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COVID-19 vaccine research developments in the UK

Mounir Jamil

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COVID-19 vaccine

Robin Shattock, Professor of Mucosal Infection and Immunity at the Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College London is leading the research for a candidate COVID-19 vaccine. The research team are recording data from the trials to infer whether the vaccine will be tolerated well by the human body and produce an effective immune response against the virus.

Professor Shattock highlighted the vaccines future while speaking at an online seminar series with the Imperial College Academic Health Science Centre (AHSC).

Other vaccines are usually developed by growing a virus or a protein, however the Imperial COVID-19 vaccine is produced via synthetic strands of genetic code (known as RNA) that are based on the virus’s genetic material. When it is injected into the muscle, the RNA will self-amplify and generate copies of itself, instructing the body’s own cells to create spikey protein copies that are located on the outside of the virus. This in turn trains the immune system to reply to the coronavirus making it easy for the body to recognize and defend itself against COVID-19 in the future.

Professor Shattock highlights that’s the new technology has several advantages for the future, such as the ability to produce millions of doses of the vaccine in mere weeks and at a low cost. Furthermore, he is a firm believer that this technology can be adapted to prepare scientists for pandemics in the future in a faster way.

The COVID-19 vaccine has successfully gone through several rigorous pre-clinical safety trials, and it has proven to be safe in animal studies and has showed encouraging results for an effective immune response.

In August 300 healthy participants were administered two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. If the vaccine is safe and yields a promising and positive response in humans, then it will move forward to larger Phase III trials, which will be planned later in the year with around 6000 healthy participants. The plan is for the vaccine to be introduced to the UK and countries across the world for adequate long-term protection against COVID-19.

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MedTech

Game tech company Razor announces cyber-looking smart mask

Adnan Kayyali

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smart mask

Having spent an entire year living with the pandemic and grown accustomed to the safety precautions and routine, people want more than to just wear a mask for safety. Fashion designers and artists have been customizing masks for some time now, catering to those who wish to incorporate safety into their style, but not all of them meet the required safety standards.

Razor has come forth with its own conceptual model of what “the world’s smartest mask” would look and act like but with their own techy twist, in addition to adhering to safety regulations that allow the mask to do its job. Their attempt at a smart mask culminated in one of the most cyber-punk-looking face masks ever to hit the shelves.

The team at Inside Telecom has not tested these masks, as they are still in the creative concept stages, and not an actual product to be tested, and so this information comes straight from Razor.

What’s so smart about it?

Classified as an N95, the mask is fitted with, protects against the tiny droplets that carry the covid-19 water droplets through the air, and also prevents ones breath from escaping as it is equipped with two filters on either side, but that’s just the standard.

No more funny faces under the mask, as the mask has a transparent front that allows for lip reading and facial expression, two important aspects of effective communication between people. It is also equipped with small LED lights within the mask and around the mouth.

As far as communication, the smart mask also comes with a voice amplifier that helps get around the muffling effects, another annoying thing about regular masks.

Does this means that something has to power it?  Well, this obviously reusable mask comes with a sleek looking box container lined with disinfecting UV lights.

In simple words, the mask can be recharged and used for 24 hours nonstop and can also be disinfected at the same time.

Perhaps we will see more mask concepts emerge as the pandemic goes into the second year, or perhaps customized and fashionable face masks become the newest thing elder parents don’t understand about their children.

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MedTech

How the pandemic changed the Startup playing field

Mounir Jamil

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The pandemic has left its mark on businesses far and wide, however when it comes to the startup industry – things do not go as expected.

With COVID-19 bringing with it several structural transformations that lie ahead for businesses, certain trends become more evident and examinable.

We can see a filtration effect taking place in the startup industry as companies are separated into a category of businesses that have enjoyed expansion and growth during the pandemic.

And another category of companies that are the disrupted and potentially derailed businesses.

Overall, we witnessed the pandemic effect whereby it catalyzes and accelerates the disruptive role of technology across several industries. As this was noted by how fast we saw new ideas come to life.

The following table better illustrates the industries that managed to do well during the pandemic with those that are struggling. Data aggregated from Forbes.

Businesses doing well during pandemic  Businesses struggling during pandemic  
E-commerceLive Events
Media and GamingRestaurants
Video ConferencingOn-premise enterprise IT
Public CloudPhysical Retail
CybersecurityIT Services
Health TechTravel and Hospitality

And, according to SP Global, the five industries least impacted by COVID-19 are:

IndustryMedian PD as of March 1, 2020Median PD as of March 31, 2020
Property, Casualty Insurance0.59%1.06%
Health Care REITs0.55%0.52%
Multi-line Insurance0.59%0.92%
Life & Health Insurance0.62%1.00%
Industrial REITs0.08%0.55%

With all this in mind, we examine two prominent and long term marks the pandemic will be leaving on the startup ecosystem.

Wider Talent Pool

As COVID-19 claimed the lives of thousands of people around the world every day and as many traditional businesses felt the heat of the new reality, many SMEs and large corporations shifted to digital mode.

This opens up so many avenues for HR when it comes to hiring, and talent acquisition.

No longer constraint by location, proximity, nationality, or even time – HR managers literally have the world to choose from when it comes to their next hire, allowing for a stronger and more diversified team

Increased Non-Local Investors

The world is now closer to the tips of our fingers.

This new undeniable fact made it much easier to make solid decisions based on the outputs of our screen.

Furthermore, the increased usage of video conferencing for startup pitches that has paved the way for virtual meetings in 2020, allowing venture capitalists to become more comfortable in making and managing remote investments.

The pandemic brought forward a surge of investments for big tech as Q3 of 2020 went down to be the second consecutive record quarter for big tech investments, according to CB Insights.

What does this mean?

The money is still there, the pace is getting even faster and more people are out to get it.

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MedTech

Film industry revenues devastated amid pandemic

Adnan Kayyali

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film industry

Few can forget the feeling of walking down the carpeted hallway, arms burdened with overpriced snacks and drinks, walking down that familiar noise-proof hallway.

Sadly, many have not felt the anticipation of the lights finally going off after a series of trailers and ads in a while. Movie theatres lay empty, popcorn machines getting rusty, and film industry revenues have tanked.

Box office revenue had been growing consistently for the past three decades prior to 2020.

Since last year, however, film industry revenues went down nearly 80 percent in a sharp dip, from just under $12 billion in 2019 to around $2.1 billion in the United States. Consumer spending during the pandemic had gone mainly to groceries, household supplies and home entertainment.

Spending went down sharply with almost every other consumer product especially the more luxurious ones as people keep a tight fist around their funds in uncertain times.

Suffice to say that going to the movie theatre is not exactly a recreational or unwinding experience when faced with the prospect of being in a room with even a single infected person. It is for that reason that ticket sales in the U.S. have hit a practical rock bottom.

In December of 2020, Warner Bros responded to the sudden drop in film industry revenues and movie ticket purchases by making all their 17 movies slated for 2021 available on HBO max. If people cannot go to the movies, the movies will just have to go to them. This is an unprecedented move that nobody would have thought possible one year ago, but the times have changed a great deal.

“No one wants films back on the big screen more than we do,” said Ann Sarnoff, Chair and CEO of Warner Media Studios and Networks Group, said in a statement. “We know new content is the lifeblood of theatrical exhibition, but we have to balance this with the reality that most theaters in the U.S. will likely operate at reduced capacity throughout 2021,” she added.

The future of the movie theatres and film as we were used to it is quite uncertain. 

The home streaming revenue model will just have to take over as the new reality, but hopefully people’s love of the theatre experience can be rekindled in a post-pandemic world, allowing us to go back to paying way too much for a soft drink that is sixty percent ice.

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