COVID-19 News: A Vaccine is being Tested on Humans, but when will it be Ready? | Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

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Around the world, about 35 companies and institutions are racing to craft the much-needed vaccine for COVID-19, and The Guardian reports, that at least four of them have candidates ready for human trials.
At the forefront of these candidates is a proposed vaccine from Boston-based biotech Moderna, which is expected to enter trials very soon. In the meanwhile, China has just begun its first phase of vaccine clinical trials, delivering the vaccine candidate to about 108 volunteers, ageing from 18 – 60.
After about only 4 months from the first confirmed case of COVID-19, the speed at which these vaccines are being made is unprecedented. This is in part, thanks to early Chinese efforts in genetic sequencing on the biological material of SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind the novel coronavirus, amongst other reasons. China managed to map out and share the sequence in early January, which allowed research firms around the world to cultivate and study the live virus.
Another reason for this head start is that scientists have predicted for many years that the next global pandemic would be caused by the flu. Because of this vaccinologists had been working on a series of ‘prototype’ pathogens.
“The speed with which we have [produced these candidates] builds very much on the investment in understanding how to develop vaccines for other coronaviruses,” says Richard Hatchett, CEO of the Oslo-based nonprofit the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (Cepi), which is leading efforts to finance and coordinate Covid-19 vaccine development.
There have been two other epidemics caused by coronaviruses in history, namely the 2002 – 2004 severe respiratory syndrome (SARS) in China, and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in Saudi Arabia in 2012. Work began on vaccines in both cases but as these outbreaks were contained, the vaccines were dropped.
Now, companies like US-based Novanox is repurposing these same vaccines for SARS-CoV-2, which shares between 80% and 90% of the same genetic material as the SARS virus. Moderna, on the other hand, built their vaccine upon the previous work on the MERS virus.
Clinical Trials
An essential step to regulatory approval, clinical trials happen in three phases. The first phase begins testing the vaccine on a few dozen healthy volunteers. The volunteers are monitored for any side effects. After this, if the vaccine has proven safe it is tested on several hundred people, usually in a place where the illness is prevalent. This phase will test if the vaccine is effective.
The final phase involves testing several thousand people. Often times, several trial versions of a vaccine are tested at once, with many falling by the wayside as they are proven either dangerous or ineffective. “Not all horses that leave the starting gate will finish the race,” says Bruce Gellin, who runs the global immunisation programme for the Washington DC-based nonprofit, the Sabin Vaccine Institute.
Screening out dangerous and ineffective duds is essential, and as such, the trials can’t be skipped or hurried.
Another complication that could slow down vaccine approval is that no vaccines made from genetic material, be it RNA or DNA has ever been approved, so the COVID-19 candidates have to be treated as brand new vaccines, as Gellin says “While there is a push to do things as fast as possible, it’s really important not to take shortcuts.”
When can we expect it?
Annelies Wilder-Smith, professor of emerging infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, says, echoing that sentiment of other vaccinologists, that “I don’t think this vaccine will be ready before 18 months.” Meaning only around September 2021 will a vaccine reach the mass-manufacturing stage, which opens up a whole new can of potential problems.
18 months is, in fact, extremely quick. It usually takes up to a decade for a brand new vaccine to go from inception to manufacturing to being deployed in the general public.
There is no reason to panic yet, however, as Wilder-Smith says there is a high probability that the current coronavirus pandemic “will probably have peaked and declined before a vaccine is available.”
However, a vaccine will still save many lives as in the case that the virus becomes endemic – meaning that people could talk about the coronavirus like they talk about the flu – but until then, the best hope to spare as many lives as possible is to contain the spread of the virus as much as possible. We can see this being done all over the world as countries are turning to nation-wide lockdowns to flatten the curve of infection.
Across the World
Here’s how countries across the world are preparing to fight against the pandemic, via Clinical Trials Arena:
Researchers from the University of Oxford are undergoing clinical trials for the assessment of different drugs as potential treatment options for COVID-19 in adult patients.
The trial has been named RECOVERY and is evaluating HIV drugs lopinavir and ritonavir, as well as anti-inflammation medication dexamethasone.
“There is an urgent need for reliable evidence on the best care for patients with Covid-19. Providing possible new treatments through a well-designed clinical trial is the best way to get that evidence,” says the chief investigator and Oxford professor Peter Horby.
“Adults admitted to hospital with COVID-19 should be offered the opportunity to participate in this trial and contribute to improving care for everyone. All patients will receive the standard full medical care, regardless of which treatment group they are placed in.”
The Heart Institute’s Research Center in Montreal is likewise undergoing a clinical trial to assess short-term therapy for mitigating the risk of pulmonary complications and deaths in COVID-19 patients.
COLCORONA, the name of the trial, is funded by the Government of Quebec and seeks to investigate the inflammatory storm characterised in adults with severe COVID-19 complications, as well as a treatment that could reduce disease complication in around 6000 participants.
Referred to as ‘Discovery’, this trial has been launched by French firm Inserm to assess potential treatments as part of the Reacting Consortium.
The study will analyse the safety and efficacy of four investigational therapies in a minimum of 800 severe COVID-19 patients in France.
Trial lead Florence Ader says “We analysed data from the scientific literature on SARS and MERS coronaviruses and the first publications on SARS-COV2 from China in order to come up with a list of antiviral molecules to be tested. Remdesivir, lopinavir and ritonavir in combination, the latter being administered with or without interferon beta and hydroxychloroquine.”
The Discovery trail is expected to enrol 3,200 participants across France, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the UK.
Edited by Luis Monzon
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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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Juno, a self healing payment solution detects payment system problems that are hard for humans to detect- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

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Leading payments technology company, Innoviti Payment Solutions, announced that after a successful internal pilot, it has now started deploying Juno, a Self-Healing Machine created by Innoviti for automatic detection and healing of complex payment systems, in a phased manner across its pan-India base of payment installations.
Juno takes over from where humans find it hard to find patterns. Often this happens due to the interplay of multiple events occurring over a long period of time that can be time consuming and hard to analyse. Yet the final event in the chain, if it happens, may lead to a significant business impact and therefore requires an early detection and cure. Transactions happening at a payment terminal get processed through several systems run by various companies and interconnected through protocols. A specific sequence of transactions can trigger bugs lying in these systems and cause it to malfunction. One such problem arises in the area of security codes that need to be daily refreshed. To activate daily transaction processing on the terminal, they often need to request and receive a sequence of activation keys. However, due to transient communication issues the sequence can get broken, leading to the terminal becoming non-functional. Since the codes were to be downloaded in a sequence, a break requires each system to be reset which is often a manual exercise.
Speaking about the launch, Gaurav Mehrotra, Vice President Technology, Innoviti, said, At Innoviti, we pride ourselves on the industry-leading reliability metrics of our POS terminals – something that is widely recognised as best-in-class by the retail industry. Introduction of the new Juno Self-healing system will further strengthen our innovation edge in this crucial domain. It is in keeping with our ethos that every POS-related problem faced by our customer is our personal headache, even if its origin may actually lie in external environment or partner networks not working optimally.”
Juno continuously monitors error codes of over nearly 1 million transactions per day to automatically track such patterns. It detects a break happening and immediately heals it before the impact reaches the terminal, thereby preventing the terminal from becoming non-functional. Moreover, it does this across acquiring banks and other payment system providers, communication networks, and types of transactions. Innoviti’s investment in Juno is in line with its stated goal of relentlessly pursuing excellence in every aspect of system design to eliminate issues that lead to customer impact. By automating the problem identification and resolution using Juno, Innoviti has been able to reduce manual errors, speed up time to resolution and enhance control over its platform performance. A testament to this obsessive focus on ensuring transaction success reliability has seen Innoviti’s throughput of transaction value per terminal per month of 7000$ being 2X of other terminals. This is because of reduced downtime and over time the merchant not feeling the need for any backup terminals, saving them cost and hassles. Over time the company has established itself as a clear market leader on performance metrics with its average POS reliability creating market-benchmarks of 99.3% (vs. industry norm of 92%).
Across India Innoviti processes over US$ 6.5Bn of payments annually from over 1000+ cities. Innoviti’s payment solutions help merchants, banks and brands collaborate to influence commercial transactions happening in offline commerce more efficiently than possible otherwise, through unconventional use of payment terminals.

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Microsoft admits humans can listen to Skype, Cortana audio – gpgmail


The Daily Crunch is gpgmail’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. Microsoft tweaks privacy policy to admit humans can listen to Skype Translator and Cortana audio

The change comes after a recent Motherboard report that contractors were listening to personal Skype conversations and Cortana audio recordings. Microsoft is just the latest tech giant to get called out for failing to make it clear that human contractors could be listening to users’ audio recordings.

When asked about the policy changes, the company said, “We realized, based on questions raised recently, that we could do a better job specifying that humans sometimes review this content.”

2. AT&T and T-Mobile team up to fight scam robocalls

The two companies will today begin to roll out new cross-network call authentication technology based on the STIR/SHAKEN standards — a sort of universal caller ID system designed to stop illegal caller ID spoofing.

3. Amazon launches a new program to donate unsold products from third-party sellers to charity

The program’s launch follows a series of news reports earlier this year, which found that Amazon warehouses routinely trashed millions of unsold items.

Photo: Pivotal

4. VMware says it’s looking to acquire Pivotal

Pivotal is best known for commercializing the open-source Cloud Foundry platform. Its shares have struggled since the company’s IPO in April 2018.

5. UPS takes minority stake in self-driving truck startup TuSimple

TuSimple, which is backed by Nvidia, ZP Capital and Sina Corp., is working on a “full-stack solution,” developing and bringing together all of the technological pieces required for autonomous driving.

6. Racial bias observed in hate speech detection algorithm from Google

Researchers at the University of Washington were interested in the idea that databases of hate speech currently available might have racial biases baked in — like many other data sets that suffered from a lack of inclusive practices during formation.

7. Inside Voyage’s plan to deliver a driverless future

In two years, Voyage has gone from a tiny self-driving car upstart spun out of Udacity to a company able to operate on 200 miles of roads in retirement communities. (Extra Crunch membership required.)




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Microsoft tweaks privacy policy to admit humans can listen to Skype Translator and Cortana audio – gpgmail


Microsoft is the latest tech giant to amend its privacy policy after media reports revealed it uses human contractors to review audio recordings of Skype and Cortana users.

A section in the policy on how the company uses personal data now reads (emphasis ours):

Our processing of personal data for these purposes includes both automated and manual (human) methods of processing. Our automated methods often are related to and supported by our manual methods. For example, our automated methods include artificial intelligence (AI), which we think of as a set of technologies that enable computers to perceive, learn, reason, and assist in decision-making to solve problems in ways that are similar to what people do. To build, train, and improve the accuracy of our automated methods of processing (including AI), we manually review some of the predictions and inferences produced by the automated methods against the underlying data from which the predictions and inferences were made. For example, we manually review short snippets of a small sampling of voice data we have taken steps to de-identify to improve our speech services, such as recognition and translation.

The tweaks to the privacy policy of Microsoft’s Skype VoIP software and its Cortana voice AI were spotted by Motherboard — which was also first to report that contractors working for Microsoft are listening to personal conversations of Skype users conducted through the app’s translation service, and to audio snippets captured by the Cortana voice assistant.

Asked about the privacy policy changes, Microsoft told Motherboard: “We realized, based on questions raised recently, that we could do a better job specifying that humans sometimes review this content.”

Multiple tech giants’ use of human workers to review users’ audio across a number of products involving AI has grabbed headlines in recent weeks after journalists exposed a practice that had not been clearly conveyed to users in terms and conditions — despite European privacy law requiring clarity about how people’s data is used.

Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft have all been called out for failing to make it clear that a portion of audio recordings will be accessed by human contractors.

Such workers are typically employed to improve the performance of AI systems by verifying translations and speech in different accents. But, again, this human review component within AI systems has generally been buried rather than transparently disclosed.

Earlier this month a German privacy watchdog told Google it intended to use EU privacy law to order it to halt human reviews of audio captured by its Google Assistant AI in Europe — after press had obtained leaked audio snippets and being able to re-identify some of the people in the recordings.

On learning of the regulator’s planned intervention Google suspended reviews.

Apple also announced it was suspending human reviews of Siri snippets globally, again after a newspaper reported that its contractors could access audio and routinely heard sensitive stuff.

Facebook also said it was pausing human reviews of a speech-to-text AI feature offered in its Messenger app — again after concerns had been raised by journalists.

So far Apple, Google and Facebook have suspended or partially suspended human reviews in response to media disclosures and/or regulatory attention.

While the lead privacy regulator for all three, Ireland’s DPC, has started asking questions.

In response to the rising privacy scrutiny of what tech giants nonetheless claim is a widespread industry practice, Amazon also recently amended the Alexa privacy policy to disclose that it employs humans to review some audio. It also quietly added an option for uses to opt-out of the possibility of someone listening to their Alexa recordings. Amazon’s lead EU privacy regulator is also now seeking answers.

Microsoft told Motherboard it is not suspending human reviews at this stage.

Users of Microsoft’s voice assistant can delete recordings — but such deletions require action from the user and would be required on a rolling basis as long as the product continues being use. So it’s not the same as having a full and blanket opt out.

We’ve asked Microsoft whether it intends to offer Skype or Cortana users an opt out of their recordings being reviewed by humans.

The company told Motherboard it will “continue to examine further steps we might be able to take”.


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Toyota partners with AI startup Preferred Networks on building helper robots for humans – gpgmail


Toyota is enlisting the help of startup Preferred Networks, a Japanese company founded in 2014 with a focus on artificial intelligence and deep learning, to help move forward its goal of developing useful service robots that can assist people in everyday life.

The two companies announced a partnership today to collaborate on research and development that will use Toyota’s Human Support Robot (HSR) robotics platform. The platform, which Toyota originally created in 2012 and has been developing since, is a basic robot designed to be able to work alongside people in everyday settings. Its primary uses involve offering basic car and support assistance in nursing and long-term care applications. Equipped with one arm, a display, cameras and a wheeled base, it can collect and retrieve items, and provide remote control and communication capabilities.

Preferred Networks already has some experience with Toyota’s HSR – it demonstrated one-such robot programmed to clean a room fully autonomously at Japan’s CEATEC robotics conference in 2018. The system could identify objects, responsd to specific human instructions and, importably pick up and put down objects it couldn’t define from its database in a safe manner.Toyota will be providing “several dozen” HSR units to Preferred Networks for the startup to work on, and then over the next three years, the two will collaborate on R&D, sharing the results of their work and the resulting intellectual property, with no restrictions on how either party uses the results of the joint work.

One of Toyota’s guiding goals as a company is to develop commercial home robotics that can work with people where they live. The automaker has a number of different projects in the works to make this happen, including through research at its Toyota Research Institute (TRI) subsidiary which works with a number of academic institutions. Toyota also recently revealed a number of robotics projects its bringing to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, which will help it field test a number of its projects.


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