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Category Archives: Genetic Engineering

The impact of the coronavirus on the Genetic Engineering Market Solid Analyzed Segmentation, Demand, Recent Share Estimation and Growth Prospects by…

Posted: May 24, 2020 at 3:34 pm

Genetic Engineering Market 2018: Global Industry Insights by Global Players, Regional Segmentation, Growth, Applications, Major Drivers, Value and Foreseen till 2024

The report provides both quantitative and qualitative information of global Genetic Engineering market for period of 2018 to 2025. As per the analysis provided in the report, the global market of Genetic Engineering is estimated to growth at a CAGR of _% during the forecast period 2018 to 2025 and is expected to rise to USD _ million/billion by the end of year 2025. In the year 2016, the global Genetic Engineering market was valued at USD _ million/billion.

This research report based on Genetic Engineering market and available with Market Study Report includes latest and upcoming industry trends in addition to the global spectrum of the Genetic Engineering market that includes numerous regions. Likewise, the report also expands on intricate details pertaining to contributions by key players, demand and supply analysis as well as market share growth of the Genetic Engineering industry.

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Genetic Engineering Market Overview:

The Research projects that the Genetic Engineering market size will grow from in 2018 to by 2024, at an estimated CAGR of XX%. The base year considered for the study is 2018, and the market size is projected from 2018 to 2024.

The report on the Genetic Engineering market provides a birds eye view of the current proceeding within the Genetic Engineering market. Further, the report also takes into account the impact of the novel COVID-19 pandemic on the Genetic Engineering market and offers a clear assessment of the projected market fluctuations during the forecast period. The different factors that are likely to impact the overall dynamics of the Genetic Engineering market over the forecast period (2019-2029) including the current trends, growth opportunities, restraining factors, and more are discussed in detail in the market study.

Leading manufacturers of Genetic Engineering Market:

The key players covered in this studyThermo Fisher Scientific Inc.GenScriptAmgen Inc.Genentech, Inc.Merck KGaAHorizon Discovery Group plcSangamo Therapeutics, Inc.Transposagen Biopharmaceuticals, Inc.OriGene Technologies, Inc.

Market segment by Type, the product can be split intoArtificial SelectionCloningGene SplicingOthersMarket segment by Application, split intoAgricultureBt- CottonGolden RiceOthersMedical IndustryRecombinant ProteinsRecombinant AntibodiesOthersForensic Science

Market segment by Regions/Countries, this report coversNorth AmericaEuropeChinaJapanSoutheast AsiaIndiaCentral & South America

The study objectives of this report are:To analyze global Genetic Engineering status, future forecast, growth opportunity, key market and key players.To present the Genetic Engineering development in North America, Europe, China, Japan, Southeast Asia, India and Central & South America.To strategically profile the key players and comprehensively analyze their development plan and strategies.To define, describe and forecast the market by type, market and key regions.

In this study, the years considered to estimate the market size of Genetic Engineering are as follows:History Year: 2015-2019Base Year: 2019Estimated Year: 2020Forecast Year 2020 to 2026For the data information by region, company, type and application, 2019 is considered as the base year. Whenever data information was unavailable for the base year, the prior year has been considered.

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The impact of the coronavirus on the Genetic Engineering Market Solid Analyzed Segmentation, Demand, Recent Share Estimation and Growth Prospects by...

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One of the World’s Most Powerful Scientists Believes in Miracles – Scientific American

Posted: at 3:34 pm

When I talk to my students aboutthe tempestuous relationship between science and religion, I like to bring up the case of Francis Collins. Early in his career, Collins was a successful gene-hunter, who helped identify genes associated with cystic fibrosis and other disorders. He went on to become one of the worlds most powerful scientists. Since 2009, he has directed the National Institutes of Health, which this year has a budget of over $40 billion. Before that he oversaw the Human Genome Project, one of historys biggest research projects. Collins was an atheist until 1978, when he underwent a conversion experience while hiking in the mountains and became a devout Christian. In his 2006 bestselling bookThe Language of God, Collins declares that he sees no incompatibility between science and religion. The God of the Bible is also the God of the genome, he wrote. He can be worshipped in the cathedral or in the laboratory. Collins just won the$1.3 million Templeton Prize, created in 1972 to promote reconciliation of science and spirituality. (See my posts on the Templeton Foundationhereandhere). This news gives me an excuse to post an interview I carried out with Collins forNational Geographicin 2006, a time whenRichard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and others were vigorously attacking religion. Below is an edited transcript of my conversation with Collins, which took place in Washington, D.C. I liked Collins, whom I found to be surprisingly unassuming for a man of such high stature. But I was disturbed by our final exchanges, in which he revealed a fatalistic outlook on humanitys future. Collins, it seems, haslots of faith in God but not much in humanity. John Horgan

Horgan:How does it feel to be at the white-hot center of the current debate between science and religion?

Collins:This increasing polarization between extremists on both ends of the atheism and belief spectrum has been heartbreaking to me. If my suggestion that there is a harmonious middle ground puts me at the white-hot center of debate--Hooray! Its maybe a bit overdue.

Horgan:The danger in trying to appeal to people on both sides of a polarized debate is--

Collins:Bombs thrown at you from both directions!

Horgan:Has that happened?

Collins[sighs]: The majority have responded in very encouraging ways. But some of my scientific colleagues argue that its totally inappropriate for a scientist to write about religion, and we already have too much faith in public life in this country. And then I get someverystrongly worded messages from fundamentalists who feel that I have compromised the literal interpretation of Genesis 1 and call me a false prophet. Im diluting the truth and doing damage to the faith.

Horgan:Why do you think the debate has become so polarized?

Collins:It starts with an extreme articulation of a viewpoint on one side of the issue and that then results in a response that is also a little bit too extreme, and the whole thing escalates. Every action demands an equal and opposite reaction. This is one of Newtons laws playing out in an unfortunate public scenario.

Horgan:I must admit that Ive become more concerned lately about the harmful effects of religion because of religious terrorism like 9/11 and the growing power of the religious right in the United States.

Collins:What faith hasnotbeen used by demagogues as a club over somebodys head? Whether it was the Inquisition or the Crusades on the one hand or the World Trade Center on the other? But we shouldnt judge the pure truths of faith by the way they are applied any more than we should judge the pure truth of love by an abusive marriage. We as children of God have been given by God this knowledge of right and wrong, this Moral Law, which I see as a particularly compelling signpost to His existence. But we also have this thing called free will which we exercise all the time to break that law. We shouldnt blame faith for the ways people distort it and misuse it.

Horgan:Isnt the problem when religions say,Thisis the only way to truth? Isnt that what turns religious faith from something beautiful into something intolerant and hateful?

Collins:There is a sad truth there. I think we Christians have been way too ready to define ourselves as members of an exclusive club. I found truth, I found joy, I found peace in that particular conclusion, but I am not in any way suggesting that that is the conclusion everybody else should find. To have anyone say, My truth is purer than yours, that is both inconsistent with what I see in the person of Christ andincrediblyoff-putting. And quick to start arguments and fights and even wars! Look at the story of the Good Samaritan, which is a parable from Jesus himself. Jews would have considered the Samaritan to be a heretic, and yet clearly Christs message is:Thatis the person who did right and was justified in Gods eyes.

Horgan:How can you, as a scientist who looks for natural explanations of things and demands evidence, also believe in miracles, like the resurrection?

Collins:My first struggle was to believe in God. Not a pantheist God who is entirely enclosed within nature, or a Deist God who started the whole thing and then just lost interest, but a supernatural God who is interested in what is happening in our world and might at times choose to intervene. My second struggle was to believe that Christ was divine as He claimed to be. As soon as I got there, the idea that He might rise from the dead became a non-problem. I dont have a problem with the concept that miracles might occasionally occur at moments ofgreatsignificance where there is a message being transmitted to us by God Almighty. But as a scientist I set my standards for miracles very high. And I dont think we should try to convince agnostics or atheists about the reality of faith with claims about miracles that they can easily poke holes in.

Horgan:The problem I have with miracles is not just that they violate what science tells us about how the world works. They also make God seem too capricious. For example, many people believe that if they pray hard enough God will intercede to heal them or a loved one. But does that mean that all those who dont get better arent worthy?

Collins:In my own experience as a physician, I have not seen a miraculous healing, and I dont expect to see one. Also, prayer for me is not a way to manipulate God into doing what we want Him to do. Prayer for me is much more a sense of trying to get into fellowship with God. Im trying to figure out what I should be doing rather than telling Almighty God whatHeshould be doing. Look at the Lords Prayer. It says, Thywill be done. It wasnt, Our Father who are in Heaven, please get me a parking space.

Horgan:Many people have a hard time believing in God because of the problem of evil. If God loves us, why is life filled with so much suffering?

Collins:That isthemost fundamental question that all seekers have to wrestle with. First of all, if our ultimate goal is to grow, learn, discover things about ourselves and things about God, then unfortunately a life of ease is probably not the way to get there. I know I have learned very little about myself or God when everything is going well. Also, a lot of the pain and suffering in the world we cannot lay at Gods feet. God gave us free will, and we may choose to exercise it in ways that end up hurting other people.

Horgan:The physicist Steven Weinberg, who is an atheist, has written about this topic. He asks why six million Jews, including his relatives, had to die in the Holocaust so that the Nazis could exercise their free will.

Collins:If God had to intervene miraculously every time one of us chose to do something evil, it would be a very strange, chaotic, unpredictable world. Free will leads to people doing terrible things to each other. Innocent people die as a result. You cant blame anyone except the evildoers for that. So thats not Gods fault. The harder question is when suffering seems to have come about through no human ill action. A child with cancer, a natural disaster, a tornado or tsunami. Why would God not prevent those things from happening?

Horgan:Some theologians, such as Charles Hartshorne, have suggested that maybe God isnt fully in control of His creation. The poet Annie Dillard expresses this idea in her phrase God the semi-competent.

Collins:Thats delightful--and probably blasphemous! An alternative is the notion of God being outside of nature and of time and having a perspective of our blink-of-an-eye existence that goes both far back and far forward. In some admittedly metaphysical way, that allows me to say that the meaning of suffering may not always be apparent to me. There can be reasons for terrible things happening that I cannot know.

Horgan:I think youre an agnostic.

Collins:No!

Horgan:You say that, to a certain extent, Gods ways are inscrutable. That sounds like agnosticism.

Collins:Im agnostic about Gods ways. Im not agnostic about God Himself. Thomas Huxley defined agnosticism as not knowing whether God exists or not. Im a believer! I have doubts. As I quote Paul Tillich: Doubt is not the opposite of faith. Its a part of faith. But my fundamental stance is that God is real, God is true.

Horgan:Im an agnostic, and I was bothered when in your book you called agnosticism a copout. Agnosticism doesnt mean youre lazy or dont care. It means you arent satisfied with any answers for what after all are ultimate mysteries.

Collins:That was a putdown that should not apply to earnest agnostics who have considered the evidence and still dont find an answer. I was reacting to the agnosticism I see in the scientific community, which has not been arrived at by a careful examination of the evidence. I went through a phase when I was a casual agnostic, and I am perhaps too quick to assume that others have no more depth than I did.

Horgan:Free will is a very important concept to me, as it is to you. Its the basis for our morality and search for meaning. Dont you worry that science in general and genetics in particularand your work as head of the Genome Project--are undermining belief in free will?

Collins:Youre talking about genetic determinism, which implies that we are helpless marionettes being controlled by strings made of double helices. That is so far away from what we know scientifically! Heredity does have an influence not only over medical risks but also over certain behaviors and personality traits. But look at identical twins, who have exactly the same DNA but often dont behave alike or think alike. They show the importance of learning and experience--and free will. I think we all, whether we are religious or not, recognize that free will is a reality. There are some fringe elements that say, No, its all an illusion, were just pawns in some computer model. But I dont think that carries you very far.

Horgan:What do you think of Darwinian explanations of altruism, or what you callagape, totally selfless love and compassion for someone not directly related to you?

Collins:Its been a little of a just-so story so far. Many would argue that altruism has been supported by evolution because it helps the group survive. But some people sacrifically give of themselves to those who are outside their group and with whom they have absolutely nothing in common. Like Mother Teresa, Oscar Schindler, many others. That is the nobility of humankind in its purist form. That doesnt seem like it can be explained by a Darwinian model, but Im not hanging my faith on this.

Horgan:If only selflessness were more common.

Collins:Well, there you get free will again. It gets in the way.

Horgan:What do you think about the field of neurotheology, which attempts to identify the neural basis of religious experiences?

Collins:I think its fascinating but not particularly surprising. We humans are flesh and blood. So it wouldnt trouble me--if I were to have some mystical experience myself--to discover that my temporal lobe was lit up. Id say, Wow! Thats okay! That doesnt mean that this doesnt have genuine spiritual significance. Those who come at this issue with the presumption that there is nothing outside the natural world will look at this data and say, Ya see? Whereas those who come with the presumption that we are spiritual creatures will go, Cool! There is a natural correlate to this mystical experience! How about that! I think our spiritual nature is truly God-given, and may not be completely limited by natural descriptors.

Horgan:What if this research leads to drugs or devices for artificially inducing religious experiences? Would you consider those experiences to be authentic? You probably heard about the recent report from Johns Hopkins that the psychedelic drug psilocybin triggered spiritual experiences.

Collins:Yes. If you are talking about the ingestion of an exogenous psychoactive substance or some kind of brain-stimulating contraption, that would smack of not being an authentic, justifiable, trust-worthy experience. So that would be a boundary I would want to establish between the authentic and the counterfeit.

Horgan:Some scientists have predicted that genetic engineering may give us superhuman intelligence and greatly extended life spans, and possibly even immortality. We might even engineer our brains so that we dont fear pain or grief anymore. These are possible long-term consequences of the Human Genome Project and other lines of research. If these things happen, what do you think would be the consequences for religious traditions?

Collins:That outcome would trouble me. But were so far away from that reality that its hard to spend a lot of time worrying about it when you consider all the truly benevolent things we could do in the near term. If you get too hung up on the hypotheticals of what night happen in the next several hundred years, then you become paralyzed and you fail to live up to the opportunities to reach out and help people now. That seems to be the most unethical stance we could take.

Horgan:Im really asking, Does religion requires suffering? Could we reduce suffering to the point where we just wont need religion?

Collins:In spite of the fact that we have achieved all of these wonderful medical advances and made it possible to live longer and eradicate diseases, we will probably still figure out ways to argue with each other and sometimes to kill each other, out of our self-righteousness and our determination that we have to be on top. So the death rate will continue to be one per person by one means or another. We may understand a lot about biology, we may understand a lot about how to prevent illness, and we may understand the life span. But I dont think we will figure out how to stop humans from doing bad things to each other. That will always be our greatest and most distressing experience here on this planet, and that will make us long the most, perhaps, for something more.

Further Reading:

In Defense of Disbelief: An Anti-Creed

Can Faith and Science Coexist?

Richard Dawkins Offers Advice for Donald Trump, and Other Wisdom

What Should We Do With Our Visions of Heaven and Hell?

Mind-Body Problems(free online book, also available asKindle e-bookandpaperback).

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One of the World's Most Powerful Scientists Believes in Miracles - Scientific American

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Emerging from stealth, Octant is bringing the tools of synthetic biology to large scale drug discovery – TechCrunch

Posted: at 3:34 pm

Octant, a company backed by Andreessen Horowitz just now unveiling itself publicly to the world, is using the tools of synthetic biology to buck the latest trends in drug discovery.

As the pharmaceuticals industry turns its attention to precision medicine the search for ever more tailored treatments for specific diseases using genetic engineering Octant is using the same technologies to engage in drug discovery and diagnostics on a mass scale.

The companys technology genetically engineers DNA to act as an identifier for the most common drug receptors inside the human genome. Basically, its creating QR codes that can flag and identify how different protein receptors in cells respond to chemicals. These are the biological sensors which help control everything from immune responses to the senses of sight and smell, the firing of neurons; even the release of hormones and communications between cells in the body are regulated.

Our discovery platform was designed to map and measure the interconnected relationships between chemicals, multiple drug receptor pathways and diseases, enabling us to engineer multi-targeted drugs in a more rational way, across a wide spectrum of targets, said Sri Kosuri, Octants co-founder and chief executive officer, in a statement.

Octants work is based on a technology first developed at the University of California Los Angeles by Kosuri and a team of researchers, which slashed the cost of making genetic sequences to $2 per gene from $50 to $100 per gene.

Our method gives any lab that wants the power to build its own DNA sequences, Kosuri said in a 2018 statement. This is the first time that, without a million dollars, an average lab can make 10,000 genes from scratch.

Joining Kosuri in launching Octant is Ramsey Homsany, a longtime friend of Kosuris, and a former executive at Google and Dropbox . Homsany happened to have a background in molecular biology from school, and when Kosuri would talk about the implications of the technology he developed, the two men knew they needed to for a company.

We use these new tools to know which bar code is going with which construct or genetic variant or pathway that were working with [and] all of that fits into a single well, said Kosuri. What you can do on top of that is small molecule screening we can do that with thousands of different wells at a time. So we can build these maps between chemicals and targets and pathways that are essential to drug development.

Before coming to UCLA, Kosuri had a long history with companies developing products based on synthetic biology on both the coasts. Through some initial work that hed done in the early days of the biofuel boom in 2007, Kosuri was connected with Flagship Ventures, and the imminent Harvard-based synthetic biologist George Church . He also served as a scientific advisor to Gen9, a company acquired by the multi-billion dollar synthetic biology powerhouse, Ginkgo Bioworks.

Some of the most valuable drugs in history work on complex sets of drug targets, which is why Octants focus on polypharmacology is so compelling, said Jason Kelly, the co-founder and CEO of Gingko Bioworks, and a member of the Octant board, in a statement. Octant is engineering a lot of luck and cost out of the drug discovery equation with its novel platform and unique big data biology insights, which will drive the companys internal development programs as well as potential partnerships.

The new technology arrives at a unique moment in the industry where pharmaceutical companies are moving to target treatments for diseases that are tied to specific mutations, rather than look at treatments for more common disease problems, said Homsany.

People are dropping common disease problems, he said. The biggest players are dropping these cases and it seems like that just didnt make sense to us. So we thought about how would a company take these new technologies and apply them in a way that could solve some of this.

One reason for the industrys turn away from the big diseases that affect large swaths of the population is that new therapies are emerging to treat these conditions which dont rely on drugs. While they wouldnt get into specifics, Octant co-founders are pursuing treatments for what Kosuri said were conditions in the metabolic space and in the neuropsychiatric space.

Helping them pursue those targets, since Octant is very much a drug development company, is $30 million in financing from investors led by Andreessen Horowitz .

Drug discovery remains a process of trial and error. Using its deep expertise in synthetic biology, the Octant team has engineered human cells that provide real-time, precise and complete readouts of the complex interactions and effects that drug molecules have within living cells, said Jorge Conde, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, and member of the Octant board of directors. By querying biology at this unprecedented scale, Octant has the potential to systematically create exhaustive maps of drug targets and corresponding, novel treatments for our most intractable diseases.

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Emerging from stealth, Octant is bringing the tools of synthetic biology to large scale drug discovery - TechCrunch

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COVID-19 Vaccines: A Reason to Hope We’re Flying Blind No More – The Wire

Posted: at 3:34 pm

A scanning electron microscope image showing SARS-CoV-2 (orange), the virus that causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the US, emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. Photo and caption: NIAID-RML.

COVID-19 continues to be an immense global challenge, with over 5.2 million confirmed cases and over 338,000 deaths.

In this gloom, science offers hope. Never before have scientists come together to do so much in so little time. Important research that stayed behind paywalls earlier is now openly accessible; over 5,000 articles on preprint servers and over 30,000 viral genome sequences are freely available.

Vaccines against the SARS-CoV-2 virus are also being developed at pandemic speed with 10 candidates in clinical testing and another 114 in pre-clinical development. But the basic understanding of whether a vaccine would work, what might be the correlates of protection, and how would one measure those, has been lacking. This was addressed recently.

Most vaccines in development aim to produce antibodies that would disable the virus from entering target cells. These are produced by B cells. Another arm of immunity utilises T-cells that thwart infection in two ways the helper T-cells help B-cells produce antibodies, and the killer T-cells seek out and destroy virus-infected cells. But a small fraction of virus-specific B, helper-T and killer-T cells also develop into memory cells, which respond very quickly to future infections by the same pathogen.

The success of most COVID-19 vaccines under development rests on whether they can produce neutralising antibodies. How does one measure these antibodies? How long do these take to develop, and how long do they last?

Researchers from Emory University in Atlanta, USA provide answers to some of these questions in a preprint paper posted on the medRxiv server on May 8. Using molecular biology and biochemical tools they obtained purified receptor binding domain (RBD) of the spike protein, which contacts the ACE2 receptors on target cells to facilitate virus entry (see illustration). Antibodies to RBD are expected to neutralise the virus.

The RBD protein was used to develop blood tests to look for anti-RBD antibodies in COVID-19 patients and assess their ability to neutralise the virus in 44 patients. The study showed that RBD-specific and virus-neutralising antibodies correlated nicely and developed very early after SARS-CoV-2 infection. When validated with 231 hospitalised COVID-19 patients, the RBD-specific antibody test was highly sensitive and specific, and found to be a good surrogate for measuring neutralising antibodies.

These findings have important implications for our understanding of protective immunity against SARS-CoV-2, the use of immune plasma as a therapy, and the development of much-needed vaccines, said Mehul S. Suthar, co-lead author of the study, in an Emory University press release. This study provides a snapshot of the immune response as it is happening, not after the battle is over, he added.

Two recent papers looked at T-cells to SARS-CoV-2. In a paper published May 14, researchers at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology, California, designed peptides (small fragments) corresponding to various SARS-CoV-2 proteins and exposed blood cells from COVID-19 patients to these snippets. Their results showed that all patients carried helper T-cells and over 70% also carried killer T-cells, suggesting that the immune system was seeing the virus and mounting a response. These results agreed well with a study from Charit University Hospital, Berlin, posted on medRxiv on April 22.

These and many other T-cell studies are assisted by the Immune Epitope Database and Analysis Resource and the IEDB website, which is the bread and butter of T-cell epitope mapping.

But the real surprise came when blood cells from people who had no SARS-CoV-2 infection were exposed to these peptides. About a third in the Berlin study and about half in the La Jolla study carried the memory T-cells. These are likely to be from past exposure to one of four other human coronaviruses that are endemic and are estimated to cause 20-30% of common cold annually.

These are comprehensive studies characterising the T-cell response to COVID-19 virus, says Rafi Ahmed, a leading immunologist and director of the Vaccine Centre at Emory University, Atlanta. This information will be useful in designing vaccines that induce T cell immunity against COVID-19, adds Ahmed, who is also a fellow of the US National Academy of Sciences.

Most vaccines under development aim to produce an immune response against the viral spike protein, but the La Jolla study showed the presence of T cells that recognise several other viral proteins. As Ahmed suggests, these studies inform vaccine design by recommending the inclusion of other proteins as well. The whole virus attenuated and killed vaccines may therefore offer better and longer lasting protection compared to single protein vaccines.

Though T-cells are often overlooked and neutralising antibodies are typically considered a correlate to protection, it is well established that poor T cells result in poor memory B-cells and thus long-lived antibodies something all vaccine manufactures and proponents of herd immunity are looking for, says Anmol Chandele, group leader of the ICGEB-Emory Vaccine Programme at the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, New Delhi.

The blood test developed at Emory University also helps inform vaccine development. Scientists could test the blood of vaccine study participants for the RBD-specific antibodies as a measure of neutralising antibodies, and use it predict vaccine efficacy. The infusion of blood plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients has been proposed as a potential therapy for critical patients. This blood test would also be useful in assessing the therapeutic value of convalescent plasma before infusion.

The Emory University researchers are now using the blood test to assess neutralising antibodies in people who get mild disease or remain asymptomatic. This would inform if such people are at a risk of re-infection. In a pandemic situation, it may also be better placed to offer immunity passports.

Commenting on the Emory study, of which he is an author, Ahmed says, This study makes the important observation that COVID-19 patients rapidly generate neutralising antibodies against the virus. This is a very hopeful sign for protective immunity against re-infection in the recovered patients. This, he says has important implications for public health and for COVID-19 vaccines.

The La Jolla T-cell study links well with the Emory antibody study, where the key result is that RBD-binding antibody titres beautifully correlate to neutralising antibody titres in an individual, adds Chandele, who was not part of either study.

These studies offer hope that vaccine developers will no longer fly blind.

Dr Shahid Jameel is a former Group Leader of Virology at ICGEB, New Dehi, India. He is currently CEO, DBT/Wellcome Trust India Alliance.

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COVID-19 Vaccines: A Reason to Hope We're Flying Blind No More - The Wire

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Humans will be able to replace their bodies within 50 years claims transhumanist writer – Express.co.uk

Posted: at 3:34 pm

Transhumanists believe humans can and should use technology to artificially augment their capabilities.Natasha Vita-More is Executive Director of Humanity+, formerly the World Transhumanist Association, and is one of the co-authors of the 1998 Transhumanist Declaration.

Speaking toExpress.co.ukshe said: We certainly do need to upgrade our biology and Ive been speaking about this for 30-something years.

The fact that our biology is vulnerable. We exist on a daily basis with an incredible vulnerable vehicle, our bodies, that anything could go wrong at any time.

As far as genetic engineering goes weve seen great work done with certain diseases like Tay-Sachs and sickle-cell anemia, certain cancers, certain diseases that handicap us.

Other gene therapies are in the works and there still needs to be far more work in this area and I think most of us will be undergoing gene therapy as soon as it comes online as needed.

Say 50 years from now I think well be looking at alternative bodies and we can see that really growing in the field of prosthetics.

Transhumanists think human lifespans can be radically extended, with many believing ageing can be reversed and death from disease abolished.

Ms Vita-More argued future humans will look to backup the content of their brains as an insurance policy against death or injury.

She asserted: It is essential our memories be stored some place.

Currently our memories are stored in our brain but thats vulnerable. We have hackers all the time in our brains and those are called viruses and disease.

Disease is constantly hacking our neurons so in order to protect that we need to have copies of it, we need to back it up and you see certain industry leaders like Google looking at how to back up the brain.

I see uploading as a necessary technology for not only backing up the brain but as a means for us to go into different environments.

Were currently in this physical/material world, this biosphere, there are other worlds yet to be explored just as were looking at space exploration.

READ MORE:Oxford academic claims future humans could live for thousands of years

Another area is virtual reality, augmented reality, all these other systems even in games to go into games and participate as yourself taking on an avatar or maybe something else.

Asked about those who might object, on religious or moral grounds, to radical life extension Ms Vita-More expressed confidence their arguments would be overcome.

She commented: I think its largely religious but I think it is also innate.

I think the narrative is engrained in culturalization, it seems to be endemic across cultures.

Given that plus the largest percentage of people on our planet are religious that puts a damper on it too. However it doesnt prevent it.

It could be interesting if we see religious doctrines changing a little bit to include life extension and changing as weve seen with divorce.

If you believe an afterlife it doesnt have to happen at exactly a certain time. Maybe instead of 90 as a lifespan maybe 300 if you want to go that route.

So well see a realisation that religions have to keep up with the state of society and their members within that.

Ms Vita-More is also an advisor to the Singularity University and co-editor and contributing author to The Transhumanist Reader: Classical and Contemporary Essays on the Science, Technology, and Philosophy of the Human Future.

Asked what most excites her about the future she replied: I would like to totally reengineer my body, its not available yet but Id like to have a whole new body thats smoothly integrated not only with narrow artificial intelligence (AI) but with artificial general intelligence and Id like to have a metabrain where Id have AI working with me like a best friend or cohort.

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Humans will be able to replace their bodies within 50 years claims transhumanist writer - Express.co.uk

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Menu of solutions, no silver bullet, to feed the world – FeedStrategy.com

Posted: at 3:34 pm

There is no silver bullet to the ability to feed a global population of more than 9 billion people by 2050. There is a menu of solutions across many sectors of the food economy, according to Jack Bobo, CEO of food consultancy firm Futurity, who spoke May 21 during Alltechs ONE Virtual Experience.

When it comes to sustainability, the ideas of local sustainability vs. global sustainability are often very different from each other, Bobo said.

When we think about local sustainability, thats really how most consumers think about sustainability, because theyre thinking about farmers using less fertilizer and less insecticide and producing things in a way that doesnt have runoff into the local environment, he said. They want to have less of an impact of agriculture on the land.

But, he pointed out, methods such as organic agriculture result in 20-30% less food for a given amount of land.

Imagine for a moment that the entire world were organic: What would that mean? he asked. Well, the main thing it would mean is that we just wouldnt have any forest anymore, because we would need 20% to 30% more land in order to produce the food we have. And 40% of all the land on earth is already used for agriculture. So that would have a devastating impact.

For this reason, the concept of global sustainability is the opposite of local sustainability.

Its about prioritizing intensive agriculture in one place in order to protect the environment somewhere else, he said. That could mean more intensive livestock production through contained animal feeding where you see the environmental impact locally of that intensive agricultural production. But what you dont see is that you dont need to have more animals going out into in Brazil, where they have to cut down forests in order to make way for expanded livestock production. So, you dont see the land protected; you only see the local impact. This comparison between local and global sustainability is part of the different story that were telling.

But, Bobo said we need local and global sustainability; neither one is right or wrong.

Its really about choices and consequences, he said. But there are consequences to the choices we make.

Those choices the menu of solutions will be different across various regions or sectors, and they will all work together to create a better food production system to feed the world.

Rather than thinking about sustainability as farming is the problem, I like to think that Im just happy that consumers and conservationists are now joining farmers on this journey of sustainability, because we could use their help, he said. And instead of framing it as agriculture is the problem to be solved, we need to help them to understand that agriculture is the solution to the problem.

Some of the solutions Bobo discussed include:

Shifting diets: For many, if we would all just become vegan or vegetarian, we wouldnt have any problems, he said.

But, while there is a need for a healthier diet in the developed world, in low-income regions, people eat more protein as their income increases.

So, even if we do shift diets in the United States and Europe and places like that, people are going to be shifting their diets in a way that increases the impact of agriculture in most places around the world, he said.

Food waste: One-third of all the food produced is lost to food waste, Bobo said. The good news is that people are much more focused on this issue than they were 20 years ago. But, in the developed world, that waste is post-consumer whereas in the developing world, the waste happens along the supply chain.

Addressing food waste is hard, because food waste is not one problem. Food waste is a thousand problems, he said. Food waste doesnt just occur in the field. It doesnt just occur in storage. It doesnt just occur during distribution. It occurs at all of these different points along the supply chain.

Cover crops: While organic farmers have advocated for cover crops for decades, big data has shown a return on investment that has larger farmers also adopting this low-tech solution.

Cover crops are adding some nutrients theyre reducing soil erosion, he said.

Gene editing and genetic engineering: These are more high-tech solutions to increasing crop production and lowering environmental impact. Plants can be genetically engineered to be resistant to insect damage or be more tolerant to drought, for example.

There are all sorts of solutions to the problems of agriculture. And they occur, whether its organic, high tech, or otherwise, he said.

Alternative proteins: Whether its companies that create alternative proteins through fermentation, cellular technology or plant-based products, they are all competing for market share instead of working together toward a solution.

When we think about trying to feed the world in 2050, the market opportunity is $1 trillion dollars just in the protein space, he said. Who really believes that plant-based meat is going to become a trillion-dollar industry in just 30 years? And even if, somehow, they did become a trillion-dollar industry, so what? We wouldnt lose a single cow, we wouldnt lose any cattle. Wed still be producing all of that food in the same way that we did, and hopefully, in a much, much more environmentally friendly way.

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Emerging courses: How to become a healthcare engineer – The Indian Express

Posted: at 3:34 pm

New Delhi | Updated: May 22, 2020 3:16:36 pm

Written by Dr R L Raina

With the Indian government keen on promoting India as a medical tourist destination for patients seeking affordable treatment, there is going to be a demand for healthcare professionals. To meet this demand, a new course on healthcare engineering has emerged for students. It is a multi-disciplinary specialty that focuses on advancing this sector through engineering approaches involving both healthcare and engineering professionals.

In this course, candidates will not only need to know their subject, but also possess entrepreneurial skills, along with business and technology acumen. Researchers work with clinicians, collaborators and patients to identify and solve problems that are relevant today. They use scientific, engineering methodology to create solutions to complex health care problems and improve quality of life.

Read| Emerging courses to pursue:Virology|Actuarial science| Pharma Marketing|FinTech|Coronavirus|Robotics | Healthcare Engineering | Cyber Security | Data Science

As a healthcare engineer, one needs to have the knowledge of engineering principles that will enable him/her to come up with solutions for healthcare. At times, it is also concerned with the development and design of a medical product. Some of the major skills that an aspirant requires:

Analytical skills Good eye for design Vast knowledge about various diseases Attention to detailing Communication

To pursue a Bachelors degree in healthcare engineering, a candidate must have cleared class 12 exams, with science subjects like biology, mathematics, physics, and chemistry. The course curriculum will be around the application of engineering tools in the healthcare industry and developing new cutting edge equipment to protect people from illness and injury, and property from damage.

Read |Colleges offering AI-powered exams from home: All you need to know about proctoring

Engineers are always in demand in healthcare. It is a misconception that only people who have studied biomedical and clinical engineering can become healthcare engineers. Even students pursuing chemical, civil, computer, electrical, environmental, industrial, information, materials, mechanical, software and systems engineering can pursue this field.

Biomechanics: It is the study of the structure, function and motion of the mechanical aspects of biological systems by using the methods of mechanics.

Medical devices: Under this, a student should have knowledge about devices that benefit patients by helping healthcare providers diagnose and treat patients and helping them overcome sickness or disease, improving their quality of life.

Genetic engineering: It is the knowledge of a set of technologies used to change the genetic makeup of cells, including the transfer of genes within and across species boundaries to produce improved or novel organisms.

Read |IIT-Gandhinagar launches PG courses, direct admission for students affected by coronavirus

Health Informatics: This is the study of a set of technologies used to change the genetic makeup of cells, including the transfer of genes within and across species boundaries to produce improved or novel organisms.

Emergency Management: According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), emergency is a state in which normal procedures are interrupted, and immediate measures need to be taken to prevent that state from turning into a disaster. Thus, emergency management is crucial to avoid the disruption transforming into a disaster, which is even harder to recover from.

If you are interested in public health challenges, this is the perfect time to pursue a career in healthcare engineering. It is in high demand as they have a crucial role to play in terms of designing and validating models in the context of public health, predictive modelling, epidemiological studies, machine learning and data visualisation. These skills are already some of the most sought after across a wide variety of sectors, and healthcare has also caught up during the current crisis.

Healthcare engineering covers the following two major fields:

Engineering for Healthcare Intervention: This comes into play when there are chances of any treatment, preventive care, or test that a person could take or undergo to improve health or to help with a particular health problem.

Read | How will colleges function post lockdown

Engineering for Healthcare Systems: Engineering involved in the complete network of organisations, agencies, facilities, information systems, management systems, financing mechanisms, logistics, and all trained personnel engaged in delivering healthcare within a geographical area.

Universities offering this course

Since it is a relatively new course in India, none of the Indian universities offer this course yet, but some international universities do, such as Texas Tech University, Cambridge University, and John Hopkins University.

The author is vice-chancellor, JK Lakshmipat University

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Why Italians aren’t all the same – Cosmos

Posted: at 3:34 pm

Any Italian will tell you that the north and south are poles apart, and it appears those differences may have begun as many as 20,000 years ago.

New research suggests that genetic adaptions to environmental changes, such as those that occurred soon after the Last Glacial Maximum, could explain some of the genetic differences between northern and southern Italian populations today.

A team from the University of Bologna sequenced the genomes of 38 unrelated participants from different regions in Italy, each the third generation of their family native to each region.

The genomes were selected as representative of known genetic differences across the Italian population and over 17 million distinct genetic variants were found between individuals.

Marco Sazzini and colleagues then compared these variations with existing genetic data from 35 populations across Europe and the Mediterranean and with variants previously observed in 559 ancient human remains, dating from the Upper Palaeolithic (around 40,000 years ago) to the Bronze Age (4000 years ago).

When comparing sequences between modern and ancient genome samples, we found early genetic divergence between the ancestors of northern and southern Italian groups dating back to the Late Glacial, around 19,000-12,000 years ago, Sazzini says.

Migrations during the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods, thousands of years later, then further differentiated their gene pools.

Divergence between these ancestral populations may have occurred as a result of temperature rises and subsequent shrinking of glaciers across northern Italy during this time, allowing ancestors who survived the glaciation period to move north, separating from groups who remained in the south.

The researchers note, however, that they are unable to prove causation or to rule out the possibility that more recent gene flow from populations exposed to diverse environmental conditions outside of Italy may have also contributed to the different genetic signatures.

Writing in the journal BMC Biology, they say their analyses reveal signatures ascribable to specific biological adaptations in northern and southern Italian genomes suggestive of habitation in differing climates.

The genetic history of northern Italians shows changes in the genes responsible for regulating insulin, body-heat production and fat metabolism, while southern Italians showed adaptations in genes regulating the production of melanin and responses to pathogens.

Our findings suggest that the ancestors of northern Italians adapted to lower environmental temperatures and the related high-calorie diets by optimising their energy metabolism, Sazzini says.

This adaptation may play a role in the lower prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes recorded in northern Italy today. Conversely, southern Italian ancestors adapted to a warmer climate with higher UV levels by increasing melanin production, which may explain the lower incidence rates of skin cancers recorded across southern regions.

The genomes of southern Italians also showed changes in the genes encoding mucins, which play a role in protection against pathogens, and genetic variants linked to a longer lifespan.

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Coronavirus: Parliament told there is ‘no evidence’ virus came from Wuhan laboratory – Sky News

Posted: at 3:34 pm

There is "no evidence" supporting conspiracy theories that the coronavirus originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, an expert has told parliament.

Claims that COVID-19 was created in a lab were amplified by Donald Trump earlier this month, although the president refused to offer any evidence or give specific details.

The coronavirus outbreak first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan last year and international blame around the pandemic has incited conspiracy theories about its origin.

Rumours linking the virus to the Wuhan Institute of Virology - based on geographic proximity, and without any endorsement from qualified epidemiologists - have circulated.

But speaking to the House of Lords science and technology committee on Tuesday, Professor David Robertson dismissed the conspiracy theory as "unlikely".

Following the president's comments, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed there was a "significant amount of evidence" supporting the theory but, just two days later, admitted: "We don't have certainty."

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Scientists have discovered that the coronavirus was 96% identical to coronavirus found in bats, one of the many animals sold at a Wuhan seafood market where it is suspected the virus jumped to humans.

British authorities believe it is highly likely the global pandemic is unconnected to the laboratory in Wuhan and was passed from animals to humans naturally.

"You have a virus that you think comes from an exotic species and then you have a wildlife market - that seems the most parsimonious explanation," Professor Robertson said.

He was asked whether a sample of the virus found at the Wuhan Institute of Virology - and thought to be about 40 to 50 years old - could have been behind the initial outbreak.

Professor Robertson, who is the head of viral genomics and bioinformatics at the University of Glasgow, firmly responded: "No, absolutely not.

"That's partly what has driven some of these conspiracy theories, is what is the chance they would have this virus in the labs that is close? And actually, even though it is close in sequence, it is not close in time."

"There is really no evidence for this. We can all enjoy a conspiracy theory but you need to have evidence," he added.

Scientists have analysed the entirety of the novel coronavirus' genomic sequence to assess claims that it may have been made in a laboratory or been otherwise engineered.

The value of the genomic sequence could prove vital for those developing a vaccine, but it also contains key details revealing how the virus evolved.

Researchers at the Scripps Research Institute in the US, UK and Australia discovered that the virus has proved so infectious because it developed a near-perfect mechanism to bind to human cells.

This mechanism is so sophisticated in its adaptions that the researchers say that it must have evolved and not been genetically engineered in their paper, titled "COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic has a natural origin", published in the journal Nature Medicine.

Dr Josie Golding, the epidemics lead at the Wellcome Trust in the UK, described the paper as "crucially important to bring an evidence-based view to the rumours that have been circulating about the origins of the virus causing COVID-19".

"They conclude that the virus is the product of natural evolution, ending any speculation about deliberate genetic engineering," Dr Golding added.

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Yeast fermentation may be the answer to creating rare cannabinoids – Leafly

Posted: at 3:34 pm

From a purely chemical standpoint, a cannabinoid is a cannabinoid and a THC molecule is a THC molecule, no matter how its produced, whether in a lab or grown on a farm. From a legal perspective, a cannabinoid is a cannabinoidat least in Canada. Production and distribution of CBD is held to the same standards as the psychoactive compounds in cannabis.

However, in the US, THC and CBD are legally distinct. After the 2018 Farm Bill passed, hemp and cannabis with extremely low percentages of THCless than 0.3%became federally legal. So while non-psychoactive cannabinoids may act, look, and quack like ducks, they might turn out to be swans.

This possibility has researchers and companies salivating at the medical possibilities and potential profits of the less common cannabinoids contained in cannabis plants. These rarer cannabinoids appear at such low levels that its impractical to extract large quantities from marijuana plants. But a little genetic engineering, a lot of research, and a few metal tanks full of yeast bacteria could make mass-production possible.

Yeast fermentation is an age-old process, familiar to most as a source of beer or bread. But in the scientific community, its known as one of the primary bacteria used to produce biopharmaceuticals (the other is E. coli).

Today, the scientific race is on to study specific cannabinoids other than THC or CBD as treatments for illnesses such as epilepsy. And the commercial race is on to provide those cannabinoids to research institutions.

From a researchers perspective, it doesnt matter how the cannabinoid is produced. Consistency and reliability of supply are required, not sunlight and dirt. While yeast has to be genetically modified to produce a cannabinoid, the end product is genetically identical to its plant-produced counterpart.

While there is no safety or efficacy concern, from a consumer perspective, substance origin can matterif you know about it. But once cannabinoids have been harvested and refined into an oil, its impossible to tell whether they came from a plant or a test tube. They all quack like ducks.

Theres so much territory to explore. Were just taking the first steps, said Cynthia Bryant, the Chief Business Officer at Demetrix, a US company focusing on the potential medical benefits of non-psychoactive cannabinoids for the US pharmaceutical market.

Based out of California, Demetrix is working toward large-scale, non-farming cannabinoid production. And they think yeast fermentation will take them there.

The technology works very well to produce a rare cannabinoid, said Bryant. Once they are up and running, they will be able to quickly and regularly produce large amounts of specific cannabinoids, setting up a supply chain thats reliable enough for pharmaceutical research and medicines. Sales could include oils and crystalized powders for research, clinical trials, and eventually, as active ingredients in medications.

Over a hundred different cannabinoids can be extracted from cannabis plants, but many exist at such low levels that they have never been studied as isolated medical ingredients.

Demetrix has identified the first so-called rare cannabinoid that they want to bring to market. Bryant wouldnt name the specific cannabinoid the company plans to release to market next year, citing trade secrets, and said only that theyve discovered some useful effects.

Insulin, the first biopharmaceutical, was once extracted from pig pancreases. In the late 1970s scientists cloned the gene that makes the human body produce insulin, cut out a piece of DNA from a yeast cell, and inserted the engineered gene into its place. Instead of producing alcohol, the yeast cells became tiny factories that produced insulin.

Suddenly, it was exponentially easier and cheaper to manufacture insulin. The new method was fast, consistent, and scalable, allowing it to be replicated at commercial levels. It is also completely safe. Todays yeast fermentation process is similar, if significantly advanced.

Demetrix mail orders synthetically produced DNA sequences of the enzymes in cannabis that have been identified as instigators of natural cannabinoid production. Scientists then insert the DNA sequence into yeast cells, reprogramming their purpose. The specific methods used to do this vary from company to company and are considered trade secrets. But the general tack of using a microorganism to produce a specific molecule is common across the field.

The modified yeast cultures are then left to ferment and grow in tanks, multiplying and producing large amounts of the desired cannabinoid. Workers then extract the cannabinoids from the yeast slurry, isolate, and purify them.

I think theres going to be a huge need for these cannabinoids, said Bryant. The more cannabinoids are studied, the more medical solutions might be found. So its a good thing that the fermentation field is crowdedand that cannabinoid plant extraction is also plowing forward, Bryant explained. Competition will bring down prices and increase availability, she said. We need all of the various sources.

Far north of Demetrixs Berkeley, CA, base, Canadian company Hyasynth is just about ready for full-scale production of fermented cannabinoids, said Kevin Chen, Hyasynths CEO.

Hyasynth also mail orders DNA sequences, slots them into yeast genomes, and extracts the desired compounds from the slurry to produce medical grade cannabinoids for sale to pharmaceutical companies.

Its the modern way, said Chen, who extolled the same virtues of fermentation over farming as Demetrix does: scale, consistency, speed, and, most especially, specificity. We have full control over which cannabinoid we produce and which we dont.

Fermentation is a process that takes five days, instead of the three months it would take to plant and grow marijuana to use for enzyme extraction, he said. Farming can be difficult. Once you nail down your specific splicing method, fermentation is easy.

Engineered cannabinoids may be superior for pharmaceutical purposes, but not everyone will want cannabis grown in tanks or tubes, Chen acknowledges.

Were not too worried about people rejecting our product, said Chen. Were using yeast to manufacture things, but the yeast isnt what were selling.

From the standpoint of personal preference, not all cannabinoids are equal. Some consumers might prefer a holistic, whole-plant product. Some might only care about results.

Do people care that it comes from a different place? Absolutely, said Chen. But different methods of cannabinoid production are suited to different purposes, and fermentation seems poised to win in a pharmaceutical ingredient contest. It is differentin many ways its better.

Celia Gorman is a science journalist and video editor based out of New York. She holds a master's in digital journalism from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and previously worked as an Associate Editor at tech magazine IEEE Spectrum, where she developed and ran an award-winning video section.

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