moment smart appliances came onto the market, you had to now that it would only be a matter of time until medical devices joined the “smart” parade. Cue, the first smart knee. According to FierceBiotech, “The FDA offered up a de novo clearance for Zimmer Biomet and Canary Medical’s Persona IQ system, marking it as the first “smart” knee implant to receive the agency’s OK. The device builds on Zimmer Biomet’s previously cleared Persona line of patient-specific implants. Designed to be meticulously customized to each patient’s anatomy, the knee system features anatomically accurate implants that can be adjusted in one- or two-millimeter increments to fit into a patient’s original bone structure. Meanwhile, the Persona IQ gets its intelligence from the former Fierce 15 winner Canary and its gait-tracking sensor technology. The implantable Canturio TE sensor continuously collects gait metrics like range of motion, step count and walking speed, then wirelessly transmits that information to Zimmer Biomet’s cloud-based data-tracking platform.” https://bit.ly/3Dys3hQ

Concern over children spending too much time playing video games appears to be one of the few universals that cross borders and cultures. Per the Associated Press, “China is banning children from playing online games for more than three hours a week, the harshest restriction so far on the game industry as Chinese regulators continue cracking down on the technology sector. Minors in China can only play games between 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Fridays, weekends and on public holidays starting Sept. 1, according to a notice from the National Press and Publication Administration.” Needless to say, ingenutive minors will find a way around it. Getting around parental (or in this case governmental) restrictions is another one of those universals that cross borders and cultures. https://bit.ly/3jvlRPG

Sometimes, bad situations get worse. That continues to be the case in the Middle East where damage from armed conflict is now being amplified by man-made environmental crises. Per Al-Jazeera, “Aid groups and engineers are warning of a looming humanitarian disaster in northeast Syria, where waning river flow is compounding woes after a decade of war. They say plummeting water levels at hydroelectric dams since January are threatening water and power cutoffs for up to five million Syrians, in the middle of a coronavirus pandemic and economic crisis. As drought grips the Mediterranean region, many in the Kurdish-held area are accusing neighbour and arch foe Turkey of weaponising water by tightening the tap upstream, though a Turkish source denied this.” https://bit.ly/3jvlRPG

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


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