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About the chaotic research of c19
Posted by: deckeda
Date: April 16, 2020 07:19AM
[www.washingtonpost.com]

Quote

the massive effort is disorganized and scattershot, harming its prospects for success, according to multiple researchers and health experts. Researchers working around-the-clock describe a lack of a centralized national strategy, overlapping efforts, an array of small-scale trials that will not lead to definitive answers and no standards for how to prioritize efforts, what data to collect or how to share it to get to answers faster.

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Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, the nation’s largest biomedical research agency, acknowledged researchers’ frustrations but said in an interview Wednesday he has been working behind the scenes to launch an unprecedented public-private partnership to address the problems. He said the framework involves top pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, domestic and international government agencies including the European Medicines Agency, and academic research centers.

Collins said the month-long discussions have been kept under wraps to ensure buy-in for an approach likely to require sacrifices of personal recognition, scientific credit and profit — a centralized decision, for example, not to proceed with tests of one company’s drug in order to move faster on a competitor’s.

This disorganization is systemic, and in my opinion transcends current politics. The Post article identifies a lot of areas for criticism which I feel misses the point (if you were to fixate on any of them.)

Last night I had a dream I mistakenly took the wrong day off work, confusing and angering many, and leading to a further delay of me learning how to navigate my new job sans clear direction and training. I would imagine many in the healthcare industries around the world have the same dream every night.

And on that note ... I’m off to work. To do whatever.
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Re: About the chaotic research of c19
Posted by: neophyte
Date: April 16, 2020 10:52AM
The usual channels for funding most biomedical research involve peer-reviewing of research proposals/protocols. This review takes time. I think the present helter-skelter approach revolves around who can get money NOW to fund the research, not whose ideas seem likely to be fruitful. Pharma companies fund their own, with potential profit being a prime motivator. Collins has a tough row to hoe.
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Re: About the chaotic research of c19
Posted by: cbelt3
Date: April 16, 2020 11:15AM
"Crowd Sourced"... individual small teams working on individual projects. Being aggregated via the internet. Chaos is guaranteed. Chaos is to its advantage. Bureaucracy slows things down.

BUT.... the open release of all this information has caused a lot of stupidity because people are panicked. You can track that based on the Quinine kerfuffle alone, and how politicians started grabbing and straws (and trying to make money from them).

But slowing things down by creating some global oversight bureaucracy made of grey beards and politicians is... not a good idea.
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Re: About the chaotic research of c19
Posted by: Diana
Date: April 16, 2020 12:40PM
Quote
neophyte
The usual channels for funding most biomedical research involve peer-reviewing of research proposals/protocols. This review takes time. I think the present helter-skelter approach revolves around who can get money NOW to fund the research, not whose ideas seem likely to be fruitful. Pharma companies fund their own, with potential profit being a prime motivator. Collins has a tough row to hoe.

Usually it takes about a month (or more) to write the proposal. It gets submitted often right at the deadline, and hoping that it is complete. It takes 3-6 months for review, with the researcher getting feedback as to questions and maybe an opportunity to answer them, maybe not. You get a numerical score, giving you an indication as to whether or not it is considered worthy of funding. A couple of months later you may hear that it has been funded, but usually it is turned down. Funding work by NIH grants is quite competitive and, depending on the score, it might get funded next cycle. If they say it is accepted and funded, it takes 4-6 months to actually get awarded the money, i.e, in your bank account. Up until that time they can defund you at a moment’s notice, as in the NIH didn’t get funded to the level they had thought. Now it has been a year from submission of the proposal until the money is in hand, and no one in their right mind is going to spend money they don’t have on something that won’t pay, and quite frankly, research doesn’t pay. Once the money is released, then the spending happens. You hope you get the full amount you have asked for, but it is possible that you will only be partially funded. This is how it normally works. The funding agencies have only so much money, and too many projects to fund them all.

If you want it done quickly then how are you going to do it? Everyone wants answers NOW, not later. There must be a pause to decide to fund the more promising ideas, else a lot of time will be wasted.

The research itself can take months, as any experiments that work (or not) will have to be repeated to make sure it wasn’t a fluke or due to bias (intentional or not). Once is a curious incidence, twice is a “interesting” thing, and three is a possible pattern. That’s if all three times give the same answer and often it doesn’t. More replicate experiments is required. After all that, does this answer the question or not? What does this mean? How does this fit into what is already known? Release the information, and then prove it does. Someone else needs to replicate the work, thus showing any presence of bias in the work or who did it or who interpreted it.

All of this takes time. At times like this, people want answers, and rightly so. But it takes time to discover things that aren’t already known.
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Re: About the chaotic research of c19
Posted by: deckeda
Date: April 16, 2020 12:46PM
I imagine the situation is why there are groups on different tracks. Some are looking at the RNA solution (quicker/riskier, if it works) and others are looking at the traditional vaccine approach (dead or inactive virus samples) which take much longer but have a proven record of success and low cost.
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Re: About the chaotic research of c19
Posted by: rjmacs
Date: April 16, 2020 12:55PM
Diana - you are truly a gift to the forum.

You so succinctly describe why science is really only satisfying to scientists in realtime, and even then sometimes it's a slog.

The rest of the world wants science to be more like investigative reporting, where skillful science sleuths work quickly and cleverly to discover the secrets lurking inside [insert phenomenon here], and if you have the BEST scientists then you can do all this even FASTER, cutting corners if necessary because it's all about getting the TRUTH, and FAST.

But that's not science. Science is in its essence slow and methodical and cautious. It is skeptical and conservative and wary of too much newness all at once. It's not about gestalt experiences or hunch-based conclusions or 'promising indicators.' Science is about pushing against claims, not for them. Science is about separating knowledge from individuals, by processes that can be universalized and repeated by any skilled person.

Thanks for all you contribute here, Diana - it's really a treat!



rj
AKA
Vreemac, Moth of the Future
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Re: About the chaotic research of c19
Posted by: Diana
Date: April 16, 2020 12:57PM
Quote
deckeda
I imagine the situation is why there are groups on different tracks. Some are looking at the RNA solution (quicker/riskier, if it works) and others are looking at the traditional vaccine approach (dead or inactive virus samples) which take much longer but have a proven record of success and low cost.

Quite right.

From a forum member, via PM:

... but you do know about the COVID-19 scientist call for action database, right?...

Part of my answer included this:

...I inadvertently closed the original search "covid 19 scientist call for action database" window, and then opened a new one with the search terms "covid 19 scientist database". ... (NIH, CDC, and that's only two top hits smiley-excited001 ). Yeah, I'm a data nerd. ...

It looks like the two sites mentioned above are indeed informational repositories. I'll be checking into it today. It looked good last night, but that was also about 1am (or later)
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Re: About the chaotic research of c19
Posted by: Ca Bob
Date: April 16, 2020 10:01PM
There is a different way of looking at all this that I suspect the original writer will appreciate. Over the past 40 years or so, it has become possible to grow mammalian cells including those of human origin, to clone and sequence DNA itself, to find the sequences of RNA molecules, and to model the structures of viruses and subcellular particles. Every evening when I turn on the television news, I am presented with a drawing of the Covid-19 virion, including an indication of the external spikes, usually depicted in the color red. They aren't red in reality, but it's a cute way of implying toxicity.

In short, we aren't at the situation of 50 years ago when the question would have been, "Exactly what is a virus, and how does it work?" And by the way, the organizational structure of the Covid-19 RNA genome is reasonably well understood due to the work of thousands of people who studied RNA processing, structure, and function over the years.

The point is that there isn't a lot of basic science that remains to be done on this virus, because so much was already accomplished long ago. And when it came to the so-called novel variant, it only took a few days for the Chinese scientists to provide the entire sequence. This is a lot different than the old days when Frederick Sanger proposed as a major project the sequencing of human mitochondrial DNA, a plan which required months of work by numerous people. Instead, modern technology made it possible to get this done in days instead of years.

Yes, it may very well require some months to pick and choose among various vaccine projects, but that is because vaccine science is fairly limited -- we haven't tried to make that many vaccines over the years, and the technology required to ramp up production is basically a manufacturing issue.

I suspect that one outcome of this crisis is that there will be increased efforts to develop a universal vaccine against influenza, and perhaps an analogous vaccine against all sorts of corona viruses. The technology of ramping up vaccine production also needs to be improved. It would potentially be useful to be able to come up with an updated flu vaccine in the middle of the flu season, when we know which strains are actually going around (the vaccine as currently built is based on guessing which strains will be most likely to be prevalent).

I just saw a summary article which points out that there are currently 70 ongoing attempts to create the corona virus vaccine.
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Re: About the chaotic research of c19
Posted by: RgrF
Date: April 16, 2020 10:49PM
When Jonas Salk finally developed a vaccine it came about as a result of a national volunteer development effort, not from an individual or group but by all. Not unlike the recent WWII effort the country had pulled together to accomplish.

This from Dr. Salk's son:
My father would insist on also making COVID-19 screening, treatment and vaccination available to all of us, regardless of where we live or our social or economic standing. He would argue that doing so is not only morally right, but profoundly in our national and global interest. When it comes to infectious disease, health — unlike wealth — can’t be hoarded by the few. As long as a virus is circulating in an unimmunized population, it’s a threat to all, and it’s in all our interests to contain, prevent and eradicate it.

We've strayed so far from this sense of community that yesterday a high profile TV doctor had the temerity to say on a national broadcast that schools should be open early since we'd only lose 2% or so of those students to the virus.

It doesn't take a lot of imagination to conger a picture of a group of scientist's scrambling day and night to find a vaccine, each with a patent application in their back pocket.

This is what we were and this is what we've become.
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Re: About the chaotic research of c19
Posted by: deckeda
Date: April 17, 2020 09:19PM
Yes but since Salk’s time we’ve become more exceptional and special overall. It’s literally harder for us to fail, given how inherently Great we are Again.
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