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Briefs: Take Shelter, Going Viral

newsbriefTake Shelter

For the past four years, an event aimed at reducing homelessness in Santa Cruz County has focused its efforts on north county.

But Project Homeless Connect, which has held an event each spring in the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, will host an event for the first time ever in Watsonville on Wednesday, Nov. 5. The all-day event offers medical attention, haircuts, and tips for navigating resources.

“We’re expanding a little bit to include some immigration service as well, because we heard there was demand for that out here,” says organizer Peter Connery, vice president for Applied Survey Research, which is based in Watsonville. “We’re trying to pump that up a little bit.”

Project Homeless Connect is put on by Smart Solutions to Homelessness in Santa Cruz County, a part of the local United Way.  

Project Homeless Connect is 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 5 at the Veterans Memorial Building located at 215 East Beach St., Watsonville. For more info see www.phc-santacruz.org JACOB PIERCE

GOING VIRAL

Researchers combatting the lethal Ebola virus recently upgraded their arsenal with a new weapon: the Ebola genome browser. UCSC scientists released the browser, essentially a live information hub, on Sept. 30.

Research institutions, drug companies, and governments from all over the world can use the browser and its sister website, the Ebola portal, to review everything from the virus’s genetic sequence to current outbreak records.

The West African Ebola epidemic began last year in Guinea, and has since spread to neighboring countries like Sierra Leone and Liberia.

UCSC researcher Jim Kent led the team that launched the browser, which features genomes of the many strains of Ebola, as well its cousin virus, Marburg.

“The browser makes it easy to see the evolution of the virus over time, and between related strains,” Kent says. Scientists can use the virus’ genetic sequence and its evolutionary history to understand which vaccines will work best.  

“In all,” Kent says, “the browser makes most people pretty optimistic that the vaccines developed and tested in animals for previous Ebola outbreaks will continue to work in animals—and hopefully in humans, too.”

The site was online less than a week after Kent first consulted biomedical engineering professor and fellow bioinformatician David Haussler. Haussler, who directs the UCSC Genomics Institute, quickly corralled other researchers to help pool the information needed to make the website. Their collaborative efforts could help contain outbreaks and eventually eradicate the virus. BRENDAN D. BANE

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