Category Archives: Noteworthy

Amyris, after fueling around, heads to the HSN

Lo, how the mighty have fallen.

Amyris, the company founded by UC Berkeley’s Jay Keasling and his students with the promise to bring competitive clean-burning cellulose-based fuels to a gas pump near you, is heading the Home Shopping Network.

As we’ve noted endless time before, Amyris failed in in basic promise, despite many millions from Bill Gates, Arab oil royalty, and an Asian government, and has abandoned all plans to make fuel from bacterial excrement.

Instead, the microbes are secreting chemicals to smear on your skin.

From a company press release:

Biossance™, the consumer beauty brand from Amyris, Inc. (AMRS), today announced its anticipated launch on leading live content retailer HSN on February 18th, 2016 during the Beauty Report with Amy Morrison.  The first product to be featured from the exciting new skincare collection will be Biossance™ The Revitalizer, a breakthrough moisturizer that helps skin by using one of the emollients already found naturally within the body. Amyris plans to feature an expanded line of several other Biossance products during 2016, which will also be available for sale across HSN’s platforms, including TV, mobile and online via HSN’s website (

“We are delighted to welcome the Biossance brand to HSN,” said Alicia Valencia, Senior Vice President of Beauty at HSN. “Our customers are always searching for innovative new products that are environmentally friendly and will enhance their current beauty regime. Biossance is a perfect addition to our growing portfolio of top beauty brands and I look forward to debuting it for our customers this month.”

“As a leading industrial bioscience company, we are pleased to join with HSN, a leader in showcasing innovative new products, to celebrate the on-air launch of Biossance The Revitalizer,” said Caroline Hadfield, Senior Vice President, Personal Care, at Amyris. “This marks the next step in our plans to bring the Biossance brand to cosmetics consumers both on- and offline.”

Ah, Berkeley.

And, yes, the Amyris founders, aided by Gates, originally promised to bring the world a bacteria-created version of the world’s leading anti-malarial drug at a price much cheaper than the natural version.

They failed at that, too.

Zika virus poses major global health threat

That’s the quite reasonable conclusion of two Georgetown University scholars, one a physician, the other a legal expert.

From BBC News:

US scientists have urged the World Health Organisation to take urgent action over the Zika virus, which they say has “explosive pandemic potential”.

Writing in a US medical journal, they called on the WHO to heed lessons from the Ebola outbreak and convene an emergency committee of disease experts.

They said a vaccine might be ready for testing in two years but it could be a decade before it is publicly available.

Zika, linked to shrunken brains in children, has caused panic in Brazil. Thousands of people have been infected there and it has spread to some 20 countries.

The authors of the report are physician and public health expert Daniel R. Lucey, who teaches at Georgetown’s School of Medicine and serves as a Senior Scholar at university’s O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health, and Lawrence O. Gostin, faculty director of the law school’s O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law.

In their open access report in the Journal of the American Medical Association they write:

Despite the global threat, the WHO director-general has not convened an IHR Emergency Committee to advise countries on critical issues such as vector control, health system preparedness, travel advisories, and avoiding punitive measures. An emergency committee should be convened immediately to advise the director-general about the conditions necessary to declare a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). The very process of convening the committee would catalyze international attention, funding, and research. While Brazil, PAHO, and the CDC have acted rapidly, WHO headquarters has thus far not been proactive, given potentially serious ramifications.

Convening an emergency committee does not mean that the director-general should declare a PHEIC. WHO, for example, convened an emergency committee on 10 occasions to review global data on the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). Yet the emergency committee has not advised to declare a PHEIC for MERS but has offered detailed recommendations to guide member states. The director-general has the sole authority under the IHR to convene an emergency committee, and she is uniquely empowered to declare a PHEIC subject to the committee’s advice.

The director-general was widely criticized for waiting 4 months after the first cross-border transmission of Ebola before declaring a PHEIC. A key lesson learned from that searing experience was the need for an intermediate-level response to emerging crises, thus avoiding overreaction while still galvanizing global action. Functionally, the director-general could achieve a similar result by convening an emergency committee on Zika virus. The international community cannot afford to wait for WHO to act.

Black Lives Matter, a public health issue raised

We’ve always had the greatest respect for the men and women who dedicate their lives to working in the public health field, where medicine is no longer isolated from the environmental conditions that lead to illness and human misery.

So we were pleasantly surprised to discover a very important discussion on Black Lives Matter and public health hosted by the UC Berkeley School of Public Health on 3 December [the video was just posted to the web by UC Berkeley Events.

While most medical practitioners confine their practices to individual patients, the public health practitioner casts a much wider net, look at how the interplay of disease vectors and community environmental conditions, both physical and social, interact to produce health outcomes.

While Berkeley and its university have earned the reputation of radicalism, the realty is something completely different, with a city government subordinated to the interests of gentrifying developers and the university enserfed to profit hungry corporate interests can catering to wealthy students from abroad.

Indeed, as we have noted before, driving while black is still a crime in good ol’ Berzerkeley.

And now, without further ado, a very important event that resulted in only a single small story in Bay Area news media:

Black Lives Matter: From Moment to Movement

Program notes:

December 3, 2015: Boots On the Ground Advocacy-in-Action Event #3.

Outrage against racialized police violence against African American men and women has crystallized into a movement that builds on existing health and social equity work. What’s the state of the movement here in California? What are the top policy “asks” in Sacramento and Washington, and how can public health activists plug in? Local activists and experts in the Black Lives Matter movement came together to discuss these issues and more.

Moderated by:
-Marc Philpart of PolicyLink
-Pastor Michael McBride of The Way Christian Center
-Rosa Cabrera-Aqeel of PICO California
-Devonte Jackson of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration
-Cat Brooks of the Onyx Organizing Committee
-Andrew Sudler of the UC Berkeley School of Public Health

This event was hosted by the Advocacy Initiative of the UC Berkeley School of Public Health and PolicyLink, and sponsored by The California Endowment, California HealthCare Foundation, SPH Office of Diversity Services, Multicultural Health in Action, and the Asian and Pacific Islander Women’s Circle.

Quote of the day: High praise for an actor

From Craig Corrie, father of activist Rachel Corrie, who was killed by an Israeli military bulldozer during a protest against the demolition of Palestinian homes, on actor and author Alan Rickman, who died last week, in an essay posted at Mondoweiss:

We were saddened Thursday morning to learn of the death of Alan Rickman – too sad to write our feelings at the time.  Alan, of course, is famous as an actor and director, both on stage and in film.  But we first came to know him when, with Katharine Viner, he edited our daughter Rachel’s writing into the play My Name is Rachel Corrie.  The care Alan took for our family, his courage to take on this particular project, and most of all, the respect he showed for Rachel and her writing, impress me still as truly extraordinary.

Imagine a person of Alan Rickman’s talent, stature, and experience stepping into the space between a recently bereaved family, the Israel/Palestine conflict, and a young woman’s private email and journals. Voluntarily!  I could not imagine such a thing had Alan not done exactly that.  As My Name is Rachel Corrie concluded its first run in New York late in 2006, I told Alan, “You know, you were working without a net.  There was a very real risk that no matter what you did with Rachel’s writing, our family would not be in the emotional state to approve of it.”

He responded, “If it doesn’t have risk it is not worth doing.”

Headline of the day: Major magazine failure

From ExtremeTech:

Forbes forces readers to turn off ad blockers, promptly serves malware

Headline of the day: Breaking corporate ranks

From the Guardian:

Campbell Soup to become first major food company to label GMO ingredients

The world’s largest soup maker also said it supports federal legislation for mandatory labeling of genetically modified organisms on food packaging

Headline of the day III: Mayhem in Mexico

From teleSUR English:

Mexico: Almost 100 Mayors Targeted for Assassination Since 2006

None of the alleged assassins have ever been charged, claims a new report from an association of local governments in Mexico