DAILY DOSE: The U.S. Endangered Species Act is Now In Danger; Institut Pasteur Quietly Bids Adieu to China.

Endanger Species Act Now In Danger

Biologists Ashley Wilson and Allen Kurta are increasingly concerned as they fail to find endangered Indiana and northern long-eared bats in southern Michigan. These species are protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, enacted in 1973, which protects 1,683 domestic species. The act has recently become contentious due to perceived constraints on property rights and economic growth. Conservative lawmakers, backed by industry and landowner groups, are pushing for its revision. Environmental advocates argue that the act is starved of funding and is crucial to prevent species extinction. Despite the act’s successful record, some worry about its survival amidst partisan politics and changing regulations. The survival of the act, according to experts, depends on rebuilding bipartisan support. The act’s controversy is exemplified by the vote to remove the endangered designation for the northern long-eared bat, suggesting the act’s vulnerability to legislative, agency, or court actions. (Associated Press)

Institut Pasteur Bids Adieu to China

The Institut Pasteur of Shanghai (IPS), a longstanding scientific partnership between the Institut Pasteur and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), has been rebranded as the “Shanghai Institute of Immunology and Infection”. This change signals the termination of a nearly 20-year collaboration which had been suspended by the Institut Pasteur in December 2022 due to dissatisfaction with IPS leadership. The IPS, once a leader in virology, vaccine development, and immunology, has been suffering from budget constraints, talent loss, and management criticism in recent years. This institutional deterioration contrasts sharply with China’s otherwise booming scientific sector, raising speculations about potential decoupling from Western scientific partnerships. The renaming has led to uncertainty among students and researchers about their affiliations and future opportunities, with the newly renamed institution yet to announce its new director. The Institut Pasteur and CAS have indicated possibilities of a new cooperative format. (South China Morning Post)

Superconductor Suspicion

Last week, a claim by South Korean scientists regarding the discovery of a practical superconductor generated significant buzz on social media and influenced stock prices in China and South Korea. Superconductors are materials capable of conducting electrical current without resistance. This breakthrough could drastically transform power grids by minimizing energy loss during transmission, and expedite advancements in areas like computing chips where electrical resistance restricts speed. The discovery, if proven and implemented effectively, has the potential to revolutionize multiple industries and facets of everyday life. (Reuters)

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RSV Vaccine Promoted by CDC

U.S. health officials recommend that infants receive a newly approved drug to guard against Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), a common virus that can lead to severe illness in young children and the elderly. The drug, named Beyfortus, is a lab-made antibody developed by AstraZeneca and Sanofi that aids the immune system in combating the virus, filling a critical gap given the lack of vaccines for babies. An advisory panel to the CDC endorsed a one-time shot for infants born just before or during the RSV season, and those under 8 months old before the season commences. The CDC director later ratified the panel’s recommendations. Despite the high cost per dose ($495), insurance is expected to cover it. Hospitals are being urged to stock Beyfortus for newborns during RSV season. The drug complements RSV vaccines for older adults and potentially pregnant women, pending FDA approval. (Associated Press)

Bacteria Blocks Malaria in Mosquitos

Researchers have discovered a naturally occurring bacterium that stops the development of malaria parasites in mosquitoes, providing a potential new tool in the fight against the disease. The bacterium, Delftia tsuruhatensis TC1, was found within mosquitoes and, when fed to other mosquitoes, appeared to block malaria parasite infection. Mice bitten by bacterium-carrying mosquitoes were less likely to become infected, and mosquitoes only required a small amount of the bacterium to become colonized. Furthermore, it didn’t affect mosquito survival or their offspring, reducing the likelihood of resistance developing. The bacterium also secretes a molecule, harmane, which hampers the parasite’s development. The findings suggest that harmane might be used to treat bed nets or other surfaces mosquitoes contact. In real-world simulation, cotton wool balls soaked in sugar and D. tsuruhatensis successfully colonized a significant portion of the mosquito population, blocking malaria parasite development. (Science)

EV Companies Burning Cash

US electric vehicle (EV) startups are expected to highlight the impact of Tesla’s price war in their quarterly reports, as they struggle to manage cash during a funding shortage. Tesla’s recent warning of “turbulent times” and other auto giants, such as Ford, incurring losses on EVs has resulted in a tough business environment. This pressure led to the bankruptcy of electric truck maker Lordstown Motors in June. Startups including Lucid and Nikola are predicted to report further significant cash burn, as they grapple with production and demand issues. Meanwhile, Rivian Automotive, backed by Amazon, is projected to report a three-fold revenue increase to $983.1 million for Q2, 2023. However, Lucid is expected to report deepening losses due to supply-chain problems, while Nikola is expected to report a 15% revenue decline and widening losses. Fisker is anticipated to report its first revenue from vehicle sales after beginning deliveries of its Ocean SUVs. (Reuters)

Lacks Lawsuit Settled

Thermo Fisher Scientific has settled with the family of Henrietta Lacks, whose cells were taken without consent over 70 years ago and used for numerous scientific discoveries. Lacks’ cells, known as HeLa cells, are unique in their ability to survive and divide indefinitely in lab conditions. The settlement terms remain undisclosed but it’s deemed significant in prompting discussions on the ethical use of human tissue in scientific research. Henrietta’s story gained prominence through Rebecca Skloot’s book, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”. Following the book, many institutions, including the US National Institutes of Health, reassessed their use of HeLa cells. This case is unique and unlikely to spark similar lawsuits involving ‘medical waste’, but it does raise the question of broader consent for the use of human cells in research. The case also emphasizes the need for companies to scrutinize the ethical origins of biological specimens. (Nature)

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

WORDS: The Biology Guy.

IMAGE CREDIT: Andy Morffew.

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