[Released April 13, 2021]
I wanted to share this song that I wrote about eventually coming out of lockdown, with some much needed optimism – thank you to Dave Grohl for jumping on drums, bass and guitar, it was a lot of fun working with you on this – hope you all enjoy Eazy Sleazy!
Still rockin’ at 77, so, yeah…long live rock n’ roll.♩-dayle
A celebration from Cat.
Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection, self-improvement, and heightened devotion and worship. Muslims are expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam. The fast (sawm) begins at dawn and ends at sunset. Ramadan commemorates the time when the prophet Mohammad revealed the religion’s holy text—the Quran—1,400 years ago.
Animated version of Yusuf Islam’s [Cat Stevens] ‘Ramadan Moon’ song.
Winter is on my head, but eternal spring is my heart — Victor Hugo
Response Ability | Vaccines, Variants, Vacations — and what do I think about the new J&J issue.
by, Jordan L. Shlain MD
Welcome to Dispatch #18, which falls on the anniversary of my New York volunteer effort at a hastily-built FEMA tent on the cold sidewalk outside of Columbia’s Washington Heights Emergency Room where I was asked to triage who was sick enough to be admitted to the overflowing ER and who should go home. All I had was a cheap, disposable plastic stethoscope, a pulse oximeter, a blood pressure cuff, a thermometer, and an iPad that had live translators. I had no ability to do a COVID test — at the time they were reserved for healthcare workers in the other tent. The whole episode was eerie. I’ve added some video clips and photos at the end if you’re interested.
It’s April and we’re now vaccinating a few million people per day. This is great! Full stop. It was only 5 months ago we were in the global doghouse — and now we’re back. The US is on track to have all adults immunized by summer. While there is much to be grateful for, we can’t turn a blind eye to the access disparity and the greater issues that it represents. If you want to read the details of the vaccine section, know this: get any of the three vaccines being offered in the US — they all prevent severe disease and death. On J&J — what you need to know is the risk of dying from COVID (Covid has already killed 1,712 out of every million Americans) is much greater than the risk of a blood clot (6 in 6,800,000 or 1.13 out of every million Americans). This is real, yet it must be taken in context-see Vaccine section.
Lots of new questions and answers as we trundle through what I hope is the penultimate act of this pandemic. We are seeing rising cases in certain states with a dark cloud of variants obscuring a clear path to herd immunity. Kids are now the major focus of a vaccination effort — and if we want their buy in, politicians and public health professionals need to get on TikTok or Snap! Most Gen Zs want to wait and see what happens.
Cases are starting to rise in the US and there is a real possibility of a fourth wave, albeit not as gnarly as our summer wave, but real enough to strain the healthcare system — and with a younger demographic.
I’m more optimistic about the US than I have been in a long time, but we’re not there yet. We likey have a few more months of mask-wearing for those vaccinated in the U.S. The rest of the world will likely not be vaccinated for years — and this is a problem. The United States has a unique opportunity to show our magnanimity and help less fortunate countries get vaccinated. If we want to be the leaders of the free world, we have to act like it. Generosity is the most powerful form of influence.
OK — let’s get to it.
Le Mont Saint-Michel
Some captures from the film…
7th generation choices
Inherent proclivity to transcend
Co-evolution through creativity
L I F E D A N C E
“Life cannot be reduced.”
“Life feels itself.”
“Shall we go home?”
“We are the works of all who came before.”
︶⁀°• •° ⁀︶
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ died April 10th, 1955.
“The day will come when, after harnessing the ether, the winds, the tides, and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of ℒℴve❥. And, on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.”
Barn in France. ♡
The New Moon in Aries is Sunday, April 11 at 8:30 PM Mountain Daylight Time (MDT)
This moon brings up the physical body, the condition of your health, re-evaluation of the structure of your self-care, and a reflection of what needs to change in your daily organization of life. Be sure to take some time to reflect and evaluate. The dynamic energy of this new moon will give much fuel and ignition to any changes and choices you make for improvement however it can also trigger negative reactions, impatience and irritability as you face uncomfortable truths and challenges. Don’t take your discomfort out on others and remember to be kind no matter what.
Make sure not to make decisions out of fear or being pressured by others. Take your time, check in with your own intuition and what feels right. A new moon always supports personal decisions that must include your own timing, not pressured by others.
There is a part of us during this volatile and dynamic time that wants to see justice around what was done to us and how we have suffered either personally or collectively in the past. There is potential anger and attitude towards righting the wrongs and our personalities would love to see the alleged perpetrators go up in flames. However, the responsible and mature thing to do is to forgive the past, let go of your attachment to suffering and harness this fiery, creative energy to move yourself forward in the most positive way.
[The New Yorker]
There are currently 850,000 active podcasts and over 47 million podcast episodes. More than half of all US consumers above the age of 12 listen to podcasts.
Apple Podcasts … features more than 500,000 active podcasts, including content in more than 100 languages.
[Fast Company/Podcast Insights]
The champion of mRNA
Katalin Kariko in February at her home in Jenkintown, Pa.Hannah Yoon
The New Yorker
Kati Kariko Helped Shield the World From the Coronavirus.
Collaborating with devoted colleagues, Dr. Kariko laid the groundwork for the mRNA vaccines turning the tide of the pandemic.
by Gina Kolata
|Messenger RNA (mRNA) technology is the bedrock of the vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. It’s the genetic script that carries instructions to the protein-making machinery of cells.|
|For its newly prominent role protecting the world from the coronavirus pandemic, we can thank Katalin Kariko, a Hungarian-born scientist, and her close collaborator, Dr. Drew Weissman.|
|Dr. Kariko, 66, has focused on mRNA for her entire career. She was convinced it could be used to instruct cells to make their own medicines, including vaccines.|
|For decades, she clung to the fringes of academia in the United States, struggling to find a permanent position and never making more than $60,000 a year. Her unorthodox ideas seemed wild and fanciful to her peers, and she struggled to get grants.|
|After her research stalled — she could make mRNA work in a petri dish, but not in living mice — Dr. Kariko found a clue in an experiment’s control group. A single molecule called pseudouridine helped evade the immune response and deliver the protein-instruction payload.|
|Last November, when the first stunning results from the mRNA coronavirus vaccines came in, Dr. Kariko turned to her husband. “Oh, it works,” she said. “I thought so.”|
|To celebrate, our colleague Gina Kolata reports, Dr. Kariko ate an entire box of Goobers chocolate-covered peanuts. By herself.|
Credit…via Kati Kariko
She grew up in Hungary, daughter of a butcher. She decided she wanted to be a scientist, although she had never met one. She moved to the United States in her 20s, but for decades never found a permanent position, instead clinging to the fringes of academia.
Now Katalin Kariko, 66, known to colleagues as Kati, has emerged as one of the heroes of Covid-19 vaccine development. Her work, with her close collaborator, Dr. Drew Weissman of the University of Pennsylvania, laid the foundation for the stunningly successful vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
For her entire career, Dr. Kariko has focused on messenger RNA, or mRNA — the genetic script that carries DNA instructions to each cell’s protein-making machinery. She was convinced mRNA could be used to instruct cells to make their own medicines, including vaccines.
But for many years her career at the University of Pennsylvania was fragile. She migrated from lab to lab, relying on one senior scientist after another to take her in. She never made more than $60,000 a year.
By all accounts intense and single-minded, Dr. Kariko lives for “the bench” — the spot in the lab where she works. She cares little for fame. “The bench is there, the science is good,” she shrugged in a recent interview. “Who cares?”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and infectious Diseases, knows Dr. Kariko’s work. “She was, in a positive sense, kind of obsessed with the concept of messenger RNA,” he said.
Dr. Kariko’s struggles to stay afloat in academia have a familiar ring to scientists. She needed grants to pursue ideas that seemed wild and fanciful. She did not get them, even as more mundane research was rewarded.
“When your idea is against the conventional wisdom that makes sense to the star chamber, it is very hard to break out,” said Dr. David Langer, a neurosurgeon who has worked with Dr. Kariko.
Dr. Kariko’s ideas about mRNA were definitely unorthodox. Increasingly, they also seem to have been prescient.
“It’s going to be transforming,” Dr. Fauci said of mRNA research. “It is already transforming for Covid-19, but also for other vaccines. H.I.V. — people in the field are already excited. Influenza, malaria.”
‘I Felt Like a God’
For Dr. Kariko, most every day was a day in the lab. “You are not going to work — you are going to have fun,” her husband, Bela Francia, manager of an apartment complex, used to tell her as she dashed back to the office on evenings and weekends. He once calculated that her endless workdays meant she was earning about a dollar an hour.
For many scientists, a new discovery is followed by a plan to make money, to form a company and get a patent. But not for Dr. Kariko. “That’s the furthest thing from Kate’s mind,” Dr. Langer said.
She grew up in the small Hungarian town of Kisujszallas. She earned a Ph.D. at the University of Szeged and worked as a postdoctoral fellow at its Biological Research Center.
In 1985, when the university’s research program ran out of money, Dr. Kariko, her husband, and 2-year-old daughter, Susan, moved to Philadelphia for a job as a postdoctoral student at Temple University. Because the Hungarian government only allowed them to take $100 out of the country, she and her husband sewed £900 (roughly $1,246 today) into Susan’s teddy bear. (Susan grew up to be a two-time Olympic gold medal winner in rowing.)
When Dr. Kariko started, it was early days in the mRNA field. Even the most basic tasks were difficult, if not impossible. How do you make RNA molecules in a lab? How do you get mRNA into cells of the body?
In 1989, she landed a job with Dr. Elliot Barnathan, then a cardiologist at the University of Pennsylvania. It was a low-level position, research assistant professor, and never meant to lead to a permanent tenured position. She was supposed to be supported by grant money, but none came in.
She and Dr. Barnathan planned to insert mRNA into cells, inducing them to make new proteins. In one of the first experiments, they hoped to use the strategy to instruct cells to make a protein called the urokinase receptor. If the experiment worked, they would detect the new protein with a radioactive molecule that would be drawn to the receptor.
“Most people laughed at us,” Dr. Barnathan said.
One fateful day, the two scientists hovered over a dot-matrix printer in a narrow room at the end of a long hall. A gamma counter, needed to track the radioactive molecule, was attached to a printer. It began to spew data.
Their detector had found new proteins produced by cells that were never supposed to make them — suggesting that mRNA could be used to direct any cell to make any protein, at will.
“I felt like a god,” Dr. Kariko recalled.
She and Dr. Barnathan were on fire with ideas. Maybe they could use mRNA to improve blood vessels for heart bypass surgery. Perhaps they could even use the procedure to extend the life span of human cells.
Dr. Barnathan, though, soon left the university, accepting a position at a biotech firm, and Dr. Kariko was left without a lab or financial support. She could stay at Penn only if she found another lab to take her on. “They expected I would quit,” she said.
Universities only support low-level Ph.D.s for a limited amount of time, Dr. Langer said: “If they don’t get a grant, they will let them go.” Dr. Kariko “was not a great grant writer,” and at that point “mRNA was more of an idea,” he said.
But Dr. Langer knew Dr. Kariko from his days as a medical resident, when he had worked in Dr. Barnathan’s lab. Dr. Langer urged the head of the neurosurgery department to give Dr. Kariko’s research a chance. “He saved me,” she said.
Dr. Langer thinks it was Dr. Kariko who saved him — from the kind of thinking that dooms so many scientists.
Working with her, he realized that one key to real scientific understanding is to design experiments that always tell you something, even if it is something you don’t want to hear. The crucial data often come from the control, he learned — the part of the experiment that involves a dummy substance for comparison.
“There’s a tendency when scientists are looking at data to try to validate their own idea,” Dr. Langer said. “The best scientists try to prove themselves wrong. Kate’s genius was a willingness to accept failure and keep trying, and her ability to answer questions people were not smart enough to ask.”
Dr. Langer hoped to use mRNA to treat patients who developed blood clots following brain surgery, often resulting in strokes. His idea was to get cells in blood vessels to make nitric oxide, a substance that dilates blood vessels, but has a half-life of milliseconds. Doctors can’t just inject patients with it.
He and Dr. Kariko tried their mRNA on isolated blood vessels used to study strokes. It failed. They trudged through snow in Buffalo, N.Y., to try it in a laboratory with rabbits prone to strokes. Failure again.
And then Dr. Langer left the university, and the department chairman said he was leaving as well. Dr. Kariko again was without a lab and without funds for research.
A meeting at a photocopying machine changed that. Dr. Weissman happened by, and she struck up a conversation. “I said, ‘I am an RNA scientist — I can make anything with mRNA,’” Dr. Kariko recalled.
Dr. Weissman told her he wanted to make a vaccine against H.I.V. “I said, ‘Yeah, yeah, I can do it,’” Dr. Kariko said.
Despite her bravado, her research on mRNA had stalled. She could make mRNA molecules that instructed cells in petri dishes to make the protein of her choice. But the mRNA did not work in living mice.
“Nobody knew why,” Dr. Weissman said. “All we knew was that the mice got sick. Their fur got ruffled, they hunched up, they stopped eating, they stopped running.”
It turned out that the immune system recognizes invading microbes by detecting their mRNA and responding with inflammation. The scientists’ mRNA injections looked to the immune system like an invasion of pathogens.
But with that answer came another puzzle. Every cell in every person’s body makes mRNA, and the immune system turns a blind eye. “Why is the mRNA I made different?” Dr. Kariko wondered.
A control in an experiment finally provided a clue. Dr. Kariko and Dr. Weissman noticed their mRNA caused an immune overreaction. But the control molecules, another form of RNA in the human body — so-called transfer RNA, or tRNA — did not.
A molecule called pseudouridine in tRNA allowed it to evade the immune response. As it turned out, naturally occurring human mRNA also contains the molecule.
Added to the mRNA made by Dr. Kariko and Dr. Weissman, the molecule did the same — and also made the mRNA much more powerful, directing the synthesis of 10 times as much protein in each cell.
The idea that adding pseudouridine to mRNA protected it from the body’s immune system was a basic scientific discovery with a wide range of thrilling applications. It meant that mRNA could be used to alter the functions of cells without prompting an immune system attack.
“We both started writing grants,” Dr. Weissman said. “We didn’t get most of them. People were not interested in mRNA. The people who reviewed the grants said mRNA will not be a good therapeutic, so don’t bother.’”
Leading scientific journals rejected their work. When the research finally was published, in Immunity, it got little attention.
Dr. Weissman and Dr. Kariko then showed they could induce an animal — a monkey — to make a protein they had selected. In this case, they injected monkeys with mRNA for erythropoietin, a protein that stimulates the body to make red blood cells. The animals’ red blood cell counts soared.
The scientists thought the same method could be used to prompt the body to make any protein drug, like insulin or other hormones or some of the new diabetes drugs. Crucially, mRNA also could be used to make vaccines unlike any seen before.
Instead of injecting a piece of a virus into the body, doctors could inject mRNA that would instruct cells to briefly make that part of the virus.
“We talked to pharmaceutical companies and venture capitalists. No one cared,” Dr. Weissman said. “We were screaming a lot, but no one would listen.”
Eventually, though, two biotech companies took notice of the work: Moderna, in the United States, and BioNTech, in Germany. Pfizer partnered with BioNTech, and the two now help fund Dr. Weissman’s lab.
‘Oh, It Works’
Soon clinical trials of an mRNA flu vaccine were underway, and there were efforts to build new vaccines against cytomegalovirus and the Zika virus, among others. Then came the coronavirus.
Researchers had known for 20 years that the crucial feature of any coronavirus is the spike protein sitting on its surface, which allows the virus to inject itself into human cells. It was a fat target for an mRNA vaccine.
Chinese scientists posted the genetic sequence of the virus ravaging Wuhan in January 2020, and researchers everywhere went to work. BioNTech designed its mRNA vaccine in hours; Moderna designed its in two days.
The idea for both vaccines was to introduce mRNA into the body that would briefly instruct human cells to produce the coronavirus’s spike protein. The immune system would see the protein, recognize it as alien, and learn to attack the coronavirus if it ever appeared in the body.
The vaccines, though, needed a lipid bubble to encase the mRNA and carry it to the cells that it would enter. The vehicle came quickly, based on 25 years of work by multiple scientists, including Pieter Cullis of the University of British Columbia.
Scientists also needed to isolate the virus’s spike protein from the bounty of genetic data provided by Chinese researchers. Dr. Barney Graham, of the National Institutes of Health, and Jason McClellan, of the University of Texas at Austin, solved that problem in short order.
Testing the quickly designed vaccines required a monumental effort by companies and the National Institutes of Health. But Dr. Kariko had no doubts.
On Nov. 8, the first results of the Pfizer-BioNTech study came in, showing that the mRNA vaccine offered powerful immunity to the new virus. Dr. Kariko turned to her husband. “Oh, it works,” she said. “I thought so.”
To celebrate, she ate an entire box of Goobers chocolate-covered peanuts. By herself.
Dr. Weissman celebrated with his family, ordering takeout dinner from an Italian restaurant, “with wine,” he said. Deep down, he was awed.
“My dream was always that we develop something in the lab that helps people,” Dr. Weissman said. “I’ve satisfied my life’s dream.”
Dr. Kariko and Dr. Weissman were vaccinated on Dec. 18 at the University of Pennsylvania. Their inoculations turned into a press event, and as the cameras flashed, she began to feel uncharacteristically overwhelmed.
A senior administrator told the doctors and nurses rolling up their sleeves for shots that the scientists whose research made the vaccine possible were present, and they all clapped. Dr. Kariko wept.
Things could have gone so differently, for the scientists and for the world, Dr. Langer said. “There are probably many people like her who failed,” he said.
he·ro | \ ˈhir-(ˌ)ō
Yeah. Dr. Kariko is a (s)hero. Remember her name. -dayle
“Everyone’s tired and traumatized. Normal life is coming back slow and strange, like plant life after a nuclear blast, and we won’t know the scale of the damage until something like safety feels possible. It’s okay to feel numb right now.”
I am suffering bereavement and feel cut off from normal life. Can you give me perspective?
Grief hurts so badly because it is about something permanent, writes advice columnist Eleanor Gordon-Smith, but you won’t float forever
I am suffering. Though it has been several months now, most days it still feels like more than I can bear.
I feel cut off from the rest of normal life, as though I am floating, and I don’t know how to come back to normality without the person who I have lost. Please can you give some perspective?
Eleanor says: For finite creatures – who will without doubt experience loss and then in turn be lost – we do a very good job of isolating ourselves in that experience. We do a very good job of leaving each other alone in the one thing that actually unites us.
I know the strangely unplugged feeling you describe very well. The muffling of every sound; the sense of walking through an anaesthetised dream; the disobedience of the fact that garbage trucks are still beeping and dogs are still being walked in parks, as though you could possibly be expected to perceive – let alone return to – a world that has not stopped. It’s especially acute at your current moment, after a few months, when people stop asking how you’re doing and you might feel some pressure to “move on”.
But you already know there’s no place unmarred by grief for you to move on to. I think that’s why the pain is so bad when it hits; we know it’s about something permanent. There’s no future where our loved one is alive. So we get hit by one wave of pain for the fact that they’re gone, and another for the fact that they will never not be.
Why do friends discard me when I am no longer of use?
It’s enough to make you drown.
When I am drowning I get some comfort from knowing that almost every other person has been underwater too. Some are underwater with us right now, double-taking in the street when they think they see their person, suddenly needing to turn off music they’ve never before thought of as moving.
The pain never quite goes away. Since so much of ordinary life is built on the promise of painlessness, you may never quite feel fully part of it again.
But you won’t float forever. The acuteness of this pain can be its own kind of reality – a way of relating to the dogs in the park and the sounds of the street and the people still around you as gifts that are here for a moment and then wink away. It’s all here only for a moment. How astonishing that we would get to be here with it too.
Everybody from CS Lewis to the Queen has said that grief is the price we pay for love. It is a cosmic tragedy that we cannot have that love forever, but there is another, more fragile, more vivid kind of joy inside people who know that it will all one day be gone. The tragedy will never really leave you. But that joy will move in beside it. Some days the loss will be as fresh as if it happened yesterday, but some days you will catch yourself laughing.
Your terrible pain is not the opposite of life, or a sign that you are done living. It is what happens when you see life for what it is: it’s a gift, and then it ends.
I wish you luck through your days. I – and millions of us – are with you, being tossed back and forth on the tragedy and the luck that we get to have days at all.
‘The heart opens doors the mind can’t find.’
‘That barbed wire on your path is the mind. Cut the wire and your path clearly find. Heart trickster, soul veil and mind bind. To find the path you must put all three behind.’
‘People’s beliefs about the world are only as reliable as the information system that shapes them and ours is completely and irredeemably broken.’
-Sean Illing, VOX
We need a new paradigm.
[Image: Thomas Merton]
“Mary Magdalene belongs to the great worldwide stream of spiritual awakening and has nothing whatsoever to do with organized religion.
If we are serious about activating Mary Magdalene’s wisdom presence within contemporary Christianity, the first step is to increase her visibility within the liturgy, particularly during Holy Week, where her presence is so crucial to understanding the Paschal Mystery as an act of redeeming ℒℴve.
I would like to see the entire Holy Week liturgy reframed around two parallel anointings…at Bethany and in the garden of the resurrection…which so powerfully convey the energy of transformative love.
Early Easter morning ceremonially enacted, rather than merely read, the gospel account of Mary Magdalene’s visit to the tomb. The basic ceremony, the Visitatio Sepulchri, has been around since the tenth century; it merely needs to be returned to active duty.
Mary Magdalene weaves into one whole cloth those strands that have traditionally been kept so stringently separated: conscious ℒℴve, healing, kenotic surrender, the feminine, singleness, transformation. To touch any part of the this hologram is to invoke all the rest.
We do not know for certain what happened to Mary Magdalene after the resurrection. The gospel bearing her name confirms that her spiritual leadership was honored in a least some circles of early Christianity. She may well have sojourned in France. What we do know for certain is that the fragrance of her presence did not disappear from Christianity. In mysticism and allegory, in art and folklore, in esoteric circles…all veiled, but pointing like a finger at the moon…her mysterious alchemical feminine was kept alive. Now at last, in our own times, it comes above ground again, asking us to awaken yet again to the morning of the resurrection and find ourselves in the garden, awaiting the encounter that can change our institutional hearts.
The imaginal realm is real, and through it you will never be separated from any one or anything you have ever loved, for ℒℴve is the ground in which you live and and move and have your being. This is the message that Mary Magdalene has perennially to bring. This is the message we most need to hear.”
‘In 591 Pope Gregory claimed that Mary of Magdala was a prostitute, a misconception that remains to this day. In 2016 she was named by the Vatican as the apostle of the apostles, their equal.’
-Written by Helen Edmundson and Philippa Goslett. Directed by Garth Davis.
“As someone who watched it twice in 24 hours, ‘Mary Magdalene’ moved me in a way that no previous film about Christianity ever has.
Mary finds a place in the world and a cause in which to place her profound empathy. She was not just any spectator, this telling argues, so much as proof that at the core of Jesus’ teachings is a feminine influence.” -Nick Allen
‘The event gets underway at 5 p.m. at Ketchum Town Square with music by Tylor and the Train Robbers. Their music will be followed by a showing of Teton Gravity’s Research’s 25-minute film “Fire on the Mountain” showcasing music by the Grateful Dead.’
[Eye On Sun Valley]