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'Not Dead Yet'

At The New York Times' Prescriptions blog, Andrew Pollack says RNA interference "might not be dead yet." That Alnylam Pharmaceuticals recently announced it had established proof of concept for the efficacy of an RNAi-based drug in a phase 1 clinical trial "at least points to the possibility that the approach can be used in people," Pollack says. Alnylam CEO John Maraganore tells the Times that "this is actually the first time that we or anybody has shown the ability of silencing a disease-causing gene in humans with RNAi." This particular RNAi drug is being tested to treat a rare disease caused by mutations in TTR, which encodes transthyretin. "The mutation causes TTR-mediated amyloidosis, in which abnormal amyloid proteins build up in the body. In one version of the disease, the buildup of proteins damages nerves, and people eventually lose the ability to walk and then to breathe," Pollack says. Alnylam, he adds, reported results from 31 patients – 23 that received a single infusion of the drug designed to inactivate TTR and 8 controls – showing that the RNAi drug worked to depress TTR levels for at least 24 days.

The Scan

Booster for At-Risk

The New York Times reports that the US Food and Drug Administration has authorized a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine for people over 65 or at increased risk.

Preprints OK to Mention Again

Nature News reports the Australian Research Council has changed its new policy and now allows preprints to be cited in grant applications.

Hundreds of Millions More to Share

The US plans to purchase and donate 500 million additional SARS-CoV-2 vaccine doses, according to the Washington Post.

Nature Papers Examine Molecular Program Differences Influencing Neural Cells, Population History of Polynesia

In Nature this week: changes in molecular program during embryonic development leads to different neural cell types, and more.