Pfizer on Thursday said it would extend until 2030 a drug donation programme aimed at eliminating trachoma, an eye disease responsible for blinding or visually impairing nearly two million people worldwide.
The US pharmaceutical company co-founded the International Trachoma Initiative (ITI) in 1998, and has already donated nearly a billion doses of the antibiotic Azithromycin, contributing to a 90 percent reduction in the number of people impacted.
“We are so close to getting where we need to be with the elimination of this disease that we couldn’t give up now,” Pfizer chief sustainability officer and senior vice president Caroline Roan told AFP.
The announcement was made in Kigali, Rwanda at the Summit on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases.
Trachoma is caused by infection with the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis, and is spread through personal contact (such as through hands, clothes or bedding), and by flies that have been in contact with discharge from the eyes or nose of an infected person, according to the World Health Organization.
Africa is the most affected continent, and women are blinded up to four times more often than men, likely as a result of greater contact with infants. Repeated infections draw the eyelashes inward where they rub against the eye, causing pain and permanent damage to the cornea, says the WHO.
Some 136 million people live in trachoma-endemic areas and are at risk.
The ITI had initially hoped to eliminate the disease by 2020, but is now setting its sights on 2030. Thanks to the progress already made, trachoma no longer represents a public health problem in 13 countries (including China, Morocco, Ghana and elsewhere).
Individual districts are assessed and if more than 5 percent of the children are infected, then the antibiotic is offered to the entire local population, once a year, for both treatment and prevention.
“Some of the campaigns will literally treat 10 million people in a week, and that really knocks down that infectious reservoir,” ITI director Paul Emerson told AFP.
The challenge today is to reach isolated populations, including nomadic people, as well as combining the drug with the promotion of hygiene measures such as frequent washing of the face in areas where water may be scarce.
Today, the disease persists in 44 countries.
“Conflicts are a big factor,” said Emerson. “In a perfect world, where there was no interruption in available funds, and there was no war, we probably could have eliminated trachoma by 2020.”
Of the new 2030 goal, Roan said: “We think it is realistic and ambitious.”
Americans' pandemic-era entrepreneurial streak is holding strong—for now
Inflation has nothing on the American entrepreneurial spirit, which, judging by the volume of new businesses formed, continues to see potential in the post-pandemic economy.
To better understand the post-COVID-19 outlook for entrepreneurship in the U.S., altLINE analyzed data and reports from the National Bureau of Economic Research and the Census Bureau. The data shows that Americans are on track through July of this year to submit 54% more applications to start new businesses compared to the same period in 2019, before the onset of the pandemic.
New business applications soared initially at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic as brick-and-mortar businesses were forced to close their doors in compliance with local social distancing mandates. Stores saw business plummet and many were never able to reopen their doors, even as public health restrictions eased. The seismic shift in shopping habits spurred many Americans to start new business ventures at rates not seen since before the Great Recession, when the U.S. consumer took a hit from one of the deepest recessions on record.
As the current economic situation puzzles economists who debate whether a recession may be in the future, the continuing creation of businesses could mitigate some of the pain of a slowing economy.
Studies have suggested that the growth of the smallest businesses can help an economy’s resilience. Young, tiny companies, sometimes called “microbusinesses,” reduce local unemployment rates in their communities and have been related to rising household incomes, according to GoDaddy’s July 2021 Venture Forward Report.
COVID-19 recession provides shot in the arm
Advancements in technology made it easier for business owners to set up and run online storefronts and services. Leading up to 2020, ecommerce platforms integrating new technology for enhanced shopper experiences provided a critical foundation for the spike in new businesses. As Americans stayed at home during the height of the pandemic, they shopped online for everything from personal care to groceries. Ecommerce sales nearly doubled in 2020, jumping by 43% to a whopping $815 billion in annual retail sales. Thousands in stimulus checks also did their part to keep Americans afloat—and spending. On top of those factors, interest rates for loans to buoy new companies and purchase real estate were at historic lows.
In the first year of the new business surge, retailers in the fashion space made up the lion’s share of new small businesses, according to the GoDaddy Venture Forward Report.
Today, those new business owners face a much more expensive economy. Costs for labor, gas, clothing, food, and other critical inputs for businesses have risen considerably since 2020.
Ground Picture // Shutterstock
New business class faces considerable headwinds
The typical new business faces its most difficult time in its first years of operation. Historically, 4 in 5 new businesses make it beyond their first year, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. But the odds of survival dwindle in each subsequent year of operation. Based on trends, just 1 in 2 businesses created in 2020 will likely survive beyond 2025.
The entrepreneurs looking to survive now face mounting headwinds in the face of rising interest rates, which has made borrowing money more expensive for both consumers and small business owners.
For small businesses seeking venture funding, seed-stage venture capital has stagnated as the venture capitalist ranks have grown wary of investing in early-stage companies. For those seeking loans, the cost of borrowing money today is at its highest since 2001, when the tech bubble burst, throwing the U.S. into recession.
Story editing by Ashleigh Graf. Copy editing by Kristen Wegrzyn.
This story originally appeared on altLINE and was produced and
distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.
Robots are starting to deliver takeout orders. Are they here to stay?
In a March 2023 Deloitte survey, 47% of Americans said they would order from a restaurant that delivers food with a drone or an autonomous vehicle. That’s up 3 percentage points from the company’s 2021 survey about restaurant trends.
In that first survey, researchers noted there was “massive uncertainty in the industry, and many worried that restaurant patronage might never recover” from the COVID-19 pandemic. It found that two-thirds of consumers believed they would not immediately return to their pre-pandemic restaurant habits.
In 2023, most restaurant customer behavior is back to normal—though some changes have blended into the industry’s practices. Task Group analyzed the state of autonomous delivery systems, both nationally and internationally, to measure the progress of this technology post-pandemic.
As with other industries, technology has helped maximize efficiency and improve customer satisfaction. Business owners learned new service methods, marketing strategies, and technical terminology. Food delivery skyrocketed during lockdowns, making greater strides in restaurant efficiency and, in some cases, profits. Many restaurant owners connected apps that allowed customers to order without talking to a human to state-of-the-art delivery systems that don’t require a driver.
Restaurants and transportation companies in North America and Europe are experimenting with new automated delivery techniques that can reduce their costs as long as they do not compromise customer satisfaction. And consumers are ready—but how soon will it become standard practice?
Julija Sh // Shutterstock
What are drones and sidewalk delivery vehicles?
The robots most commonly used in the food delivery industry are aerial drones and wheeled autonomous delivery vehicles that travel along sidewalks to reach customers.
Drones are classified by how they generate lift—with fixed wings, rotors, or a combination—by how they’re used, such as food delivery, and what equipment they have on board, including batteries and cameras.
In the U.S., the Federal Aviation Administration regulates drone use. The agency requires pilots to be certified—and bans drones within five miles of airports.
For many years, the FAA stood in the way of companies seeking to use drones for deliveries, but in 2019, the agency agreed to allow uncrewed delivery flights beyond the pilot’s line-of-sight by UPS and Wing Aviation, owned and operated by Google’s mothership Alphabet. Since then, the agency has approved drone delivery operations for several companies, including Amazon and Walmart.
According to a study published by the Harvard Kennedy School in 2022, autonomous delivery vehicles are not the future. They’re already here. Self-driving machines about the size of a large cooler are already traveling down our sidewalks and crosswalks to deliver various packages.
Policymakers question how these vehicles will work and interact with people and other vehicles in already congested and chaotic urban environments. The Harvard researchers believe these vehicles “offer the promise of less congestion and greener shipments,” but also “raise concerns about safety and use of road and sidewalk infrastructure.”
While the debate continues, the manufacturers of these robots continue to advance their technology, including using machine learning to improve navigation, efficiency, and safety.
How far off are drone or sidewalk deliveries?
Estonia-based delivery startup Bolt, working with Starship Technologies, has been trialing sidewalk deliveries in Estonia, the U.K., and the U.S. and plans to formally launch robot deliveries later this year in as many as 500 cities in 45 countries.
Bolt’s main competitor, Uber, signed a deal in 2022 with autonomous vehicle startup Nuro “to test driverless food deliveries” in Mountain View, California, and Houston, Texas. Before the agreement, Uber ran a pilot program for sidewalk delivery in Los Angeles, while Nuro delivered Domino’s pizzas in specific areas of Houston for a year.
Story editing by Jeff Inglis. Copy editing by Kristen Wegrzyn.
This story originally appeared on Task Group and was produced and
distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.
AI “superusers” seek education, fun, and productivity with generative AI
A look at two separate studies by Sparktoro and Salesforce on people’s generative AI use.
Maybe it was through your job. Or simply out of curiosity.
With the rise of generative AI, you’ve probably tried out ChatGPT or a similar tool. But how often are people using these? More interestingly, what motivates them? Both Salesforce and SparkToro sought to find out with two separate studies.
Here are highlights from each report and how they compare:
Work automation and educational pursuits top priorities for AI users
Both Salesforce and SparkToro can agree on this. SparkToro highlighted professional use of the platform as at an “all-time high,” then ranked categories of interest across over 4,000 ChatGPT prompts with these in the top 5:
- Programming: 29.14%
- Education: 23.30%
- Content: 20.79%
- Sales and Marketing: 13.47%
- Personal & Other: 6.73%
Salesforce found that 75% of generative AI users are motivated by streamlined work communications and task automation. The second highest topic of interest? Technically “messing around” (38%), though a close third was learning and education (34%). Both SparkToro and Salesforce posit that education doesn’t just include homework or university coursework—users also use tools like ChatGPT to develop knowledge of other desired educational topics.
Younger generations more likely to use AI than older ones despite general decline in usage
Salesforce surveyed 4,000 people to find out how they use generative AI and what their demographics are. Turns out, most “superusers” — aka those who use the tool every day — are Millennials or Gen Zers (65%). Plus, 70% of the Gen Z participants surveyed said they use generative AI.
Still, SparkToro notes an overall decline in generative AI use regardless of age. After studying monthly traffic data on OpenAI provided by Datos, SparkToro found overall traffic fell by nearly 30%.
Users ask ChatGPT to write, create, and list
These were the top three common words in SparkToro’s assessment in ChatGPT prompts. However, they also share a notable prevalence of the words “game” and “SEO in prompts as well. Other words less commonly used yet enough to come up in the results included judge, SaaS pricing, curriculum, employment, and employer.
Veronica Ott is a freelance writer and digital marketer with a specialization in finance and business. As a CPA with experience in the industry, she’s able to provide unique insight into various monetary, financial and economic topics. When Veronica isn’t writing, you can find her watching the latest films!
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