Asian Scientist Magazine’s 2020 Roundup


AsianScientist (Dec. 31, 2020) – Even as the COVID-19 outbreak quickly unfolded through the year, science kept pace, bolstered by cross-border collaborations among researchers. For one, scientists in China raced to sequence the SARS-CoV-2 genome when it was first discovered, later sharing this information with the rest of the world.

Meanwhile, Singapore’s hospitals supplied recovered patient plasma to US biotech firm Regeneron, inadvertently contributing to President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 treatment—as Asian Scientist Magazine first reported. Amid the “infodemic” fuelled by misinformation surrounding the virus, we also published relevant explainers on COVID-19 diagnostics, best practices and even the origins of SARS-CoV-2.

With the most eventful year in recent scientific history drawing to a close, our top 10 pieces of 2020 celebrate scientific advances in the fight against COVID-19. While COVID-19 may be the topic of the hour—and indeed, the year—diverse breakthroughs by Asian researchers in other fields like quantum physics and supercomputing prove that the progress of science is still varied and relentless.

  • Nobel Laureate Tasuku Honjo Refutes Link To ‘Man-Made’ Coronavirus Claim

    As the coronavirus spread across the globe, so did something similarly insidious: misinformation on social media platforms. Posts surfaced claiming that Kyoto University’s Tasuku Honjo had said the SARS-CoV-2 virus was ‘man-made’ or ‘invented’ in a laboratory, leading the 2018 Nobel Laureate to issue a public refutation in April.

  • Chinese Scientists Sequence Genome Of COVID-19

    The pandemic was still in its early stages when a research group from China sequenced the SARS-CoV-2 genome, finding that it most likely originated from bats. Led by Dr. Wang Jianwei at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, the team published their findings in Chinese Medical Journal in February, paving the way for future studies on the source and nature of the virus as it advanced worldwide.

  • COVID-19 Diagnostics Explained

    With symptoms such as a runny nose, sore throat and fever, COVID-19 in its mildest form could easily be mistaken for a common cold. This makes testing crucial—on a national level, a country’s ability to test as many people as possible is key to containing the outbreak.

    But not all tests are alike, and each kind of diagnostic has its own strengths and weaknesses. In this feature by Asian Scientist Magazine editor in chief Dr. Rebecca Tan, find out more about available diagnostics and how each one plays a role in the fight against COVID-19.

  • Singapore Patient Plasma Used To Create Trump’s COVID-19 Antibody Cocktail

    When US President Donald Trump contracted COVID-19, he was treated with an experimental antibody cocktail. One of the two antibodies in the cocktail was developed using blood samples from patients in Singapore, with US biotech company Regeneron making use of plasma supplied by Singapore’s National Center for Infectious Diseases.

  • PDB’s Molecule Of The Month: The Coronavirus Protease

    Each month, the Protein Data Bank highlights a relevant molecule from its repository of over 160,000 biological structures. February’s Molecule of the Month was none other than the COVID-19 protease, which resembles the symbol of a heart. In a dishearteningly ironic twist, the molecule plays an integral role in propagating the virus..

  • Fact Check: 5 Reasons Why The Coronavirus Is Not ‘Man-made’

    Controversial claims over the coronavirus’ origin have proliferated on the internet, but the verdict is in: ‘evidence’ for the engineered virus theory is flimsy and illogical. In this explainer, Asian Scientist Magazine debunks false claims one by one to show that the simplest explanation is likely the best one: the virus’ origins are natural.

  • How Singapore Is Taking On COVID-19

    At 0.05 percent, Singapore’s COVID-19 death rate is among the world’s lowest—and well below the global average of 3 percent. From multi-agency task forces to meticulous contact tracing that would catch 40 percent of infections while still asymptomatic, Singapore’s effective pandemic response showed the speed and thoroughness of its authorities, writes Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health’s Dr. Jeremy Lim.

  • Biolidics To Launch Rapid Test Kit For COVID-19

    Given that COVID-19 is sometimes asymptomatic, the demand for fast and accurate diagnostic tests is booming. To address this gap, Singapore-based medtech firm Biolidics developed a rapid test kit. Using serum, plasma or blood samples, the test can achieve an accuracy of more than 95 percent in just 10 minutes—much faster than the three hours that the current gold standard, polymerase chain reaction, takes.

  • 7 Best Practices From Singapore’s Pandemic Preparedness Playbook

    Amid the emerging COVID-19 outbreak in February, Singapore had won praise for its ‘gold standard’ response. Far from resting on their laurels, local medical veterans quickly set to work by identifying seven critical issues that still required urgent action.

  • Bob Langer On How Science Can Tackle COVID-19 (VIDEO)

    Already the most cited engineer in history, MIT Professor Robert Langer joined the prestigious ranks of billionaire-scientists this year, his fortunes boosted by the skyrocketing stock price of Moderna. Langer spoke to Wildtype Media Group’s CEO Dr. Juliana Chan in April about the firm’s vaccine and the role science plays in our collective fight against COVID-19.

  • ———

    Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine; Photo: Freepik.
    Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.


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    The Australian magazines that still make money


    They many not attract glossy prestige advertising clients, but they bring in a lot more revenue from circulation – old fashioned sales, mainly at supermarket checkout queues. All are now owned by Bauer Media, following its merger with Seven’s Pacific Magazines business.

    “They are not the sexiest magazines, but they are absolutely the engine room,” Jayne Ferguson, former general manager of women’s lifestyle at Bauer Media, says. “They’ve driven the volume of profit for those publishing houses. I’ve been working in magazines in Australia for over 20 years – they are the absolute heart of those businesses.”

    TV Week

    For a magazine that many have forgotten still exists, the revelation that TV Week is a top profit maker is especially surprising.

    The magazine cemented its position in national the consciousness through the annual Logies Awards for television, which it sponsors.

    TV Week covers the latest reality television news, upcoming programs, movies and music. But its heart still lies in local drama, particularly soap operas Home and Away and Neighbours. It is also home to a weekly television guide, shows that appear on services like Netflix, Stan and Amazon Prime and puzzles, which have become increasingly popular. The magazine has also branched out with special editions – this week dedicating an entire magazine to popular US sitcom Friends.

    One of the main reasons for the magazine’s success over more than 60 years is its dependence on the readers, not advertisers, for revenue. But revenue from readers isn’t enough to make a profit. The costs to run the magazine are also low, because a lot of the photos that are featured are provided free of charge from the television networks.

    “TV week is one of the cheapest magazines as far as content is concerned because all the photos are basically from PR agencies and TV networks,” Louisa Hatfield, Pacific Magazines’ former content and brand director explains. “They are not spending huge amounts on content.”

    Woman’s Day

    It was Nene King who was credited with helping Woman’s Day reach more than 1,000,000 people in the 1990s with scoops about Elton’s John’s local Aussie lover and the conviction of Lindy Chamberlain that eventually led to it outselling its fiercest rival New Idea, led at the time by King’s former boss, Dulcie Boling.

    Woman’s Day is now synonymous with gossip about the Royal family and interviews with Aussie celebrities, but is often criticised and scrutinised for its sometimes fake and salacious gossip about local and international stars. Its publisher Bauer has been sued for stories including the divorce of New Zealand television presenter Charlotte Dawson and Rebel Wilson article titled “Separating fact from fiction: Will the real Rebel Wilson please stand up?”

    New Idea

    New Idea and Woman’s Day remain rivals despite now being owned by the same publisher, but it’s not a bitter feud like the days of King and Boling. The content still competes with Woman’s Day and attracts more than one million readers each issue.

    “They still have huge massive loyal readers of women in their 40s and 50s that grew up reading magazines and formed a habit of reading magazines and enjoy the community and the variety that those magazines deliver for them,” Ferguson says.

    New Idea has also managed to cut costs by removing the large amounts they paid for paparazzi shots and exclusive photo-shoots.

    “Those days are long gone,” Hatfield says. “As soon as you got rid of those ridiculous prices for pap photos and exclusives…your costs went down. It became a win, win situation.”

    Take 5

    Take 5’s cheap cover price reflects its miniscule production costs, but it is not a reflection of just how many will buy it. Known for real life Australian stories like “I predicted my own death and it saved my life” and “Tiny kitten found dumped in wheelie bin had firecracker taped to her body”, Take 5 brings more than 600,000 readers per issue and does so without expensive celebrity fees.

    The mix of true crime and heart-warming family tales, often sent in by readers, make it addictive reading. But its prizes and extensive range of puzzles also excite audiences who are looking to make some quick cash.

    That’s Life

    That’s Life, which was part of Seven West Media’s Pacific Magazines before it was brought under the same publisher as rival Take 5, similarly publishes real Australian stories from readers.

    Headlines like ‘Deodorant killed my boy’ and ‘I jumped out the window to escape a sex fiend’ are splashed across the weekly front pages, often coupled by prizes and pull out puzzle books.

    That’s Life is reliant on the readers for stories which allows the magazine to be cost efficient – it does not need to pay large amounts for talent to write about or pay for expensive photo shoots. Cheaper paper and smaller advertising teams also help boost profits.

    “If you don’t have to worry about advertising, you don’t have to have big teams…plus you’ve got cheap paper and you’re able to drive huge audiences,” Hatfield says.

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    Portland police find rifle magazines, Molotov cocktails as protests intensify – National


    A bag containing loaded rifle magazines and Molotov cocktails was found at a park near where protests have erupted for two months in Portland, Oregon, following the death of George Floyd, police said.

    A photo of the items was shared in a tweet from police late Sunday saying someone pointed out the bag to officers at Lownsdale Square Park late Sunday. No further information was immediately released.

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    The discovery came just hours after two people were arrested following reports that a shot was fired in the same park. Officers responded just before 7:30 p.m. A person believed to be the gunshot victim arrived later at a hospital via a private vehicle with non-life threatening injuries, police said.

    It wasn’t clear if either incident was connected to the demonstrations.

    Portland has seen protests nightly since Floyd was killed in Minneapolis in May. President Donald Trump said he sent federal agents to Portland to halt the unrest but state and local officials said they are making the situation worse.






    Portland protests: White House blames ‘rhetoric of the left’ for undermining justice system


    Portland protests: White House blames ‘rhetoric of the left’ for undermining justice system

    The protest late Sunday started peacefully, but intensified early Monday. U.S. agents declared an unlawful assembly and deployed several rounds of what appeared to be tear gas, flash bangs and pepper balls from the federal courthouse in downtown Portland.

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    Some protesters climbed over the fence surrounding the courthouse, while others shot fireworks, banged on the fence and projected lights on the building.

    Just after 1 a.m., federal officers confronted protesters on the street and worked to clear the area. Several people were seen being detained, but it’s unclear how many may have been arrested. Law enforcement deployed more gas and less-lethal munitions, and formed a line to push back demonstrators. Many dispersed, but a few protesters remained around 2 a.m.

    Read more:
    Federal agents use tear gas to disperse protesters from Portland courthouse

    A similar scene had played out the night before.

    Authorities had declared a riot early Sunday morning. Protesters breached a fence surrounding the city’s federal courthouse building where U.S. agents have been stationed. Protesters remained in the streets past 2:30 a.m., forming lines across intersections and holding makeshift shields, as police patrolled and closed blocks abutting the area. Portland police say they arrested six people.

    In the hours leading up to the riot declaration, thousands of people marched through parts of the city. Protesters paused outside a downtown hotel, where federal agents are staying, chanting “Feds go home” and yelling the names of Black people killed by police.

    During demonstrations Friday night, federal agents repeatedly fired tear gas to break up rowdy protests that continued into the early morning Saturday. Authorities say six federal officers were injured and one person was arrested.

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    Eight Australian magazines closed permanently


    Eight Australian magazines – including Men’s and Women’s Health, Harper’s BAZAAR and ELLE – will be shut down, with their owner blaming an “unrelenting economic downturn” for the decision.

    Bauer  Media Australia closed the titles in May, in a move that it insisted would be temporary.

    However, Bauer was sold to Sydney-based private equity group Mercury Capital only days ago, with the new owners acting swiftly on the shuttered titles.

    The company said today it would permanently close eight of its Australian magazines – Harper’s BAZAAR, ELLE, InStyle, Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Good Health, NW and OK!.

    Bauer’s Australian and New Zealand CEO, Brendon Hill, said advertising revenue had plummeted during the “unexpected, uncertain and unrelenting economic downturn” caused by COVID-19 shutdowns.

    “We, like many other media companies, have deeply felt the impact of COVID-19,” he said in a statement.

    “The reinstatement of these titles and teams was always dependent on the advertising market bouncing back and the return of domestic and international travel. Despite promising signs from advertisers in recent weeks, this has not outweighed the medium-term outlook for these titles.

    “Additionally, with a second lock-down in Victoria and minimal travel, it is not feasible to sufficiently distribute NW and OK! without transit channels. The financial impact of these factors and the ongoing economic uncertainty makes the return and sustainability of these titles no longer viable. We have been forced to reset and future-proof the business like all of the media industry has.”

    Hill said job losses would affect editorial, sales and production staff.

    “This is a devastating blow to those who are directly affected, the entire Bauer team and the industry as a whole.”

    Bauer will continue to publish a range of long-standing Australian titles, including the Australian Women’s Weekly and TV Week.

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