A team of Thai COVID-19 vaccine researchers told the media on Wednesday that it has passed its testing of the mRNA vaccine prototype onto guinea pigs and now it is being tested on crab-eating macaques.
If a COVID-19 vaccine can be successfully produced, it will be provided to other ASEAN members including Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia as well as Pakistan that is not a member of ASEAN, said Dr. Kiat Ruxrungtham, chair of Chulalongkorn University’s Chula Vaccine Research Centre.
Kiat said in a press briefing that he believes human trials will start by early October this year.
“If things go as planned, Thailand will have its own COVID-9 vaccine next year,” he said.
“The mRNA technology uses modified nucleosides by boosting translation and decreasing activation of the innate immune system,” said Kiat, who is leading a 10-member research team. “The owner of the mRNA technology is Professor Dr. Drew Weissman from the University of Pennsylvania. He wanted Thailand and low-income nations to have access to the crucial vaccine.”
Because medical treatment for COVID-19 patients has been very costly, Kiat said it would be best if Thailand could produce its own vaccine.
Kiat’s research team was initially funded by a Chulalongkorn University start-up fund, but now also receives money from the National Vaccine Institute and the National Research Council of Thailand.
Kiat said his team is using the mRNA technology because it can produce more doses than the DNA type, and at a cheaper cost.
“For instance, if each dose of a DNA vaccine needs 2 milligrams of the substance, an mRNA dose will only require 0.1 mg,” he said.
Kiat said that if his team’s prototype is successful in human trials, each dose will only cost about 600 baht (19 U.S. dollars).
Kiat also said he has planned several phases of human trials, with the first covering 100 Bangkok residents, the second covering 500 to 1,000 people at medical schools both in Bangkok and the provinces. The third will see the vaccine injected into some 5,000 test subjects.
As part of the contract, the factory will transfer its technology to Thailand-based pharmaceutical company Bionet Asia, so that Thailand can set up its own vaccine production.
Nadal stunned by Schwartzman in Italian Open quarter-finals, Djokovic survives Koepfer
Defending champion Rafa Nadal crashed out of the Italian Open with a stunning 6-2 7-5 defeat by Argentine Diego Schwartzman in the quarter-finals on Saturday.
The nine-times Rome champion, who had won all nine previous meetings against Schwartzman, struggled with his serve throughout the match.
He made a series of uncharacteristic unforced errors that proved to be his undoing.
The Italian Open was the Spaniard’s first tournament in over seven months and while he cruised through the previous two rounds, his rustiness showed from the outset against the 15th-ranked Schwartzman.
Nadal committed 30 unforced errors to Schwartzman’s 17 and had his serve broken five times.
“Losing that many serves, you can’t expect to win a match,” Nadal said. “So that’s something that I have to fix. I know how to do it.”
Nadal will now travel to Paris, where he will look to clinch a record-extending 13th French Open title.
Schwartzman will face Denis Shapovalov in the semi-finals after the Canadian defeated Grigor Dimitrov 6-2 3-6 6-2 for his 100th tour-level match win.
Earlier in the day, Novak Djokovic overcame a mid-match wobble against Dominik Koepfer before securing a 6-3 4-6 6-3 win over the unseeded German and a semi-final spot.
The top-ranked Serb had sailed through the previous two rounds, his first matches since being defaulted at the United States Open for hitting a line judge with a ball.
But he faced a potentially tricky test when Koepfer levelled the contest at one set apiece.
However, Djokovic regained his focus to close out the victory and stay on course for his 36th ATP Masters 1000 crown.
He takes on Casper Ruud for a place in the final after the Norwegian battled past fourth seed and local hope Matteo Berrettini 4-6 6-3 7-6(5) in their last-eight clash.
“Clay is definitely Casper’s preferred surface. This is where he feels most comfortable. It’s semi-finals and it’s anybody’s game,” said Djokovic, who will be targeting his 30th victory from 31 matches this year.
“I’ll do some homework and be ready for that one.”
In the women’s draw, 2018 French Open champion Simona Halep advanced to the semi-finals when her opponent Yulia Putintseva retired due to a lower back injury while trailing 6-2 2-0.
The top-seeded Romanian will now meet Spain’s ninth seed Garbine Muguruza, who survived an early scare against Victoria Azarenka to beat the United States Open runner-up 3-6 6-3 6-4.
Halep said: “Every time I played well against her (Muguruza), I was as much as possible aggressive.
“If I play my best game, and if I feel great physically on court, I have a big chance to win the match. But every time is different, because she’s playing so hard. You don’t really know what to expect. It’s tough.”
Two-times champion and fourth seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, who skipped the United States Open to prepare for the claycourt swing, was stunned by Czech Marketa Vondrousova 6-3 6-0.
Number 12 seed Vondrousova will face compatriot Karolina Pliskova in the semi-finals after the defending champion survived a mid-match scare to beat Belgium’s Elise Mertens 6-3 3-6 6-0.
Edited By: Olawale Alabi)
United States initiates ‘snapback’ process to reimpose sanctions on Iran – Pompeo
The United States has initiated the so-called snapback process to restore almost all previously lifted UN sanctions against Iran, United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement on Saturday.
“Today, the United States welcomes the return of virtually all previously terminated UN sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terror and anti-Semitism,” Pompeo said.
He said the snapback of previously terminated UN sanctions became effective at 8 pm Washington time (0000 GMT).
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif rejected the United States move, saying that the snapback mechanism and reimposed sanctions were invalid.
“This step is not supported by the UN Security Council because the United States is no longer in the nuclear agreement and accordingly no longer plays a role in UN resolution 2231,” Zarif said referring to the resolution in which the UNSC backed the Iran nuclear deal signed in Vienna in 2015.
The move by Washington was merely a “propaganda trick” ahead of the United States election, Zarif said on Iranian state television.
Washington’s plans to reimpose international sanctions on Iran have been met with overwhelming opposition from other countries.
Other members of the UN Security Council (UNSC), including key United States allies who are part of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, have rejected Washington’s move and have vowed to ignore it.
Under the nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Tehran limited its nuclear activities in return for sanctions relief.
“Sanctions are being re-imposed on Iran pursuant to the snapback process under UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 2231. On August 20, the United States notified the President of the Security Council of Iran’s significant non-performance of its JCPOA commitments,” Pompeo said in the Saturday statement.
“Virtually all @UN sanctions have returned on Iran, the leading state sponsor of terrorism and anti-Semitism.
“This includes a permanent extension of the arms embargo. This is great news for peace in the region!” Pompeo added on Twitter.
He later added that Washington would soon “announce a range of additional measures to strengthen enforcement of @UN sanctions on Iran.”
“Our maximum pressure campaign on the Iranian regime will continue until it stops spreading chaos, violence, and bloodshed,” he said.
United States special representative for Iran and Venezuela Elliott Abrams had already signalled Washington’s determination to reimpose sanctions on Tehran earlier this week.
The United States launched a formal bid in August to revive the UN sanctions under the “snapback” mechanism included in the Iran deal.
Those sanctions include the indefinite extension of an arms embargo that would otherwise expire in October.
But few countries believe Washington’s move is legal, as United States President Donald Trump unilaterally exited the JCPOA in 2018.
Washington said it would provide more information this weekend and next week on how the United States intended to enforce the global sanctions.
“In the coming days, the United States will announce a range of additional measures to strengthen implementation of UN sanctions and hold violators accountable,” Pompeo said in Saturday’s statement.
“Our maximum pressure campaign on the Iranian regime will continue until Iran reaches a comprehensive agreement with us to rein in its proliferation threats and stops spreading chaos, violence, and bloodshed,” Pompeo asserted.
Trump is likely to address Iran in his speech next week to the UN General Assembly’s largely online meeting of world leaders.
The stand-off between the United States and other member states over the issue threatens a diplomatic crisis at the world body.
Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim
Pirlo says Suarez unlikely to join Juventus after all
Juventus are unlikely to sign FC Barcelona and Uruguay forward Luis Suarez afterall, coach Andrea Pirlo said on Saturday as he prepared for the start of the new Serie A season.
Pirlo, who replaced Maurizio Sarri last month in spite of having no senior coaching experience, will make his debut at home to Sampdoria on Sunday.
He said Juventus needed a centre-forward but that there was not enough time for Suarez to obtain an Italian passport.
Juventus have already used up their limit of two non-EU signings following the arrival of Brazilian midfielder Arthur and United States international Weston McKinnie.
They will only be able to add Suarez if he can obtain an EU passport.
“We’re all waiting for a centre-forward. There is still a long way to go in the transfer window. So, we’re calm and happy, we’re not in a hurry,” said Pirlo.
“Suarez is difficult because it takes a long time to get the passport. So, it’s unlikely that it could be him”.
Although Suarez is eligible for Italian naturalisation as his wife is a citizen of the country, the process usually takes several years.
This is a detail overlooked in much of the speculation linking him to the Serie A champions over the last month.
Pirlo said Cristiano Ronaldo and Dejan Kulusevski would share the role against Sampdoria.
“Neither Kulusevski nor Ronaldo will start in the classic centre-forward position. They will try to move according to what the other does,” said Pirlo.
“There will be rotations to allow as many people as possible to arrive in the area.”
The 41-year-old said he was relaxed ahead of the new season where he would be expected, at the minimum, to bring Juventus a tenth successive Serie A title.
“After a month of Juve I have no doubts, but many certainties,” he said. “I have fitted in well, now the pitch will do the talking.”
Edited By: Olawale Alabi)
Reed grabs halfway lead, as Tiger misses cut at United States Open
Former Masters champion Patrick Reed put his sterling short game on display to grab the United States Open halfway lead on Friday.
Tiger Woods finished well outside the cut in windy conditions which humbled many of the game’s top golfers.
Reed only hit five fairways on a tough scoring day at Winged Foot but made a slew of stunning recoveries.
He then needed only 25 putts en route to an even-par 70 that left him at four under on the week and one shot clear of Bryson DeChambeau (68).
“I feel like the game is where it needs to be. I feel good,” said world number 10 Reed. “I just need to tighten a few things up here or there, but the short game is sharp, and when I play around a place like this, that’s what you need.”
Reed, who started the day one shot back of overnight leader Justin Thomas, grabbed the outright lead with a birdie on his final hole, the par-five ninth.
That was where his shot from a greenside bunker settled five feet from the cup.
Unlike the first round when 21 players finished under par in soft conditions, Winged Foot proved a much sterner test on Friday.
DeChambeau, Bubba Watson (69) and Hideki Matsuyama (69) were the only players from a 144-player field to break par.
DeChambeau, who has turned heads this year with his new physique and prodigious length off the tee, went out in the morning wave.
He muscled his way around a scorecard-shredding Winged Foot course like few others can.
The world number nine finished his round with a monstrous eagle at the par-five ninth hole where, after a 380-yard drive, he stuffed a pitching wedge to six feet.
“Confidence is at an all-time high right now, driving it well, iron play is fantastic, wedging is getting better each and every day, and I’m putting it like I know I can,” said DeChambeau, whose best major finish was a share of fourth place at this year’s PGA Championship.
Thomas (73), Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello (70) and Harris English (70) were all two shots off the pace heading into the weekend.
This was a tournament that was originally scheduled for mid-June but postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Masters champion Woods (77) missed the cut for the eighth time in his last 15 majors after a round during which he made five bogeys and two double-bogeys over a miserable 11-hole run.
“Physically it was frustrating that I didn’t drive the ball as well as I needed to,” said Woods.
“Iron play was pretty much the way it has been. It’s been good, and I finally putted well. But on this golf course it’s imperative that you hit fairways, and I did not do that.”
Phil Mickelson’s latest bid to complete the career Grand Slam of golf’s four majors fell apart as the six-times runner-up carded a 74
He missed the cut after posting one of the worst 36-hole scores of his major career.
Among the others to miss the cut were defending champion Gary Woodland, PGA Championship winner Collin Morikawa, and top-20 players Tyrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Justin Rose.
Edited By: Olawale Alabi)