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B.C. particle accelerator scores triumph with deal to produce 'rarest drug on earth' –



A team at the Canada’s particle accelerator facility at the University of British Columbia is celebrating a major triumph, inking a deal to produce a rare cancer drug that previously relied on nuclear waste.

The TRIUMF project has formed a partnership with Ontario-based Fusion Pharmaceuticals to upgrade its facility to produce actinium-225, nicknamed “the rarest drug on Earth.”

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That rare radioisotope started making headlines about five years ago when four treatments of it were administered to a German man who was just weeks from death, and suffering from multiple cancerous tumours.

Eight months later, the tumours had disappeared.

“We’re seeing cancer basically be eliminated in some cases, so those are very early results but very exciting ones,” TRIUMF Innovations CEO Kathryn Hayashi told Global News, of the isotope’s potential.

But actinium-225 is very rare. Until now, the global supply of the material has come from U.S. radioactive waste.

In 2015, Paul Schaffer, one of TRIUMF’s associate lab directors, realized the institution was producing significant amounts of actinium-225 through the regular use of its high-energy cyclotron facility for research.

“The cyclotron speeds up protons to three-quarters of the speed of light using electromagnets. So it basically shoots it down a beam line and hits a beamline,” explained Hayashi.

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“It basically blasts it apart and creates hundreds of different isotopes, and one of them is actinium-225.”

Hayashi says the facility theoretically has the capacity to scale up to produce thousands of doses of the drug.

That’s particularly exciting, because actinium has in early research been shown to be effective at killing cancer cells, while leaving healthy parts of the human body unaffected.

“It’s very hard to develop resistance with actinium,” explained Dr. Francis Bernard, vice president of research at BC Cancer.

“So we anticipate that this will be an effective third fourth line treatment, in addition to the other treatments available.”

The first step for TRIUMF will be to develop a supply chain.

Step two will involve rolling out clinical trials in British Columbia, potentially within the next 18 months.

“It’s sort of like sending a man to the moon or a woman to the moon,” said Bernard.

“You know how to get there, you just need to develop resources.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Pool closures a bitter pill for people with disabilities –



Mary Jane Clinkard suffers from a neuromuscular disability that requires her to exercise to maintain her strength, but with municipal pools under lockdown since Boxing Day, she hasn’t been able to do that.

Now her muscles feel weak, stiff and painful, and her independence is in jeopardy. The 50-year-old fears she’ll need a personal support worker to get in and out of her wheelchair if she can’t get back into the water soon.

Clinkard, who has hypotonia, told CBC’s Ottawa Morning it’s especially disheartening when she hears others talking about the activities they’re able to do during the lockdown.

“I get really, really frustrated when I hear, ‘We all go skating or go skiing,’ and I’m like, ‘Well, I can’t do either of those,'” Clinkard said.

Once the pools reopened in July, it took Clinkard months of swimming three times a week to get back into shape. Then Ontario entered another lockdown.

The Sandy Hill woman would like to see swimming pools deemed essential, and said she’s not the only one who depends on them for her health.

“There are other people who cannot walk, who cannot ski, cannot skate,” she said.

Mary Jane Clinkard, 50, suffers from hypotonia, and says she’s not the only one who depends on swimming to stay healthy. (Submitted by Mary Jane Clinkard)

No exemptions

According to Dan Chenier, the city’s general manager of recreation, cultural and facility services, the provincial restrictions currently in place don’t allow exemptions for people wishing to use indoor municipal facilities for physical therapy or rehabilitation.

“Provincial authorities have been made aware of the request for an exemption for […] these services and the City will be monitoring the revised regulations for any changes,” Chenier said in an emailed statement. 

When am I going to be back in the water? When am I going to be able to swim again?– Mary Jane Clinkard

According to the office of Sylvia Jones, Ontario’s solicitor general, the second wave of COVID-19 poses a serious threat to the province’s most vulnerable. 

“The single most important thing Ontarians can do right now to protect our most vulnerable is to stay at home,” wrote Stephen Warner, Jones’s press secretary and issues manager. “As we continue our vaccine rollout, this is our best defense against this virus.”

According to Warner, municipalities don’t have the power to ease restrictions put in place under the province’s lockdown. 

Restrictions ‘frustrating and difficult’

Under the stay-at-home order, only “exercising, including walking or moving around outdoors using an assistive mobility device, or using an outdoor recreational amenity” are allowed. 

Coun. Matt Luloff, who represents Orléans and sits on the city’s community and protective services committee, called that lack of flexibility “frustrating and difficult.”

Ottawa Morning8:34Pool use for disabled people during lockdown

An Ottawa woman is hoping the province will reconsider its decision to close pools during lockdown so disabled people can use pools to maintain their muscle strength. Councillor Matthew Luloff weighs in on the province’s decision to close pools and whether any exceptions can be made. 8:34

On Monday, Luloff told Ottawa Morning if exemptions can be made for NHL players, then people who rely on certain facilities for their health and well-being should be granted similar leeway.

“We can say to one group of people that it’s fine to … bubble and to provide entertainment for us,” he told Ottawa Morning on Monday. “But when there’s a real need, a real physical [or] mental health need, that’s just not as important as getting to see the Sens play.”

“Maybe if the city doesn’t feel comfortable opening people pools for everybody, they can open one pool for people who really need it,” Clinkard suggested. “When am I going to be back in the water? When am I going to be able to swim again?”

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Report says Ontario planning to open hospital dedicated to COVID-19 patients – Newstalk 610 CKTB (iHeartRadio)



Ontario is preparing to open its first hospital dedicated to treating COVID-19 patients. 

The Globe and Mail is reporting that Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital will open next month as COVID-19 infections continue to surge in the province. 

This hospital was scheduled to open as part of the Mackenzie Health Network and would be the first brand new hospital in the province in three decades.

With hospitals stretched to the limit, the province reportedly asked Mackenzie health about using the site for COVID-19 patients.

An unnamed official tells the Globe the hospital will initially be staffed by existing Mackenzie workers, with a plan to hire more as capacity increases.

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Crucial NASA Moon Megarocket Test Shuts Down Earlier Than Planned – Forbes



NASA is trying to puzzle out why the engines shut down only one minute into an eight-minute crucial rocket test on Saturday (Jan. 16), ahead of a planned test launch to the moon in November or so.

The agency was wrapping up a lengthy and complicated set of tests on the Space Launch System rocket, with this “hot fire” test being the last of eight. Some of the previous tests have been delayed due to weather or technical issues, putting schedule pressure on the agency as it seeks to send the rocket from its testing grounds in Mississippi to its launching zone at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“The team successfully completed the countdown and ignited the engines, but the engines shut down a little more than one minute into the hot fire,” NASA said in a statement. “Teams are assessing the data to determine what caused the early shutdown, and will determine a path forward.”

The workers are doing their best to meet their deadlines and NASA hasn’t officially moved the test launch yet, so there is still hope they will get everything done safely and on time. The agency is also adept at adaptations when the situation calls for it. That said, NASA needs to certify the SLS not only for a test mission, but also for a human mission in 2023 to circle the moon. And the milestones will need to check off in good time to reach the moon’s surface with astronauts in 2024, as NASA hopes to do.

Figuring out what happened will take a little time, as the teams will be inspecting the core stage of the rocket that underwent the test, the associated equipment, and the data generated; the data will still be useful for mission work even though the run didn’t quite complete, NASA said.

“We will learn from today’s early shutdown, identify any corrections if needed, and move forward,” Rick Gilbrech, Stennis Center director, said in the same NASA statement.

The hot fire test took place just days before another big change is coming to NASA, which is the arrival of the Joe Biden administration in office Wednesday (Jan. 20) and international interest in the first 100 days of his mandate. With the new administration will eventually come a new NASA administrator (replacing the current administrator, Jim Bridenstine) and likely a new mandate for the agency (as most presidents like to put their stamp on space), although it may be longer than 100 days before these are announced.

It’s unclear, given the current economic environment induced by the pandemic, how much money the new administration will allocate for moon missions and whether they will continue to shoot for 2024 to land — or to wait a few years. But NASA did sign several memoranda of agreement for the Artemis moon program with other nations, providing more fuel to keep the program going due to international participation and commitment.

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