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31-3 SARS-Covid19 analysis in sewage: Japanese companies get ready

Shimadzu Techno Research has started a contract service for the detection of SARS-Covid19 in sewage. Detection is based on RT-PCR using Shimadzu’s New Coronavirus Detection Reagent Kit, after the virus is concentrated from sewage samples by polyethylene glycol precipitation and RNA extraction. Detection limit is around 103 copies/L. Based on this figure, detection is possible if 10 out of 100,000 people, or 1 out of 10,000 people, shed the virus in their feces. Mutant strains can also be detected using appropriate primers. The procedure follows the “Manual for the Detection of Novel Coronavirus Genes in Sewage (Provisional Version)” published in December 2020 by the COVID-19 Task Force of the Japan Society on Water Environment. 

A team from Shionogi Co., a pharmaceutical company, has also entered on a similar program. Their incentive comes from the fact that sewage data do not fall in the category of personal information and thus can be used for secondary purposes without identifying individuals. They will start a contract service for municipalities in 2021 to detect and measure SARS-CoV-2 in sewage using a Mahoro, a LabDroid for dangerous work developed by the Robotic Biology Institute, an assay from Hokkaido University and iLAC, a Tsukuba startup, for automation. In future, they plan to expand this service to include pathogens other than SARS-CoV-2

Nikkei Biotech news release, March 30 and 31, 2021



29-3 Chinese vaccine manufacturers start developing vaccines for Corona mutant strains

According to a spokesman of China National Medicines Corp., comprehensive crossover study with China’s vaccines based on inactivated Corona virus were conducted with over 10 virus strains which had evolved around the world. The neutralizing antibodies produced by the vaccines were found to have a high neutralizing effect on the virus strains found in South Africa and the United Kingdom, and their effect on the Corona mutants evolved in Brazil and Zimbabwe are currently being tested. Also vaccine development on mutant strains was started.

Japan JST China news, March 29, 2021

31-3 Team at CAS QIBEBT develops “algae chassis” using CRISPR/Cas genome editing

A team around XU Jian at CAS Qingdao Institute of BioEnergy and Environmental Biotechnology has developed genetic tools based on CRISPR/Cas technology to prepare a minimal genome variant of the marina algae Microcystis aeruginosa. They deleted a targeted 214 Kb, containing 52 genes, on chromosomes 30 and 9. Using single-cell phenotyping tools such as Ramanomics, the researchers found that despite these large chromosome excisions, key traits such as growth rate, biomass, potential maximum photosynthetic rate, non-photochemical burst of chlorophyll fluorescence, lipid content and fatty acid unsaturation were barely affected. These findings suggest that a “minimal algal genome” may be constructed through such chromosomal surgery.

CAS news release, March 31, 2021

© LIU Yang

2-4 Cloned native pigs may curb threat of African swine fever

A team around Wu Shenglong in Taicang, Jiangsu province, has achieved somatic cell cloning of pigs, resulting in five pigs native to China. Somatic cell cloning preserves 100 % of the parent’s genetic material and thus reduces the threat of African swine fever on pig breeding. China reported its first case of the disease in August 2018 in Liaoning province, and later heavy outbreaks in other provinces. The team has collected ear tissue samples from six types of pigs native to China and cryopreserved 1,217 tubes of somatic cells since last year.

Xinhua news release, April 2, 2021

29-3 China’s internet providers envision zero-carbon internet

According the a report of China’s State Grid Energy Research Institute, China’s data centers in 2020 consumed 2.7% of the nation’s Electriciy (200 billion kWh) and will double to 400 billion kWh or 3.7% by 2030. As a consequence, major actors try to cut down on energy consumption and go for zero-carbon solutions. 

Tencent has chosen regions with sufficient green energy for its data centers, such as Huailai (Hebei Province) that has abundant wind electricity, or Qingyuan (Guangdong Province) that has abundant hydro power.

Huawei will reduce the number of base stations, server rooms and data centers and will use more “green” electricity. By combining artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing and traditional photovoltaic stations, Huawei’s “smart photovoltaic projects” direct solar panels to actively follow sunlight, the way sunflowers do, generating up to 18.7 % more electricity than a traditional station. According to Huawei, its green power generation and efficient electricity consumption sectors have already generated 325 billion kWh of green electricity and saved 10 billion kWh, equivalent to planting 220 million trees.

Xinhua news release, March 29, 2021

Observation of continuous fluorescent lines migrating along human meridians and acupuncture points

According to a recently published paper, researchers, have for the first time clearly observed continuous fluorescent lines migrating along the meridian points of the human body, providing strong evidence for the existence of meridians in Chinese medicine.

An important basis for Western medicine to deny the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has always been the “inability to prove the existence of meridians” at the anatomical level. According to the corresponding author, Dr. Tang “We injected two fluorescent dyes—fluorescein sodium and indocyanine green (ICG)—into the dermal layer both at acupuncture points (PC5, PC6, and PC7) and a nonacupoint control.” Laser excitation photographs of sodium fluorescein were taken over the following hours to obtain the migration trajectory of the fluorescein in vivo. The results showed that the trajectories generally developed along the adjacent acupuncture points of the pericardium meridian, from Neiguan, to Interdigit, to Quchi completely overlapping with the pericardium meridian acupuncture points, forming a stable meridian line with high repeatability (79%).

Figure 2 from the article shows the examples of the variations in fluorescein migratory paths. Variations in fluorescein migratory paths.

24-3 Chinese experts train Benin farmers on improved cotton production

Benin is Africa’s largest cotton producer with 714,714 tons of cotton production last year. The China-Benin agricultural pilot center at Seme-Kpodji, about 20 km southeast of Cotonou, has initiated a one-month training session for 225 agricultural operators in Benin on Chinese expertise in farm machinery operation which aims to improve cotton productivity in the country. The objectives is to achieve a productivity of one million tons of cotton by 2023.

Xinhua news release, March 24, 2021 

© Xinhua, Photo by Seraphin Zounyekpe

16-3 China approves recombinant subunit COVID vaccine

China approved a recombinant protein subunit vaccine against COVID-19 for emergency use. The vaccine was developed by the CAS Institute of Microbiology and Anhui Zhifei Longcom and is manufactured using CHO cells. It is the fourth vaccine approved in China for emergency use against COVID-19. It is currently in phase III clinical trials in Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Ecuador and Indonesia, with plans to inoculate a total of 29,000 volunteers.

China Daily, March 16, 2021

23-3 Dalian-Xiamen team achieves CO2 hydrogenation to methanol at reduced temperatures

DENG Dehui from CAS Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics and WANG Ye from Xiamen University have achieved hydrogenation of COto methanol at low temperature and with high efficiency. In situ characterizations combined with theoretical calculations demonstrated that in-plane sulfur vacancies on MoS2 were the active centers for catalyzing a highly selective hydrogenation of CO2 to methanol and helped to suppress undesired reverse water-gas shift (RWGS) and excessive hydrogenation of methanol to CH4. At 180 ℃, methanol selectivity reached 94.3% at a CO2 conversion of 12.5%. Activity and selectivity were steadily maintained for over 3000 hours.

Jingting HU et al., Nature Catalysis volume 4, pages242–250 (2021)

8-3 China will step-up basic research

According to the 14th Five-Year Plan and the 2035 Long-term Goal Outline Draft, China will formulate and implement a 10-year basic research action plan, focusing on developing Basic Research Centers and basic research expenses. The ratio will increase to 8% or more.

China Science and Technology News, March 8, 2021

16-3 Ethiopia inaugurates solar power plant in Gambella, manufactured by China

The off-the-grid solar power plant in Gambella, Ethiopia, financed by the World Bank ‘s African Development Plan and undertaken by a consortium of the State Grid Corporation of China China Electric Power Technology Equipment Co., Ltd. and Nanjing Nanrui Insurance Process Technology Co., Ltd. was inaugurated. The installed capacity of solar power generation of the project is 175kW, and the annual design annual power generation is 800,000kWh. It can provide stable clean electric energy to more than 400 local households.

Japan JST China news, March 16, 2021

15-3 China germinates F2 rice seedlings returning from the moon

40 g of rice seed paddy was mounted on Chang’e 5 and landed on the moon in November 2020. Approximately 23 days later, after a “moon orbit trip” of 760,000 kilometers, it was returned to the National Plant Space Breeding Project Technology Research Center of South China Agricultural University and cultivated. This rice will be harvested at the end of June, and then the next generation will be sown.

Japan JST China news, March 15, 2021

©South China Agricultural University

20-3 China extends freight train connections to Milan

Wuhan Asia-Europe Logistics Co. has launched a new extended route for freight service, from Wuhan, Hubei Province, via China’s Alataw Pass and Germany’s Duisburg, arriving in Milan within 21 or 22 days 

The first X8015 train was loaded with electronic products, auto parts and epidemic-prevention supplies. This is the 30th China-Europe freight train that has departed from Wuhan this year. In 2020, Wuhan witnessed a total of 215 China-Europe freight-train trips. The China-Europe freight-train service has remained a reliable transportation channel amid the COVID-19 outbreak across the two continents.

Xinhua news release, March 20, 2021

© China Rail, Xinhua News

New Chinese International Travel Health Certificate

March 9 (China News) – On March 7, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced the launch of the Chinese version of the “International Travel Health Certificate” at a press conference of foreign ministers, putting forward a practical “solution” to promote the world economic recovery and facilitate cross-border movement of people. On March 8, the Chinese version of the “International Travel Health Certificate” WeChat app was officially launched, and Chinese citizens are welcome to use it. This app can display the holder’s nucleic acid tests (COVID-19) and serum IgG antibody test results and vaccination status, etc. The health certificate contains an encrypted QR code for the relevant authorities in each country to verify the authenticity and read the information about the individual. In addition to the electronic display, a paper version can be printed.

1-3 China launches hydrogen-powered truck

On March 1, a 100 kW hydrogen fuel-cell powered heavy-duty truck was launched by Beiben Trucks Group Co. in Baotou in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. Beiben is a Chinese heavy-duty truck producer. The vehicle’s hydrogen storage cylinders use proton-exchange membrane fuel cells developed by Shanghai Jiao Tong University. It can work in extremely cold conditions of minus 30 C. 

Xinhua news release, March 1, 2021

© Beiben Trucks Co./Xinhua

27-2 China claims over 300 satellites in orbit

Among them are Beidou navigation satellites, remote sensing satellites for meteorological and marine monitoring, and communication satellites.

China started the construction of a high-throughput broadband satellite communication system in 2020, with the APSTAR-6D telecommunication satellite launched in July 2020. Based on satellite communication capability, China provides communication services for users on the ground and in the sea and air. The total number of direct broadcasting satellite service users has exceeded 145 million.

Xinhua news release, February 27, 2021