fertilizer from bioplastic

Japanese scientists produced fertilizer from bioplastic. Bioplastics can be chemically recycled into nitrogen-rich fertilizers in a facile and environmentally friendly way, as recently demonstrated by scientists from Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech). Their findings pave the way towards sustainable circular systems that simultaneously address issues such as plastic pollution, petrochemical resource depletion, and world hunger.

Plastics have taken the world by storm over the last century, finding applications in virtually every aspect of our lives. However, the rise of these synthetic polymers, which form the basis of plastics, has contributed to many serious environmental issues. The worst of these is the excessive use of petrochemical compounds and the disposal of non-biodegradable materials without recycling; only 14% of all plastic waste is recycled, which hardly puts a dent in the problem.

Fertilizer from bioplastic a circular process

To solve the plastic conundrum, we need to develop “circular” systems, in which the source materials used to produce the plastics come full circle after disposal and recycling. At Tokyo Institute of Technology, a team of scientists led by Assistant Professor Daisuke Aoki and Professor Hideyuki Otsuka is pioneering a novel concept. In their new environmentally friendly process, plastics produced using biomass (bioplastics) are chemically recycled back into fertilizers. This study will be published in Green Chemistry, a journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry focusing on innovative research on sustainable and eco-friendly technologies.

The team focused on poly (isosorbide carbonate), or “PIC,” a type of bio-based polycarbonate that has garnered much attention as an alternative to petroleum-based polycarbonates. PIC is produced using a non-toxic material derived from glucose called isosorbide (ISB) as a monomer. The interesting part is that the carbonate links that join the ISB units can be severed using ammonia (NH3) in a process known as ‘ammonolysis’. The process produces urea, a nitrogen-rich molecule that is widely used as a fertilizer. While this chemical reaction was no secret to science, few studies on polymer degradation have focused on the potential uses of all the degradation products instead of only the monomers.

First, the scientists investigated how well the complete ammonolysis of PIC could be conducted in water at mild conditions (30°C and atmospheric pressure). The rationale behind this decision was to avoid the use of organic solvents and excessive amounts of energy. The team carefully analyzed all the reaction products through various means, including nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, the Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, and gel permeation chromatography.

Although they managed to produce urea in this way, the degradation of PIC was not complete even after 24 hours, with many ISB derivatives still present. Therefore, the researchers tried increasing the temperature and found that complete degradation could be achieved in about six hours at 90°C! Dr. Aoki highlights the benefits of this approach, “The reaction occurs without any catalyst, demonstrating that the ammonolysis of PIC can be easily performed using aqueous ammonia and heating. Thus, this procedure is operationally simple and environmentally friendly from the viewpoint of chemical recycling.”

Finally, as a proof-of-concept that all PIC degradation products can be directly used as a fertilizer, the team conducted plant growth experiments with Arabidopsis thaliana, a model organism. They found that plants treated with all PIC degradation products grew better than plants treated with just urea.

The overall results of this study showcase the feasibility of developing fertilizer-from-plastics systems (Figure 1). The systems can not only help fight off pollution and resource depletion but also contribute to meeting the world’s increasing food demands. Dr. Aoki concludes on a high note, “We are convinced that our work represents a milestone toward developing sustainable and recyclable polymer materials in the near future. The era of ‘bread from plastics’ is just around the corner!”

plastic to fertilizer

Figure 1. A fertilizer-from-plastics circular system
Using the degradation products of PIC as a nitrogen-rich fertilizer closes a sustainable loop that makes bioplastics a much more attractive option for addressing the environmental issues posed by conventional petroleum-based plastics.
Image credit: Daisuke Aoki from Tokyo Institute of Technology

solar power csp EU Sustainable Energy Awards

The best European clean energy projects and leaders received top recognition at the EU Sustainable Energy Awards ceremony. Five winners took home awards in their respective categories – Engagement, Innovation, Woman in Energy, Young Energy Trailblazer – and the Citizens’ Award. An expert jury selected the winners in the Engagement and Innovation categories while European citizens chose the others via a public vote. European Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson, was on hand to congratulate the winners at the online awards ceremony which kicked off Day 1 of the EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW).

Commissioner Simson praised all five EU Sustainable Energy Awards winners commenting, “The projects and individuals that are being recognised today are not only leaders in transforming Europe’s energy landscape, they are role models. Their work is a testament to the importance of citizen engagement in making the European Green Deal a reality. We’ve been working hard to develop policy instruments, which guide and support action on the ground, and it is truly inspiring to see this vision at work. Together, we are bringing Europe closer to its climate goals.“ 


EnergyNeighbourhoods took home the Engagement award for its green lifestyle programme that empowers citizens to save energy in Hungary

The Engagement award recognises activities with high social acceptance potential, that inspire and motivate citizens to change their energy usage habits.

“The EnergyNeighbourhoods programme helps citizens take action against climate change without any investment but by changing their everyday behavior,“ says Edina Vadovics, Scientific Director at GreenDependent Institute, the programme’s coordinator.  “We help people change their lifestyles, save energy and reduce their carbon footprint, thus reducing their contribution to climate change.“ 

Read more about EnergyNeighbourhoods in English or Hungarian.


LIFE-DIADEME won the Innovation award for its innovative public lighting scheme which reduces emissions and improves pedestrian safety

The Innovation award recognises outstanding EU-funded activities that show an original and innovative path toward the clean energy transition.

“We have installed almost 800 sensors on light posts in the two pilot areas in Rome, and an additional 200 in Rimini and Piacenza,” says Linda Meleo, Councillor for Infrastructure Development in Rome’s Department of Infrastructure. “It is an energy-saving technology but it also promotes pedestrian safety. Many municipalities are reluctant to implement adaptive lighting technologies for fear of lighting dimming when the conditions are unsafe, but the real-time aspect of LIFE-DIADEME overcomes this.”

Read more about LIFE-DIADEME in English or Italian.

Woman in Energy award

Birgit Hansen, Mayor of Frederikshavn, won the Woman in Energy award for her local leadership in climate planning

The Woman in Energy award recognises outstanding activities led by women that, if replicated, help to advance the clean energy transition in Europe and contribute to the European energy and climate targets.

“My role as a mayor and as a leader is to motivate people to act on this agenda. I need to be at the forefront and bring together industry, citizens and the municipality to make things happen. We made partnerships within the municipality, so all actors who want to get involved in our green transformation can do so,” explains Birgit when discussing the role of leadership and climate action.

Read more about Birgit Hansen in English or Danish.

Young Energy Trailblazer

 Koprčina scooped the Young Energy Trailblazer award for democratising solar energy ownership

The Young Energy Trailblazer award recognises outstanding activities carried out by young people (under 35) which advance the clean energy transition in Europe and inspire ambitious climate and energy action.

“I wanted to show that the choice between making money and having a positive impact on the environment is a false dichotomy,” says Filip, “citizens who invest in these solar projects can expect greater returns than they would receive if their money was in a bank. The amount of energy we will save from the investments committed to date is equal to charging 17.5 million smartphones.” 

Read more about Filip Koprčina in English or Croatian.

Citizens’ Award

RenOnBill took the Citizens’ Award for bringing financial institutions and utilities together to increase renovation uptake

The Citizens’ Award recognises initiatives and individuals working on innovative and engaging ways to reinvent Europe’s energy landscape. The six projects competing in the Engagement and Innovation categories were up for consideration for this award, determined by public vote.

“Together with financial institutions, utility companies cover the initial investment of a building renovation. The resulting savings that homeowners eventually see on their energy bills is used to pay back the utility, appearing as a line item on the customer’s energy bills,” explains Paolo Michele Sonvilla, RenOnBill Project Coordinator from Creara, Spain. “On-bill financing can reduce the upfront costs of energy renovations to zero.” 

Read more about RenOnBill in English, Spanish or Italian.

About the EU Sustainable Energy Awards 

Twelve outstanding individuals and projects are highlighted at the EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) 2021 for their innovation in energy efficiency and renewables. Finalists were chosen from a list of the year’s most successful projects for clean, secure and efficient energy. The EU Sustainable Energy Awards have four categories – Engagement, Innovation, Woman in Energy and Young Energy Trailblazer – as well as the Citizen’s Award. Prizes were awarded by an expert jury (for Engagement and Innovation), and by citizens via a public vote.

EUSEW 2021

EUSEW 2021 runs from 25 to 29 October 2021, under the theme ‘Towards 2030: Reshaping the European Energy System’. Taking place ahead of the decisive COP 26, the event brings together energy policy experts, industry leaders, academia and civil society representatives to discuss how forward-looking policies for decarbonisation, energy efficiency, climate mitigation, and many others comprising the European Green Deal, can help rebuild a better and more resilient society and economy.

Photo: Mike McBey 

wind power

The production of renewable energy from solar and wind power is increasing every year. But after analysing the growth rates of solar and wind power in 60 countries, researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and Lund University in Sweden and Central European University in Vienna, Austria, conclude that virtually no country is moving sufficiently fast to avoid global warming of 1.5°C or even 2°C.

Read more

sharing cities sweden

The national program Sharing Cities Sweden closed at the end of August 2021. The program has been an important element of Viable Cities, the strategic innovation program for smart and sustainable cities. The program has placed much focus on how city governments can facilitate the sharing of things, services, places and mobility.

Read more

prince william earthshot prize

With the international awards ceremony coming to the US in 2022, innovators there believe Earthshot 2021 in London has shown the world the importance of backing, inspiring and acting on breakthrough environmental solutions.

And global coverage of the inaugural Earthshot Prize awards ceremony at the Alexandra Palace this week added further weight to the campaign, launched last year by Prince William Duke of Cambridge and legendary nature TV presenter Sir David Attenborough to accelerate solutions to environmental problems within ten years.

Speaking directly to the younger generation at the event, the Duke said: “For too long, we haven’t done enough to protect the planet for your future – but Earthshot is for you.”

“In the next ten years, we are going to act. We are going to find the solutions to repair our planet.”

The Prince and Sir David featured throughout the prize evening (Sunday 17 October), with awards presented by celebrities Emma Thompson, Emma Watson, Mo Salah, and other high-profile names, plus performances including Coldplay and Ed Sheeran.

The winners

Winners included Costa Rica for its tree saving programme, Indian social enterprise Takachar, that won the clean air award for its technology that converts crop residue into saleable bioproducts, saving farmers from burning unused crop residue, reducing smoke emissions by 98% and improving life expectancy by up to five years, and the City of Milan for its innovative food waste recovering hubs. All five winners each received £1 million from the Royal Foundation towards their efforts.

The campaign has been lauded by the environmental innovation community, including Michael Jansen, CEO and Founder of pioneering Digital Twin technology company Cityzenith, which uses its SmartWorldOS Digital Twin platform to slash carbon emissions between 50-100%, as well as cut operating costs in buildings by 35% and boost productivity by 20%.

Jansen said: “Urban Digital Twins can be linked to carbon offsets so that building asset owners as well as agriculture and forests can be monitored in real time, delivering benefits and rewards within a global Digital Twin ecosystem.

“Globally recognised awards and events like Earthshot can show how cumulative climate protection innovations and discoveries like ours will make a huge difference, thereby encouraging investment and adoption in many more climate-friendly technologies over the next decade.

“Significantly, Earthshot also takes its cue from President John F Kennedy’s Moonshot declaration, 60 years ago in 1961, when he challenged America to land a man on the Moon within 10 years – it showed what can be achieved by dedicated effort.”

Earthshot Prize next year in the US

Cityzenith’s own Clean Cities – Clean Future international initiative offers its Digital Twin technology to major polluting cities for free to help cut emissions drastically – New York and Las Vegas signed up recently with other major US and international cities expected to follow this year. Earthshot has motivated companies such as Cityzenith to transform the global environment and re-shape the future of sustainability and life longevity.

Jansen added: “Earthshot came just a little too early for Clean Cities – Clean Future, but we have been inspired and hope to add to the impetus of next year’s event when it comes to the US and follows up on US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry’s good work this year, in reversing government efforts back towards fighting Climate Change.”

In a message to the Earthshot awards event, Mr Kerry said: “I’m very proud to invite the Earthshot Prize to the United States in 2022, and to join you all in celebrating and supporting next year’s breakthrough solutions from around the world.

Others, like Richard Heinberg, have less faith in tech solutions for the climate crisis.

floating windfarm kincardine
The 50 MW Kincardine Offshore Windfarm is now the largest floating windfarm on the planet. It is located 15 km off the coast of Aberdeenshire, in water depths ranging from 60m to 80m.

The project consists of five Vestas V164-9.5 MW and one V80-2 MW turbine, each installed on WindFloat® semi-submersible platforms designed by Principle Power. The Kincardine project was started back in 2014 by Allan MacAskill and Lord Nicol Stephen, now both directors of Flotation Energy plc. In 2016 Cobra Group became the main investor in Kincardine Offshore Windfarm Ltd. (KOWL)

Cobra Wind, a subsidiary of Cobra Group, has been responsible for delivery of the project, including engineering, construction, installation and commissioning.

Cobra’s Senior Manager, Jose Antonio Fernández, said:
“The Kincardine project is not only the world’s largest. It has also been a fantastic foundation for other joint venture projects between Cobra and Flotation Energy. Our Round 4 success with the 480MW Morecambe project, our 7GW of bids into the Scotwind leasing round and our White Cross 100MW floating project in the South West are all signs of our confidence in Scotland and the UK Floating wind is set for massive growth in the future – and we want to do more.”

Floating windfarm other firsts

In addition to being the largest floating windfarm in the world, the development also features another first, using the highest capacity wind turbines ever installed on floating platforms.

Kincardine will generate over 200 GWh of green electricity a year, enough renewable electricity to power more than 50.000 Scottish households and to help fight climate change.

Jaime Altolaguirre, KOWL Project Director from Cobra, said: “The completion of Kincardine comes at a pivotal time in determining Scotland’s leadership in the floating offshore sector. Kincardine offshore windfarm has shown that the largest and most advanced wind turbines available can be installed on floating platforms in the challenging North Sea environment. The project proves that floating wind can play a vital role in tackling climate change not only in Scotland and the UK, but also around the world.”

The Kincardine team has also announced the selection of Aberdeen as its operations and maintenance base.

Jaime Altolaguirre continued saying: “Our local team, managed by Cobra, will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the project. We will be using Scottish based companies with proven North Sea capabilities, drawing on their experience maintaining offshore semi submersibles and platforms over the last 50 years. It could not be a better fit.”

Aaron Smith, Chief Commercial Officer, Principle Power, said
“Kincardine floating windfarm is further showing the readiness and commercial potential of floating technology. With eighty percent of the world’s offshore wind resources in deep water areas, floating technologies like the WindFloat® open several new geographies to harness the boundless supply of clean energy contained therein.  The UK has led the way in realising the potential of floating wind and is now recognised globally as a key market for floating wind developments. Kincardine demonstrates the readiness of floating wind to support the government’s net zero ambitions ahead of the forthcoming lease awards in ScotWind, floating wind leasing rounds managed by Crown Estate Scotland.”

Nils de Baar, President, Vestas Central & Northern Europe, said:
“The Kincardine project shows how boundaries of offshore wind technology are constantly being pushed forward. We have once again demonstrated that the world’s most powerful turbines can be installed on floating substructures.
We stand ready for the next phase of commercial scale floating offshore wind. With appropriate policy and regulations, floating technology offers the UK an opportunity to expand its global leadership position in offshore wind and build further opportunities for the domestic supply chain. We are proud to be part of the pioneering Kincardine project.” 

About Kincardine Floating Windfarm

  • Developer: Kincardine Offshore Windfarm Ltd. (KOWL). Established in 2014 by Allan MacAskill and Lord Nicol Stephen. Majority owned by the Cobra Group
  • EPC Contractor: Cobra Wind International Limited (CWIL)
  • Turbines: 5 x Vestas V164-9.525 MW turbines and 1 x V80-2 MW
  • Blade tip height: 190 meters
  • Foundation: WindFloat (floating, semi-submersible type)
  • Project Capacity: 50 MW
  • Location: Aberdeen, Scotland
  • Distance from Shore: 15 km
  • Water Depth: 60-80 meters
  • Nominal Voltage: 33 kV
  • Number of homes powered annually: over 50.000
  • Expected life: at least 25 years

desalination of seawater

Desalination of seawater, converting salt water into fresh water is important in water-scarce countries. For that process, certain charged particles – known as ions – have to be removed from the water. However, some ions are difficult to remove from water due to their chemical properties. Recent research by scientists from Israel and the Netherlands is helping to improve this ion-removal process.

The researchers were able to predict the behaviour of boron ions during water processing and thus simplify their removal. The study is available on-line at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Many harmful or valuable ions in seawater, brackish water or freshwater are amphoteric: their properties vary with the pH. “It is difficult to remove these particles from the water with standard membrane technologies,” says Jouke Dykstra, Assistant Professor at the Department of Environmental Technology at Wageningen University & Research. “You then have to add certain chemicals to control the pH. But we want to avoid that as much as possible: there is a strong trend to use fewer chemicals.”

Desalination of seawater

As an example of this ion removal process, Dykstra refers to the desalination of seawater. This is happening worldwide at locations with a shortage of fresh water. For example, many countries around the Mediterranean use desalinated seawater for irrigation. “But seawater also contains boron, which is toxic in high concentrations and it inhibits plant growth. Obviously, this is a problem for irrigation, and that is why we are looking for new ways to remove boron and other ions from sea water.” Desalination is becoming increasingly important due to drought in many regions. Dykstra: “New technologies are needed to continue to meet the demand for fresh water, not only in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, but also in the Netherlands.”

Wageningen researchers are working on this challenge together with colleagues from Technion – the Israel Institute of Technology, and from Wetsus – the European Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Water Technology in Leeuwarden. Together they have developed a new theoretical model of the behaviour of boron during a process known as capacitive deionisation. This is an emerging, membraneless technique for water treatment and desalination using microporous, flow-through electrodes When an electric current is applied, ions are adsorbed to the electrodes and hence removed from the water. Dykstra: “We are the first in science to develop a theoretical model that enables us to predict this behaviour and use it to our advantage.”

Entirely new design

The Israeli and Dutch researchers discovered that such systems require a completely new design. For example, they demonstrated both theoretically and experimentally that the water has to flow from the positive to the negative electrode, and not the other way around, as is now customary. “Our research has shown that a good theoretical model is essential to effectively control such complex chemical processes,” concludes Dykstra. “This approach offers many interesting possibilities. You could also use this model for other challenges in waste water treatment, including removing arsenic or small organic molecules, such as drug residues or herbicides.”

PNAS summarizes the process: Water treatment is required for a sustainable potable water supply and can be leveraged to harvest valuable elements. Crucial to these processes is the removal of charge pH-dependent species from polluted water, such as boron, ammonia, and phosphate. These species can be challenging for conventional technologies. Currently, boron removal requires several reverse-osmosis stages, combined with dosing a caustic agent. Capacitive deionization (CDI) promises to enable effective removal of such species without chemical additives but requires a deep understanding of the coupled interplay of pH dynamics, ion electrosorption, and transport phenomena. Here, we provide a detailed theory tackling this topic and show both theoretically and experimentally highly counterintuitive design rules governing pH-dependent ion removal by CDI.

Photo by Lance Cheung on Foter

Citychangers in Paris
Citychangers is a global knowledge hub to help you make cities sustainable. It invites mayors, experts, entrepreneurs, and passionate changemakers to enjoy curated content free of charge. With a the goal to speed up the process and give this rapidly growing community an additional home and created by Urban Future.

Urban Future is known for high-impact events, gathering thousands of changemakers from across the globe to share their experience in making cities sustainable. Feeling frustrated that this exchange of knowledge was limited to one single annual conference, the team decided to create a home base where this global community of more than 30,000 CityChangers and 300+ organizations share their experiences 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

“We want to provide a global stage to share the experiences of those who are at the forefront of transforming cities.” Gerald Babel-Sutter, CEO of Urban Future. CityChangers.org is an online resource hub, designed for those who want to drive sustainable change in cities. It provides inspiration, advice on how to start a transformation process, learnings on what you’re getting into, and details on how to avoid the mistakes already made by others. It is also a global network where you can connect with those who have already done what you are planning.

Solving an existential crisis

“We as humans are in an existential crisis. Climate change, pollution, overpopulation, destruction of ecosystems – you name it. We are risking nothing less than our existence. But while we keep hearing bad news every day, there are so many people in thousands of cities that do amazing things to master a turnaround,” says Gerald Babel- Sutter, CEO of Urban Future. “I believe these experiences are critical to increasing the speed of transformation.”

The purpose of CityChangers.org is to speed up urban transformation by sharing what works, and what doesn’t, in driving change. People interested in urban change will find and share know-how on making it happen in fields such as mobility, real estate, construction, waste, decarbonization, and climate action, with many more to come in the following months.

Now live

At the website you can find some live examples of what Citychangers do:

Join host Mikael Colville-Andersen on his travels around the world to meet some of the most passionate CityChangers right where the magic is happening: on the bike, in front of city hall, or on public transport. From the streets of Milan to the cable cars of Medellín, get inspired by a grassroot activist, a district mayor, a former chief city planner, and a chief resilience officer.

Jim Walker from WALK21 and Mário Alves from the International Federation of Pedestrians are here to clear the air on pedestrian safety and give some insight into why and how to make cities pedestrian-friendly.

Whether you live close to the equator or high up in the North: the climate is always contributing to whether people decide to take the car or the bicycle. The unwillingness to cycle when it is too hot or too cold is a mindset that many experts are trying to get rid of. But what is it like to cycle in Singapore with an average temperature of over 28 degrees? And what can we learn from Oulu, Finland, with up to minus 30 degrees in Winter?


The content has been developed with many of the most passionate urban shapers and organizations, those who are leading and pioneering transformation in cities around the world. An editorial team has gathered data for more than a year, conducted around 100 or more interviews with inspiring CityChangers, and worked through thousands of pages of project reports, books, and transcripts.

“Hundreds of actors in Europe create know-how on urban sustainability”, says Gerald. “The problem is that the content gets lost in piles of reports, in closed hubs, or is too
overwhelming,” he continues. “Our editorial team has distilled relevant, actionable information in a way that not only speaks to experts, but also has a focus on the ‘how
to implement’ factor.”

Covid medicine is coming soon

Since the outbreak of the COVID pandemic all attention has been focused on vaccines to contain the disease. That is a first step towards control. But eventually, we need to have a cure. COVID medicine is coming.

Despite the effectiveness of vaccines, we still need drugs to treat COVID. Even people who have been double vaccinated stand a small chance of being infected and ending up moderately or even severely ill. There are drugs, but they have to be given in hospital. That may change soon, if we are to believe the signs that COVID medicine is on the way.

One promising drug that could improve things is molnupiravir, an antiviral that’s moving into the final stages of testing in humans. Researchers are hoping it can be used both to treat and prevent COVID. Importantly, it can be taken as a pill – meaning people wouldn’t need to be hospitalised to receive it.

This drug reduces the ability of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID, to replicate. It works by mimicking one of the building blocks of the virus’s genetic material. When the virus reproduces, it builds a new copy of its RNA, and the drug ends up being incorporated into it.

When the virus then reproduces, the molnupiravir causes mutations to accumulate in the virus’s RNA, which increase every time it replicates. Eventually, this causes an “error catastrophe”, where excessive mutations stop the virus from being able to reproduce altogether, and it dies off.

How well does COVID medicine work?

So far, a small trial has looked at the effects of molnupiravir in 202 COVID patients (not in hospital) who had started having symptoms. Participants were randomly allocated to receive molnupiravir or a placebo, with different doses of the antiviral being tested.

The trial’s results have been published as a preprint, meaning they are yet to be formally reviewed by other scientists. Still, the trial showed that after three days of treatment, infectious SARS-CoV-2 virus was found significantly less often in participants taking 800mg of molnupiravir (2%) compared to those taking a placebo (17%).

By day five, the virus was not detected in any participants receiving 400mg or 800mg of molnupiravir, but was still found in 11% of those taking a placebo. The trial, therefore, suggests that molnupiravir can reduce and eliminate infectious SARS-CoV-2 in patients with mild COVID. Indeed, it’s the fact that molnupiravir speeds up the clearance of the virus that suggests it could be useful not just for treating COVID but also lessening the chance of it spreading.

But to know just how useful it will be, we need to see what happens in further trials. Molnupiravir is currently also being assessed in newly hospitalised patients, with this study aiming to find out if early molnupiravir treatment can reduce the time it takes for patients with severe COVID to clear the virus. No results have been disclosed so far.

A larger trial, with 1,850 participants, is now looking to see if molnupiravir is better than a placebo at preventing serious disease and death in non-hospitalised adults with COVID. And a phase 3 trial (the final stage of human testing) is now recruiting participants – across 17 different countries – to see whether early molnupiravir treatment of COVID-positive people prevents others living in the same household from getting infected. Previous research has already shown molnupiravir can stop SARS-CoV-2 spreading in this manner among ferrets.

If it performs well in these trials, molnupiravir’s impact could be huge. Given the severity of illness that can be caused by SARS-CoV-2, an effective antiviral would be a valuable weapon to have in the clinical armoury – particularly if molnupiravir continues to be as fast acting as it has so far in testing. Patients suffering from COVID can become very sick very quickly.

The fact that it is taken orally is also potentially very helpful, as this would make it easy to use in the early stages of infection, as it could be self-administered outside of hospital. Also, molnupiravir can be produced in large quantities and doesn’t require cold transportation. Vaccines and physical measures to control the spread of the virus would still be the primary tactics for managing COVID, but this drug could complement both.

Pfizer and Ritonavir

Two others include a candidate from Pfizer, known as PF-07321332. Pfizer has dosed the first subject in Phase II/III clinical trial of its experimental oral antiviral drug in non-hospitalised patients who have symptoms but are at low risk of progression to severe disease.

A protease inhibitor, PF-07321332 is meant to hinder the activity of the main protease enzyme that the SARS-CoV-2 virus requires for replication. When given in combination with a low dose of ritonavir, the antiviral’s metabolism or breakdown is expected to slow down, allowing it to stay longer in the body at higher concentrations.

This long-term action inside the body could facilitate a continuous fight against the virus, Pfizer said. Previously, ritonavir was administered along with other antivirals for a similar slowing of metabolism.

The latest double-blind Phase II/III trial will randomise nearly 1,140 subjects to receive either oral PF07321332 plus ritonavir or placebo every 12 hours over five days.

The trial is expected to complete next year.

Roche and Atea

A third candidate is AT-527, an antiviral produced by Roche and Atea Pharmaceuticals.  AT-527 is an oral direct-acting antiviral agent developed from Atea’s nucleotide prodrug platform. The antiviral drug blocks viral RNA polymerase, which is needed for viral replication. The asset is being investigated in multiple trials against COVID-19. It is being studied in hospitalized settings and outpatient settings and for the treatment of long-haul COVID-19.

starch from co2

Creating starch from co2 is not a new process. Plants do it all the time. But Chinese researches now discovered a way to do it much more efficiently in a lab. That would potentially save up to 90% of farm land, water, fertiliser and pesticides, they claim.

Chinese scientists recently reported a new technology for artificial starch synthesis from carbon dioxide (CO2). The results were published in Science on September 24.

The new route makes it possible to shift the mode of starch production from traditional agricultural planting to industrial manufacturing, and opens up a new technical route for synthesizing complex molecules from CO2, reports Eurekalert.

Starch is the major component of grain as well as an important industrial raw material. At present, it is mainly produced by crops such as maize by fixing CO2 through photosynthesis. This process involves about 60 biochemical reactions as well as complex physiological regulation. The theoretical energy conversion efficiency of this process is only about 2%.

A sustainable production of starch and use of CO2 are urgently needed to solve the food crisis and climate change. Designing new ways to replace plant photosynthesis for converting CO2 to starch can contribute to achieve that.

To address this issue, scientists at the Tianjin Institute of Industrial Biotechnology (TIB) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) designed a chemoenzymatic system as well as an artificial starch anabolic route consisting of only 11 core reactions to convert CO2 into starch.

The abstract of the research says: “Starches, a storage form of carbohydrates, are a major source of calories in the human diet and a primary feedstock for bioindustry. We report a chemical-biochemical hybrid pathway for starch synthesis from carbon dioxide (CO2) and hydrogen in a cell-free system. The artificial starch anabolic pathway (ASAP), consisting of 11 core reactions, was drafted by computational pathway design, established through modular assembly and substitution, and optimized by protein engineering of three bottleneck-associated enzymes. In a chemoenzymatic system with spatial and temporal segregation, ASAP, driven by hydrogen, converts CO2 to starch at a rate of 22 nanomoles of CO2 per minute per milligram of total catalyst, an ~8.5-fold higher rate than starch synthesis in maize. This approach opens the way toward future chemo-biohybrid starch synthesis from CO2.”

Starch from co2 can be 8.5 times more efficient

The artificial route can produce starch from CO2 with an efficiency 8.5-fold higher than starch biosynthesis in maize, suggesting a big step towards going beyond nature. It provides a new scientific basis for creating biological systems with unprecedented functions.

The research is a first step towards industrial manufacturing of starch from CO2. From the moment the total cost of the process will become comparable with agricultural planting, this technology is expected to save more than 90% of cultivated land and freshwater resources.

In addition, it would help to prevent the negative environmental impact of pesticides and fertilizers, improve human food security and facilitate a carbon-neutral bioeconomy.