Fighting Coronavirus: Researchers use crowdsourcing gamification technique to inspire citizen scientists to design new drugs- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

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The best thing most of us can do to fight COVID-19 is stay home, to curb the respiratory disease’s spread. But anyone with a computer can pitch in more actively too: by helping scientists design drugs to combat the virus now responsible for hundreds of thousands of infections worldwide.
Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator David Baker creates new proteins tailor-made for specific tasks. Now, his team at the University of Washington is hunting for proteins that might stop the novel coronavirus (called SARS-CoV-2) from infecting human cells — and they’re enlisting citizen scientists to help via a free computer game called Foldit.
Foldit players around the world compete to solve protein puzzles digitally, designing molecules with certain specs. Scientists are now challenging players to design proteins that can glom onto the new coronavirus and block its entry into cells. Such proteins could potentially be developed into antiviral drugs, to lessen the severity of patients’ symptoms.
“We find that the creativity of crowdsourcing is really, really useful — if you ask 100 people to do something, they’ll do it in 100 different ways. That’s really valuable for us in protein design problems,” says Brian Koepnick, a research scientist in Baker’s lab who helps run Foldit.
Protein building blocks called amino acids string together to form long chains. Those chains crumple into more compact 3-D structures — a protein’s finished shape. Researchers can predict how a chain might crumple, or work backwards to figure out what amino acid combinations create a particular protein structure.
The Foldit team is running calculations on coronavirus-blocking protein designs (one shown) submitted by players, to get a better sense for how the proteins might work out in real life. Image Credit : Foldit/David Baker Lab
Baker’s team has a good idea of what kind of protein they’re after. Like other coronaviruses, the virus that causes COVID-19 can infect cells via its “spike protein.” This protein latches onto certain human cells, letting the virus pass through the external membrane to multiply inside. A protein that grabs the coronavirus’s spike protein might be able to run interference, Baker says, preventing the virus from binding to cells.
Finding such a protein is a daunting task, he says. “There’s just this massive number of possibilities.” Cells build proteins from a toolkit of twenty standard amino acids. Any one protein can have hundreds of amino acids linked together, yielding billions of configurations.
Baker’s lab uses custom-made computer algorithms to speed the protein design process. Given a target shape, their program sends back amino acid combinations that, when folded, might yield something similar. The algorithms can also calculate the hypothetical proteins’ stability, which reflects how likely they are to hold their proposed shape in real life. The Foldit game works alongside this computer program, but lets humans take the reins. Players can build a protein from the ground up and tweak it as they go, trying to meet design criteria while competing for the highest stability score.
“We’re finding ways humans and computers can work together to solve this problem, rather than relying on the strengths of just one or the other,” Koepnick says. Humans have ingenuity and a design sense that computers lack. He and his colleagues have posed almost 2,000 different protein design puzzles to hundreds of thousands of Foldit players since 2008, when the game was launched by Baker’s lab.
“We’ve found that Foldit players can really make remarkable designs that fold as predicted,” Baker says. “We’re very excited to see what Foldit players come up with for COVID-19.”
Each protein puzzle is usually open for about a week. The Foldit team has posted several rounds of coronavirus puzzles over the past month, updating players’ guidance as new information about the virus comes in.
Already, a few designs seem promising, Baker says. But not every protein that seems good on the computer screen actually works out in real life. The team is running more computational tests, and they plan to study exceptional solutions in the lab. (While UW’s labs have mostly shut down, research on COVID-19 is active, with precautions in place for staff.)
His team has had success using a similar strategy to design flu virus inhibitors. “In general, the coronaviruses appear to mutate less than influenza viruses,” Baker says. “So that makes them a little bit easier of a target.” Still, he cautions, his lab’s contribution is just the first step in a long journey toward a drug. They’ll send proteins that pass their screening test to other colleagues, who will test them on cells grown in culture dishes, and perhaps eventually in lab animals and humans.
Would-be puzzlers will probably need some practice before tackling open-ended design challenges like the coronavirus puzzles. But ultimately, Foldit players don’t need to be biology experts to play the game and design potential drugs, Baker says. Like most puzzles, all it takes is persistence and a little bit of ingenuity.

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AI finds 9 potential Coronavirus COVID-19 drugs that can be used on humans immediately- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

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AI firm, Gero, which specialises in AI-driven drug discovery, has used its AI platform to identify the potential anti-COVID-19 drugs. Six of them have been approved, three were withdrawn, and the other nine have been already tested in clinical trials for other indications. The emergency of the situation, as well as the legal and regulatory status of these agents, make it possible to start immediate clinical trials for most of the suggested drugs.
Gero used its AI drug discovery platform to identify molecules with potential effects on the coronavirus replication. The fact that this time the potential treatments were found among the existing drugs marks a significant improvement over previous efforts to use AI to predict molecules active against COVID-19. The discovery makes it possible to start clinical trials in a matter of weeks.
Some of the drugs have been well known for decades and approved in many countries for human or veterinary use, some of them even have confirmed effects against SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 viruses, while others have not been known previously for any related effects.
The drugs found to be potentially effective include:
Niclosamide – an oral anthelmintic drug used to treat parasitic infections in millions of people worldwide. Niclosamide has been approved in Italy, the United States (now withdrawn), France, and some other countries.
Nitazoxanide – a broad-spectrum antiparasitic and broad-spectrum antiviral prescription drug that is used in medicine for the treatment of various helminthic, protozoal, and viral infections. Approved in the U.S., India, Mexico and some other countries.
Niclosamide and Nitazoxanide have been recently recommended to be tried as COVID-19 treatment in patients.
Afatinib – a prescription medicine approved in the U.S. for the treatment of patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), along with 28 countries within the EU, China, and some other countries.
Ixazomib – a prescription medicine used in combination with the medicines REVLIMID® (lenalidomide) and dexamethasone to treat multiple myeloma in patients who have received at least one prior treatment for their multiple myeloma. Approved in the U.S., EU and some other countries.
Reserpine was originally isolated from the flower Rauwolfia serpentina in 1952. It was once used as a treatment for high blood pressure and psychotic episodes. It has been approved in Italy, Germany, France and some other countries.
The list of potential anti-COVID-19 drugs also includes several senolytics. Senolytics (molecules that “kill” the so-called senescent or damaged cells) are attracting the growing interest from the academic world and the biotech industry for their potential against a range of age-related diseases and ageing itself.
Although some of the drugs with anti-coronavirus potential have been approved for use on humans for other medical indications and are immediately available to the public, Gero strongly urges against self-treatment and reaffirms the necessity of acting in line with the national regulations, including the rules for off-label use of available drugs.

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Revealed: how drugs giants can access your health records | Technology – Blog – 10 minute

The Department of Health and Social Care has been selling the medical data of millions of NHS patients to American and other international drugs companies having misled the public into believing the information would be “anonymous”, according to leading experts in the field.
Senior NHS figures have told the Observer that patient data compiled from GP surgeries and hospitals – and then sold for huge sums for research – can routinely be linked back to individual patients’ medical records via their GP surgeries. They say there is clear evidence this is already being done by companies and organisations that have bought data from the DHSC, having identified individuals whose medical histories are of particular interest.
Concerns that the data is not truly “anonymous” have been raised by senior NHS officials, who believe the public are not being told the full truth. But the DHSC insists it only sells on information after thorough measures have been taken to ensure the complete anonymity and confidentiality of patients’ personal information.
In December, the Observer revealed that the government had raised £10m in 2018 by granting licences to commercial and academic organisations across the world that wanted access to so-called anonymised data. If patients do not want their data to be used for research they have to actively “opt out” of the system at their GP surgery.
Access to NHS data is increasingly sought by researchers and global drugs companies because it is one of the largest and most centralised public organisations of its kind in the world, with unique data resources.
Washington has already made clear it wants unrestricted access to Britain’s 55 million health records – estimated to have a total value of £10bn a year – as part of any post-Brexit trade agreement. Leaked details of meetings between US and UK trade officials late last year showed that the acquisition of as much UK medical data as possible is a top priority for the US drugs industry.
Now the DHSC and the agencies responsible for handling and selling data are increasingly under pressure to tighten up controls, to protect patient privacy and prevent information being misused.
Asked if it was right to say that the patient data was anonymous, as claimed, Professor Eerke Boiten, director of the Cyber Technology Institute at De Montfort University in Leicester, said: “The answer is no, it is not anonymous.
“If it is rich medical data about individuals then the richer that data is, the easier it is for people who are experts to reconstruct it and re-identify individuals.”
Boiten believes more thought should be given to controlling and limiting the sale of data to prevent it potentially being sold on by the initial purchaser to companies with huge information stores and global reach. “If Google, for instance, were to use this data and end up finding a cure for cancer, and then sold the cure back to the NHS for huge sums of money, then I think we could say we had missed a trick,” he said.
The NHS has previously faced claims that medical data from millions of patients has been sold to insurance companies.
Phil Booth, coordinator of medConfidential, which campaigns for the privacy of health data, said the public was being betrayed by claims that the information could not be linked back to individuals. “Removing or obscuring a few obvious identifiers, like someone’s name or NHS number from the data, doesn’t make their medical history anonymous,” he said. “Indeed, the unique combination of medical events that makes individuals’ health data so ripe for exploitation is precisely what makes it so identifiable. Your medical record is like a fingerprint of your whole life.
“Patients must know how their data is used, and by who. Alleging their data is anonymous when it isn’t, then selling it to drugs and tech companies – or, through intermediaries, to heaven knows who – is a gross betrayal of trust. People who are rightly concerned about such guile and lack of respect have every right to opt out, if they want their and their family’s medical information kept confidential and for their own care.”
Licences to buy data are issued by the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD), part of the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). A spokesman said any information sold had been “anonymised in accordance with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) anonymisation code of practice”.
Until early December, the CPRD said on its website the data it made available for research was “anonymous” but, following the Observer’s story, it changed the wording to say that the data from GPs and hospitals had been ”anonymised” – meaning only that some measures had been taken to de-identify it.
Booth added: “Following the ICO’s code of practice does not mean that data is necessarily anonymous. The law now recognises that one of the most common methods of ‘anonymisation’ – the use of pseudonyms to obscure some bits of information – means that data is still identifiable. Indeed, the information commissioner herself says it must be considered personal data.”
Information disclosed by some of CPRD’s customers clearly suggests they can link the information back to individual patient records via their GP surgeries. The Boston Collaborative Drug Surveillance Program in the US, which uses DHSC data, says on its website: “Anonymized information from the CPRD on demographics, outpatient visits, hospitalizations and prescriptions dispensed is available to [our] researchers. Validation of diagnoses, reports of diagnostic tests and anonymized notes from hospitalizations and referrals can be obtained from the general practitioner upon request.”
If the data were truly anonymous it would be impossible to retrieve an individual patient’s medical notes.Neil Bhatia, a GP who is Information Governance Lead and data protection 0fficer in Hampshire, said: “Truly anonymous data – utterly incapable of being traced back to an individual – is very hard to achieve, given that there is so much information about us in the public domain and held by companies such as Facebookand Google, because so much of our personal data is out there thanks to the massive data breaches over the last few years. In fact, it’s almost impossible for record-level data (where each line of the dataset corresponds to an individual) to be made truly anonymous.”

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Cooler Master’s thermal paste tubes were redesigned because parents thought their kids were on drugs – Blog – 10 minute

WTF?! When most people look at Cooler Master’s thermal paste tubes, they see a simple, essential product that will help their system run properly. However, according to Cooler Master, some individuals — parents, specifically — see something quite different. The company recently changed the shape of its classic thermal paste applicator tubes from a syringe to a more brush-like alternative because it was “getting tired of having to explain [to] parents that their kid isn’t using drugs.”
You read that right. Cooler Master altered the design of its product because parents, for some reason, saw the tubes lying around and concluded that their kids must be shooting up thermal paste.

We didn’t change the shape of the syringe to make applying thermal paste a lot easier, but because we we’re getting tired of having to explain parents that their kid isn’t using drugs. pic.twitter.com/ClyZLDDFe9
— Cooler Master (@CoolerMaster) January 16, 2020

We’re not sure if Cooler Master is joking with this tweet. It seems pretty likely due to the ridiculousness of the claim (and it’s an amusing joke if so), but that would imply that the rest of their tweet is serious — the bit about the new design making thermal paste easier to apply, to be specific. If the company does feel that way, we can point toward plenty of PC enthusiasts that might disagree.
The classic wisdom for thermal paste application has always been to put a pea-sized dot in the middle, and leave it be. You don’t need to spread thermal paste around your CPU like butter on toast, and indeed, applying too much of the substance can even be counterproductive. Cooler Master should know this better than anyone, in theory, but who knows? Perhaps the new look is secretly pure genius, and maybe other thermal paste makers will be quick to copy it. Time will tell.
Regardless, only a few of Cooler Master’s thermal paste tubes appear to have received this new design: the Mastergel, Mastergel Pro, and Mastergel Maker. All of the company’s other “thermal grease” products are untouched for now.

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