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The next goal, according to the scientist behind the coronavirus vaccine, is cancer.

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The next goal, according to the scientist behind the coronavirus vaccine, is cancer.
The next goal, according to the scientist behind the coronavirus vaccine, is cancer.

The next goal, according to the scientist behind the coronavirus vaccine, is cancer.

 

The scientist who won the race to deliver the first widely used coronavirus vaccine says people can rest assured the shots are safe, and the technology behind it will soon be used to fight another global scourge — cancer.

Ozlem Tureci, who co-founded the German company BioNTech with her husband, was working on a way to harness the body’s immune system to tackle tumors when they learned last year of an unknown virus infecting people in China.

Over breakfast, the couple decided to apply the technology they’d been researching for two decades to the new threat, dubbing the effort “Project Lightspeed.”

Within 11 months, Britain had authorized the use of the mRNA vaccine BioNTech developed with U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, followed a week later by the United States. Tens of millions of people worldwide have received the shot since December.

“It pays off to make bold decisions and to trust that if you have an extraordinary team, you will be able to solve any problem and obstacle which comes your way in real time,” Tureci told The Associated Press in an interview.

Among the biggest challenges for the small, Mainz-based company that had yet to get a product to market was how to conduct large-scale clinical trials across different regions and how to scale up the manufacturing process to meet global demand.

Along with Pfizer, the company enlisted the help of Fosun Pharma in China “to get assets, capabilities and geographical footprint on board, which we did not have,” Tureci said.

Among the lessons she and her husband, BioNTech chief executive Ugur Sahin, learned along with their colleagues was “how important cooperation and collaboration is internationally.”

Tureci, who was born in Germany to Turkish immigrants, said the company, which has staff members from 60 countries, reached out to medical oversight bodies from the start, to ensure that the new type of vaccine would pass the rigorous scrutiny of regulators.

“The process of getting a medicine or a vaccine approved is one where many questions are asked, many experts are involved and there is external peer review of all the data and scientific discourse,” she said.

Amid a scare in Europe this week over the coronavirus shot made by British-Swedish rival AstraZeneca, Tureci dismissed the idea that any corners were cut by those racing to develop a vaccine.

“There is a very rigid process in place and the process does not stop after a vaccine has been approved,” she said. “It is, in fact, continuing now all around the world, where regulators have used reporting systems to screen and to assess any observations made with our or other vaccines.”

Tureci and her colleagues have all received the BioNTech vaccine themselves, she told the AP. She replied, “Yes, we’ve been vaccinated.”

BioNTech’s valuation has increased as its popularity has risen during the pandemic, providing funds for the company to follow its original aim of creating a new cancer tool.

Messenger RNA, or mRNA, is used in BioNTech-Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines to take instructions into the human body for producing proteins that prime it to attack a particular virus. To get the immune system to attack tumors, the same idea can be used.

Tureci, BioNTech’s chief medical officer, said, “We have several different cancer vaccines dependent on mRNA.”

Tureci said it’s “very difficult to predict when it comes to creative growth” when asked when such a therapy would be available. But we hope to see our cancer vaccines in a position where people will get them in a couple of years.”

For the time being, Tureci and Sahin are working to ensure that the vaccines that governments have requested are administered and that the shots are successful in responding to any new virus mutations.

In a ceremony attended by Chancellor Angela Merkel, a qualified scientist herself, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier presented the wife and husband with one of the country’s highest decorations, the Order of Merit.

Steinmeier told the couple, “You started with a drug to treat cancer in a single person.” “And now we have a vaccine for the whole human race.”

Tureci said winning the award was “truly an honor” ahead of the ceremony.

She maintained, however, that designing the vaccine was a joint effort.

“It took a lot of effort from a lot of people: our team at BioNTech, all of the stakeholders who were involved, as well as governments and regulatory agencies,” Tureci said. “In our view, this is a recognition of this endeavor as well as a celebration of science.”

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Omar Kelly: Dolphins’ defense deserves praise for helping turn season around

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Omar Kelly: Dolphins’ defense deserves praise for helping turn season around

There is often an opportunity that discomfort creates if it is welcomed.

It’s called growth, and that is what we’ve been witnessing from the Miami Dolphins defense the past five weeks, where that unit’s development, and tightening of the screws has helped the Dolphins (6-7) transform from an NFL laughingstock due to their seven straight losses into a franchise deserving some respect.

Tua Tagovailoa’s accuracy, anticipation and pocket presence have allowed the offense become respectable during Miami’s five-game winning streak. But it’s the defense that is doing the heavy lifting once again.

If there’s one thing the 2021 season has taught us is that expecting things to carryover from one season to the next in the NFL is shortsighted.

The slightest alteration of your roster — like a swap from safety from Bobby McCain to Jevon Holland, a change at outside linebacker from Kyle Van Noy to Jaelan Phillips, the absence of an edge setter Shaq Lawson — could drastically alter your team’s chemistry, shift the unit’s strengths and weaknesses, and impact the team’s style of play.

Defensive coordinator Josh Boyer got a crash course on this earlier this season when he tried to run the same scheme that produced one of the NFL’s stingiest defenses in 2020 with different personnel.

While the defensive play-calls might have been similar — if not the same — the execution wasn’t, and the product on the field left plenty to be desired considering the Dolphins sat at the bottom of many important NFL statistical rankings before the wins started piling up.

Then comfort set in, roles were adapted, and the screws tightened. During this five-game winning streak Miami’s defense allowed just four touchdowns, a stretch where Miami’s opponents averaged 11 points per game.

“I feel like we’re back to that level,” Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard said, referring to the sack-producing, turnover-creating unit the Dolphins possessed last season. “I feel like everybody is confident, everybody is having fun.”

But the road back to respectable wasn’t easy, and featured some growing pains.

For instance, Miami’s run defense tightened once nose tackle Raekwon Davis returned from the knee injury he suffered in the season opener. In the nine games Davis has played since his return only three teams have rushed for 100 or more yards against Miami.

As a result, the Dolphins rank ninth against the run now, allowing 103.8 rushing yards per game, heading into this weekend’s bye.

Clamping down against the run set the table for everything else, but Miami had to overcome some injuries, and be patient with its young players’ development to get here.

Howard and Byron Jones, Miami’s two upper-echelon cornerbacks, the talents whose skill-set this defense is built around, were each nursing a groin injury at the same time earlier in the season. Their injuries impacted their performance, and the schemes Miami could run for nearly a month.

It also took Holland, the Dolphins’ 2021 second-round pick, half a season to become comfortable in Miami’s defense. Now the former Oregon standout is one of the team’s top playmakers, and a leader the secondary leans on.

He’s proof that sometimes teams have to wait for young players to blossom.

That seemed to be the case with not just Holland, but Phillips, whom the Dolphins selected with the 18th overall pick in the 2021 draft. The former University of Miami standout struggled to quickly learn everything that came with being a linebacker in Miami’s scheme.

The Dolphins eventually scrapped (or tabled) the outside linebacker role, and began to use Phillips exclusively as a pass rusher. Last Sunday Phillips set a Dolphins rookie record by reaching 8.5 sacks on the season, and seven of them have come in the past five games.

To simplify things for Phillips, Jerome Baker became an edge player, returning to the outside linebacker role he held in his rookie season. That opened the door for Duke Riley to get more playing time at inside linebacker.

Miami’s defense evolved into what it is today through trial and error and ultimately found a formula that works for this unit — not last year’s defense.

Last year the Dolphins defense allowed a touchdown 57.4 percent of the time teams reached the red zone, which ranked Miami seventh in that statistical category.

This year Miami is allowing 50 percent of red-zone opportunities to turn into touchdowns, which ties Miami with Buffalo for fourth in the NFL.

Only Baltimore, New England and New Orleans are better, and that’s good company to keep.

“It’s about trusting the process. Believing in what you’re doing. Believing in the scheme, and believing in the players,” Boyer said. “From the players, from the coaches, even when things haven’t been good. We all understand that we’re approaching things the right way. We’re working the right way. We haven’t always gotten the results we wanted. Just because you work hard, prepare the right way, coaching it the right way, it really comes down to execution on Sundays.”

The evolution will continue as Holland, Phillips and Baker become more comfortable in their new roles.

The hope is that the growth we’ve seen this past month will carry on throughout the final four games of the regular season, and maybe next year’s defense will start out the 2022 season with less discomfort.

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Three-vehicle crash on C-470 shuts down highway near E-470 junction

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Three-vehicle crash on C-470 shuts down highway near E-470 junction

The westbound lanes of C-470 have been shutdown along the junction with E-470 by a three-vehicle crash.

The highway is closed at Interstate 25 where E-470 turns into C-470, according to E-470 officials.

The three-vehicle crash happened at about 1:55 p.m. Tuesday, according to the Colorado State Patrol. At least two people have been taken by ambulance to a local hospital.

Traffic is being detoured and authorities ask drivers to avoid the stretch if possible.

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A skier from Nederland died Tuesday at Eldora Ski Area

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A skier from Nederland died Tuesday at Eldora Ski Area

A local skier died Tuesday at the Eldora Ski Area after hitting a tree.

At about 10:25 a.m., ski patrol members found the 60-year-old man lying in the trees along the Hot Dog Alley ski run, according to a Boulder County Sheriff’s Office news release.

The skier, from Nederland, was unconscious and the ski patrol began first aid including CPR, the release said. The man, who was skiing alone, was pronounced dead, at 11 a.m. in a first-aid room.

On Nov. 30, a skier, a 72-year-old man, died in a collision with a snowboarder at Eldora.

 

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