Johnson & Johnson. (Photo: Twitter/@JNJNews)
A leading candidate of Covid-19 vaccine developed by global healthcare company Johnson & Johnson raised neutralising antibodies and robustly protected monkeys against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.
“This vaccine led to robust protection against SARS-CoV-2 in rhesus macaques and is now being evaluated in humans,” said study researcher Dan H. Barouch from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in the US.
The vaccine uses a common cold virus, called adenovirus serotype 26 (Ad26), to deliver the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein into host cells, where it stimulates the body to raise immune responses against the coronavirus.
Barouch has been working on the development of a Covid-19 vaccine since January when Chinese scientists released the SARS-CoV-2 genome.
The research team developed a series of vaccine candidates designed to express different variants of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, which is the major target for neutralizing antibodies.
They conducted a study in 52 NHPs, immunizing 32 adult rhesus macaques (monkeys) with a single dose of one of seven different versions of the Ad26-based vaccine, and giving 20 animals sham vaccines as placebo controls.
All vaccinated animals developed neutralizing antibodies following immunization. Six weeks after the immunization, all animals were exposed to SARS-CoV-2.
All 20 animals that received the sham vaccine became infected and showed high levels of virus in their lungs and nasal swabs.
Of the six animals that received the optimal vaccine candidate, Ad26.COV2.S, none showed the virus in their lungs, and only one animal showed low levels of virus in nasal swabs.
Moreover, neutralizing antibody responses correlated with protection, suggesting that this biomarker will be useful in the clinical development of COVID-19 vaccines for use in humans.
“Our data show that a single immunization with Ad26.COV2.S robustly protected rhesus macaques against SARS-CoV-2 challenge,” said Barouch.
“A single-shot immunization has practical and logistical advantages over a two-shot regimen for global deployment and pandemic control, but a two-shot vaccine will likely be more immunogenic, and thus both regimens are being evaluated in clinical trials,” Barouch added.
“We look forward to the results of the clinical trials that will determine the safety and immunogenicity, and ultimately the efficacy, of the Ad26.COV2.S vaccine in humans,” the authors wrote.
The team also noted that the Ad26.COV2.S vaccine is on track to start a phase 3 efficacy trial in 30,000 participants in September.
Mumbai remembers martyrs, victims with flowers & tears
Marking the 12th anniversary of the dastardly terror strikes on Nov. 26, 2008, Mumbai paid homage to the martyrs and victims felled by bullets and brave-hearts who helped save and secure the city from the assault by 10 Pakistani terrorists, here on Thursday.
Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray led the state by solemnly laying wreaths at the new Martyrs’ Memorial erected inside the Mumbai Police Commissionerate premises near Crawford Market in south Mumbai.
The other dignitaries included Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, Tourism Minister Aditya Thackeray, Chief Secretary Sanjay Kumar, Director-General of Police Subodh Jaiswal, Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh and other officers.
A large number of Police personnel also paid homage to their colleagues who had been martyred in the terror attacks carried out at key locations in south Mumbai, with a special thought for Tukaram G. Omble, who sacrificed his life in nabbing the sole terrorist Ajmal Amir Kasab alive early on Nov. 27, 2008.
Later, the relatives of the martyrs and several brave-hearts also turned up to pay homage to their departed kin as the Governor, Chief Minister and other top officials waited and acknowledged them with folded hands.
The relatives including widows, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers or sisters stepped upto the memorial and offered their own personal tributes with flowers or tears for their near and dear ones.
Several other relatives of victims felled during the terrorists’ mayhem at various locations in a tiny area of south Mumbai also paid homage at the Martyrs Memorial and other locations.
Other in memoriams were held at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, Hotel Taj Mahal Palace, Hotel Oberoi, the Chabad House, Cama Hospital, and the Leopold Cafe, all among the sites brutally targeted by the attackers who left a total 166 dead and over 300 injured.
Ratan Tata, chairman of Tata Trusts, tweeted: “The wanton destruction that took place 12 years ago today will never be forgotten…”
The traditional and social media featured many remembrance ads, touching tributes and messages of the 60-hours that shook the world before the security forces won over the terrorists, killing 9 and taking one alive to face the Indian law in an unprecedented ‘open trial’.
For the first time in 12 years, the memorial function was held at the new Martyrs Memorial built recently at the Mumbai Police Commissionerate premises after it was shifted from the Mumbai Police Gymkhana at Marine Drive, where tunneling work of the ongoing coastal road project is underway.
Apollo to give 1 million Covid vaccines a day
Apollo Hospitals are gearing up to give one million vaccines a day once it is available across India through its hospitals, clinics, health centres, pharmacies and Apollo 24|7.
“Covid-19 vaccine should be ready within the next 60-120 days”, Apollo 24/7 is doing a survey asking customers whether they will take the vaccine and also making them register.
Apollo Hospitals is gearing up to give one million vaccines a day once it is available across India through its hospitals, clinics, health centres, pharmacies and Apollo 24|7.
“Join the list and urge your loved ones, especially ones with pre-existing health conditions to do the same. You will be the first one to know about the vaccines while Apollo gets ready for the #BattlegroundVaccine”, Apollo 24/7 said in its vaccine tracker.
A Covid 19 vaccine should be available in the next 60-120 days, it said.
“Will you take the Covid-19 Vaccine? How soon will you take the Covid-19 vaccine after it is available?” are the questions being asked in the survey.
Apollo 24/7 is asking consumers to register now to stay updated on safe Covid-19 vaccines. “Share your phone number below so that we can keep you informed about the best and safest Covid-19 vaccines, when they will be available, who is likely to get it first and how you can get it”, Apollo 24/7 said.
Lonar Lake becomes Maharashtra’s 2nd Ramsar Site in 2020
The world’s famous Lonar Lake in Buldhana district becomes second to be listed as a Ramsar Site this year from Maharashtra and is expected to give a boost to both tourism and its conservation, officials said here on Saturday.
Already a designated ‘national geo-heritage site’ the Ramsar Site tag will give a fillip to the conservation efforts for Lonar Lake, or the Lonar Crater.
In early-June, the site had grabbed global attention when its water turned into a bright baby pink colour owing to certain algae formations.
On November 11, the Ramsar Convention of Wetlands of International Importance announced the inclusion of Lonar Lake and the Sur Lake (Keetham Lake) in Uttar Pradesh as the two new sites from India.
“Lonar Lake (Site no. 2441), on the Deccan Plateau in Maharashtra State, is an endorheic or closed basin, almost circular in shape, formed by a meteorite impact onto the basalt bedrock. The Site includes the lake as well as escarpments, which form the crater walls, and forested zones,” said its declaration notification.
“The lake is high in salinity and alkalinity, as the lack of an outflow leads to a concentration of minerals as the lake water evaporates. Specialized micro-organisms such as anaerobes, cyanobacteria and phytoplankton survive in this harsh chemical environment,” the declaration adds.
Outside the lake, there is considerable diversity of plant and animal life, as springs which help feed the lake provide a source of fresh water.
There are 160 species of birds including the vulnerable Asian Woollyneck, and Common Pochard, 46 species of reptiles, and 12 species of mammals including the iconic Grey Wolf (Canis lupus).
It is believed to have been formed nearly 52,000 years ago when a meteorite weighing two million tonnes rammed into the Deccan Plateau at a speed of 90,000 kmph, though some recent research studies indicate the time period to be over half-a-million years.
It created a gaping 1.80 km wide and 150 metres deep hole, and scientists belive that the energy released duing that incident was the equivalent of a 6-megaton atom bomb explosion.
Welcoming the Ramsar proclamation, Environment & Tourism Minister Aditya Thackeray said: “Lonar Lake has its own significance in tourism and geology. It will help us protect it better in the years to come.”
He also shared two aerial pictures of the awe-inspiring site clicked by his dad and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
“The declaration is a ‘Diwali gift’ for all environment lovers. It is a matter of pride for the forest department and the entire state,” said Forest Minister Sanjay Rathod.
Spread across 77.69 hectares, the Lonar Lake is part of the 365 hectares Lonar Wildlife Sanctuary, situated around 500 kms east of Mumbai.
The lake’s crater rim has an average diameter of around 1.80 km, the lake diameter is 1.20 kms, the lake depth is 137 metres, and the surrounding forests have a rich variety of flora and fauna.
Though the site finds mention in various ancient Indian texts, it was first ‘discovered’ 197 year ago by a British officer, J. E. Alexander in 1923.
The Smithsonian Institution, the United States Geological Survey, Geological Survey of India, the University of Sagar and the Physical Research Laboratory have conducted extensive studies of the Lonar site.
Biological nitrogen fixation was discovered in this lake in 2007, while a 019 study by conducted by IIT-Bombay found that the minerals, in the lake soil, are very similar to the minerals found in moon rocks brought back during the Apollo programme.
The lake was first proposed as a Ramsar site in 2017 by the state forest department and is the second site to make it to the list after Nandur Madhameshwar Weir at Nashik, in January 2020.
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