scientist in laboratory

DAILY DOSE: China overtakes U.S. in key sciences metric; An environmental conundrum in Brazil.

China continues to make impressive strides in the sciences. A recent study conducted in Japan determined that the Asian nation has overtaken the United States in the category of most papers cited. According to the journal Science, “China accounted for 27.2% of the most cited papers published in 2018, 2019, and 2020, and the United States for 24.9%. Next was the United Kingdom, with 5.5%; Japan was in 10th place. (U.S. researchers were still slightly ahead when NISTEP used a less fine-grained method that credits every country that contributed to a highly cited paper equally, regardless of how many of its institutions were involved.)” While other metrics continue to have the United States leading, it’s only by a slim margin and is decreasing rapidly.

With Brazilian elections around the corner, the campaign Trail is providing a fascinating snapshot into where the country lies when it comes to environmental issues, particularly pertaining to the Amazon forest. According to the Associated Press, “Amid widespread poverty and lack of economic opportunities besides those that are environmentally damaging, Amazon voters have increasingly favored politicians who frame legal protection of the world’s largest tropical rainforest as a barrier to development. A survey carried out by the website ((o))eco news found that most lawmakers from Brazil’s nine Amazon states voted in favor of five major bills that soften environmental laws, from opening Indigenous territories to mining, to legalizing land-robbing. In three of the votes, representatives from the Amazon region voted more heavily in favor than those from other parts of Brazil.” that Trend certainly puts environmentalists in a strange position, where the local population is at odds with some of its intended goals.

While the Biden Administration can certainly feel pleased with the recent passing of the inflation reduction act, for many scientists it still not enough. In their eyes, there remains much work to do. Not only that, they assert that the United States has yet to make up for years of environmental intransigence. According to Nature, “US agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Department of Energy (DOE), will see a significant influx of cash from a massive climate and tax bill that US President Joe Biden signed on 16 August. Scientists around the world welcome the legislation, called the Inflation Reduction Act, which pledges US$369 billion in climate investments over the next decade — while acknowledging that more work is needed to counter global warming.” Privately though, those scientists must be at least a little bit please.

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Move over mRNA vaccines, there’s a new sheriff in town.and it’s called oRNA (circular RNA). Per Fierce Biotech, “Orna Therapeutics is in the money. Tuesday morning, the developer of fully engineered circular RNA therapies revealed a double dose of good news, simultaneously taking the lid off an alliance with Merck & Co. worth $150 million upfront and a $221 million series B financing. First, to the Merck deal. The Big Pharma is making the upfront payment and committing to up to $3.5 billion in milestones to work with Orna to advance programs including engineered circular RNA (oRNA) vaccines and therapeutics against infectious diseases and cancers. Orna will retain rights to its oRNA-LNP platform and continue to advance other wholly owned programs internally.”

A recent study has documented how gorillas in captivity have acquired a new sound which gorillas in the wild do not possess. Per Smithsonian magazine, “Now, after studying gorillas at Zoo Atlanta and surveying 19 other zoos in the United States and Canada, Salmi and her colleagues think they have a better understanding of why captive gorillas make the unusual utterance. Zoo gorillas likely started “snoughing” to get their keepers’ attention, the researchers posit in a new paper published Wednesday in the journal Plos One. Scientists have never observed gorillas snoughing in the wild, which suggests apes kept in captivity can learn to make new sounds, a rare capability among animals.” Researchers suspect the animals caught on to the fact that sounds connected with illness got a response from the keepers. Well it’s undoubtedly fascinating and revealing, it’s also depressing on another level.

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