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The Wonders of mRNA Vaccines, Which are Leading the Coronavirus Counterattack

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Dr. Mike Varshavski


Hailed for ushering in a “new era of vaccinology” long before the coronavirus resulted in a worldwide pandemic, messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines were rolled out by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna in December 2020 to combat COVID-19. And indeed, they are among the safest vaccines ever developed, as they trigger an immune response by teaching our cells to produce a protein, or even a piece of one, that will in turn generate antibodies. That contrasts with previous vaccines, which involved placing a weakened or inactive germ in our bodies — and which might have given potential recipients pause, particularly in the case of the coronavirus.

There is plenty of fearmongering to be found online, but as I tell my patients (and as I indicated by receiving the vaccine myself), there is no danger of contracting the virus by being inoculated. Any claims to the contrary are simply erroneous.

There have also been concerns about side effects, but Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told MSNBC that symptoms normally amount to feeling “a little achy, a little chilly.” And that is merely an indication, he added, that “the immune system is really getting revved up.”

Ellen Foxman, an immunologist at the Yale School of Medicine, told the Washington Post much the same thing: “Things like fever or soreness at the injection site are normal, and actually, they indicate that your body is reacting to the vaccine, which is what you want. That’s a good thing.”

Again: Block out the noise. Listen to the facts. It’s proven effective. And these side effects are not only minimal, but they’re also usually normal.

The Power Behind mRNA Vaccines

To reiterate, mRNA — which Moderna has described as “the software of life” — is the genetic material that compels cells to build proteins. In the case of these vaccines, the mRNA from the coronavirus (SARS-COV-2, as it is called) is injected into a subject. Their cells respond by reconstructing a small, noninfectious part of the virus, which in turn sparks the immune system to produce antibodies that will counteract any incursions by the actual virus.

Barney Graham, deputy director of the NIAID’s Vaccine Research Center, and Jason McLellan, a structural biologist at the University of Texas, began developing a vaccine on January 11, the day after Chinese scientists posted the coronavirus’ genome on a public website. Graham and McLellan built on the research of two University of Pennsylvania scientists, Katalin Kariko and Drew Weissman, as well as their own. Graham and McLellan had previously made promising strides toward developing a vaccine for Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and while that project fell short of completion, they recognized the similarities between that virus and COVID-19.

Their findings became the basis of all that has occurred since. Moderna launched Phase I trials in April, while Pfizer/BioNTech began Phase I-II trials in May. By late July, both companies took it one step further. And by November, Graham received word that the Pfizer vaccine was showing promise beyond anyone’s expectations.

“I just let it all go,” he told the Washington Post. “I was sobbing, I guess, is the term.”

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, declared by its developers to be 95% effective, was granted emergency-use authorization on December 11. The Moderna vaccine, found to be 94.1% effective, received the same clearance exactly one week later. By early February 2021, some 39 million Americans — i.e., 9.1% of the population — had been vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and some 1.4 million shots were being administered every day.

In addition, vaccines developed by Novavax and Johnson & Johnson were nearing authorization. The first of those was found to be 89% effective, the second 66%, but the advantage of the latter was that it involved receiving just a single dose of the vaccine; all the others require two shots.

The Future of These Vaccines

There are concerns going forward, not the least of which is how effective the vaccines will be against variants that have emerged in Great Britain, Brazil and South Africa. The World Health Organization has declared that inoculation is a deterrent for those new strains, and while there were reports that the vaccines were less effective against the variants, Fauci said in January that it is “not something that we don’t think we can handle.”

“Bottom line: We’re paying very close attention to it,” he told reporters. “There are alternative plans if we ever have to modify the vaccine.”

And indeed, that is another great feature of vaccines involving mRNA — the fact that there are “plug-and-play” options available, where scientists can replace an existing mRNA sequence with a new one, in order to counter variants. Going forward, that could conceivably result in the development of vaccines for malaria and herpes. In addition, there is some indication that Bill and Melinda Gates might use mRNA in the fight against HIV and sickle-cell disease in Africa, where those diseases are prevalent.

But for now, the focus is on COVID-19, as indeed it must be. Clearly these vaccines, unlike any that preceded them, are the best alternative for ending the pandemic and restoring life as we know it. While it is certainly possible that some tweaks will be needed down the line, these shots have opened new doors, and provided mankind with its most promising path.

Dr. Mike Varshavski

Dr. Mike Varshavski is an actively practicing Board Certified Family Medicine doctor and a widely recognized influencer who spotlights the value of preventive medicine and healthy lifestyle choices to over 15+ million followers on his social media platforms and YouTube channel. Having established himself as a trusted source of information, Doctor Mike Varshavski has made appearances and consulted on CNN, ABC and Fox News, while also interviewing such notable healthcare professionals as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), and Dr. David Feinberg, the head of Google Health.

Politics

Fintech Kennek raises $12.5M seed round to digitize lending

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Google eyed for $2 billion Anthropic deal after major Amazon play


London-based fintech startup Kennek has raised $12.5 million in seed funding to expand its lending operating system.

According to an Oct. 10 tech.eu report, the round was led by HV Capital and included participation from Dutch Founders Fund, AlbionVC, FFVC, Plug & Play Ventures, and Syndicate One. Kennek offers software-as-a-service tools to help non-bank lenders streamline their operations using open banking, open finance, and payments.

The platform aims to automate time-consuming manual tasks and consolidate fragmented data to simplify lending. Xavier De Pauw, founder of Kennek said:

“Until kennek, lenders had to devote countless hours to menial operational tasks and deal with jumbled and hard-coded data – which makes every other part of lending a headache. As former lenders ourselves, we lived and breathed these frustrations, and built kennek to make them a thing of the past.”

The company said the latest funding round was oversubscribed and closed quickly despite the challenging fundraising environment. The new capital will be used to expand Kennek’s engineering team and strengthen its market position in the UK while exploring expansion into other European markets. Barbod Namini, Partner at lead investor HV Capital, commented on the investment:

“Kennek has developed an ambitious and genuinely unique proposition which we think can be the foundation of the entire alternative lending space. […] It is a complicated market and a solution that brings together all information and stakeholders onto a single platform is highly compelling for both lenders & the ecosystem as a whole.”

The fintech lending space has grown rapidly in recent years, but many lenders still rely on legacy systems and manual processes that limit efficiency and scalability. Kennek aims to leverage open banking and data integration to provide lenders with a more streamlined, automated lending experience.

The seed funding will allow the London-based startup to continue developing its platform and expanding its team to meet demand from non-bank lenders looking to digitize operations. Kennek’s focus on the UK and Europe also comes amid rising adoption of open banking and open finance in the regions.

Featured Image Credit: Photo from Kennek.io; Thank you!

Radek Zielinski

Radek Zielinski is an experienced technology and financial journalist with a passion for cybersecurity and futurology.

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Fortune 500’s race for generative AI breakthroughs

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Deanna Ritchie


As excitement around generative AI grows, Fortune 500 companies, including Goldman Sachs, are carefully examining the possible applications of this technology. A recent survey of U.S. executives indicated that 60% believe generative AI will substantially impact their businesses in the long term. However, they anticipate a one to two-year timeframe before implementing their initial solutions. This optimism stems from the potential of generative AI to revolutionize various aspects of businesses, from enhancing customer experiences to optimizing internal processes. In the short term, companies will likely focus on pilot projects and experimentation, gradually integrating generative AI into their operations as they witness its positive influence on efficiency and profitability.

Goldman Sachs’ Cautious Approach to Implementing Generative AI

In a recent interview, Goldman Sachs CIO Marco Argenti revealed that the firm has not yet implemented any generative AI use cases. Instead, the company focuses on experimentation and setting high standards before adopting the technology. Argenti recognized the desire for outcomes in areas like developer and operational efficiency but emphasized ensuring precision before putting experimental AI use cases into production.

According to Argenti, striking the right balance between driving innovation and maintaining accuracy is crucial for successfully integrating generative AI within the firm. Goldman Sachs intends to continue exploring this emerging technology’s potential benefits and applications while diligently assessing risks to ensure it meets the company’s stringent quality standards.

One possible application for Goldman Sachs is in software development, where the company has observed a 20-40% productivity increase during its trials. The goal is for 1,000 developers to utilize generative AI tools by year’s end. However, Argenti emphasized that a well-defined expectation of return on investment is necessary before fully integrating generative AI into production.

To achieve this, the company plans to implement a systematic and strategic approach to adopting generative AI, ensuring that it complements and enhances the skills of its developers. Additionally, Goldman Sachs intends to evaluate the long-term impact of generative AI on their software development processes and the overall quality of the applications being developed.

Goldman Sachs’ approach to AI implementation goes beyond merely executing models. The firm has created a platform encompassing technical, legal, and compliance assessments to filter out improper content and keep track of all interactions. This comprehensive system ensures seamless integration of artificial intelligence in operations while adhering to regulatory standards and maintaining client confidentiality. Moreover, the platform continuously improves and adapts its algorithms, allowing Goldman Sachs to stay at the forefront of technology and offer its clients the most efficient and secure services.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Google DeepMind; Pexels; Thank you!

Deanna Ritchie

Managing Editor at ReadWrite

Deanna is the Managing Editor at ReadWrite. Previously she worked as the Editor in Chief for Startup Grind and has over 20+ years of experience in content management and content development.

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UK seizes web3 opportunity simplifying crypto regulations

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Deanna Ritchie


As Web3 companies increasingly consider leaving the United States due to regulatory ambiguity, the United Kingdom must simplify its cryptocurrency regulations to attract these businesses. The conservative think tank Policy Exchange recently released a report detailing ten suggestions for improving Web3 regulation in the country. Among the recommendations are reducing liability for token holders in decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) and encouraging the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to adopt alternative Know Your Customer (KYC) methodologies, such as digital identities and blockchain analytics tools. These suggestions aim to position the UK as a hub for Web3 innovation and attract blockchain-based businesses looking for a more conducive regulatory environment.

Streamlining Cryptocurrency Regulations for Innovation

To make it easier for emerging Web3 companies to navigate existing legal frameworks and contribute to the UK’s digital economy growth, the government must streamline cryptocurrency regulations and adopt forward-looking approaches. By making the regulatory landscape clear and straightforward, the UK can create an environment that fosters innovation, growth, and competitiveness in the global fintech industry.

The Policy Exchange report also recommends not weakening self-hosted wallets or treating proof-of-stake (PoS) services as financial services. This approach aims to protect the fundamental principles of decentralization and user autonomy while strongly emphasizing security and regulatory compliance. By doing so, the UK can nurture an environment that encourages innovation and the continued growth of blockchain technology.

Despite recent strict measures by UK authorities, such as His Majesty’s Treasury and the FCA, toward the digital assets sector, the proposed changes in the Policy Exchange report strive to make the UK a more attractive location for Web3 enterprises. By adopting these suggestions, the UK can demonstrate its commitment to fostering innovation in the rapidly evolving blockchain and cryptocurrency industries while ensuring a robust and transparent regulatory environment.

The ongoing uncertainty surrounding cryptocurrency regulations in various countries has prompted Web3 companies to explore alternative jurisdictions with more precise legal frameworks. As the United States grapples with regulatory ambiguity, the United Kingdom can position itself as a hub for Web3 innovation by simplifying and streamlining its cryptocurrency regulations.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Jonathan Borba; Pexels; Thank you!

Deanna Ritchie

Managing Editor at ReadWrite

Deanna is the Managing Editor at ReadWrite. Previously she worked as the Editor in Chief for Startup Grind and has over 20+ years of experience in content management and content development.

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