RNA vaccines shooting their shots

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We’re continuing the positive energy from International Women’s Day by celebrating over 100 female journalists making strides in the industry. Unfortunately, American newsrooms are among the worst for representation, which makes the existence and experiences of these women even more admirable. Head to our post to learn more about each one.


Clubhouse concerns continue over lacking privacy controls
Sat Feb 27

Turns out a billion dollar valuation isn’t enough to ensure user privacy, at least in the case of the rapidly growing audio-based app Clubhouse. The startup is coming under fire for their confusing terms of use and security breaches over how data is being stored.

What exactly are the concerns? The app’s own terms of use reveal that Clubhouse (in addition to the usual tracking of user behavior):
  • Is temporarily recording conversations. Clubhouse does this in case someone reports a safety violation that needs investigating, but there are no specifics on who gets access to those records.
  • Might be sharing your personal data with unnamed others. Even though Clubhouse doesn't make money yet, this helps pave the way to sell your data to anyone they choose without any obligation to let you know.
  • Doesn’t let users delete their own accounts. Instead, users must email support@alphaexplorationco.com through a verified email and wait for someone to respond.
  • Only lets you removes the information you added (even if your account is deleted) — in other words, if another user adds your information (for example, your phone number through a contacts list), that information remains on the platform with no option for removal.
It’s no secret user privacy has become a hot topic, especially when targeting from that data can be used for anything from a simple advertisement to malicious propaganda. In fact, regulations from Europe and California on protecting consumer privacy forced companies big and small to invest in better protections and security, making some question how a startup today is even able to raise $100 million without privacy as a priority.

Some additional resources... 
→ For more on Clubhouse’s valuation and investor growth, turn to Axios

→ For full coverage on the mentioned privacy concerns, turn to Inc.
 To dig into the misinformation issues appearing on the app, turn to a previous edition of Below the Fold.


A reliable vaccine might be coming to finally fight Malaria
Wed Mar 2

With the spotlight on COVID, it’s easy to forget how many diseases still don’t have a proper vaccine solution. While Malaria’s first ever vaccine was approved after decades of research in 2019, the four-shot vaccine was difficult to administer with only a 30% efficacy rate. Now researchers are turning to RNA vaccines as a way to help fight the disease killing more than 400,000 people every year.

Malaria doesn’t respond to traditional vaccines, which expose you to a disease agent that's dead or weak to build your immunity. Instead, the Malaria parasite works kind of like a spy disabling a camera before breaking in: It interferes with the immune system’s ability to remember it ever saw Malaria. That loss of 'memory' means the infected person never builds immunity.

The RNA vaccine combats this problem by giving the body itself the information to produce its own fake Malaria, meaning there's no parasitic defense destroying the immune system's memory and the body can fight off the real deal in future. While researchers at the Yale School of Medicine showed promising results for this approach in their testing on mice, human clinical trials are yet to begin.

And while we’re in the midst of Women’s History Month, we wanted to take a moment to recognize the woman who pioneered RNA vaccines: Katalin Karikó, a Hungarian biochemist whose work with colleague Drew Weissman is now essential to this future Malaria vaccine and was key to the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines. Karikó’s work was unrecognized and unappreciated for a long time, failing to receive government grants, corporate funding, and even support from her own colleagues.

Some additional resources...
→ For full coverage on the history of Malaria vaccinations, turn to Vox

→ To learn more about the RNA vaccine and it’s female creator, turn to Statnews.


Beijing might be getting greater control over Hong Kong 
Fri Mar 5

The story that began with the Hong Kong protests continues. The latest chapter in the region’s fight against China’s tightening control? Plans to dramatically overhaul Hong Kong’s electoral system to essentially give Beijing complete control.

Quick Recap: The 2019 Protests
While the first protest sparked against a bill that would bring criminal suspects from Hong Kong to Beijing (it has since been withdrawn), the unrest continued onward in protest of the police brutality that emerged throughout the protesting. Now, Beijing is responding with two national security laws.

Present Day: The New Laws
While China’s legislature has not publicized details, the outlined changes indicate that the legislature would essentially allow Beijing to become the majority voice in election outcomes by:
  • Vetting candidates for Hong Kong’s legislative council
  • Adding 300 members to the election committee responsible for choosing Hong Kong’s chief executive
China’s parliament is expected to pass the guidelines by March 11, the timing of which doesn’t seem coincidental. Most of the Western world is overwhelmingly focused on the coronavirus pandemic, making countries such as the United States or United Kingdom less able to intervene.

Some additional resources...

For BBC’s various coverage, refer to their articles on these new laws, summarizing the protests, and on why these protests are happening

Learn more about why China is tightening its grip from News.com.au.

We also sourced information from NPR, DW, and Below The Fold.


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There’s just something about their privacy policy that bugs us... 
Art Credit: Joan G. Stark


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