DAILY DOSE: CVS pays $5 billion for its role in opioid crisis; Meta outduels Google in protein folding competition.


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A pharmaceutical giant has all but admitted complicity in the opioid crisis tearing through the United States. According to the Associated Press,

CVS Health has announced an agreement in principle that would make it the first major pharmacy chain to reach a nationwide settlement of lawsuits over how it handled prescriptions for powerful and addictive prescription opioid painkillers that are linked to an overdose epidemic.

The Woonsocket, Rhode Island company would pay about $5 billion over 10 years under a deal that, if accepted, would be one of the largest settlements over the crisis. Other pharmacies, including Rite Aid, Walgreens and Walmart have reached agreements with individual states.

CVS announced its proposed deal Wednesday as it released its quarterly earnings. The company did not admit liability or wrongdoing and said that nonfinancial terms remain to be resolved.

“We are pleased to resolve these longstanding claims and putting them behind us is in the best interest of all parties, as well as our customers, colleagues and shareholders,” Thomas Moriarty, the CVS chief policy officer and general counsel said in a statement. “We are committed to working with states, municipalities and tribes, and will continue our own important initiatives to help reduce the illegitimate use of prescription opioids.”

Who’s next? https://bit.ly/3frjoa1


The government of China has pledged to use the technologies it has at its disposal to combat climate change. According to Reuters,

China will seek high-tech solutions to resolve its complex environmental challenges and make use of innovations in big data, biotech and artificial intelligence to tackle pollution, habitat loss and climate change, it said on Wednesday.

In a new action plan, the Chinese government said it would build a "green technology innovation system" over the 2021-2025 period to tackle air, soil and groundwater pollution, reduce waste and protect ecosystems, noting that current technologies were not mature enough to serve the country's long-term needs.

The system will be backed by tax incentives and new "green technology banks", and China will also encourage enterprises and financial institutions to provide more support to innovative green technologies, the plan said.

The new plan is designed to help the world's biggest greenhouse gas producer meet its targets to bring emissions to a peak by 2030 and to become "carbon neutral" by 2060. China has cut CO2 emissions per unit of economic growth by a third in the last decade, but overall volumes continue to rise.

Pledges only work when countries follow through with their promises. Most countries, fall short of their lofty words. So, the jury is still out. https://reut.rs/3Ns3Nn4


Australia has been cranking out record volumes of sustainable energy. According to ABC in Australia,

In events described as unprecedented, demand for electricity from the grid plummeted to record lows in Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia during the past two months.

The record so-called minimum operational demand excludes the power generated by consumers with their own solar panels, which met 92 per cent of South Australia's overall needs at one point on October 17.

It typically occurs on mild, sunny weekend days when solar output is at its highest but demand for electricity is subdued because many businesses are not open and often air conditioners are not running."

Energy experts say the trend is unlikely to slow down amid the runaway take-up of rooftop solar and highlights the urgent need for new infrastructure and back-up power needed to accommodate more renewable energy.

See what you can do when you try? https://ab.co/3sTE51g


In one of the stranger stories we’ve seen today, the CBC explained why the Mars chocolate company has been buying up local veterinary clinics at a steady clip. 

“International conglomerates have been on a tear to consolidate the vet industry, swallowing up hundreds of private clinics and animal hospitals in the past decade — and they aren’t done yet. Tracy Johnson speaks to one vet who refused big money to sell out, and explores what the change could mean for animal lovers across the country.” https://bit.ly/3taZnYF


There appears to be an artificial intelligence duel going on between Meta and Google. Each one is trying to prove the power of their network by predicting the ways proteins can form and fold according to their amino acid sequence. Per Nature,

When London-based Deep Mind unveiled predicted structures for some 220 million proteins this year, it covered nearly every protein from known organisms in DNA databases. Now, another tech giant is filling in the dark matter of our protein universe.

Researchers at Meta (formerly Facebook, headquartered in Menlo Park, California) have used artificial intelligence (AI) to predict the structures of some 600 million proteins from bacteria, viruses and other microbes that haven’t been characterized.

“This is a big deal,” says John Moult, a computational biologist at the University of Maryland in College Park, who co-founded CASP in 1994 to improve computational methods for accurately predicting protein structures. “In some sense the problem is solved.”

The ability to accurately predict protein structures from their amino-acid sequence would be a huge boon to life sciences and medicine. It would vastly accelerate efforts to understand the building blocks of cells and enable quicker and more advanced drug discovery. https://go.nature.com/3NxpaDI

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

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