CDC funds work on rapid tests for avian flu

first_imgDec 4, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has awarded four contracts worth $11.4 million in an effort to develop a 30-minute test for H5N1 avian influenza.The CDC said it awarded the funds to spur development of tests that doctors and field epidemiologists could use to test patients for both H5N1 and other flu viruses. Currently, testing for H5N1 in the United States must be done in 1 of about 100 designated laboratories and takes from 4 to 24 hours, depending on shipping time, the CDC said.Last month the World Health Organization (WHO) listed a rapid diagnostic test as one of the top priorities in avian and pandemic flu research. The CDC said it hopes a rapid test can be ready and licensed within 2 to 3 years.”The creation of a point-of-care test to rapidly detect human cases of H5N1 avian influenza would be a major step forward in our ability to protect public health,” Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said in a news release.The four companies, their tests, and the contract amounts are as follows:Cepheid, Sunnyvale, Calif.—GeneXPert Flu assay, $2.4 millionIquum, Marlborough, Mass.—LIAT, Lab-in-a-Tube, $3.8 millionMesoScale, Gaithersburg, Md.—Multi-Array Detection, $706,241Nanogen, San Diego—a novel point-of-care immunoassay system, $4.5 millionOver the next year, the companies will work to develop tests that can detect flu viruses and distinguish seasonal strains from H5N1 within 30 minutes, the CDC said. Existing rapid tests can tell only if a patient has a seasonal influenza A or B virus.CDC spokeswoman Christine Pearson told CIDRAP News the contracts are intended to fund the first two of five development phases.The goal for the first two phases is to produce a prototype test that can be evaluated by the CDC, said Dr. Ruben Donis, chief of the molecular virology and vaccines branch in the CDC’s influenza division. He said the agency will fund further development only if the prototype has “acceptable performance characteristics.”In a news release, Nanogen said that if the CDC funds all five development phases, the company would receive a total of about $12.5 million over the next 2 to 3 years.The four companies were chosen from 13 applicants, the CDC said. Selection criteria included the technical specifications of the test, experience in developing diagnostic tools, staff expertise, and access to labs with sufficient security to handle H5N1 viruses.The agency also promised to provide funds for a repository of influenza reagents and other materials to help in development of the tests.See also:Dec 4 CDC news releasehttp://www.cdc.gov/media/pressrel/r061204.htmlast_img read more

Pension funds, SRI advocates clash on UK plans for investment regulations

first_imgThe Law Commission said trustees investing under fiduciary duty could take into account non-financial concerns as long as they had good reason to believe their scheme members shared their view, and the decision did not represent a significant financial risk.The government then consulted on amending regulations regarding the clarification of ‘environmental, social or ethical considerations’ to ensure they distinguished between financial and non-financial factors.It also questioned whether trustees should be required to state their policies on stewardship.It its response, the NAPF said it did not see any additional benefit to clarifying fiduciary duty further or imposing an explicit duty to consider specific factors.Will Pomroy, the NAPF’s policy lead on stewardship, said: “Such an approach would be very difficult to appropriately draft. “It would struggle to keep pace with emerging best practice and investment trends and, indeed, impinge upon the flexibility that is currently so beneficial.“Instead, we support efforts to catalyse further discussion at trustee board level about a scheme’s investment approach.”However, UKSIF said the complexity of long-term, financially material factors such as ESG was the biggest threat to pension investors.Its members demanded that the Law Commission’s findings be embedded into regulation.Simon Howard, chief executive, said: “This must not result in box-ticking exercises. We require trustees to formulate meaningful policies on their investment strategy and approach to stewardship that enables them to take considered decisions relating to their investment portfolios.”ShareAction, in its response, agreed with the NAPF that “codification” of the term fiduciary duty would be impractical, but it also argued that a non-binding clarification within the regulations would be reasonable.“[The regulations] should include a provision clarifying that trustees may have regard to a wide range of factors, including ESG and non-financial considerations, when exercising their discretion on investment and stewardship decisions,” the group said.The NAPF also said a fund’s approach should be included alongside its disclosures on how it considers financial and non-financial matters, rather than a comply-or-explain policy on trustees regarding stewardship.It warned of the risk creating a “tick-box” exercise over meaningful engagement by asset owners.ShareAction agreed and said a comply-or-explain approach would fail to encourage trustees to take stewardship seriously.The group added that, if the government wished to encourage stewardship, it should reference the NAPF’s own “Principles for Stewardship Best Practice” over the “Stewardship Code”. The National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF) has advised the UK government against further prescribing the meaning of the term ‘fiduciary duty’ in regulation, as sustainable investment and stewardship industry groups call for stricter wording.Responding to a Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) consultation on changes to investment regulations for pension schemes, the NAPF said further government clarification, whilst maintaining the required flexibility, would be difficult to draft.However, socially responsible investment advocates ShareAction and UKSIF called for additional work to ensure trustees account for sustainability factors when selecting investments.The NAPF’s response came after the DWP considered the clarifications made by the UK Law Commission on fiduciary duty to alleviate concerns it was too focused on short-term financial reward.last_img read more

Human brain’s ‘bat sight’ found

first_img Share Tweet 24 Views   no discussions Share Sharing is caring!center_img Bats use sound to huntThe part of the brain used by people who can “see like a bat” has been identified by researchers in Canada.Some blind people have learned to echolocate by making clicking noises and listening to the returning echoes.A study of two such people, published in PLoS ONE, showed a part of the brain usually associated with sight was activated when listening to echoes.Action for Blind People said further research could improve the way the technique is taught.Bats and dolphins bounce sound waves off their surroundings and by listening to the echoes can “see” the world around them.Some blind humans have also trained themselves to do this, allowing them to explore cities, cycle and play sports.Brain scanResearchers looked at two patients who use echolocation every day. EB, aged 43, was blinded at age 13 months. LB, 27, had been blind since age 14.They were recorded echolocating, while microphones were attached to their ears.The recordings were then played while their brain activity was being recorded in an fMRI machine.Increased activity in the calcarine cortex was discovered.Dr Lore Thaler, from University of Western Ontario, said: “This suggests that visual brain areas play an important role for echolocation in blind people.”The study looked at only two people so cannot say for certain what happens in the brains of all people who learn the technique, but the study concludes: “EB and LB use echolocation in a way that seems uncannily similar to vision.”Susie Roberts, rehabilitation officer at Action for Blind People, said: “This research into brain activity and echolocation is very interesting and improves our understanding of how some visually impaired people may be processing information to help them navigate safely.“Further investigation may help to improve the way the technique is taught to people in the future, potentially improving their mobility and independence.”BBC News Share HealthLifestyle Human brain’s ‘bat sight’ found by: – May 26, 2011last_img read more