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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Good morning. Andrew Joseph here, filling in for Shraddha. Hope you all had restful and safe Thanksgivings!

Moderna to submit vaccine to FDA, as U.S. officials take differing views on when shots could be ready

New this morning: With updated results from its key study, Moderna announced that its Covid-19 vaccine was 94% effective and that it would immediately seek clearances from U.S. and European regulators. Another Covid-19 vaccine candidate, from Pfizer and BioNTech, is already awaiting an FDA review for an emergency use authorization, meaning there could be two vaccines against the coronavirus before the end of the year. More here

And in an exclusive new story, STAT's Helen Branswell reports that U.S. officials still have differing views on how quickly vaccine supplies can be made available to Americans and which groups should be prioritized for the first shots, sending mixed signals to state authorities trying to finalize vaccination plans.

Other Covid-19 news from the holiday period:

  • How badly will Thanksgiving worsen the U.S. Covid-19 situation? It will be a few weeks before that's clear. More here. 
  • In a 5-4 decision reflecting a more conservative bent, the Supreme Court has blocked restrictions on the size of religious services enacted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York that were designed to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission.
  • CMS last week relaxed Medicare rules to allow hospitals to provide certain services at patients’ homes and to permit ambulatory surgical centers to take care of patients for longer periods. The move was designed to free up space and resources in hospitals that are dealing with a record number of Covid-19 patients.

How the pandemic has set back cancer resarch ...

One of the incalculable impacts of the pandemic has been its effect on biomedical research in specialties outside the Covid-19 fields. And in a new survey, scientists at the Institute of Cancer Research in London estimated that their work has already been delayed by an average of six months, citing lockdown-caused lab closures and other restrictions on lab capacity. The 239 researchers highlighted challenges like enrolling patients in trials and obtaining tissue samples as other hurdles in their research. The scientists indicated that they had adapted as the pandemic has gone on, but concerns about delays and lost research have been echoed by scientists around the world.

... and interrupted other global health campaigns

Citing a plateau in gains and expected setbacks because of the pandemic, the WHO is trying to rally additional support to fight malaria, which still claims more than 400,000 lives a year. According to the WHO’s new World Malaria Report, progress against the disease has stalled recently, with about 229 million global cases a year in each of the last four years. A lack of funding — $3 billion was allocated to combat malaria in 2019, short of a $5.6 billion target — has meant that tools that fight malaria, such as insecticide-treated nets and preventive drugs for children, don’t reach everyone. And there is a concern that the pandemic could disrupt the distribution of antimalarials.

Inside STAT: The global logistics dance to get CAR-T treatments to cancer patients during a pandemic

Kite Pharma's new car-t factory in the netherlands. (CHANTAL HEIJNEN FOR STAT)

Getting custom-made CAR-T treatments to patients with certain cancers is a logistical feat in normal times. Cells are taken from patients, shipped to a factory where they are engineered to kill cancer cells, and then shipped back to the patient for reinfusion. All of it has to be done on precise timelines. Now, throw in a pandemic that's interrupted regular flight traffic and that left hospitals trying to preserve as many beds as possible for people with Covid-19. STAT’s Eric Boodman has the globetrotting story of how Kite Pharma has navigated building CAR-T therapies for patients and getting them where they need to go amid the pandemic. STAT+ subscribers can read more here

Understanding the role genes play in autism

Scientists have identified dozens of genetic variants that appear to contribute to the probability of someone having autism spectrum disorder or a neurodevelopmental delay, but they've been limited in their understanding of the role all these genes play, across all different cell types in the brain. In a new paper, a team used a technology called in vivo Perturb-Seq to create mice with the variants and then study the effect of the genes in different cells after the mice were born, pointing to clues that the mutations can be important even in cell types not previously associated with the conditions. The study highlights the potential of the technology for other conditions in which multiple genes may a role: “This method can be applied across diverse diseases and tissues in the intact organism,” the researchers wrote.

How investor bias limits female CEOs

Here’s a study with implications for startup founders: A new analysis of hundreds of companies found that female CEOs in industries dominated by men fared worse among investors than male CEOs, with investors contributing less funding at lower valuations. In industries that were controlled by men (measured by the percentage of employees that were men), new companies launched by men raised $21.8 million on average, compared to $2.1 million for companies led by women, the analysis found, while the funding gap was “nonsignificant” for companies in female-dominated industries, no matter whether they were led by a man or woman. One silver lining: More sophisticated investors had less gender bias in their funding.

A note: The graph and written totals showing Covid-19 cases and deaths in the U.S. will not appear in the newsletter for a few days as official counts from the Thanksgiving holiday weekend continue to be updated.

What to read around the web today

  • House committee wants Purdue CEO and Sackler family members to testify at opioid crisis hearing. STAT+
  • Opinion: I worked hard to protect myself from Covid-19 and the flu. Yet I got both — at the same time. STAT
  • Biden’s other health crisis: A resurgent drug epidemic. Politico
  • Mask defiance remains strong in Big Sky Country, even as the pandemic rages. STAT
  • Federal system for tracking hospital beds and Covid-19 patients provides questionable data. Science

Thanks for reading!

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Monday, November 30, 2020


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