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 In 2013, the American virologist Ralph Baric approached Zhengli Shi at a meeting. Baric was a top expert in coronaviruses, with hundreds of papers to his credit, and Shi, along with her team at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, had been discovering them by the fistful in bat caves. In one sample of bat guano, Shi had detected the genome of a new virus, called SHC014, that was one of the two closest relatives to the original SARS virus, but her team had not been able to culture it in the lab.

Baric had developed a way around that problem—a technique for “reverse genetics” in coronaviruses. Not only did it allow him to bring an actual virus to life from its genetic code, but he could mix and match parts of multiple viruses. He wanted to take the “spike” gene from SHC014 and move it into a genetic copy of the SARS virus he already had in his lab. The spike molecule is what lets a coronavirus open a cell and get inside it. The resulting chimera would demonstrate whether the spike of SHC014 would attach to human cells.

If it could, then it could help him with his long-term project of developing universal drugs and vaccines against the full spectrum of SARS-like viruses that he increasingly considered sources of potential pandemics. A SARS vaccine had been developed, but it wasn’t expected to be very effective against related coronaviruses, just as flu shots rarely work against new strains. To develop a universal vaccine that will elicit an antibody response against a gamut of SARS-like viruses, you need to show the immune system a cocktail of spikes. SHC014 could be one of them.

If you study a hundred different bat viruses, your luck may run out.

-Ralph Baric, University of North Carolina

Baric asked Shi if he could have the genetic data for SHC014. “She was gracious enough to send us those sequences almost immediately,” he says. His team introduced the virus modified with that code into mice equipped with the human receptor for such viruses and into a petri dish of human airway cells. Sure enough, the chimera exhibited “robust replication” in the human cells—evidence that nature was full of coronaviruses ready to leap directly to people.

While Baric’s study was in progress, the National Institutes of Health announced that it would temporarily halt funding for “gain of function” research—experiments that make already dangerous viruses more virulent or transmissible—on SARS, MERS (which is also caused by a coronavirus), and influenza until the safety of such research could be assessed. The announcement brought Baric’s work to a standstill.

Baric was a legend in the field, but no matter how many safety precautions are taken, there is always a chance that a never-before-seen virus can escape and trigger an outbreak. Baric felt that the extreme measures he took in the lab minimized the risk, and in fact made his work categorically different from the high-risk influenza work the NIH had been targeting. He also felt that his research was urgent: new cases of MERS, spread by camels, were even then popping up in the Middle East. Eventually the NIH agreed, waving him forward.

His 2015 paper, “A SARS-like cluster of circulating bat coronaviruses shows potential for human emergence,” was a tour de force, utilizing bleeding-edge genetic technology to alert the civilized world to a looming danger on its periphery. It also revived concerns about gain-of-function experiments, which Baric had known it would. In the paper, he spelled out the extra precautions he’d taken and held up the research as a test case. “The potential to prepare for and mitigate future outbreaks must be weighed against the risk of creating more dangerous pathogens,” he wrote. “Scientific review panels may deem similar studies building chimeric viruses based on circulating strains too risky to pursue.”

The NIH decided the risk was worth it. In a potentially fateful decision, it funded work similar to Baric’s at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which soon used its own reverse-genetics technology to make numerous coronavirus chimeras.

Unnoticed by most, however, was a key difference that significantly shifted the risk calculation. The Chinese work was carried out at biosafety level 2 (BSL-2), a much lower tier than Baric’s BSL-3+.

What caused the covid-19 pandemic remains uncertain, and Shi says her lab never encountered the SARS-CoV-2 virus before the Wuhan outbreak. But now that US officials have said the possibility of a lab accident needs to be investigated, the spotlight has fallen on American funding of the Wuhan lab’s less safe research. Todaya chorus of scientists, including Baric, are coming forward to say this was a misstep. Even if there is no link to covid-19, allowing work on potentially dangerous bat viruses at BSL-2 is “an actual scandal,” says Michael Lin, a bioengineer at Stanford University. 

The simmering concern that the US

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By: Rowan Jacobsen
Title: Inside the risky bat-virus engineering that links America to Wuhan
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2021/06/29/1027290/gain-of-function-risky-bat-virus-engineering-links-america-to-wuhan/
Published Date: Tue, 29 Jun 2021 09:00:00 +0000

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LATAM crypto exchange Bitso and FMF launch NFT of Mexico’s National Team jerseys

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Bitso, a leading cryptocurrency platform operating in Latin America, and the Mexican Football Federation (FMF), today announced the joint launch of the first collectible NFT of the Mexico National Team’s jerseys that was acquired in cryptocurrencies.

This morning through their social media platforms, the FMF and Bitso announced the opportunity to acquire the new official National Team fan jerseys ahead of the team’s participation in the 2022 World Cup. In just 20 minutes, the entire collection sold out.

bitsonftjeysey
The NFTs of the jerseys have an exclusive design for the metaverse – each is unique on the blockchain and can be resold by its owner in subsequent transactions.

The collection consisted of 100 official physical jerseys, each with a corresponding NFT version of the jersey that fans’ avatars can wear within the Decentraland metaverse. Each physical and NFT jersey set sold for the equivalent of $1,800 MXN in ethers.

“Our mission is to make cryptocurrency useful in the everyday life of Mexicans; we are committed to spreading the technology through innovative opportunities that help people throughout the country familiarize themselves with this new world. We are very excited to offer the incredible, historic opportunity for the fans of our National Team so that through their Bitso account, they can wear the colors of the National Team on and ‘off’ the field in the metaverse.”
– Bárbara González Briseño, General Director of Bitso México

Jersey NFTs

Created by Bitso, the virtual jersey sports the official colors of Mexico and the new National Team shield, characteristics that will make it stand out when users wear it in the virtual world of Decentraland.

The post LATAM crypto exchange Bitso and FMF launch NFT of Mexico’s National Team jerseys appeared first on CryptoNinjas.

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By: CryptoNinjas.net
Title: LATAM crypto exchange Bitso and FMF launch NFT of Mexico’s National Team jerseys
Sourced From: www.cryptoninjas.net/2022/07/29/latam-crypto-exchange-bitso-and-fmf-launch-nft-of-mexicos-national-team-jerseys/
Published Date: Fri, 29 Jul 2022 15:19:02 +0000

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Long-running crypto exchange EXMO unveils “lively” rebrand amidst growth

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EXMO, a crypto exchange platform operating since 2014, announced this week a rebranded visual identity with includes a new logo, brand colors, and design features. This new branding comes as EXMO continues to grow its crypto platform while also seeking to expand its presence in other jurisdictions.

Some new developments underway at EXMO:

Soon, users will be able to earn passive income from EXMO’s new staking platform.Plans to launch an EXMO crypto debit card.Expansion of its services in international markets with the opening of offices in Poland and Lithuania.

EXMO’s new logo

The rationale for the re-brand:

“At EXMO, we have a vision of a world where crypto is in every wallet. Hassle-free. We want to achieve this by making crypto as simple and accessible to everyone as possible. And we know that you already appreciate EXMO for offering user-friendly services and helpful support. Also for the opportunity to trade anywhere and anytime, closing deals in just a few taps. Such important changes required a rethinking of our corporate style, which has long needed a massive upgrade. So today we are introducing a new brand identity for EXMO with a completely new visual concept. We are launching a new logo, brand colors, and design elements. Our key design principles are simplicity, boldness, and a pinch of fun. But most importantly, we have changed our logo. Simple and easily recognizable, it represents the humanity of our brand. The logo stands out due to the wavy letter ‘m’ which symbolizes exchange rate charts and also resembles a spring that will launch you into the crypto world.”
– The EXMO Team regarding the re-branding

The post Long-running crypto exchange EXMO unveils “lively” rebrand amidst growth appeared first on CryptoNinjas.

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By: CryptoNinjas.net
Title: Long-running crypto exchange EXMO unveils “lively” rebrand amidst growth
Sourced From: www.cryptoninjas.net/2022/07/26/long-running-crypto-exchange-exmo-unveils-lively-rebrand-amidst-growth/
Published Date: Tue, 26 Jul 2022 08:10:38 +0000

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Stitching together the grid will save lives as extreme weather worsens

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The blistering heat waves that set temperature records across much of the US in recent days have strained electricity systems, threatening to knock out power in vulnerable regions of the country. 

The electricity has largely stayed online so far this summer, but there have been scattered problems and close calls already. 

Heavy use of energy-sucking air-conditioners is the biggest problem. But intense heat can also reduce the output of power plants, blow transformers, and force power lines to sag. Severe droughts across large parts of the country have also significantly reduced the availability of hydroelectric power, according to the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC). 

It’s unlikely to get better soon. A number of grid operators may struggle to meet peak summer demand, creating the risk of rolling blackouts, the NERC report notes.

The nation’s isolated and antiquated grids are in desperate need of upgrades to keep the lights, heat, and air-conditioning on in the midst of extreme weather events that climate change is making more common, severe, and dangerous. One clear way to ease many of these issues is to more tightly integrate the country’s regional grids, stitching them together with more long-range transmission lines. 

If electricity generated in one area can be more easily shared across much wider regions, power can simply flow to where it’s needed at those moments when customers crank up air-conditioners en masse, or when power plants or fuel supply lines fail amid soaring temperatures, wildfires, hurricanes, or other events, says Liza Reed, a research manager focused on transmission at the Niskanen Center, a Washington, DC, think tank.  

The problem is it’s proved difficult to build more long-range transmission and grid interconnections for a variety of reasons, including the permitting challenges of erecting wires through private and public lands across cities, counties, and states and the reluctance of local authorities to forfeit control or submit to greater federal oversight.

The case of Texas

The unreliability of the US grid is not a new problem. Severe heat and winter storms have repeatedly exposed the frailty of electricity systems in recent years, leaving thousands to millions of people without power as temperatures spiked or plunged.

One of the fundamental challenges is that the grids today are highly fragmented. There are three main electricity networks within the US: the Eastern Grid, the Western Grid, and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). But there are numerous regional transmission organizations within those first two systems, including the California Independent System Operator, Southwest Power Pool, PJM Interconnection, New York ISO, and more. 

These grids form a complex web of networks operating under different regulators, rules and market structures, and often with limited connections between them.

Map USA grid
A variety of regional transmission organizations oversee different parts of the nation’s aging and fragmented grids, which operate under different rules and with often limited connections between them.
legend

ERCOT is especially isolated, in part because of the desire among local politicians, citizens, and power companies to avoid added competition, the hassle of following other states’ rules, and oversight from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). But the state offers a case study in why that can be a serious problem amid increasingly harsh climate conditions, Reed says.

The Texas grid operator pleaded with customers several times earlier this month to cut electricity use as blistering summer temperatures created  demand surges that threatened to outstrip supply and require rolling blackouts.  Low wind conditions, cloud cover, and outages at fossil-fuel power plants added to the strains.

Shutting off the electricity needed to run air-conditioning in triple-digit temperatures

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By: James Temple
Title: Stitching together the grid will save lives as extreme weather worsens
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2022/07/28/1056483/stitching-together-the-grid-will-save-lives-as-extreme-weather-worsens/
Published Date: Thu, 28 Jul 2022 08:00:00 +0000

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