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A reflexive act of military revenge burdened the US − and may do the same for Israel

The US response to 9/11 included a declaration that America would destroy its enemies. The effort took decades, and thousands of lives on both sides, and…

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Israeli tanks gather near the border with the Gaza Strip on Oct. 13, 2023. Aris Messinis/AFP via Getty Images

In the wake of the shocking invasion of southern Israel by Hamas militants on Oct. 7, 2023, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to destroy Hamas.

“We are fighting a cruel enemy, worse than ISIS,” Netanyahu proclaimed four days after the invasion, comparing Hamas with the Islamic State group, which was largely defeated by U.S., Iraqi and Kurdish forces in 2017.

On that same day, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant went further, stating, “We will wipe this thing called Hamas, ISIS-Gaza, off the face of the earth. It will cease to exist.” They were strong words, issued in the wake of the horrific terrorist attack that killed more than 1,300 Israelis and culminated in the kidnapping of more than 150 people, including several Americans.

And in a telling comparison, Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Gilad Erdan compared the attack with the toppling of the World Trade Center and the attack on the Pentagon in 2001, declaring, “This is Israel’s 9/11.”

As a scholar of military history, I believe the comparison is interesting and revealing. In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks by al-Qaida on the United States, President George W. Bush made a similar expansive pledge, declaring, “Our war on terror begins with al-Qaida, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.”

The U.S. response to 9/11 included the American invasion of Afghanistan in league with the Afghan United Front, the so-called Northern Alliance. The immediate goals were to force the Taliban from power and destroy al-Qaida. Very little thought or resources were put into what happened after those goals were attained. In his 2010 memoir, “Decision Points,” former President Bush recalled a meeting of the war cabinet in late September 2001, when he asked the assemblage, “‘So who’s going to run the country (Afghanistan)?’ There was silence.”

Wars that are based on revenge can be effective in punishing an enemy, but they can also create a power vacuum that sparks a long, deadly conflict that fails to deliver sustainable stability. That’s what happened in Afghanistan, and that is what could happen in Gaza.

A war of weak results

The U.S. invasion toppled the Taliban from power by the end of 2001, but the war did not end. An interim administration headed by Hamid Karzai took power as an Afghan council of leaders, called a loya jirga, fashioned a new constitution for the country.

Nongovernmental and international relief organizations began to deliver humanitarian aid and reconstruction support, but their efforts were uncoordinated. U.S. trainers began creating a new Afghan National Army, but lack of funding, insufficient volunteers and inadequate facilities hampered the effort.

The period between 2002 and 2006 was the best opportunity to create a resilient Afghan state with enough security forces to hold its own against a resurgent Taliban. Because of a lack of focus, inadequate resources and poor strategy, however, the United States and its allies squandered that opportunity.

As a result, the Taliban was able to reconstitute its forces and return to the fight. As the insurgency gained momentum, the United States and its NATO allies increased their troop levels, but they could not overcome the weakness of the Kabul government and the lack of adequate numbers of trained Afghan security forces.

Despite a surge of forces to Afghanistan during the first two years of the Obama administration and the 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden, the Taliban remained undefeated. As Western forces largely departed the country by the end of 2014, Afghan forces took the lead in security operations, but their numbers and competence proved insufficient to stem the Taliban tide.

Negotiations between the United States and the Taliban went nowhere, as Taliban leaders realized they could seize by force what they could not gain at the bargaining table. The Taliban entry into Kabul in August 2021 merely put an exclamation point on a campaign the United States had lost many years before.

The U.S. exit from Afghanistan in July and August 2021 was chaotic and dangerous, and it left the Afghan state at the mercy of the Taliban.

A goal that’s hard to achieve

As Israel pursues its response to the Hamas attack, the Israeli government would be well advised to remember the past two decades of often indecisive warfare conducted by both the United States and Israel against insurgent and terrorist groups.

The invasion of Afghanistan ultimately failed because U.S. policymakers did not think through the end state of the campaign as they exacted revenge for the 9/11 attacks. An Israeli invasion of Gaza could well lead to an indecisive quagmire if the political goal is not considered ahead of time.

Israel has invaded Gaza twice, in 2009 and 2014, but quickly withdrew its ground forces once Israeli leaders calculated they had reestablished deterrence. This strategy – called by Israeli leaders “mowing the grass,” with periodic punitive strikes against Hamas – has proven to be a failure. The newly declared goal of destroying Hamas as a military force is far more difficult than that.

As four U.S. presidential administrations discovered in Afghanistan, creating stability in the aftermath of conflict is far more difficult than toppling a weak regime in the first place.

The only successful conflict against a terrorist group in the past two decades, against the Islamic State group between 2014 and 2017, ended with both Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq reduced to rubble and thousands of men, women and children consigned to detention camps.

Israel has the capacity to level Gaza and round up segments of the population, but that may not be wise. Doing so might serve the immediate impulse of exacting revenge on its enemies, but Israel would likely receive massive international condemnation from creating a desert in Gaza and calling it peace, and thus forgo the moral high ground it claims in the wake of the Hamas attacks.

Peter Mansoor does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Glimpse Of Sanity: Dartmouth Returns Standardized Testing For Admission After Failed Experiment

Glimpse Of Sanity: Dartmouth Returns Standardized Testing For Admission After Failed Experiment

In response to the virus pandemic and nationwide…

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Glimpse Of Sanity: Dartmouth Returns Standardized Testing For Admission After Failed Experiment

In response to the virus pandemic and nationwide Black Lives Matter riots in the summer of 2020, some elite colleges and universities shredded testing requirements for admission. Several years later, the test-optional admission has yet to produce the promising results for racial and class-based equity that many woke academic institutions wished.

The failure of test-optional admission policies has forced Dartmouth College to reinstate standardized test scores for admission starting next year. This should never have been eliminated, as merit will always prevail. 

"Nearly four years later, having studied the role of testing in our admissions process as well as its value as a predictor of student success at Dartmouth, we are removing the extended pause and reactivating the standardized testing requirement for undergraduate admission, effective with the Class of 2029," Dartmouth wrote in a press release Monday morning. 

"For Dartmouth, the evidence supporting our reactivation of a required testing policy is clear. Our bottom line is simple: we believe a standardized testing requirement will improve—not detract from—our ability to bring the most promising and diverse students to our campus," the elite college said. 

Who would've thought eliminating standardized tests for admission because a fringe minority said they were instruments of racism and a biased system was ever a good idea? 

Also, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out. More from Dartmouth, who commissioned the research: 

They also found that test scores represent an especially valuable tool to identify high-achieving applicants from low and middle-income backgrounds; who are first-generation college-bound; as well as students from urban and rural backgrounds.

All the colleges and universities that quickly adopted test-optional admissions in 2020 experienced a surge in applications. Perhaps the push for test-optional was under the guise of woke equality but was nothing more than protecting the bottom line for these institutions. 

A glimpse of sanity returns to woke schools: Admit qualified kids. Next up is corporate America and all tiers of the US government. 

Tyler Durden Mon, 02/05/2024 - 17:20

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Four burning questions about the future of the $16.5B Novo-Catalent deal

To build or to buy? That’s a classic question for pharma boardrooms, and Novo Nordisk is going with both.
Beyond spending billions of dollars to expand…

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To build or to buy? That’s a classic question for pharma boardrooms, and Novo Nordisk is going with both.

Beyond spending billions of dollars to expand its own production capacity for its weight loss drugs, the Danish drugmaker said Monday it will pay $11 billion to acquire three manufacturing plants from Catalent. It’s part of a broader $16.5 billion deal with Novo Holdings, the investment arm of the pharma’s parent group, which agreed to acquire the contract manufacturer and take it private.

It’s a big deal for all parties, with potential ripple effects across the biotech ecosystem. Here’s a look at some of the most pressing questions to watch after Monday’s announcement.

Why did Novo do this?

Novo Holdings isn’t the most obvious buyer for Catalent, particularly after last year’s on-and-off M&A interest from the serial acquirer Danaher. But the deal could benefit both Novo Holdings and Novo Nordisk.

Novo Nordisk’s biggest challenge has been simply making enough of the weight loss drug Wegovy and diabetes therapy Ozempic. On last week’s earnings call, Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen said the company isn’t constrained by capital in its efforts to boost manufacturing. Rather, the main challenge is the limited amount of capabilities out there, he said.

“Most pharmaceutical companies in the world would be shopping among the same manufacturers,” he said. “There’s not an unlimited amount of machinery and people to build it.”

While Novo was already one of Catalent’s major customers, the manufacturer has been hamstrung by its own balance sheet. With roughly $5 billion in debt on its books, it’s had to juggle paying down debt with sufficiently investing in its facilities. That’s been particularly challenging in keeping pace with soaring demand for GLP-1 drugs.

Novo, on the other hand, has the balance sheet to funnel as much money as needed into the plants in Italy, Belgium, and Indiana. It’s also struggled to make enough of its popular GLP-1 drugs to meet their soaring demand, with documented shortages of both Ozempic and Wegovy.

The impact won’t be immediate. The parties expect the deal to close near the end of 2024. Novo Nordisk said it expects the three new sites to “gradually increase Novo Nordisk’s filling capacity from 2026 and onwards.”

As for the rest of Catalent — nearly 50 other sites employing thousands of workers — Novo Holdings will take control. The group previously acquired Altasciences in 2021 and Ritedose in 2022, so the Catalent deal builds on a core investing interest in biopharma services, Novo Holdings CEO Kasim Kutay told Endpoints News.

Kasim Kutay

When asked about possible site closures or layoffs, Kutay said the team hasn’t thought about that.

“That’s not our track record. Our track record is to invest in quality businesses and help them grow,” he said. “There’s always stuff to do with any asset you own, but we haven’t bought this company to do some of the stuff you’re talking about.”

What does it mean for Catalent’s customers? 

Until the deal closes, Catalent will operate as a standalone business. After it closes, Novo Nordisk said it will honor its customer obligations at the three sites, a spokesperson said. But they didn’t answer a question about what happens when those contracts expire.

The wrinkle is the long-term future of the three plants that Novo Nordisk is paying for. Those sites don’t exclusively pump out Wegovy, but that could be the logical long-term aim for the Danish drugmaker.

The ideal scenario is that pricing and timelines remain the same for customers, said Nicole Paulk, CEO of the gene therapy startup Siren Biotechnology.

Nicole Paulk

“The name of the group that you’re going to send your check to is now going to be Novo Holdings instead of Catalent, but otherwise everything remains the same,” Paulk told Endpoints. “That’s the best-case scenario.”

In a worst case, Paulk said she feared the new owners could wind up closing sites or laying off Catalent groups. That could create some uncertainty for customers looking for a long-term manufacturing partner.

Are shareholders and regulators happy? 

The pandemic was a wild ride for Catalent’s stock, with shares surging from about $40 to $140 and then crashing back to earth. The $63.50 share price for the takeover is a happy ending depending on the investor.

On that point, the investing giant Elliott Investment Management is satisfied. Marc Steinberg, a partner at Elliott, called the agreement “an outstanding outcome” that “clearly maximizes value for Catalent stockholders” in a statement.

Elliott helped kick off a strategic review last August that culminated in the sale agreement. Compared to Catalent’s stock price before that review started, the deal pays a nearly 40% premium.

Alessandro Maselli

But this is hardly a victory lap for CEO Alessandro Maselli, who took over in July 2022 when Catalent’s stock price was north of $100. Novo’s takeover is a tacit acknowledgment that Maselli could never fully right the ship, as operational problems plagued the company throughout 2023 while it was limited by its debt.

Additional regulatory filings in the next few weeks could give insight into just how competitive the sale process was. William Blair analysts said they don’t expect a competing bidder “given the organic investments already being pursued at other leading CDMOs and the breadth and scale of Catalent’s operations.”

The Blair analysts also noted the companies likely “expect to spend some time educating relevant government agencies” about the deal, given the lengthy closing timeline. Given Novo Nordisk’s ascent — it’s now one of Europe’s most valuable companies — paired with the limited number of large contract manufacturers, antitrust regulators could be interested in taking a close look.

Are Catalent’s problems finally a thing of the past?

Catalent ran into a mix of financial and operational problems over the past year that played no small part in attracting the interest of an activist like Elliott.

Now with a deal in place, how quickly can Novo rectify those problems? Some of the challenges were driven by the demands of being a publicly traded company, like failing to meet investors’ revenue expectations or even filing earnings reports on time.

But Catalent also struggled with its business at times, with a range of manufacturing delays, inspection reports and occasionally writing down acquisitions that didn’t pan out. Novo’s deep pockets will go a long way to a turnaround, but only the future will tell if all these issues are fixed.

Kutay said his team is excited by the opportunity and was satisfied with the due diligence it did on the company.

“We believe we’re buying a strong company with a good management team and good prospects,” Kutay said. “If that wasn’t the case, I don’t think we’d be here.”

Amber Tong and Reynald Castañeda contributed reporting.

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Petrina Kamya, Ph.D., Head of AI Platforms at Insilico Medicine, presents at BIO CEO & Investor Conference

Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb….

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Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb. 26-27 at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. Dr. Kamya will speak as part of the panel “AI within Biopharma: Separating Value from Hype,” on Feb. 27, 1pm ET along with Michael Nally, CEO of Generate: Biomedicines and Liz Schwarzbach, PhD, CBO of BigHat Biosciences.

Credit: Insilico Medicine

Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb. 26-27 at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. Dr. Kamya will speak as part of the panel “AI within Biopharma: Separating Value from Hype,” on Feb. 27, 1pm ET along with Michael Nally, CEO of Generate: Biomedicines and Liz Schwarzbach, PhD, CBO of BigHat Biosciences.

The session will look at how the latest artificial intelligence (AI) tools – including generative AI and large language models – are currently being used to advance the discovery and design of new drugs, and which technologies are still in development. 

The BIO CEO & Investor Conference brings together over 1,000 attendees and more than 700 companies across industry and institutional investment to discuss the future investment landscape of biotechnology. Sessions focus on topics such as therapeutic advancements, market outlook, and policy priorities.

Insilico Medicine is a leading, clinical stage AI-driven drug discovery company that has raised over $400m in investments since it was founded in 2014. Dr. Kamya leads the development of the Company’s end-to-end generative AI platform, Pharma.AI from Insilico’s AI R&D Center in Montreal. Using modern machine learning techniques in the context of chemistry and biology, the platform has driven the discovery and design of 30+ new therapies, with five in clinical stages – for cancer, fibrosis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and COVID-19. The Company’s lead drug, for the chronic, rare lung condition idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, is the first AI-designed drug for an AI-discovered target to reach Phase II clinical trials with patients. Nine of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies have used Insilico’s AI platform to advance their programs, and the Company has a number of major strategic licensing deals around its AI-designed therapeutic assets, including with Sanofi, Exelixis and Menarini. 

 

About Insilico Medicine

Insilico Medicine, a global clinical stage biotechnology company powered by generative AI, is connecting biology, chemistry, and clinical trials analysis using next-generation AI systems. The company has developed AI platforms that utilize deep generative models, reinforcement learning, transformers, and other modern machine learning techniques for novel target discovery and the generation of novel molecular structures with desired properties. Insilico Medicine is developing breakthrough solutions to discover and develop innovative drugs for cancer, fibrosis, immunity, central nervous system diseases, infectious diseases, autoimmune diseases, and aging-related diseases. www.insilico.com 


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