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Is the Tide Turning in the Pandemic, Politics and Stocks?

“Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.” — Warren Buffett (“Maxims of Wall Street,” p. 123) Note: I have a special announcement today. See below. Are we seeing a turning of the tide this year when it comes…

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“Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.” — Warren Buffett (“Maxims of Wall Street,” p. 123)

Note: I have a special announcement today. See below.

Are we seeing a turning of the tide this year when it comes to the fight against the pandemic, the November elections and the stock market?

A few days ago, I met up with Bert Dohmen, longtime editor of The Wellington Letter, at his home in California. He sent me his latest newsletter with the classic headline, “Turn of the Tide?”

That headline is famous because it’s the same headline that William Hamilton, editor of the Wall Street Journal, used on October 25, 1929, to announce to the world that the Dow Theory “gave the signal of a bear market in stocks.”

His declaration came within days of the crash on Wall Street. On Black Monday, October 28, 1929, the Dow declined nearly 13%. On the following day, Black Tuesday, the market dropped nearly 12%. The slide continued through the summer of 1932, when the Dow closed at 41.22, its lowest value of the twentieth century and 89% below its peak. The Dow did not return to its pre-crash heights until November 1954.

Are We Headed for a Bear Market in 2022?

Bert Dohmen senses a bear market coming in 2022. He warned his subscribers that the stock market was topping out and would head south. “Reality is returning, at least to some sectors,” he wrote. “Eventually, it will return to most sectors. That will be painful. The technology sector continues to get hammered and should be shunned.”

The jury is still out, but there is no doubt that Wall Street has had an incredible run during this “Mother of All Bull Markets.”

We at Forecasts & Strategies have taken full advantage and have, until now, ignored the perma-bears who are constantly predicting the end of the world.

To quote J. Paul Getty, America’s first billionaire, “Businessmen can profit handsomely if they will disregard the pessimistic auguries of self-appointed prophets of doom.” (Maxims, p. 112)

Nevertheless, bear markets do raise their ugly head from time to time. As the French philosopher, Bertrand de Jouvenel, states, “A forecast is never so useful as when it warns man of a crisis.” (p. 112)

What Will the Future Bring?

I would not be surprised to see a major correction in the market this year. It’s long overdue. It may be in reaction to the Federal Reserve raising interest rates in an effort to curtail inflation; another lockdown of the global economy in response to the never-ending pandemic; Biden pushing through sharply higher tax rates and regulations; geo-political instability in Asia or the Middle East or a natural disaster.

Alex Green, investment guru at the Oxford Club, states, “The market has turned more volatile in recent weeks as investors grapple with the lightning-fast spread of Omicron, high inflation, global supply chain issues and the likelihood that the Federal Reserve will begin raising interest rates as early as March.”

Nevertheless, Green is optimistic: “The flip side of this, of course, is that Omicron is rapidly taking us closer to herd immunity, higher interest rates will moderate future inflation and supply chain issues are already beginning to abate.”

Making a Difference in the Classroom

As long-term subscribers know, I’ve made a career out of influencing our future generation into understanding how the real world works and what economic policies should be adopted to achieve: peace, prosperity and liberty.

I’ve taught at major universities around the world, including Columbia University in New York, and now at Chapman University in California. I’ve given lectures at around 50 colleges and universities, including Harvard, Stanford and the University of Chicago.

My two most popular textbooks are “Economic Logic,” which is now in its fifth edition, and “The Making of Modern Economics.”

The New, Fourth Edition of ‘Making of Modern Economics’ is Out!

Good news! The brand-new fourth edition of “The Making of Modern Economics” has just been published by the prestigious publisher Routledge (publisher of the works of Friedrich Hayek).

Guess who the hero is of my book?

It is now the most popular history textbook of the great economic thinkers used in the classroom. As Roger Garrison, professor at Auburn University, states, “My students love it. Skousen makes the history of economics come alive like no other textbook.”

It is the only history textbook that reads like a novel, with a hero (Adam Smith and his “system of natural liberty”) who constantly comes under attack by the socialists, Marxists and Keynesians. He is sometimes left for dead but then is miraculously resuscitated by the French laissez-faire school of thought, the Austrians, the supply-siders and the Chicago School of economics.

Spoiler Alert! It even has a good ending when the Adam Smith model triumphs with the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet socialist central planning model.

The fourth edition updates the dramatic story with the challenges of modern monetary theory, the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, minimum wage debates, the new socialists and more.

Click here for more information.

The book is award-winning. It has won the Choice Book Award for Academic Excellence, and it was ranked #2 Best Libertarian Books in Economics by the Ayn Rand Institute (behind Henry Hazlitt’s “Economics in One Lesson”).

Here’s what reviewers are saying:

“The most interesting and lively book on the history of economic thought ever written.” — Douglas A. IrwinDartmouth College, UK.

“A story rarely told… It’s unputdownable!” — Mark BlaugUniversity of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

“Provocative, engaging, anything but dismal!” — N. Gregory Mankiw, Harvard University, The United States

“All histories of economics are BS — Before Skousen! Live and accurate, a sure bestseller.” —Milton Friedman

“Mark’s book is fun to read on every page. I have read it three times. I love this book and have recommended it to dozens of my friends.” — John Mackey (CEO, Whole Foods Market)

“Mark Skousen is a great economist, great entrepreneur and great friend. His book brings history to life, with concise and incisive sketches of flesh and blood individuals. Read it!” — Steve Forbes

Get 50% Off by Ordering it from the Author

Routledge charges $54.95, plus shipping, but you can buy it directly from the author for only $35. Each copy is autographed, dated and mailed for no extra charge if mailed inside the United States.

To buy your copy, go to www.skousenbooks.com.

‘Turning the Tide’ in Las Vegas!

Speaking of “Turning the Tide,” that’s our theme this year at FreedomFest, July 13-16, 2022, at the Mirage Hotel & Casino.

One of our goals is to reverse this dangerous trend in the size and scope of government, both here and abroad:

Our liberties are under attack, that’s for sure.

We have a great lineup of speakers, including the return of Steve Forbes, Grover Norquist, Steve Moore, John Fund and many other top geopolitical activists who are experts in turning the tide in politics and economic policy.

We just confirmed Glenn Greenwald, the American journalist famous for revealing U.S. global surveillance programs based on classified documents provided by Edward Snowden. You won’t want to miss his talk.

FreedomFest is Famous for Its Debates

We also have Ben Stein and Arthur B. Laffer. In the famous scene in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” Ben Stein plays the boring teacher who refers to the Laffer Curve as “voodoo economics.” To watch that memorable one-minute scene, go to Voodoo Economics — YouTube.

In 2002, Ben Stein was our keynote speaker at FEEFest, the precursor to FreedomFest. Now, 20 years later, he will make his second appearance… and he has agreed to debate Arthur B. Laffer, one of the founders of supply-side economics and the inventor of the famous Laffer Curve. They will appear together on stage at FreedomFest 2022 to debate the question, “Should the Rich Pay More in Taxes? Is the Laffer Curve Voodoo Economics?”

After the debate, Ben Stein will host a luncheon on the topic, “Rich and Famous: My Life in Beverly Hills and Hollywood.”

‘Is God Making a Comeback?’

In 1966, Time Magazine ran a famous cover story, “Is God Dead?” According to Time, modern science had eliminated the need for religion to explain the natural world, and God took up less and less space in people’s daily lives.

But now, religion is making a comeback, according to the New York Times bestselling author of the new book, “Is Atheism Dead?” Eric Metaxas provides new scientific and archeological evidence against the idea of a Creator-less universe. I’ve read it and find it compelling.

Eric Metaxas will be debating Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine and author of “Why Darwin Matters” and other important books, on “Is God Making a Comeback?” I look forward to it.

After their debate, both will be autographing their books at the FreedomFest bookstore.

Take Advantage of the Early Bird Special

Make plans now to attend the “greatest libertarian show on earth” by registering at www.freedomfest.com. Or call Hayley at 1-855-850-3733 ext. 202.

Use the code EAGLE to take advantage of our early bird special of $399 per person, and only $299 for guests (up to three guests). Register today!

Good investing, AEIOU,

You Blew It!

 Why We Left New York

Last year, we sold our home in New York and said goodbye to my favorite city in the United States. We had had enough of the lockdown, the loss of Broadway, the Lincoln Center and the university clubs. Crime was rising, and “Manhattanites” wanted out of the city.

It was time to move on.

I saw that Mark Ford of the Oxford Club wrote a column, “Goodbye Bill. I Won’t Miss You.”

He states in part:

“I’ve not lived there for 40 years, but in some ways, I still consider myself a New Yorker. Like most expatriates, I identify with everything that is great about the city. And there used to be so much. Lately, however, it has devolved in several critical respects. This is largely due to the woke politics of Bill de Blasio and a cast of cronies, including the infamous AOC. For example:

* From 2012 to 2018, 200,000 left the city. In 2021, 300,000 fled, most of them high-income earners.

* New York has also lost many big and vibrant businesses due to higher taxes and soaring crime. And it has lost hundreds of restaurants and retail stores due to the COVID lockdown.

* Murders are up 50%. Rapes are up 25%. Even my wokest friends, loyal denizens of the city, feel it’s unsafe to take a walk at night.

* Plus, New York has become the dirtiest city in the country. Its infrastructure is crumbling. Its sanitation is Third World.

“But it can recover. The Big Apple has been rotten before. It was dirty and dangerous when I was in my teens. And it came back beautifully from that. Its best hope is its new mayor, Eric Adams. He’s got his work cut out for him. But as a former policeman, he seems to understand that the first priority in fighting crime is a belief in law and order. Whether he will actually do anything about that remains to be seen.”

Even Mayor Eric Adams is going to have a hard time. Alvin Bragg, the newly elected district attorney, has issued a memo entitled “Achieving Fairness and Safety.” His policy includes de-prosecuting entire categories of crimes and slashing sentences. They are a “recipe of violence and disorder,” according to the Manhattan Institute.

Looks like New York is going the way of San Francisco. What a pity.

The post Is the Tide Turning in the Pandemic, Politics and Stocks? appeared first on Stock Investor.

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A Deeper Dive Into The CDC Reversal

A Deeper Dive Into The CDC Reversal

Authored by Jeffrey Tucker via The Brownstone Institute,

It was a good but bizarre day when the CDC finally…

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A Deeper Dive Into The CDC Reversal

Authored by Jeffrey Tucker via The Brownstone Institute,

It was a good but bizarre day when the CDC finally reversed itself fundamentally on its messaging for two-and-a-half years.

The source is the MMWR report of August 11, 2022. The title alone shows just how deeply the about-face was buried: Summary of Guidance for Minimizing the Impact of COVID-19 on Individual Persons, Communities, and Health Care Systems — United States, August 2022

The authors: “the CDC Emergency Response Team” consisting of “Greta M. Massetti, PhD; Brendan R. Jackson, MD; John T. Brooks, MD; Cria G. Perrine, PhD; Erica Reott, MPH; Aron J. Hall, DVM; Debra Lubar, PhD;; Ian T. Williams, PhD; Matthew D. Ritchey, DPT; Pragna Patel, MD; Leandris C. Liburd, PhD; Barbara E. Mahon, MD.”

It would have been fascinating to be a fly on the wall in the brainstorming sessions that led to this little treatise. The wording was chosen very carefully, not to say anything false outright, much less admit any errors of the past, but to imply that it was only possible to say these things now. 

“As SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, continues to circulate globally, high levels of vaccine- and infection-induced immunity and the availability of effective treatments and prevention tools have substantially reduced the risk for medically significant COVID-19 illness (severe acute illness and post–COVID-19 conditions) and associated hospitalization and death. These circumstances now allow public health efforts to minimize the individual and societal health impacts of COVID-19 by focusing on sustainable measures to further reduce medically significant illness as well as to minimize strain on the health care system, while reducing barriers to social, educational, and economic activity.

In English: 

everyone can pretty much go back to normal.

Focus on illness that is medically significant. Stop worrying about positive cases because nothing is going to stop them. Think about the bigger picture of overall social health. End the compulsion. Thank you. It’s only two and a half years late. 

What about mass testing?

Forget it:

“All persons should seek testing for active infection when they are symptomatic or if they have a known or suspected exposure to someone with COVID-19.”

Oh. 

What about the magic of track and trace?

“CDC now recommends case investigation and contact tracing only in health care settings and certain high-risk congregate settings.”

Oh. 

What about the unvaccinated who were so demonized throughout the last year? 

“CDC’s COVID-19 prevention recommendations no longer differentiate based on a person’s vaccination status because breakthrough infections occur, though they are generally mild, and persons who have had COVID-19 but are not vaccinated have some degree of protection against severe illness from their previous infection.”

Remember when 40% of the members of the black community in New York City who refused the jab were not allowed into restaurants, bars, libraries, museums, or theaters? Now, no one wants to talk about that. 

Also, universities, colleges, the military, and so on – which still have mandates in place – do you hear this? Everything you have done to hate on people, dehumanize people, segregate people, humiliate others as unclean, fire people and destroy lives, now stands in disrepute. 

Meanwhile, as of this writing, the blasted US government still will not allow unvaccinated travelers across its borders! 

Not one word of the CDC’s turgid treatise was untrue back in the Spring of 2020. There was always “infection-induced immunity,” though Fauci and Co. constantly pretended otherwise. It was always a terrible idea to introduce “barriers to social, educational, and economic activity.” The vaccines never promised in their authorization to stop infection and spread, even though all official statements of the CDC claimed otherwise, repeatedly and often. 

You might also wonder how the great reversal treats masking. On this subject, there is no backing off. After all, the Biden administration still has an appeal in process to reverse the court decision that the mask mandate was illegal all along.

“At the high COVID-19 Community Level,” the CDC adds, “additional recommendations focus on all persons wearing masks indoors in public and further increasing protection to populations at high risk.”

The problem from the beginning was that there never was an exit strategy from the crazy lockdown/mandate idea. It was never the case that they would magically cause the bug to go away. The excuse that we would lock down in wait for a vaccine never made any sense. 

People surely knew early on of the social, economic, and cultural devastation that would ensue. If they did not, they never should have been anywhere near the control switches of public health. Badges and bureaucracies do not terrify a virus destined to spread to the whole planet. And not one person with even the most casual passing knowledge of coronaviruses could have sincerely believed that a vaccine would magically appear to achieve something never before achieved in the whole history of medicine. 

When the Great Barrington Declaration appeared on October 4, 2020, it caused a global frenzy of fury not because it said anything new. It was merely a pithy restatement of basic public-health principles, which pretty much instantly became verboten on March 16, 2020, when Fauci/Birx announced their grand scheme. 

The GBD generated mania because the existing praxis was based on preposterously unproven claims that demanded that billions of people buy into complete nonsense. Sadly many did simply because it seemed hard to believe that all world regimes but a handful would push such a damaging policy if it was utterly unworkable. When something like that happens – and there never was the hope that it could work – the regime imperative becomes censorship and shaming of dissent. It’s the only way to hold the great lie together. 

So finally, nearly two years later the CDC has embraced the Great Barrington Declaration rather than doing a “quick and devastating takedown” as Francis Collins and Anthony Fauci called for the day after its release. No, they had to try out their new theory on the rest of us. It did not work, obviously. For the authors of the GBD, they knew from the time they penned the document that it was a matter of time before they were vindicated. They never doubted it. 

Dr. Rajeev Venkayya is widely credited with coming up with the idea of lockdowns while he was working for the Bush administration back in 2005. He had no training at all in public health or epidemiology. He later marveled that it fell to him, a young desk-dwelling White House bureaucrat, to “invent pandemic planning.” Maybe he should have demurred that day that George W. Bush asked him to lead the charge to inaugurate a new war on pathogens. 

Somehow his views gained converts, among whom was Bill Gates, the foundation for whom he worked for years. The rest is history. 

In April 2020, Venkayya called me to explain why I needed to stop attacking lockdowns. He said that the planners need a chance to make their scheme work. 

On the phone, I asked the same question over and over: where does the virus go? The first two times, he did not respond. I pressed and pressed. Finally he said there will be a vaccine. 

It’s hard to appreciate just how preposterous that sounded at the time, and I said something along those lines: it would be a medical miracle never before seen to have a shot for a coronavirus that was sterilizing against wild type and all inevitable mutations, and to do it in a reasonable time so that society and economy had not completely fallen apart. 

The whole approach was clearly milliennarian at best and utter madness at worst. And here I was, in the thick of global lockdowns, on the phone with the architect of the whole idea, an idea that had reduced billions to servitude, wrecked schools and churches, and sent communities and countries into complete upheaval. I wondered at the time what it would be like to be Dr. Venkayya that day. After all this ended in disaster, would he take responsibility? His LinkedIn profile today says otherwise: he is prepared to “tackle current and future epidemic & pandemic threats as the CEO of Aerium Therapeutics.”

There never was an exit strategy from lockdowns and mandates but they eventually did find an exit nonetheless. It came in the form of a heavily footnoted and opaquely written reversal, published by the main bureaucracy responsible for the disaster. It amounts to a repudiation without saying so. And thus does the great experiment in mass compulsion come to an intellectual end. If only the carnage could be cleaned up by another posting on the CDC’s website. 

By the way, the Biden administration has extended the declaration of Covid emergency. And my unvaccinated friends in the UK still can’t board a plane to come for a visit. 

All of this gives rise to the great question: what was the point? Maybe it was all a mistake and now it is gone forever but that’s unlikely. The intellectuals who pushed this project on the world have a view of the world that is fundamentally ill-liberal. They differ among themselves on the details but the general approach is technocratic central planning rooted in deep suspicion of basic tenets of freedom. 

How many people on the planet have now been acculturated to top-down control, socialized to live in fear, accept whatever comes down from above, never to question an edict, and expect to live in a world of rolling man-made disasters? And was that the point after all, to cultivate low expectations for life on earth and relinquish the soul’s desire for a full and free life? 

Tyler Durden Thu, 08/18/2022 - 09:49

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Spread & Containment

A dog has caught monkeypox from one of its owners, highlighting risk of the virus infecting pets and wild animals

The monkeypox virus can easily spread between humans and animals. A veterinary virologist explains how the virus could go from people to wild animals in…

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A dog in Paris has become the first case of a pet contracting monkeypox from its owners. Cavan Images via Getty Images

A dog in Paris has caught monkeypox from one of its owners, both of whom were infected with the virus, according to a scientific paper published on Aug. 10, 2022. This is the first case of a dog contracting the monkeypox virus through direct contact with skin lesions on a human.

I am a veterinary pathologist and virologist who has been working with poxviruses for over 20 years. I study how these viruses evade the immune system and am working on modifying poxviruses to prevent infection as well as treat other diseases, including cancer.

With monkeypox spreading in humans throughout the world, my colleagues and I have begun to worry about the increased risk of monkeypox spreading from humans to animals. If monkeypox spreads to wildlife species in the U.S. and Europe, the virus could become endemic in these places – where it has historically been absent – resulting in more frequent outbreaks. The report of the infected dog shows that there is a decent chance these fears could become a reality.

A microscope image of a bunch blue circles in a brown-colored cell.
The monkeypox virus – the blue circles in this image of an infected cell – is a poxvirus similar to smallpox and cowpox and can easily infect many different species. NIAID/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY

A species-jumping virus

Monkeypox is a poxvirus in the same family as variola – the virus that causes smallpox – and cowpox viruses and likely evolved in animals before jumping to humans. Monkeypox causes painful lesions in both humans and animals and, in rare cases, can be deadly. Researchers have found the monkeypox virus in several species of wild rodents, squirrels and primates in Africa, where the virus is endemic. Monkeypox does not need to mutate or evolve at all to be able to infect many different species. It can easily spread from animals to people and back again.

Though there is a fair bit of research on monkeypox, a lot more work has been done on cowpox, a similar zoonotic poxvirus that is endemic in Europe. Over the years, there have been several reports of cowpox infection spreading from animals to humans in Europe.

From people to animals

Until recently, most monkeypox infections occurred in specific areas of Africa where some wildlife species act as reservoirs for the virus. These outbreaks are usually contained quickly through isolation of infected individuals and vaccinating people around the infected individual. The current situation is very different though.

With nearly 40,000 cases globally as of Aug. 17, 2022 – and more than 12,500 cases in the U.S. alone – monkeypox is now widespread within the human population. The risk of any one person transmitting the virus to an animal – particularly a wild one – is small, but the more people are infected, the greater the chances. It’s a numbers game.

There are a number of ways viruses can transfer from animals to people – called spillover – and from people back to animals – called spillback. Since monkeypox is most easily spread through direct skin-to-skin contact, it is a bit more difficult to transmit between species than COVID-19, but certainly possible.

The case of the dog in Paris provides a clear example of how cuddling or being close to a pet can spread the virus. Previous studies on poxviruses like monkeypox have shown that they can stay active in fecal matter. This means that there is a risk of wild animals, likely rodents, catching it from human waste.

A grey rat.
There are a number of species that host monkeypox in Africa – like this gambian rat. Monkeypox can spread from humans to many other animals, including dogs and likely cats and other species of rodents. Louisvarley/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

The monkeypox virus is also present in saliva. While more research needs to be done, it is potentially possible that an infected person could discard food that would then be eaten by a rodent.

The chances of any one of these events happening is extremely low. But I and other virologists worry that with more people becoming infected, there is a greater risk that rodents or other animals will come into contact with urine, feces or saliva that is contaminated with the virus.

Finally, there is the risk of people giving monkeypox to a pet, which then passes it on to other animals. One case study in Germany described an outbreak of cowpox that was caused when someone took an infected cat to a veterinary clinic and four other cats were subsequently infected. It is feasible that an infected household pet could spread the virus to wild animals somehow.

How to help

One of the key reasons that the World Health Organization was able to eradicate smallpox is that it only infects people, so there were no animal reservoirs that could re-introduce the virus to human populations.

Monkeypox is zoonotic and already has several animal reservoirs, though these are currently limited to Africa. But if monkeypox escapes into wild animal populations in the U.S., Europe or other locations, there will be always be potential for animals to spread it back to humans. With this in mind, there are a number of things people can do to reduce the risks with regard to animals.

As with any infectious disease, be informed about the signs and symptoms of monkeypox and how it is transmitted. If you suspect you have the virus, contact a doctor and isolate from other people.

As a veterinarian, I strongly encourage anyone with monkeypox to protect your pets. The case in Paris shows that dogs can get infected from contact with their owners, and it is likely that many other species, including cats, are susceptible, too. If you have monkeypox, try to have other people take care of your animals for as long as lesions are present. And if you think your pet has a monkeypox infection, be sure to contact a veterinarian so they can test the lesion and provide care when needed.

Even though monkeypox has been declared a public health emergency, it is unlikely to directly affect most people. Taking precautionary steps can protect you and your pets and will hopefully prevent monkeypox from getting into wildlife in the U.S., too.

Amy Macneill does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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UBC researchers discover ‘weak spot’ across major COVID-19 variants

Researchers at the University of British Columbia have discovered a key vulnerability across all major variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, including the…

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Researchers at the University of British Columbia have discovered a key vulnerability across all major variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, including the recently emerged BA.1 and BA.2 Omicron subvariants.

Credit: Dr. Sriram Subramaniam, UBC

Researchers at the University of British Columbia have discovered a key vulnerability across all major variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, including the recently emerged BA.1 and BA.2 Omicron subvariants.

The weakness can be targeted by neutralizing antibodies, potentially paving the way for treatments that would be universally effective across variants.

The findings, published today in Nature Communications, use cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) to reveal the atomic-level structure of the vulnerable spot on the virus’ spike protein, known as an epitope. The paper further describes an antibody fragment called VH Ab6 that is able to attach to this site and neutralize each major variant. 

“This is a highly adaptable virus that has evolved to evade most existing antibody treatments, as well as much of the immunity conferred by vaccines and natural infection,” says Dr. Sriram Subramaniam (he/him), a professor at UBC’s faculty of medicine and the study’s senior author. “This study reveals a weak spot that is largely unchanged across variants and can be neutralized by an antibody fragment. It sets the stage for the design of pan-variant treatments that could potentially help a lot of vulnerable people.”

Identifying COVID-19 master keys

Antibodies are naturally produced by our bodies to fight infection, but can also be made in a laboratory and administered to patients as a treatment. While several antibody treatments have been developed for COVID-19, their effectiveness has waned in the face of highly-mutated variants like Omicron.

“Antibodies attach to a virus in a very specific manner, like a key going into a lock. But when the virus mutates, the key no longer fits,” says Dr. Subramaniam. “We’ve been looking for master keys — antibodies that continue to neutralize the virus even after extensive mutations.”

The ‘master key’ identified in this new paper is the antibody fragment VH Ab6, which was shown to be effective against the Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Kappa, Epsilon and Omicron variants. The fragment neutralizes SARS-CoV-2 by attaching to the epitope on the spike protein and blocking the virus from entering human cells.

The discovery is the latest from a longstanding and productive collaboration between Dr. Subramaniam’s team at UBC and colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh, led by Drs. Mitko Dimitrov and Wei Li. The team in Pittsburgh has been screening large antibody libraries and testing their effectiveness against COVID-19, while the UBC team has been using cryo-EM to study the molecular structure and characteristics of the spike protein.

Focusing in on COVID-19’s weak points

The UBC team is world-renowned for its expertise in using cryo-EM to visualize protein-protein and protein-antibody interactions at an atomic resolution. In another paper published earlier this year in Science, they were the first to report the structure of the contact zone between the Omicron spike protein and the human cell receptor ACE2, providing a molecular explanation for Omicron’s enhanced viral fitness.

By mapping the molecular structure of each spike protein, the team has been searching for areas of vulnerability that could inform new treatments.

“The epitope we describe in this paper is mostly removed from the hot spots for mutations, which is why it’s capabilities are preserved across variants,” says Dr. Subramaniam. “Now that we’ve described the structure of this site in detail, it unlocks a whole new realm of treatment possibilities.”

Dr. Subramaniam says this key vulnerability can now be exploited by drug makers, and because the site is relatively mutation-free, the resulting treatments could be effective against existing—and even future—variants.

“We now have a very clear picture of this vulnerable spot on the virus. We know every interaction the spike protein makes with the antibody at this site. We can work backwards from this, using intelligent design, to develop a slew of antibody treatments,” says Dr. Subramaniam. “Having broadly effective, variant-resistant treatments would be a game changer in the ongoing fight against COVID-19.”


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