ALMOST SHOWTIME FOR MALARIA VACCINE.
A new malaria vaccine, R21/MatrixM, developed at the University of Oxford, has shown promising results in trials with 4,800 children from four African countries, offering significant protection against the disease that claims half a million lives annually. The World Health Organization (WHO) is expected to endorse the vaccine soon, making it the second approved malaria vaccine after RTS,S or Mosquirix, which was introduced in 2021. While 18 million doses of RTS,S will be available by 2025, this meets only 10% of the demand. R21 could fulfill this gap, given its production scalability with the Serum Institute of India, which can produce over 100 million doses annually. Costing less than $5 per dose, R21 is cheaper than RTS,S. The vaccine’s efficacy was reported between 68% to 75%, slightly higher than RTS,S. Though R21 appears promising, there are concerns regarding waning protection, requiring periodic boosters. Three African countries have already approved R21, awaiting WHO’s endorsement for wider adoption. (Science)
MANDATORY VACCINATIONS FOR DUCKS.
France has initiated a mandatory bird flu vaccination for ducks in response to the global spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza, aiming to curb the virus that has elevated poultry and egg prices worldwide. The vaccination, marking a world first, began in the southwestern region, with Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau expressing optimism about curbing the outbreaks. Over 60 million ducks are to be vaccinated within a year, costing €96 million ($102 million), 85% state-financed. The move, however, has caused trade restrictions from the US on French poultry, citing difficulties in detecting the virus in vaccinated birds. Japan also remains hesitant about accepting French poultry post-vaccination. The initiative, primarily focused on ducks, aims to halt preventive slaughters and protect the poultry industry, severely impacted by the disease, with France being one of the worst-affected countries. (Reuters)
THERE’S A HACKER IN YOUR ROUTER.
SoundThinking is acquiring assets from Geolitica, known for PredPol predictive policing software, amid concerns over biased deployment of its ShotSpotter system in predominantly Black neighborhoods. Satellite imaging from Yale is providing insight into devastation in Khartoum due to Sudan’s civil war. Researchers from eQualitie developed a technique to hide digital content in satellite TV signals, potentially aiding in circumventing censorship. Corporations gathering productivity data are also utilizing it to train AI models, possibly automating jobs. A hacking group, BlackTech, linked to China, is compromising routers in the US and Japan, while Chinese hackers reportedly compromised 60,000 messages in a breach of the US State Department’s Microsoft email. Additionally, a seller in the Russian zero-day market is offering up to $20 million for exploits. Lastly, concerns are raised over Europe’s proposed CSAM law, potentially compromising encryption and raising questions over policing access to message data. (Wired)
MINERS GOING GREEN?
Mining firms, amid the soaring demand for critical minerals for renewable energy, are reducing fossil fuel usage in extraction and refining processes, driven by pressures for more sustainable supply chains. Vale Indonesia, a subsidiary of global mining firm Vale, exemplifies this transition, running its smelters on hydroelectricity, diminishing emissions by over 1.115 million tons of CO2 equivalent annually compared to diesel. Despite such advancements, transitioning remains challenging due to the persistent usage of fossil fuels like coal and the high initial costs of adopting renewable energy infrastructure. The push for cleaner energy in mining is boosted by investments and commitments from various companies and governments. Although the transition to green energy is critical, experts emphasize that the journey will be expensive and the consumers and investors will play a crucial role in encouraging companies to adopt sustainable operations. (Associated Press)
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AI MEETS ULTRASOUND.
Founded in 2015, Exo aimed to create a quality ultrasound system, integrating artificial intelligence and patented technology, to enhance diagnostic imaging in a handheld device. After nearly a decade and over $300 million in funding, Exo has launched its Iris handheld ultrasound device, pronounced as “echo,” available in the U.S. for $3,500. The Iris system connects to smartphones, displaying images captured with a 150-degree field of view and a depth of 30 centimeters, providing an easy-to-use alternative to traditional cart-based ultrasound machines which cost between $5,000 and $200,000. Exo’s SweepAI technology utilizes AI to capture high-quality scans, while the device can swiftly calculate bladder volume, identify hip dysplasia, and assess thyroid nodules for malignancy, with further AI tools awaiting FDA review. CEO Sandeep Akkaraju states that this innovation represents a “new era of ultrasound,” aimed at improving patient care, saving lives, and reducing costs. (Fierce Biotech)
Tokyo’s Tsubame Industries, a start-up, has developed a 4.5-metre-tall, four-wheeled robot named ARCHAX, resembling “Mobile Suit Gundam” from the renowned Japanese animation series, available for $3 million. The founder, Yoshida, plans to manufacture five units primarily for affluent enthusiasts. ARCHAX, equipped with cockpit monitors linked to external cameras, allows pilots to control the arms and hands using joysticks. Yoshida envisions a future where such robots serve in disaster relief or space industries. Having a background in manufacturing and having founded a company producing myoelectric prosthetic hands, Yoshida is keen on preserving Japan’s competitive edge in manufacturing and sees the robot as a symbol of Japan’s technological prowess. He aspires to incorporate lessons from previous generations to maintain tradition in innovative creations. (Reuters)
GIVE HUNTER-GATHERERS SOME CRED.
Researchers in Spain revealed that hunter-gatherer societies on the Iberian Peninsula, 9,500 years ago, crafted sophisticated, decorative baskets, resetting the timeline by over 2,000 years. The discovery was made in the Cueva de los Murciélagos in southern Spain, where the oldest pair of sandals, wooden objects, and baskets were preserved due to the cave’s unique climate. Carbon-14 dating showed these artifacts, notably featuring intricate, dyed geometric patterns, were from the Mesolithic era, suggesting a higher societal complexity than previously believed. Dr. Francisco Martínez-Sevilla, who led the study, said the technology challenges existing assumptions about pre-agricultural communities. The artifacts, including sandals resembling modern espadrilles, were so well-preserved and contemporary in design that 19th-century discoverers doubted their antiquity. The research group plans further studies on human remains found within the cave, potentially from the Mesolithic era, and highlighted the unprecedented discovery of human hair within the basket fibers. (New York Times)
Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.
WORDS: The Biology Guy.
IMAGE CREDIT: Thirdman.