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China to extend pollution clampdown, but warns coronavirus makes targets tougher

Tori Holland

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China to extend pollution clampdown, but warns coronavirus makes targets tougher

FILE PHOTO: People are seen on a polluted day in central Beijing, China March 2, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

BEIJING (Reuters) – China said on Friday it will continue to strengthen anti-pollution controls and meet its environmental targets for 2020, but warned that the coronavirus pandemic would weigh on energy intensity goals.

“By maintaining the same direction and intensity of effort, we will address problem at the source, (and) bring about sustained improvement in the environment,” the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said in a statement.

Earlier this month, China’s environment ministry had said the improvement in air quality in the first quarter of this year was “incomparable” as restrictions imposed to contained the coronavirus outbreak meant the closure of industrial plants and reduced travel.

But China’s air pollution saw an increase in April for the first time since December, with analysts attributing the rebound to the resumption of economic activity.

China’s finance ministry will allocate a total of 407.3 billion yuan ($57 billion) to ecology and environment protection in 2020, up from 390.6 billion yuan last year, according to a statement on Friday.

The country will continue to promote less polluting heating systems in northern China by replacing coal with gas or electricity, and will impose ultra-low emission standards at more steel mills, the NDRC said.

“However, the tasks for this year remain formidable,” the NDRC said, pointing out that the impact of the epidemic on economic growth is likely to be greater than the impact on total energy consumption.

China fell short of its energy efficiency goals in 2019, leaving experts concerned it might struggle to meet 2020 targets as it would prioritise more energy-intensive projects to shore up the virus-hit economy.

Meanwhile the state planner vowed to push forward on tightening emissions controls at coal-fired power plants, and “actively yet prudently” develop hydropower and advanced nuclear power facilities, making non-fossil fuels the major contributor to energy consumption growth.

Reporting by Tom Daly, Min Zhang and Muyu Xu; Writing by Shivani Singh; Editing by Tom Hogue and Kenneth Maxwell

After being a professional journalist for 5 years and understanding the ups and downs of health care sector all over the world, Tori shifted her focus to the digital world. Today, she works as a contributor for News Brig with a knack for covering general and health news in the best possible format.

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Health/Science/Environment

Shanghai Junshi Biosciences in human tests for coronavirus antibody drug

Tori Holland

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Shanghai Junshi Biosciences in human tests for coronavirus antibody drug

BEIJING (Reuters) – Shanghai Junshi Biosciences has started an early-stage study in China to test a potential antibody treatment against the coronavirus in uninfected people, official paper Liberation Daily said on its online channel on Sunday. bit.ly/3eZhSWM

The experimental drug, JS016, is also expected to begin human study in the United States in the second quarter of this year, through collaboration with Eli Lilly and Co.

Junshi is among a few biotech firms and research institutes backed by global pharmaceutical giants to work on antibody-based therapies to help those infected with the fast-spreading new coronavirus, which has killed nearly 400,000 globally.

The company hopes that its antibody, isolated from recovered patients’ blood and engineered by researchers, can also protect healthy people with high infection risk, such as medical workers and the elderly, from getting the virus, said Feng Hui, chief operating officer of Junshi.

But the product can be much more expensive than a vaccine, a more commonly used preventive medicine for which multiple candidates are being tested, as Junshi’s antibody drug is expected to contain larger amounts of costly proteins in one dose than a vaccine, Feng said.

“Vaccines and antibodies have their own intended consumers and they cannot replace each other,” Feng said in an interview with Reuters before the announcement.

“Vaccines are cheap and suitable for nationwide immunization, but older people with relatively weak immunity may not have as robust a response to vaccines as healthy adults and children,” Feng said. “Antibodies can better protect those people from the virus.”

To make the drug, Junshi has been placing orders with overseas suppliers for materials and items such as specialised vials 12 months prior to delivery, instead of the usual six months, for fear that the virus outbreak would further disrupt logistics and supply chain bottlenecks.

Although further study is needed to determine how much protein to put in one dose, Feng said Junshi’s manufacturing capacity and access to key supplies allow it to make enough doses to serve 100,000 people “with absolutely no problem” by the end of the year, based on one gram of protein in a shot for one person.

However, Feng cautioned that it remains uncertain whether they can find enough participants to use the drug in later-stage, larger-scale human tests.

Reporting by Roxanne Liu and Se Young Lee. Editing by Gerry Doyle

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Fujifilm says COVID-19 drug research may drag on into July

Tori Holland

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Fujifilm says COVID-19 drug research may drag on into July

FILE PHOTO: Tablets of Avigan (generic name : Favipiravir), a drug approved as an anti-influenza drug in Japan and developed by drug maker Toyama Chemical Co, a subsidiary of Fujifilm Holdings Co. are displayed during a photo opportunity at Fujifilm’s headquarters in Tokyo October 22, 2014. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo

TOKYO (Reuters) – Fujifilm Holdings Corp’s research on Avigan as a potential treatment for COVID-19 may drag on until July, the company said on Sunday, a further setback in the Japanese firm’s race to find a vaccine.

“There is a possibility that clinical trials will continue in July,” a Fujifilm spokesman said, responding to a Nikkei rep ort that any approval will be delayed until July or later, due to a lack of patients for trials.

After the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gave up on getting approval for the drug by the end of May, the aim was to complete clinical trials this month.

But researchers have only been able to get around 70% of the patients needed for the trials, and because it takes 28 days to get results, the process will continue until at least July, the Nikkei business daily said, citing an unnamed source.

The spokesman said Fujifilm does not make public details of the progress of clinical trials but it has expanded the number of medical institutions that are cooperate in the trials. “We aim to complete clinical trials as soon as possible.”

Drugmakers around the world are scrambling to develop a vaccine for the new coronavirus, which has infected nearly 7 million people globally, while the disease it causes, COVID-19, has killed nearly 400,000.

Many countries are focusing on drugs like Gilead Sciences Inc’s antiviral remdesivir and some are using the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, touted by U.S. President Donald Trump. Abe’s government has championed Japanese candidate Avigan, also known as Favipiravir.

Countries that have succeeded in curbing infections have sometimes paradoxically found it difficult to sustain clinical trials because of dwindling sample sizes for patients.

Japan has avoided the explosive outbreaks seen in some other nations, with about 17,000 infections, and the number of daily infection has been falling, according to public broadcaster NHK and the health ministry.

Reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Editing by William Mallard

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Shanghai Junshi Biosciences begins human test for experimental coronavirus antibody drug – local paper

Tori Holland

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Shanghai Junshi Biosciences begins human test for experimental coronavirus antibody drug - local paper

BEIJING (Reuters) – Shanghai Junshi Biosciences has started an early-stage study to test its potential antibody treatment against coronavirus in healthy people, official paper Liberation Daily said on its online channel on Sunday. bit.ly/3eZhSWM

The experimental drug, JS016, is expected to begin human study in the United States in the second quarter of this year, through collaboration with Eli Lilly and Co, with which Junshi announced a partnership last month.

Reporting by Roxanne Liu and Se Young Lee. Editing by Gerry Doyle

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