COVID-19's impact on food supplies
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Researchers from the University of Kentucky are joining the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to lead a national study of COVID-19’s impact on local food supplies. Colorado State University and Penn State University are also working on the $1 million research project. Sixteen trade associations from around the country, representing various sectors of the food industry, are also participating.
COVID-19 and the nationwide lockdowns it caused have really thrown the food industry for a loop. Closing schools, universities, and restaurants caused a dramatic drop in demand, while grocery stores and farmer’s markets saw huge spikes in demand for meat, milk, and other necessities (don’t get us started on toilet paper).
By studying the problem, researchers hope to learn about successful adaptations and foster collaboration across sectors. Information from the study will guide the USDA and provide webinars, fact sheets, and case studies to help farmers and others in the food supply chain prepare for future response programs.
“We want to understand how local food systems are being impacted,” said Lilian Brislen, a researcher with the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. "If we’re talking about food hubs that supply local food to institutional dining or niche meat processors, what kinds of impacts are those businesses experiencing and how are they adapting and innovating?”
Eli Lilly launches phase 3 trial of arthritis drug to combat COVID-19
Eli Lilly has announced that it’s proceeding with a phase 3 clinical trial of a rheumatoid arthritis drug as a possible treatment for those hospitalized with COVID-19. The hope is that the drug—Olumiant (baricitinib)—can suppress a life-threatening and extreme immune system response to the disease in severely ill patients. In addition, Lilly thinks the drug may keep host cells from producing copies of the virus.
The study is being conducted across the US, including in Indiana (10 to 20 participants), as well as in countries in Latin America and Europe—a total of 400 adult patients, some of whom will receive the drug and some, a placebo. The drug is already approved, lessening safety concerns.
President of Lilly Bio-Medicines Patrik Jonsson said the study is a critical first step. “Baricitinib wouldn’t be the final response. We need to have antibodies that can attack the virus. We need a vaccine that can prevent the virus. But until we have those, we need something that can reduce the mortality rate.”
Lilly and the Community Health Network said they hope to have preliminary results from this clinical trial in just a few months.
UC to host Phase 3 clinical trial
The University of Cincinnati and UC Health will host a Phase 3 clinical trial to evaluate the effectiveness of a vaccine for COVID-19.
UC will administer the vaccine candidate mRNA-1273 to volunteer participants in order to study the immune response that provides protection from the virus.
The mRNA-1273 vaccine was developed by NIAID scientists and collaborators at Moderna, a biotechnology company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Previous studies have shown that mRNA-1273 elicits an immune response similar to individuals who have recovered from COVID-19.
Carl Fichtenbaum, MD, professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Internal Medicine at UC and co-investigator of the study, said, “UC was chosen because we have a proven track record of high-quality research and are the number one site in the NIAID-funded, AIDS Clinical Trials Group in the U.S. We are proud to bring leading-edge research to Cincinnati so that we can help our community battle the COVID-19 pandemic and be part of the solution.”
MSD and UofL testing Louisville wastewater
Researchers at UofL are working with MSD to determine if areas of COVID-19 infection can be tracked by testing wastewater.
As part of Phase II of the Co-Immunity Project, MSD is providing samples from eight sites in its vast network of pipes and five treatment facilities, which will be sent weekly to UofL and research collaborators at Arizona State University (ASU) for virus analysis.
To support this work and other aspects of the Co-Immunity Project, a groundbreaking collaboration to track and curb COVID-19, UofL has received a new $1 million gift from the Owsley Brown II Family Foundation.
“The challenges of this pandemic have made the need to learn how to make decisions through all forms of health all too clear, and I'm so proud the team here is at the national forefront of the response. The Co-Immunity Project, especially now with this singular partnership with MSD, puts Louisville and Kentucky at the cutting edge nationally in terms of virus monitoring,” said Christina Lee Brown of the UofL Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute.
VR arcade and pub launches in KC despite pandemic
This might not seem like the best time to open a gaming lounge, but Kansas City’s DoubleTapKC, a virtual reality arcade and pub, has opened this month. Co-founder Terry Keith is betting that people will be ready to get out and socialize in a safe, entertaining environment.
“Safe” is the operative word here, and DoubleTap has gone to great lengths to ensure that “COVID-wary” customers will feel comfortable there. The club occupies a 5,000-square-foot space, with seven widely spaced gaming lanes. It also has single-player lanes and a party room, separated by curtains, as well as a bar and lounge seating. Face coverings are available to go under the VR headsets, which are sanitized before and after every use.
The lounge features local beers and spirits. In fact, DoubleTap is next door to partner Strange Days Brewing Co (there’s an apt name). Keith is all-in with supporting KC businesses. “I’m born and raised in Kansas City and I just have a love for this city and I want to support as many local businesses as possible—because a lot of these people are going to support me as well.”
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