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Effectiveness Drop Anticipated

Stéphane Bancel, the CEO of Moderna, has told the Financial Times that current SARS-CoV-2 vaccines may be less effective against the Omicron variant.

"I think it's going to be a material drop. I just don't know how much because we need to wait for the data. But all the scientists I've talked to … are like, 'This is not going to be good,'" he tells it.

Omicron, which has been labeled a "variant of concern" by the World Health Organization, was only identified recently by scientists in South Africa, who raised the alarm about it. The variant, according to the Los Angeles Times, has more than 50 mutations.

Bancel adds at CNBC's Squawk Box that because so many of the mutations affect the viral spike protein, which is targeted by SARS-CoV-2 vaccines, he expects there will be a decline in vaccine efficacy. He notes, though, that vaccines "provide you not one or two antibodies, but a soup of antibodies and so some antibodies will still be protective neutralizing antibodies, even if you have a mutation."

Bancel tells FT that more will be known about how vaccines fare against Omicron in about two weeks, though notes it would be months before an Omicron-specific vaccine could be produced at scale.

The Scan

For STEM Students to Stay

New policy changes will make it easier for international STEM students to stay in the US after graduation, the Wall Street Journal reports.

To Inform or Not, To Know or Not

The New York Times writes that some genetic biobanks may re-contact donors if they spot something troublesome, but it notes that not all donors want that information.

Rapid Test Studies

Researchers are examining why rapid tests may be less effective at detecting the Omicron variant and how to improve them, NPR says.

PLOS Papers on SARS-CoV-2 Diversity in Delaware, Metastatic Breast Cancer, Adiposity GWAS

In PLOS this week: genomic analysis of SARS-CoV-2 isolates from Delaware, gene expression and protein-protein interaction patterns in metastatic breast cancer, and more.