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WE’VE BEEN HERE BEFORE…
There’s positive news on the Alzheimer’s drug front. Per FierceBiotech,
Eisai’s phase 3 clinical trial of Biogen-partnered Alzheimer’s disease candidate lecanemab has hit its primary and key secondary endpoints. The result, which analysts at Evercore ISI called a “major surprise,” gives a big boost to the partners as they head toward an accelerated approval decision in January. The Clarity AD study randomized 1,795 people with early Alzheimer’s to receive lecanemab, an antibody designed to take out amyloid-beta aggregates, or placebo intravenously twice a month. After 18 months, the partners found lecanemab slowed cognitive decline by 27% compared to placebo, causing the trial to hit its primary endpoint with a p-value of 0.00005. In an interview with Fierce Biotech earlier in the month, Ivan Cheung, Eisai's global Alzheimer's disease officer and CEO of the company's U.S. business, pointed out that the Japanese pharma had worked with centers around the country to ensure the trial's population mirrored the real-world situation, noting that 22.5% of participants were Hispanic and 4.5% were African American.
Biogen had previously had another Alzheimer’s drug that had enjoyed significant hype only to fall short of expectations. Eli Lilly also has a significant Alzheimer’s drug in development. https://bit.ly/3UPuyp0
DART GO BOOM.
With so many lenses pointed toward the interplanetary collision between a NASA projectile and a distant asteroid, the emergence of alternate footage is inevitable. Per Nature,
A ringside view came from LICIACube, a tiny Italian spacecraft that flew along with DART and photographed the impact, which took place 11 million kilometres from Earth. LICIACube’s first images, released by the Italian Space Agency on 27 September, show a large fireworks-like plume coming off Dimorphos after DART plowed into it. The cloud of rocks and other debris expanded quickly, like a giant puff of smoke. Studying the plume’s evolution will shed light on the physical properties of Dimorphos, Elisabetta Dotto, LICIACube’s science team lead at the National Institute for Astrophysics in Rome, said at a press briefing. By analysing how the plume formed and dispersed, researchers can calculate how much of DART’s kinetic energy went into ejecting debris from Dimorphos and how much might have gone into altering the asteroid’s orbit — the goal of the mission.
No matter what the camera angle, the collision is no less amazing. https://go.nature.com/3RiKzR1
CUBAN ELECTRICITY CRISIS.
Mother Nature has left an entire country without electricity. Per the Associated Press,
Cuba remained in the dark early Wednesday after Hurricane Ian knocked out its power grid and devastated some of the country’s most important tobacco farms when it hit the island’s western tip as a major storm. Authorities were working overnight to gradually restore service to the country’s 11 million people, according to a statement from Cuba’s Electric Union. Power was initially knocked out to about 1 million people in Cuba’s western provinces, but later the entire grid collapsed. Ian hit a Cuba that has been struggling with an economic crisis and has faced frequent power outages in recent months. It made landfall as a Category 3 storm on the island’s western end, devastating Pinar del Río province, where much of the tobacco used for Cuba’s iconic cigars is grown.
Tens of thousands of people were evacuated and others fled the area ahead of the arrival of Ian, which caused flooding, damaged houses and toppled trees. Authorities were still assessing the damage. https://bit.ly/3UKZWEY
DON’T UNDERESTIMATE ANY STORMS.
Mother Nature has been busy of late. A few days ago, Tropical Storm Fiona slammed into the East coast of Canada. Satellite images show how the tempest altered parts of the coastline. Per the CBC,
The Canadian Space Agency has posted satellite photos that dramatically illustrate how post-tropical storm Fiona changed Prince Edward Island's coastline. "This comparison of satellite images of Prince Edward Island and the Northumberland Strait, taken on Aug. 21 and Sept. 25, 2022, shows the extent to which the extreme wind and wave action of the storm has churned up the seafloor and eroded the coastline," the agency said on Twitter Tuesday.
It’s a nice reminder that even Tropical Storms can cause significant damage given the opportunity. https://bit.ly/3BOjY8Z
EXPERTS WORRYING ABOUT NEW VARIANTS.
The latest Sars-CoV-2 variants emerging globally have public health officials a bit worried. Per Science,
Nearly 3 years into the pandemic, SARS-CoV-2 faces a formidable challenge: finding new ways around the immunity humans have built up through vaccines and countless infections. Worrisome new data show it is up to the challenge. Several new and highly immune-evasive strains of the virus have caught scientists’ attention in recent weeks; one or more may well cause big, new COVID-19 waves this fall and winter… The strains that look poised to drive the latest comeback are all subvariants of Omicron, which swept the globe over the past year. Several derived from BA.2, a strain that succeeded the initial BA.1 strain of Omicron but then was itself outcompeted in most places by BA.5, which has dominated in recent months. One of these, BA.2.75.2, seems to be spreading quickly in India, Singapore, and parts of Europe. Other new immune-evading strains have evolved from BA.5, including BQ.1.1, which has been spotted in multiple countries around the globe. Despite their different origins, several of the new strains have chanced upon a similar combination of mutations to help scale the wall of immunity—a striking example of convergent evolution. They all have changes at half a dozen key points in the viral genome that influence how well neutralizing antibodies from vaccination or previous infection bind to the virus, says evolutionary biologist Jesse Bloom of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center.
Boosters are clearly the way forward, especially for people more susceptible to severe infections. https://bit.ly/3E1B4TE
EBOLA SUDAN OUTBREAK.
Covid-19. Monkeypox. And now, to heap insult onto injury, we have yet another ominous outbreak of Ebola in Africa. Per Ars Technica,
Health officials in Uganda are scrambling to catch up to a burgeoning Ebola outbreak caused by a lesser-seen Ebolavirus species called Sudan virus (SUDV), for which there is no vaccine or treatment. Information so far suggests that the outbreak response efforts may be three weeks behind the initial spread of SUDV, which has an incubation period of up to 21 days and a case fatality rate between 41 percent and 100 percent. So far, 36 cases (18 confirmed, 18 probable) have been identified, with 23 deaths. Health officials have listed a total of 223 contacts. But that number is likely an undercount. Several transmission chains have not been tracked, and some health facilities that saw Ebola patients did not follow optimal infection control measures, the World Health Organization warned. Further, because of the delayed recognition of the outbreak, some patients were buried in traditional ceremonies with large gatherings that could have allowed the virus to transmit further.
Cause for alarm on a global scale? Probably not. https://bit.ly/3SlKQ7j
Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.