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Coronavirus live updates: Work-from-home spurs flurry of software IPOs; Eli Lilly touts early success with antibody drug

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Investigators say Maduro told Venezuelan intelligence ‘who to target’

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Nicolas Maduro speaks during a press conference in Caracas, Venezuela, on March 12, 2020.

Carolina Cabral | Getty Images News | Getty Images

United Nations human rights investigators said on Wednesday they had reason to believe that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the director of the national intelligence service SEBIN to detain opponents without judicial order.

“The way SEBIN worked, particularly the SEBIN, was to do intelligence on people beforehand and these people that were targeted – and we have reasonable grounds to believe that the President Maduro did give orders to the director of SEBIN as to who to target,” Francisco Cox of the U.N. fact-finding mission told a news briefing.

“After that these people were surveilled, information was gathered, their communications were intercepted and finally they would be detained without judicial order, just because there was such an order by the President,” Cox said. “So we have involvement and contribution to the crime by Mr. Maduro, either directly through the chain of command and sometimes circumventing the chain of command and giving the direct order.”

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Lego plans to scrap plastic bags and make more ‘bio bricks’

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The Lego Group is planning to invest as much as $400 million across three years in order to “accelerate sustainability and social responsibility initiatives.”

The company’s plans, announced Tuesday, are wide-ranging and cover a number of areas. Among other things, the toy-making giant said it would look to phase out single-use plastic bags in its products by 2025, with a trial of recyclable paper bags taking place next year.

In addition, the cash will be used to develop more sustainable bricks and packaging, with the family-owned firm looking to increase its use of so-called “bio bricks” made from materials like sugar cane. Research into the development of sustainable plastics made from renewable and recycled sources will also continue.

When it comes to manufacturing operations — a process that can be energy intensive — the business said these would be carbon neutral by the year 2022. This goal will be aided by measures such as the installation of solar panels at all factories as well as renewable energy procurement deals. Attempts will also be made to cut water usage by 10% by 2022, compared to 2019.

The company will also set up programs encouraging people to donate their pre-used bricks so that they can be re-used by “children in need of play.” To this end, the Lego Replay scheme — which launched in the U.S. last year and provided bricks to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston and Teach for America, which used them in after-school programs and classrooms respectively — will be introduced to two more countries before the end of 2022.

In 2018, the Lego Group’s greenhouse gas emissions — encompassing its own operations and supply chain — came to 1.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents.

Breaking that figure down, the firm says that its own operations accounted for 12% of total emissions. Emissions from the Lego Group’s own operations rose by 6% in 2018 compared to 2017, although the business says its carbon efficiency actually improved in this period.

While it may be attempting to reduce its environmental impact, the Lego Group’s current reliance on plastic to produce its toys — at the moment, bio-bricks represent 2% of the firm’s “element portfolio” — comes at a time when the issue of plastic pollution has become a huge talking point.

In the U.K., for example, TV shows such as “Blue Planet II” have raised awareness of the issue. Presented by David Attenborough, the show highlighted the shocking impact plastic has on wildlife and the natural world.

In recent years, a number of multinational firms have made pledges connected to plastic use. In October 2019 consumer goods powerhouse Unilever said it would halve its use of virgin plastic by the year 2025.

The business, whose brands include Dove, Ben & Jerry’s and Lipton, said it would achieve this by cutting its “absolute use of plastic packaging” by over 100,000 metric tons and “accelerating its use of recycled plastic.” Virgin plastics are produced using raw materials, rather than recycled ones.

Attempts to reduce plastic use in the food and drink sector are also taking place, with many restaurants now offering consumers paper straws instead of plastic ones. Efforts to develop more sustainable forms of packaging are also driving innovation.

Back in February, for example, online food delivery business Just Eat announced it had, together with sustainable packaging firm Notpla, developed a “fully recyclable” takeout box lined with seaweed.

In an announcement at the time, Just Eat said the container was able to decompose in four weeks if placed in a home compost. The seaweed-lined cardboard boxes were produced from tree and grass pulp, according to the company.

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Eli Lilly reports lower hospitalization rate with its antibody treatment

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LONDON — Eli Lilly said on Wednesday its antibody-based drug had been shown to reduce the rate of hospitalization for coronavirus patients recently diagnosed with mild-to-moderate symptoms of Covid-19.

The U.S. drugmaker said it tested three different doses of LY-CoV555 against a placebo in a trial enrolling roughly 450 patients. The middle dose of 2,800 mg met the trial’s target of significantly reducing the presence of SARS-CoV-2 after 11 days.

Other doses of the antibody-drug, including the 700 mg dose and the 7,000 mg dose, did not meet that goal.

The announcement comes at a time when many are closely-monitoring the development of antibody drugs as a potential bridge to a coronavirus vaccine.

To date, more than 29.5 million people have contracted Covid-19 worldwide, with 935,591 related deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

“These interim data from the BLAZE-1 trial suggest that LY-CoV555, an antibody specifically directed against SARS-CoV-2, has a direct antiviral effect and may reduce COVID-related hospitalizations,” Daniel Skovronsky, Lilly’s chief scientific officer and president of Lilly Research Laboratories, said in a statement.

“The results reinforce our conviction that neutralizing antibodies can help in the fight against COVID-19,” Skovronsky said.

Shares of Eli Lilly rose around 2.6% in pre-market trade shortly after the announcement.

LY-CoV555 belongs to a class of treatments known as monoclonal antibodies. It is designed to block viral attachment and entry into human cells, thus neutralizing the virus and potentially preventing and treating the coronavirus.

The antibody, developed by Eli Lilly and AbCeller, was identified from a blood sample taken from one of the first U.S. patients who recovered from Covid-19.

Eli Lilly is one of several companies developing antibody drugs, alongside GlaxoSmithKline and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.

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