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The 'Artist'

University of Pennsylvania chemist William DeGrado is an "artist" when it comes to creating new proteins, says Robert Langreth at Forbes' Treatments blog. His goal is to create new molecules not found in nature that can serve humanity by absorbing environmental toxins and fighting cancer, among other things, Langreth says. But while the more complicated applications of his work are years away, DeGrado's research could have immediate implications for the creation of new antibiotics to fight virulent strains of drug-resistant bacteria. "Scientists have known for decades that organisms as diverse as insects, frogs, pigs and humans make natural protein-based antibiotics to ward off microbes," Langreth says. "Drugmakers have tried to bottle their power, but the compounds, known as antimicrobial peptides, have proven to be poor drugs." Using supercomputer simulations, DeGrado has created new antibiotics that mimic natural ones, but are easier to produce. One such antibiotic is now in trials at biotech firm PolyMedix, Langreth says, and has shown to be as powerful as vancomycin in animal trials.

The Scan

Not as High as Hoped

The Associated Press says initial results from a trial of CureVac's SARS-CoV-2 vaccine suggests low effectiveness in preventing COVID-19.

Finding Freshwater DNA

A new research project plans to use eDNA sampling to analyze freshwater rivers across the world, the Guardian reports.

Rise in Payments

Kaiser Health News investigates the rise of payments made by medical device companies to surgeons that could be in violation of anti-kickback laws.

Nature Papers Present Ginkgo Biloba Genome Assembly, Collection of Polygenic Indexes, More

In Nature this week: a nearly complete Ginkgo biloba genome assembly, polygenic indexes for dozens of phenotypes, and more.