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‘Back To The Future’ Morphs Into Dystopia

‘Back To The Future’ Morphs Into Dystopia

Authored by Austin Padgett via The Mises Institute,

It is 2023, eight years after 2015, the year…

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'Back To The Future' Morphs Into Dystopia

Authored by Austin Padgett via The Mises Institute,

It is 2023, eight years after 2015, the year of flying cars and climate-controlled clothing that Marty McFly traveled to in a time machine. In our own world, the ruling elite wants to ban cars to control the climate.

How did we get here? What caused the discrepancy between our vision of a more advanced future and the reality we face now?

We had reason to expect it.

From 1860–1970, the United States grew at an average of over 5 percent per year. But starting in the 1970s, and for the last five decades since then, America has experienced an average GDP growth rate of 2.7 percent. Had the previous growth rate continued, the economy would be at least 65 percent larger than it is today. The current GDP would be an additional $15 trillion, or $45,000 per capita.

The gap in unrealized potential is massive and accounts for the discrepancy between our past visions of the future and our current reality. If people knew about the future that was stolen from them, they would be outraged. The loss of a potential that was never known usually cannot affect people, but there is a growing sense that something doesn’t add up.

In the new reality of anemic growth, a strange mix of cutting-edge technology and crumbling infrastructure is emerging. This is mirrored in contemporary science fiction, which is more likely to depict a dystopian future than one like that envisioned by The Jetsons or a Jules Verne novel. How did this happen? What sent us so wildly off the path set by previous achievements?

There is a common political narrative that the “laissez-faire” push to deregulate and cut taxes under Reagan in the 1980s resulted in a consolidation of wealth and corporate power that led to our current malaise. The main problem with this narrative is that there was no recent laissez-faire moment. Regulation and public spending continued to increase through the 1980s. When the government couldn’t raise taxes high enough to keep up with spending, it just inflated the money supply, a strategy that became easier when the gold standard was fully abandoned in 1971.

Starting in the late 1960s, the number of pages published in the Federal Register exploded (figure 1). The number of pages of the Code of Federal Regulations, which is thought to reflect the overall regulatory burden, has increased by a factor of 10, from twenty thousand to over two hundred thousand pages (figure 2).

Figure 1: Total pages published in the Federal Register (1936–2022)

Source: Regulatory Studies Center.

Figure 2: Total pages published in the Code of Federal Regulations (1950–2021)

Source: Regulatory Studies Center.

The longest period of low growth in our history is also characterized by the expansion of the regulatory state. Corporate consolidation skyrocketed in the same period. In 1970, the top four companies in any given industry made up on average 20 percent of the market share. Today, the top four companies in any given industry control roughly 80 percent. Regulatory monopolies create single points from which special interests can control whole markets and enrich the wealthiest people. They are fully endorsed by the elite institutions yet sold through the pretense of keeping vulnerable consumers safe from asymmetries of power.

People who legitimately care about the poor or the environment should not support these federal agencies. The viewpoint that regulations lead to improved standards puts the cart before the horse. If the US regulation of the maximum amount of pesticide residue allowed on produce were imposed on a developing country, that country’s agricultural production would be wiped out overnight.

Reducing the use of chemicals, when done correctly, saves resources and improves soil quality and yield, but it also requires a great deal of knowledge and technology. Without being able to know exactly when insects will arrive, it may be necessary to spray every day for weeks to minimize the chance of catastrophic failure. Without knowing how to implement a system of crop rotation correctly, the soil will likely degrade over time. Without testing, mapping out, and integrating the soil into the tractor’s spray system, it won’t be possible to limit fertilizer use to the areas that need it.

The regulatory strictness of a country tends to vary directly with its level of economic development because mandates require infrastructure. Eventually, tractor components that can identify and kill weeds with an electric current will largely eliminate the demand for herbicides. A law will then be passed, with much self-congratulation, that bans herbicides, reinforcing the advantages of the bigger players and creating new barriers for the smaller.

Mining deaths dropped dramatically with the advent of electrical lighting and ventilation technology. The decline was not affected in any observable way after the creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) because the government only legally codifies standards after the relevant technology and knowledge has entered the market. They do, however, take credit for the improvement and write the standards in a way that favors the specific practice of a particular industry association or corporate cartel.

This preference often takes the form of regulations that favor scale, which is why local food supplies have shrunk while centralized supply chains run by a few companies have come to dominate the market. It is ironic that regulators claim to be protecting consumers: surveys show that 96 percent of consumers think locally produced food is “the freshest, healthiest and most nutritious food.”

Regulatory restrictions slow the rate of innovation by creating barriers to market entry but also by protecting corporations that operate within the confines of the regulatory standards from legal liability for harming consumers or the environment.

Regulatory capture was described by Lao Tzu 2,500 years ago in China.

“In the kingdom the multiplication of prohibitive enactments increases the poverty of the people” and “the more display there is of legislation, the more thieves and robbers there are.”

Such policies drastically increase income inequality, not to keep you safe but so that special interests can bring back mercantilism by controlling markets as guilds once did.

The resulting lack of options facilitates technocratic control of society. Nothing would hurt the average billionaire more than to see the average American stop falling for this ruse.

Tyler Durden Wed, 10/18/2023 - 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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Another country is getting ready to launch a visa for digital nomads

Early reports are saying Japan will soon have a digital nomad visa for high-earning foreigners.

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Over the last decade, the explosion of remote work that came as a result of improved technology and the pandemic has allowed an increasing number of people to become digital nomads. 

When looked at more broadly as anyone not required to come into a fixed office but instead moves between different locations such as the home and the coffee shop, the latest estimate shows that there were more than 35 million such workers in the world by the end of 2023 while over half of those come from the United States.

Related: There is a new list of cities that are best for digital nomads

While remote work has also allowed many to move to cheaper places and travel around the world while still bringing in income, working outside of one's home country requires either dual citizenship or work authorization — the global shift toward remote work has pushed many countries to launch specific digital nomad visas to boost their economies and bring in new residents.

Japan is a very popular destination for U.S. tourists. 

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This popular vacation destination will soon have a nomad visa

Spain, Portugal, Indonesia, Malaysia, Costa Rica, Brazil, Latvia and Malta are some of the countries currently offering specific visas for foreigners who want to live there while bringing in income from abroad.

More Travel:

With the exception of a few, Asian countries generally have stricter immigration laws and were much slower to launch these types of visas that some of the countries with weaker economies had as far back as 2015. As first reported by the Japan Times, the country's Immigration Services Agency ended up making the leap toward a visa for those who can earn more than ¥10 million ($68,300 USD) with income from another country.

The Japanese government has not yet worked out the specifics of how long the visa will be valid for or how much it will cost — public comment on the proposal is being accepted throughout next week. 

That said, early reports say the visa will be shorter than the typical digital nomad option that allows foreigners to live in a country for several years. The visa will reportedly be valid for six months or slightly longer but still no more than a year — along with the ability to work, this allows some to stay beyond the 90-day tourist period typically afforded to those from countries with visa-free agreements.

'Not be given a residence card of residence certificate'

While one will be able to reapply for the visa after the time runs out, this can only be done by exiting the country and being away for six months before coming back again — becoming a permanent resident on the pathway to citizenship is an entirely different process with much more strict requirements.

"Those living in Japan with the digital nomad visa will not be given a residence card or a residence certificate, which provide access to certain government benefits," reports the news outlet. "The visa cannot be renewed and must be reapplied for, with this only possible six months after leaving the countr

The visa will reportedly start in March and also allow holders to bring their spouses and families with them. To start using the visa, holders will also need to purchase private health insurance from their home country while taxes on any money one earns will also need to be paid through one's home country.

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