A mumps outbreak among the student population of Oxford has been recorded this week, with many students having to leave University before the end of term.In the first week of March there were 27 recorded cases of mumps, a dramatic rise from previous months.Thames Valley Health Protection Unit said in a statement, “The outbreak is the result of poor immunity amongst the student group and the easy spread of the virus between students.”The issue is now being investigated at both Oxford and Oxford Brookes University.Kari Jackson, a Classics and German student from St Johns caught mumps, despite having had two MMR vaccines. She said, “The symptoms set in on Wednesday of seventh week, when I woke up with a stiff jaw and swollen glands. I was completely dazed and it was impossible to concentrate on work due to all the pain killers.“You’re supposed to stay in isolation for six days while you have all the symptoms. It was so frustrating.”Vidhi Doshi, a first year student from St Peters also showed signs of mumps in seventh week. “On Sunday I couldn’t chew and on Monday I woke up with serious mumps. I lived in Bombay till I was eleven so I would have had my vaccines there….I think I’ve had the two MMR vaccines but records say it’s not clear whether I have so I just don’t know.“My college nurse told me I should not stay in Oxford as I would infect people. So on Monday morning I went home to London and have been there all week. I was so upset I missed the whole of eighth week,” the student said.The outbreak has been attributed to the fact that many students aged between 18 and 25 have had just one dose of the MMR vaccination (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine, rather than the two separate vaccinations that are required.The use of two MMR vaccines was introduced in 1996, when many students were still at school. This means that many students may have received the MR (measles and rubella) vaccine, which does not protect against mumps.Trish Mannes, Consultant in Health Protection at the Health Protection Agency’s Thames Valley Health Protection Unit said, “We are advising students to be aware of the symptoms of mumps. Should they become symptomatic they should see their GP and avoid social contact for five days after onset of the symptoms. All students are being encouraged to ensure good hand hygiene and tissue etiquette.”The symptoms of mumps usually develop between 15 and 24 days after being infected with the virus. Symptoms include swollen glands, headache, joint pain, nausea, dry mouth, mild abdominal pain, fatigue loss of appetite, and fever.Mumps is spread by coughs and sneezes, as well as by contact through saliva. In its most extreme form, it can cause viral meningitis and permanent deafness. More rare complications arising from mumps include inflammation of the pancreas and of the ovaries and testicles.
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Sometimes, promising scientific findings aren’t enough, by themselves.Life-science researchers at Harvard who’ve made new inventions with applied and commercial potential are often disappointed to learn that pharmaceutical, venture capital, or biotech firms aren’t interested in their work — and not because a discovery lacks merit. Instead, the glitch may be that the research hasn’t progressed far enough to establish proof-of-principle, which is imperative for industry to make a forward-looking decision to invest significant resources and develop it for commercial application.Harvard’s Office of Technology Development (OTD) has created a unique internal seed funding program to help researchers to fill this development gap. Called the Technology Development Accelerator Fund, it provides bridge money that allows researchers to continue advancing their work through development phases that often come too late for typical basic research funds and too early for money to be available from commercial ventures.“I believe that Harvard has a unique opportunity, indeed, one might say a special obligation to foster and expedite the development of nascent technologies that can benefit the public,” said Isaac Kohlberg, Harvard’s chief technology development officer and senior associate provost. “The Accelerator Fund is an expression of our commitment to ensure that greater numbers of promising new technologies originating at Harvard won’t languish in the development gap, but instead will bridge the gap and progress to the point where they become bona-fide, investment-grade opportunities and ultimately new products and therapies that benefit society.”The Accelerator Fund, which is about to begin accepting applications for the next round of financing, is in its third year and has distributed $4.1 million to 23 investigator-initiated research projects at Harvard. One, a small-molecule inhibitor that might be useful in cancer therapy, has already been licensed to a New York biotech company.Arlene Sharpe, the George Fabyan Professor of Comparative Pathology, received Accelerator Fund backing to conduct small-molecule screening in her investigations of a T-cell regulator called PD-1. PD-1, which shuts down T-cell response, has been usurped by microbes and tumors as a way to weaken the body’s immune response. Sharpe is looking for a small molecule that will modulate PD-1 activity.Sharpe said one aspect of Accelerator funding that has proven particularly helpful is the technical advice and assistance provided by OTD that accompanies the grant. In her case, Sharpe said, the advice was essential because she had never conducted small-molecule screening before.“It has been a wonderful experience,” Sharpe said. “The idea of helping investigators develop something that is potentially high risk, helping them enter a new area, providing the financial as well as intellectual support, is very beneficial. Going from initial design to proof of concept, and then, once one has something of interest, to be able to identify business partners is an incredible opportunity.”The Accelerator Fund was founded in 2007, financed by donations from interested alumni. A portion of future licensing revenues from discoveries supported by the Accelerator which are licensed and developed by industry will be cycled back to replenish the fund. Awards are made through a competitive RFP process and consultation with an advisory committee comprised of opinion leaders from the biopharma and venture community and members of Harvard’s faculty.“I think it is important. Many times, there are projects that we might see that are too early,” said Chris Mirabelli of Healthcare Ventures LLC, a healthcare-focused venture capital fund and an Accelerator Fund advisory board member.The program, which is presently focused on the life sciences, has proven successful enough to be replicated, according to Curtis Keith, the Accelerator Fund’s chief scientific officer.“Once you establish proof-of-principle, you increase the probability that industry will see the emerging technology as a viable licensing and development opportunity,” Keith said. “As a result, we hope to generate both more licensable technologies and, at the same time, additional collaborations with industry to support further research at Harvard.”The Office of Technology Development and the Wyss Institute for Biologically-Inspired Engineering are collaborating on a new fund that will allow projects in bioengineering to benefit from the same kind of financial support.Harvard Provost Steven E. Hyman said that moving new inventions out of research laboratories and into the marketplace, where they might benefit people, is a vital part of Harvard’s mission.“I see this as fundamental to the fabric of our mission as one of the world’s foremost research universities,” Hyman said. “We are delighted with the Accelerator’s progress, and the very professional way in which it operates and is managed. The Accelerator is Harvard’s unique response to the challenges presented by the development gap, providing a novel mechanism to fund early-stage research with promising commercial potential, advancing the progress of embryonic technologies and increasing the flow of inventions made by Harvard’s faculty from the laboratory into the marketplace and society as a whole.”
Conservationist Allison Holcomb, an intern at Harvard Library’s Weissman Preservation Center, repairs two 19th-century letters written by Jane Austen to her sister, Cassandra. Near perfect This letter, containing a previous repair (upper left), will be restored to its original form. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer Tedious work Using her fingers and eraser crumbs, Holcomb cleans each letter. Lettres de Austen Holcomb has read the translations for each and refers back to them when necessary. Tricks of the trade Because her field of conservation is so small, Holcomb appropriates materials from other fields. The tweezers, water pen, and micro-spatulas are all utensils she is using on this current project. Flourish Through the microscope Holcomb can see minute details of the lettering. Yours truly Worlds ago Holcomb, who attends the Winterthur Museum at the University of Delaware, uses a micro-spatula to repair this letter written in 1805. British romantic novelist Jane Austen died penniless on July 18, 1817, at the age of 41. Four of her six novels were already in print, but her obscurity was so deep that it was not until December that Austen was identified as the author. In life, fortune and fame eluded Austen, a minister’s daughter whose writing is now widely celebrated for its wit and realism.But fame did follow. A collected edition of Austen’s novels appeared in 1833, and they have been in print ever since. By 1880, Austen was the subject of a public adulation so wild that Victorians called it “Austenolatry.” In the 21st century, this fervent literary fandom remains unchecked.But Austen’s fame is a problem for scholars in search of scarce clues to her life. Consider, for one, the fate of her letters. By some estimates, Austen wrote 3,000, but only about 160 survive.Harvard’s Houghton Library owns five complete letters and one fragment. They are little storms of gossip, fashion, and drawing-room intrigue — novels in miniature that show off Austen’s ready humor and astute powers of observation.Even in their lightness, they remain valuable to scholars. In the fall of 2010, Harvard Assistant Professor of English Andrew Warren arranged for his class to see one of the Austen letters, because the experience “draws us into Austen’s social world, which after all is the inspiration for the novels,” he said. “The world of the novels is uncannily close to the world depicted, or rather enacted, in the letter.”For Harvard, it’s only a matter of sense and sensibility to treat the Austen letters well, with temperature and humidity controls, flat storage in acid-free folders, protection from ultraviolet light, and limited physical access.Add to those protections the expert ministrations of the Weissman Preservation Center, an arm of the Harvard University Library. Last month, experts there finished restoring two of the University’s Austen letters, one written in 1805 and the other in 1813.Both are “autograph letters,” handwritten missives addressed to Austen’s sister and lifelong confidante Cassandra. They were gifts from Amy Lowell, the Brookline poet and John Keats biographer who in 1925 bequeathed to Harvard an extensive literary collection of books and autographs. (A Houghton exhibit of the Lowell collection is planned for the fall.)The letters, on cream-colored writing paper, are in remarkable shape, despite the intentional creases common in Austen’s day, when letters were folded for mailing. (The modern envelope appeared nearly a century later.)The two letters are also full to the edges with Austen’s neat, small handwriting, in lines as straight as a ruler. “Keats wasn’t so tidy in his letters,” said Debora Mayer, the Weissman’s Helen H. Glaser Conservator. (Lowell’s Keats collection is ample and comprehensive.) But however neat the handwriting, she added, the Austen letters illustrate one joy of the conservation business: the thrill of proximity to the greats of history and literature.“We’re artists, we’re historians, and we like to be connected,” said Mayer of conservators. “Working on objects connects us, very much so … to another place and time.”Closest to the Austen letters was Harvard conservation intern Allison Holcomb, a master’s degree student in the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation. Late last year she examined the letters and wrote a detailed “proposal record” for repairing each. It’s a technical job, but a private thrill, said Holcomb. She emailed a friend about the project, filling in the subject line with exclamation points.Holcomb showed her tools, which illustrate the cleanliness, care, and precision required for literary conservation: specialized blotters to protect text, needle-like awls, delicate brushes, magnifying glasses, long-fibered Japanese tissue for mending tears, surgical scalpels, and a stainless steel tool for turning pages — aptly called a “micro spatula.”Before treatment, Holcomb examined the Austen letters under magnification, traced water marks to determine the origin of the paper, took documentary digital images (a step repeated after restoration), and used “raking” (oblique) light to search for minor distortions in the paper. Conservation work, said Mayer, first involves “looking closely and intently.”During the treatment, Holcomb used vinyl eraser crumbs to gently clean the letter surfaces. (Using water was out of the question; it would accelerate the destructive chemistry of the iron gall ink common to Austen’s era.) But she left the graphite marks within each letter untouched, because they are editorially significant attempts on the part of early editors to mark logical paragraph breaks. To finish, Holcomb removed old repairs, flattened bent corners, and fixed several tears.The two letters bring Austen alive — observant, funny, gossipy, and irreverent. The 1813 missive closes with what might be a message to anyone still under the spell of Austenolatry today. “Now I think I have written you a good sized Letter & may deserve whatever I can get in reply,” she wrote. “Infinities of Love.” How do you do? This letter from Jane to Cassandra begins halfway down the page, as was the practice, with “How do you do?” It is written on hot-pressed paper in corrosive iron gall ink. Sincerely Austen’s signature appears at the bottom of this 1813 letter.
Categories: Letters to the Editor, OpinionRegardless of your political views on abortion, guns, gay rights, religion, climate change or immigration: If you claim to be an American, what more do you need to know about the threat to U.S. democracy, other than President Trump, along with the West Wing and the vast majority of his cronies, give more credence to Russian claims than they do to findings of the FBI and the CIA.Louis Restifo Sr.SchenectadyMore from The Daily Gazette:Schenectady, Saratoga casinos say reopening has gone well; revenue down 30%EDITORIAL: Beware of voter intimidationSchenectady man dies following Cutler Street dirt bike crashFoss: Should main downtown branch of the Schenectady County Public Library reopen?Motorcyclist injured in Thursday afternoon Schenectady crash