Zenas BioPharma Appoints Dr. John Orloff to Board of Directors

BOSTON and SHANGHAI, China, Jan. 06, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Zenas BioPharma, a global biopharmaceutical company committed to becoming a leader in the development and delivery of immune–based therapies, today announced the appointment of John Orloff, MD to its Board of Directors. Dr. Orloff joins the Zenas Board with over 25 years of experience successfully leading global research and development organizations across multiple therapeutic areas including autoimmune diseases.

"We are extremely pleased to welcome Dr. Orloff to the Zenas Board of Directors," said Lonnie Moulder, Founder and Executive Chairman of Zenas. "John's leadership and extensive expertise in research, development, and medical and regulatory affairs will be invaluable as we advance our portfolio of innovative immune–based therapeutics and continue to expand our pipeline via business development."

"I am delighted to work with the Zenas leadership team and fellow directors as the Company rapidly progresses an exciting immune–based pipeline," said Dr. Orloff. "I look forward to contributing to the Company's continued development as it strives to deliver on its mission to bring innovative medicines to patients in need."

Dr. Orloff currently serves as a venture partner with Agent Capital. In his most recent executive role, he served as Executive Vice President and Head of Research and Development at Alexion where his leadership in expanding the development pipeline to 30 programs supported the recent $39 billion acquisition of Alexion by AstraZeneca.

Prior to Alexion, Dr. Orloff served as Global Head of R&D and Chief Scientific Officer at Baxalta, and has also held executive leadership roles with Novelion, Baxter International, Merck Serono, Novartis and Merck Research Laboratories. Before entering the biopharmaceutical industry, he was a faculty member of the Yale University School of Medicine. Dr. Orloff received an undergraduate degree in chemistry from Dartmouth College, earned his medical degree from the University of Vermont, College of Medicine and completed a fellowship in endocrinology and metabolism at Yale University School of Medicine.

About Zenas BioPharma

Zenas BioPharma is a global biopharmaceutical company based in the USA and China committed to becoming a leader in the development and delivery of immune–based therapies for patients in the US, China and around the world. Zenas is rapidly advancing a deep pipeline of innovative therapeutics that continues to grow through our successful business development strategy. Our experienced leadership team and network of business partners drive operational excellence to deliver potentially transformative therapies to improve the lives of those facing autoimmune and rare diseases. For more information about Zenas BioPharma, please visit www.zenasbio.com and follow us on Twitter at @ZenasBioPharma and LinkedIn.

Investor and Media Contact:
Joe Farmer
Zenas BioPharma
IR@zenasbio.com


Too Harmful: The March of Salt and Plastics on World Soils

By Baher Kamal
MADRID, Jan 6 2022 – There are more under-reported consequences of human activities unmatching the rhythm of Mother Nature. Such is the case, among many others, of the growing salinisation and ‘plastification’ of the world’s soils.

In fact, currently it is estimated that there are more than 833 million hectares of salt-affected soils around the globe (8.7% of the planet). This implies the loss of soil’s capacity to grow food and also increasing impacts on water and the ability to filter pollution.

Unsustainable human activities are exacerbating soil salinity. Excessive tillage, the over-use of fertilisers, inappropriate irrigation methods and use of poor-quality water, deforestation or the overexploitation of groundwater are the main drivers of human-induced soil salinisation

Soil salinisation and sodification are major soil degradation processes threatening ecosystems and are recognised as being among the most important problems at a global level for agricultural production, food security and sustainability in arid and semi-arid regions, says the UN on occasion of the 2021 World Soil Day.

Not only: salt-affected soils have serious consequences on soil functions, such as in the decrease in agricultural productivity, water quality, soil biodiversity, and soil erosion and have a decreased ability to act as a buffer and filter against pollutants.

Salt-affected soils reduce both the ability of crops to take up water and the availability of micronutrients, and they also concentrate ions that are toxic to plants and may degrade the soil structure.

 

A threat to global pantry

Soil salinity is a naturally occurring phenomenon in arid environments, such as deserts, where intense evaporation and a chronic lack of water often turn the earth overly saline. Soils like these are less fertile because salt hampers plants’ natural ability to take up water from the ground, explains the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

“But unsustainable human activities are exacerbating soil salinity. Excessive tillage, the over-use of fertilisers, inappropriate irrigation methods and use of poor-quality water, deforestation or the overexploitation of groundwater are the main drivers of human-induced soil salinisation.”

The World Soil Day 2021 and its campaign “Halt soil salinisation, boost soil productivity” aimed to raise awareness of the importance of maintaining healthy ecosystems and human well-being by addressing the growing challenges in soil management, fighting soil salinisation, increasing soil awareness and encouraging societies to improve soil health.

According to FAO, these are, among others, the impacts of salt-affected soils:

Salt-affected soils have serious impacts on some of the ecosystem services soils usually provide, which are critical for supporting human life and biodiversity leading to an array of consequences including:

  • decreased agricultural productivity, water quality, soil biodiversity, and increased soil erosion;
  • decreased ability to act as a buffer and filter against contaminants;
  • degraded soil structure;
  • decreased functions of ecological systems such as the hydrological and nutrient cycles;
  • reduced ability of crops to take up water
  • reduced soil fertility and availability of micronutrients.

 

Half of Uzbekistan’s soils covered by salt

The Central Asian country is doubly land-locked – meaning it is surrounded by countries that are themselves landlocked – and more than half of Uzbekistan’s soils are salt-affected, making it extra hard to farm productively, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reports as an example.

 

Not only salt… also plastic

A December 2021 new report by FAO suggests that the land human beings use to grow food is contaminated with “far larger quantities of plastic pollution,” posing an even greater threat to food security, people’s health, and the environment.

The report – “Assessment of agricultural plastics and their sustainability: a call for action” – is the first global report of its kind by FAO and contains some startling numbers.

According to data collated by the UN agency’s experts:

– Agricultural value chains each year use 12.5 million tonnes of plastic products.

– A further 37.3 million tonnes are used in food packaging. The crop production and livestock sectors were found to be the largest users, accounting for 10.2 million tonnes per year collectively, followed by fisheries and aquaculture with 2.1 million tonnes, and forestry with 0.2 million tonnes.

– Asia was estimated to be the largest user of plastics in agricultural production, accounting for almost half of global usage. In the absence of viable alternatives, demand for plastic in agriculture is only set to increase.

– According to industry experts, for instance, global demand for greenhouse, mulching and silage films will increase by 50 percent, from 6.1 million tonnes in 2018 to 9.5 million tonnes in 2030.

– Such trends make it essential to balance the costs and benefits of plastic. Of increasing concern are microplastics, which have the potential of adversely affecting human health. While there are gaps in the data, they shouldn’t be used as an excuse not to act, FAO warned.

“This report serves as a loud call to coordinated and decisive action to facilitate good management practices and curb the disastrous use of plastics across the agricultural sectors,” FAO Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo said in the report’s foreword.

The report was presented today at a virtual event in conjunction with World Soil Day marked each year on 5 December.

 

Ubiquitous

“Plastics have become ubiquitous since their widespread introduction in the 1950s, and it is difficult today to envisage life without them.

In agriculture, plastic products greatly help productivity, according to the report.

“Mulch films, for instance, are used to cover the soil to reduce weed growth, the need for pesticides, fertiliser and irrigation; tunnel and greenhouse films and nets protect and boost plant growth, and extend cropping seasons and increase yields.”

This is also the case of “coatings on fertilisers, pesticides and seeds control the rate of release of chemicals or improve germination; tree guards protect young seedlings and saplings against damage by animals and provide a microclimate that enhances growth.”

Meanwhile, plastic products help reduce food losses and waste, and maintain its nutritional qualities throughout a myriad of value chains, thereby improving food security and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the report explains.

 

Billions of tonnes of plastic not properly disposed

Of the estimated 6.3 billion tonnes of plastics produced up to 2015, almost 80% has not been disposed of properly, says FAO.

Once in the natural environment, plastics can cause harm in several ways. The effects of large plastic items on marine fauna have been well documented.

However, as these plastics begin to disintegrate and degrade, their impacts begin to be exerted at the cellular level, affecting not only individual organisms but also, potentially, entire ecosystems.

Microplastics (plastics less than 5 mm in size) are thought to present specific risks to animal health, but recent studies have detected traces of microplastic particles in human faeces and placentas. There is also evidence of mother-to-foetus transmission of much smaller nanoplastics in rats.

While most scientific research on plastics pollution has been directed at aquatic ecosystems, especially oceans, FAO experts found that agricultural soils are thought to receive far greater quantities of microplastics.

Since 93% of global agricultural activities take place on land, there is an obvious need for further investigation in this area, concludes the report.

 

Need to know more?

Very little of the plastic we discard every day is recycled or incinerated in waste-to-energy facilities. Much of it ends up in landfills, where it may take up to 1,000 years to decompose, leaching potentially toxic substances into the soil and water, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), which warns that one third of all plastic waste ends up in soils or freshwater.

Furthermore: over 400 million tonnes of plastic are produced globally each year. It is estimated that one third of all plastic waste ends up in soils or freshwaters, according to Researchers from the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB).

 

More than marine pollution

Most of this plastic disintegrates into particles smaller than five millimetres, referred to as microplastics, and breaks down further into nanoparticles, which are less than 0.1 micrometre in size.

“In fact, terrestrial microplastic pollution is much higher than marine microplastic pollution – an estimate of four to 23 times more, depending on the environment. Sewage, for example, is an important factor in the distribution of microplastics.”

Also that “80% to 90% of the particles contained in sewage, such as from garment fibres, persist in the sludge. Sewage sludge is then often applied to fields as fertiliser, meaning that several thousand tonnes of microplastics end up in our soils each year.”

US Democracy Faces Gravest Danger

US President Donald Trump addresses the seventy-third session of the United Nations General Assembly. September 2018. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak

By Alon Ben-Meir
NEW YORK, Jan 6 2022 – Unless the Republicans and Democrats put the nation above their party and personal interests, our democracy will face the gravest danger in more than a hundred years.

Authoritarianism will creep in, leading to the collapse of American political institutions and the demise of our democracy as we know it.

Righting the Wrong

On January 6, Trump was planning to hold a press conference during which he was expected to repeat lies for the hundredth time that the election in 2020 was stolen, that the insurrection a year ago was actually peaceful, and that he – not Biden – is the duly-elected president.

He canceled the press conference at the urging of the GOP and now is expected to instead spread these lies at his Arizona rally next week. He will, needless to say, remain true to himself and deny any wrongdoing and blame the Democrats for persistently undermining his presidency as well as for all the ills that face America today.

Trump is uniquely dangerous; he wants to solidify his absolute control over the Republican Party, rouse his followers, instill hatred of the Democrats, and of course raise enough money for his re-election campaign should he decide to run again.

Moreover, the Arizona rally will be his first foray into the mid-term elections designed to rouse the rank-and-file of the Republican Party to recapture the House and the Senate as the forerunner to the 2024 election.

The tragic aspect of the Trump phenomenon is that the elected leaders of the Republican Party continue to follow him religiously, regardless of the fact that he is corrupt, was defeated in re-election as an incumbent, was impeached twice, and faces several criminal charges.

Indeed, no former president in American history has been able to maintain his grip on his party the way Trump has. And no Republican Party has abdicated its moral and constitutional responsibilities and willingly succumbed to a deranged egomaniac, misogynist, and habitual liar. How could this happen, and why? The answer is Trump’s and the Republicans’ voracious lust for power.

The Republican Party has become a minority party and there is no circumstance under which the party can win nationally in a free and fair election. Demographically, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, and other minorities currently represent more than 40 percent of the American population, and it is estimated that by 2045 they will become the majority, who largely vote for Democrats.

Collectively, even at the present they can deny the Republican Party from ever capturing the White House again if they go out and vote en masse.

The Republican Party faces two choices: one is to adapt to the changing demographic reality and develop socio-economic programs that respond to the needs of people of color (POC) without sacrificing much of their conservative ideology.

This includes lowering taxes, particularly for those who earn less than $200,000 a year, immigration reform, which the Republican Party has long-acknowledged needs addressing and will help in outreach especially to Hispanic voters, and supporting minority small business owners with tax breaks and other financial incentives, which won’t incur further government spending.

The second choice is to prevent or make it extremely difficult for POC to exercise their right to vote through a variety of deplorable measures. One state after another is passing discriminatory rules, including gerrymandering districts on racial lines, restricting early voting, which disproportionately affects Black Americans who are more likely than any other ethnic or racial group to cast early ballots (whether in-person or by mail and absentee ballots), enacting voter ID laws even though voter impersonation fraud is exceedingly rare and those who don’t have valid ID are disproportionately POC, and empower state legislators to invert their own elections and manipulate the electoral college to their advantage.

Sadly, if not tragically, the Republican Party went for the latter option. Many Republicans simply believe that POC are illegitimate citizens and should not be able to vote and have the power, as they fear accurately or otherwise, to enact laws against whites, the way whites have enacted discriminatory laws against POC. America, from their perspective, was founded by white people, and the thought that the US is becoming browner every passing day scares them to the core.

They needed a leader who is a bigot, shameless, and crude, with no scruples and no morals, but audacious—a performer with the ability to sway large audiences with his lies and sneering face. The Republicans need him to promote their agenda without fear of public repercussions, and he needs the party to satisfy his ego in order to exercise raw power, and also grant him its full support should he decide to run again.

We are still reeling from the violent storming of the Capitol on January 6 to prevent the peaceful transfer of power. Trump, who incited his followers to attack the Capitol, was ready to shatter our democracy only to bask in his authoritarian impulse.

What does that say about the Republican Party, which largely ignored or downplayed the insurrection in its determination to seize power and chose chaos and violence over voting, even at the expense of tearing our democratic institutions apart? How ironic and deeply troubling that 52 percent of Republicans say that the insurrectionists were trying to protect democracy.

The most ominous note that must be repeated loud and clear is that the party under the leadership of Trump will incite violence should they fail to win the 2022 election, as anyone who carefully listens to the many utterances spewed by reckless Republicans leaders can discern with clarity.

In that context, although Trump during his rally will not openly encourage his followers to resort to violence to undo the result of the election, the message to them will be loud and clear.

It is hard to exaggerate the transformation of the Republican Party since the rise of Trump in 2016, from a patriotic party that stood for democracy to a white supremacist party willing to destroy it only to stay in power.

Many thousands of Republican leaders should follow the footsteps of Representative Liz Cheney, who stood up against Trump and in favor of the truth, and still rescue our democracy by accepting reality and being truthful with their followers.

The election of Biden gave the country hope of preserving our democracy and attending to the political and social malaise that swept the nation, especially during Trump’s tenure in the White House. But to address these ills, the Democrats must spare no effort to hold onto the House and Senate in the 2022 mid-term election, as these will be the most consequential in more than a century.

Indeed, should the Republicans manage to recapture both chambers of Congress, our democracy will slide toward the precipice of disintegration while authoritarianism creeps in, and Biden’s agenda will be shattered.

The Democrats have their work cut out for them. They must rise in unison, which is bitterly still missing, stop short of nothing to strengthen voting rights, prevent the appointment of partisans to subvert the election, fight political corruption at every level, make political power decreasingly dependent on money, get out the vote, and eliminate the filibuster to pass the voting rights bill.

Furthermore, they must hold accountable the traitors behind the insurrection on January 6, including Trump.

Democrats and the millions of law-abiding Republicans should sound the alarm before it’s too late, and never waver to preserve and protect America’s 244-year-old democracy that served as a beacon of hope and freedom to the global community.

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a retired professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University (NYU). He taught courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies for over 20 years.

 


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A Fast-Spreading Pandemic has Reduced an Additional 100 Million People into Poverty

In India, five out of six people in multidimensional poverty were from lower castes. Credit: UNDP India/Dhiraj Singh

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 6 2022 – The UN’s highly-ambitious goal of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030 has been severely undermined by a rash of problems worldwide, including an escalating coronavirus pandemic, continued widespread military conflicts and the devastating impact of climate change.

According to published estimates, more than 700 million people have been living in poverty around the world, surviving on less than $1.90 a day.

But the fast-spreading pandemic, whose origins go back to December 2019, has been singled out as the primary reason for a rise in global poverty– for the first time in 20 years.

A World Bank report, which was updated last October, says about 100 million additional people are now living in poverty as a direct result of the pandemic.

For almost 25 years, extreme poverty — the first of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) — was steadily declining. Now, for the first time in a generation, the quest to end poverty has suffered a setback, says the report.

Sir Richard Jolly, Institute of Development Studies, Sussex, UK, told IPS at least the World Bank is emphasizing that world poverty has been rising — after many years where in countries with positive economic per capita growth, it suggested that poverty had fallen, or soon would.

Admitting he was “a fan” of the UNDP’s annual Human Development Report (HDR), he said: “So, for me, multi- dimensional poverty is a more realistic and relevant indicator”.

“I want to know what’s been happening to life expectancy, access to education and incomes of the poorer sections of society, those below a poverty measure or median income”

For instance, the numbers and percentages of the population below $10,000 in many countries, lower for some, especially in Africa. Even if by income measures poverty is rising, a multi-dimensional measure is much better, he said.

“What are those in UNDP’s HDR office saying about recent poverty trends?” asked Sir Richard, who was a former Trustee of Oxfam and chairman of the UN Association of the UK.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the pandemic has “laid bare” challenges –such as structural inequalities, inadequate healthcare, and the lack of universal social protection – and the heavy price societies are paying as a result.

Ending poverty sits at the heart of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and is the first of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Despite this, poverty and hunger, Guterres said, are on the rise, following decades of progress.

In his New Year message last week, he said the world welcomes 2022 “with our hopes for the future being tested”: by deepening poverty and worsening inequality, by an unequal distribution of COVID vaccines, by climate commitments that fall short of their goals and by ongoing conflicts, divisions, and misinformation.

“These are not just policy tests. These are moral and real-life tests. And they are tests humanity can pass — if we commit to making 2022 a year of recovery for everyone,” he declared.

In an interview with IPS, Roberto Bissio, Coordinator of Social Watch, an international network of citizen organizations that monitor how governments meet internationally-agreed commitments, pointed out that the World Bank once again underestimates poverty by measuring it with the extremely low benchmark of $1.90 a day.

Further, by assuming that the tide lifts all boats equally it claims that the Covid-induced poverty “tsunami” of 2020 is being turned around by economic growth in 2021.

“This ignores the conclusion of the World Inequality Report 2022 (launched December 7, 2021 and available here: https://wid.world/news-article/world-inequality-report-2022/ ), showing that inequalities have been exacerbated, particularly in the South, where states don’t have deep pockets to fund emergency social protection”.

The Bank is right that SDG1 on reducing poverty won’t be achieved by 2030 without major policy changes, but neither will SDG10 on reducing inequalities, said Bissio, who was also a former member of the Civil Society Advisory Committee to the Administrator of the UN Development Programme, and has covered development issues as a journalist since 1973.

“And it shamefully ignores that World Bank promoted policies of privatization and deregulation make the inequalities worse,” he argued.

“Instead, the policies recommended by the infamous and now discontinued “Doing Business” report of the World Bank, are still part of the conditions imposed on countries to receive emergency from the Bank”.

The institution that claims to have poverty reduction as its main mandate is part of the problem, not of the solution, said Bissio, who is also international representative of the Uruguay-based Third World Institute.

Vicente Paolo Yu, Senior Legal Adviser at the Third World Network, told IPS the setback in 2020 to the fight against global poverty due to the Covid pandemic exacerbates the impact of other crises such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and the development gap on the global poor, particularly those in developing countries.

“Global poverty and inequality among and in all countries, climate change, biodiversity loss, and unequal pandemic responses are among the present-day results of historical injustices on the
Global South committed in the name of Western civilization and globalization,” he said.

“The past is part of our present that shapes our future. These crises are linked and cannot be fought effectively through piecemeal efforts or in silos.”

Global poverty and inequality exist not because people are not hard working in their own homes and communities but because the way that the global economic, financial, and trade system is set up makes it difficult for poor peoples and countries to get out of poverty, he argued.

Developing countries that have recently managed to succeed in cutting poverty have been those that have implemented diverse development policies, said Yu, who is a former Deputy Executive Director of the South Centre in Geneva.

Hence, poverty and inequality are not natural phenomena but are borne out of the actions and decisions taken by human societies. They can also be reversed by human decisions, he noted.

“Failing to act together as a common human community on all fronts on poverty and inequality and their various manifestations in the root causes and impacts of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pandemic responses leads to the denial of human choices and opportunities, violations of human rights, and increased human insecurity, powerlessness, and exclusion for peoples, their communities, and their countries,” declared Yu.

Fighting these must be through a broad and systemic effort across the world founded on a deep sense of urgency and understanding of equity and justice as public goods in undertaking interlinked actions in the economic, social, and environmental fields. It is about choosing to create the conditions for human dignity and a decent life for all rather hoping for charity from the wealthy, he added.

“The continued existence of deep poverty and inequality for many peoples across the globe, compounded by the climate, biodiversity and pandemic crises, is injustice writ large — particularly when seen against the technological and industrial advances and capital accumulation of a relative few”.

“It is against the tenets of all faiths and human goodwill to refuse to act against the injustice of poverty. We should not simply look away and call for charity. We need to act with courage and conviction to correct injustice, redress wrongs, and achieve liberation from poverty and inequality.”

The year 2022, he predicted, should be the year when all peoples come together to set each other free from the shackles of global poverty and inequality.

 


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