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Canada's hunt for a vaccine set back months after China refuses to ship samples for clinical trials – Toronto Star

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Back in May, Dr. Scott Halperin was feeling optimistic about Canada’s first set of clinical trials for a potential coronavirus vaccine.

Today, Halperin is disappointed and frustrated, as China’s reluctance to approve the shipment of the candidate vaccine to Canada has set the search for a usable vaccine in this country back months.

The trials had been set to take place at the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology (CCfV) at Dalhousie University in Halifax, where Halperin is the director. The candidate vaccine could have been the first available for use in Canada, and one of the first few available worldwide.

The company Halperin had been collaborating with, CanSino Biologics, Inc., based in Tianjin, China, had already begun clinical trials on the candidate vaccine, with promising results, shortening the trial process for CCfV. When the trials were announced in May, messages came flooding in to the centre from people across Canada eager to volunteer as subjects.

With all Health Canada approvals in place, CCfV only needed samples to begin its work.

But at a time of strained diplomatic relations between Canada and China, the latter has thus far withheld approval for CanSino to ship those samples. And with vaccine research moving at a breakneck pace, the National Research Council (NRC) — which had a partnership with CanSino to develop the vaccine — has decided to cut bait and move on to more likely candidates.

That means the availability of a first coronavirus vaccine has been delayed by several months, Halperin said Thursday.

“That’s frustrating, obviously, because we were doing the study for a purpose, which was to accelerate the availability of a vaccine in Canada,” said Halperin. “(The) CanSino vaccine is one of the ones that’s further along in terms of its readiness, so it would have been one of the first vaccines that could have been available for use in Canada.”

Now, said Halperin, the time has passed where that clinical study would be relevant. Even if the samples were shipped tomorrow, other trials in other countries will provide the needed data before CCfV would be able to finish its studies.

What has also been lost is a chance for the Canadian government to get an inside track on production of one of the earliest coronavirus vaccines.

“The study was being done for two reasons,” said Halperin. “One was to provide some additional information that would inform the Phase 3 studies. The second reason was in order to provide data, which would allow NRC to begin manufacturing of the vaccine if it turned out to be safe and effective — manufacturing the vaccine in Canada for Canadian use.”

But, he said, given that there’s no timeline for when, if ever, Chinese officials will allow CanSino to ship vaccine candidates to Canada, NRC had to re-prioritize — dedicating its manufacturing capacities to more promising vaccine candidates from other manufacturers.

“NRC has moved on. So that study won’t go forward,” said Halperin.

For its part, NRC appears puzzled at the Chinese change of heart. In a statement, the NRC said that when the agreement for vaccine testing and production was first reached with CanSino, the Chinese company had it reviewed by its collaborators in the Chinese government — the Beijing Institute of Technology and the Ministry of Science and Technology — before signing.

“Subsequent to signing, the Government of China introduced process changes regarding shipping vaccines to other countries. The process is not clear to the NRC, but CanSino does not have the authority to ship the vaccine at this time,” said NRC in the statement.

The NRC will now turn its primary focus to working with two other promising vaccine candidates. One, VBI Vaccines, is based in Massachusetts, with research operations in Ottawa. The other is based in the University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre.

Canada-China relations have been severely strained after China imprisoned two Canadian men, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, in apparent retaliation for the RCMP arresting Chinese tech executive Meng Wanzhou on an American extradition warrant in December 2018.

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To Laszlo Radvanyi, the president and scientific director of the publicly funded Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, warned about tensions last month.

“This should have been flagged as an obstacle when contemplating doing this program. We’re not on the best of terms with the Chinese government,” said Radvanyi.

At the time, Radvanyi had signed a letter health-care professionals wrote to Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains, urging him to consider funding — to the tune of $35 million — vaccine development by Providence Therapeutics of Toronto. Radvanyi has collaborated with Providence on vaccine treatments for cancer.

But Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne downplayed suggestions the vaccine partnership failed because of ongoing political tensions between the two countries.

“I don’t necessarily think so,” Champagne told reporters Thursday. “I can only speak for the Canadian side. I would not necessarily link whether that particular opportunity is linked to anything else.”

At the CCfV, meanwhile, much of the work done for its cancelled clinical trial has gone to waste — trials have to be constructed and approved specifically for each vaccine candidate.

There are more vaccine candidates in the pipeline that are being studied, said Halperin, and any one of them could be part of the coronavirus solution.

“It’s disappointing, but it’s not catastrophic,” he said. “We never put all our eggs in one basket because, we as a centre, also know that we need multiple vaccines. We want to work with as many companies as possible, because we know there needs to be multiple solutions.

“So it’s not a catastrophic, but that’s not to say it’s not frustrating, that we’re losing access to one of the earlier potentially earlier effective vaccines.”

With files from The Canadian Press

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The 6 Big Takeaways From Tesla’s Battery Day – CleanTechnica

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September 23rd, 2020 by  


By Roger Pressman, Founder of EVANNEX

The overall content of the Tesla Battery Day presentation might have been overwhelming for those who do not have a technical background in battery development. The level of abstraction that Elon Musk and Drew Baglino presented relative to Tesla’s battery tech was surprisingly low, even though I’m sure they thought their presentation was just an overview.

Elon Musk talks batteries (Source: Tesla)

Given that, it might be a good idea to “pull the lens back” just a bit and discuss the major takeaways:

1. The holy grail of battery tech — a cost of less than $100 per kWh — will be achieved and production-ready in less three years. That means a significant reduction in vehicle cost and the real likelihood that a mass-market, $25,000 Tesla will be available in three years.

2. The technical breakthroughs and improvements presented during the battery day presentation mean that a transition away from fossil fuels for most, if not all, energy needs is no longer a pipe dream. If Tesla can achieve (and it’s likely that it will) a 3 TWh battery production capability within the next decade, the entire face of the energy and power delivery system will be transformed.

3. The new paradigm that Tesla uses for building the “machine that builds the machine” is groundbreaking, representing substantial improvement that will increase production capacity and lower production costs. Tesla used vertical integration, avoids sub-optimization, and makes the entire production process more efficient. This paradigm will bode well for Tesla’s ability to produce cars and trucks in great volume. The capital investment (CapEx) in production facilities will be less costly than originally assumed, making the company more profitable.

4. Tesla is building an increasingly bigger “moat” that will enable it to keep even the most able competitors at bay. Batteries are the pivotal element for long range, high performance and low cost EVs. From what we’ve seen, there’s no other company that’s even close to the battery tech that was previewed during Battery Day.

5. Tesla and Musk care more about the stuff that really matters — the underlying tech infrastructure for building EVs — than they do about the “bling” of new vehicle designs every years. It’s the tech infrastructure that really matters for long-term success.

6. Tesla is not resting on its laurels. It appears that they’re working to jettison existing methods and approaches to EV design and production, replacing them with new and better ideas.

And finally … it’s hard to imagine any other CEO at a major auto company that can drive technical effort in the manner that Elon Musk has accomplished to date. Much like SpaceX, this rate of progress could accelerate in the coming years. As Musk says, Tesla is a “hardcore engineering” company … and it shows in their relentless pursuit of improvement.


Highlights Video

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Model S Plaid

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Featured image: Elon Musk at Tesla Battery Day Annual Shareholder Meeting, via Tesla.

 
 


 


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About the Author

is all about Tesla. He’s a TSLA investor, pre-ordered the Model 3, and loves driving the family’s Model S and Model X company cars. As co-founder of EVANNEX, a family business specializing in aftermarket Tesla accessories, he’s served as a contributor/editor of Electric Vehicle University (EVU) and the Owning Model S and Getting Ready for Model 3 books. He writes daily about Tesla and you can follow his work on the EVANNEX blog.



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Kitchener drive-thru COVID-19 testing site to reopen by appointment only on Thursday – CTV Toronto

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KITCHENER —
Kitchener’s drive-thru COVID-19 testing site will reopen on Thursday, but people will need to book an appointment to get a test.

Anyone who needs a test should go online, pick a time slot and register with their name and health card.

The site was closed down early on Wednesday morning after staff reportedly faced verbal abuse and threats of violence.

A spokesperson for Grand River Hospital, which runs the site, said that the issue was compounded by traffic issues along the streets around the testing site.

Long wait times and lineups have created tension around COVID-19 testing as more people look to get tested amid fears of a second wave.

Some people arrived at the drive-thru site as early as 2 a.m. in order to secure a place there. Dozens of cars lined up Wednesday morning, and the line’s capacity was full by 7 a.m. Staff don’t start testing until 15 minutes after then.

By around 8:30 a.m., the site had closed for the day. Waterloo regional police posted about the closure on Twitter, asking for people to be patient and avoid the area.

Police said there were no arrests, but they did assist with setting up barricades.

Thirty minutes later, the hospital tweeted about the closure as well, citing “safety concerns.”

Everyone signing up for a COVID-19 test starting Thursday will need to fill out a separate pre-registration form, the Grand River Hospital said in a tweet. Only people who have pre-registered will be able to get a test.

Those who were still in line would still be tested, Grand River Hospital said. By 11 a.m., the site, normally backed up for hours at a time, was completely empty.

The difficulties of getting tested are not unique to Waterloo Region, as thousands of people face the same hurdles daily around Ontario. The calls for more accessible testing has led Premier Doug Ford to partner with pharmacies in order to allow more people to get tested.

On Wednesday, Ford announced that 60 pharmacies would be offering testing soon. None of them are in Waterloo Region.

The tests will be by appointment only for people without symptoms.

St. Mary’s General Hospital said Wednesday that people should only self-refer to the assessment centre if they have COVID-19 symptoms or if they’ve been directed to get a test because they’re a high-risk contact of someone else with the disease.

They said people can also come if they’ve been referred by a medical health professional to meet a ministry guideline, like visiting a long-term care home or having a medical procedure done.

Lee Fairclough, head of the region’s COVID-19 assessment centres and president of St. Mary’s General Hospital, said she’d like to see pharmacies doing tests at local pharmacies.

“We will certainly be open to how we do that within our region,” she said.

Fairclough said the region is also seeking out new locations for additional testing sites, but the main priority is to beef up the existing sites.

“The decision we are making right now is to move nurses, move physicians from other clinical services and practices, to do this testing,” she said. “That’s probably the biggest thing we are sorting through.”

The walk-in centres are busy, but sites offering appointments are also swamped.

“The numbers have gone through the roof,” said Dr. Joseph Lee from KW4 COVID Assessment Centre.

The clinic’s next available appointment isn’t until early October. Lee said he’s proposing turning his other two walk-in clinics into COVID-19 assessment centres as well.

Cambridge Memorial Hospital’s COVID-19 assessment launched a new phone number on Wednesday to help manage calls for appointments. The new number is 519.740.4975, but the centre said it’s best to reach through email at cmhcovidtesting@cmh.org.

Anyone calling can register for a booked appointment when arriving at the centre, schedule an appointment and cancel an appointment.

The centre said it’s prioritizing people with symptoms and anyone who’s been instructed to get a test by a public health official.

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Shopify says it notified privacy commissioner of breach involving 'rogue' staff – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
Shopify Inc. says it has notified Canada’s privacy commissioner about a recent data breach it says was carried out by two “rogue” employees.

“In accordance with Canadian law, we promptly notified all affected merchants,” a spokeswoman for the company wrote in an email.

“We have subsequently provided information regarding the incident to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.”

Earlier Wednesday, the commissioner’s office said it hadn’t yet received a report about the breach.

“Our office is reaching out to Shopify, given the potential seriousness of the breach, to request more information about the matter,” Vito Pilieci, a senior communications adviser wrote in an email.

Under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, it is mandatory for companies to report breaches to the privacy commissioner’s office, “where it is reasonable to believe that the breach creates a real risk of significant harm to an individual,” Pilieci said.

Shopify spokeswoman Rebecca Feigelsohn said the two employees involved in the breach were fired.

On Tuesday, the Ottawa-based company first revealed on an online discussion board that it had identified two workers involved in illegitimately obtaining records connected to some of its merchants.

“We immediately terminated these individuals’ access to our Shopify network and referred the incident to law enforcement. We are currently working with the FBI and other international agencies in their investigation of these criminal acts,” the company said.

“While we do not have evidence of the data being utilized, we are in the early stages of the investigation and will be updating affected merchants as relevant.”

The customer data the employees were accessing was linked to fewer than 200 merchants, who Shopify has declined to identify but says have been notified.

The improperly accessed data includes basic contact information such as emails, names and addresses, as well as order details, such as what products and services were purchased.

Shopify said complete payment card numbers and other sensitive personal or financial information were not part of the breach and it has yet to find evidence that any of the data was used.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published September 23, 2020.

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