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Service outages, compromised security possible unless government takes common-sense approach to Huawei – BT CEO – RT

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Rushing to exclude Chinese telecom giant Huawei from the UK market may have serious consequences, including a failure to keep British networks safe, the head of telecommunications company BT has warned.

Downing Street is to announce on Tuesday whether it would reverse January’s decision to allow Huawei to provide equipment for developing 5G in Britain. London is under serious pressure from Washington to push the Chinese giant out of Britain over security concerns.

A rushed decision regarding Huawei may be disruptive for Britain, BT CEO Philip Jansen warned on Monday. Rather than keep the networks safe, it could compromise their security.

“We need to make sure that any change of direction does not lead to more risk in the short term,” he told BBC Radio 4.




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UK telecom firms warn rushing to phase out Huawei 5G gear will take years & cost billions



For example, if all transactions with the Chinese company are forbidden, British operators currently using its equipment will not be able to keep the firmware up to date. In a best-case scenario, it would take five years to replace Huawei components in British networks, and, in that time, some 15 to 20 big software upgrades are likely to be released by the company, Jansen said.

“If we get to a situation where things need to go very, very fast, then, … potentially, service for 24 million BT Group mobile customers is put into question, [resulting in] outages,” he added.

Washington accuses Huawei of serving as an agent of the Chinese government and collecting intelligence through the equipment it sells. The company says it has been smeared, because the US has failed to catch up with Chinese vendors in developing 5G solutions and is brandishing the national security cudgel to undermine competition.

Jansen said BT was in talks with the British government to explain the potential ramifications of the decisions it may soon take, and hoped “common sense would prevail” in the end “and we will head the right direction here”.

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Obesity Epidemic Threatens Effectiveness of Any COVID-19 Vaccine – Medscape

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Editor’s note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

For a world crippled by the coronavirus, salvation hinges on a vaccine.

But in the United States, where at least 4.6 million people have been infected and nearly 155,000 have died, the promise of that vaccine is hampered by a vexing epidemic that long preceded COVID-19: obesity.

Scientists know that vaccines engineered to protect the public from influenza, hepatitis B, tetanus and rabies can be less effective in obese adults than in the general population, leaving them more vulnerable to infection and illness. There is little reason to believe, obesity researchers say, that COVID-19 vaccines will be any different.

“Will we have a COVID vaccine next year tailored to the obese? No way,” said Raz Shaikh, an associate professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

“Will it still work in the obese? Our prediction is no.”

More than 107 million American adults are obese, and their ability to return safely to work, care for their families and resume daily life could be curtailed if the coronavirus vaccine delivers weak immunity for them.

In March, still early in the global pandemic, a little-noticed study from China found that heavier Chinese patients afflicted with COVID-19 were more likely to die than leaner ones, suggesting a perilous future awaited the U.S., whose population is among the heaviest in the world.

And then that future arrived.

As intensive care units in New York, New Jersey and elsewhere filled with patients, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that obese people with a body mass index of 40 or more — known as morbid obesity or about 100 pounds overweight — were among the groups at highest risk of becoming severely ill with COVID-19. About 9% of American adults are in that category.

As weeks passed and a clearer picture of who was being hospitalized came into focus, federal health officials expanded their warning to include people with a body mass index of 30 or more. That vastly expanded the ranks of those considered vulnerable to the most severe cases of infection, to 42.4% of American adults.

Obesity has long been known to be a significant risk factor for death from cardiovascular disease and cancer. But scientists in the emerging field of immunometabolism are finding obesity also interferes with the body’s immune response, putting obese people at greater risk of infection from pathogens such as influenza and the novel coronavirus. In the case of influenza, obesity has emerged as a factor making it more difficult to vaccinate adults against infection. The question is whether that will hold true for COVID-19.

A healthy immune system turns inflammation on and off as needed, calling on white blood cells and sending out proteins to fight infection. Vaccines harness that inflammatory response. But blood tests show that obese people and people with related metabolic risk factors such as high blood pressure and elevated blood sugar levels experience a state of chronic mild inflammation; the inflammation turns on and stays on.

Adipose tissue — or fat — in the belly, the liver and other organs is not inert; it contains specialized cells that send out molecules, like the hormone leptin, that scientists suspect induces this chronic state of inflammation. While the exact biological mechanisms are still being investigated, chronic inflammation seems to interfere with the immune response to vaccines, possibly subjecting obese people to preventable illnesses even after vaccination.

An effective vaccine fuels a controlled burn inside the body, searing into cellular memory a mock invasion that never truly happened.

Evidence that obese people have a blunted response to common vaccines was first observed in 1985 when obese hospital employees who received the hepatitis B vaccine showed a significant decline in protection 11 months later that was not observed in non-obese employees. The finding was replicated in a follow-up study that used longer needles to ensure the vaccine was injected into muscle and not fat.

Researchers found similar problems with the hepatitis A vaccine, and other studies have found significant declines in the antibody protection induced by tetanus and rabies vaccines in obese people.

“Obesity is a serious global problem, and the suboptimal vaccine-induced immune responses observed in the obese population cannot be ignored,” pleaded researchers from the Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group in a 2015 study published in the journal Vaccine.

Vaccines also are known to be less effective in older adults, which is why those 65 and older receive a supercharged annual influenza vaccine that contains far more flu virus antigens to help juice up their immune response.

By contrast, the diminished protection of the obese population — both adults and children — has been largely ignored.

“I’m not entirely sure why vaccine efficacy in this population hasn’t been more well reported,” said Catherine Andersen, an assistant professor of biology at Fairfield University who studies obesity and metabolic diseases. “It’s a missed opportunity for greater public health intervention.”

In 2017, scientists at UNC-Chapel Hill provided a critical clue about the limitations of the influenza vaccine. In a paper published in the International Journal of Obesity, they showed for the first time that vaccinated obese adults were twice as likely as adults of a healthy weight to develop influenza or flu-like illness.

Curiously, they found that adults with obesity did produce a protective level of antibodies to the influenza vaccine, but they still responded poorly.

“That was the mystery,” said Chad Petit, an influenza virologist at the University of Alabama.

One hypothesis, Petit said, is that obesity may trigger a metabolic dysregulation of T cells, white blood cells critical to the immune response. “It’s not insurmountable,” said Petit, who is researching COVID-19 in obese patients. “We can design better vaccines that might overcome this discrepancy.”

Historically, people with high BMIs often have been excluded from drug trials because they frequently have related chronic conditions that might mask the results. The clinical trials underway to test the safety and efficacy of a coronavirus vaccine do not have a BMI exclusion and will include people with obesity, said Dr. Larry Corey, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, who is overseeing the phase 3 trials sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.

Although trial coordinators are not specifically focused on obesity as a potential complication, Corey said, participants’ BMI will be documented and results evaluated.

Dr. Timothy Garvey, an endocrinologist and director of diabetes research at the University of Alabama, was among those who stressed that, despite the lingering questions, it is still safer for obese people to get vaccinated than not.

“The influenza vaccine still works in patients with obesity, but just not as well,” Garvey said. “We still want them to get vaccinated.”

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Canadian company urges human trials after COVID-19 vaccine results in mice – CityNews Toronto

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OTTAWA — A Canadian company is telling the government today that its trials of a potential COVID-19 vaccine on animals completely blocked the virus, but it must conduct human trials to know whether it has found a possible cure for the pandemic.

And a leading health-care expert says the findings are promising even though they haven’t been peer-reviewed.

Providence Therapeutics says it needs federal funding to move forward, but it has not heard back from the Trudeau government since May, the month after submitting a $35-million proposal to conduct first-stage human trials.

Providence has told the government it could deliver five million doses of its new vaccine by mid-2021 for use in Canada if it were able to successfully complete human testing, but it has heard nothing.

Eric Marcusson, the San Francisco-based co-founder of Providence and its chief science officer, says the company has concluded testing on mice that showed its vaccine was able to block the entry of the novel coronavirus into their cells.

Successful tests in animals can provide proof of the concept behind a potential new medicine or vaccine before trials in ever-larger groups of human subjects determine how well the drug works in the body and whether it has harmful side-effects.

Trials in humans are expensive and usually time-consuming.

Mario Ostrowski, the University of Toronto professor of medicine and immunology whose laboratory performed the animal trials, said he supports the results and says they are on par with tests of vaccine candidates from the American pharmaceutical firm Moderna and Germany’s BioNTech.

All three companies use the same new mRNA vaccine technology and last week, Moderna began a 30,000-person human trial after receiving hundreds of millions of dollars from the U.S. government.

The U.S. has also committed to pay Germany’s BioNTech and its American partner Pfizer $1.95 billion to produce 100 million doses if their vaccine candidate proves safe and effective in humans.

The mRNA vaccine technology involves using a key fragment of genetic material instead of working with an inactive sample of live virus.

“We have been testing the prototype vaccine in animal studies,” Ostrowski told The Canadian Press. “When we give the vaccine to mice, it is safe and makes a very strong immune response and very potent antibodies.”

Ostrowski said that the strength of the antibodies found in the mice appeared to neutralize the virus better than other similar vaccine candidates have at the same testing stage.

“Another point is that the Providence vaccine is very similar to the Moderna vaccine in the U.S. and the German (BioNTech) vaccines, both showing excellent results,” added Ostrowski, who practices at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.

Brad Wouters, the executive vice-president of the Toronto-based University Health Network, said he has seen the new Providence data and it looks promising, but it needs to be peer-reviewed.

“The fact that the vaccine has created neutralizing antibodies means that the mouse immune system is reacting to the vaccine and producing antibodies that block the ability of the virus to infect cells,” Wouters said in an emailed response to questions.

“This suggests the results are better than even they were expecting.”

But Wouters added that the Providence data needs a full peer review, and that under normal circumstances he wouldn’t even be commenting publicly on research at this stage unless it were accompanied by a published peer review.

“This is the normal and correct way for this to happen. But as you have seen, COVID-19 is breaking traditions and they (Providence) are certainly not the first to release information from experimental research in advance of publication,” said Wouters, who is also the senior scientist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.

Alberta Sen. Doug Black has urged Ottawa to fund Providence so it can develop a domestic COVID-19 vaccine to lessen the risk Canadians will have wait in line for a foreign-made pandemic cure.

Several health-care professionals have also written to Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains to urge him to make up his mind on the Providence proposal.

The company plans to release the results publicly on Wednesday at the same time it delivers them to several relevant government departments.

“We’re still blocking the virus 100 per cent. Nothing gets in,” Marcusson said in a telephone interview from San Francisco, where he has been living in lockdown since March as the pandemic exploded in California.

“There’s no doubt this vaccine needs to be tested in humans because the results in mice are really that exceptional. This has the chance to be an extremely effective vaccine, but we won’t know for sure until we get into humans,” he said.

Marcusson is a 20-year veteran of the American biotechnology sector and had founded his own consultant business before meeting Providence chief executive Brad Sorenson in 2014. The two founded Providence in 2015 to develop cancer vaccines but it has pivoted to COVID-19. Marcusson said 20 per cent of his work remains outside the company as a consultant.

Black and several health experts say the government must move forward with a made-in-Canada vaccine because there have been troubling signs that a vaccine produced abroad likely wouldn’t be available to Canadians until much later.

Canada has already funded a the partnership between China’s CanSino Biologics and Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia but China has held up shipments of the vaccine that it was supposed to send to Dalhousie researchers by the end of May to start human trials.

“They’ve already been burned a couple of times with masks not getting across the border from the U.S. and a vaccine that they helped fund not getting into the country because it was held up at customs in China,” said Marcusson.

“So, this is a vaccine that can be made in Canada for Canadians,” he added. “It would be nice if that wasn’t important, but it is important, and they need to realize this and fund a Canadian solution to this problem.”

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Stock Market Crash: 3 Defensive Stars to Stash – The Motley Fool Canada

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The S&P/TSX Composite Index rose another 133 points on August 5. Mining and materials combined with the energy space to power another green day for the Canadian market. Earlier this week, I’d discussed whether investors should look to prepare for a stock market crash. It is almost never a good idea to try to time the market. However, piling up on defensive stocks may be prudent in what looks like an overvalued climate. Today, I want to look at three dividend stocks that can protect your portfolio for the rest of 2020.

Why grocery stocks can defend against a stock market crash

In the early spring of 2020, the TSX Index suffered a sharp correction along with its global peers. However, consumer staples like grocery stocks managed to provide stability to shareholders during this turbulent period. These stocks continue to be great targets for those who are worried about a stock market crash.

Loblaw Companies (TSX:L) is the largest grocery retailer in Canada. Its shares have climbed 5.2% in 2020 as of close on August 5. The company released its second-quarter 2020 results on July 23. It put together a strong performance in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Revenue increased 7.4% year over year to $11.9 billion. Like other retailers, grocers have also accelerated their e-commerce push. Loblaw’s Everyday Digital sales soared 280% to $1.2 billion in Q2 2020. The board of directors announced a quarterly dividend of $0.315 per share, which represents a modest 1.8% yield.

Shares of Loblaw last had a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 25 and a price-to-book (P/B) value of 2.2 It is still in solid value territory compared to industry peers.

One dividend stock to stash

Back in July, I’d discussed how millennials could build a green energy portfolio. A stock market crash is impossible to predict. However, the continued growth of the renewable energy sector appears to be a sure bet as we kick off the 2020s.

Polaris Infrastructure (TSX:PIF) is a Toronto-based renewable energy company that acquires, explores for, develops, and operates geothermal and hydroelectric energy projects in Latin America. Its stock has climbed 21% in 2020 so far.

In Q1 2020, Polaris generated $20.3 million in revenue from energy sales. Adjusted EBITDA increased to $17.0 million over $15.9 million in the prior year. It declared a quarterly dividend of $0.15 per share. This represents a strong 5.7% yield.

The stock last possessed a P/E ratio of 11 and a P/B value of 0.8. This puts Polaris in attractive value territory as we start the month of August. I’m bullish on this renewable energy stock going forward.

Stock market crash: Why telecom is a solid option

Telecom stocks have been quiet since the stock market crash in March. Rogers Communications, one of the largest telecoms in Canada, has seen its shares drop 12% in 2020 as of close on August 5. The stock looks undervalued in the middle of the summers. Shares last had a favourable P/E ratio of 16. Meanwhile, Rogers offers a quarterly dividend of $0.50 per share, representing a 3.6% yield.

One super interesting stock to watch in this hot market…

This Tiny TSX Stock Could Be the Next Shopify

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Iain and his team just published a detailed report on this tiny TSX stock. Find out how you can access the NEXT Shopify today!

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Fool contributor Ambrose O’Callaghan has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Polaris Infrastructure Inc. The Motley Fool recommends ROGERS COMMUNICATIONS INC. CL B NV.

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