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Second Wave Shatters COVID-19 Records All Across Europe As France Tops 40k New Cases

COVID-19 Records Shattered Across Europe As France Tops 40k New Cases: Live Updates

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COVID-19 Records Shattered Across Europe As France Tops 40k New Cases: Live Updates Tyler Durden Thu, 10/22/2020 - 15:16

Summary:

  • France, Italy report new records
  • France expands curfew to cover 2/3rds of population
  • Netherlands, Denmark suffer records
  • Chicago orders 'business curfew'
  • Sweden caps night club attendance
  • Florida cases top 5,550
  • Ohio suffers new record
  • Germany, Romania, Poland and Hungary report new records
  • US hospitalizations at 2 month high
  • Brazil says AZ-Oxford trials to continue
  • EU puts pressure on WHO for more transparency
  • South Korea sees rise in cases
  • Spain warns outbreak "out of control"

* * *

Update (1500ET): More records are being set in Europe Thursday.

France reported more than 40,000 new cases on Thursday (41,622 to be exact), a new record, as French health authorities prepare to expand restrictions beyond Paris and the eight other metro areas where the virus is gaining momentum.

The new curfew measures will cover 2/3rds of the population, doubling the number affected to roughly 46 million.

Ireland, meanwhile, is beginning its 6-week lockdown on Thursday.

New highs were also reported in the Netherlands and Greece on Thursday. In Greece, Prime MInister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced on Thursday that there would be a curfew in place between 1230 and 0500 in Athens and second-city Thessaloniki.

The Netherlands reported 9,283 new infections, topping 9k for the first time, while in Denmark, officials reported 760 new cases over the last 24 hours, also a record.

Finally, after photos of people partying in Stockholm caused a stir, the Swedish government has enacted a cap on the number of patrons allowed inside nightclubs at 50.

Greece reported a third straight record with 882 new cases bringing the total to 28,216. It also reported 15 more deaths, bringing its death toll to 549.

Florida posted 5,558 new cases on Thursday, its highest daily tally since mid-August.

* * *

Updates (1400ET):  As COVID-19 cases continue to climb across the Midwest, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Thursday that the city would be imposing a "business curfew" on bars and restaurants preventing them from serving anybody after 10pm. All nonessential businesses, in fact, will face a 6am to 10pm curfew.

Lightfood said the surge in Chicago's positivity rate over the past week, from just 4.6% to 7%, has given her no other choice. She added that she would "not be shocked"  if growing case numbers forced her to implement more emergency measures as time went on.

Elsewhere in the Midwest, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine reported a single-day record for the state.

Gov. DeWine also announced five new "red" counties, bringing the total number of 'red' counties to 38, the largest number yet in the state, as cases and hospitalizations soar.

The governor blamed social gatherings and family get-togethers as the primary drivers of the spread, which doesn't bode well ahead of the holiday season.

COVID-19 cases have been surging across the American Midwest, and Europe, which also saw a number of Central European countries, among the hardest hit on the continent, report fresh records on Thursday.

* * *

Thursday is shaping up to be another rough session for Europe in terms of COVID-19, as Germany just reported more than 10,000 new cases (a new record) for one of Europe's best performers, along with Hungary, Romania and Poland, which all reported fresh record numbers of new cases as well.

While cases continued to decline in India, the state of West Bengal notably bucked the trend on Thursday when it reported 4,069 new cases, its biggest daily tally yet, after a major Hindu street festival brought thousands together across the region. All told, India reported just 55,639 new cases in the past day, up from 54,044 the day before. India's death toll jumpd by 702 to 116,616.

Finally, in the US, the number of COVID-19 patients occupying American hospitals hit 40,000 for the first time since August, according to a Reuters tally. The milestone comes as midwestern states like Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota lead the third wave of the US outbreak. Hospitals have seen the number of patients climb 36% over the past 4 weeks. New York reported more than 2,000 cases in a day yesterday for the first time since May.

After a patient enrolled in AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine trial reportedly died, authorities in Brazil said they wouldn't pause the trial, run by AZ and the University of Oxford, after the death of the volunteer. The volunteer was said to be a Brazilian who had received the placebo, suggesting that his death wasn't related to COVID-19 or the trial.

Here's some other big COVID-19 news from overnight and Thursday morning:

German Health Minister Jens Spahn tested positive for the coronavirus, the health ministry says, adding that he had placed himself in home quarantine (Source: Nikkei).

The European Union wants the World Health Organization to become more transparent about how countries report emerging health crises, a draft proposal on reforming the U.N. agency says, according to Reuters. The paper, drawn up by the German government after discussions with other member states following criticism of China's initial handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, is the latest to outline the EU's monthslong plans to address WHO's shortcomings on funding, governance and legal powers (Source: Nikkei).

Tokyo reports 185 new infections, up from 150 the previous day and bringing the capital's total to 29,520.

India's COVID-19 tally tops 7.7 million after 55,839 new cases were reported in the past 24 hours, up from 54,044 the previous day. The death toll jumped by 702 to 116,616.

South Korea confirms 121 new cases, up from 89 a day ago. Total infections reach 25,543 with 453 deaths.

Romania reported a record 4,902 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of infections to over 196,000. It also registered 98 deaths, the highest daily toll so far. The total number of fatalities stands at 6,163 (Source: Bloomberg).

India’s government has set aside about 500 billion rupees ($7 billion) to vaccinate the world’s most populous nation after China against the coronavirus, according to people with knowledge of the matter (Source: Bloomberg).

Poland registered 12,107 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, a 21% jump from the previous record set a day ago, according to data published by the Health Ministry on Thursday. The death toll in the country of 38 million rose by a record 168 to 4,019. The government is due to announce further restrictions on Thursday in its battle against the pandemic. Slovenia reported a record 1,663 daily infections while the number of hospitalized patients doubled in the past 10 days to 357 (Source: Bloomberg).

One day after becoming the first European country to top 1 million cases, Spain warned that the spread of coronavirus is out of control in certain parts of the country, according to Health Minister Salvador Illa. "We are in the middle of a second wave, it’s no longer a threat but rather a reality," Illa said in an interview on Madrid-based Onda Cero radio. "In some parts of our country the epidemic isn’t under control, so we need to take more drastic measures (Sources: Bloomberg).

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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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