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Biden’s Middle East trip has messages for both global and domestic audiences

Until 1906, no US president had ever traveled abroad in office. Then Teddy Roosevelt demonstrated the power of showing up.

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President Joe Biden disembarks from Air Force One for a NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on July 10, 2023. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

Even before his arrival in Israel, U.S. President Joe Biden’s decision to travel to an active war zone and the scene of an unfolding humanitarian crisis has spoken volumes.

The White House has stated that Biden’s purpose is to “demonstrate his steadfast support for Israel” after Hamas’ “brutal terrorist attack” on Oct. 7, 2023. But Israel wasn’t meant to be his only stop.

The president was also scheduled to travel to Amman, Jordan, to meet with Jordanian King Abdullah II, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. However, the meeting was canceled with Biden already en route to Israel.

The trip is a bold but risky move, a carefully orchestrated display of Biden’s belief that the United States should take an active leadership role in global affairs. It is a strategy Biden has used before, most notably in his February 2023 surprise visit to Ukraine.

As a scholar of U.S. presidential rhetoric and political communication, I have spent the past decade studying how chief executives use their international travels to reach audiences at home and abroad. I see clear parallels between Biden’s trip and similar actions by other presidents to extend American influence on the world stage.

Roosevelt sits in the cab of a large steam shovel
President Theodore Roosevelt, center, is seated on a steam shovel in the Panama Canal Zone during the first trip abroad by a U.S. chief executive, in November 1906. New York Times photo archive/Wikimedia

A paramount duty

Prior to 1906, no U.S. president had ever traveled abroad while in office. A long-standing tradition held that the U.S. had left the trappings of monarchy behind, and that it was much more appropriate for chief executives to travel domestically, where Americans lived and worked.

President Theodore Roosevelt, who had an expansive view of presidential power, bemoaned what he called this “ironclad custom” and ultimately bucked it. In November 1906, Roosevelt visited the Panama Canal Zone and posed at the controls of a giant steam shovel to shore up public support for constructing the canal. Beyond pushing this megaproject forward, the trip enabled Roosevelt to see and be seen on the international stage.

Other presidents followed suit as the U.S. began to take a more active role in global affairs. Just before Woodrow Wilson departed for the 1919 Paris Peace Conference at Versailles, where world leaders convened to set the terms for peace after World War I, he stated in his annual message to Congress that it was his “paramount duty to go” and participate in negotiations that were of “transcendent importance both to us and to the rest of the world.”

During World War II, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt embraced this idea of bearing a moral responsibility to speak to, and for, both U.S. citizens and a global audience. Images of FDR seated between British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Josef Stalin at Tehran and Yalta symbolized global leadership – a robust vision that endured after the U.S. president’s untimely death.

Three world leaders seated side on the porch of a building
Soviet leader Josef Stalin, U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill on the portico of the Russian Embassy in Tehran, Iran, during their conference, Nov. 28-Dec. 1, 1943. Library of Congress

Embodying US foreign policy

Going global quickly became a deliberate rhetorical strategy during the Cold War, as presidents from Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan used trips abroad to symbolize American commitment to important places and regions. By choosing to visit certain destinations, presidents made clear that these places were important to the U.S.

This is exactly what Biden no doubt hopes to accomplish through his visit to Israel. When he condemned the Hamas attack on Israel as “an act of sheer evil,” he also declared: “We stand with Israel.” Traveling to an active war zone embodies this pledge far more clearly than words alone.

And this is how Israelis have interpreted the visit. Tzachi Hanegbi, the leader of Israel’s National Security Council, described the visit as “a bear hug, a large rapid bear hug to the Israelis in the south, to all Israelis, and to every Jew.”

Addressing both sides

But Biden must also acknowledge the very real plight of Palestinians who are trapped in dire conditions in Gaza as Israel prepares for a ground invasion. This is no doubt the reason his team sought a face-to-face meeting with Abbas.

I expect that Biden will demonstrate U.S. support for Israel while also drawing a clear distinction between Hamas and the Palestinian people. And Biden will likely draw on his friendship of many years with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to urge moderation in Israel’s military response.

President Joe Biden’s trip will embody U.S. commitment to Israel while giving the president an opportunity to moderate its actions.

The home audience

Biden’s trip also has important meaning for U.S. electoral politics. A former chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden has long maintained that the U.S. must take an active role in the world. In the 2020 presidential campaign, he argued that Donald Trump’s policy of “America First” had left “America alone” by undercutting relationships with critical U.S. allies.

For Jewish voters, the president’s visit offers tangible evidence of an enduring U.S. commitment to Israel, especially after some far-left Democratic lawmakers refused to criticize the Hamas attack. And Biden’s willingness to condemn Hamas as a “terrorist organization” may also speak to Republican voters, who are much more likely to back Israel.

Defining an appropriate role for the U.S. in world affairs is certain to be an important issue in the 2024 presidential election, especially with active conflicts in Ukraine and now in the Middle East. Biden has consistently called for U.S. engagement abroad – not only in words, but by showing up in places like Kiev and Tel Aviv.

Allison M. Prasch 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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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.

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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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