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SpaceX recruited 4,300 staffers for COVID-19 antibody study

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SpaceX recruited 4,300 staffers for COVID-19 antibody study

SpaceX quietly recruited 4,300 employees for a coronavirus antibody study as it prepared for its historic crewed mission to the International Space Station.

The effort earned SpaceX chief Elon Musk a byline on a research paper detailing the study and its findings that was published in the journal Nature last week.

Researchers who tested the SpaceX staffers’ blood about once a month found that people who caught COVID-19 may develop “durable” protection from getting it again if they produce enough antibodies to ward off the virus.

SpaceX sent out an email seeking volunteers for the study that started last April, the month before it launched the first manned spaceflight from US soil since 2011.

That was also the month that Musk called coronavirus restrictions “fascist” after unsuccessfully fighting the shutdown of Tesla’s factory in northern California, where officials issued one of the nation’s first lockdowns.

SpaceX worked with two of the researchers, Eric Nilles and Galit Alter, to set up the blood-testing scheme at a time when regular COVID-19 tests were hard to track down, according to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported on the study Saturday.

Musk — who tested positive for coronavirus himself in November — got personally involved in the study and has had the scientists working on it brief him and other SpaceX honchos as the pandemic wore on, the paper reported.

Musk and SpaceX medical director Anil Menon are credited with helping to design the study, and the tech billionaire’s charity, the Musk Foundation, provided support for the research.

The study pointed to the existence of an “immunologic threshold” that determines lasting immunity to the virus in people who survive COVID-19, meaning individuals with enough antibodies could be protected from getting sick again, the research paper says.

The SpaceX volunteers weren’t exactly a diverse group — about 84 percent of them were male and their median age was 32 years, according to the study.

Some 120 staffers ended up contracting COVID-19 and developing antibodies that the researchers could examine — 61 percent of whom didn’t come down with any of the bug’s hallmark symptoms, such as fever, cough or loss of taste and smell, the study says.

People who got through such asymptomatic infections may not generate an immune response strong enough to clear the antibody threshold, according to the study.

Nevertheless, the findings could “guide surveillance efforts and provide insights for the prioritization of vaccine campaign efforts to immunize those most vulnerable to re-infection,” the researchers wrote.

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Goldman Sachs reportedly plans to move more than 100 bankers to Florida

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Goldman Sachs reportedly plans to move more than 100 bankers to Florida

Working from home is no longer an option at Goldman Sachs — but working from Florida might be another story.

More than 100 key Goldman Sachs employees are reportedly poised to migrate from the firm’s New York headquarters to a new office in Palm Beach, Florida.

The snub to the Big Apple — which comes as Goldman bankers reported back to the office on Monday after more than a year of working remotely — would mark a shift in Goldman’s more than 150-year-old, New York-centric strategy at the hands of Chief Executive David Solomon.

The Florida expansion is in the early stages and a few employees have made firm commitments, according to a report from Business Insider (paywall). Among those who have expressed interest in moving are partners in the firm, whose salaries start at $950,000 not including bonuses and other perks.

“High-performing managing directors or vice presidents are also being encouraged to relocate, to signal that the office won’t be considered a backwater that kneecaps their Wall Street career,” the report said, citing an unnamed source.

Staffers who move to Florida will not be expected to take a pay cut, according to the report.

Goldman executives at the global markets division, which includes the the core sales and trading operations, will select which members of the team to send, with the idea that “each cluster would be an offshoot of a larger team based in New York and made up of as many as eight or 10 people,” the report said.

Marc Nachmann, co-head of the trading division, commutes regularly from Boca Raton, which could be part of the reason behind the migration. The other head of trading, Ashok Varadhan, is based in New York.

Florida’s sunshine and low taxes made it a haven as coronavirus has shut down New York City. But it’s unclear whether CEO Solomon — who called working from home during the pandemic an “aberration” that was not a “new normal” — will be pleased with large swaths of employees moving to Florida permanently.

As reported by The Post, Goldman’s Asset Management division had been planning to expand its presence in Florida but a lack of interest has stalled those plans. When employees were polled on the cost-saving idea — with managers informally sounding out the rank-and-file, and the company even sending out an email survey — the bank was met with a notable scarcity of snowbirds, sources told The Post.

Goldman has previously dismissed the idea that the firm is planning major relocations.

“As announced at our investor day in January 2020, we are executing on the strategy of locating more jobs in high value locations throughout the US, but we have no specific plans to announce at this time,” Goldman said in a statement.

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El Salvador volcanoes to power bitcoin mining

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El Salvador volcanoes to power bitcoin mining

Bitcoin is red-hot in El Salvador — and the country says it plans to use power from its volcanoes to mine it.

El Salvador President Nayib Bukele — just hours after the country’s legislature approved the “Bitcoin Law,” making it the first to accept Bitcoin as legal tender — revealed Wednesday that the nation’s state-owned geothermal electric company will harness volcanic energy to mine the cryptocurrency.

Bukele said the country is already designing a mining hub that will use “very cheap, 100% clean, 100% renewable” energy from volcanoes to power the operation, which effectively would be a bank of super-powered computers that solve the complex mathematical equations required to mine Bitcoin.

“Our engineers just informed me that they dug a new well,” Bukele tweeted, saying it would generate 95 megawatts of energy — enough to power more than 500 homes for a year. “What you see coming out of the well is pure water vapor.”

Bukele — who is looking to lower transaction fees on the $6 billion in yearly remittances sent to its citizens from abroad — has yet, however, to reveal when the new operation will be live or how many Bitcoins he expects to be able to mine.

It’s been a bullish week for Bitcoin in El Salvador. The digital coin can now be used as payment for goods, services, and taxes in the public and private sector. Bitcoin rose 6 percent on the news, according to data from Coindesk.

According to a study by Cambridge University, Bitcoin mining consumes more energy per year than the Philippines. Elon Musk has met with Bitcoin miners about environmental concerns, recently citing them as he announced Tesla would no longer accept Bitcoin as payment.

Details about the mining efforts and how El Salvador will widely adopt Bitcoin remain vague. The law states it will provide “the necessary training and mechanisms” to allow the 70 percent of its citizens that don’t have access to traditional banking services to understand how they can use Bitcoin but didn’t elaborate.

Still, Bukele remains an enthusiastic advocate for the currency and his mining project. Late Thursday he tweeted drone footage of the new mine with a rainbow in the background.

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China arrests 1,100 crypto users on money laundering charges

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China arrests 1,100 crypto users on money laundering charges

China’s crackdown on cryptocurrencies is heating up with a series of arrests that suggest digital currency users can be traced.

More than 1,100 people who allegedly used cryptocurrencies to launder profits from frauds were arrested Wednesday, the country’s Ministry of Public Security said in a statement. 

The busts involved 170 criminal groups who authorities say hired “coin farmers” to open crypto accounts after bank accounts they used for their alleged scams had been seized.

“The high illegal income attracts a large number of people to participate, causing serious social harm,” the ministry said of the alleged plots.

The arrests may cast further doubt on the supposed un-traceability of cryptocurrencies. On Tuesday, the price of bitcoin fell almost 12 percent after it was revealed that US authorities were able to reclaim most of a bitcoin ransom that Colonial Pipeline paid to hacker group DarkSide in May. 

“Criminals have been using bitcoin because of the supposed inability of governments to get at it,” Anthony Denier, CEO of trading platform Webull, told the Post on Tuesday. “If governments can claw it back, that hurts its appeal.” 

Wednesday’s arrests are part of a broader Chinese crackdown on crypto. They come less than a month after the government called for greater regulation of digital currencies.

A committee presided over by a member of China’s Politburo wrote in May that it is necessary to “crack down on bitcoin mining and trading behavior, and resolutely prevent the transmission of individual risks to the social field.” 

Worries about bitcoin’s traceability and the looming threat of government regulations have sent the cryptocurrency plummeting from its peak of more than $63,000 in April. Bitcoin was trading at about $37,600 Thursday morning. 

Additional reporting by Will Feuer

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