Canberra, May 12 (IANS) Australia could achieve vaccine self-reliance within half a year after the University of Adelaide (UA) revealed a plan to manufacture mRNA vaccines.The university on Wednesday announced a joint partnership with the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) and international biotechnology company BioCina that could see it develop the capability to mass produce mRNA vaccines within six months.Under the agreement, the Adelaide Pfizer plant purchased by BioCina in August 2020 would be used to manufacture vaccines with capital from the UA and the SAHMRI, the Xinhua news agency reported.The mRNA vaccines can be produced on a much larger scale than traditional vaccines and can be altered more quickly in response to mutant strains of viruses.Anton Middelberg, a vaccine manufacturing expert and UA deputy vice-chancellor, said the ability to manufacture mRNA vaccines in Australia would have applications beyond the Covid-19 pandemic."These microbial cells are the workhorses of biotechnology," he said."Because it is an industrial organism you can very quickly code up a piece of DNA and make a lot of material very quickly. What that means is that if Covid-19 becomes Covid-23 we can be in a position where we can start producing a vaccine pretty much immediately and go from being at the back of the queue to the front of the queue."The great thing about this project is that because it uses an existing facility which has regulatory approval, rather than a greenfield site, we can step up right now and start working."BioCina chief executive Ian Wisenberg said to The Australian: "In a country like Australia we are talking about 20 million people, or 40 million doses, which is not a lot in terms of production. We see no reason why we could not be producing 100 million doses within that same six to 12-month timeframe." --IANSint/rs
Vice Chancellor Tariq Mansoor lost his elder brother a few days ago. On Saturday, the dean of the Law faculty died.A large number of staffers are under treatment at the Jawahar Lal Nehru Medical College hospital of the AMU.Social activist Prof Jasim Mohammad told IANS, "The university administration had failed, the medical college system has collapsed. The VC has not even bothered to ask for Oxygen. He has not sought help from any quarters. May be a hundred have already died and in another one month, there could be another 100 deaths, if conditions do not improve."The number of deaths could be much higher, but the university officials could not give the exact numbers.The campus is deserted and there are no classes. Most hostellers have left, said Zeeshan, an official of the university. Several faculty members have left Aligarh. One member, now in Tamil Nadu, told IANS, "In addition to the pandemic spreading its wings wide, there was a total psychological breakdown, despair and also a degree of disgust." Quite a few retired faculty members who left Aligarh have died in their home towns like Bhopal, Hyderabad.Jasim has sought critical information from the VC through an RTI. He has asked the VC about the shortages of medicines, Oxygen, ambulances etc.Locals allege that the university administration despite all the resources, has been caught napping. No special mechanism or arrangements have been put in place. Due to the fear of infection, people are shunning going to the medical college for vaccination. "Fear is rampant. The winds of despair and gloom sweep the campus. The central government should step in and control the worsening situation," says a local student.So far it is not clear how many of the deceased were vaccinated, though it is widely accepted that there have been a few deaths due to Covid-morbidities and age.According to the district administration, on May 8, there were 417 fresh cases, 295 were discharged. Local medical circles confirmed the situation was really alarming.--IANS<br>bk/in
Houston, April 20 (IANS) A new variant of Covid-19 has been found by scientists at the US Texas A&M University, the media reported.The variant, BV-1, was found in just one case: an individual who had mild symptoms, the Texas A&M scientists were quoted as saying, Xinhua news agency reported.The patient, a student who lives off-campus, first tested positive on March 5. A second test on March 25 was still positive, indicating the variant may cause longer-lasting infections than other variants, the scientists said. An April 9, test was negative.The student showed mild, cold-like symptoms the first few weeks. The symptoms did not fully go away until April 2.According to the scientists, BV-1 is related to the UK variant of SARS-CoV-2 and has a "potentially concerning genetic make-up" that indicates it might not respond to antibodies."We do not at present know the full significance of this variant, but it has a combination of mutations similar to other internationally notifiable variants of concern," said Ben Neuman, the Global Health Research Complex Chief Virologist at Texas A&M University."This variant combines genetic markers separately associated with rapid spread, severe disease and high resistance to neutralizing antibodies," Neuman said.Neuman said the scientists will continue to monitor for more cases of the variant. --IANSint/pgh
London, April 19 (IANS) Researchers at the University of Oxford have gained ethical approval for a new human challenge trial that aims to check the immune response needed to protect people against reinfection.As part of the trial, healthy people will be deliberately exposed to a disease-causing organism in a carefully controlled manner, The Guardian reported.The method has proved valuable in understanding and tackling myriad conditions from malaria to tuberculosis and gonorrhoea, the researchers said. Recruitment for the trial is expected to start in the next couple of weeks, the report said."The point of this study is to determine what kind of immune response prevents reinfection," Helen McShane, Professor of vaccinology at the University of Oxford, and chief investigator on the study, was quoted as saying to the Guardian.Levels of various components of immune response -- including T-cells and antibodies -- will be measured and then tracked to see how it reinfects when people are exposed to the virus, McShane said.Besides determining the level of immune response, the trail will also help understand the efficacy of vaccine.People participating in the trial must be healthy, at low risk from Covid, aged between 18 and 30, and must have been infected with the coronavirus at least three months before joining the trial. Besides a positive Covid PCR test, they must also have antibodies to Covid.In the first phase, the team will involve 24 participants split into dose groups of three to eight people. The participants will receive the original strain of coronavirus, via the nose. Once 50 per cent participants get infected with mild disease, it will be administered to 10-40 other participants to confirm the dose.The second phase of the study -- expected to start in the summer -- will involve a new group of participants and will study closely their immune response before and after exposure to the virus, as well as the level of virus and symptoms in those who become reinfected, the report said.If the participants reinfection is confirmed, or symptoms develop, in either phase of the trial, they will be given a monoclonal antibody treatment. The participants will be followed up for 12 months. They will also receive monetary assistance, the report said.--IANSrvt/sdr/
Thiruvananthapuram, April 18 (IANS) Amid Covid surge in the state, the universities in Kerala have postponed all offline exams scheduled from Monday onwards following a communique from the Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan.Calicut University, MG University, Kannur University, Health University and Malayalam University have announced that all exams scheduled for Monday have been postponed.The Governor has directed the universities that it would be ideal to postpone the examinations owing to the safety of the students and teachers with the Covid cases mounting in the state.Students and parents had earlier petitioned the universities to postpone the examinations. Senior Congress leader and opposition leader of the state Ramesh Chennithala and Member of Parliament from Thiruvananthapuram Shashi Tharoor had also requested the Governor to postpone the examinations.--IANSaal/rt
New York, April 15 (IANS) Even as video calls have taken over people's work and personal lives amid the pandemic, a new Stanford University research has found that the feeling of exhaustion that comes from a day of back-to-back online meetings, also known as "Zoom fatigue", is greater for women than men.
The researchers found that overall, one in seven women -- 13.8 percent -- compared with one in 20 men -- 5.5 percent -- reported feeling "very" to "extremely" fatigued after Zoom calls.
What contributed most to the feeling of exhaustion among women was an increase in what social psychologists describe as "self-focused attention" triggered by the self-view in video conferencing, according to the study released on the Social Science Research Network.
"Self-focused attention refers to a heightened awareness of how one comes across or how one appears in a conversation," said co-author of the new study Jeffrey Hancock, Professor of Communication in the School of Humanities and Sciences.
The researchers found that while women have the same number of meetings per day as men, their meetings tend to run longer.
Women were also less likely to take breaks between meetings, another factor that contributed to increased weariness, according to the study.
These new findings build on a paper the Stanford researchers recently published in the journal Technology, Mind and Behavior that explored why people might feel exhausted following video conference calls.
The new research shows who is feeling the strain.
For their follow-up study, the researchers surveyed 10,322 participants in February and March using their "Zoom Exhaustion and Fatigue Scale" to better understand the individual differences of burnout from the extended use of video conferencing technologies during the past year.
"We've all heard stories about Zoom fatigue and anecdotal evidence that women are affected more, but now we have quantitative data that Zoom fatigue is worse for women, and more importantly, we know why," Hancock said.
That prolonged self-focus can produce negative emotions, or what the researchers call "mirror anxiety," Hancock explained.
A way to avoid this is to change the default display settings and turn off "self-view."
Also contributing to an increase in Zoom fatigue among women were feelings of being physically trapped by the need to stay centred in the camera's field of view, said the study.
What people can do to address this is to move farther away from the screen or to turn off one's video during parts of calls.
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