OBESITY DRUG TAKES BITE OUT OF JUNK FOOD INDUSTRY.
Nestle shares experienced a downturn, declining by 2% to a low not seen in over two years, amidst concerns over the impact of Novo Nordisk’s weight-loss drug, Wegovy. The drug might reduce food consumption, thus affecting sales of food companies. Following this trend, the pan-European food, beverage, and tobacco index dropped by 1.7%. Other major companies like Danone and Unilever also saw their shares decrease by 1.5% and 2% respectively. The concerns were fueled by comments from Walmart’s U.S. CEO, John Furner, who observed a reduction in food purchases linked to appetite-suppressing drugs like Wegovy. However, experts such as Jon Cox of Kepler Cheuvreux and Bruno Monteyne from Bernstein downplayed the long-term risks to Nestle and similar firms. Vontobel analysts highlighted potential risks in certain product areas like frozen food and confectionery but saw minimal impact on major segments like coffee, infant nutrition, and pet food. (Reuters)
AFFORDABLE DRUGS PIPELINE PIPE DREAM.
EQRx, founded in January 2020 with the ambitious aim of producing affordable medicines, faced challenges in 2022 when the FDA disapproved its use of interim data from China for its lead drug, sugemalimab. This impacted EQRx’s stock and subsequently the company’s trajectory, culminating in its acquisition by Revolution Medicines in August. EQRx had pursued a unique approach by establishing a “Global Buyers Club,” consisting of stakeholders interested in low-cost drug access. However, problems arose when the FDA clarified EQRx’s need for an additional phase 3 trial for sugemalimab with a diverse U.S. cohort, thereby increasing developmental costs and pushing potential drug filing dates further. These challenges prompted internal reviews and considerations of mergers, sales, or partnerships. Despite contacting numerous potential buyers, the response was lukewarm due to various reasons. Eventually, Revolution Medicines showed interest in EQRx for its cash reserves. After negotiations, Revolution Medicines acquired EQRx, marking the end of EQRx’s mission for affordable medicines. (Fierce Biotech)
SINGAPORE BRACES FOR COVID-19 WAVE.
Singapore is facing another surge in COVID-19 infections, with daily cases increasing from around 1,000 to 2,000 in recent weeks. The predominant variants responsible for this rise are the EG.5 and its sub-lineage HK.3, descendants of the XBB Omicron variant. They account for over 75% of the daily cases, according to Health Minister Ong Ye Kung. Despite the rise, there’s no intention to implement social restrictions as was done in the previous wave. Mr. Ong emphasized the importance of treating COVID-19 as an endemic disease and continuing to live with it. The minister stressed that current vaccines remain effective against severe illnesses caused by these variants. He underscored the importance of regular vaccinations, especially for seniors and those with underlying health issues. A Ministry of Health study highlighted that protection from the vaccine starts to diminish after 12 months. Hence, keeping up with vaccinations is crucial for maintaining protection against severe disease outcomes. (Channel News Asia)
HACKERS TARGET AUSSIE VISA APPLICATIONS.
The Home Affairs website was targeted in a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, temporarily preventing access to visa and citizenship applications online. A DDoS attack disrupts user access to a server by overwhelming it with requests. The attack on the Home Affairs site, which hosts visa application pages, meant the public couldn’t use its services for a duration. While the department mentioned that access issues were brief, callers to ABC reported ongoing problems on Friday afternoon due to the attack’s aftermath. Importantly, the department confirmed that no personal data was compromised. Their statement emphasized that the main intent of the DDoS attack seemed to be blocking website access, rather than stealing information. Greens senator David Shoebridge expressed concern over the ease with which the site was disrupted, especially given that Home Affairs is a leading agency in cybersecurity and significant funds have been invested in it without clear returns. (ABC)
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QUANTUM COMPUTER BREAKTHROUGH.
Physicists have successfully performed quantum calculations using individual titanium atoms positioned on a surface. This groundbreaking technique utilizes microwave signals from a scanning tunnelling microscope (STM) to control these atoms. While it might not rival the current quantum computing methods pursued by giants like Google and IBM soon, the approach holds potential in examining quantum attributes in diverse chemical elements and molecules. Fundamentally, everything has quantum characteristics, but the challenge lies in isolating and precisely controlling qubits, the quantum version of memory bits in classical computing. The team, led by Andreas Heinrich in Seoul, experimented with the spin of electrons, nature’s inherent qubit. They arranged titanium atoms on a magnesium oxide surface, manipulating them using the STM. By emitting microwave signals from the STM, they controlled the electron spin in the titanium atoms, facilitating a swift two-qubit quantum operation. While Heinrich believes the method could be expanded to around 100 qubits, he acknowledges they are primarily exploring basic science with potential future expansions. (Nature)
BIG BEAR PROBLEM GROWING IN JAPAN.
Three bears, believed to be a parent and its two cubs, sneaked into a tatami mat factory in Misato, Akita prefecture, Japan, and remained there for almost a day before being captured. The incident was brought to attention when a town official saw them entering the factory. While local hunters attempted to use firecrackers to drive them out, the effort was unsuccessful. Instead, cages were placed at the factory’s entrance, and by Thursday morning, the bears were trapped. Following their capture, Misato town officials informed residents of the situation. Due to concerns about potential future threats, the bears were euthanized. Akita prefecture has reported a record 30 bear attacks on humans in 2023. Experts suggest that food scarcity, particularly a lack of acorns, drives the bears into residential areas. Officials have advised residents to take precautions, such as not leaving garbage outside and carrying anti-bear measures while hiking. (Associated Press)
SUSTAINABLE WEDDING TREND GRIPS CHINA.
During China’s National Day holiday, a period with a surge in weddings, 30-year-old Liu Junjie from Shanghai opted for an eco-friendly, carbon-neutral wedding, highlighting a growing trend among young Chinese couples. A carbon-neutral wedding aims to reduce emissions through the use of sustainable products, recycling, and cost-saving strategies. The overall carbon footprint of such weddings is then offset by purchasing carbon credits. Liu’s decision reflects increasing concern among China’s youth about climate change, influenced by the country’s goal to peak carbon emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. The average cost of Chinese weddings has skyrocketed, and a culture of extravagance has led to wasteful practices. To combat this, China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs promoted simpler wedding customs in 2021, leading to significant cost reductions in some areas. Liu believes that an eco-friendly wedding represents a lasting commitment, making love both enduring and eternal. (Sixthtone)
ANCIENT HUMANS MAY HAVE BEEN SCAVANGERS.
Approximately 1.5 million years ago, when early humans first settled in present-day Spain, they faced a dietary dilemma. Scientists theorized that these humans might have scavenged from the remnants of saber-tooth cats’ kills, risking confrontations with formidable scavengers like the giant hyena. A new computer simulation evaluated the viability of these early humans relying on scavenging. In the simulation, early humans, two saber-tooth cat species, and an extinct European jaguar were set against one another. Results from over 400 runs revealed that for humans to effectively scavenge, passive approaches were ineffective. Successful scavenging required a group of humans, ideally numbering around a dozen, to confront and deter potential threats like the hyena. Group size and saber-tooth cat population, which determined available leftovers, were critical for human survival. Scavenging might have driven early humans’ brain and body growth due to the protein and fat intake and possibly spurred technological and linguistic advancements, as collaborating in groups became essential. (Discover)
OLDEST FOOTPRINTS IN NORTH AMERICA.
New research reveals that humans lived in North America far earlier than previously believed, with fossilized footprints at White Sands National Park in New Mexico dated to around 21,000 to 23,000 years ago. These footprints indicate that Homo sapiens existed in North America during the peak of the last Ice Age, when massive ice sheets covered large portions of the continent. Although a 2021 study reached the same conclusion using radiocarbon dating of plant seeds found near the footprints, some scientists disputed the findings. In the new study, researchers used both radiocarbon dating on conifer pollen and optically stimulated luminescence dating on quartz grains to confirm the age of the footprints. These techniques independently supported the previous age estimate. Previously, evidence suggested humans arrived in North America about 16,000 years ago. The newly confirmed timeline places humans on the continent even before the major ice barriers formed. (Reuters)
Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.
WORDS: The Biology Guy.
IMAGE CREDIT: Pixabay.