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Category Archives: Human Genetic Engineering

Can We Kill the Dreaded Mosquito? – Sierra Magazine

As a major vector for disease, the mosquito has harmed more human beings than just about any other animal, and a changing climate is only boosting those numbers. As the range of disease-carrying species of mosquitoes expands, so does their ability to transmit the parasites and viruses that result in malaria, chikungunya, Zika, yellow fever, West Nile, and dengue fever. In 2018, the continental United States saw a 25 percent increase in severe, neuroinvasive cases of West Nile virus compared with a decade earlier. And over the past three decades, the CDC reports, the worldwide incidence of dengue fever has risen 30-fold.

In cities with well-maintained infrastructure, mosquito populations can be kept in check by minimizing standing water and treating high-risk areas like storm drains. Elsewhere, lowering the risk carried by the creature that the World Health Organization describes as one of the deadliest animals in the world" comes with its own set of complications, including new dangers to the health of humans, other species, and the ecosystems that they depend on. Heres a short guide to the complicated science of mitigating that risk.

Pupae of Aedes mosquitoes at the Insect Pest Control Laboratory located at the FAO/IAEA Agriculture and Biotechnology Laboratories in Seibersdorf near Vienna. | Photo Courtesy of Jesus Reyes/IAEA

Insecticides

In our efforts to preserve health, reduce nuisance, and protect crops and livestock, human beings have a long history of trying to suppress insect populations. The practice of poisoning insects can be traced all the way from 2000 BCE Mesopotamia, when people dusted crops with sulfur, to our modern use of synthetic and natural pesticides. That long history means that mosquitoes have had plenty of opportunity to evolve a resistance to those chemicals, and those chemicalsmost notably DDThave had similar opportunity to accumulate in the environment and threaten other species. In recent years, mosquitoes have developed resistance to four common classes of insecticides. Insecticide-treated nets can reduce the incidence of malaria by nearly half, but (rising rates of resistance notwithstanding) some communities repurpose them as fishing nets, which indiscriminately trap all sizes of fish and pollute the water with insecticide.

Sterilization

In response to the growing global burden of mosquito-borne diseases and the above-mentioned problems with insecticides, the World Health Organization, in partnership with other United Nations branches (including a collaboration with the International Atomic Energy Agency on safety standards and risk assessment frameworks), are turning to the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT), which has been used to combat agricultural pests for more than 60 years in more than 40 countries. In this relatively straightforward method, male insects of a particular species (male insects arent the problemonly the females transmit disease and lay eggs on crops) are bred en masse in a lab, then sterilized via radiation. The sterile males are then released by drone in a community, where theyll matebut fail to reproducewith females, thus reducing the population.

Later this year, field trials will begin to evaluate the effectiveness of SIT against Aedes aegypti mosquitoes and the diseases they transmit. Field trials will take place at preapproved sites in approximately 10 countries.

SITs track record in reducing target insect populations without causing significant harm to the environment make it a promising tool. However, the same radiation that renders the mosquitoes sterile can also make them less healthy, allowing their wild (and fertile) counterparts to outcompete them. Furthermore, the scale production thats necessary to reduce large populations of sterilized mosquitoes is enormous and may be difficult to attain or maintain.

Genetically Self-limited

Another approach to withering mosquito populations is genetic editing. In its latest efforts, UK-based companyOxitec inserts self-limiting dominant lethal genes that pass on to subsequent generations of offspring. The edited gene causes female progeny to die before reaching adulthood, but allows males to survive and pass along the lethal gene to half of their offspring. While it still targets population numbers, this technology addresses one of the feasibility issues associated with SIT. Mosquito populations decline over multiple generations, so one introduction has a more sustained effect, yet as the population falls, the edited gene eventually disappears.

The big gain to be had from reducing populations of target mosquitoeswhether via sterilization or genetic modificationis that they should also suppress transmission of all the viruses that the species carries. There are roughly 3,500 species of mosquito in the world and only a handfulmostly within the Anopholes, Aedes, and Culex generacarry the viruses and parasites that cause diseases such as malaria and dengue. Remove the carriers and its likely that other insects with fill in their niche in the ecosystem.

Animals that consume mosquitoes dont appear to rely exclusively on a single species, or even solely on one type of insect. Decades of success with SIT in agriculture support this idea, says WHO Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases researcher Florence Fouque: These predators eat plenty of different insects, so if you suppress the mosquitoes, they eat other insects. For example, in a 20092010 study, researchers examined prey DNA in the fecal matter collected from five species of bats in Australia. Though bats are often touted as heavily dependent on mosquitoes, the scientists found that mosquitoes represented a small proportion of the diet, even for the smallest bats, and that the bats were consuming a wide variety of species of mosquito beyond those that carry malaria.

The Replacement Strategy

At Colorado State Universitys Arthropod-borne and Infectious Diseases Laboratory, Kenneth Olson is working to replace the most disease-carrying mosquitoes instead of eliminating them. For roughly 15 years, he has been developing genetically modified mosquitoes that he hopes will one day replace wild type Aedes aegypti in particular environments. We (and others) have developed transgenic Aedes aegypti that are highly resistant to dengue and Zika viruses, at least in the laboratory, says Olson. The goal of this and similar gene drive projects is to eventually introduce these (male) mosquitoes into a natural environment, where they will breed with wild females and spread the gene that provides disease resistance into the unmodified population. The advantage of a replacement strategy is that we wouldnt eliminate Aedes aegyptiif that bothers peoplebut instead replace the population with mosquitoes that have a virus-resistant phenotype, Olson explains.

Gene editings proponents argue its still effective and less destructive to beneficial insects and other species than the most common alternative: insecticides. Insecticides as a basis of vector control, they are bad for the environment and may affect beneficial insect populations. Further, insecticide treatments can be expensive, and mosquitoes are evolving resistance, Olson says.

But gene drives also have their detractors. Once engineered mosquitoes are removed from the closed conditions of a lab, additional uncontrolled mutations may occur. And, in fact, while field trials of Oxitecs first generation of Friendly Aedes aegypti did demonstrate a substantial reduction in the local mosquito population, they also found a surprise. Reporting on an independent study, Kelly Servick wrote for Science magazine that between 5 and 60 percent of the insects collected in the months after the trial had some DNA from the Oxitec strain in their genome. Though lab studies indicated that about 3 percent of the engineered mosquitoes offspring would survive, field trials demonstrated that they could reproduce and pass pieces of their genomes to subsequent generations. While none of the modified genes were passed on, this does support concerns about our ability to anticipate how things will play out in the natural environment.

Which is, arguably, the very point of the multiphased approach. Before field trials even begin, researchers must demonstrate success for generations in the labone line of mosquitoes has been in Olsons insectary since 2009 (thats 54 generations), and it remains highly resistant to the targeted arbovirus. And once they are launched, they are overseen and carried out in conjunction with host countries, local communities, and in the case of the SIT trials, multiple agencies. In its guidance frameworks for studying the efficacy and safety of various biotechnologies (including genetically manipulated mosquitoes and SIT), the WHO emphasizes the safety of nontarget organisms, responsible community engagement, and more. Gene drive engineering like Olson does is still relatively new and has yet to undergo any field trials, and guidelines for best practices are still being developed. For Olson, a key factor in protecting both the quality of research and the communities most affected by disease will be promoting transparency within the scientific community and with the public.

With the aim of eventually sterilizing and releasing them into the wild, male larvae are reared in laboratory-controlled environments. | Photo Courtesy of Dean Calma/IAEA

Is There a Better Way?

For many, including Olson and Fouque, biotechnology represents a safer and more efficient strategy for combating mosquito-borne diseases when compared with the insecticides that dominate today. Critics of biotechnology and especially genetic engineering are more likely to see it as an uncontrolled ecological experiment with too many unanticipated consequences for the environment and would rather see the energy and funding shift in different directions.

And, in fact, that research is happening as well. Scientists are developing biopesticides made from fungi; studying the efficacy of combating malaria with insecticides and antiparasitics made from nanoparticles (structures ranging from 10 to 100 nm in size) of gold, silver, and other elements; and infecting mosquitoes with a naturally occurring bacteria, Wolbachia, to reduce their lifespan and ability to transmit pathogens. Fish, tadpoles, and other aquatic animals have been shown to drastically reduce populations of mosquito larvae, though the extent to which this ends up affecting transmission remains unclear.

However, much of this work comes with the potential for unanticipated effects. Targeted biopesticides might be safer for other species threatened by conventional pesticides, but don't solve concerns raised above about how this could affect bats, birds, frogs, and other predators. Nanoparticles already occur in nature, but their impact on aquatic environments has been understudied and, as with pesticides, there is the risk of accumulation-related environmental toxicity. Even introducing natural predators to eat mosquitoes can shift ecological balance in unpredictable ways. For example, since mosquitoes represent a small proportion of birds' and bats diets, adding more predators could unintentionally lower populations of moths, beetles, and the other insects those predators consume.

With an array of potential solutions that are as complex as the environments in which they may ultimately be rolled out, no one solution will be perfect. Weve already put our collective thumbs on the scale, introducing mosquito species to new regions, creating conditions in which they flourish, and trying to combat them with sweepingly toxic insecticides. Now its just a question of how to do the least harm.

Note: This article is independent of the Sierra Clubs policy regarding biotechnology, which opposes field release of GMOs unless they are proven safe.

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Can We Kill the Dreaded Mosquito? - Sierra Magazine

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SAB Biotherapeutics Advances Therapeutic for COVID-19 in Partnership with Department of Defense and BARDA – Business Wire

SIOUX FALLS, S.D.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--SAB Biotherapeutics (SAB), a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company with a proprietary technology to produce fully human polyclonal antibodies without the need for human donors, announced today that it has been awarded expanded scope on their Rapid Response contract for their new therapeutic drug candidate to treat COVID-19, from the Department of Defense (DoD) Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Defense (JPEO - CBRND) Joint Project Lead for Enabling Biotechnologies (JPL-EB). This work, up to $9.4M, is supported by the Biomedical Advanced Research Development Authority (BARDA), part of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

SABs therapeutic candidate, SAB-185, is a new immunotherapy generated from the companys proprietary technology, the DiversitAb platform, to produce fully human polyclonal antibodies that target SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. SAB has the unique capability to scale like no other polyclonal antibody program in that it produces fully human antibodies without the need for convalescent plasma blood donations from people who have recovered from the virus. This approach, once enabled, is expected to produce greater quantities of a consistent, high potency neutralizing antibody product than is currently possible, while overcoming other challenges of traditional human antibody donor methods, such as the need to identify, screen, and draw blood from recovering volunteers that can limit production.

SAB has developed a unique system to naturally, rapidly, and consistently produce large amounts of targeted human antibodies without human donors, as we have done with MERS and Ebola, said Eddie J. Sullivan, PhD, SAB Biotherapeutics president, CEO and co-founder. Our targeted high-potency immunotherapies leverage the native immune response thereby providing a highly-specific match against the complexity, diversity and mutation of a disease. We have data in other indications demonstrating that our therapies are much more potent than those produced from convalescent plasma from recovered patients and data showing SABs therapies remain effective when other therapeutics may develop resistance.

SAB Biotherapeutics unique antibody platform shows real potential to address the critical need for fighting coronavirus and establishing a truly responsive model for combatting future threats, said Matthew Hepburn, M.D., Joint Project Lead CBRN Defense Enabling Biotechnologies. We are continually exploring new technologies to ensure the security and safety of our armed forces as well as the American and global public, he added.

Public health threats and emerging infectious diseases has been a strategic proving ground for SABs platform. For a novel unknown target, were able to move quickly to a proof-of-concept in about 90 days, added Sullivan. SAB Biotherapeutics has a successful preclinical track record in this space having developed more than a dozen effective antibodies from our DiversitAb platform in response to infectious disease targets during outbreaks of Ebola, Zika, Dengue, Hantavirus, and others.

The current pandemic is shining a light on the direct need for new and innovative therapies in addition to being prepared to react quickly for global health security, added Sullivan, This initiative is solidifying a place for targeted human polyclonal antibodies in the immunotherapy space, showcasing the power of the native human biological immune response, added Sullivan. More importantly, were providing an innovative solution, to address COVID-19 and be responsive to future emerging threats.

This expanded scope and funding was awarded by the Department of Defense as a new stage, Stage 4: COVID-19 Pandemic Response, of SABs current JPL-EB rapid response contract. SAB expects to have initial lots of their SAB-185 therapeutic candidate available for clinical evaluation as early as summer 2020 and has activated its network of collaborators to prepare for rapid transition to clinical studies and progress quickly toward FDA submission and approval.

SAB Biotherapeutics has successfully demonstrated their speed and capability to produce safe and efficacious cGMP material at an accelerated rate, added Dr. Hepburn. The company is significantly ahead of schedule within the Rapid Response Antibody Program and is increasing the scale of production to meet demands for large volumes of a prototype drug product that can be produced within months.

BARDA supports the development of innovative products and approaches, like SABs technology, that aim to solve major health security challenges through innovative approaches and products and has partnered with SAB on its MERS therapeutic. BARDA is working with its partners across industry and government to build a portfolio of medical countermeasures, including drugs, vaccines and diagnostic tests, for this COVID-19 pandemic and future coronavirus outbreaks.

Were proud to continue our work with JPL-EB who recognized the potential of our platform to rapidly and reliably respond to emerging threats with safe and effective human polyclonal antibody therapies, said Sullivan. The progress weve made with them has given us a head start on our work on SAB-185, and now with an expansion of this contract and our long-time collaboration with BARDA, we are applying this capability as a unified team to combat the COVID-19 public health crisis.

About the DoD Rapid Response Antibody Program:

The Rapid Response Antibody Program is a progressive and competitive three-stage rapid response contract awarded by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). The contract called for the development of a state-of-the-art, pharmaceutical platform technology capable of rapidly and reliably producing antibody-based medical countermeasures for biological threats to accelerate the delivery of a series of potent, fully-human, antibody therapeutics.

About the JPEO-CBRND:

The Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense is the Joint Service's lead for development, acquisition, fielding and life-cycle support of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense equipment and medical countermeasures. As an effective acquisition program, we put capable and supportable systems in the hands of the service members and first responders, when and where it is needed, at an affordable price. Our vision is a resilient Joint Force enabled to fight and win unencumbered by a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear environment; championed by innovative and state-of-the-art solutions. Joint Project Lead CBRND Enabling Biotechnologies (JPL-CBRND-EB) is an organization established for the purpose of providing medical solutions, during a crisis, against future threats.

About HHS, ASPR, and BARDA

HHS works to enhance and protect the health and well-being of all Americans, providing for effective health and human services and fostering advances in medicine, public health, and social services. The mission of ASPR is to save lives and protect Americans from 21st century health security threats. Within ASPR, BARDA invests in the innovation, advanced research and development, acquisition, and manufacturing of medical countermeasures vaccines, drugs, therapeutics, diagnostic tools, and non-pharmaceutical products needed to combat health security threats. To date, 54 BARDA-supported products have achieved regulatory approval, licensure or clearance.

About SAB Biotherapeutics, Inc.:

SAB Biotherapeutics, Inc. (SAB) is a clinical-stage, biopharmaceutical company advancing a new class of immunotherapies leveraging fully human polyclonal antibodies. Utilizing some of the most complex genetic engineering and antibody science in the world, SAB has developed the only platform that can rapidly produce natural, highly-targeted, high-potency, human polyclonal immunotherapies at commercial scale. The company is advancing programs in autoimmunity, infectious diseases, inflammation and oncology. SAB is rapidly progressing on a new therapeutic for COVID-19, SAB-185, fully human polyclonal antibodies targeted to SARS-CoV-2 without using human donors. SAB-185 is expected to be ready for evaluation as early as summer 2020.

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SAB Biotherapeutics Advances Therapeutic for COVID-19 in Partnership with Department of Defense and BARDA - Business Wire

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CSL Behring and SAB Biotherapeutics Join Forces to Deliver New Potential COVID-19 Therapeutic – MDJOnline.com

KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa. and SIOUX FALLS, S.D., April 8, 2020 /PRNewswire/ --Global biotherapeutics leader, CSL Behringand innovative human antibody development company SAB Biotherapeutics(SAB) announced today their partnership to combat the coronavirus pandemic with the rapid development of SAB-185, a COVID-19 therapeutic candidate on track for clinical evaluation by early summer. The partnership joins the forces of CSL Behring's leading protein science capabilities with SAB's novel immunotherapy platform capable of rapidly developing and producing natural, highly-targeted, high-potency, fully human polyclonal antibodies without the need for blood plasma donations from recovered patients.

The therapeutic candidate, SAB-185, is generated from SAB's proprietary DiversitAb platform producing large volumes of human polyclonal antibodies targeted specifically to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Driven by advanced genetic engineering and antibody science, SAB's novel approach, leveraging genetically engineered cattle to produce fully human antibodies, enables a scalable and reliable production of targeted, higher potency neutralizing antibody product than has been previously possible. SAB's approach has expedited the rapid development of a novel immunotherapy for COVID-19 deploying the same natural immune response to fight the disease as recovered patients, but with a much higher concentration of targeted antibodies.

"COVID-19 is a nearly unprecedented public health crisis," said CSL Behring's Executive Vice President and Head of R&D Bill Mezzanotte, M.D. "That's why we're combining our leading capabilities in plasma product development and immunology with external collaborators to help find multiple, rapid solutions. In the near-term, SAB Biotherapeutics' novel immunotherapy platform provides a new and innovative solution to rapidly respond without the need for human plasma adding a different dimension to the industry-wide plasma-derived hyperimmune alliance effort we recently launched for the COVID-19 crisis. For future pandemics, SAB's platform may allow us to even more rapidly respond to patients' needs."

"Our targeted high-potency immunotherapies leverage the native immune response thereby providing a highly-specific match against the complexity, diversity and mutation of a disease," said Eddie J. Sullivan, PhD, SAB Biotherapeutics president, CEO and co-founder. "Our partnership with CSL Behring shifts our development trajectory to more rapidly scale-up and delivery of our highly targeted and potent COVID-19 therapeutic candidate, and deploy our unique capabilities to help combat this crisis. We have a successful preclinical track record for addressing infectious disease targets including Ebola, MERS, and SARS with our proprietary platform and appreciate that this collaboration with a global biopharmaceutical powerhouse will magnify the potential impact of a COVID-19 immunotherapy and provide an important framework for establishing sustainable solutions for the future."

CSL Behring has provided seed funding to offset some initial development costs that were funded by SAB in good faith, responding to the global pandemic as quickly as possible. SAB has already secured approximately $7.2 million in funding through an interagency agreement with the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Defense (JPEO - CBRND) and Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA)to support SAB to complete manufacturing and preclinical studies. CSL Behring will then commit its clinical, regulatory, manufacturing and supply chain expertise and resources to deliver the therapeutic to the market as soon as possible, on terms to be agreed with SAB.

Earlier this year, the companies announceda collaboration to investigate SAB's platform technology as a new source for human immunoglobulin G (IgG) and the potential for new therapies to treat challenging autoimmune, infectious and idiopathic diseases by leveraging SAB's DiversitAb platform.

About CSL Behring CSL Behring is a global biotherapeutics leader driven by its promise to save lives. Focused on serving patients' needs by using the latest technologies, we develop and deliver innovative therapies that are used to treat coagulation disorders, primary immune deficiencies, hereditary angioedema, inherited respiratory disease, and neurological disorders. The company's products are also used in cardiac surgery, burn treatment and to prevent hemolytic disease of the newborn. CSL Behring operates one of the world's largest plasma collection networks, CSL Plasma. The parent company, CSL Limited (ASX:CSL;USOTC:CSLLY), headquartered in Melbourne, Australia, employs more than 26,000 people, and delivers its life-saving therapies to people in more than 70 countries. For more information, visit http://www.cslbehring.com and for inspiring stories about the promise of biotechnology, visit Vita http://www.cslbehring.com/Vita

About SAB Biotherapeutics, Inc.SAB Biotherapeutics, Inc. (SAB), headquartered in Sioux Falls, S.D. is a clinical-stage, biopharmaceutical development company advancing a new class of immunotherapies leveraging fully human polyclonal antibodies. Utilizing some of the most complex genetic engineering and antibody science in the world, SAB has developed the only platform that can rapidly produce natural, highly targeted, high-potency, immunotherapies at commercial scale. The company is advancing programs in autoimmunity, infectious diseases, inflammation and exploratory oncology. SAB is rapidly progressing on a new therapeutic for COVID-19, SAB-185, a fully human polyclonal antibodies targeted to SARS-CoV-2 without using human donors. SAB-185 is expected to be ready for evaluation as early as summer 2020. The company was also recently awarded a $27 million contract from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to leverage its unique capabilities as part of a Rapid Response Antibody Program, valued at up to $27 million. For more information visit: http://www.sabbiotherapeutics.com.

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Planet Earth Report Scientists Stranded at Sea to Unknown Limits of Human Athletic Performance – The Daily Galaxy –Great Discoveries Channel

Planet Earth Report provides descriptive links to headline news by leading science journalists about the extraordinary discoveries, technology, people, and events changing our knowledge of Planet Earth and the future of the human species.

We Are Nowhere Close to the Limits of Athletic Performance Genetic engineering will bring us new Bolts and Shaqs. For many years I lived in Eugene, Oregon, writes Stephen Hsu for Nautil.us, also known as track-town USA for its long tradition in track and field. Each summer high-profile meets like the United States National Championships or Olympic Trials would bring world-class competitors to the University of Oregons Hayward Field. It was exciting to bump into great athletes at the local cafe or ice cream shop, or even find myself lifting weights or running on a track next to them. One morning I was shocked to be passed as if standing still by a woman running 400-meter repeats. Her training pace was as fast as I could run a flat out sprint over a much shorter distance.

Significance of Pangolin Viruses in Human Pandemic Remains Murky Scientists havent found evidence that the new coronavirus jumped from pangolins to people, but they do host very similar viruses, writes James Gorman for the New York Times. Pangolins, once suspected as the missing link from bats to humans in the origin of the coronavirus pandemic, may not have played that role, some scientists say, although the animals do host viruses that are similar to the new human coronavirus.

The Pandemic Has Grounded Humankind Space missions around the world are on holda poignant reminder of how COVID-19 has upended civilization, writes Marina Koren for The Atlantic.

The spread of the coronavirus will be exponential which is bad. But its inevitable decline will also be exponential, which is good, writes Seth Shostak, Senior Astronomer at SETI.org. In the case of the coronavirus, the growth in the number of infected persons will inevitably be exponential, at least for a while. Thats because the rate of new infections clearly depends on the number of people who are already contagious. The resulting tally of the infected will increase very rapidly as is typical of exponential growth. Note that its not that the number is large, but only the behavior of the growth rate that merits the designation exponential.

Scientists Are Stuck on an Ice-Locked Ship in the Arctic Due to Coronavirus Organizers of the MOSAiC expedition are determining the best way to bring a relief crew to the ship without spreading the virus, which could leave roughly 100 scientists and crew on board for an extra six weeks, reports Maddie Stone for Motherboard Science.

Pablo Escobars Hippos Fill a Hole Left Since Ice Age Extinctions -Invasive herbivore mammals seem to restore functions missing in some food webs and ecosystems since the Pleistocene era, writes Asher Elbein for the New York Times. When Pablo Escobar died in 1993, the Colombian drug kingpins four adult African hippopotamuses were forgotten. But the fields and ponds along the Magdalena River suited them. One estimate puts their current population at 50 to 80 animals: By 2050 there may be anywhere from 800 to 5,000 in a landscape that never before knew hippos.

Stranded at sea cruise ships around the world are adrift as ports turn them away, reports The Guardian. A Guardian analysis of ship tracking data has found that, as of Thursday, at least ten ships around the world carrying nearly 10,000 passengers are still stuck at sea after having been turned away from their destination ports in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. Some of the ships are facing increasingly desperate medical situations, including one carrying hundreds of American, Canadian, Australian and British passengers, currently off the coast of Ecuador and seeking permission to dock in Florida.

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Planet Earth Report Scientists Stranded at Sea to Unknown Limits of Human Athletic Performance - The Daily Galaxy --Great Discoveries Channel

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Why The Future Does Need Us – Forbes

Guest Post by Michael A. Alvarez

In April 2000, Bill Joy (co-founder of Sun Microsystems) published an article in Wired magazine entitled Why the Future Doesnt Need Us. In it, he argues that "Our most powerful 21st-century technologiesrobotics, genetic engineering, and nanotechare threatening to make humans an endangered species." At the time, his thesis and accompanying forecast were alarming, coming from such a credible source.

"The Terminator" movie poster

The underlying message in his article was clear: the rate and direction of technological innovation over time will lead to a world where humans are unnecessary and machines will be able to do without us.Instead of interacting with them in the way we historically haveprogramming them to execute the tasks we instruct them to performwe will cross a threshold where we unwittingly relinquish the responsibility of making important decisions that we as a society need to make. They will do our thinking for us.

We are now twenty years since the publication of his article, and we have indeed experienced tremendous technological advancement. It is well-deserved that we marvel, celebrate, and appreciate how these advancements are adding or contributing to our experience of life as human beings. With artificial intelligence and machine learning in particular, however, one could argue it is vital that we take a moment to pause and look at what is happening through the lenses of Joys article.

"Our most powerful 21st-century technologiesrobotics, genetic engineering, and nanotechare threatening to make humans an endangered species."

Can We Prevent a Future with Machines as Masters?

Movie scene from "2001: A Space Odyssey"

The overthrow of the human species by machines is by no means inevitable. It will not happen overnight. There would necessarily be stages that we as a species would be witness to.

Initially, there would be a state of reasonable reliance on machines to augment our thinking, in advance of relegating it excessively and detrimentally to them.Conceivably upon encountering a situation which goes too far, potentially threatening our existence or relevance, we could intervene.

Among the most salient considerations:

There is no doubt that innovation is part of our nature as human beings. Invariably we should, must, and will continue to build and ascend into the acquisition of new capabilities. For our society and the well-being of our species, this has shown that it can be a very good thing. We have reached a challenging point, however, and it is vital that we start thinking considerately, and perhaps differently, about our approach to innovation.

The need to take other factors into account when selecting where to focus our innovative capacities is increasingly urgent.

What Dimensions Should We Examine?

Economic return to investors and shareholders is, of course, a significant priority when launching into a new entrepreneurial endeavor or corporate innovation initiative. The need to take other factors into account when selecting where to focus our innovative capacities is increasingly urgent.

Some of the most critical dimensions include:

The intent here is not to delve into each of these dimensions and propose a means for analyzing investment opportunities against each. The measurement of the above factors is complex and not straightforward.

New Yorker Magazine/Tom Toro. November 26, 2012

The aim, rather, is to look more broadly than at each dimension and to look at them collectively.It is arguably now more important than ever that we approach innovation such that we are clear and intentional about what we are actually advancing.We do this so that we can craft and escort ourselves into a future that we desire; presumably, one where human beings will remain relevant.

New Categories of Jobs Arise

To take an isolated example, when it comes to security and industrial surveillance relative to job displacement impact, we know that the advent of drones is going to lead to a reduction in the number of humans needed to perform these functions. At the same time, it is also giving rise to the need for drone operators, mechanics, and interpreters. Some jobs will be eliminated, and others representing new opportunities are emerging.

When it comes to security and industrial surveillance relative to job displacement impact, we know ... [+] that the advent of drones is going to lead to a reduction in the number of humans needed to perform these functions.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists and outlines jobs across a myriad of categories. Over time, more job categories are typically added to this list than fall off of it.In other words, we can plausibly conclude that the future of work, and the relevance of human beings within the workforce, is something over which we can and could potentially still retain a degree of influence and control.

To Succeed, We Need to Change How We Innovate

To succeed in the future, we need to change how we innovate now.

What is paramount at this point as a species is to recognize to a far greater extent our interconnectedness with one another, and with the technology and machines we are advancing.We have a great (but narrowing) opportunity to be more deliberate in our approach to innovation, along with an imperative to take additional human and environmental impact factors into account in evaluating the entrepreneurial endeavors we choose to support and pursue. From this vantage point, the future does need us, perhaps in ways we have not yet considered.

Michael A. Alvarez

Michael A. Alvarez is a leader in entrepreneurship, innovation, human development, and workforce preparation. He has founded and directed centers focused on these aspects of our economy at Stanford, UCSF, and Columbia.

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Books about pandemics to read in the time of coronavirus – Milford Daily News

What to read while youre self-isolating to avoid the coronavirus? How about books about all the various plagues humankind has survived before?

There are classics like Giovanni Boccaccios 1353 classic The Decameron, about Italian aristocrats who flee the bubonic plague in Florence, or Daniel Defoes 1722 novel A Journal of the Plague Year, an account of the Black Death in London half a century before.

There are many more recent works about pandemics, some nonfiction, some historical fiction, some speculative fiction. On March 8, Stephen King resisted comparisons of the current crisis to his 1978 novel The Stand, set in a world where a pandemic has killed 99% of the population. King tweeted, No, coronavirus is NOT like THE STAND. Its not anywhere near as serious. Its eminently survivable. Keep calm and take all reasonable precautions.

Despite Kings protestations, readers often look to books to help explain real-world phenomena, especially in bewildering times like these. Here are a few more plague books to consider.

Fiction

Pale Horse, Pale Rider (1939) by Katherine Ann Porter is a short novel set during the influenza pandemic of 1918, which killed five times as many Americans as did World War I. Its main character, Miranda, is a young reporter who falls in love with a soldier; the books fever-dream style captures the experience of the disease.

The Andromeda Strain (1969) by Michael Crichton is a bestselling techno-thriller that begins when a military satellite crashes to earth and releases an extraterrestrial organism that kills almost everyone in a nearby small town. Then things get bad.

Love in the Time of Cholera (1985) by Gabriel Garca Mrquez is the great Colombian authors beguiling tale of a 50-year courtship, in which lovesickness is as debilitating and stubborn as disease.

The MaddAddam Trilogy by Margaret Atwood, which includes Oryx and Crake (2003), The Year of the Flood (2009) and MaddAddam (2013), is a masterwork of speculative fiction by the author of The Handmaids Tale. Set in a near future in which genetic engineering causes a plague that almost destroys humanity, its savagely satirical, thrilling and moving.

The Road (2006) by Cormac McCarthy is a bleak, beautifully written, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel set after an unspecified extinction event has wiped out most of humanity. An unnamed man and boy travel on foot toward a southern sea, fending off cannibals and despair.

Nemesis (2010) by Philip Roth is the authors 31st and last novel, a sorrowful story set in Newark, N.J., in 1944, as the United States is in the grip of the polio epidemic that killed and disabled thousands of children.

Station Eleven (2014) by Emily St. John Mandel is a bestselling novel about a group of actors and musicians traveling through the Great Lakes region in future years after a mysterious pandemic called the Georgian flu has killed almost everyone.

The Old Drift (2019) by Namwalli Serpell is a dazzling debut novel set in Zambia, spanning a century but focusing in part on the disaster wrought in that country by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Nonfiction

The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance (1995) by Laurie Garrett is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters clear-eyed look at how rapidly the modern world has changed the nature of disease, how important preparedness is and how endangered we are without it.

Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic (2013) by David Quammen is the great science writers fascinating look at zoonotic diseases, such as AIDS and Ebola (and now coronavirus), that jump from animal species to ours.

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Books about pandemics to read in the time of coronavirus - Milford Daily News

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