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Australian Coronavirus

Australian coronavirus vaccine clears first phase of human trials – New York Post

July 31, 2020 | 1:56pm

A promising Australian coronavirus vaccine has cleared the first phase of human trials — and could be available in as soon as October, according to a report.

Developed by scientists in Adelaide, the injectable drug known as COVAX-19 is the first vaccine candidate in the country to successfully clear the “phase one” hurdle and could be ready for use in three or four months, according to 7news.com.au

The drug was shown to safely generate an immune response in 40 people earlier this month, according to Vaxine, the company behind the drug, and researchers from Flinders University.

COVAX-19 is also one of only a handful of potential vaccines that have progressed beyond phase one of human trials in the world, which one expert called exciting.

“Safety data from the clinical trials shows the vaccine isn’t showing any problems at all and is inducing the right type of immune response…It’s very exciting,” said Nikolai Petrovsky, a Flinders University Chairman and Research Director of Vaxine.

“Now we do much bigger clinical trials in a larger number of individuals to prove the vaccine is working.”

Phase two trials for COVAX-19 will include 400 to 500 volunteers and are scheduled to start in September.

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Australian Exotic

Exotic Australian Fruit May Help Save Florida’s Citrus Industry – NPR

Exotic Australian Fruit May Help Save Florida’s Citrus Industry

Australian fingerlimes, related to citrus are gaining popularity as an exotic fruit.

Miguel Canahuati. /Miguel Canahuati.


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Miguel Canahuati. /Miguel Canahuati.

Australian fingerlimes, related to citrus are gaining popularity as an exotic fruit.

Miguel Canahuati. /Miguel Canahuati.

There’s some good news in the long-running battle against a disease that’s devastated Florida’s signature crop, oranges. Researchers are developing tools to help control citrus greening, a disease that has killed thousands of acres of orange and grapefruit trees.

One of the most promising treatments was recently developed in a fruit most people have never heard of, the Australian finger lime. The finger lime, native to rainforests in Australia, looks a little like a pickle. It’s just a couple inches long, grows on small trees and is gaining popularity as an exotic fruit.

Researcher Hailing Jin became interested in the fruit because it is related to oranges, but it isn’t affected by citrus greening. Jin, a molecular geneticist at the University of California Riverside says, “When I heard that there are some wild citrus close relatives that show tolerance or partial resistance, then I (felt) like there must be some genes responsible for it.”

In the 15 years since citrus greening first appeared in Florida, growers and researchers have scrambled for solutions. During that time, the disease has upended the industry. Orange production has plummeted, from nearly 300 million boxes in 2000 down to about 70 million boxes last year. The decline has cost jobs and forced the closure of packing houses and juice processing plants. The disease has now been found in commercial groves in Texas and in trees in residential areas in California.

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About five years ago, Jin discovered the gene in finger limes that makes it tolerant to the disease. It produces a peptide, a natural antibiotic that kills the bacterium responsible for citrus greening. She’s now developed a way to produce it in the lab. When it’s injected into trees or sprayed on leaves, the peptide has a dramatic impact. Jin says, “The bacteria titer is largely reduced. And the symptoms, the disease symptom is also largely reduced. The new flesh, the new leaves look very green and healthy.”

UC Riverside has partnered with a biotech company, Invaio Sciences to market the antimicrobial compound. Jin is hoping to start field trials soon in Florida orange groves and eventually get approval from federal regulators. Steven Callaham, the head of Dundee Citrus Growers says what he’s seen so far is encouraging. “It still could be several years out before that particular solution could be commercialized,” he says, “but it’s very, very promising research. And that’s just one thing of many I think you’re going to see coming down the line.”

In the battle against citrus greening, growers and researchers have been developing new orange varieties, new root stocks, and techniques like putting orchards in screened enclosures. Michael Rogers, the director of the University of Florida’s Citrus Research and Education Center, says all that work is paying off. After years of declines, Florida’s citrus production is stabilizing.

Rogers says, “When this disease first popped up in Florida, we said, ‘Okay, the industry has about 10 years and it’s going to be gone if we don’t have solutions.’ And it’s not gone, but it’s because we have found ways to live with citrus greening.”

Rogers says the naturally-occurring compound from the Australian finger lime is one of dozens of peptides currently being investigated. Other promising research he says involves gene editing—removing the genes from orange trees that make them susceptible to the disease.

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Australian printing

News Corp to stop printing more than 100 Australian papers – Yahoo News

Rupert Murdoch’s Australian flagship media group News Corp announced Thursday it will stop printing more than 100 regional and local newspapers, blaming a collapse in advertising made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision comes after News Corp announced on 1 April it was temporarily halting printing of around 60 community newspapers and is expected to cost hundreds of jobs.

The company said the bulk of its regional and local papers would shift to digital-only publishing by 29 June, with 76 papers moving online and 35 other titles closing permanently.

The move echoes a global trend in the troubled media industry, as falling readerships and the continued rise of Google and Facebook eats into media advertising revenues.

News Corp Australia executive chairman Michael Miller said the permanent changes had been brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, which had impacted the sustainability of local publishing.

“Print advertising spending which contributes the majority of our revenues, has accelerated its decline,” he said in a statement.

“Consequently, to meet these changing trends, we are reshaping News Corp Australia to focus on where consumers and businesses are moving.”

The company said the changes would “regretfully lead to job losses” but more than 375 journalists would continue covering community and regional news.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that there were previously about 1,200 people employed in News Corp’s Australian regional and community division.

Papers in nearly every state and territory will be impacted by the decision, including dozens in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.

The announcement follows a series of media closures, including national wire AAP, which is due to shut down within weeks unless a last-ditch buyout bid can save it.

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