Kansas scientist develops COVID-19 vaccine candidate
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A scientist at Kansas State University has created an innovative vaccine candidate for the prevention of COVID-19. Dr. Waithaka Mwangi, professor of diagnostic pathobiology in the university’s college of veterinary medicine, will continue his research, which has been optioned by the university to Tonix Pharmaceuticals.
Dr. Mwangi’s vaccine is based on a bovine parainfluenza virus. It has been extensively tested in primates and shown to be well tolerated and stable in infants and children. The vaccine tricks the most critical protein of coronaviruses—called the spike protein—into mimicking the actual virus, thus blocking the spike protein from infecting host cells. Critically, the vaccine is not injected but rather sprayed into the nose to trigger immune protection at the point of virus entry.
Due to the urgent nature of the pandemic, all parties hustled to bring the power of a major pharmaceutical company to bear in getting the vaccine to market. The K-State Innovation Partners research foundation facilitated the agreement with Tonix.
Join Hive Networks’ mission-driven all-star team
Why is it then that healthcare is one of the only sectors that doesn’t use some sort of social network to help patients with chronic conditions share data, analytics, and ways of making small incremental improvements in their daily lives?
That was the question successful Cincinnati entrepreneur John Bostick, and CincyTech Executive in Residence asked himself. And that’s how Hive Networks came to be. “Hive Networks is on a mission. To help people get better faster. Very simple.” Bostick said.
The platform leverages data from all sources about a patient and supports a continuous learning process where patients and their families, clinicians and their teams, researchers and their staffs all contribute to the best health outcome for the patient.
According to Scott Roth, CTO of Hive Networks, it “has the potential to rapidly and organically grow into one of the largest healthcare software platforms in the world.”
The company is carefully looking for some 'A players' to add to its team. Bostick said, “We want players who are used to working with other top performers with minimal direction. Players who are truly committed to our mission.”
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University of Cincinnati researcher says face mask sanitizing could be flawed
A shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) has led to various ways to sanitize disposable surgical face masks and N95 respirators. But a recent study by University of Cincinnati researcher Sergey Grinshpun, PhD, suggests that the most common methods—sanitizing by autoclave or alcohol treatment—could compromise the performance of the masks.
Grinshpun said that other options, such as using ultraviolet light for sanitizing masks, might be a better way to go. But for now, his study focused on the most readily available solutions.
"We anticipated that UV-based and probably other techniques may be almost as efficient as autoclaving and ethanol treatment in inactivating pathogens but at the same time would not damage the fibers ... so that the particle collection efficiency will not suffer. Similar studies can and should be conducted with alternative decontamination methods."
EdTech startup sees major growth during the pandemic
A Nashville EdTech startup is generating four times more revenuethan last year. Possip (“positive gossip”) is a platform that facilitates real-time communication between parents and their kids’ schools via texts and emails and surveys. The goal is to ensure that schools receive feedback that allows them to respond to parent and student concerns and needs.
The company has been experiencing steady growth since it launched in 2017, and in December, it raised more than $1 million in seed funding. But since COVID-19 arrived, Possip has been on a huge upswing. As of last month, its client base had grown from 100 to 300 schools. On the parent side, the numbers have grown from 50,000 in January to the current 150,000.
In response to the challenges of distance learning, Possip has bolstered its mission to help parents and educators maintain a positive school culture. Its free School Closures Survival Guide offers a ton of practical advice on teaching, communicating, parenting, and leading through the pandemic.
Grocery delivery via robot
People who live in a certain area of Ann Arbor can start having their groceries delivered via robot. Refraction AI, which makes the three-wheeled autonomous REV-1 delivery vehicle, is expanding into grocery delivery.
The REV-1 robot, which hit the streets of Ann Arbor in December 2019, has been delivering meals from partnering restaurants. With COVID-19 and the increased need for contactless delivery, the REV-1 will start delivering groceries to homes within a three-mile radius of Produce Station.
“Our expansion into grocery delivery was a no-brainer during this time when the need for contactless delivery is so strong,” said Matthew Johnson-Roberson, co-founder and CEO of Refraction AI in a statement. “We’re really happy to provide a safer solution for grocery shopping, especially for the at-risk members of our community. Through this partnership with Produce Station, we’ll be gathering insight and data to further expand our grocery delivery model.”
KC video production company goes virtual
Stellar Image Studios (SIS), a KC-based video production company run by sisters Jasmine and Amber Baudler, has taken a nimble approach to dealing with the business impact of the pandemic. To keep the company afloat, they identified several services they can still offer, despite COVID-19 restrictions, including livestreaming events, prerecording interviews, creating motion graphics and animation, and utilizing archived footage.
To support the services, the company invested in premium video streaming software—which paid off even more when they had to turn an in-person show into a livestream. The show, Onstage with SIS, premiered on YouTube and Facebook Live and showcased emerging local musicians. They prerecorded the performances (safely) in their own studio and then played them as a live production.
SIS credits community support with helping them keep the business running. They also received a Paycheck Protection Program loan administered by AltCap—which then hired SIS to profile all the small businesses that received the grant.
Ohio State University launched two surveys in April, one for students and one for faculty and staff, with the goal of collecting stories about life in the COVID-19 era. The students were asked to describe things like the transition to online learning and the impact of the pandemic on their extracurricular activities.
Faculty and staff were asked about making the switch to working remotely and teaching online. The surveys closed on June 1 and garnered roughly 1,400 responses altogether. The compiled anecdotes will be preserved in the university archives.
Students at several other Ohio schools have been chronicling their pandemic experiences as well. At Miami University, students produced a 42-minute documentary called Generation COVID: Coming of Age While Six Feet Apart, viewable on Vimeo.
And at Muskingum University, students created a 64-page PDF titled The Quarantine Diaries: A Muskie View on COVID-19. Nerissa Smith, a Muskie Press editor, said, “Our publication isn’t people looking back on it a year later and telling us what they did. It’s happening now, it’s their thoughts right here in the moment.”
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