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Scientists in Israel and Iran Take On the Coronavirus

by Hugh Fitzgerald

According to media reports, Iran claims it has come up with a new way to detect the coronavirus from far away.

The story is told by NBC News:

The commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps unveiled a handheld device on Wednesday that he said could detect coronavirus almost instantly.

This new achievement is an emerging and unique technology that was fully developed by IRGC’s Basij forces after the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the country,” said the IRGC’s Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami as he presented the purported detection tool at a ceremony.

“A sample of the virus is placed within the device and as the device scans the perimeter it looks for a match, once it finds one it pinpoints it and tells us,” said Salami.

According to Salami, the device, which resembles a handheld electric drill with an antenna, can detect a contaminated person or area in five seconds within a radius of 100 meters thanks to a “magnetic system of resonance.”

Another article in the Times of Israel provides other details:

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) unveiled Wednesday what it claimed was an Iranian-made smart system that can identify coronavirus in the environment instantly.

“The system can spot the coronavirus-contaminated area from 100 meters away in 5 seconds and it does not need to take blood from patients and has been tested in different hospitals and showed positive performance in 80 percent of cases,” said IRGC Commander Major General Hossein Salami.

He explained that the device, dubbed “Mosta’an,” can “detect every coronavirus infection case within a 100-meter radius by creating a magnetic field and using a bipolar virus inside the device,” Salami said, failing to provide further details.

Salami claimed the Mosta’an was being adapted to eventually detect any virus.

He said that the system, invented by scientists from the Basij paramilitary forces, could be used both for mass screening of people and spotting contaminated areas, noting that it could also minimize the amount of disinfectants being used in areas that aren’t contaminated.

A third article, in the Daily Mail, offers still other details:

The semi-official Tasnim news agency said the ‘homegrown’ detection device was a ‘state-of-the-art and unique instrument’ developed by ‘local scientists’.

Major-general Salami attended an ‘unveiling ceremony’ himself where he said the device could be used for ‘screening of people on a large scale’.

Salami said the device creates a ‘magnetic field’ which locates a virus infection ‘within a 100-metre radius’ (100 yards), the commander said.

When the device’s antenna is pointed at a specific location, it will detect the contaminated spot within around five seconds, he boasted.

The device has supposedly been tested in hospitals with ’80 per cent accuracy’ and Iran hopes to develop ‘upgraded versions’ to test for other diseases.

Salami later went further and claimed ‘dozens of countries’ had contacted Iran with a view to getting hold of the gadget.

However, the equipment ‘would not be shared with the Americans until all sanctions are removed’, he warned, according to the website Al-Monitor.

The device was proudly displayed at an unveiling ceremony on Wednesday where Iran showed off the invention of ‘local scientists’

The machine itself is a hand-held device with an antenna.

Dr. Anthony Fauci will not be losing any sleep over the Iranians refusing to share their magical-mystery-tour coronavirus detector with the Americans until they lift the sanctions.

For the Revolutionary Guard scientists, this long-distance coronavirus detector was quite a feat, and a feather in the cap of the Islamic Republic. The Supreme Leader must have been very proud. But neither they nor he could have been proud for very long. For there are dozens of stories in the Western – and Arab — media mocking the Iranian claim. Within Iran, the Association of Iranian Physicists dismissed the device as an absurdity. And Arab media, such as Arab News, have been having a field day making fun of the Iranian folly.

Israel, too, has come up with an advance of its own in response to the coronavirus outbreak: a new vaccine design to combat the coronavirus.

The Algemeiner has the story:

A professor at Tel Aviv University (TAU) has been granted a patent by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for his innovative vaccine design for the novel coronavirus, also known as SARS-CoV-2, TAU announced on Sunday.

Prof. Jonathan Gershoni of the School of Molecular Cell Biology and Biotechnology at TAU’s George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences created a vaccine that “targets the novel coronavirus’s Achilles’ heel, its Receptor Binding Motif (RBM), a critical structure that enables the virus to bind to and infect a target cell,” according to TAU.

Gershoni explained that the vaccine would reconstruct the coronavirus’s RBM, a small feature of its “spike” protein. This specific protein is a major surface protein that the virus uses to bind to a receptor, which is another protein that provides a pathway to a human cell.

TAU said, “After the spike protein binds to the human cell receptor, the viral membrane fuses with the human cell membrane, allowing the genome of the virus to enter human cells and begin infection.”

Gershoni’s team is said to have completed the initial steps toward reconstituting the new SARS-CoV-2’s RBM. The reconstitution of the new RBM and its use as a basis for a new vaccine is covered by an additional pending patent application to the USPTO.

Now that we have received serum samples we should be able to isolate RBM-based vaccine candidates in the next month or two,” Prof. Gershoni said. “The discovery and production of a functional RBM for the new coronavirus is fundamental and critical for the production of the vaccine we propose. Our successful isolation and reconstitution of such a functional RBM will allow the industry to incorporate it into a vaccine, which will be produced by a pharmaceutical company. Development of such an RBM-based vaccine should take months and then would need to be tested in Phase 1, 2 and 3 clinical trials which would then take up to a year.”

Gershoni and his team have been working on coronaviruses for the last 15 years and expect to have a reconstituted RBM soon that could be the basis for a new vaccine, which could be ready for use within a year to a year and a half.

The RBM, a highly-complex three dimensional structure, is 50 amino acids long and reconstructing its structure is very challenging but would be an extremely effective basis of a vaccine, he noted.

“The smaller the target and the focus of the attack, the greater the effectiveness of the vaccine,” Gershoni said. “The virus takes far-reaching measures to hide its RBM from the human immune system, but the best way to ‘win the war’ is to develop a vaccine that specifically targets the virus’s RBM.”

There’s a moral to this tale. One country, Iran, is run by the terminally credulous, discouraged by their faith from engaging in the free and skeptical inquiry that is essential to the enterprise of science. These Iranian officials were determined to show they are meeting the challenge of the pandemic, but they have only made fools of themselves in the process by presenting an obviously fraudulent “coronavirus detector,” likely the product of some Western scam artist. It appears they really believe in it.

The other country, Israel, is fully at home with modern science. Its educational system encourages the kind of questioning that is discouraged in schools in Islamic countries, where both mental submission to authority, and rote memorization, are privileged. Israeli scientists keep making astonishing advances in a dozen fields. This new design for a vaccine against the coronavirus by Professor Gersoni and his team at Tel Aviv University is one of them. As for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, their proud unveiling of their comical coronavirus detector has made Iran the laughing-stock of the whole world.

Thus we have presented on a platter one more exercise in Compare-and-Contrast, where the Islamic entry for combating the coronavirus is weighed and found wanting—found worthless, in fact, by all sensible people, including many in the Muslim world — while that from tiny Israel, of a new way to construct a vaccine, the product of scientific research relentlessly pursued over the past 15 years, shows real promise.

What have you done for us lately? It’s a common question, and a good one. We know about all the advances Israeli science has brought us. Israel ranks first in the world for medical device patents per capita, and second in Europe for bio-pharma. More than 1,000 Israeli companies are working in the healthcare or life-science fields, with 700 of them in medical devices. The list of Israeli achievements in medicine can easily be found on-line (just search the Internet for “Israel” and “medical advances” and be ready to read a very long list). But what about Iran, with ten times Israel’s population? Is there a single medical advance that the Islamic Republic has to its credit? No, not even one.

First published in Jihad Watch.

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