Singapore scientists study genes to fast-track coronavirus vaccine

UNTV News   •   March 24, 2020   •   773

Scientists in Singapore said on Monday (March 23) they have developed a way to track genetic changes that accelerates testing of vaccines against a coronavirus that has killed more than 16,000 people worldwide.

The scientists, at the city-state’s Duke-NUS Medical School, said their technique needs just days to evaluate potential vaccines provided by Arcturus Therapeutics, an American biotech firm the school has partnered with for the trials.

That timeframe compares with the months usually required for testing based on human responses.

“You can know from the way the genes change – what genes are turned on, what are turned off,” Ooi Eng Eong, deputy director of the school’s emerging infectious diseases programme, told Reuters on Monday.

Swift assessment of such changes triggered by a vaccine allows the scientists to determine its effectiveness and side effects, instead of relying solely on responses from humans who receive it, he added.

Currently, there are no approved medicines or preventive vaccines targeting the virus, with most patients receiving only supportive care, such as help with their breathing. Experts have said getting a vaccine ready could take a year or more.

Ooi said he planned to start testing vaccines in mice in about a week, with human trials expected in the second half of the year.

Pharmaceutical firms and researchers around the globe are racing to develop vaccines and treatments for the virus, which has infected more than 377,000 people. (Reuters)

(Production: Joseph Campbell)

Sen. Dela Rosa discharged from hospital after battling with COVID-19

Robie de Guzman   •   December 4, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa has been discharged from the hospital after a bout with novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), his office said Friday.

In a message to reporters, his office said Dela Rosa will continue taking his medicines at home and will be placed under home quarantine as advised by his doctors.

His staff on Thursday said Dela Rosa was admitted to the hospital on Nov. 23 after developing fever, cough, and colds so that he could be monitored better, and that his condition is already improving.

The former Philippine National Police chief confirmed that he tested positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 21, after the Senate wrapped up the period of debates for the proposed 2021 budget.

Dela Rosa said he and three other members of his household contracted the virus.

Dela Rosa was the fifth senator to be infected with COVID-19 this year. His colleagues, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senators Sonny Angara, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel, and Ramon “Bong” Revilla all recovered from the viral respiratory disease. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

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Gov’t to fast-track COVID-19 vaccine procurement for early vaccine distribution—Palace

Aileen Cerrudo   •   December 4, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has issued an executive order to fast-track COVID-19 vaccine procurement for early vaccine distribution, according to Malacañang.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said the President has issued Executive Order (EO) No. 121 granting an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for drugs and vaccines for COVID-19.

Based on the Executive Order, the President will grant the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to provide  Emergency Use Authorization for medicines for the treatment of COVID-19.

“Kung magkakaroon ng emergency use utilization, ang mga rehistrado sa mga foreign FDA na mga bakuna, mapapabilis po ang pag-issue ng authority to use it under EUA to 21 days. Normally po kung wala itong Executive Order na ito it will take as long as six months,” Roque said.

The Palace official added that the EUA will be good for the country as it will pave the way for ending the pandemic and the return to normalcy. AAC

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25 BPO employees tested positive for COVID-19 after holding two parties

Aileen Cerrudo   •   December 4, 2020

Twenty-five Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) employees in Subic tested positive for COVID-19 after holding two parties in November.

According to Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Health and Safety Department Dr. Solomon Jacalne, out of the 65 employees of a BPO company that attended the two parties, 25 of them are currently under quarantine.

“Contact tracing indicated that the employees who tested positive of Covid-19 either attended the parties or were exposed to co-workers who went to the said social gatherings,” he said.

Jacalne said the employees attended a beach party in Olonggapo City and a pool party in Zambales. He also said several of the workers did not accurately declare their health condition which might also have contributed to the surge of COVID-19 cases.

SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma said the surge in cases would have been avoided if the employees followed the minimum health protocols.

“This was the lesson some employees of a business process outsourcing company here recently learned the hard way after attending parties that might have served as super-spreading events,” she added.

Eisma said the agency will conduct an investigation on the incident and will implement additional safety measures in work areas of the concerned company. AAC (with reports from Leslie Huidem)

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