💉 Pasteur Institute’s Chinese break up; WHO’s fight against salt; CSIR’s research grants for women
Sandoz’s new biosimilar plant; Buy from Maya Chemtech you shan’t; Against famine we rant
Hello, and welcome to the end of this eventful news week. In today’s Kable, we’re advocating for playing video games, fighting famine faster, and consuming all things Mediterranean.
In India, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) announced yesterday a Women’s Day present: an exclusive portal for Research Grants for Women Scientists. This portal will be up and running by April 1, and will invite proposals from women in the life, chemical, physical, engineering and trans-disciplinary sciences.
In Slovenia, Novartis’ generic drug business Sandoz is betting on the future of biosimilars as the patents for many popular biologics are set to expire; it is pumping $400 million into a new biosimilar production plant where operations are anticipated to begin in 2026.
In New York City, as if people didn’t already have enough reason to avoid rats like the plague, rats collected in 2021 have shown signs of past infection with SARS-CoV-2.
In today’s quota of layoff news, the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School is letting go of 26 employees in manufacturing and administrative positions from its MassBiologics unit.
And finally, our collective vanity is fuelling deforestation in Brazil; the collagen industry relies on cattle raised on farms which are responsible for deforestation in the country to procure the anti-ageing protein.
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The week that was
Before we move to our Friday stories, here's a quick wrap-up of all the headlines you may have missed this week.
Negotiations have finally begun on the draft of a pandemic accord. The World Health Assembly’s timetable indicates that these negotiations will go on over the next year.
The World Bank is supporting the Government of India in developing its health sector to fight future pandemics. The financing deal includes two $500 million loans each for India’s national health infrastructure mission as well as health service delivery in 7 Indian states.
India is mulling over issuing an alert on cough syrups exported by the company after tests showed that 22 of 36 samples were adulterated with ethylene glycol and diethylene glycol.
A new study reports that women leaders have been consistently sidelined at multilateral organisations. Women have held just 12% of the top jobs at 33 of the biggest multilateral institutions since 1945, and more than a third of those bodies, including all four large development banks, have never been led by a woman. (By the way, we're offering a free year of The Kable to all women in life sciences. Send this email to all the science ladies you know so they can claim their free year!)
After recalling two Indian-made eye drop brands last month, the US FDA is now extending the recall to two more brands, one made in the US and one made in Canada.
Moderna says a multiple-fold price hike for its Covid vaccine is totally justified because investors funded development of the vaccine, regardless of the billions the US government put into it.
According to a new study published in The Lancet Planetary Health, only 0.001% of the global population is exposed to air with WHO-recommended safe PM2.5 levels.
If you wanted more not-so-light reading to keep you busy this weekend, the 10th volume of The Lancet Regional Health Southeast Asia is out. It includes pieces on topics ranging from intimate partner violence in India to the cannabis policy in Thailand. It also has studies on diabetes and blood pressure in Bangladesh and Covid-19 sequelae in healthcare workers.
An analysis of findings from the World Economic Forum and other experts reveals that it will take another five generations to make global gender parity a reality.
Breaking up an international affair. In a break-up that many did not see coming, France’s Pasteur Institute is parting ways with Beijing’s Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). The Pasteur Institute will no longer co-lead the Pasteur Institute of Shanghai (the name of which will soon change), which has focused on research on hepatitis C, Ebola, Zika, HIV and SARS-CoV-2 among many other infectious pathogens. Amidst news of this separation, CAS stated that the two institutes are looking at new collaboration options different from such a joint institute.
Some researchers believe this could be a sign of the end of an era of scientific partnership, while others think it could indicate the end of China’s era of internationalisation. The institute was launched in 2004, when the country was not at the forefront of many fields of research, but considering China’s progress since then, some believe CAS sees no merit in co-leading the institution with a foreign organisation. But the full circumstances behind the split and its implications on the institute’s funding remain unclear.
Slow progress. In a long overdue move, India has directed drug manufacturers not to use propylene glycol sourced from Delhi-based Maya Chemtech, the main supplier of the chemical to Marion Biotech, whose cough syrups were linked to the deaths of 19 children in Uzbekistan. This follows close on the heels of the arrest of three Marion employees after a government lab found 22 of 36 syrup samples from the company adulterated.
Don’t take this with a pinch of salt. The WHO recommends a daily sodium intake of no more than 5 grams, but the global average intake stands at more than double that amount. Excess sodium intake is a risk factor for gastric cancer, obesity, osteoporosis, kidney disease, heart attack, stroke, and other health problems. But most countries still don’t have any sodium reduction policies in place, making it unlikely that we will reach global targets of cutting sodium intake by 30% by 2025. Only 9 countries -- Brazil, Chile, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Spain and Uruguay – have comprehensive policies on sodium reduction.
The WHO has released its first-ever Global Report on Sodium Intake Reduction, in which it outlines mandatory policies and four “best buy” interventions for countries to tackle this problem. These include food reformulation, public food procurement policies, front-of-package labelling and behaviour change interventions. The report has also laid out a Sodium Country Score Card on the basis of sodium reduction policies in place.
Inflammation control. A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals the effectiveness of a nasally-administered monoclonal antibody Foralumab in the treatment of Covid. Not only did it modulate the immune system without any major side effects, but it also decreased inflammation in multiple realms, indicating that it might be useful as a therapy for other diseases as well. Phase 2 clinical trials are currently in progress for multiple sclerosis, whereas trials for Alzheimer’s ALS and type 1 diabetes are planned.
Nervous dysfunction. Yesterday, we blamed inefficient mitochondria for neurological disorders. Today, we’re pointing fingers at unique immune cells called microglia. In aged animals, microglia may begin to behave dysfunctionally (especially after a traumatic brain injury), increasing cellular stress and damage, accumulating fats and iron, and causing more pronounced inflammation under pathological conditions. Targeting such microglia could help treat age-related diseases.
What’s all the buzz about? We could learn something about trending behaviours from bees, for whom social learning leads to the spread of certain behaviours amongst a population, like how they forage for food. New research suggests that bees are susceptible to mimicking ‘demonstrator’ peers, watching and learning from them to develop some sort of cohesive culture. We humans aren’t very different; maybe you want to give a second thought to the “influencers” you follow on social media?
You are what you eat. Eating a Mediterranean diet won’t make you Mediterranean, but it might protect you from Alzheimer’s disease and prostate cancer. Consuming a diet rich in greens, vegetables, fruits, nuts, fish, beans, whole grains, and olive oil has been linked with fewer amyloid plaques and tau tangles in the brain, which are indications of Alzheimer’s. Additionally, foods that are naturally rich in lycopene and selenium like tomatoes, melons, white meat, fish and eggs, could not just prevent prostate cancer but also aid recovery. Considering switching to a MIND or Mediterranean diet yet?
What time is it? Time to switch out your regular water for olive fruit water. A study published in Nutrients has investigated the effects of drinking olive fruit water – a by-product of olive oil production – on running performance. Drinking this “waste” product improved respiratory parameters, oxygen consumption, running economy, perceptions of exertion, and recovery.
Your kid playing too many video games? You might want to encourage this past time, because new research suggests that fast gamers are more intelligent and have higher cognitive processing capacity – qualities that can be assessed and even developed through virtual reality games. Researchers suggest that VR games could be used in occupational settings to predict job performance.
There’s never enough time, is there? Research suggests that our perception of time is associated with the pace of our heartbeat. And this timekeeping is occurring during intervals too short, even for conscious thought. This causal relationship between the brain and heart goes both ways, affecting either our heart rate or time perception when the other is changed.
Knotted up. In a first, Caltech engineers have nano-architected a new material made of a bunch of minuscule interconnected knots which make it significantly tougher than any other identically-structured but unknotted material. This material can withstand being deformed, is durable and potentially even biocompatible, which means it could be used in biomedicine and aerospace industries.
No regrets. The International Rescue Committee, Action Against Hunger, and World Vision claim that the UN’s task force on famine prevention is too slow in developing and implementing plans that could save lives, instead waiting until many lives have already been lost before launching a response.
The relief organisations want the task force to take a “no regrets” approach. They want to improve the effectiveness of famine response initiatives by expanding the task force’s membership to include NGOs, donors, and international financial institutions. They want alarms to be triggered early enough to deploy the necessary resources to avoid catastrophic loss of life. They recommend focusing on the highest-priority regions rather than spreading attention, efforts and resources too thin.
Conflict causing famine. A report by the Special Rapporteur on the right to food claims that conflict and violence are the primary causes of hunger, malnutrition and famine. Food insecurity was caused not by a lack of food, but rather political failures, with violence having an increasing impact on food systems, the affordability of healthy diets, and livelihoods. The number of food-insecure people in 2023 is projected to be twice as high as 2020 numbers. While some speakers at the Human Rights Council where this dialogue was held agree that Russia’s war against Ukraine is aggravating the food crisis severely, others believe this is not an objective analysis of the situation.
And that's a wrap from us for this week. See you Kable-side again on Monday.
Oh, and Gopal Nair doesn't want you to see this.
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