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Promising new approach

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Elsewhere the orange idiot is pushing drugs that have not been proven safe or effective. The following press release arrived in my in box this morning, and may not be noticed by our mainstream media because they are busy cutting staff pay – or even shutting down altogether. The idea that the government – or their readers – should now ride to their rescue seems really strange to me since the reason they have nothing to fall back on is that they have been bleeding the companies dry. I have no sympathy whatever for these vultures.

Queen’s University leading cell therapy clinical trial to help improve outcomes in COVID-19 patients

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast are leading a UK-wide clinical trial, offering an innovative cell therapy treatment for COVID-19 patients with acute respiratory failure.

This clinical trial, led by Professor Danny McAuley and Professor Cecilia O’Kane, both researchers from the Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine at Queen’s, is investigating the use of allogenic Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) in patients with a complication known as Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) caused by COVID-19.

In the most critically unwell patients with COVID-19, many develop a complication known as ARDS. In ARDS the lungs become inflamed and leaky so they fill with fluid. This causes respiratory failure and patients may require admission to intensive care and a ventilator machine to support their breathing.

A recent statement from the four UK Chief Medical Officers outlined the importance of clinical trials amidst the COVID-19 crisis. Professor Cecilia O’Kane said: “It is only through clinical trials we will be able to determine if new treatments are effective and safe in critically ill patients.”

The trial involves the use of MSCs, a type of cell derived from human tissue such as bone marrow or umbilical cord (which is otherwise discarded after the baby is born), to treat the injury to the lung caused by COVID 19. MSCs are a novel treatment that have been shown in experimental models to reduce inflammation, fight infection and improve the repair of injured tissue.

Patients in this trial, which is known as REALIST COVID 19, will be treated with a purified population of MSCs derived from umbilical cord tissue called ORBCEL-C. The ORBCEL-C therapy has been developed by scientists at Orbsen Therapeutics in Galway, Ireland. The ORBCEL-C therapeutic is manufactured under licence by the UK NHS Blood and Transplant Service for the REALIST COVID-19 trial.

The trial is being introduced as part of an existing programme of research investigating the use of MSCs in patients with ARDS. The first patient has now been recruited with plans to recruit at least 60 patients throughout the COVID-19 pandemic at multiple sites across the UK including Belfast, Birmingham and London.

Professor Ian Young, Clinical Professor at the Centre for Public Health, Queen’s University Belfast, Director of HSC R&D and Chief Scientific Advisor at the Department of Health, said: “The Health and Social Care Research & Development Division has been working with researchers across HSC to address the global problem of Coronavirus.  We have contributed £230K for this vital research which will provide important evidence regarding a potential new treatment for respiratory failure, a leading cause of mortality in COVID-19.  We will continue to support health research and encourage people to participate in research trials and other studies so patients can get the best possible treatment to help tackle the spread of COVID-19.”

The trial has been identified by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) as a national urgent public health study. It is one of a number of COVID-19 studies that have been given urgent public health research status by the Chief Medical Officer/ Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England.  The study is funded by the Health and Social Care Research & Development Division and the Wellcome Trust, sponsored by the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and supported by the NI Clinical Trials Unit, the NIHR Clinical Research Network and the Northern Ireland Clinical Research Network.

Orbsen CSO Steve Elliman noted: “While there are over 100 vaccines and therapies in development targeting the SARS-CoV-2 infection – at present there are no disease modifying therapies approved for ARDS.  We’re delighted the REALIST trial was approved and listed by NIHR as an Urgent Public Health Research Study so we can continue assess the safety of the ORBCEL-C therapy in patients with ARDS.”

Sir Professor Alimuddin Zumla of University College London, a global coronavirus and infectious diseases expert said: “This is an exciting and important trial which targets rectifying the underlying causes of lung damage and has great potential of saving many lives from COVID-19. The team should be congratulated for their leadership of host-directed therapies, a concept which has not yet been explored to its full potential.”

Professor Danny McAuley is also part of an international network of researchers who are taking forward trials of umbilical cord-derived Mesenchymal stromal cells for the treatment of COVID-19: UK: (UCL- Sir Professor Azumla); Portugal (Champualimud Foundation – Professor Markus Maurer; Italy (INMI-Professor Giuseppe Ippolito) and China (Fifth Medical Center- Professor Fu-Sheng Wang.)


  1. Media inquiries to  
  2. About NIHR: Please visit to learn about other studies that have been given urgent public health status and the single, national prioritisation process that has been established to prevent duplication of effort and to ensure that the resources and capacity of the health and care system to support COVID-19 research are not exceeded.
  3. About Wellcome: Wellcome exists to improve health by helping great ideas to thrive. We support researchers, we take on big health challenges, we campaign for better science, and we help everyone get involved with science and health research. We are a politically and financially independent foundation. For more information please  visit:
  4. For further information about HSC Research & Development Division work, please visit:

Written by Stephen Rees

April 7, 2020 at 10:00 am

Posted in good news, Pandemic

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Resolute v GreenPeace: suit slapped down

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Screen Shot 2017-10-16 at 1.24.02 PM

The following is simple cut and paste from a GreenPeace Press Release.



Federal Court Dismisses Racketeering Case Against Greenpeace

SAN FRANCISCO, October 16, 2017 — Today, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed all claims in the controversial case that major logging company Resolute Forest Products [2] filed against Greenpeace Inc., Greenpeace Fund, and Greenpeace International, and individual defendants, including claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) act.

The court’s decision sends a clear message to corporations that attacks on core democratic values like freedom of speech and legitimate advocacy on issues of public interest will not be tolerated. District Judge Jon S. Tigar wrote in his order dismissing the case that “the defendants’ speech constituted the expression of opinion, or different viewpoints that [are] a vital part of our democracy.” Noting that “Greenpeace’s publications at issue rely on scientific research or fact”, the judge added that “[t]he academy, and not the courthouse, is the appropriate place to resolve scientific disagreements of this kind.”

Resolute will be allowed to amend its filing as a formality, but Greenpeace is confident that any such attempt will meet a similar fate.

Greenpeace USA General Counsel Tom Wetterer said in response to the decision:

“We are pleased the court unequivocally threw out this attempt to abuse our legal system and silence legitimate criticism on matters of public concern. This is very positive news for all of us, for the values that we share, and for Canada’s boreal forest. Resolute’s claim that organizations and activists committed to the conservation of the forests were part of a criminal enterprise is absurd and a sad symptom of a wider assault on constitutional rights and democracy. The logging company’s allegations were a clear attempt to silence the voices that advocate for the environment. Recently, Energy Transfer Partners — the oil company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline — decided to follow a strikingly similar path [3] under the legal wing of none other than Trump’s go-to law firm. The similarities are apparent and this underhanded playbook targeting free speech should be a cause of real concern. We’re grateful that the court has shown today it is a losing playbook, but that doesn’t mean corporate bullies like ETP won’t stop trying to use it.

“Energy Transfer’s case repackages many of the spurious allegations and legal claims made against Greenpeace by the Kasowitz firm on behalf of Resolute. The decision on the Resolute suit should be a clear indication that Energy Transfer’s case has no future. Both are classic SLAPPs, or strategic lawsuits against public participation. These cases don’t seek justice. They intend to silence free speech through expensive, time-consuming litigation. This pattern of harassment by corporate bullies led by Trump’s go-to attorneys must be stopped in its tracks.”

Greenpeace USA Senior Forest Campaigner Daniel Brindis added:

“The judge’s decision to dismiss the case affirms that Resolute’s divisive and bullying tactics are a waste of time and resources. It is time for Resolute to finally work with environmental organizations including Greenpeace to address their destructive forestry operations and forge a collaborative and sustainable path forward. Instead of spending more valuable resources to amend this lawsuit, Greenpeace hopes Resolute will finally be ready to work together to find solutions. Thousands in Canada and around the world have called for the protection of the forest, it’s time for Resolute to listen to them too. The world needs a healthy boreal forest and together we can develop long term sustainable solutions that respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples, protect local communities and ensure the survival of species at risk like the Woodland Caribou. ”



[1] Click here to download a copy of the order.

[2] On May 31, 2016 Resolute Forest Products filed a CAD$300 million lawsuit under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) in the United States District Court for Southern Georgia, against Greenpeace International, Greenpeace, Inc., Greenpeace Fund, Inc., (formerly ForestEthics), and five individual staff members of these independent organizations. The case was transferred to Northern California on May 16, 2017 when Resolute failed to demonstrate that the case should be heard in Georgia.

This is Resolute’s second lawsuit against Greenpeace. In 2013, the company filed a CAD$7 million defamation case against Greenpeace Canada and two staff members in Ontario, which is still pending. Click here for more information about the existing legal cases between Resolute Forest Products and defendants, or copy this to your browser:

[3] On August 22, 2017 Energy Transfer Partners filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit under under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). Click here for more information about the existing legal cases between Resolute Forest Products and defendants, or copy this to your browser:

Written by Stephen Rees

October 16, 2017 at 1:25 pm

Posted in blogging, Environment, good news

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We have been changing

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This graph appeared on my flickr stream today. I was surprised, both by the relative position of Metro Vancouver compared to the other Canadian metro areas, and the steepness of the decline. I do not usually get into the land use, density, urban design stuff but what I see from other blogs and discussions had given me the sense that somehow we were losing the battle against sprawl. I know that people are quite rightly concerned about large houses in the ALR – that people in Richmond now refer to as AirBnB hotels – and that so much recent development seems to have followed the freeway expansions into areas which were not identified as of the Growth Concentration Area identified in the LRSP. But what this graph shows is that the conventional single family home on its own lot – or one that shares a lot – is no longer the dominant form of the region. And that we are outperforming both Montreal and Toronto in delivering other types of residence.

This is indeed good news, and a strong indication of why we not only need more and better transit, but that it will be successful because we have the density to support it. This also seem to be the subtext of a lot of commentary I have been seeing about why the BC Liberals did so poorly in this region. That includes, of course Peter Fasbender (former Minister for Translink) losing his seat (Surrey-Fleetwood).

And the source for this graph (Neighbourhood Change Research Partnership, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto) was new to me too.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 13, 2017 at 5:10 pm

Suburbs lose out to the bright lights of downtown

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The Globe and Mail reports today that there has been a shift in location decisions of companies. They are now willing to pay more for a downtown location, both reduce their carbon footprint and to “attract well-educated, sophisticated workers.” There’s quite a lot of anecdote here, but also some data on vacancy rates. The examples are from Toronto and Edmonton but there has also been increasing interest in new office developments in downtown Vancouver. It is encouraging that LEED certification is mentioned – though much of the discussion  would seem to point to employee travel behaviour. LEED ND isn’t mentioned.

One of the great issues with regional planning here was the suburban office park – which was not anticipated in the LRSP. These are not going to go away any time soon, but they will have to start adapting. I would expect that developers will try to retrofit these places to become more like traditional urban “central places” with a variety of uses. If we had wise leaders, they would be increasing travel options at such locations, and looking at fiscal measures to encourage the “highest and best use” of land currently devoted to “free” parking. That would require some effective support for transit – and a lot of investment in better walking and cycling access to such locations. I would be interested to see a movement like this develop here. It could be a bit like the way that redundant suburban shopping malls in the US are now being redeveloped for mixed uses.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 24, 2011 at 4:10 pm

Posted in good news, land use

Twenty ideas that could save the world

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A good positive way to start the week. Humanity faces a crisis, and much angst is spent on the dithering of our politicians who seem to be incapable of grasping the importance of actually doing at least some of the things they keep talking about.

The Guardian organised a meeting in Manchester to review some of the “countless ingenious ideas for tackling the problem emanating from universities, thinktanks, front rooms and sheds across the planet” and to select some of the best of them.

Not all were technological. One or two I have actually heard of, and in one case an organisation I volunteer with is already implementing. has been distributing the ONIL energy efficient woodstove to impoverished Mayan villages in Guatemala. Global warming was not our first concern – but a useful by product. Women who have the stoves do not need to spend so much time collecting firewood, their children are healthier since the stoves get the woodsmoke out of the house, and the damage to the forest  of fuel collection is reduced. There is also a much reduced risk of children burning themselves which happens a lot when there is cooking over an open fire.

Two ideas that I find immensely appealing are Rosemary Randall’s ““carbon conversations” in which she encourages people to explore their attitude to consumption, identity and status. People who have been on her course of six meetings typically reduce their emissions by a tonne immediately and then plan to cut in half within two to five years. Andrew Simms of the New Economics Foundation offered an even simpler prescription: consume less. It might even make us happier too.” But I am sure that you will have your own ideas and I encourage you to check out the links and learn more, a well as voting for your favourites.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 12, 2009 at 9:42 pm

Pub Goers Trade Home Grown Produce for Beer to Beat Credit Crunch

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Barter is alive and well and at work in Norfolk.

Pub manager and brain child of the popular scheme, Cloe Wasey, enthused “We find the home-grown stuff is often much better than what we can get from the suppliers. When we get the good stuff, and it gets on to the specials board, it’s brilliant.”

Odd turn of phrase that – I think they meant that is was her idea. But I would love to see somethign similar start here. Though I bet the needle nosers from Revenue Canada would have something to say about it.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 15, 2008 at 4:32 pm

Posted in good news

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This blog renews a friendship

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I had a delightful lunch today with someone I have not seen for over four years, and frankly, did not expect to hear from again. I am sorry if this seems immodest but I was delighted to hear that someone in another city far away reads this blog to find out what is going on here – and to catch up with what I am doing – and finally figures out a way to call me.

We also caught up on developments at the place where we used to work together, and I must say that things there have been changing in ways I did not expect. I will refrain, however, from predicting what might happen next. For one thing, I have had to take my crystal ball back to Canadian Tire for repair. Again.

It is possible to work out from the information you can find on here how to email me. It is not spelled out clearly simply because of the dreadful little software programs that trawl the web looking for email addresses to send spam too. Look at the top right under the words “about and contact information” – or click on about and there you will find a slightly less cryptic explanation. I also have another blog. Since no-one has ever posted a comment to that and I think the hit counter is broken I do not think anyone reads it. It is not about the relationship between transport and urban areas. My idea was that I would take the “off topic” posts from here and put them there. But I understand that for some readers these irrelevant posts are part of the attraction. So I am not going to mess with what limited success I have had so far – certainly not to send you to a blog that apparently no reads but me.


And from there, on a clear day, you can see into Washington state. The curious effect that this image captures of the tip of Mount Baker seemingly floating above the ground is actually the result of transport pollution. Ground level ozone (confusingly known here as “smog”) is created by the action of sunlight on the combination of nitrous oxides (NOx) and hydrocarbons (HC). Since it has suddenly turned nice here, the effect is more pronounced today. No photoshop trickery here I promise you. Since much of the industry in the region has moved away, most of the NOx comes from vehicle tailpipes. HC is mainly the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which these days are more likely from natural sources like pine trees or cranberry beds (hence the famous quote from President Reagan that trees cause air pollution). Since we abandoned carburettors for fuel injection, put vapour capture into gas pumps and now check gas caps regularly, VOCs from cars are much less than they were once.

I think it is worth remembering that while greenhouse gases are the major concern now, air pollution is by no means solved.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 4, 2007 at 3:57 pm