Thursday's science stories

Apr 8, 2021 - Science

How AI could revolutionize biology — and vice versa

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Cutting-edge, machine-learning techniques are increasingly being adapted and applied to biological data, including for COVID-19.

The big picture: Discovering and developing a new drug typically takes more than a decade and costs on average close to $1 billion, making it difficult to build a cache of pharmaceuticals to fight future pandemics or stop intractable diseases.

Apr 8, 2021 - Science

Scientists hunt for antiviral drugs to fight COVID-19

Data: Milken Institute; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Antiviral drugs can be a key pandemic-fighting tool, but so far there's only one approved in the U.S. for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Why it matters: Because some people won't get vaccinated, and because there will likely be new variants of the virus, we'll need effective treatments — including antivirals, former FDA commissioners Scott Gottlieb and Mark McClellan wrote earlier this week in the Wall Street Journal.

Apr 8, 2021 - World

New Zealand suspends all travel from India over COVID cases at border

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during a news conference in Wellington, New Zealand, on Tuesday,. Photo: Mark Coote/Bloomberg via Getty Images

New Zealand has announced a temporary entry ban on all travelers from India, including NZ citizens, after a spike in COVID-19 cases at the border from the South Asian nation — which set another pandemic record on Thursday.

Driving the news: NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced at a briefing the 17-day suspension after 17 of the 23 new coronavirus infections confirmed Thursday in returned travelers in managed hotel quarantine were from India.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Apr 7, 2021 - Science

So much depends on the wobble of a muon

The Muon g-2 ring, at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois. Photo: Reidar Hahn/Fermilab, via U.S. Department of Energy

The results of high-energy physics experiments released on Wednesday open the possibility that a tiny subatomic particle called a muon may act in ways that break the known laws of physics.

The big picture: The experimental work — while still far from conclusive — underscores the fact that science still has much to learn about the fundamental workings of the universe, and it points the way toward further breakthroughs.

British COVID test firm LumiraDx enters $5 billion SPAC deal

LumiraDx, a British diagnostics startup that makes COVID-19 tests, has agreed to merge with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) CA Healthcare Acquisition Corp. in a deal valued at $5 billion, the companies announced Tuesday.

Details: LumiraDx has also secured a $300 million loan from BioPharma Credit and another $100 million from Capital One Financial, per the statement.

Cold snap caused most Texas outages during storm, grid operator says

The U.S. and Texas flags fly in front of high voltage transmission towers in Houston in February. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Weather-related problems were the leading cause of Texas power plants going offline during February's record cold snap that left millions of Texans in the dark, a preliminary report published Tuesday states.

Why it matters: These initial findings from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages the flow of electric power in the state, indicate that many facilities were unable to cope with the extreme weather.