DAILY DOSE: Activists keeping COP26 honest; Darwin’s notebooks are still missing.


With COP26 chugging along in all its self-congratulatory, pledge-heavy glory, boots-on-the-ground activists are raising their voices and concerns on the streets of Glasgow. Per Al-Jazeera, “Activists criticised plans by corporations and governments to solve the climate change emergency through opaque carbon-trading schemes instead of urgently shutting down fossil fuel production as many scientists recommend… The activists said promoting the concept of net-zero carbon emissions decades down the road to halt climate disasters already happening was ‘pure fantasy’. The burning of fossil fuels needs to stop now, and ‘trading carbon’ does not achieve that, they said. ‘Corporations will be allowed to continue polluting and it’s a fairy tale to think that the trade in carbon gets us out of this crisis,’ said Ozawa Bineshi Albert, and Indigenous activist and member of the Climate Justice Network.” It’s important to keep the politicians and power-brokers in attendance honest. The issues being addressed at the conference are too important not to.


The impressive march of pharmaceutical companies toward Covid-19 vaccines and therapies is breathtaking. Another vaccine candidate is in the works and promises broader protection than those currently in the market (according to the company, at least). Again, from Al-Jazeera, “French pharmaceutical company Valneva is throwing its hat into the vaccine ring, but it has a vaccine with a difference. Rather than induce an immune response that targets just the spike protein of the coronavirus, the Valneva vaccine, also known as VLA2001, stimulates an immune response to the entire virus, and that might just give it an edge over its competitors. It is different in that it uses the tried and tested method of taking the whole of the coronavirus and inactivating it so that it can no longer cause illness. It then combines with an adjuvant, a substance that helps it enter human cells effectively… The company say the advantage to this is that should any mutations arise on the spike protein that render it unrecognisable to the vaccine, the Valenva-induced immune response is broad enough to be able to recognise other parts of the virus so the immune reaction will still be effective.” Developing effective vaccines remains important even with therapies coming into the market. It’s all about not getting sick in the first place. https://bit.ly/3EZDgrT

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FierceBiotech’s annual surveys of the best and worst biotech/pharma companies are among the  most informative in the business. They’ve come out with their version of Rotten Tomatoes to call out companies that are falling short in terms of qualities. According to the feature, “While some companies have been working hard to get life-saving therapies out into the world and trying to repair what has always been a shaky reputation for the biopharma industry, others’ actions have unfortunately stained that fragile reputation further. CytoDyn is one such rotten tomato, using failed studies of a questionable drug to try and force through an FDA green light, though it was harshly rebuked for this. Along similar lines is Cel-Sci, a company that has run an 11-year odyssey for its experimental cancer immunotherapy, Multikine, only for it to fail.” Biogen tops the list. An interesting way to spend a few minutes, especially if you’ve got an ax to grind with the pharmaceutical industry. https://bit.ly/3CZGjzz


Moscow has officially thrown its furry hat into the climate change arena. Per the Associated Press, “A Russian island north of Japan has become a testing ground for Moscow’s efforts to reconcile its prized fossil fuel industry with the need to do something about climate change. More than two-thirds of Sakhalin Island is forested. With the Kremlin’s blessing, authorities there have set an ambitious goal of making the island — Russia’s largest — carbon neutral by 2025. Tree growth will absorb as much planet-warming carbon dioxide as the island’s half-million residents and its businesses produce, an idea the Russian government 4,000 miles to the west in Moscow hopes to apply to the whole country, which has more forested area than any other nation.” Welcome to the party. Tackling climate change without one of the biggest countries in the world would have been difficult, if not impossible. https://bit.ly/30dEpgK


There are times that modern medicine offers real opportunities to wipe out a deadly disease. Smallpox remains the example par excellence. Cervical cancer caused by the human papillomavirus is a potential candidate for eradication if public health officials can get people to buy into it. It’s not as easy as you think. An article in STAT looks at the way the United Kingdom is on the verge of achieving that lofty goal while the United States languishes far behind. Per STAT, “… the HPV vaccination rate for teenage girls lags far behind — about 59% in the U.S. vs. more than 85% in the U.K. The analysis, published last week in the Lancet, suggests the U.K. has notched a major public health victory against cancer through vaccinating the vast majority of young women against HPV, said Allison Kempe, a pediatrics professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine who did not work on the study.” Sometimes, people place more import on politics and economics than actually staying alive. Horse… meet water. https://bit.ly/3Ffyc2T


Last year, Cambridge University Library announced that a pair of Charles Darwin’s most important notebooks had been stolen 20 years before. To this day, there has been no news made public about any progress. Scientific Inquirer took a look back at what happened and why the notebooks are so important. “Experts pretty much agree that the likelihood of the notebooks being returned are slim to none and the chances of selling them are even less likely. However, there are instances where long-sought after works of art turn up beneath creaky beds or stashed away under wooden floor boards. Because of this, during Gardner’s statement and during interviews with the press, she remained hopeful that Notebook B and C will turn up. A year on from the announcement and twenty years from the disappearance, there’s still no news regarding Darwin’s missing Transmutation Notebooks.” While the contents of both notebooks have been digitized (thank goodness), it’s hard to understate how irreplaceable they are culturally and historically. https://bit.ly/308L7Es

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

IMAGE CREDIT: Frances McKee.

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