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Countering Censorship With Free Speech And Facts

Countering Censorship With Free Speech And Facts

Authored by Dr. Carl Heneghan and Dr. Tom Jefferson via The Daily Sceptic,

At the centre…

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Countering Censorship With Free Speech And Facts

Authored by Dr. Carl Heneghan and Dr. Tom Jefferson via The Daily Sceptic,

At the centre of democracy is free speech. But everywhere you look it is under attack. There has been a surge in concerns about the creeping censorship that fills the airwaves and the increasing suppression on various media platforms.

Our work has been targeted by those who aim to silence and limit our right to free speech. Therefore, we consider it vital to understand the tactics of censorship to exercise your right to freedom of expression and contribute to the fight for free speech.

The Instant Emotional Outburst  

This usually is an abusive attack that uses swear words (‘you stupid asshole‘) or seeks to defame you somehow: you’re a murderer, you have blood on your hands. It typically is an instantaneous reaction that seeks to shut down the debate immediately. Everyone should know you’re such a bad person, and therefore equally, your opinions are …..

We find this strategy impossible to engage with and should be ignored.     

The Labelling Technique 

This will pigeonhole you as an ‘anti’ something, a ‘phobic’ or an ‘-ist’. It may paint you as a Right-winger or a Left-winger. The aim is to put you in your place: you’re someone with a fixed ideology and, consequently, a terrible person. Therefore, your views aren’t worth engaging with. This is a common tactic as it doesn’t address the message you portray but instead attacks you, the messenger

It’s a tactic that academics often use: Jeremy Farrar used it in his book. Somehow there are “serious scientists”, and therefore there are those that lack the ability to be serious.

As a strategy, it is impossible to deal with and is a certain ender of debate. However, when this happens, it generally means you are on the right track, so don’t be fazed by these disturbing actions; it shows the attacker has lost his way and cannot formulate a coherent argument; he has run out of options. 

The Takedown 

Increasingly this is the tactic of social media sites. Driven by certain positions that suit the status quo or the government of the day, you’ll be removed from social media sites such as Twitter or Facebook. Or your message will come with a warning.

Often underpinned by fact-checking sites, this strategy requires action to overcome any ban. We think it is necessary to regulate such sites if they act like news outlets. While the latter have editorial controls, the former should be clear about the process of what it should and shouldn’t allow and how it deals with disputes.  

We also learned some politicians favour this tactic. For example, the Lockdown Files based on Leaked WhatsApp messages showed that attacks were partly orchestrated by Matt Hancock, who harnessed the full power of the state to silence ‘dissenters’. As far as Hancock was concerned, anyone who fundamentally disagreed with his approach was mad and dangerous and needed to be shut down.

One of the answers is to create multiple channels for your outlets, and increasingly, we’re finding Substack a valuable outlet for explainers about the problems. 

The Undermining Publication.

While the emotional outburst, the labelling and the takedown undermine your credibility, a fourth approach is to produce a website or a publication that seeks to destroy your reputation. 

In January 2021, a website called ‘Anti-Virus: The Covid-19 FAQ’ was created by a group unknown to us, including a sitting MP. Its sole purpose was to debunk messages that disagreed with mainstream Government policies — the website list “myths” about Covid and names “sceptics”, including us. If you click on names, you will be introduced to a series of capital charges against us. We were no longer evidence-based if we questioned the evidence for policies such as the Rule of Six.

The website was “dedicated to debunking common Covid Sceptic arguments and highlighting the track record of some of the most influential and consistently-wrong Covid Sceptics”.

However, the truth will emerge over the long term, and the proponents of such sites will end up wishing they had never embarked on such a foolhardy strategy. 

But beware of being called out for making an error. Undertaking research is fraught with dangers; mistakes are common and can occur at all stages, even at the point of publication. An overzealous editor can change one word, and the whole meaning of your text can go out the window. Of course, mistakes made should be acknowledged and corrected. But beware of the censorship zealots who will seek to taint all your work going forward as error-strewn.

The complaints

An insidious approach that seeks to get your boss and your organisation to shut you up. The complainant hasn’t got the means or the argument to take you on directly. Instead, he or she goes behind your back, puts you and your family under pressure, and, in some circumstances, threatens your livelihood. In doing so, he accepts his inability to debate and discuss the issues directly. 

However, sometimes they will also make a big deal over the investigation. Your work is tainted because the organisation deems you worthy of an investigation. The vast majority of complaints are disagreements, but organisations seem ill-equipped to tell the difference between a valid complaint and someone employing the tactics of censorship and suppression. 

Editorial Bias

We have increasingly seen several journals and news outlets take a particular stance and only report or accept articles based on their ideological views. Unfortunately, nothing can be done to counter this problem; however, it is worth understanding those outlets that take such fixed views. Beware of those that seek to slander you editorially. 

We’ve been surprised by some of the medical journals’ one-sided approaches – including the commissioning of biased and Teflon editorials and the deviation from usual editorial processes that seek to undermine the research output. Teflon is when the uncomfortable message cannot stick to you, the editor, because you are hiding behind an editorial undermining the research you do not like. In fact, with Teflon, nothing sticks.

Some editors cannot withstand the pressure of the social media posse, who circle their prey like vultures. The worst thing an editor can do is give in to these bullies: unelected, relentless and often overnight experts. Give in once to the posse, and you may perish, or even worse, you might find your work retracted. Be ready for the onslaught and prepare well. In your fightback, take the emotion out of your responses and turn to the evidence. 

But beware of those editors who choose peer reviewers to support their one-sided views using anonymous attacks to suppress research outputs that don’t meet their predetermined opinions. Ultimately though, it will be to their discredit as they should be built on impartiality and fairness: it’s fair to say that journals have had a lousy pandemic. However, there’s little to do here but move on to the next journal; there’s plenty of them. 

Comments Cartel

This is a brilliant tactic. It consists of an organised onslaught on a piece of published research work. You can see this in the comments to A122. The underlying message is that the research is unsound because so many people post negative comments; hence, science is democratic, and the Noes have it, which is nonsense. We recommend databasing the addresses of the senders if they exist and checking the text for style patterns, as most of the comments are repetitions passed along from one member of the cartel to the next.

It’s worth reminding yourself of some laws that protect you if you decide to speak out.

The 1986 Education Act (No.2) states: “Persons concerned in the Government of any establishment… shall take such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured for members, students and employees of the establishment and for visiting speakers.” The 1988 Education Reform Act references the right of U.K. academics “to question and test received wisdom and to put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing their jobs or the privileges they may have at their institution”. The European Convention on Human Rights Article 10 states that “protection extends to the expression of views that may shock, disturb or offend the deeply held beliefs of others”. UNESCO’s 1997 Recommendation concerning the Status of Higher-Education Teaching Personnel states that institutions should be accountable for effectively supporting academic freedom and fundamental human rights.

It comes down to this: no single idea or belief should be privileged. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. If we elicit an emotional response or find that folk disagree or are disappointed by our answers, we have done our job. However, emotions that lead to the tactics of suppression and censorship fail to engage critically with the issues of the day. 

Reflecting uncertainty is a central tenet of free speech. However, the current pursuit of truth is a path filled with hazards. Learning to approach matters of debate critically and with confidence will ensure our democratic values remain intact.

*  *  *

Dr. Carl Heneghan is the Oxford Professor of Evidence Based Medicine and Dr. Tom Jefferson is an epidemiologist based in Rome who works with Professor Heneghan on the Cochrane Collaboration. This article was first published on their Substack blog, Trust The Evidence, which you can subscribe to here.

Tyler Durden Thu, 05/25/2023 - 17:00

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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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