President-elect Joe Biden on Thursday proposed a plan to provide $1.9 trillion in COVID-19 relief, which would include $20 billion in funding for a national vaccine program, $350 billion for state and local governments, $50 billion for COVID-19 testing, and $170 billion for K-12 schools, colleges and universities. The American Rescue Plan would also provide $1,400 in direct payments to most Americans, boost federal unemployment benefits to $400 per week, raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour, and extend the eviction and foreclosure bans until the end of September.
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An updated report by the CDC indicates that the total number of COVID-19 vaccines distributed as of Jan. 14 has reached 30,628,175 doses, while the number of first doses administered now stands at 11,148,991.
Four former CDC directors were interviewed on NBC about the COVID-19 pandemic and the vaccine rollout, among other topics. "Something that transmits easier means that we have to be so much better than we currently are at following the recommendations of CDC, following the recommendations of public health," said Dr. Richard Besser, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
HHS has rolled out a treatment locator tool that shows which sites have received shipments of FDA-authorized COVID-19 antibody treatments within the past several weeks. The tool, which can be accessed at HHS' Protect Public Data Hub, "allows patients and providers to find sites for outpatient treatment options, which may help reduce the number of people who require hospitalization for COVID-19 care, which in turn reduces the strain on our nation's hospitals and their staff," according to Robert Kadlec, HHS assistant secretary for preparedness and response.
Former FDA Commissioner and current Pfizer board member Scott Gottlieb said data from Johnson & Johnson's early-stage trials for its single-dose coronavirus vaccine published Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine showed a good profile and could indicate "we are probably going to have a third entrant here." Results showed that neutralizing antibodies were found in all participants who received the vaccine when they were tested after 57 days, and the company plans to launch the vaccine by March, with a goal of delivering 1 billion doses this year, said J&J Chief Scientific Officer Paul Stoffels.
The FDA approved Pfizer's supplemental new drug application for Xalkori, or crizotinib, as a treatment for pediatric patients aged 12 months or older as well as young adults with refractory or relapsed, systemic ALK-positive anaplastic large cell lymphoma.
An investigational new drug application filed by Vor Biopharma for its stem cell therapy candidate VOR33 has received FDA clearance. The treatment is intended for acute myeloid leukemia patients who have a high risk for relapse.
Amgen has signed a license and collaboration deal with EVOQ Therapeutics that will focus drug discovery and development for autoimmune diseases. EVOQ will receive an upfront payment of $240 million from Amgen, in addition to potential royalties from subsequent sales, for the collaboration on using dendritic cells to boost immune tolerance.
Stefan Oelrich, the president of Bayer's pharmaceutical division, says Bayer will be able to help its recently acquired cell and gene therapy developers AskBio and BlueRock advance their treatments. Bayer's extensive chemical libraries and the autonomy given to its units should help the companies remain successful without losing their ability to innovate, Oelrich said.
Researchers in Austria studying the microbiome of rice seeds have identified a naturally occurring bacterium with the potential to make rice seeds resistant to a specific pathogen. Rice is a staple for about half the world's people, and the water-intensive crop faces damage from drought caused by climate change in addition to harmful pathogens.
Researchers in Australia have discovered a method to recycle soft plastic as an aggregate in concrete. The resulting material was used last year to build a footpath and car park in Frankston, Australia, and researchers say it can offer a way to reduce the carbon footprint of construction in the country.
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