DAILY DOSE: Scientists take exception to Moderna’s lawsuit; Zombie ice is a real thing but is it dangerous?


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Many scientists are taking exception to Moderna’s lawsuit against Pfizer and BioNTech over the mRNA technology underlying their Covid-19 vaccines. Specifically, they assert that the infringement claim is without merit because the company’s assertions about the technology are not entirely true. Per Science, “One of the three inventions claimed by Moderna in a legal battle that has erupted over the messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines against COVID-19 was actually patented years earlier by two university scientists. At the heart of Moderna’s patent infringement claim are the steps that opened the door for mRNA as a vaccine. Drew Weissman and Katalin Karikó, both at the University of Pennsylvania (Karikó now also works for BioNTech), published the fundamental discovery in 2005: They showed that altering one of the fundamental building blocks of mRNA, the nucleotide uridine, made the molecule less toxic and also more capable of dodging immune destruction.” Some experts believe that the lawsuit is less about the Covid-19 vaccines and more about subsequent drugs built on the mRNA technology. https://bit.ly/3pWO84o


Glaciers continue to melt all around the world. The latest to make the news has been dubbed zombie ice, cleverly invoking apocalyptic scenarios seen in pop culture works such as 28 Days Later and the Walking Dead. In this case, “the end” will come as a result of melting ice and rising sea levels. Per the Associated Press, “Greenland’s rapidly melting ice sheet will eventually raise global sea level by at least 10.6 inches (27 centimeters) — more than twice as much as previously forecast — according to a study published Monday. That’s because of something that could be called zombie ice. That’s doomed ice that, while still attached to thicker areas of ice, is no longer getting replenished by parent glaciers now receiving less snow. Without replenishment, the doomed ice is melting from climate change and will inevitably raise seas, said study co-author William Colgan, a glaciologist at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland.” https://bit.ly/3cu4UVd


Ever wonder whether animals that can regenerate limbs and body organs also regenerate the complete biological circuitry underlying the original? Well, a recent study investigated whether the regenerated limbs’ architecture is completely replicated. According to the authors, “We find that regeneration precisely replicates the complex microanatomy and spatial distribution of external sensory organs and restores their sensory function. Single-nuclei sequencing shows that regenerated and uninjured legs are indistinguishable in terms of cell-type composition and transcriptional profiles. This remarkable fidelity highlights the ability of organisms to achieve identical outcomes via distinct processes.” Amazing stuff. Imagine the potential of being able to regenerate diseased organs. https://bit.ly/3CLvm7x


In a blow to science publishers but a boon to just about everyone else, the Biden Administration has taken a significant step toward making all research that takes government money free to the public. Per Science, “President Joe Biden’s administration announced yesterday that, by the end of 2025, federal agencies must make papers that describe taxpayer-funded work freely available to the public as soon as the final peer-reviewed manuscript is published. Data underlying those publications must also be made freely available ‘without delay. ‘Many details of the new policy, including exactly how the government will fund immediate public access, remain to be decided. But it significantly reshapes and expands existing—and fiercely contested—U.S. access rules that have been in place since 2013. Most notably, the White House has substantially weakened, but not formally eliminated, the ability of journals to keep final versions of federally funded papers behind a subscription paywall for up to 1 year.” https://bit.ly/3Q1SPo6


The James Webb Telescope has wasted no time in proving its worth in the ongoing search for life on other planets. It has identified a planet with carbon dioxide in its atmosphere. Per Nature, “For a little more than eight hours on 10 July, the infrared telescope observed the planet move across the face of its star. As it did, starlight shone through the planet’s atmosphere where various molecules absorbed specific wavelengths of infrared light. Astronomers wondered whether carbon dioxide would show up as a telltale blip in the spectrum. ‘And there it was — just jumping off of the computer screen,” says Natalie Batalha, an astronomer at the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC), who leads Webb’s Transiting Exoplanet Early Release Science team.’” CO2 is a potential indicator of some form of life due its role as a product of respiration. https://go.nature.com/3Tu32MK

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

IMAGE: Anna Nolte.

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