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Parrot, a tool for digitizing Mexico’s restaurants, takes in $9.5M

ParrotConnect is a point-of-sale software for restaurants enabling them to digitize and take advantage of the home delivery boom to accelerate growth.

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The global pandemic threw a wrench in the plans of restaurants all over the world two years ago when diners stayed home, causing many eateries to shift their business to pickup or delivery.

Roberto Cebrián and David Villarreal both had experience working with restaurants in Mexico and recognized that many restaurants were not prepared to change their operations quickly, so they jumped on the opportunity to help them.

“There are a bunch of food tech solutions in Latin American and U.S., but it ended up turning the operations in both the front and back of the house into a mess,” Cebrián said. “The pandemic was a crazy experience. Not a lot of people knew what would happen, but the downside was that restaurants closed.”

Roberto Cebrián, co-founder of Parrot. Image Credits: Parrot

With an eye on reversing that trend, they created Monterrey-based Parrot in April 2020, and in 2021 launched with ParrotConnect, its point-of-sale software for restaurants enabling them to digitize and take advantage of the home delivery boom to accelerate growth.

Cebrián told TechCrunch that many restaurants were balancing an average of three delivery apps and 15 different menus at each location. Often connectivity issues and menu errors caused restaurants to get anywhere from 10% to 15% of the orders wrong or late when they were pushed from the apps to the restaurant’s point-of-sale software so that they could be made.

Instead, ParrotConnect offers a way for restaurants to centralize all of those fragmented operations, including table service and online orders — into one management portal where users can operate functions like menus, kitchen management, payment methods and reports.

The company is working with over 60 collaborators on the product and now has more than 500 restaurants across Monterrey, Mexico City and the Riviera Maya using ParrotConnect.

On Monday, the company announced it secured $9.5 million, led by F Prime Capital, to continue developing ParrotConnect and expand its footprint in Mexico. The new capital gives the company a total of $11.7 million in funding.

Parrot is the latest company raising capital as part of a broader trend of companies helping restaurants thrive in this new digital world, including Zak, also developing point-of-sale technology for restaurants, payment system Sunday and restaurant management software company MarginEdge.

Since making a soft launch in January 2021, Parrot is now working with over 500 restaurants — all paying customers, Cebrián said. It has 60 employees currently after starting in 2021 with 10 employees. The company has been focused on helping restaurants grow, and Cebrián said it was too early to disclose revenue figures. Plans for ParrotConnect start at $73 per month for companies with one POS.

“We are heavily investing in product because we want to give the right experience,” he added. “The restaurant industry is an old industry, and it always finds its way out, so we are happy to be helping them do that with technology. We admire the industry and how creative they are to make things work. Delivery has played a huge part in saving a lot of restaurants during this time.”

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Type-I interferon stops immune system ‘going rogue’ during viral infections

Hamilton, ON (May 17, 2022) – McMaster University researchers have found not only how some viral infections cause severe tissue damage, but also how…

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Hamilton, ON (May 17, 2022) – McMaster University researchers have found not only how some viral infections cause severe tissue damage, but also how to reduce that damage.

Credit: Georgia Kirkos/McMaster University

Hamilton, ON (May 17, 2022) – McMaster University researchers have found not only how some viral infections cause severe tissue damage, but also how to reduce that damage.

 

They have discovered how Type I interferon (IFN) stops the immune system ‘going rogue’ and attacking the body’s own tissues when fighting viral infections, including COVID-19.

 

Their paper was published in the journal PLOS Pathogens today.

  

Senior author Ali Ashkar said IFN is a well-known anti-viral signalling molecule released by the body’s cells that can trigger a powerful immune response against harmful viruses.

 

“What we have found is that it is also critical to stop white blood cells from releasing protease enzymes, which can damage organ tissue. It has this unique dual function to kick start an immune response against a viral infection on the one hand, as well as restrain that same response to prevent significant bystander tissue damage on the other,” he said.

 

The research team investigated IFN’s ability to regulate a potentially dangerous immune response by testing it on both flu and the HSV-2 virus, a highly prevalent sexually transmitted pathogen, using mice. Data from COVID-19 patients in Germany, including post-mortem lung samples, was also used in the study.

 

“For many viral infections, it is not actually the virus that causes most of the tissue damage, it is our heightened immune activation towards the virus,” said Ashkar, a professor of medicine at McMaster.

  

First co-author of the study and PhD student Emily Feng said: “Our body’s immune response is trying to fight off the virus infection, but there’s a risk of damaging innocent healthy tissue in the process. IFNs regulates the immune response to only target tissues that are infected.

 

“By discovering the mechanisms the immune system uses that can inadvertently cause tissue damage, we can intervene during infection to prevent this damage and not necessarily have to wait until vaccines are developed to develop life-saving treatments,” she added.

 

“This applies not just to COVID-19, but also other highly infectious viruses such as flu and Ebola, which can cause tremendous and often life-threatening damage to the body’s organs,” said first study co-author Amanda Lee, a family medicine resident. 

 

Ashkar said the release of harmful proteases is the result of a ‘cytokine storm’, which is life-threatening inflammation sometimes triggered by viral infections. It has been a common cause of death in patients with COVID-19, but treatment has been developed to prevent and suppress the cytokine storm.

 

Ashkar said that steroids like dexamethasone are already used to rein in an extreme immune response to viral infections. The authors used doxycycline in their study, an antibiotic used for bacterial infections and as an anti-inflammatory agent, inhibits the function of proteases causing the bystander tissue damage.

 

Lee added: “This has the potential in the future to be used to alleviate virus-induced life-threatening inflammation and warrants further research.” 

 

The study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

 

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Editors:

Pictures of Ali Ashkar and Emily Feng may be found at https://bit.ly/3wmSw0D

  

 

 


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mRNA vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna fare better against COVID-19 variants of concern

A comparison of four COVID-19 vaccinations shows that messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines — Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — perform better against the World…

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A comparison of four COVID-19 vaccinations shows that messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines — Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — perform better against the World Health Organization’s variants of concern (VOCs) than viral vector vaccines — AstraZeneca and J&J/Janssen. Although they all effectively prevent severe disease by VOCs, the research, publishing May 17th in the open access journal PLOS Medicine, suggests that people receiving a viral vector vaccine are more vulnerable to infection by new variants.

Credit: Carlos Reusser Monsalvez, Flickr (CC0, https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/)

A comparison of four COVID-19 vaccinations shows that messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines — Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — perform better against the World Health Organization’s variants of concern (VOCs) than viral vector vaccines — AstraZeneca and J&J/Janssen. Although they all effectively prevent severe disease by VOCs, the research, publishing May 17th in the open access journal PLOS Medicine, suggests that people receiving a viral vector vaccine are more vulnerable to infection by new variants.

By March 2022, COVID-19 had caused over 450 million confirmed infections and six million reported deaths. The first vaccines approved in the US and Europe that protect against serious infection are Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which deliver genetic code, known as mRNA, to the bodies’ cells, whereas Oxford/AstraZeneca and J&J/Janssen are viral vector vaccines that use a modified version of a different virus — a vector — to deliver instructions to our cells. Three vaccines are delivered as two separate injections a few weeks apart, and J&J/Janssen as a single dose.

Marit J. van Gils at the University of Amsterdam, Netherlands, and colleagues, took blood samples from 165 healthcare workers, three and four weeks after first and second vaccination respectively, and for J&J/Janssen at four to five and eight weeks after vaccination. Samples were collected before, and four weeks after a Pfizer-BioNTech booster.

Four weeks after the initial two doses, antibody responses to the original SARS-CoV-2 viral strain were highest in recipients of Moderna, followed closely by Pfizer-BioNTech, and were substantially lower in those who received viral vector vaccines. Tested against the VOCs – Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and Omicron – neutralizing antibodies were higher in the mRNA vaccine recipients compared to those who had viral vector vaccines. The ability to neutralize VOCs was reduced in all vaccine groups, with the greatest reduction against Omicron. The Pfizer-BioNTech booster increased antibody responses in all groups with substantial improvement against VOCs, including Omicron.

The researchers caution that their AstraZeneca group was significantly older, because of safety concerns for the vaccine in younger age groups. As immune responses tend to weaken with age, this could affect the results. This group was also smaller because the Dutch government halted use for a period.

van Gils concludes, “Four COVID-19 vaccines induce substantially different antibody responses.”

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In your coverage, please use this URL to provide access to the freely available paper in PLOS Medicine:

http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1003991

Citation: van Gils MJ, Lavell A, van der Straten K, Appelman B, Bontjer I, Poniman M, et al. (2022) Antibody responses against SARS-CoV-2 variants induced by four different SARS-CoV-2 vaccines in health care workers in the Netherlands: A prospective cohort study. PLoS Med 19(5): e1003991. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1003991

 

Author Countries: The Netherlands, United States

 

Funding: This work was supported by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) ZonMw (Vici grant no. 91818627 to R.W.S., S3 study, grant agreement no. 10430022010023 to M.K.B.; RECoVERED, grant agreement no. 10150062010002 to M.D.d.J.), by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (grant no. INV002022 and INV008818 to R.W.S. and INV-024617 to M.J.v.G.), by Amsterdam UMC through the AMC Fellowship (to M.J.v.G.) and the Corona Research Fund (to M.K.B.), and by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program (RECoVER, grant no. 101003589 to M.D.d.J). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.


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Japanese yen remains directionless

The Japanese yen has posted slight gains on Tuesday. In the North American session, USD/JPY is trading at 129.32, up 0.17% on the day. The US dollar pummelled…

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The Japanese yen has posted slight gains on Tuesday. In the North American session, USD/JPY is trading at 129.32, up 0.17% on the day.

The US dollar pummelled the yen in the months of March and April, but the yen has held its own in May. Still, USD/JPY remains at high levels and the 130 line, which has psychological significance, remains vulnerable. If there is a line in the sand for the Japanese government or the BoJ to intervene and prop up the yen, it certainly is not the 130 level, as the dollar broke through this line without a response. The yen is extremely sensitive to the US/Japan rate differential, and with the BoJ demonstrating that it will tenaciously defend its yield curve, the yen is at the mercy of Powell & Co.

Japan releases GDP for Q1 on Thursday. The markets are braced for a decline of 0.4%, after a respectable gain of 1.1% in Q4 of 2020. Investors never like to see negative growth, and a lower-than-expected GDP report will put downward pressure on the yen.

 

US retail sales within expectations

Over in the US, retail sales for April came in at 0.9%, just shy of the consensus estimate of 1.0%. Core retail sales rose 1.0%, above the forecast of 0.7% and close to the 1.1% gain in March. The numbers were not spectacular by any stretch, but were respectable, given that consumer confidence has weakened – the UoM Consumer Sentiment index fell to 59.42 in May, its lowest level since October 2011. US households continue to spend, despite a deterioration in consumer confidence. Wages are not keeping up with the cost of living, but consumers appear to be using savings which accumulated during the Covid pandemic.

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USD/JPY Technical

  • USD/JPY is testing resistance at 1.2938, followed by resistance at 1.3123
  • There is support at 1.3000 and 1.2918

 

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