The variant hunters are helping us to understand how and why the COVID-19 virus is spreading, allowing us to fight back against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hear from some of the scientists behind the UK’s nationwide sequencing effort to track SARS-CoV-2. Sir Patrick Vallance (the government’s Chief Scientific Adviser) also describes how the expertise that came together during the pandemic is now recognised across the world – and why it’s crucially important to continue to sequence to be ready for future pandemics.
This pioneering work is being carried out by the COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) consortium, which comprises numerous academic institutions, four public health agencies and the Wellcome Sanger Institute, and is administered by the University of Cambridge.
“Incredibly impressive, incredibly high quality and incredibly focused on the mission to make sure that as many people benefited from the science as possible,” Sir Patrick Vallance.
As mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines are deployed to protect hundreds of millions of people across the world from the deadly global pandemic, the University of Pennsylvania scientists whose research breakthroughs laid the foundation for swift vaccine development have been awarded the 2021 Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award. Here, mRNA vaccine pioneers Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, and Katalin Karikó, PhD, share the story behind their development of this groundbreaking technology, and what it means for the future of medicine.
A new approach developed by Harvard Medical School researchers uses yeast to rapidly evolve synthetic antibody fragments called nanobodies with the aim to find variants that are effective at binding to selected antigens, including SARS-CoV-2. The antibodies are intended for use in diagnostic tests and disease treatments. Read the full story: https://hms.harvard.edu/news/antibody…
The suggestion that the virus first emerged from a Chinese laboratory has proved stubbornly persistent; as calls mount for more investigation, it has become a potent epidemiological and political idea.
Latin America’s strict lockdowns have had the expected calamitous economic effects. We look at the region’s prospects for recovery. And the tricky business of artificially inseminating a shark.
The advent of commercial genome sequencing has recently, and credibly, been compared to the invention of the microscope, a claim that led me to wonder whether this new, still relatively obscure technology, humming away in well-equipped labs around the world, would prove to be the most important innovation of the 21st century.
And unexpectedly, Covid-19 has proved to be the catalyst. “What the pandemic has done is accelerate the adoption of genomics into infectious disease by several years,” says deSouza, the Illumina chief executive. He also told me he believes that the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of genomics into society more broadly — suggesting that quietly, in the midst of chaos and a global catastrophe, the age of cheap, rapid sequencing has arrived.
Science Staff Writer Kelly Servick discusses how physicians have sifted through torrents of scientific results to arrive at treatments for SARS-CoV-2.
Sarah also talks with Wesley Reinhart, of Pennsylvania State University’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering and Institute for Computational and Data Science, about why we should be building smart cities from smart materials, such as metamaterials that help solar panels chase the Sun, and living materials like self-healing concrete that keep buildings in good shape.
Enter the intranasal vaccine, which abandons the needle and syringe for a spray container that looks more like a nasal decongestant. With a quick spritz up the nose, intranasal vaccines are designed to bolster immune defenses in the mucosa, triggering production of an antibody known as immunoglobulin A, which can block infection. This overwhelming response, called sterilizing immunity, reduces the chance that people will pass on the virus.
The development of highly effective COVID vaccines in less than a year is an extraordinary triumph of science. But several coronavirus variants have emerged that could at least partly evade the immune response induced by the vaccines. These variants should serve as a warning against complacency—and encourage us to explore a different type of vaccination, delivered as a spray in the nose. Intranasal vaccines could provide an additional degree of protection, and help reduce the spread of the virus.