Connect with us

International

Deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust spurs a crisis of confidence in the idea of Israel – and its possible renewal

Israel’s foundational social contract – that the government would keep Israelis safe – was severed with the deadly attacks by Hamas on Oct. 7, 2…

Published

on

Family and friends of those taken hostage by Hamas during an attack on Israel react during a press conference on Oct. 13, 2023, in Tel Aviv, Israel. Leon Neal/Getty Images

Living for 75 years within a hostile neighborhood has required the state of Israel to provide security against external threats to all its citizens.

That responsibility is a social contract between citizens and the state: The state is obligated to provide security for its people, especially those who live near its borders, that makes living there safe. In return, young Israelis must serve in the army.

That unwritten contract was abruptly shattered for Israelis in the morning hours of Oct. 7, 2023. And with it, the very premise and promise that led to the establishment of the state was suddenly put in doubt.

That Saturday, when a surprise assault by Hamas stunned Israel, has been recognized as a date that will live in infamy – recalling U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s memorable words about Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor – in the annals of the state of Israel, indeed even in the annals of much older Jewish history.

Over 1,300 Israelis lost their lives in acts of mass killing on that day, mostly civilians. They were all murdered – executed, slaughtered, tortured, burned – by Hamas terrorists who launched a pogrom-like onslaught on Israeli villages on a scale never seen before. About 150 people, mostly Israeli civilians, were brutally kidnapped on that day by the attackers.

I am an Israeli historian, specializing in Israel’s nuclear history. I believe that to recognize the full meaning of Oct. 7, 2023, for Israel and Israelis, it must be placed in historical perspective, both Israeli and Jewish. There are other perspectives, including historical ones, but this essay is an attempt to portray the events of Oct. 7, 2023 – and their profound significance – as Israelis experienced them.

Mourners crying and placing flowers at a grave site.
The Oct. 11, 2023, funeral in Gan Haim, Israel, of May Naim, 24, murdered by Hamas militants at the ‘Supernova’ festival near the Israeli-Gaza border. Amir Levy/Getty Images

‘Never again’ was the state’s promise

Almost every Israeli citizen now is only one degree of separation from the victims of Oct. 7, 2023. For Israel, this is truly a national calamity in Biblical terms.

During the Holocaust, the Nazi killing machine executed thousands of Jews every day for years. But since then, there has never been a day in the 75 years of Israeli history that such a large number of Jews were killed, including the most horrific days of the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Zionism as a national-political movement to establish a Jewish homeland came into being due to the pogroms – violent, usually murderous attacks in Europe – and the antisemitism of the late 19th century. By 1939, nobody could tell whether Zionism would succeed or fail. But it was the Shoah – Hebrew for “Holocaust” – that decisively unleashed the impetus among the Jewish people and internationally to create the state of Israel as a Jewish state, which stood as the triumph of Zionism.

The raison d'être – the purpose, justification, and international legitimacy – of the creation of Israel in 1948 was that it would be a safe homeland for the Jews as a fundamental response to the lesson of the Holocaust: Jews should no longer be victims.

So Israel came into being along with the national avowal “Never Again,” made by both the survivors and their rescuers, as its founding ethos. For Israelis and their supporters around the world, the triumph of Israel is the extraordinary transformation from Holocaust to national revival or, in Hebrew, from Shoah to Tekuma.

Over its life as a new state, Israel has built itself as a blend of the pen and the sword. On the sword side, Israel is the region’s military powerhouse. On the pen side, Israel has become a cultural force both within and beyond its borders, a hub of academic excellence and perhaps most known as a “startup nation,” a center of high-tech innovation.

Four men - three in uniform - salute something.
From its establishment, Israel promised to defend its citizens. Here, founding Prime Minister David Ben Gurion inspects troops in Tel Aviv along with Gen. Yigal Allon (far left) and Gen. Yigal Yadin (second from left), in October 1948. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration

Government fails its part of the contract

By now it is clear that the multi-faceted surprise Hamas onslaught – by sea, air and land – along the entire 40-mile long Gaza barrier demonstrated the colossal failure of all elements of the vaunted Israeli defense systems, including intelligence collection and warning, military deployment and readiness, command and control systems.

Indeed, Israeli military planners never even considered such an all-out attack as a worst-case scenario, as now openly acknowledged by former senior military officials.

Israel’s supposedly formidable border walla ground barrier that cost over a billion dollars and was completed in 2021 – was rendered useless almost instantly. Within minutes, the attackers overwhelmed some 30 sites on the other side of it – civilian settlements, military bases and even an outdoor concert site.

There were almost no Israeli troops deployed in the area in the first place to defend the many points of attack, in part due to the holiday and lack of advanced warning, and in part due to the complacent confidence in the wall and its high-tech support system.

Furthermore, since almost all military communication was cut off by Hamas knocking out the communication towers, Israeli military and political leaders for hours had only a vague idea of the unfolding calamity.

That colossal military failure reminded many Israelis of the dismal shock the country experienced in the 1973 Yom Kippur war. The resemblance seems obvious – then and now, Israelis witnessed catastrophic intelligence and operational blunders that cost so many lives due to complacency and arrogance.

But in some key respects, the catastrophe in 2023 seems even more traumatic – it shakes the very foundations of Israel as the embodiment of Zionism, a safe Jewish homeland. In 1973, the casualties of the blunder were almost all soldiers; the civilians were kept far from the fighting and safe.

Yet on Oct. 7, this was not the case.

‘We are being slaughtered’

If the founding commitment of the state to its citizens was “Never again,” the brutal new reality that emerged on Oct. 7 was “Never before.”

For long hours on that day, countless Israeli civilians were crying for help that in too many cases didn’t arrive in time. Never before in Israeli history had so many civilians been left for so long without the help of the army.

“We are being slaughtered. There is no army. It has been six hours,” one kibbutz resident said in desperation. “People are begging for their lives.”

Never before had Israelis found themselves whispering desperately to TV studios and social media, not knowing who else to call, while terrorists were inside their houses.

Now, Israel has mobilized the largest reserve army it has ever amassed – a response that reflects its attempt to re-commit to the idea, and the reality, of never again being so vulnerable.

Yet this national trauma will be reckoned for in generations to come. How could such a calamity happen? Who is responsible for such a catastrophe? How is it possible that a powerful nation was so complacent?

The official Israeli response to those soul-searching questions is that for now the nation must wage war and those questions must and will be thoroughly studied. But, they say, not now. Investigate this later, after the war is won.

Yet those questions are simmering and boiling within the Israeli psyche; it is impossible to resist them. There is clarity and confidence that once the war is over, professional and judicial investigations will be thoroughly conducted, but some have already accepted moral responsibility. This movement toward both demanding and accepting responsibility demonstrates a renewed faith among Israelis about the future for their country.

Most prominently, the Israeli military’s Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, has acknowledged publicly the failure of the army and took responsibility for that failure to provide security to the citizens of Israel.

The sole Israeli national figure who has acknowledged nothing about responsibility is the one on whose watch it all happened, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Indeed, except for a few taped statements, in the week after the war began, Netanyahu had avoided meeting members of the public as well as taking questions from the press.

The rage against Netanyahu in the Israeli public is mounting.

Avner Cohen 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.

Read More

Continue Reading

International

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…

Published

on

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.

Read More

Continue Reading

International

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….

Published

on

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 


Read More

Continue Reading

International

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.

Published

on

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. 

Shutterstock

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.

Read More

Continue Reading

Trending