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Transcript: Francis deSouza on

Jacob Scott

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The following is a transcript of an interview with Illumina CEO Francis deSouza that aired Sunday, December 5, 2021, on “Face the Nation.”

MARGARET BRENNAN: We’re going to go now to Francis deSouza, CEO of Illumina, a company that identifies and tracks COVID variants through genomic sequencing. Good morning to you.

PRESIDENT & CEO OF ILLUMINA FRANCIS DESOUZA: Hello, there. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: From what you are seeing, the $2 billion that US taxpayers just helped allocate towards improving sequencing in this country. Is America better now than we were at the start of this pandemic at figuring out exactly where the virus and the variants are?

DESOUZA: Yeah, we’re making progress, and we are in a lot different position than we were at the beginning of the pandemic and certainly even a year ago. We were sequencing very little in terms of the positives that we were seeing in this country. But over the last year, we started to see sequencing infrastructure being rolled out. And now if you look at the course of all of 2021, we’re probably sequenced- probably sequenced over the course of 2021, about 3% of the positives that we’ve seen this year. Now best practices to do between five and 10%. But if you look at the last three months, we’re now in that five to 10% range. So, I think overall we’re starting to get the right amount of sequencing done in the US. The challenge is that it’s very variable across the states. And so, you have some states that are close to 30% of positives. You know, some states that are closer to 1%. And so overall, I think we have the capacity we need. It’s just that we clearly have blind spots in parts of the country where we need to do more.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And to that point, in the United Kingdom, within 48 hours of the first cases they knew after South Africa sounded the alarm the UK detected, they had Omicron on their shores. Here in the United States, it was out of Minnesota. It took a week of time to pass between when the patient was tested and state health officials in Minnesota confirmed it. Why are we slower? Isn’t that more dangerous?

DESOUZA: It absolutely is, and you want to be- you want to be ahead of this. There’s no question that the UK specifically has been one of the leaders in terms of rolling, rolling out a global genomics epidemiological infrastructure. So, they have been doing surveillance since Apr of 2020. So, they were one of the first countries in the world to recognize the value of doing genomic sequencing of the positives and identifying how the virus was mutating. And so, they started in Apr of 2020. And frankly, not many other countries followed until Dec of 2020, when we started to see new and new variants emerge, and it became clear that there was huge value in understanding how this virus was mutating, that we needed to understand it so we could track how it was spreading, but also to know if the tools we were using to fight the pandemic, the vaccines, the diagnostics, the therapies, whether they were still going to be effective.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. In terms of how this virus mutated, there’s speculation that it either jumped back and forth between animals and humans, or that there was something unique to its mutation within immunocompromised individuals. Do you have any insight into why Omicron seems to be so uniquely threatening?

DESOUZA: Yeah, what really is surprising about the- the genome of this variant is that it is so heavily mutated. So, we have over 50 new mutations, 30 of which are in the S-gene, which- which makes the S-protein, and that’s important. But- but the fact that there are so many that we haven’t seen before coming from a virus that only mutates two to three times a month tells us that it’s been somewhere mutating for a long time, and we haven’t seen it. And so, there are a number of hypotheses. One, it could have been as part of a chronic illness that somebody who was perhaps immunocompromised had over a year and so they weren’t ever really able to clear the virus. And so, they had it and it was mutating. And then for some reason, it started transmitting again over the last couple of weeks. Or it could have been, as you said, you know, transmitted to an animal, mutated there and then come back into humans. Or it could have been circulating in a part of the global population that’s just not being sequenced. And so, we’re trying to figure out, you know, where it was for so long mutating undetected. The other thing that’s important is that the mutations we’re seeing, the 30 mutations in the- on the S-gene are important because the S-gene codes for the S-protein, and that’s important for two reasons. One, that is how the virus interacts with human cells and gets into human cells and–

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

DESOUZA: –we’ve seen with other variants of concerns that certain mutations make variants more transmissible. And so, there’s an indication and we’re seeing that with some of the early data that this variant might be more transmissible. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

DESOUZA: The second reason it’s important is that the S-protein is actually a target for some of the vaccines. And so, the question now is is it mutated enough that it escapes some of the vaccines. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. And we will be watching what the South African scientists find on that, of course. In this country, though, do you think there is a national strategy to go along with the money we talked about, the 2 billion, to improve sequencing.

DESOUZA: I think we’re starting to put it together. Clearly that wasn’t the beginning of the pandemic and there are lots of elements of a national strategy that are essential, so, you know, one sort of understanding, you know, what are we trying to shoot for in terms of percentage of positives that- that we want to sequence. Two, how is that going to happen? So how are the samples going to go from, you know, clinics where testing is happening to labs that can do the sequencing and those connections needed to be- to be made.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah. 

DESUZA: And then there’s got to be more work around, you know, how is the data going to be shared? 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah. 

DESOUZA: And so, all of that- I think there are ideas and they’re being put together. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.

DESOUZA: But there’s still work being done to get it together.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Thank you very much, Mr. deSouza, for your time this morning. We’ll be back in a moment.

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‘Moon Knight’ Took Marvel in a Different Orbit, but It Didn’t Rise to the Occasion

Jacob Scott

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Before anyone writes that off as an anomaly, “Eternals” tackled a similar introduction of a dense mythology on the bigger screen, with equally mixed results. It’s a reminder that while film-goers have had more than a decade to get to know characters like Iron Man, Captain America and Thor, introducing some of these lesser-known heroes can pose a more formidable challenge beyond catering to the most ardent fans.
For Marvel, there are warning signs in that, since “Moon Knight” will be followed by several series based on second-tier characters, although the next two on the horizon, “Ms. Marvel” (which is due in June) and “She-Hulk,” at least have the benefit of sharing franchises and name recognition with existing Avengers.
Ultimately, “Moon Knight’s” murky storytelling appeared to squander its principal assets, which included the cool look of the character — a costume that was too seldom used — and the presence of Isaac, who possesses additional genre credentials via the “Star Wars” sequels.

Taking its time in peeling back the layers of the character’s complicated backstory, “Moon Knight” took a weird plunge into the Egyptian mythology behind it, in ways that became increasingly confounding and surreal.

By the time the protagonist’s two halves, Steven Grant and Marc Spector, wound up in a psychiatric hospital talking to an anthropomorphic hippo in the penultimate chapter, the question wasn’t so much being able to keep up with the story as whether bothering to do so was worth the effort.

The sixth and final episode brought the plot to a messy close, seeking to stop the goddess Ammit from proceeding to “purify the souls of Cairo, and then the world.” In the customary credit sequence, the producers capped that off by introducing a third personality, Jake Lockley, also rooted in the comics. While that seemingly spelled the end for the show’s villain (Ethan Hawke), the finish — giving the god Khonshu the protégé he sought — paved the way for further adventures should Marvel so choose.

That last twist might be cause for celebration in narrower confines of the Marvel fan universe, but “Moon Knight” too often felt like it was one long Easter-egg sequence, conspicuously preaching to that choir.

Granted, Marvel has made clear that Disney+ offers the chance to explore different kinds of stories, but “Moon Knight” feels at best like a quirky showcase for Isaac and at worst a failed experiment in terms of execution and tone.

That doesn’t mean this “Moon” won’t somehow rise again, if the closely held streaming data justifies it. But the promise that surrounded this property has faded, providing further evidence that even Marvel isn’t immune from setbacks as it moves into its next phase.

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Start-up Pony.ai says it’s the first self-driving company to get a taxi license in China

Jacob Scott

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Autonomous driving start-up Pony.ai can collect fares for robotaxi rides in parts of two major Chinese cities as of Sunday.

Pony.ai handout

BEIJING — Self-driving start-up Pony.ai announced Sunday it received a taxi license, the first of its kind in China.

The license allows Pony.ai to operate 100 self-driving cars as traditional taxis in the Nansha district of the southern city of Guangzhou, the company said.

The Chinese start-up, which is backed by Toyota, received approval from Beijing city late last year to charge fees to operate a commercial robotaxi business in a suburban district of the city. It is not the same as a taxi licence.

Baidu’s Apollo Go also received approval in the same Beijing district last year.

Pony.ai was valued at $8.5 billion in early March. The company said its Nansha taxi license required 24 months of autonomous driving testing in China and/or other countries, and no involvement in any active liability traffic accidents, among other factors.

The start-up said it plans to launch commercial robotaxi businesses in two other large Chinese cities next year. The company is already testing self-driving cars in those cities and in California. 

Robotaxis in China currently have a human driver present for safety.

— CNBC’s Arjun Kharpal contributed to this report.

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How to watch Timberwolves vs. Grizzlies: TV channel, NBA live stream info, start time

Jacob Scott

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Who’s Playing

Memphis @ Minnesota

Current Records: Memphis 2-1; Minnesota 1-2

What to Know

The Memphis Grizzlies’ road trip will continue as they head to Target Center at 10 p.m. ET this past Saturday to face off against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Memphis will be strutting in after a win while Minnesota will be stumbling in from a loss.

The Grizzlies are hoping for another victory. They beat the Timberwolves 104-95 this past Thursday. The victory came about thanks to a strong surge after the first quarter to overcome a 39-21 deficit. Memphis’ success was spearheaded by the efforts of power forward Brandon Clarke, who had 20 points in addition to eight rebounds, and shooting guard Desmond Bane, who shot 7-for-15 from beyond the arc and finished with 26 points and six boards.

Barring any buzzer beaters, Memphis is expected to win a tight contest. They might be worth taking a chance on against the spread as they are currently on a two-game streak of ATS wins.

Memphis’ win brought them up to 2-1 while the Timberwolves’ defeat pulled them down to a reciprocal 1-2. A couple offensive stats to keep in the back of your head while watching: The Grizzlies come into the game boasting the second most points per game in the league at 115.6. But Minnesota is even better: they rank first in the league when it comes to points per game, with 115.9 on average. Tune in for what’s sure to be a high-scoring contest.

How To Watch

When: Saturday at 10 p.m. ET Where: Target Center — Minneapolis, Minnesota TV: ESPN Online streaming: fuboTV (Try for free. Regional restrictions may apply.) Follow: CBS Sports App Ticket Cost: $76.96

Odds

The Grizzlies are a slight 2.5-point favorite against the Timberwolves, according to the latest NBA odds.

The oddsmakers had a good feel for the line for this one, as the game opened with the Grizzlies as a 3-point favorite.

Over/Under: -110

See NBA picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History

Memphis have won 19 out of their last 28 games against Minnesota.

Apr 21, 2022 – Memphis 104 vs. Minnesota 95 Apr 19, 2022 – Memphis 124 vs. Minnesota 96 Apr 16, 2022 – Minnesota 130 vs. Memphis 117 Feb 24, 2022 – Minnesota 119 vs. Memphis 114 Jan 13, 2022 – Memphis 116 vs. Minnesota 108 Nov 20, 2021 – Minnesota 138 vs. Memphis 95 Nov 08, 2021 – Memphis 125 vs. Minnesota 118 May 05, 2021 – Memphis 139 vs. Minnesota 135 Apr 02, 2021 – Memphis 120 vs. Minnesota 108 Jan 13, 2021 – Memphis 118 vs. Minnesota 107 Jan 07, 2020 – Memphis 119 vs. Minnesota 112 Dec 01, 2019 – Memphis 115 vs. Minnesota 107 Nov 06, 2019 – Memphis 137 vs. Minnesota 121 Mar 23, 2019 – Minnesota 112 vs. Memphis 99 Feb 05, 2019 – Memphis 108 vs. Minnesota 106 Jan 30, 2019 – Minnesota 99 vs. Memphis 97 Nov 18, 2018 – Memphis 100 vs. Minnesota 87 Apr 09, 2018 – Minnesota 113 vs. Memphis 94 Mar 26, 2018 – Memphis 101 vs. Minnesota 93 Dec 04, 2017 – Memphis 95 vs. Minnesota 92 Feb 04, 2017 – Memphis 107 vs. Minnesota 99 Nov 19, 2016 – Memphis 93 vs. Minnesota 71 Nov 01, 2016 – Minnesota 116 vs. Memphis 80 Oct 26, 2016 – Memphis 102 vs. Minnesota 98 Mar 16, 2016 – Minnesota 114 vs. Memphis 108 Feb 19, 2016 – Memphis 109 vs. Minnesota 104 Jan 23, 2016 – Minnesota 106 vs. Memphis 101 Nov 15, 2015 – Memphis 114 vs. Minnesota 106

Injury Report for Minnesota

No Injury Information

Injury Report for Memphis

Dillon Brooks: Game-Time Decision (Foot) Santi Aldama: Out (Knee) Killian Tillie: Out (Knee)

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