Friday, October 8, 2010

Research on Bio Defense Vaccines

The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) on Thursday announced three new contracts to fund research on vaccines to protect against emerging infectious diseases and biological threats that could be used in a terror attack.

Each project focuses on simple and efficient vaccine delivery approaches that could be deployed quickly. The total funding for the three contracts could reach 68 million dollars, depending on the successful completion of defined project milestones.

"These new contracts build on NIAID's commitment to support the advanced development of products that are important to the public health but often unattractive to investors in private industry, by bridging the funding gap with contracts intended to address specific health needs," says NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci.

The three studies will focus on a dengue vaccine delivered by a needle-free device, an anthrax vaccine delivered orally and an anthrax vaccine delivered in conjunction with an adjuvant -- a compound that stimulates the immune system.

"Our goal is to improve vaccine delivery and the resulting immune response in a way that could be used to protect large numbers of patients," says Michael G. Kurilla, director of the Office of Bio-defense Research Affairs in NIAID's Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.

Health Research Investment by America

The U.S. invested 139 billion dollars last year in health research from all public and private sources, according to a report released Thursday by nonprofit organization Research!America.

That amount represents only 5.6 percent of the 2.47 trillion dollars overall U.S. health spending in 2009 -- or 5.6 cents of every health dollar -- which varies no more than 0.2 percent from 2005 levels.

According to the report, the 2009 investment grew by only 0.1 percent over 2008. This small increase can be attributed largely to the federal stimulus funding for research provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Federal research investment was nearly 46.8 billion dollars in 2009, up from 38.6 billion dollars in 2008.

The effects of the economic recession can be seen throughout the other sectors that fund health research and development -- industry, universities, state and local governments, philanthropic foundations, voluntary health associations, and independent research institutes -- where such investment remained essentially flat or declined in 2009. Industry was the largest source of health research funding in 2009 at 74.3 billion dollars, down slightly from the prior year's 74.8 billion dollars. All other sources combined invested 17.8 billion dollars, compared with 17.1 billion dollars in 2008.

Miracle Rice

Environmental changes are to blame for a 15 percent drop in the yield of "miracle rice" – also known as rice variety IR8 – since the 1960s when it was first released and lauded for its superior yields that helped avert famine across Asia at the time.

IR8 used to produce 9.5 to 10.5 tons per hectare, significantly more than other varieties in the 1960s when average global rice yields were around only 2 tons per hectare. But, when grown today, IR8 can yield only around 7 tons per hectare.

"IR8 still performs very well considering global average rice yields still hover around 4 tons per hectare, but a 15 percent yield drop is significant and we needed to find out what was happening," said Dr. Shaobing Peng, a crop physiologist from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and coauthor of a study published in Field Crops Research about the declining yields of IR8.

Dr. Peng and his team grew rice from original IR8 seeds preserved in the International Rice Genebank and compared it to rice grown from IR8 seeds continuously grown and harvested over the last few decades. He wanted to see if the genetics of IR8 had changed over time and if that was responsible for the yield drop – or if something about the environment was the cause.

Motorcycle Helmet Law

With or without the Implementing Rules and Regulations, the Land Transportation Office (LTO) has declared a "ceasefire" in the enforcement of the national helmet law in Dumaguete and in Negros Oriental, because of the Buglasan Festival this month.

This was announced by LTO-Dumaguete chief Roland Ramos during a public hearing Friday on the pros and cons of the helmet law implementation.

Ramos said they have an agreement with the Buglasan Committee not to implement the controversial law while the province is celebrating the festival this October.

He said if the IRR arrives anytime this week, it will still go through a series of information dissemination and will not be implemented yet.

Meanwhile, a representative from the Department of Trade and Industry also said during the public hearing that standard helmets are already available in different motorcycle shops in Dumaguete.

At least three brands of helmets with ICC marks are available after passing through DTI regulations and standards set by law. These helmet brands include Index, Posh, and Soul, among others. (PNA)