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Biden calls for a renewed effort to determine coronavirus' origins

President Biden is asking U.S. intelligence agencies to double down on their efforts to figure out the root of the coronavirus pandemic. Biden said in a statement that investigations so far have been inconclusive about how SARS-CoV-2 emerged. And while the prevailing theory still remains that the virus was passed on from an animal vector to humans, the White House is also exploring the possibility that the virus may have emerged in a lab accident. Biden's statement follows calls from at least two small groups of scientists for an independent inquiry into the pandemic's origins that is distinct from the one led by the WHO and China in March. Biden has asked that officials report back on their findings within 90 days. 

As Covid dissipates in the U.S., cold and flu viruses may return with a vengeance

One of the few positive consequences of the pandemic has been the near-disappearance of flu and colds. Around 60,000 children under 5 are hospitalized every winter with respiratory syncytial virus infections, but neither it nor flu viruses were widespread this past winter. But as many wealthy countries start to reopen, shedding masks and other protections that helped keep SARS-CoV-2 at bay, the other viruses may once again become a mainstay. And because cases were so low last year, experts caution that our immune systems may not be primed to fend them off this time around. Young children, who may have never been infected with these viruses, may be especially vulnerable. STAT's Helen Branswell has more here

Scientific panel loosens ’14-day rule’ limiting how long human embryos can be grown in the lab

The International Society for Stem Cell Research revised its '14-day rule' that previously limited labs from growing human embryos for longer than two weeks. Now, the influential agency says studies could go further. Allowing scientists to study embryos in a 14-28-day window post-fertilization could open up more avenues of research into human development. For many countries, such as Australia and the United Kingdom, the change won't mean much unless their laws governing human embryo growth in labs also change. For other places, the upper end of how long embryos can be developed in a dish would depend on the nature of the experiment being conducted and would still be subject to strict rules, the agency said. 

Inside STAT: From two unusual organ donations, a trove of single-cell gene data


A unique project led by the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub aims to create an atlas of single-cell gene expression that, unlike most existing databases, contains sequences of cells all from the same donor. The project, known as Tabula Sapiens, relies on organs that have all been collected from the same donor. And back in April, the research team quietly released the first set of data from two donors, known simply as TSP1 and TSP2. Using a single donor allows scientists to control for factors like genetic background, age, epigenetics, and environment, but it also complicates the organ collection process as it needs to be done as soon after death as possible. STAT's Katie Palmer and Megan Molteni have more for STAT+ subscribers here

Survey of states' Covid-19 vaccine information websites shows accessibility problems

An analysis of state websites for information on Covid-19 finds that many of them had accessibility issues. Researchers combed through the department of health website for each U.S. state in February for information on vaccine eligibility and availability and found that seven states did not enable complete viewing on a smartphone, and nine states only had information in English. The majority of states also presented their information in such a way that it would have required a post-high-school reading level to be understandable. Although half of states provided web-based scheduling for vaccine appointments, most of them required the user to search multiple sites individually for an appointment. 

Health determinant data often left out of clinical trial data, study finds

Race, sex, and socioeconomic status are known determinants of health, but a new analysis of clinical trials finds some of these data are still underreported and some groups are still overrepresented among trial volunteers. Scientists reviewed data from nearly 700 clinical trials published in JAMA, the New England Journal of Medicine, and the Lancet between 2015 and 2019. While more than 98% of the trials reported information about the sex of participants, women made up just under half of research participants. Fewer than 15% of trials included information about socioeconomic status. And although half the studies included racial demographics, white participants were the vast majority of those in the trials. 

Covid-19 in the U.S.

Cases yesterday: 24,052
Deaths yesterday: 1,009

In this week’s episode of STAT’s “First Opinion Podcast,” First Opinion editor Pat Skettett is joined by Danielle Ofri, a physician who experienced the pandemic firsthand at Bellevue Hospital in New York. She shares the importance of recognizing the emotions that come when a patient dies and how the Covid-19 pandemic will sculpt the careers of today's medical trainees. Listen here.

What to read around the web today

  • Influencers say they were offered money to discredit the Pfizer vaccine. In France, some suspect Russia is behind it. The Washington Post
  • How Covaxin became a victim of vaccine triumphalism. Mint
  • In a tentative sign of transparency, more leading U.S. universities are reporting clinical trial results. STAT+
  • Judge clears Purdue Pharma’s restructuring plan for vote by thousands of claimants. The New York Times
  • Drug makers argue an HHS rule would penalize them for offering co-pay coupons. STAT+
  • Inside the unlicensed counseling that led Boston students to allege emotional abuse. The Boston Globe

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

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