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The Readout Damian Garde & Meghana Keshavan

Virtually piecing together a coronavirus vaccine

In a bid to find a coronavirus vaccine, scientists can “play Legos with proteins,” says Neil King, a University of Washington researcher who has been hunting for a coronavirus vaccine since 2017. He’s using synthetic biology to virtually assemble potential vaccines for the rapidly spreading pathogen. 

The hope is that in silico design could help scientists engineer vaccines quickly — and potentially in a manner that can be responsive to viral mutations, STAT’s Sharon Begley writes. Researchers are designing new, self-assembling protein nanoparticles studded with antigens. The idea is that these newer models could be more potent than traditional viral vaccines. 

Read more.

Coronavirus cancellations mount

Medical conferences are being canceled in growing numbers as the coronavirus surges around the globe. It's so soon to take stock of the financial toll on organizers, attendees, and service industry professionals, but the scope of the disruption is already clear. 

STAT’s Rebecca Robbins has been compiling a list of the conferences that have been scrubbed so far — all in the name of social distancing and hand-washing. 

Read more.

Coronavirus impacts Biogen; Takeda takes action

The coronavirus is taking a toll on Boston-area biotechs. As of Sunday evening, 15 new presumptive coronavirus cases had emerged in Massachusetts — all linked to a corporate Biogen meeting late last month. Although the Boston Public Health Commission confirmed that the patients don’t need to be hospitalized, they’re in self-quarantine. (Notably, former Biogen CEO George Scangos has been tapped by BIO to be the organization’s own coronavirus czar.)  

The company also noted that two of the Biogen employees who became “unwell” attended a subsequent conference in early March — the Cowen and Co. meeting at the Boston Marriott Copley Place. It’s still not known whether anyone else who attended Cowen has reported being ill. 

Meanwhile, Takeda has urged the vast majority of its 50,000 employees around the globe — including the 5,000-ish in the Boston area — to work from home to prevent the spread of virus. 

AHA steps back from Bayer branding

There’s been a misleading association between Bayer and the American Heart Association — one that the cardiovascular advocacy now deems a mistake, Kaiser Health News reports. The AHA allowed its logo onto advertising material for Bayer’s low-dose aspirin containers, implicating that one might reduce their heart attack risk by taking a “baby aspirin.” 

New research is showing that may not be the case. In fact, the AHA is now saying that although aspirin might help those who have previously had cardiovascular events, the risks of taking the drug in a more general population might actually outweigh the benefits.

“This was a misstep,” an AHA spokesperson told Kaiser. “It was a human error on my end.”

Read more.

More reads

  • How long will it take to develop a coronavirus vaccine? (The New Yorker)
  • Could immuno-oncology drug get a boost from a 64-year-old antipsychotic? (FierceBiotech)

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Damian

Monday, March 9, 2020

STAT

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