Adagio Therapeutics Reports Reduction in In Vitro Neutralizing Activity of ADG20 Against Omicron SARS-CoV-2 Variant

WALTHAM, Mass., Dec. 14, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Adagio Therapeutics, Inc., (Nasdaq: ADGI) a clinical–stage biopharmaceutical company focused on the discovery, development and commercialization of antibody–based solutions for infectious diseases with pandemic potential, today provided an update following external in vitro analyses to evaluate neutralizing activity of ADG20 against the Omicron SARS–CoV–2 variant. The in vitro data generated through both authentic and pseudovirus testing of the Omicron variant show a greater than 300–fold reduction in neutralizing activity of ADG20 against Omicron. Additional analyses are ongoing, and the company plans to engage with regulatory and government agencies to assess the role ADG20 can play for the prevention and treatment of COVID–19, particularly as the industry's understanding of the epidemiology and impact of Omicron and potential new variants develops.

"Due to the highly conserved and immunorecessive nature of the epitope recognized by ADG20, we anticipated that ADG20 would retain neutralizing activity against Omicron, consistent with activity observed in in vitro models with all other known variants of concern," said Tillman Gerngross, Ph.D., chief executive officer of Adagio. "While the individual mutations present in the Omicron receptor binding domain were not associated with escape from ADG20 in the context of an original strain of the virus, new data show that the combination of mutations present in the Omicron spike protein led to a reduction in ADG20 neutralization that was not suggested by prior data. The continued prevalence of the Delta variant in the U.S. and other countries, evolution of SARS–CoV–2 variants and potential future coronaviruses means a multitude of therapies and approaches are needed. With an expert team committed to advancing antibody solutions that combat this unprecedented pandemic and a strong balance sheet, we're conducting additional analyses to assess the optimal path forward with ADG20 as both a prophylactic and treatment option for COVID–19."

ADG20 is an investigational monoclonal antibody (mAb) product candidate designed to provide broad and potent neutralizing activity against SARS–CoV–2, including variants of concern, for the prevention and treatment of COVID–19 with potential duration of protection for up to one year with a single injection. In previously disclosed in vitro studies, ADG20 retained activity against prior variants of concern including Alpha, Beta, Delta and Gamma. In addition, in vitro data demonstrated retained neutralizing activity of ADG20 against a diverse panel of circulating SARS–CoV–2 variants, including the Lambda, Mu and Delta plus variants. The safety and efficacy of ADG20 have not been established, and ADG20 is not authorized or approved for use in any country.

Adagio is currently evaluating ADG20 in global Phase 2/3 clinical trials for both the prevention and treatment of COVID–19. Based on the in vitro findings related to Omicron, Adagio plans to pause patient recruitment in its Phase 2/3 COVID–19 treatment trial at clinical sites in South Africa, where Omicron has emerged as the dominant variant. Adagio is evaluating next steps for its ADG20 program.

In vitro analyses were also conducted on ADG10, a second mAb in development, which showed minimal neutralizing activity against the Omicron variant in both authentic and pseudovirus neutralization assays.

About Adagio Therapeutics
Adagio (Nasdaq: ADGI) is a clinical–stage biopharmaceutical company focused on the discovery, development and commercialization of antibody–based solutions for infectious diseases with pandemic potential, including COVID–19 and influenza. The company's portfolio of antibodies has been optimized using Adimab's industry–leading antibody engineering capabilities and is designed to provide patients and clinicians with the potential for a powerful combination of potency, breadth, durable protection (via half–life extension), manufacturability and affordability. Adagio's portfolio of SARS–CoV–2 antibodies includes multiple non–competing, broadly neutralizing antibodies with distinct binding epitopes, led by ADG20. Adagio has secured manufacturing capacity for the production of ADG20 with third–party contract manufacturers to support the completion of clinical trials and initial commercial launch, ensuring the potential for broad accessibility to people around the world. For more information, please visit www.adagiotx.com.

Forward Looking Statements
This press release contains forward–looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Words such as "anticipates," "believes," "expects," "intends," "projects," and "future" or similar expressions are intended to identify forward–looking statements. Forward–looking statements include statements concerning, among other things, the timing, progress and results of our preclinical studies and clinical trials of ADG20, including the timing of future program updates and the initiation, modification and completion of studies or trials and related preparatory work, the period during which the results of the trials will become available and our research and development programs; the additional and ongoing analyses to evaluate the activity of ADG20 against the Omicron variant and the potential of ADG20 to play a role as both a prophylactic and a treatment option for COVID–19; the risk/benefit profile of our product candidates to patients; and the adequacy of our cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities. We may not actually achieve the plans, intentions or expectations disclosed in our forward–looking statements and you should not place undue reliance on our forward–looking statements. These forward–looking statements involve risks and uncertainties that could cause our actual results to differ materially from the results described in or implied by the forward–looking statements, including, without limitation, the impacts of the COVID–19 pandemic on our business, clinical trials and financial position, unexpected safety or efficacy data observed during preclinical studies or clinical trials, clinical trial site activation or enrollment rates that are lower than expected, changes in expected or existing competition, changes in the regulatory environment, and the uncertainties and timing of the regulatory approval process. Other factors that may cause our actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied in the forward–looking statements in this press release are described under the heading "Risk Factors" in Adagio's Quarterly Report on Form 10–Q for the quarter ended September 30, 2021 and in Adagio's future reports to be filed with the SEC. Such risks may be amplified by the impacts of the COVID–19 pandemic. Forward–looking statements contained in this press release are made as of this date, and Adagio undertakes no duty to update such information except as required under applicable law.

Contacts:
Media Contact: Investor Contact:
Dan Budwick, 1AB Monique Allaire, THRUST Strategic Communications
Dan@1abmedia.com monique@thrustsc.com


Cool Scheme to Reduce Food Waste in Nigeria

ColdHubs installation at Relife Outdoor Food Market, Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria. The World Bank estimates that 40 percent of all food produced goes to waste in Nigeria. Credit: ColdHubs.

By Busani Bafana
Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, Dec 14 2021 – Food spoilage forced smallholder farmers out of pocket and out of business – until an entrepreneur came up with a cool idea.

Growing up on a farm in Southern Nigeria, Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu observed how smallholder farmers rushed to sell their produce before sunset to avoid spoiling or selling it at give-away prices. Ikegwuonu came up with a cool idea to save the produce from spoiling: solar-powered cold rooms.

Smallholder farmers in Africa experience high post-harvest food losses owing to poor handling, poor packaging and lack of storage for their produce before it reaches the market.

According to the World Bank, food loss accounts for 40 percent of all food produced in Nigeria.

ColdHubs Ltd is a Nigerian social enterprise that designs, installs, operates and rents walk-in cold rooms known as ‘ColdHubs’. The Cold Hubs can store and preserve fresh fruits, vegetables and other perishable foods, extending their shelf life from two to 21 days.

Describing spoilage as a wicked problem, Ikegwuonu’s ColdHubs concept is helping farmers and retailers preserve their produce for longer, reducing waste and ensuring farmers get better prices for it.

The mission is to reduce food spoilage due to lack of cold food storage at key points along the food supply chain, explains Ikegwuonu, who has won global recognition for his innovations in farming and entrepreneurship. In 2016 he was named a Rolex Award Laureate.

Social entrepreneur and farmer, Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu, posing in front of one of his solar-powered cold rooms. Credit: ColdHubs

In 2003, Ikegwuonu started the Smallholders Foundation. This non-profit developed rural radio services, delivering information to improve agricultural methods and conserve the environment to more than 250 000 daily listeners across the country.

During a radio roadshow in the city of Jos, the capital of Plateau state in central Nigeria, where he was doing a radio programme on cabbage, Ikegwuonu realised many farmers were throwing away their produce because it was spoiling before they could sell it all.

“At that point, it dawned on us that there is no form of cold storage which is an important infrastructure for any outdoor markets for fresh fruits and vegetables. After some research, we built solar-powered cold rooms, and these were well received by farmers,” Ikegwuonu told IPS in an interview.

“Spoilage entraps farmers into poverty cycle because, by the time the food arrives in the outdoor market, the value has reduced, economically and nutritionally.”

Farmers and retailers rent out the walk-in cold rooms for a low fee of $0.25 (100 Naira) per 20kg plastic crate for one day. Each cold room has a capacity of storing three tonnes of food with other storage units that can hold 10 tons and 100 tons of food at a time.

Ikegwuonu said in designing the cold rooms, emphasis was placed on the solar power generation capacity to run the cold rooms every day of the week. The units generate energy from rooftop solar panels during the day. The energy is transferred and stored in batteries that run the cold rooms at night.

Currently, 54 cold rooms are operating in 38 clusters across two states in Nigeria, and Ikegwuonu plans to double the number in 2022.

ColdHubs have created 66 jobs for young women by hiring and training them as hub operators and market attendants. The ColdHubs, located in outdoor markets, serve more than 5 000 smallholder farmers, retailers and wholesalers in Nigeria.

In 2020, the cold rooms stored more than 40 000 tonnes of food which helped reduce food waste and increased farmers’ profits, according to Ikegwuonu.

“Farmers had commended the technology and have increased their income by about 50 percent before we started deploying ColdHubs. Now they are earning about $150 every month from selling the products that used to be spoiled and thrown away or sold at ridiculous rock bottom prices.”

Food waste occurs during industrial processing, distribution, and final consumption of food, research by the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition shows. In developing countries, food losses occur upstream in the production chain.

According to the Food Sustainability Index (FSI) developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit with the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition, food loss and waste need urgent action given its environmental and economic impacts. The FSI, which ranks countries on food systems sustainability – is a quantitative and qualitative benchmarking model measuring the sustainability of food systems in the categories of food loss and waste, sustainable agriculture and nutritional challenges.

Nigeria was ranked five with a score of 74.1 for food loss and waste on the FSI 2018 results for middle-income countries.

Spoilage of fruit and vegetables robs farmers of income while contributing to food waste. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

“Tackling consumer food waste and post-harvest waste (the loss of fresh produce and crops before they reach consumer markets) will involve everything from changing consumption patterns to investing in infrastructure and deploying new digital technologies,”  the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition report noted, emphasising that ending hunger and meeting rising food demand will not be possible without tackling high level of food loss and waste.

Fruits and vegetables have the largest losses across developing countries, accounting for 42 percent of the developing country loss and waste globally, a report by the Rockefeller Foundation found, noting that growth in the commercial sale and use of loss averting technologies among smallholder farmers and value chain actors was an opportunity to reduce spoilage.

An estimated 93 million smallholder farmers and food supply chain actors are affected by food loss in Nigeria.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has urged for accelerated global action to reduce food loss and waste, with less than nine years to the deadline for achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  Seven years ago, global leaders agreed to the 17 SDGs, and Goal 12 specifically commits to halve by per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels by 2030.

Reducing food loss and waste contributes to the realisation of broader improvements to agri-food systems towards achieving food security, food safety, improving food quality and delivering on nutritional outcomes,” the FAO highlighted in marking the 2021 International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste. The UN specialised agency has urged investment and prioritisation of new technology and innovations that directly address post-harvest food loss.

Investments to encourage African youth turning away from agriculture to reconsider opportunities in the sector is key given the need to generate jobs and repair food systems particularly impacted by the current COVID-19 pandemic, says Heifer International, which has promoted young, creative professionals deploying technology innovations to transform agriculture in Africa.

“Young entrepreneurs across Africa understand the struggles of their parent’s generation and have seen how this has discouraged the people around them from pursuing careers in the agriculture sector,” commented Adesuwa Ifedi, senior vice president of Africa Programmes at Heifer International.

With support from Heifer and the AYuTe Africa Challenge, Ikegwuonu predicts to expand from 50 to 5000 ColdHubs across West Africa in the next five years.

“Too many African farmers do not get the income they deserve because they have no way of keeping their produce fresh. We are revolutionising storage with our Cold Hubs and ensuring that farmers get value for their produce by avoiding spoilage,” said Ikegwuonu.

 


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A New Transport Agenda to Carry Asia and the Pacific Towards Sustainable Development

By Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana
BANGKOK, Thailand, Dec 14 2021 – Transport ministers from across Asia and the Pacific are meeting this week to consider a potentially transformational agenda for how people and goods are moved around the region and across the globe.

Pre-COVID-19 transport connectivity weaknesses in the Asia-Pacific region became even more apparent during the pandemic: landlocked developing countries, least developed countries and small island developing States were particularly affected. Therefore, it is imperative that we accelerate meaningful change in transport systems as countries seek to put their development agendas back on track.

Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

It is against this backdrop that officials meeting at the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific for the fourth Ministerial Conference on Transport are debating a Regional Action Programme for 2022-2026: a new roadmap for a transport system needed to attain the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals.

The new RAP would address such issues as increasing freight and passenger volumes, reflecting rising demand for freight transport and mobility. Indeed, two-thirds of global seaborne trade is concentrated in the Asia-Pacific region, which also is home to nine of the world’s busiest container ports. The region is currently responsible for more than 40 per cent of the global surface freight transport flows and by 2050 the continent’s demand for freight transport is projected to triple. Asia and the Pacific is expected to face greater trade exchanges, further substantial demographic growth and rapid urbanization coupled with high motorization rates in coming years.

To cope with such changes and demands, the RAP would encourage greater digitalization and innovation for transport; as the pandemic unfolded, we saw that accelerated adoption of digital technologies helped governments and private enterprises keep activities going amid border closures and other containment measures. Further deployment of smart transport systems to improve efficiency, resilience as well as social and environmental sustainability is undoubtedly a key priorities for building back better.

Other key provisions of the RAP include speeding up transitions to low-carbon transport systems. The transport sector is one of the highest contributors to climate change and Asia and the Pacific remains among the highest CO2 emitting regions in the world. There is a strong need for rapid decarbonization of the regional transport networks and related operations, including urban and public transport. Shifting to railways would also greatly boost sustainability of international freight transport and move to a more sustainable post-COVID-19 world. An abundance of renewable energy in some countries is an opportunity to switch to electric mobility in public transport. To support these efforts, ESCAP last month unveiled at the climate change conference in Glasgow plans for an Asia-Pacific Initiative on Electric Mobility.

In this vein, the outbreak of COVID-19 also had a profound impact on urban transport, accessibility and mobility. These challenges provide new momentum to transport and city planners to rethink forms of mobility as a service that is affordable, accessible, reliable and safe. Furthermore, gender gaps and inequalities in terms of access to transport and related opportunities persist, further inhibiting the capacity of the sector to equally address the social dimensions of sustainable development.

In the context of sustainable development, we cannot disregard the fact that 60 per cent of global road crash fatalities occur in the Asia and Pacific region. The General Assembly has proclaimed 2021 to 2030 as the Second Decade of Action for Road Safety, with a goal of cutting by half road traffic deaths and injuries; in response, ESCAP is preparing an Asia-Pacific Regional Plan of Action.

International freight transport remained largely operational throughout the pandemic, as countries took policy measures to preserve freight transport connectivity to support supply chains. The Asian Highway, Trans-Asian Railway and dry port networks established under ESCAP auspices serve as the backbone for land transport infrastructure connectivity and logistics in the region. They are also increasingly integrated with inter-regional transport corridors and port and shipping networks. In 2020 and 2021, these links brought countries together to capture and analyze their responses to the pandemic and the impacts of those actions on regional connectivity. Moving forward, they can be further leveraged to promote infrastructure and operational connectivity reforms in support of a seamless integrated web of intermodal transport connections underpinning the regional and global economy.

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted progress in Asia and the Pacific towards many of the Sustainable Development Goals and, in some cases, reversed years of achievement. The transport sector, which is instrumental to attaining the SDGs, took a significant hit during the pandemic, but countries demonstrated an ability to move swiftly towards automation and innovation to maintain functionality and resilience, and support access to social inclusion. This also points to the capacity of the sector to take bold new steps towards low-carbon development. A new Regional Action Programme can prove to be pivotal in addressing the region’s lagging performance and enhancing resilience to future crises by reducing deep-rooted social, economic and environmental challenges.

Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana is the United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

 


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Open Letter to the Secretary General, Heads of UN Agencies & International Donor Community

Afghan women leaders and human rights defenders speak to the press outside of the UN Security Council chambers on 21 October 2021. Pictured from left to right: Asila Wardak, Fawzia Koofi (speaking), Anisa Shaheed and Naheed Farid. Credit: UN Women/ Amanda Voisard

By Rebecca Reichmann Tavares, Roberta Clarke and Meryem Aslan
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 14 2021 – We are former UN officials with decades of combined experience supporting international civil society and governments to advance the rights of women and girls.

We came together to alert the United Nations and the international community to the urgency of preventing a human catastrophe in Afghanistan. Afghan women and men must not be condemned to yet another decade of regionalism/ sectarianism/tribalism and proxy wars.

The UN needs to step up its game, offer to facilitate a platform for inclusive leadership in the country that can bring Afghans together, and work together with them to prevent reemergence of proxy wars, building a road towards international consensus for peace and security.

The international community must ensure that Afghans, especially Afghan women and girls, participate on equal terms in the making of their country, re-establishing human rights monitoring mechanisms and, as a matter of urgency, accessing and monitoring distribution of humanitarian aid in Afghanistan.

As Naheed Farid, a Parliamentarian and House Chair of the Women’s Committee in Afghanistan said: “Action needs to be taken to ensure that the de facto authorities in Kabul develop an inclusive and fully representative governance body that represents the diversity of Afghan society.” 1

We encourage negotiations that create space for Afghan people, including women and girls, to take their destiny into their own hands. We also endorse the call for Afghan women’s centrality in decision-making on global aid made by Margot Wallstrom and Susana Malcorra on November 4th in PassBlue.

Life for Afghans, especially Afghan women and girls, has been insecure, dangerous, and constrained for decades. Armed conflict and militarism have stalled all prospects of development and peace for Afghanistan. Women and girls have been and remain the target of violent discrimination.

The 2020 Human Development Index for Afghanistan indicates that gender inequalities in health, education and control over economic resources remains high, ranking Afghanistan 157th among 162 countries in the gender inequality index 2.

The seizure of state power by the Taliban, the partial collapse of state services compounded by the recent measures to limit education for girls and remove women from the workforce, the increased retreat of women into their homes portends serious deterioration of women’s rights in Afghanistan and further widening of gender inequality in the country.

While Taliban are working to transform themselves from a radical movement into a legitimate state structure and try to govern the country, ethnic, communal and regional factions are starting to vie for power.

For example, on October 8th, the Islamic State Khorasan bombing in a Shiite Mosque in Kunduz province killed close to 70 people and injured 140 worshippers from a Hazara community 3. This was the second attack on a Shiite Mosque in one week. Earlier, the same group attacked a military hospital in Kabul, killing 20 people and injuring 16 4.

Testing the limits of Taliban governance, food and water shortages plague isolated communities and urban centers alike. A thirty year-drought, widespread displacement, lack of jobs and scarce cash have spun the economy into free fall as another brutal winter sets in. No information is available on the real costs of the Covid-19 pandemic. Recognizing Afghanistan’s rapidly deteriorating conditions, UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, noted that the international community is in a “race against time” to prevent an impending humanitarian catastrophe.

Conditionality imposed by the international community for releasing aid may have already deepened the scale of human suffering. In addition, delivery of aid seems to becoming an important issue. Despite the promises of Taliban to allow humanitarian agencies to operate, USAID reports that at least two-thirds of aid organizations in Afghanistan have faced severe bottlenecks in aid delivery since the fall of Kabul.

Access to aid by to those who need it most may be the first casualty of a collapsing state. Food and supplies trickling into the country have been diverted to the black market by local power brokers. Almost no information is available on household distribution of aid or the amount and quality of aid reaching the Afghan people.

This situation leaves women and girls increasingly vulnerable to abuse and violence. As in many humanitarian emergencies, civil society monitors report that food aid is appropriated to exchange for sexual favors or child “marriages,” as desperate families bargain for survival. Single mothers are not recognized as heads-of-household by local authorities and therefore are likely to face barriers in accessing humanitarian assistance.

Exhaustive global research over decades has documented that aid delivered to women by women most effectively reduces “leakage,” ensuring that assistance reaches the most vulnerable groups. Afghan women are best placed to ensure that food and other humanitarian assistance reach children, the disabled and elderly, and especially female-headed households.

However, in addition to restrictions on women’s access to education and employment, the backsliding and regression on women’s and girls’ right can most strikingly be observed in their participation in decision-making mechanisms.

The Taliban’s formation of an all-male interim administration have eliminated women’s hard-won if still limited leadership roles in the executive and judiciary at all levels of government. Women’s equal participation in political and public life is not only a prerequisite for realizing a life free of violence and discrimination, but also for increasing the quality of development and aid and ensuring equal access to the benefits of aid.

We recognize that efforts of the last twenty years resulted in limited advances for most Afghan women and girls. The bulk of resources in the country went to the military investment and much aid was siphoned off by excessive corruption. . Yet good progress was made in opening up educational opportunities for girls and livelihood options for women.

Even more lasting is the dynamic network of women’s civil society organizations, sports, scientific, media and cultural groups that were built over the past twenty years. Resilient women and girls have fought against biases, even faced down stone-throwing crowds, to build their bicycle racing teams, their robotics organizations and women’s radio stations.

They run shelters for women expelled from their homes and promote females’ participation at all levels of government. Now, a generation of women and girls that entered public life as teachers, lawyers, journalists and politicians are feeling at a loss and in danger; they are afraid of losing the future.

We cannot be silent as this progress is walked back. Women’s and girls’ futures must not become casualties of the withdrawal of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan. The safety of hundreds of women’s human rights defenders, judges, politicians, physicians, professors, journalists and artists who are still in Afghanistan must be prioritized and they must be at the table in aid and political negotiations, putting aid distribution systems in place, monitoring delivery and building inclusive governance systems.

Humanitarian aid to stabilize the population will only be effective if women civil society leaders are positioned to monitor secure and timely distribution, and the inclusion of women must be top priority of aid and governance negotiations with the Taliban. The United Nations and the international donor community are morally obligated to ensure Afghan women’s access to humanitarian assistance, and time is running out.

Signed: Rebecca Reichmann Tavares, Roberta Clarke, Meryem Aslan, Moni Pizani Orsini, Madhu Bala Nath,Joanne Sandler, Roshmi Goswami, Socorro Reyes, Anne Stenhammer, Yamini Mishra, Lucia Salamea-Palacios, Roxanna Carillo, Susana Fried, Dina Deligiorgis, Bharati Silawal-Giri, Amarsanaa Darisuren, Sushma Kapoor, Chandni Joshi, Suneeta Dhar, Stephanie Urdang, Aster Zaoude, Achola Pala, Celia Aguilar Setien, Anne Marie Goetz, Elizabeth Cox, Nalini Burn, Ana Falu, Ilana Landsberg Lewis, Branca Moreira Alves, Memory Zonde-Kachambwa, Sangeeta Rana Thapa, Shawna Wakefield, Flora Macula, Guadalupe Espinosa, Ooyuna Oidov, Jean da Cunha

1 https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2021/10/news-afghan-women-leaders-speak-at-the-un
2 http://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/Country-Profiles/AFG.pdf
3 https://thediplomat.com/2021/10/is-the-islamic-state-in-afghanistan-targeting-china/
4 https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-59133026

Rebecca Reichmann Tavares, Roberta Clarke and Meryem Aslan are former UN Women staff members

 


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Greed-Driven Pandemic Still Killing Millions

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Nazihah Noor
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Dec 14 2021 – Failure to vaccinate most in poor countries sustains the COVID-19 pandemic. Rich country greed and patent monopolies block developing countries from affordably making the means to protect themselves.

Mutant menace
The SARS-CoV-2 virus has been mutating as it replicates. Numerous replications in hundreds of millions of hosts have generated many variants. Some mutations are more resilient than others, and better able to overcome human defences.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Early data suggest the B.1.1.529 Omicron variant is more transmissible than others, including Delta, and possibly more resistant to existing treatments and vaccines. Health authorities the world over are concerned WHO’s latest ‘variant of concern’ may trigger a new wave of preventable infections and deaths.

South Africans first scientifically identified the new variant, alerting global health authorities immediately. Instead of appreciating its prompt actions, southern African nations are being punished with travel restrictions.

In fact, Dutch health authorities acknowledge the new Omicron variant was already in western Europe before the first South African cases. Punitive responses – e.g., travel bans – may deter other governments from rapid action and notification, so essential for effective international cooperation.

Promises, promises
With huge inequalities in vaccinations – especially between high-income countries (HICs) and low-income countries (LICs) – the virus has been enabled to continue replicating, mutating, infecting and killing, especially those least protected.

Richer countries have taken more than half the first 7.5 billion vaccine doses. Rich countries have bought many – up to five – times their populations’ needs. Ten HICs will have more than 870 million excess doses by year’s end.

While some HICs have been shamed into pledging vaccine doses to LICs and lower middle-income countries (MICs), delivery has fallen well short of their modest promises. By late October, only about a tenth of the over 1.3 billion vaccine doses pledged had been delivered.

Nazihah Noor

Most rich countries have ignored WHO appeals to suspend boosters until the rest of the world is vaccinated. Ex-UK premier Gordon Brown notes that for every vaccine reaching LICs, there are six times as many boosters in rich nations.

US President Biden’s September summit set an end-2021 target of 40% vaccination of the world’s 92 poorest countries, but at least 82 are unlikely to meet this target.

As Brown observed, although the US accounts for half the vaccines donated, it has only delivered a quarter of its pledge. Most other rich countries have delivered less than a fifth. Only China and New Zealand have given over half of what they promised.

Apartheid victims
With vaccines being hoarded by HICs, less than 3% of LIC populations are fully vaccinated. By late November, only 5.8% in LICs had at least one vaccine dose, compared to 54% of the world.

Most LICs do not even book via COVAX – the global programme to distribute vaccines – as they cannot afford to pay for them. Also, the programme has never secured enough vaccine doses since its inception.

COVAX was supposed to provide two billion doses by end-2021, but under 576 million were actually delivered by November. Also, the WHO appeal to G20 countries to give COVAX priority has gone largely unheeded.

With LICs unable to vaccinate their populations, the pandemic will go on for years. WHO now expects around 200 million more infections in the year from 21 October, with total deaths expected to double from the five million to date! Unsurprisingly, vaccine apartheid’s worst victims are in the LICs.

Profits block progress
The World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial meetings – scheduled to start on 30 November – were expected to decide on the waiver proposal. With no resolution likely, the meeting has been postponed indefinitely, ostensibly due to Omicron.

First proposed in October 2020, it is now supported by well over a hundred of WTO’s 164 member states. The elaborated waiver proposal, co-sponsored by 63 countries, would allow others to more affordably make the means to fight the pandemic, without fear of intellectual property (IP) litigation.

But over 14 months later, the proposal remains blocked. Most European countries continue to oppose the waiver request to temporarily suspend IP rights protecting corporate monopolies on COVID-19 medical technologies and products for the pandemic’s duration.

As the pandemic increasingly infects and kills in poor countries, the public is being misled about the waiver proposal. It is dishonestly claimed that new vaccines cannot be developed without patent protection. Worse, all developing countries are falsely said to lack technical expertise to make vaccines.

Profits against people
LICs have received than one percent of all Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines and 0.2 percent of Moderna’s. Instead, the three have prioritized their most profitable contracts with rich governments, while paying lip service to poor countries.

Pfizer expects to sell three billion doses by year’s end, and four billion more in 2022. With COVID-19 now endemic, Pfizer CEO Alberto Bourla expects to sell boosters for years to come, while Moderna recently announced an Omicron-specific booster.

Using the firms’ own earnings reports, the People’s Vaccine Alliance (PVA) estimates mRNA vaccine manufacturers – Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna – will make pre-tax profits of US$34 billion this year.

Maximizing profits by blocking the waiver is effectively prolonging the pandemic. Instead of vaccinating those who have not yet had their first shot, they make much more by selling booster vaccinations to HICs.

Despite getting over US$8 billion in public funding, the three have refused to transfer vaccine technology to developing countries. Instead, Pfizer’s Bourla has dismissed technology transfer to developing countries as “dangerous nonsense”.

Profitable catastrophe
The main barrier to vaccinating the world is profits. Clearly, the Omicron danger is due to the world’s failure to vaccinate billions of vulnerable people in developing countries. This catastrophe has been worsened by ongoing European opposition to their effort to suspend IP monopolies.

The 12 billion vaccines made in 2021 could have vaccinated the entire world, but clearly did not. Omicron is plainly due to corporations’ ability to profiteer from the pandemic, refuse to share knowledge and know-how, and bully governments into unfair contracts.

Nazihah Noor is a public health policy researcher. She holds a Master of Public Health and a BSc in Biomedical Science from Imperial College London, specializing in global health.

 


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Nobel Peace Prize Winners Emphasize Journalism’s Role in Combating Authoritarianism

Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov. Screenshot of Nobel Peace Prize ceremony.

By Jerri Eddings
WASHINGTON, Dec 14 2021 – Two global icons of press freedom accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway, marking the first time since 1936 that journalists have been recognized with the world’s most prestigious award.

Underscoring the importance of journalism in combating authoritarianism and other destructive trends, the Nobel Committee honored Maria Ressa, co-founder and editor of the independent Philippine news site Rappler, and Dmitry Muratov, longtime editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, an independent newspaper in Russia.

Both laureates and their colleagues have been subjected to harassment, intimidation and violence for their work exposing injustice and abuse at the highest levels.

In her acceptance speech, Ressa, a former winner of ICFJ’s top international award, noted that she was only the 18th woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. She said women journalists are “at the epicenter of risk” and added, “This pandemic of misogyny and hatred needs to be tackled, now.”

Ressa sharply criticized social media companies for making money by stoking violence and hatred, citing Facebook as the world’s largest distributor of news as well as misinformation. “These destructive corporations have siphoned money away from news groups and now pose a foundational threat to markets and elections.”

Ressa noted that in accepting the award she represents any journalist “who is forced to sacrifice so much to hold the line, to stay true to our values and mission: to bring you the truth and hold power to account.” She cited a long list of journalists who have been killed, imprisoned or otherwise persecuted for their work, from Malta to Saudi Arabia to Hong Kong.

Ressa sharply criticized social media companies for making money by stoking violence and hatred, citing Facebook as the world’s largest distributor of news as well as misinformation. “These destructive corporations have siphoned money away from news groups and now pose a foundational threat to markets and elections.”

She called for the regulation of what she termed “the surveillance economics that profit from hate and lies” and she called on the U.S. to “reform or revoke section 230, the law that treats social media platforms like utilities.”

Ressa, a longtime CNN reporter, also said journalism must be rebuilt for the 21st century, with information ecosystems based on facts. “We need to help independent journalism survive, first by giving greater protection to journalists and standing up against States which target journalists.”

In his acceptance speech, Muratov said journalism in Russia is “going through a dark valley. Over a hundred journalists, media outlets, human rights defenders and NGOs have recently been branded as ‘foreign agents.’ In Russia, this means ‘enemies of the people.’ Many of our colleagues have lost their jobs. Some have to leave the country. Some are deprived of the opportunity to live a normal life for an unknown period of time. Maybe forever.”

Stating that torture is the most serious crime against humanity, Muratov announced plans for an international tribunal against torture. He said it would gather information on torture in different parts of the world and would identify authorities responsible for torture. He said the initiative would depend on investigative journalists around the world.

“We hear more and more often about torture of convicts and detainees. People are being tortured to the breaking point, to make the prison sentence even more brutal. This is barbaric.”

This year, ICFJ worked with Ressa and Rappler to publish a big data case study that detailed the intensity and ferocity of online violence aimed at Ressa over a five-year period. The research found evidence that some of the attacks on Ressa are coordinated or orchestrated — a hallmark of state-led disinformation campaigns.

Ressa also is the object of multiple lawsuits aimed at silencing her and her colleagues. She faces the prospect of decades behind bars if convicted on all counts. ICFJ and the #HoldTheLine Coalition continue to call for these spurious charges to be dropped. ICFJ co-leads the coalition, a group of more than 80 groups advocating for Ressa and press freedom in the Philippines, alongside the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Ressa thanked the Coalition as well as all human rights groups “that help us shine the light.”

This article was originally published by IJNet, International Journalists’ Network

LeddarTech to Showcase Critical Sensing and Perception Solutions Enabling ADAS and Autonomous Driving at CES Las Vegas 2022

QUEBEC, Dec. 14, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — LeddarTech , a global leader in providing the most flexible, robust and accurate ADAS and AD sensing technology, is pleased to announce its participation at five CES Las Vegas locations, January 5–8 '22. The LeddarTech Showcase location will demonstrate four new leading solutions that enable OEMs, Tier 1–2 suppliers, system integrators and LiDAR manufacturers to solve critical ADAS and AD sensing and perception challenges across the entire value chain of the automotive, mobility and off–road vehicle markets. In addition, LeddarTech will also be present at four other Ecosystem Partner locations.

Introducing the LeddarTech Showcase (Booth #7061, LVCC West Hall)

The theme of LeddarTech's CES destination booth (#7061) is "Solving Critical Sensing and Perception Challenges in ADAS and AD." The booth, located in the all–new LVCC West Hall, in the heart of the Transportation/Vehicle Technology section, will feature groundbreaking technologies and solutions.

LeddarTech welcomes CES delegates to see firsthand solutions that address critical issues facing customers:

  1. Uncover the benefits of raw data fusion with LeddarVision
    A comprehensive open sensor fusion and perception solution for automotive and off–road industrial vehicle ADAS and autonomous L2–L5 driving applications.
  2. Maximize LiDAR performance with LeddarSteer DBSD
    A scalable, adaptable and reliable solid–state, automotive–grade digital beam steering device (DBSD) for LiDAR manufacturers and vision system developers enhances range and resolution while optimizing costs and form factors.
  3. Explore a LiDAR development solution that reduces risk, costs and time, enabling faster time–to–market with the LiDAR XLRator
    A versatile LiDAR development platform and auto–grade reference design solution. The XLRator is powered by the LeddarEngine (SoC and signal processing software) and critical components from development collaborators, ams OSRAM, STMicroelectronics and TE First Sensor that enable LiDAR manufacturers and Tier 1–2s and system integrators to develop automotive–grade LiDAR sensors meeting the specific requirements of OEMs. The XLRator platform also integrates the LeddarSteer DBSD.
  4. View the benefits of the LeddarEcho simulation tool in reducing development time
    A SiL sensor simulation software application for ADAS/AD system developers and integrators that models various sensor architectures and components to develop optimal LiDAR designs and validate the resulting performance within specific application use cases.

Also, visit LeddarTech at their Ecosystem Partner locations:

dSPACE (Booth #3555, LVCC West Hall), a company whose solutions have accelerated the development of innovative vehicle technology for decades, will host LeddarTech in demonstrating the LeddarEcho high–precision simulation tools and models created to support and significantly accelerate the development and validation of LeddarEngine–based LiDAR sensors and related ADAS & AD systems.

The Canadian Automotive Parts and Manufacturers' Association (APMA) (Booth #6367, LVCC West Hall) is Canada's national association representing OEM producers of parts, equipment, tools, supplies and advanced technology services for the worldwide automotive industry. LeddarTech is a proud member of the association and a technical contributor in the autonomous vehicle initiative "Project Arrow."

Gouvernement du Qubec – Investissement Qubec (Booth #51827, The Venetian Expo, 2nd floor, 201 Sands Avenue, Las Vegas) is the go–to partner for international businesses thinking of locating to Qubec. They also support the efforts made by Qubec companies to access and expand into innovative markets. LeddarTech is proud to be a delegate on its CES trade mission. The company will be highlighting its sensor solutions for ITS and mobility applications.

Set a meeting with LeddarTech at CES:

LeddarTech will have representatives from all divisions available. You are invited to pre–arrange a meeting HERE for product demonstrations, media interviews, industry analyst or investor discussions, enquire about joining the Leddar Ecosystem or learn about the incredible career opportunities available. The team will be there to greet you at the booth or meet with you ""by appointment only"" in the LeddarTech business lounge #W318 at LVCC West Hall "" Level 3.

About LeddarTech

LeddarTech provides the most flexible, robust and accurate sensing technology for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and autonomous driving (AD). LeddarTech enables customers to solve critical environmental sensing, fusion and perception challenges across the entire value chain. The company offers cost–effective, scalable solutions such as LeddarVision, a raw–data sensor fusion and perception platform that generates a comprehensive 3D environmental model with multi–sensor support for camera, radar and LiDAR configurations. LeddarTech supports LiDAR makers and Tier 1–2 automotive system integrators with LeddarSteer, a digital beam steering device, and the LiDAR XLRator development solution for automotive–grade solid–state LiDAR based on the LeddarEngine and core components from global semiconductor partners. LeddarTech is responsible for several cutting–edge remote–sensing innovations, with over 100 patented technologies (granted or pending) enhancing ADAS and autonomous driving capabilities.

Additional information about LeddarTech is accessible at www.leddartech.com and on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Contact:
Daniel Aitken, Vice–President, Global Marketing, Communications and Product Management, LeddarTech Inc.
Tel.: + 1–418–653–9000 ext. 232
daniel.aitken@leddartech.com

Leddar, LeddarTech, LeddarSteer, LeddarEngine, LeddarVision, LeddarSP, LeddarCore, LeddarEcho, VAYADrive, VayaVision, XLRator and related logos are trademarks or registered trademarks of LeddarTech Inc. and its subsidiaries. All other brands, product names and marks are or may be trademarks or registered trademarks used to identify products or services of their respective owners.


Beyond Expo: Embedding the SDGs in the DNA of Future Technology and Innovation

Visitors at booth for Beyond Expo. Credit: TechNode

By Siddharth Chatterjee and Jingbo Huang
BEIJING, Dec 14 2021 –  

A landscape of shared global challenges

The COVID-19 pandemic has moved us farther away from the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Data shows that the pandemic has pushed a further 124 million people into extreme poverty. Global poverty is now expected to be at 7% by 2030 – only marginally below the level in 2015. And with the global temperature increase already at 1.2 degrees, we are on the verge of the abyss. UN Secretary-General António Guterres is deeply concerned about the impact of the pandemic on the SDGs. But there is hope. He believes in the knowledge, science, technology, and resources to turn it around. He also urges further financing for development and climate action.

The SDGs can only be achieved with strong global partnerships and cooperation. Building back better calls for inclusive green growth, including integrated policy choices in governance, social protection, green economy, and digitalization.

The UN in China also recognizes the importance of equipping people with the skills in science, technology, and innovation needed for decent work, entrepreneurship, and the achievement of the SDGs.

What’s Next?

Against this backdrop, it was a pleasure to witness and participate in the Beyond International Technology Innovation Expo, which took place in Macao SAR, China, from 2-4 December 2021. The world can be reassured by the strong will for People-first Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) among the over 300 companies and over 20,000 participants gathered in Macao. Both of us joined the Expo, one physically and one remotely, and we commend Jason Ho and Gang Lu, the two young organizers who have shown their belief in the social, environmental and governance impact of technology, financing, and business, in setting the theme of the first Beyond Expo to be “what’s next?”.

The last day was dedicated to an SDGs Summit to highlight one of the major themes of the Expo, technology, investment, business for impact and the SDGs. The SDGs Summit consisted of three panel discussions: Impact investing, AI and ethics, and business social responsibilities. It was encouraging to hear that young start-ups and impact investors embed the SDGs in the DNA of their operations. Among them, there were initiatives on carbon neutrality, green agriculture, technology to empower rural women, and auto-driving boats to clean ocean garbage.

The co-authors Siddharth Chatterjee (left) and Jingbo Huang (right)

A new frontier for the UN

UNU in Macao, the UN organization in Macao and the focal point of the UN Country Team in China on digital technologies, played host and provided speakers to the second panel of the SDGs Summit. Attendees discovered how the latest technological developments found in China could offer ample solutions to the world’s development issues, especially those in the Global South, such as agriculture, health, and climate change. Seeing the vision of the organizers, panellists, and participants’ who are putting the SDGs at the core of their business rather than as a public relations tool provides hope for our collective future.

Beyond Expo also hosted a virtual panel featuring some UN organizations, entitled “How would the UN leverage technologies for SDGs: Conversations among technology leaders in the UN system”. It included key senior staff from the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology, UNDP, and UNOPS. They discussed how their respective organizations are using technologies to accelerate the SDGs, and how the UN can deliver as one, harnessing big data and innovation.

To 2030 and Beyond

Beyond Expo has shown us its potential as a platform where impact investors, companies, government, academia, and the UN can get together to discuss how to co-create a more sustainable future through technology and innovation. It is also a prime example of how emerging generations of entrepreneurs, technologists, and investors realize that sustainability is not just good for humanity but good for business.

The UN in China calls for action from all stakeholders, including governments, individuals, and businesses, and will stand ready to support future collaborations and new partnerships to generate solutions and explore innovations for the SDGs, towards the 2030 Agenda and beyond.

Siddharth Chatterjee
Mr. Siddharth Chatterjee took office as the United Nations Resident Coordinator in China on 16 January 2021 and is the designated representative of – and reports to – the UN Secretary-General.

Mr. Chatterjee has more than 25 years of experience in international cooperation, sustainable development, humanitarian coordination and peace and security in the United Nations and the Red Cross movement. Mr. Chatterjee holds a master’s degree in public policy from Princeton University in the United States of America.

Jingbo Huang
Dr. Jingbo Huang is the Director of the United Nations University Research Institute in Macau, a UN think tank on digital technology and SDGs. Jingbo has been serving the UN system for the past 20 years across five UN organizations. She holds a Doctor of Education degree from Columbia University and is also an alumna of Peking University.

 


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