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Pittsburgh University

University Of Pittsburgh Scientists Discover Biomolecule That May Neutralize Coronavirus – CBS Pittsburgh

The researchers reported that Ab8 is “highly effective” in preventing and treating SARS-CoV-2 infection in mice and hamsters.

By: KDKA-TV News Staff

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — University of Pittsburgh scientists have isolated a biomolecule that “completely and specifically” neutralizes the virus that causes coronavirus.

University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine researchers isolated the smallest biological molecule to date that neutralizes the SARS-CoV-2 virus, according to a report published Monday in the journal Cell. The antibody component is 10 times smaller than a full-sized antibody and has been used to create a drug known as Ab8 for use as a therapeutic and preventative against SARS-CoV-2, the report says.

The researchers reported that Ab8 is “highly effective” in preventing and treating SARS-CoV-2 infection in mice and hamsters.

“Ab8 not only has potential as therapy for COVID-19, but it also could be used to keep people from getting SARS-CoV-2 infections,” said co-author John Mellors, M.D., chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at UPMC and Pitt, said in a release from UPMC. “Antibodies of larger size have worked against other infectious diseases and have been well tolerated, giving us hope that it could be an effective treatment for patients with COVID-19 and for protection of those who have never had the infection and are not immune.”

Stay with KDKA for more on this developing story.

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Liberty University

Liberty University announces investigation into tenure of Falwell Jr. – The Hill

Liberty University announced Monday that it is launching an independent investigation into the tenure of its former President Jerry Falwell Jr. after he departed last week.

The evangelical university’s school board said in a release that it has hired an outside firm to investigate “all facets of Liberty University operations” under the former president. It said it wants to learn “the consequences that have flowed from a lack of spiritual stewardship.”

The probe into Falwell’s nearly 13-year tenure will include examinations of financial, real estate and legal matters, the board said.

The announcement comes after Falwell officially resigned last week.

His resignation came after Reuters reported a business associate’s sordid allegations about Falwell and his wife. Falwell claimed the former business partner was blackmailing him

It also followed Falwell being placed on indefinite leave earlier this month after posting a photo of himself on a yacht with his arm around a young woman with their pants unzipped. 

The Falwells said in a statement to The Associated Press that they back the university’s board and “welcome any inquiry as we have nothing to hide.”

Falwell became president of Liberty University after the death of his evangelist father, the Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr., and he remained in headlines in recent years due to his support of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump compares police who use force to golfers who ‘choke’ Pence told to be on standby to assume powers during Trump’s abrupt Walter Reed visit: book Top Senate Democrat requests German ambassador nomination pulled over past inflammatory comments MORE and his business dealings, the AP noted. 

“Some may say that all the signs were there for a long time before last week,” the board said in its announcement. “It’s certainly fair to say that there were questionable comments made, worrying behavior, and inappropriate social media posts, but all the signs were not there until the start of last week.”

The university said it is considering creating a university leadership position designed to assist other leaders as a “spiritual coach, mentor, and guide” to ensure they “live out the Christian walk expected of each and every one of us at Liberty.”

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Arizona University

How the University of Arizona used No. 2 to solve its No. 1 problem: The coronavirus – NBC News

The University of Arizona made a bold claim this week: It stopped a coronavirus outbreak before it started.

Universities around the U.S. have struggled with outbreaks as they attempt to start the fall semester. But at the Likins Hall dorm, just across the street from the University of Arizona’s recreation center, two students were found to have contracted the coronavirus — and they were asymptomatic.

The university said it pulled this off by combining more common forms of coronavirus mitigation, swab testing and contact tracing, with a more exotic one: analyzing sewage.

The university had implemented a campus-wide initiative to conduct what’s known as wastewater-based epidemiology. This effort, which involves analyzing sewage samples for traces of the coronavirus, gave the university a way to quickly and repeatedly look for traces of the virus in discrete groups of people — in this case, dorms — as part of an early warning system to catch cases of COVID-19.

Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

“From one test, we get the prevalence of the virus within the whole community,” said Ian Pepper, an environmental microbiologist who is leading the wastewater testing effort on campus.

The idea is catching on. Researchers in the United Kingdom launched a program in July to conduct cross-country wastewater surveillance. In Israel, scientists who collected sewage samples nationwide in March and April heralded the effort as an effective, noninvasive way of tracking outbreaks across geographic regions.

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At the University of Arizona, Pepper said this type of testing is especially useful for finding and isolating infected individuals before they have a chance to spread the virus widely. The two cases that have been identified at the university were both asymptomatic, and Pepper said wastewater testing could be sensitive enough to detect the coronavirus up to a week before a person develops symptoms.

“So, you have seven precious days in which you can undergo intervention,” he said.

Pepper’s team is conducting regular tests of sewage from 20 buildings across campus, including dorms and the university’s student union center.

If a sample comes back positive for the coronavirus, the school’s protocol is to then test everyone who lives or works in the building using traditional nasal swabs or antigen tests that are designed to detect viral proteins. Infected individuals are then quarantined, according to Dr. Robert C. Robbins, president of the University of Arizona.

Wastewater testing is designed to catch fragments of the virus that are shed from the body in fecal matter. Pepper’s team has been collecting sewage samples from buildings twice a week around 8:30 a.m. — a time that Pepper said is, “after people got up and typically go to the bathroom.”

If there are positive results, the sampling can be done more frequently, he said, but the researchers also found that bits of the virus tend to linger in wastewater rather than being dispersed immediately.

Robbins said wastewater-based epidemiology is a crucial part of the school’s “test, trace and treat” protocol and is a valuable tool that allows for more precise testing.

“What we’re trying to find are those asymptomatic individuals who can be unknowing vectors infecting people,” Robbins said.

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But this type of sampling can also be done at the neighborhood and community level, according to Pepper. In addition to studying sewage on campus, scientists at the University of Arizona have been analyzing samples from wastewater treatment plants across the country, including New York and Los Angeles.

In addition to finding potential hot spots, wastewater testing can help public health officials measure the severity of viral transmission in communities. In Arizona’s Pima County, for example, wastewater samples taken six weeks ago, when the state was dealing with a significant spike in cases, were found to have “sky-high” concentrations of the virus, according to Pepper. In the last two weeks, those concentrations, along with the number of new cases, “have dropped dramatically,” he said.

Pepper said he and his colleagues are hoping to publish the results of their research in a peer-reviewed journal, but for now, they are just pleased that this testing method is proving to be effective.

“They’re all jazzed. Everyone is really hyped up,” he said. “It’s a great case study.”

Image: Denise ChowDenise Chow

Denise Chow is a reporter for NBC News Science focused on the environment and space. 

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University Washington

University of Washington forecasts 145000 US COVID-19 deaths by August – MSN Money

FILE PHOTO: Empty street is seen near Lincoln tunnel in Manhattan borough following the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in New York City, U.S., March 15, 2020. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon/File Photo

(Reuters) – University of Washington researchers estimated on Monday that 145,728 people could die of COVID-19 in the United States by August, raising their grim forecast by more than 5,000 fatalities in a matter of days.

On Friday, the widely cited Institute for Health Metrics and evaluation at the university projected 140,496 deaths by August from COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus. Researchers did not give a reason for the abrupt revision.

The new estimate came on the same day that Texas reported its highest number of hospitalizations so far in the pandemic and 22 U.S. states showed at least a small uptick in the number of new confirmed cases, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Among the states with the sharpest increases were Michigan and Arizona, according to Johns Hopkins, while Virginia, Rhode Island and Nebraska showed the greatest decreases.

Infectious disease experts have said that large street protests held in major U.S. cities after the death of a black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis police custody, could touch off a new outbreak of the disease.

A total of more than 1.9 million cases of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, have been reported in the United States, according to a Reuters tally, which has confirmed 110,000 deaths.

Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Leslie Adler

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Minnesota University

University of Minnesota Curbs Relationship With Minneapolis Police Following George Floyd’s Death – Sports Illustrated

Two days after Minnesota resident George Floyd was killed after being pinned to the ground by police, University of Minnesota president Joan Gabel announced the school will no longer use the Minneapolis Police Department for large events such as football games, concerts and ceremonies.

Gabel also said the MPD would no longer be used for specialized services, like those provided by K-9 explosive detection units, at other university events.

“Our hearts are broken after watching the appalling video capturing the actions of Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) officers against George Floyd leading to his tragic death,” Gabel said in a letter to students, faculty and staff. “As a community, we are outraged and grief-stricken. I do not have the words to fully express my pain and anger and I know that many in our community share those feelings, but also fear for their own safety. This will not stand.”

The university’s undergraduate student body president, Jael Kerandi, had issued a letter on Tuesday demanding that the school cut ties with the Minneapolis police department.

“We no longer wish to have a meeting or come to an agreement, there is no middle ground,” Kerandi’s letter said. “The police are murdering black men with no meaningful repercussions. This is not a problem of some other place or some other time. This is happening right here in Minneapolis.”

Floyd, 46, was stopped by Minneapolis police outside of a local grocery store. Video of the scene captured Floyd pinned on the ground as an officer placed his knee on Floyd’s neck for approximately eight minutes. Floyd died soon after the incident.

Four Minneapolis police officers were fired Tuesday night for their involvement. Floyd’s death has sparked reaction from the sports world. Houston Texans J.J. Watt called the incident “disgusting,” while former NBA player Stephen Jackson took to social media to mourn Floyd, whom Jackson referred to as his “twin.”

“I’ve seen the video and I think it’s disgusting,” Watt said on Wednesday. “I just don’t see how a man in handcuffs on the ground who is clearly detained and is clearly in distress, I don’t understand how that situation can’t be remedied in a way that doesn’t end in his death.”

The Minnesota Vikings also voiced their support on Twitter, as the incident occurred near U.S. Bank Stadium.

“I write to you to express our overwhelming sadness, and our demands for accountability and justice,” Gabel continued. “Our campuses and facilities area a part of the communities in which they reside. University students, staff and faculty are day-to-day participants in the life of every community in this state, and we must act when our neighbors are harmed and in pain. My heart is heavy and my thoughts are with the loved ones and friends of George Floyd.”

Note: A previous version of this story misstated that Floyd formerly played in the NFL. The man who died in Minneapolis on Monday is a different man named George Floyd. SI apologizes for the error.

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Oxford University

Oxford University, AstraZeneca Join Forces for Coronavirus Vaccine – The Wall Street Journal

AstraZeneca PLC has agreed to manufacture and distribute an experimental coronavirus vaccine from the University of Oxford—one of the most advanced candidates—in a partnership aimed at accelerating the widespread availability of the shot if it proves effective.

The involvement of the British pharmaceutical giant, announced Thursday, helps to overcome the biggest concern for vaccines under development at academic research laboratories: that even if they work, the institutions developing them lack the capacity to make them…

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