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Chonky cats beware: There’s a new cat fitness tracker in town

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The PurrSong Pendant tracks your cat’s activity and sleep.


John Kim/CNET

This story is part of CES 2020, our complete coverage of the showroom floor and the hottest new tech gadgets around.

Fitness trackers come in all shapes and sizes, and give you a way to find out things like how many steps you walk, how many calories you consume and how many hours you sleep. This type of info can be used to improve not only your own health, but also the wellness of your furry friends. Fitbit-like devices for pets are nothing new. And last week at CES 2020 I was able to check one out up close: the PurrSong Pendant, which is a fitness tracker for cats.

The idea of a cat fitness tracker might sound ridiculous. Cats don’t work out, so why would they need a kitty Fitbit? What’s next, a Peloton-like treadmill for cats so they can participate in online workouts with other cats? Fortunately, the PurrSong Pendant doesn’t go overboard with any gimmicks. It simply tracks your cat’s activity and sleep. The idea is to get real data about your pet’s normal routine and keep track of those times when your cat breaks it. The thinking goes, when your feline friend starts veering from the routine, this could be an indicator that there’s something wrong. As anyone who has ever owned a cat will know, detecting when your cat is sick just by observation can be tricky, especially since cats try to hide when they are ill. The Pendant hopes to identify an irregular pattern early so that you can seek veterinary care sooner.

The information from the tracker is shared over Bluetooth with an app on your phone that can alert you when there’s an abnormal pattern. For example, if your cat isn’t being as active as usual, you’ll be notified about that.

The PurrSong Pendant is roughly the size of a piece of Mentos candy, weighs 20 grams and has an IP56 rating for water and dust resistance. It attaches to your cat’s collar and will last one month on a single charge.

On the off chance that the name PurrSong sounds familiar, that may be because you heard it back when the South Korean company announced its LavvieBot S smart litter box at CES in 2019. The automated litter box cleans itself and refills the litter. The LavvieBot S can also track your cats’ weights (for multiple pets) and how often they use the litter box. The idea is that the data from the PurrSong Pendant along with the data from the litter box can give you a snapshot of your cat’s overall health.

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The tiny PurrSong Pendant is designed to attach to your cat’s collar.


John Kim/CNET

PurrSong is participating in Samsung C-Lab Outside, which is a joint startup incubation program with Samsung. The PurrSong Pendant will be released later this year. The tracker doesn’t have a price but PurrSong hopes to sell it for around $100. You can preorder the LavvieBot S smart litter box for $550 and it’ll ship in April or May.

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The PurrSong Pendant should retail for around $100.


John Kim/CNET


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Vaccine for Wuhan China coronavirus: timeline, development

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  • Several biotech companies have rolled out plans to develop vaccines to protect people against the Wuhan, China coronavirus, with support from global health groups and the US government.
  • But vaccine development has historically been an arduous, multi-year process. None of the biotechs provided expected timelines to get their vaccines on the market.
  • Previous infectious disease outbreaks, including for the Ebola and Zika viruses, show the challenges likely to face experimental vaccines for this virus as well.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

US health officials and global organizations are racing to respond to the spread of a deadly virus coming out of Wuhan, China.

One piece of that effort is enlisting biotechs to begin searching for an effective vaccine. 

Several companies, including Moderna, Novavax and Inovio, have announced preliminary development plans. But a look back at recent history of other infectious diseases such as Ebola, Zika and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) show these vaccines have faced a challenging and lengthy path.

Anthony Fauci, the longtime director of the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, estimated the first clinical trials for a coronavirus vaccine could begin before this summer, in an interview with the industry publication Biocentury.

“We likely will be able, unless there are unanticipated roadblocks, to start a Phase 1 trial in about three months,” he said.

The Wuhan coronavirus has now infected more than 630 people and spread to 9 countries. At least 18 people have died.

 

The first Ebola vaccine emerged from roughly 20 years of research

The first Ebola vaccine was approved last month in the US after roughly two decades of research and four years of clinical testing in thousands of people. The National Institutes of Health is testing a range of vaccine candidates against Zika, a virus transmitted by mosquitoes that began spreading widely in 2015.

A 2003 outbreak of SARS led to a similar rush for developing vaccines. More than 15 years later, there is still no approved SARS vaccine. In part, that’s because public health efforts helped halt the spread of the virus, leaving little need for a vaccine, according to Christopher Raymond, an analyst at Piper Sandler.

Part of the challenge is finding sources of funding that won’t dwindle once an outbreak is over, Maria Elena Bottazzi, a co-director of Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, told Business Insider.

Bottazzi said the reactionary nature of this funding is one of her biggest concerns for future vaccine development. In the case of her team, they were developing a SARS vaccine when Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, broke out. 

That led to shift in funding to focus on MERS, at the expense of the continued development of their SARS candidate. Now, considering the new coronavirus outbreak, she said that will be the key challenge to watch for as some candidates move into clinical testing.

“The scientific hurdles are the lower of the hurdles,” she said. “Scientifically, we can move quickly. It’s the hurdles of how to then mobilize the resources, create the partnerships, and eventually who is going to bring it to the point where we can deliver it to the population.”

It can take one to 3 years to develop a vaccine

Botazzi estimated that it can take one to three years to develop a vaccine and get it into people’s hands.

Moderna, a $7 billion biotech based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is one of these biotechs now in the early stages of producing an investigational vaccine. The company’s CEO, Stephane Bancel, acknowledged some of the disease’s unknowns are likely to create challenges in testing potential vaccines.

“We do not know the incubation time of the virus — 2 days or 2 weeks. We don’t know how long people stay sick — a day or three weeks,” Bancel said Thursday in an interview with Business Insider. “That has very big implications for the modeling you do.”

Writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Fauci and two other scientists noted that we’re getting better at developing vaccines, thanks in part to innovations from companies like Moderna. They said it took about 20 months to get to early human trials of a vaccine for SARS, but the timeline has since been compressed to the span of a few months.



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First phase of Huawei CFO Meng’s U.S. extradition hearing set to wrap up in Canada

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VANCOUVER (Reuters) – Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou arrived in a Vancouver courtroom on Thursday to wrap up the first phase of a U.S. extradition hearing where her lawyers will respond to the Canadian prosecutor’s arguments calling for Meng to be extradited to the United States on bank fraud charges.

Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou leaves her home to attend her extradition hearing at B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada January 23, 2020. REUTERS/Jennifer Gauthier

Legal experts have said it could be years before a final decision is reached in the case, since Canada’s justice system allows many decisions to be appealed.

On Wednesday, prosecutors argued that Meng should be extradited on fraud charges, and that contrary to her defense argument, the case is not solely about violation of U.S. sanctions against Iran.

“Fraud, not sanctions violations is at the heart of this case,” prosecutor Robert Frater told the judge on Wednesday.

Meng, 47, has said she is innocent and is fighting extradition. She entered court wearing a white polka dot dress with a long-sleeved black top and stiletto heels that she has often favored during the trial.

Although the courts had set aside two full days for the prosecution to present its case, the prosecution took only half of a day, and closed its arguments before lunch on Wednesday.

The United States has charged Meng with bank fraud, and accused her of misleading HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA.L) about Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s business in Iran.

But Meng’s legal team argued that “double criminality,” is the central issue in this case. Under Canadian extradition laws, a person can only be extradited if the offence they are alleged to have committed in another country is also considered illegal in Canada. This is commonly called “double criminality.”

Unlike the United States, Canada did not have sanctions against Iran at the time Canadian officials authorized the start of the extradition process, her lawyers have said.

“In reality, sanctions violation is the essence of the alleged misconduct … the United States has a global interest in enforcing its Iran sanctions. Sanctions drive this case,” Richard Peck, one of Meng’s lawyers added.

Frater argued Wednesday that the judge’s job was to “ensure that Canada doesn’t become a safe haven for fraudsters.”

He also said it is not the judge’s role to determine whether Meng is guilty of fraud, but whether the alleged behavior could also be prosecuted as fraud in Canada.

Court proceedings show the United States issued the arrest warrant, which Canada acted on in December 2018, because it believes Meng covered up attempts by Huawei-linked companies to sell equipment to Iran, breaking U.S. sanctions against the country.

Meng’s court proceedings have attracted global media interest and the case has strained relationship between China and Canada.

Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s billionaire founder Ren Zhengfei, remains free on bail in Canada, and has been living in a mansion in Vancouver’s exclusive Shaughnessy neighborhood.

Meng’s legal team is currently only scheduled to call evidence in the last week of April, and a second phase of the trial, focusing on abuse of process and whether Canadian officials followed the law while arresting Meng, is set to begin in June. Closing arguments are expected in the last week of September and first week of October.

Writing by Denny Thomas; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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