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Challenge Trial Gets OK in UK

The UK has approved a trial in which volunteers will deliberately be exposed to SARS-CoV-2 to better understand how the virus infects people, Reuters reports.

The UK announced in October that it was investing £33.6 million (US $43.5 million) in the study — which will be conducted by Imperial College London, the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, and the lab and clinical trial services company hVivo — despite critics arguing that deliberately exposing people to a potentially deadly disease is unethical. 

As Reuters reports, the trial is to begin within the month and will expose 90 healthy volunteers to small amounts of the original strain of the virus to determine how much of a dose is needed for an infection. The participants will be closely monitored and quarantined for 14 days at the Royal Free Hospital, it adds. 

"These human challenge studies will take place here in the UK and will help accelerate scientists' knowledge of how coronavirus affects people and could eventually further the rapid development of vaccines," Kwasi Kwarteng, the UK business secretary says, according to the Guardian.

The Scan

Panel Votes for COVID-19 Pill

A US Food and Drug Administration panel has voted to support the emergency use authorization of an antiviral pill for COVID-19 from Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, CNN says.

But Not Harm

New Scientist reports that UK bioethicists say that though gene editing may improve food production, it should not harm livestock welfare.

Effectiveness Drop Anticipated

Moderna's Stéphane Bancel predicts that that current SARS-CoV-2 vaccines may be less effective against the Omicron variant, the Financial Times reports.

Cell Studies of Human Chromatin Accessibility, SARS-CoV-2 Variants, Cell Signaling Networks

In Cell this week: chromatin accessibility maps of adult human tissues, modeling to track SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern, and more.