Bioengineered nanoparticles have tremendous potential as vaccine delivery platform
Credit: Courtesy of Northern Arizona University
C. Todd French, assistant professor of biology and leader of Northern Arizona University’s new COVID-19 Testing Service Center (CTSC), is working with scientists at Vault Pharma, an emerging biotechnology company, to test candidate vaccines against the novel coronavirus. Through a multi-institutional public-private partnership linking the company with UCLA, NAU and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, French is part of a collaborative team advancing a vaccine that has the potential to treat the virus in addition to protecting against it.
Vault Pharma creates genetically modified versions of vaults–naturally occurring nanoparticles found inside every cell of the human body–that can be bioengineered and used as drug delivery devices. So small that they are measured in nanometers (one nanometer equals one billionth of a meter), vaults were first discovered in 1986 by a lab group led by Vault Pharma co-founder Leonard H. Rome, distinguished professor of biological chemistry and associate director of the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) at UCLA. Vault Pharma is designing its vault vaccine with the Rome Lab and the research team led by Jeff F. Miller, UCLA’s Fred Kavli Professor of NanoSystems Sciences and the director of CNSI.
“Vaults are unique, hollow, natural protein nanoparticles,” said French, “named for their barrel-like structure. They have tremendous potential as a vaccine delivery platform when loaded with vaccine antigens. I’ve been a proponent of the vault vaccine platform for a long time, and I’m excited that UCLA and Vault Pharma want to work with us at NAU.”
As with typical vaccines, the team’s vault-based strategy is intended to stop infection before it starts by activating the antibodies in the immune system, which neutralize foreign microbes floating around in bodily fluids and tag them for elimination by immune cells. The researchers are choosing which coronavirus proteins to package inside vaults to stimulate the immune response.
Although it would not provide a frontline defense, the vault-based coronavirus vaccine in development is intended to be used against the disease after an initial vaccine has been developed and distributed, and could represent a step toward blocking the outbreak of a similar virus in the future.
The team at Vault Pharma has evidence suggesting that a vault-based vaccine could also work as a therapeutic. While the vault platform hasn’t yet been tested in humans, proof-of-concept studies indicate that vaults themselves don’t set off an immune attack but are readily internalized by multiple cells of the immune system.
French was recently recruited by NAU’s Pathogen and Microbiome Institute from UCLA for his expertise. A veteran of Select Agent and high-containment pathogen science, French brings unique capabilities to PMI. The French Lab focuses on pathogen virulence mechanisms, pathogen ecology and developing new therapeutics.
“We established the CTSC at NAU to aid in the search for potential therapeutics that can inhibit the coronavirus in vitro. This summer, we will be bringing online the ability to test potential treatments and vaccines in COVID models, as well,” French said.
Plans for manufacturing the vault-based vaccine are in progress. As the project moves toward trials in humans, production of vaccine-laden vaults will be scaled up at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
About Northern Arizona University
Northern Arizona University is a higher-research institution providing exceptional educational opportunities in Arizona and beyond. NAU delivers a student-centered experience to its 31,000 in Flagstaff, statewide and online through rigorous academic programs in a supportive, inclusive and diverse environment. Dedicated, world-renowned faculty help ensure students achieve academic excellence, experience personal growth, have meaningful research opportunities and are positioned for personal and professional success.
Based on some comments, it appears we scared a few people with A Crisis Is Coming. Our article warns, “A financial crisis will likely follow the Fed’s “higher for longer” interest rate campaign.” We follow the article with more on financial crises to help calm any worries you may have. This article summarizes two interest rate-related crises, Long Term Capital Management (LTCM) and the lesser-known Financial Crisis of 1966.
We aim to convey two important lessons. First, both events exemplify how excessive leverage and financial system interdependences are dangerous when interest rates are rising. Second, they stress the importance of the Fed’s reaction function. A Fed that reacts quickly to a budding crisis can quickly mitigate it. The regional bank crisis in March serves as recent evidence. However, a crisis can blossom if the Fed is slow to react, as we saw in 2008.
Before moving on, it’s worth providing context for the recent series of rate hikes. Unless this time is different, another crisis is coming.
John Meriweather founded LTCM in 1994 after a successful bond trading career at Salomon Brothers. In addition to being led by one of the world’s most infamous bond traders, LTCM also had Myron Scholes and Robert Merton on their staff. Both won a Nobel Prize for options pricing. David Mullins Jr., previously the Vice Chairman of the Federal Reserve to Alan Greenspan, was also an employee. To say the firm was loaded with the finance world’s best and brightest may be an understatement.
LTCM specialized in bond arbitrage. Such trading entails taking advantage of anomalies in the price spread between two securities, which should have predictable price differences. They would bet divergences from the norm would eventually converge, as was all but guaranteed in time.
LTCM was using 25x or more leverage when it failed in 1998. With that kind of leverage, a 4% loss on the trade would deplete the firm’s equity and force it to either raise equity or fail.
The world-renowned hedge fund fell victim to the surprising 1998 Russian default. As a result of the unexpected default, there was a tremendous flight to quality into U.S. Treasury bonds, of which LTCM was effectively short. Bond divergences expanded as markets were illiquid, growing the losses on their convergence bets.
They also wrongly bet that the dually listed shares of Royal Dutch and Shell would converge in price. Given they were the same company, that made sense. However, the need to stem their losses forced them to bail on the position at a sizeable loss instead of waiting for the pair to converge.
The Predictable Bailout
Long-Term Capital Management did business with nearly every important person on Wall Street. Indeed, much of LTCM’s capital was composed of funds from the same financial professionals with whom it traded. As LTCM teetered, Wall Street feared that Long-Term’s failure could cause a chain reaction in numerous markets, causing catastrophic losses throughout the financial system.
Given the potential chain reaction to its counterparties, banks, and brokers, the Fed came to the rescue and organized a bailout of $3.63 billion. A much more significant financial crisis was avoided.
The takeaway is that the financial system has highly leveraged players, including some like LTCM, which supposedly have “foolproof” investments on their books. Making matters fragile, the banks, brokers, and other institutions lending them money are also leveraged. A counterparty failure thus affects the firm in trouble and potentially its lenders. The lenders to the original lenders are then also at risk. The entire financial system is a series of lined-up dominos, at risk if only one decent-sized firm fails.
Roger Lowenstein wrote an informative book on LTCM aptly titled When Genius Failed. The graph below from the book shows the rise and fall of an initial $1 investment in LTCM.
The Financial Crisis of 1966
Most people, especially Wall Street gray beards, know of LTCM and the details of its demise. We venture to guess very few are up to speed on the crisis of 1966. We included. As such, we relied heavily upon The 1966 Financial Crisis by L. Randall Wray to educate us. The quotes we share are attributable to his white paper.
As the post-WW2 economic expansion progressed, companies and municipalities increasingly relied on debt and leverage to fuel growth. For fear of rising inflation due to the robust economic growth rate, the Fed presided over a series of rate hikes. In mid-1961, Fed Funds were as low as 0.50%. Five years later, they hit 5.75%. The Fed also restricted banks’ reserve growth to reduce loan creation and further hamper inflation. Higher rates, lending restrictions, and a yield curve inversion resulted in a credit crunch. Further impeding the prominent New York money center banks from lending, they were losing deposits to higher-yielding instruments.
The lack of credit availability exposed several financial weaknesses. Per the article:
As Minsky argued, “By the end of August, the disorganization in the municipals market, rumors about the solvency and liquidity of savings institutions, and the frantic position-making efforts by money-market banks generated what can be characterized as a controlled panic. The situation clearly called for Federal Reserve action.” The Fed was forced to enter as a lender of last resort to save the Muni bond market, which, in effect, validated practices that were stretching liquidity.
The Fed came to the rescue before the crisis could expand meaningfully or the economy would collapse. The problem was fixed, and the economy barely skipped a beat.
However, and this is a big however, “markets came to expect that big government and the Fed would come to the rescue as needed.”
Expectations of Fed rescues have significantly swelled since then and encourage ever more reckless financial behaviors.
The Fed’s Reaction Function- Minksky Fragility
Wray’s article on the 1966 crisis ends as follows:
That 1966 crisis was only a minor speedbump on the road to Minskian fragility.
Minskian fragility refers to economist Hyman Minsky’s work on financial cycles and the Fed’s reaction function. Broadly speaking, he attributes financial crises to fragile banking systems.
Said differently, systematic risks increase as system-wide leverage and financial firm interconnectedness rise. As shown below, debt has grown much faster than GDP (the ability to pay for the debt). Inevitably, higher interest rates, slowing economic activity, and liquidity issues are bound to result in a crisis, aka a Minsky Moment. Making the system ever more susceptible to a financial crisis are the predictable Fed-led bailouts. In a perverse way, the Fed incentivizes such irresponsible behaviors.
The tide is starting to ebb. With it, economic activity will slow, and asset prices may likely follow. Leverage and high-interest rates will bring about a crisis.
Debt and leverage are excessive and even more extreme due to the pandemic.
The question is not whether higher interest rates will cause a crisis but when. The potential for one-off problems, like LTCM, could easily set off a systematic situation like in 1966 due to the pronounced system-wide leverage and interdependencies.
As we have seen throughout the Fed’s history, they will backstop the financial system. The only question is when and how. If they remain steadfast in fighting inflation while a crisis grows, they risk a 2008-like event. If they properly address problems as they did in March, the threat of a severe crisis will considerably lessen.
The Fed halted the crises of 1966 and LTCM. They ultimately did the same for every other crisis highlighted in the opening graph. Given the amount of leverage in the financial system and the sharp increase in interest rates, we have little doubt a crisis will result. The Fed will again be called upon to bail out the financial system and economy.
For investors, your performance will be a function of the Fed’s reaction. Are they quick enough to spot problems, like the banking crisis in March or our two examples, and minimize the economic and financial effect of said crisis? Or, like in 2008, will it be too late to arrest a blooming crisis, resulting in significant investor losses and widespread bankruptcies?
The World Economic Forum (WEF) was founded fifty years ago. It has gained more and more prominence over the decades and has become one of the leading platforms of futuristic thinking and planning. As a meeting place of the global elite, the WEF brings together the leaders in business and politics along with a few selected intellectuals. The main thrust of the forum is global control.
Free markets and individual choice do not stand as the top values, but state interventionism and collectivism. Individual liberty and private property are to disappear from this planet by 2030 according to the projections and scenarios coming from the World Economic Forum.
Individual liberty is at risk again. What may lie ahead was projected in November 2016 when the WEF published “8 Predictions for the World in 2030.” According to the WEF’s scenario, the world will become quite a different place from now because how people work and live will undergo a profound change. The scenario for the world in 2030 is more than just a forecast. It is a plan whose implementation has accelerated drastically since with the announcement of a pandemic and the consequent lockdowns.
According to the projections of the WEF’s “Global Future Councils,” private property and privacy will be abolished during the next decade. The coming expropriation would go further than even the communist demand to abolish the property of production goods but leave space for private possessions. The WEF projection says that consumer goods, too, would be no longer private property.
If the WEF projection should come true, people would have to rent and borrow their necessities from the state, which would be the sole proprietor of all goods. The supply of goods would be rationed in line with a social credit points system. Shopping in the traditional sense would disappear along with the private purchases of goods. Every personal move would be tracked electronically, and all production would be subject to the requirements of clean energy and a sustainable environment.
In order to attain “sustainable agriculture,” the food supply will be mainly vegetarian. In the new totalitarian service economy, the government will provide basic accommodation, food, and transport, while the rest must be lent from the state. The use of natural resources will be brought down to its minimum. In cooperation with the few key countries, a global agency would set the price of CO2 emissions at an extremely high level to disincentivize its use.
In a promotional video, the World Economic Forum summarizes the eight predictions in the following statements:
People will own nothing. Goods are either free of charge or must be lent from the state.
The United States will no longer be the leading superpower, but a handful of countries will dominate.
Organs will not be transplanted but printed.
Meat consumption will be minimized.
Massive displacement of people will take place with billions of refugees.
To limit the emission of carbon dioxide, a global price will be set at an exorbitant level.
People can prepare to go to Mars and start a journey to find alien life.
Western values will be tested to the breaking point..
Beyond Privacy and Property
In a publication for the World Economic Forum, the Danish ecoactivist Ida Auken, who had served as her country’s minister of the environment from 2011 to 2014 and still is a member of the Danish Parliament (the Folketing), has elaborated a scenario of a world without privacy or property. In “Welcome to 2030,” she envisions a world where “I own nothing, have no privacy, and life has never been better.” By 2030, so says her scenario, shopping and owning have become obsolete, because everything that once was a product is now a service.
In this idyllic new world of hers, people have free access to transportation, accommodation, food, “and all the things we need in our daily lives.” As these things will become free of charge, “it ended up not making sense for us to own much.” There would be no private ownership in houses nor would anyone pay rent, “because someone else is using our free space whenever we do not need it.” A person’s living room, for example, will be used for business meetings when one is absent. Concerns like “lifestyle diseases, climate change, the refugee crisis, environmental degradation, completely congested cities, water pollution, air pollution, social unrest and unemployment” are things of the past. The author predicts that people will be happy to enjoy such a good life that is so much better “than the path we were on, where it became so clear that we could not continue with the same model of growth.”
In her 2019 contribution to the Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils of the World Economic Forum, Ida Auken foretells how the world may look in the future “if we win the war on climate change.” By 2030, when CO2 emissions will be greatly reduced, people will live in a world where meat on the dinner plate “will be a rare sight” while water and the air will be much cleaner than today. Because of the shift from buying goods to using services, the need to have money will vanish, because people will spend less and less on goods. Work time will shrink and leisure time will grow.
For the future, Auken envisions a city where electric cars have substituted conventional combustion vehicles. Most of the roads and parking spaces will have become green parks and walking zones for pedestrians. By 2030, agriculture will offer mainly plant-based alternatives to the food supply instead of meat and dairy products. The use of land to produce animal feed will greatly diminish and nature will be spreading across the globe again.
Fabricating Social Consent
How can people be brought to accept such a system? The bait to entice the masses is the assurances of comprehensive healthcare and a guaranteed basic income. The promoters of the Great Reset promise a world without diseases. Due to biotechnologically produced organs and individualized genetics-based medical treatments, a drastically increased life expectancy and even immortality are said to be possible. Artificial intelligence will eradicate death and eliminate disease and mortality. The race is on among biotechnological companies to find the key to eternal life.
Along with the promise of turning any ordinary person into a godlike superman, the promise of a “universal basic income” is highly attractive, particularly to those who will no longer find a job in the new digital economy. Obtaining a basic income without having to go through the treadmill and disgrace of applying for social assistance is used as a bait to get the support of the poor.
To make it economically viable, the guarantee of a basic income would require the leveling of wage differences. The technical procedures of the money transfer from the state will be used to promote the cashless society. With the digitization of all monetary transactions, each individual purchase will be registered. As a consequence, the governmental authorities would have unrestricted access to supervise in detail how individual persons spend their money. A universal basic income in a cashless society would provide the conditions to impose a social credit system and deliver the mechanism to sanction undesirable behavior and identify the superfluous and unwanted.
Who Will Be the Rulers?
The World Economic Forum is silent about the question of who will rule in this new world.
There is no reason to expect that the new power holders would be benevolent. Yet even if the top decision-makers of the new world government were not mean but just technocrats, what reason would an administrative technocracy have to go on with the undesirables? What sense does it make for a technocratic elite to turn the common man into a superman? Why share the benefits of artificial intelligence with the masses and not keep the wealth for the chosen few?
Not being swayed away by the utopian promises, a sober assessment of the plans must come to the conclusion that in this new world, there would be no place for the average person and that they would be put away along with the “unemployable,” “feeble minded,” and “ill bred.” Behind the preaching of the progressive gospel of social justice by the promoters of the Great Reset and the establishment of a new world order lurks the sinister project of eugenics, which as a technique is now called “genetic engineering” and as a movement is named “transhumanism,” a term coined by Julian Huxley, the first director of the UNESCO.
The promoters of the project keep silent about who will be the rulers in this new world. The dystopian and collectivist nature of these projections and plans is the result of the rejection of free capitalism. Establishing a better world through a dictatorship is a contradiction in terms. Not less but more economic prosperity is the answer to the current problems. Therefore, we need more free markets and less state planning. The world is getting greener and a fall in the growth rate of the world population is already underway. These trends are the natural consequence of wealth creation through free markets.
The World Economic Forum and its related institutions in combination with a handful of governments and a few high-tech companies want to lead the world into a new era without property or privacy. Values like individualism, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are at stake, to be repudiated in favor of collectivism and the imposition of a “common good” that is defined by the self-proclaimed elite of technocrats. What is sold to the public as the promise of equality and ecological sustainability is in fact a brutal assault on human dignity and liberty. Instead of using the new technologies as an instrument of betterment, the Great Reset seeks to use the technological possibilities as a tool of enslavement. In this new world order, the state is the single owner of everything. It is left to our imagination to figure out who will program the algorithms that manage the distribution of the goods and services.
Vehicles Sales increase to 15.67 million SAAR in September; Up 15% YoY
Wards Auto released their estimate of light vehicle sales for September: September U.S. Light-Vehicles Sales Bounce Back Despite Gloomy Conditions (pay site).Hard to say exactly how much but sales could have been slightly stronger in September if not f…
Hard to say exactly how much but sales could have been slightly stronger in September if not for some lost inventory caused by production cuts related to plant shutdowns from UAW strikes at Ford, General Motors and Stellantis. Sales losses will be more strongly felt in October as production cuts mount.
Click on graph for larger image.
This graph shows light vehicle sales since 2006 from the BEA (blue) and Wards Auto's estimate for September (red).
The impact of COVID-19 was significant, and April 2020 was the worst month. After April 2020, sales increased, and were close to sales in 2019 (the year before the pandemic). However, sales decreased in 2021 due to supply issues. The "supply chain bottom" was in September 2021.
The second graph shows light vehicle sales since the BEA started keeping data in 1967.
Vehicle sales are usually a transmission mechanism for Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) policy, although far behind housing. This time vehicle sales were more suppressed by supply chain issues and have picked up recently.