The New York Times, May 5, 2020

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A team of scientists has developed an experimental prototype for a fairly quick, cheap test to diagnose the coronavirus that gives results as simply as a pregnancy test does.

The test is based on a gene-editing technology known as Crispr, and the researchers estimated that the materials for each test would cost about $6.

“We’re excited that this could be a solution that people won’t have to rely on a sophisticated and expensive laboratory to run,” said Feng Zhang, a researcher at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Mass., and one of the pioneers of Crispr technology.

Continue reading “With Crispr, a Possible Quick Test for the Coronavirus”

The New York Times, May 2, 2020

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WASHINGTON — Four months after a mysterious new virus began its deadly march around the globe, the search for a vaccine has taken on an intensity never before seen in medical research, with huge implications for public health, the world economy and politics.

Seven of the roughly 90 projects being pursued by governments, pharmaceutical makers, biotech innovators and academic laboratories have reached the stage of clinical trials. With political leaders — not least President Trump — increasingly pressing for progress, and with big potential profits at stake for the industry, drug makers and researchers have signaled that they are moving ahead at unheard-of speeds.

Continue reading “Profits and Pride at Stake, the Race for a Vaccine Intensifies”

The New York Times, May 1, 2020

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The world is eager to come out of lockdown. But if countries simply return to business as usual, new outbreaks of Covid-19 will follow. The only solution that public health experts see is to keep careful track of the coronavirus and clamp down on new flare-ups.

The trouble is that the most obvious way to monitor the virus — testing person by person — has already proved to be a huge, expensive challenge. Experts say we’re nowhere near the scale we need to get a good picture of the pandemic.

Continue reading “Is It Safe to Come Out of Lockdown? Check the Sewer”

The New York Times, April 30, 2020

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In the early 1950s, psychiatrists began treating schizophrenia with a new drug called chlorpromazine. Seven decades later, the drug is still used as an anti-psychotic.

But now scientists have discovered that the drug, also known as Thorazine, can do something entirely different. It can stop the new coronavirus that causes Covid-19 from invading cells.

Driven by the pandemic’s spread, research teams have been screening thousands of drugs to see if they have this unexpected potential to fight the coronavirus. They’ve tested the drugs on dishes of cells, and a few dozen candidates have made the first cut.

Continue reading “Old Drugs May Find a New Purpose: Fighting the Coronavirus”

The New York Times, April 30, 2020

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The Coronavirus Genome

The coronavirus is an oily membrane packed with genetic instructions to make millions of copies of itself. The instructions are encoded in 30,000 “letters” of RNA — acg and u — which the infected cell reads and translates into many kinds of virus proteins.

A New Coronavirus: Dec. 26

In December, a cluster of mysterious pneumonia cases appeared around a seafood market in Wuhan, China. In early January, researchers sequenced the first genome of a new coronavirus, which they isolated from a man who worked at the market. That first genome became the baseline for scientists to track the SARS-CoV-2 virus as it spreads around the world.

Continue reading “How Coronavirus Mutates and Spreads”