DAILY DOSE: U.S. FDA approves lab grown meat; Another Chinese-American scientist cleared of wrong-doing.


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During the early days of the pandemic, scientists raced to develop a vaccine that worked against the novel coronavirus. Lives were at stake. Because of the urgency, drug approval agencies around the world allowed pharmaceutical companies to push for emergency approval that bypassed normal processes. Those days are gone now and express approvals are as well. That doesn’t sit well with some people. Per the New York Times,

Operation Warp Speed, the Trump-era program that poured billions of dollars into developing Covid shots, seemed to signal a new dawn of American vaccine making, demonstrating how decades of scientific grunt work could be turned into lifesaving medicine in a matter of months.

But as a third pandemic winter begins in the United States, its vaccine-making effort has lost steam. Efforts to test and produce next-generation Covid vaccines are bogged down by bureaucratic problems and funding shortfalls. Foreign rivals have raced ahead in approving long-awaited nasal-spray vaccines, including one invented in St. Louis, creating a scenario in which Americans would have to travel abroad for the latest in American vaccine technology.

The Biden administration has launched an 11th-hour effort to restore the country’s edge. In a bid to resurrect Operation Warp Speed, President Biden asked the lame-duck session of Congress this week for $5 billion for next-generation vaccines and therapeutics, as part of a broader $9.25 billion pandemic spending request. But Republicans, having blocked Covid spending packages since the spring amid complaints about how the White House spent earlier allocations, have shown no signs of dropping their resistance.

You can make the case that vaccines are the victims of their own success. http://bit.ly/3tJViLg

The win-loss record of the U.S. government against Chinese-Americans scientists whom they accuse of colluding with China is getting worse with every court decision. Per Science,

After a years-long battle, Sherry Chen, a Chinese American hydrologist, has won US$1.8 million in a settlement of two lawsuits against the US government for wrongful prosecution and dismissal from her job at the National Weather Service. Observers see it as a landmark victory for researchers of Chinese heritage who have been caught up in a US campaign to protect the country’s laboratories and businesses from potential espionage by China. Civil-rights groups and others have argued that the US Department of Justice (DoJ) has pursued cases despite a lack of evidence, targeted scientists of Chinese heritage unfairly and caused many to fear that they are under surveillance.

“The settlement sends a clear message: discrimination and profiling are unacceptable, and the government will be held to account,” says Ashley Gorski, a senior attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union and part of Chen’s legal team.

Interesting to note that Chen was arrested during the Obama Administration and predated Donald Trump’s so-called China Initiative. http://bit.ly/3EKRFLp

The Tigris and Euphrates are rivers known around the world. Students are taught that the area was known as the Cradle of Civilization. Now, thanks to careless overuse by humans, they are running dry and politics is making the matter much worse. Per the Associated Press,

The starkly different realities are playing out along the length of the Tigris-Euphrates river basin, one of the world’s most vulnerable watersheds. River flows have fallen by 40% in the past four decades as the states along its length — Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq — pursue rapid, unilateral development of the waters’ use.

The drop is projected to worsen as temperatures rise from climate change. Both Turkey and Iraq, the two biggest consumers, acknowledge they must cooperate to preserve the river system that some 60 million people rely on to sustain their lives.

But political failures and intransigence conspire to prevent a deal sharing the rivers.

The Associated Press conducted more than a dozen interviews in both countries, from top water envoys and senior officials to local farmers, and gained exclusive visits to controversial dam projects. Internal reports and revealed data illustrate the calculations driving disputes behind closed doors, from Iraq’s fears of a potential 20% drop in food production to Turkey’s struggles to balance Iraq’s and its own needs.

“I don’t see a solution,” said former Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi.

“Would Turkey sacrifice its own interests? Especially if that means that by giving more (water) to us, their farmers and people will suffer?”

Where are the adults in the room? http://bit.ly/3EnN7sK

Animal rights activists rejoice! There just may be light at the end of the tunnel and its coming from rooms with bioreactors churning out lab-grown meat. Per Wired,

Cultivated meat has been greenlit in the United States for the first time. The decision by the Food and Drug Administration means that a company called Upside Foods will soon be able to sell chicken made from real animal cells grown in bioreactors instead of requiring the slaughter of live animals.

A positive response from the FDA has long been seen as the next major milestone for the cultivated meat industry. In the past few years, startups in the space have built small-scale production facilities and raised billions of dollars in venture capital funding but haven’t been able to sell their products to the public. Until now, the small number of people invited to try cultivated meat have had to sign waivers acknowledging that the products were experimental.

There are just two smaller regulatory steps remaining until cultivated meat can be made available to the public. Upside’s production facilities still require a grant of inspection from the United States Department of Agriculture, and the food itself will need a mark of inspection before it can enter the US market. These two steps are likely to be completed much more quickly than the long FDA premarket consultation process that resulted in the approval.

This is a good thing, no? http://bit.ly/3tJUV3k

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

IMAGE CREDIT: World Economic Forum.

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