This Biotech Startup Just Raised $255 Million To Make Its AI-Designed Drug A Reality

Science technology concept. Research and Development. Drug discovery.

While many AI biotech companies are on journeys to discover new drug targets, Hong Kong-based Insilico Medicine is a step ahead. The startup not only scouts for new drug sites using its AI and deep learning platforms but also develops novel molecules to target them.

In February, the company announced the discovery of a new drug target for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a disease in which air sacs of the lungs get scarred, leading to breathing difficulties. Using information about the site, it developed potential drug targets. The startup recently raised $255 million in series C funding, taking its total to $310 million. The round was led by private equity firm Warburg Pincus. Insilico will use the funds to start human clinical trials, initiate multiple new programs for novel and difficult targets, and further develop its AI and drug discovery capabilities.

The company has stiff competition in the industry of using AI to discover new drugs. The global AI in Drug Discovery market was valued at $230 million in 2021 and is projected to reach a market value of over $4 billion  by 2031, according to a report from Vision Gain. The area has already minted at least one billionaire, Carl Hansen of AbCellera, and others have also gained attention from investors. Flagship Pioneering-backed Valo Health announced this month it’s going public via SPAC.

Investors said that Insilico’s AI technology and partnerships with leading pharmaceuticals attracted them to the startup, despite the crowded field. “Insilico fits strongly with our strategy of investing in the best-in-class innovators in the healthcare,” said Fred Hassan of Warburg Pincus, “Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning is a powerful tool to revolutionize the drug discovery process and bring life-changing therapies to patients faster than ever before, he added.

CEO and founder Alex Zhavoronkov got his start in computer science, but his interest in research into slowing down aging drew him to the world of biotech. He received his Masters from Johns Hopkins and then got a PhD from Moscow State University, where his research focused on using machine learning to look at the physics of molecular interactions in biological systems.

The process for finding a preclinical target for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis highlights Insilico’s approach. The company had initially found 20 new target sites to treat fibrosis. Then it used its machine learning processes to narrow those down to a specific target which is implicated in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Then using its in-house tool, Chemistry42, it generated novel molecules to target the new site. The new preclinical drug candidate was found efficacious and safe in mice studies, the company said in a press release. 

“Now we have successfully linked both biology and chemistry and nominated the preclinical candidate for a novel target, with the intention of taking it into human clinical trials, which is orders of magnitude more complex and more risky problem to solve,” Zhavoronkov added in a statement.

Treatments for this condition are a dire need. Patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis develop respiratory failure as their blood doesn’t receive adequate oxygen. Most patients die within two to three years of developing the condition. If the company’s drug candidate proves out during clinical trials, it would be a major step forward both for these patients and the industry as a whole.

“To my knowledge this is the first case where AI identified a novel target and designed a preclinical candidate for a very broad disease indication,” Zhavoronkov said in a statement.

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I am a New York based health and science reporter and a graduate from Columbia’s School of Journalism with a master’s in science and health reporting. I write on infectious diseases, global health, gene editing tools, intersection of public health and global warming. Previously, I worked as a health reporter in Mumbai, India, with the Hindustan Times, a daily newspaper where I extensively reported on drug resistant infections such as tuberculosis, leprosy and HIV. I also reported stories on medical malpractice, latest medical innovations and public health policies.

I have a master’s in biochemistry and a bachelor’s  degree in zoology. My experience of working in a molecular and a cell biology laboratory helped me see science from researcher’s eye. In 2018 I won the EurekAlert! Fellowships for International Science Reporters. My Twitter account @aayushipratap

Source: This Biotech Startup Just Raised $255 Million To Make Its AI-Designed Drug A Reality

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Critics:

CEO Alex Zhavoronkov founded Insilico Medicine in 2014, as an alternative to animal testing for research and development programs in the pharmaceutical industry. By using artificial intelligence and deep-learning techniques, Insilico is able to analyze how a compound will affect cells and what drugs can be used to treat the cells in addition to possible side effects. Through its Pharma.AI division, the company provides machine learning services to different pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and skin care companies. Insilico is known for hiring mainly through hackathons such as their own MolHack online hackathon.

The company has multiple collaborations in the applications of next-generation artificial intelligence technologies such as the generative adversarial networks (GANs) and reinforcement learning to the generation of novel molecular structures with desired properties. In conjunction with Alan Aspuru-Guzik‘s group at Harvard, they have published a journal article about an improved GAN architecture for molecular generation which combines GANs, reinforcement learning, and a differentiable neural computer.

In 2017, Insilico was named one of the Top 5 AI companies by NVIDIA for its potential for social impact. Insilico has R&D resources in Belgium, Russia, and the UK and hires talent through hackathons and other local competitions. In 2017, Insilico had raised $8.26 million in funding from investors including Deep Knowledge Ventures, JHU A-Level Capital, Jim Mellon, and Juvenescence. In 2019 it raised another $37 million from Fidelity Investments, Eight Roads Ventures, Qiming Venture Partners, WuXi AppTec, Baidu, Sinovation, Lilly Asia Ventures, Pavilion Capital, BOLD Capital, and other investors.

Sage Modelling Warns of Risk of ‘Substantial’ Covid Third Wave

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New modelling for the government’s Sage committee of experts has highlighted the risk of a “substantial third wave” of infections and hospitalizations, casting doubt on whether the next stage of Boris Johnson’s Covid roadmap can go ahead as planned on 21 June.

Government sources suggested the outlook was now more pessimistic but stressed that a decision would be taken after assessing a few more days’ worth of data on the effect that rising infections are having on hospitalizations.

The prime minister is due to announce on Monday whether the lifting of the remaining restrictions – nicknamed “freedom day” by anti-lockdown Tory MPs – will have to be delayed.

Johnson is understood to be personally frustrated at the prospect of delaying the reopening, but a No 10 source said there were now clearly signs for concern in the data.

Key ministers and officials are expected to discuss a range of options on Sunday, when Johnson will still be hosting the G7, including a two- to four-week delay, as well as the possibility of a watered-down reopening that keeps some rules in place.

A Whitehall source said it was “broadly correct” that the outlook was now more pessimistic. “Cases are obviously higher and they are growing quickly,” the source said.

Prof Neil Ferguson, of Imperial College London, said modelling updated this week suggested there was a risk of a surge in infections and hospitalizations that could rival the second wave in January.

Johnson sounded markedly less confident than in recent days when he was asked about the case for a delay as he visited a wind farm in Cornwall on Wednesday as part of the buildup to the G7 summit.

“What everyone can see very clearly is that cases are going up and in some cases hospitalizations are going up,” he said. “I think what we need to assess is the extent to which the vaccine rollout, which has been phenomenal, has built up enough protection in the population in order for us to go ahead to the next stage.

“And so that’s what we’ll be looking at. And there are arguments being made one way or the other, but that will be driven by the data. We’ll be looking at that and we’ll be setting it out on Monday.”

The prime minister had previously repeatedly said he had seen nothing in the data to justify a delay.

Ferguson said the cases of the Delta variant were now doubling in less than a week, close to what was seen before Christmas when the Alpha variant took hold and sent infections soaring in January to a daily peak of 68,000. What is unclear is how long the doubling will continue with so many adults vaccinated, and what proportion of new cases will turn into hospitalizations and deaths.

“There is a risk of a substantial third wave,” Ferguson said. “It could be substantially lower than the second wave or it could be of the same order of magnitude, and that critically depends on how effective the vaccines are at protecting people against hospitalization and death.”

He suggested there may be a case for postponing the reopening to get more shots into arms and reduce the size of any summer surge. “Clearly you have to be more cautious if you want measures to be irreversibly changed and relaxed,” he said. “Having a delay does make a difference. It allows more people to get second doses.”

Ministers have been encouraged by the enthusiasm with which younger people are taking up the opportunity to get their jab. The NHS announced that 1 million people had booked appointments through its website on Tuesday as eligibility was extended to 25- to 29-year-olds.

The next two to three weeks will be crucial for scientists on Sage to work out what the rise in hospitalizations – and potentially deaths – might look like in the months ahead.

Ferguson said: “One of the key things we want to resolve in the next few weeks is do we see an uptick in hospitalizations – we are seeing it in some areas – matching the cases, and what is the ratio between the two, because vaccination has substantially changed that.”

Evidence is firming up around the Delta variant being 60% more transmissible than the Alpha variant, with estimates ranging from 40% and 80%. The variant is somewhat resistant to vaccines, particularly after one dose.

While Ferguson believes we may see fewer deaths in the third wave compared with in January, the latest modelling does not rule out what he called a “disastrous” third wave if transmission and vaccine resistance are at the higher end of the best estimates.

The latest official data showed 7,540 new confirmed cases of the virus in England. Hospitalizations are not yet rising sharply nationwide, though they are surging in hotspot areas including Greater Manchester.

Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, said trusts in hard-hit areas were confirming that the vaccines provide good protection against the virus.

“There is a growing sense that thanks to the vaccine, the chain seen in previous waves between rising infections and high rates of hospital admissions and deaths has been broken. That feels very significant,” he wrote in a blogpost for the British Medical Journal.

But Hopson warned that the NHS was already “running hot” in many areas, and an increase in Covid admissions would set back efforts to tackle the long backlog of treatment for other health problems that has been caused by the crisis.

By:, and

Source: Sage modelling warns of risk of ‘substantial’ Covid third wave | Health policy | The Guardian

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Critics:

Recommended preventive measures include social distancing, wearing face masks in public, ventilation and air-filtering, hand washing, covering one’s mouth when sneezing or coughing, disinfecting surfaces, and monitoring and self-isolation for people exposed or symptomatic. Several vaccines have been developed and widely distributed since December 2020.

Current treatments focus on addressing symptoms, but work is underway to develop medications that inhibit the virus. Authorities worldwide have responded by implementing travel restrictions, lockdowns and quarantines, workplace hazard controls, and business closures. Numerous jurisdictions have also worked to increase testing capacity and trace contacts of the infected.

The pandemic has resulted in significant global social and economic disruption, including the largest global recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. It has led to widespread supply shortages exacerbated by panic buying, agricultural disruption, and food shortages. However, there have also been decreased emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases.

Numerous educational institutions and public areas have been partially or fully closed, and many events have been cancelled or postponed. Misinformation has circulated through social media and mass media, and political tensions have been exacerbated. The pandemic has raised issues of racial and geographic discrimination, health equity, and the balance between public health imperatives and individual rights.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in misinformation and conspiracy theories about the scale of the pandemic and the origin, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of the disease. False information, including intentional disinformation, has been spread through social media, text messaging, and mass media. Journalists have been arrested for allegedly spreading fake news about the pandemic. False information has also been propagated by celebrities, politicians, and other prominent public figures. The spread of COVID-19 misinformation by governments has also been significant.

Commercial scams have claimed to offer at-home tests, supposed preventives, and “miracle” cures. Several religious groups have claimed their faith will protect them from the virus. Without evidence, some people have claimed the virus is a bioweapon accidentally or deliberately leaked from a laboratory, a population control scheme, the result of a spy operation, or the side effect of 5G upgrades to cellular networks.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared an “infodemic” of incorrect information about the virus that poses risks to global health. While belief in conspiracy theories is not a new phenomenon, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, this can lead to adverse health effects. Cognitive biases, such as jumping to conclusions and confirmation bias, may be linked to the occurrence of conspiracy beliefs.

See also

References

Silicon Valley Tech Leaders Organize Relief For India’s Covid-19 Crisis

Virus Outbreak

As India faces a deadly second wave of Covid-19 that has killed more than 250,000 people and badly strained hospitals’ ability to house and care for the sick, a number of Silicon Valley venture capital and technology executives have rallied resources to help address the crisis.

“This is a huge crisis,” says Navin Chaddha, managing director at Mayfield venture capital, who says he has lost college friends to the virus. “As venture industry and entrepreneurs, we need to get more than money, we need to give our time.” Starting in May, Mayfield’s philanthropic offshoot raised around a million dollars and delivered 1000 oxygen concentrators to India, he says. The organization has partnered with local organizations such as Oxygen for India to ensure supplies reach places where the need is greatest.

To date, India’s health ministry has reported a total of 23 million cases with 262,317 deaths. About 4,000 deaths were reported in the past 24 hours. Hospitals are running short on basic life-saving medical devices such as oxygen cylinders and concentrators.

A new local strain, B 1.617, potentially more infectious than the original one and a lax public health response contributed to the surge, health experts say. “There were just so many political gatherings, religious gatherings, social gatherings,” Anant Bhan, a public health and bioethics researcher in Bhopal, told Forbes.

Social media is flooded with images of crematoriums overflowing with bodies of Covid-19 patients. “Many people didn’t even have money to go get the bodies, unfortunately, from the hospitals, or to get them to the cremation ground,” says Chaddha.Last month, billionaire and venture capitalist Vinod Khosla said on Twitter he would work to fund hospitals in India and solicit others in the tech industry to help.

“I will be coordinating grants and sourcing thru @GiveIndia @atulsatija. Please make your requests to them directly and please contribute to their efforts too. The needs are large,” Khosla said an April 24 tweet. In addition, the Khosla family made a combined donation of $10 million to the non-profit GiveIndia.

Salesforce, a cloud software company co-founded by Marc Benioff, sent a Boeing 787 to India earlier last month with over 2,000 oxygen concentrators and 10,000 pulse oximeters. The company plans to send another plane this month with more oxygen concentrators, says Ryan Aytay, its chief business officer. Meanwhile, Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey announced a donation of $15 million to India-based non-governmental organizations.

Even with added supplies reaching India from these and other sources, there are concerns about whether they are reaching regions where the need is the highest and whether hospitals have adequate beds for patients in dire need of oxygen. At another venture capital firm, Foundation Capital, general partner Ashu Garg started an initiative called One More Breath to address what he calls a ‘the last mile’ problem. “Airports are overflowing with oxygen concentrators. Everyone is bringing stuff in, but there is still no clarity over which hospitals need the supply,” says Garg.

His team has partnered with local humanitarian groups that are examining how to make room for new beds in existing hospitals. Garg says they will have at least 500 new beds with oxygen supply ready by the end of May. One More Breath hopes to raise $2 million to set up 1,400 beds by mid-June. (Complicating matters, a recent law passed in India limits foreign donations.) 

Much more help will likely be needed, as several Indian states suspended vaccinations for people in the 18-44 age group due to shortages. So far, less than 2% of the country’s 1.3 billion population has been fully vaccinated. “It is just heartbreaking,” says Garg.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Send me a secure tip.

I am a New York based health and science reporter and a graduate from Columbia’s School of Journalism with a master’s in science and health reporting. I write on infectious diseases, global health, gene editing tools, intersection of public health and global warming. Previously, I worked as a health reporter in Mumbai, India, with the Hindustan Times, a daily newspaper where I extensively reported on drug resistant infections such as tuberculosis, leprosy and HIV. I also reported stories on medical malpractice, latest medical innovations and public health policies.

I have a master’s in biochemistry and a bachelor’s  degree in zoology. My experience of working in a molecular and a cell biology laboratory helped me see science from researcher’s eye. In 2018 I won the EurekAlert! Fellowships for International Science Reporters. My Twitter account @aayushipratap

Source: Silicon Valley Tech Leaders Organize Relief For India’s Covid-19 Crisis

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India’s coronavirus crisis is the worst since the pandemic began, and it will probably worsen before it gets better.

Hospitals are full, oxygen supplies are dwindling, and sick people are dying as they wait to see doctors. As workers leave locked-down cities for their home villages, experts fear that the exodus could accelerate the spread of the virus in rural areas, as a similar one did last year.

Official estimates of the nationwide infection toll — well above 300,000 a day — are probably undercounted, epidemiologists say. The reported figure will mostly likely rise to 500,000 cases a day by August, they say, leaving as many as one million of India’s 1.4 billion people dead from Covid-19.

Charities, volunteers and businesses in India and beyond are trying to help the country’s Covid victims and frontline workers.

(Before giving money to an organization, make sure you feel comfortable with it. In the United States, sites like Guidestar and Charity Navigator grade nonprofits on their effectiveness and financial health.)

Here are a few ways to help.

  • United Nations agencies, including UNICEF and the World Health Organization, are delivering personal protective equipment kits, oxygen concentrators, diagnostic testing systems and other supplies to India’s frontline health care workers.

  • PATH, a global health nonprofit based in Seattle, says it has a team of more than 200 people working in India to procure oxygen supplies and accelerate Covid-19 testing and surveillance.

  • The International Medical Corps, which works in conflict areas around the world, is raising money for a campaign to help provide medical equipment, P.P.E., isolation facilities and other essential supplies in India.

  • Care India says it has supplied hospitals and frontline workers in India with more than 39,000 P.P.E. kits, along with masks and other supplies.

  • The Association for India’s Development, a Maryland-based charity that partners with nonprofits in India, says it has volunteers distributing food and protective equipment in most of India’s 29 states.

  • Project HOPE, also in Maryland, is a nonprofit providing medical training, health education and humanitarian assistance around the world. The group says it has given Covid-related assistance in 150 countries during the pandemic, including India.

  • GIVE.asia, a fund-raising platform in Singapore for causes across the Asia-Pacific region, says it is working with the Singapore Red Cross to send ventilators, oxygen concentrators and oxygen generators to India. The platform also hosts fund-raising campaigns by individuals.

  • Americares, a nongovernmental organization based in Connecticut that specializes in emergency medical response work, says it is working in several Indian states to deliver P.P.E., ventilators and other medical equipment, as well as to educate people on how to prevent the spread of the virus.

  • Vibha, an aid group in California, has partnered with the New York-based celebrity chef Vikas Khanna to raise money to buy oxygen concentrators, P.P.E. kits and other supplies. Last year, Mr. Khanna ran a relief effort for poor Indians who were suffering under coronavirus lockdowns.

  • The Indian Red Cross Society has staff and volunteers running blood drives, delivering aid and medical supplies, along with providing other essential services across the country.

  • Youth Feed India and Helping Hands Charitable Trust are delivering ration kits to vulnerable residents of Mumbai. Each kit includes staples like rice and dal, and feeds a family of four for 15 days. Donate here in a variety of ways, including through Google Pay.

  • Ketto, a fund-raising platform in Mumbai, a hot spot of the country’s latest Covid outbreak, is shepherding a campaign by hundreds of entrepreneurs to purchase 3,000 oxygen concentrators. (The organizers are tweeting live updates.)

  • OxygenForIndia delivers medical oxygen for free to patients in seven Indian cities. The group was founded by Ramanan Laxminarayan, an economist and epidemiologist who directs the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy, a research outfit based in Washington and New Delhi.

In Washington, hundreds take part in pro-Palestinian protests

Why Does India Have So Many COVID Cases?

Something has gone horribly wrong in India. Today, the country has reported 346,786 new cases of COVID-19 for the previous 24 hours, with 2,624 deaths – the world’s highest daily toll since the pandemic began last year. Overall, nearly 190,000 people have died from COVID in the country, while more than 16.6 million have been infected.

The new outbreak in India is so severe that hospitals are running out of oxygen and beds, and many people who have been taken ill are being turned away. New Zealand, Hong Kong, the UK and the US have either banned direct flights to and from India, or have advised citizens against travelling altogether; and the list may well get longer.

The UK’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, who is keen to secure a post-Brexit trade deal with the country, has been forced to cancel a planned trip to India this coming week and, instead, plans to meet with President Narendra Modi virtually. For a country where COVID numbers appeared to be dropping dramatically just a few weeks ago, what has gone so wrong in India?

The Indian variant, known as B.1.617, appears to be wreaking havoc in the country. Since April 15, India has been reporting more than 200,000 cases of coronavirus every day and its capital, Delhi, recently announced a week-long lockdown after a rise in cases there overwhelmed the healthcare system.

“If we don’t impose a lockdown now, we might face a bigger calamity,” Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said as he addressed the city on Indian television on April 19. Worryingly, bed spaces and oxygen supplies in hospitals appear to be stretched, with reports of sick patients being turned away from hospitals and social media feeds filled with distraught family members whose loved ones cannot access the healthcare they need.

On Wednesday this week, as the COVID toll was rising, Delhi’s highest court took the unusual step of publicly criticising the central government and its approach to managing the country’s oxygen crisis. The court was hearing a petition filed by Max Hospitals seeking urgent help to tide over the oxygen shortage it was facing in six of its hospitals in the capital.

“Human lives are not that important for the State it means. We are shocked and dismayed that government doesn’t seem to be mindful to the extremely urgent need of medical oxygen,” the Bench stated. “We direct Centre to provide safe passage…so that such supplies are not obstructed for any reason whatsoever,” it said. “Hell will break loose [if oxygen is not supplied].” Damning words for the government in a time of crisis.

It is not entirely clear why this surge has happened in India, but it is likely to be because of crowded events organised in the run-up to elections – President Modi himself hit the campaign trail addressing election rallies in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry on March 30 as the upturn of cases began. Large groups and social gatherings during religious festivals have also played a part, as well as the re-opening of public spaces and easing of lockdown measures which took place gradually throughout 2020 with the final “unlocking” of restrictions happening in December 2020.

There is also much concern about the emergence of new variants of the coronavirus in India. It is thought the dominant strain in the country now is the variant which was first identified in the UK, and which has shown to be up to 60 percent more transmissible between humans. On March 25, it was further announced that a new “double mutant” variant had been detected in India, now known as the “Indian variant”. This development is what has other countries spooked.

The Indian authorities do not think this new variant has yet become the dominant COVID strain in the country, but it is likely to be contributing to the increasing numbers. Genome sequencing of the new variant has shown that it has two important mutations:

1. The E484Q mutation: This is similar to the E484K mutation identified in the Brazil and South African variants, which have also been reported in recent months. The concern is that this mutation can change parts of the coronavirus spike protein. The spike protein forms part of the coronavirus outer layer and is what the virus uses to make contact with human cells.

Once contact has been made, the coronavirus then uses the spike protein to bind to the human cells, enter them and infect them. The immune response that the vaccines stimulate creates antibodies that target the spike protein of the virus specifically. Therefore, the worry is that if a mutation changes the shape of the spike protein significantly, then the antibodies may not be able to recognise and neutralise the virus effectively, even in those who have been vaccinated. Scientists are examining whether this may also be the case for the E484Q mutation.

2. The L452R mutation: This has also been found in a variant thought to be responsible for outbreaks in California. This variant is thought to increase the spike protein’s ability to bind to human host cells, thereby increasing its infectivity. A study of the mutation also suggests it may help the virus to evade the neutralising antibodies that both the vaccine and previous infection can produce, though this is still being examined.

This new wave in India has been devastating for the country. A coordinated response is needed between Indian states and central government to manage the supply of oxygen and essential drugs if the number of COVID-related deaths is to be brought under control. There is also a concern that we do not know the true number of deaths from COVID, as some people have died at home before they could get to hospital and many others in India, particularly in rural areas, have had difficulty accessing testing facilities.

Pressure urgently needs to be lifted off the healthcare system and the only way to do that is to ramp up the vaccination programme, strengthen social distancing procedures and re-introduce lockdown measures.

One of my passions as a doctor is being able to pass on my knowledge to the doctors of tomorrow. I have done it for years and am a senior lecturer at two UK universities.

A large part of the teaching I do involves getting my students to speak to and examine patients. This has been a challenge in the last 12 months as bringing patients into the surgery for them to see students has been too risky, and the patients that tended to have the illnesses the students needed to see were generally shielding to reduce the chances of them catching COVID-19.

Medical students have been lending a helping hand to COVID-ravaged hospitals all over the world, and their assistance has been welcomed by many. But we also need to prepare them for a world beyond COVID and, in the limited time we have with them, to ensure they are prepared for a wide range of medical conditions from the physical to the mental. But how can we do that if they were unable to see patients as normal?

Technology has been the answer. Our surgery, where I work as a family doctor in Bradford, northern England, is lucky enough to have a clinical skills lab that students can learn in. This is a room that has “model” body parts that the students can use for examination purposes.

Students can come into the surgery and, initially, hold telephone consultations with patients, speaking to real patients who ring in about their ailments. The students record a medical history by speaking to the patients and attempt to come up with a management plan which they then run past me or another doctor for approval.

Because the students cannot examine the patients physically, we then make a list of the examinations the students would have done and, once their clinic list is complete, move over to the clinical skills lab. I then ask them to practice the examination they would have done on the models. This might include a chest exam, a rectal or vaginal exam. The models can be adjusted so that each time the student uses them they will make a different examination finding, such as a new lump or abnormal breathing sounds. It really is quite clever.

Although it will never really replace the real thing, this method has allowed us to keep medical education going throughout the pandemic – something that has challenged medical schools the world over.

And now, some good news: Exercising can reduce the risks of COVID

A new study by Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland has shown that regular exercise can reduce the risk of getting infections like COVID-19 by up to 37 percent. The researchers conducted a full-scale systematic review of 16,698 worldwide epidemiological studies published between January 1980 and April 2020, with world-renowned immunologists and epidemiologists from University College London (UCL) in the UK and Ghent University (UGent) in Belgium, as well as exercise and sports scientists from Cádiz University in Spain and a public health consultant from NHS Lanarkshire (NHSL) in the UK.

They found that doing 30 minutes of exercise which gets you out of breath and a bit sweaty five times a week strengthens your immune response to infectious diseases. It is thought that regular exercise increases the number of immune cells in the body acting on the first line of defence – the mucosal layer of antibodies. These cells are responsible for identifying foreign agents or “germs” in the body without depressing the rest of the immune system, so it’s perfectly safe and protects you against infectious disease.

We have known for some time about the benefits exercise can have for a person’s overall physical and mental health. Now, in the time of COVID, it has been shown to help boost your immune system too. So the message is clear; get outdoors and exercise if you can or to the gym if it is in keeping with your local COVID guidelines. If neither is possible, your kitchen or living room is a perfectly good place to do 30 minutes of dancing, jumping or whatever floats your boat!

Reader’s question: Is it safe to go to my hospital appointment during a pandemic?

Over the past 12 months, people have repeatedly been told that the safest place for them is home and that hospitals are busy dealing with COVID-19 patients. While that is true, it is also important to remember that other illnesses have not gone away.

I have found that many of my patients are not attending their appointments for other conditions because they are worried about catching COVID or think their illness is not as important as coronavirus. Hospitals and GP surgeries all over the world have gone out of their way to make large parts of their buildings COVID-free. This means that they can be used for non-COVID-related services and staff working there will not be crossing over to cover COVID wards or clinics. So, if you receive an appointment to attend a clinic or hospital service, it is really important that you do go.

Source: Why does India have so many COVID cases? | Coronavirus pandemic News | Al Jazeera

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Related Links:

#COVIDSOS: Indian Twitter becomes a platform of hope amid despair

COVID vaccine at $5 for Indian states, $8 for private hospitals

World’s highest daily rise in COVID cases in India, record deaths

India COVID surge drives oil prices down for second straight day

Final Results In Remdesivir Trial Confirm It Shortens Length Of Covid-19 Cases, But Has Small Impact On Death

Topline

A long-awaited study of Gilead Sciences’ experimental antiviral remdesivir published Thursday in the New England Journal Of Medicine shows that patients with Covid-19 who took the drug recovered from the disease faster compared to patients who took a placebo.

Key Facts

The trial, which was led by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), was double-blinded and involved more than 1,000 Covid-19 patients from around the world.

The trial  found that hospitalized patients who took remdesivir recovered from the disease in 10 days on average, five days faster than those taking a placebo.

The greatest benefit occurred when remdesivir was given to patients early in their illness who were hospitalized and receiving supplemental  oxygen but not yet on a ventilator.

The researchers also say that the data suggests that remdesivir may prevent patients from getting more severely ill and needing more oxygen or ventilation.

While the study itself didn’t find a statistically significant reduction in death for patients taking remdesivir, a later analysis suggested a small benefit, finding that 11.4% of patients who took remdesivir died by day 29, compared to 15.2% of patients that took the placebo.

Key Background

While there is no drug approved yet to treat Covid-19, remdesivir has been a frontrunner for months. In May, after preliminary study results showed that it helped patients recover from Covid-19 four days faster than a placebo, the FDA issued an Emergency Use Authorization for remdesivir (brand name Veklury) to be used in hospitalized patients with severe Covid-19. In August the agency expanded the recommendation and said that remdesivir could be used for any patients hospitalized with Covid-19, no matter the severity of their symptoms. Last week, President Trump’s doctors announced that the president received infusions of remdesivir after his diagnosis of Covid-19. There is currently a global shortage of the drug, and Gilead has announced plans to manufacture 2 million treatment courses of the drug by December. 

Quote

“For patients who are hospitalized with Covid-19, the importance of speeding up recovery by five to seven days cannot be underestimated,” wrote Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day in an open letter published Thursday. “This represents a significant benefit in a disease where every day counts.”

Chief Critic

Overall, the final report does not change the preliminary conclusions,” wrote Joshua Niforatos, an emergency room physician at Johns Hopkins Hospital. “Based on the research to-date, for critically ill covid-19 patients, remdesivir is unlikely to change survival or the need for mechanical ventilation. The only drug to-date that has shown to improve mortality remains dexamethasone, a generic and inexpensive drug.”

What’s Next

Gilead will likely use the results of this study to apply for official FDA approval of remdesivir, which has never been approved by the agency before. If the FDA accepts the company’s application, it would be the first approval of a drug specifically to treat Covid-19.

Full coverage and live updates on the Coronavirus / Follow me on Twitter. Send me a secure tip

Leah Rosenbaum

Leah Rosenbaum

I am the assistant editor of healthcare and science at Forbes. I graduated from UC Berkeley with a Master’s of Journalism and a Master’s of Public Health, with a specialty in infectious disease. Before that, I was at Johns Hopkins University where I double-majored in writing and public health. I’ve written articles for STAT, Vice, Science News, HealthNewsReview and other publications. At Forbes, I cover all aspects of health, from disease outbreaks to biotech startups.

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We regret that the WHO prematurely posted information regarding the study, which has since been removed. The investigators in this study did not provide permission for publication of results,” a Gilead spokesperson said in a statement to CNBC. “Furthermore, we believe the post included inappropriate characterizations of the study. Importantly, because this study was terminated early due to low enrollment, it was underpowered to enable statistically meaningful conclusions,” according to Gilead. “As such, the study results are inconclusive, though trends in the data suggest a potential benefit for remdesivir, particularly among patients treated early in disease.” For more coronavirus live updates: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/23/coron… For access to live and exclusive video from CNBC subscribe to CNBC PRO: https://cnb.cx/2JdMwO7 » Subscribe to CNBC TV: https://cnb.cx/SubscribeCNBCtelevision » Subscribe to CNBC: https://cnb.cx/SubscribeCNBC » Subscribe to CNBC Classic: https://cnb.cx/SubscribeCNBCclassic Turn to CNBC TV for the latest stock market news and analysis. From market futures to live price updates CNBC is the leader in business news worldwide. Connect with CNBC News Online Get the latest news: http://www.cnbc.com/ Follow CNBC on LinkedIn: https://cnb.cx/LinkedInCNBC Follow CNBC News on Facebook: https://cnb.cx/LikeCNBC Follow CNBC News on Twitter: https://cnb.cx/FollowCNBC Follow CNBC News on Instagram: https://cnb.cx/InstagramCNBC

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