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The Spill: Moderna Testing

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Vaccine Tests Under Way

There has been a lot of talk since the Coronavirus pandemic started of a vaccine to fight the virus. Will a vaccine be found, and if so, will it be safe and effective? Some countries have already passed laws making it compulsory for people to receive a vaccine if one is developed – what will the U.S. do?

On July 27, the United States started a phase three vaccination test in its race to find a way to protect the American people against COVID. The experimental treatment was developed by Moderna Inc. and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. In this stage of testing, roughly 30,000 people have participated in the trial.

Researchers and developers are hopeful so far, stating the only side effects recorded during the earlier trials included fatigue, headaches, muscle pain, and chills, meaning thus far it is considered generally safe. The World Health Organization (WHO) has listed about 25 vaccines that could have some potential and are currently in trials.

Each phase of testing is meant to determine specific characteristics of the experimental drug. In the first phase, researchers analyze whether the vaccine will stimulate an immune response; only a small number of participants are included in this test. Phase two looks for people that have similar characteristics to those who are intended to receive the vaccination, such as the elderly or those with compromised health systems. In the third phase, the trial is expanded to a much larger test group and developers investigate the safety and effectiveness.

Although Moderna’s experimental vaccine is at phase three, it will likely still be several months before an actual viable drug is available, supposing this particular one is deemed a success. Moderna is not the only drug manufacturer racing to find a cure and end the pandemic. The federal program Operation Warp Speed is providing support for several companies to help at least one of them find a vaccine. The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority provided $472 million to Moderna to help it through phase three trials, which brings the total, including the government’s contribution, to around $955 million so far.

KFC Introduces the Future of “Chicken”?

From cellphones to video games to space rockets, the wonderful world of technology has brought us all sorts of goodies. New inventions pop up almost daily, it seems, continuing to wow us with the ingenuity of design and all the gadgets that will make our lives easier. Take, for instance, the 3D printer that allows its user to create virtually anything with a few button punches. Whether it’s blankets, medicine, or pet toys, these contraptions seemingly perform magic, and now Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) wants a bone in the competition. The fast-food chain has decided to use 3D printing to create a new version of its popular chicken nuggets.

In a press release, KFC said, “The project aims to create the world’s first laboratory-produced chicken nuggets.” Like something out of Star Trek, soon we may be able to print our own meals. “They will be as close as possible in both taste and appearance to the original KFC product, while being more environmentally friendly to produce than ordinary meat.”

Referencing a study by the American Environmental Science & Technology Journal, the chicken chain said 3D bio-printed meat cuts emissions, uses 100-times less land and needs only half the energy to produce meat products in the traditional form. But the health-conscious may wonder exactly what they are eating. If these “chicken” nuggets aren’t made from meat, what are they made from?

A technology company based in Moscow will create the “chicken.” Its researchers will use plant-based material and chicken cells while KFC will provide the breading and spices it uses on its traditional meals. Yusef Khesuani, cofounder and managing partner of 3D Bioprinting Solutions, said, “In the future … we are hoping that technology created as a result of our cooperation with KFC will help accelerate the launch of cell-based meat products on the market.”

Are you ready to try printer-made chicken nuggets?

China and the U.S. Aren’t Getting Along

The United States and China have not been on the best of terms lately. First, there were the trade wars between the two countries, then the novel Coronavirus that reportedly originated from the Chinese city of Wuhan. China has also been blamed for keeping the virus a secret and not warning the world in time to prevent the pandemic. Recently, the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas, was forced to shut down, and staff given only 72 hours to evacuate the premises.

President Donald Trump’s administration claimed the consulate had been “a hub of spying and intellectual property theft.” It is rumored that the Chinese were trying to steal COVID experimental vaccination information as well. Mike Pompeo, the U.S. secretary of state, said the order to close Houston’s office happened because Beijing was “stealing” intellectual property. Mark Warner, who is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he couldn’t discuss the specifics, but revealed, “I can tell you for the last two years, I and other members of the intel committee have been holding classified briefings with business leaders and academic leaders about the concerted efforts of the Chinese communist party to steal our intellectual property.” He added, “To steal it from companies, to steal it from universities, to be on better guard.”

China, however, disagrees with the claims. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the actions of the United States were based on “a hodgepodge of anti-Chinese lies.” In retaliation to Houston’s closure, China ordered the U.S. diplomats in its city of Chengdu to leave the American consulate there. The U.S. flag was lowered from the building and a plaque was taken down. As the consulate was in the process of closing, crowds of Chinese local residents gathered outside, booing at a bus with tinted windows (supposedly carrying the American diplomats away from the area).

Tensions between China and America continue to grow. Who will make the next move, and what will be their course of action?

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