I, Science News – 20 May 2019

First up, Biomedical-research funder the Wellcome Trust has announced an ambitious initiative to improve the treatment of snakebites in poor countries. Snakebites kill tens of thousands of people a year, partly because they are treated with archaic antivenoms that often work only for one species. Wellcome’s new 80-million-pound programme aims to improve existing therapies and will also support the development of antivenoms that can treat the toxins of different snake species.

Next, researchers have created the world’s first living organism that has a fully synthetic and radically altered genetic code. Based on the DNA of the bacterium E Coli, the organism is the brainchild of the Medical Research Council’s laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge. The lab-made microbe has a smaller set of genetic instructions to its native cousin, proving that life can exist with a restricted genetic code. It is hoped that in the future such organisms could be used to manufacture new drugs and other useful materials.

And finally, Google has announced that it has suspended the Chinese telecoms company Huawei’s access to updates of its Android operating system. Whilst features would continue to work on existing devices, new models will lose access to popular applications including the Google Play store, Maps and the Gmail App. Google says it is taking the action in order to comply with Donald Trump’s executive order, as the US government seeks to blacklist Huawei around the world.

This week’s news was presented and written by Madeleine Openshaw, who is studying for a MSc in Science Communication at Imperial College London.

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