Pfizer Vaccine May Be on the Way
Early data from the drugmaker Pfizer suggest that its candidate COVID-19 vaccine may be 90% effective. By the end of the year, the company hopes to produce enough to immunize at least 15 million people, The New York Times reports. An effective vaccine is key to safely achieving herd immunity, protecting both the vaccinated and the unvaccinated and ending the pandemic, Kevin Hartnett explained for Quanta in June.
New Gene-Editing Tools
A new grasp of how bacteria fight viruses with “retrons” has researchers optimistic that these molecular complexes can help edit genes, Elizabeth Pennisi reports for Science Magazine. The researchers hope to repeat history by developing genetic manipulation tools akin to CRISPR, which also sprang from the study of bacterial defenses, as Carl Zimmer described for Quanta in 2015.
Is the Universe Infinite?
Astronomers can’t quite tell whether the universe goes on forever or curves back in on itself, although it isn’t for lack of their trying, as Eric Betz explains for Discover Magazine. Whether the universe is infinite or finite ultimately depends on its geometry — flat, spherical or hyperbolic. Erica Klarreich and Lucy Reading-Ikkanda depicted all three shapes for Quanta in a multimedia explainer in March.
COVID-19 Moves to Minks
COVID-19 has jumped from humans to minks in the Netherlands, and back. The detour does not seem to have produced additional mutations that could worsen the dangers of the disease, John Timmer reports for Ars Technica. Many viral diseases start in animals, and can move back and forth between human and animal populations. Epidemiology researcher Tara C. Smith explained how viruses jump between species for Quanta in February.