Durham Prosecutes FBI Informants, While Protecting Their Handlers: Sperry
Durham Prosecutes FBI Informants, While Protecting Their Handlers: Sperry
Authored by Paul Sperry via RealClear Investigations,
Authored by Paul Sperry via RealClear Investigations,
Since being named special counsel in October 2020, John Durham has investigated or indicted several unscrupulous anti-Trump informants. But he has spared the FBI agents who handled them, raising suspicions he's letting investigators off the hook in his waning investigation of misconduct in the Russiagate probe.
In recent court filings, Durham has portrayed the G-men as naive recipients of bad information, tricked into opening improper investigations targeting Donald Trump and obtaining invalid warrants to spy on one of his advisers.
But as the cases against the informants have gone to trial, defense lawyers have revealed evidence that cuts against that narrative. FBI investigators look less like guileless victims and more like willing partners in the fraudulent schemes Durham has brought to light.
Notwithstanding his reputation as a tough, intrepid prosecutor, Durham has made excuses for the misconduct of FBI agents, providing them a ready-made defense against any possible future prosecution, according to legal experts.
"Durham was supposed to clean up the FBI cesspool, but it doesn't look like he's going to be doing that," said Paul Kamenar, counsel to the National Legal and Policy Center, a Washington watchdog group. "He started with a bang and is ending with a whimper."
In the latest example, critics point to a flurry of pretrial motions in Durham's case against former FBI informant Igor Danchenko, the primary source for the false claims regarding Trump and Russia advanced by the opposition research paid for by Hillary Clinton's campaign known as the Steele dossier.
Next month, Danchenko faces charges he lied to FBI investigators multiple times about the sourcing of the information in the dossier, which the bureau used to secure wiretap warrants to spy on a former Trump campaign adviser. Relying on Danchenko's reporting, the FBI claimed that the adviser, Carter Page, was a Russian agent at the center of "a well-developed conspiracy of cooperation" between Trump and the Kremlin to steal the 2016 presidential election.
"The defendant was providing them with false information" as part of "a concerted effort to deceive the FBI," Durham alleged in a recent filing with the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., where the trial is scheduled to be held Oct. 11.
Had agents known Danchenko made up the allegations, Durham asserted, they might have asked more questions about the dossier and not relied on it to swear out the ultra-invasive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants to electronically monitor Page, a U.S. citizen who was never charged with a crime.
But Danchenko's legal team points out that he turned over an email to the FBI during a January 2017 meeting with agents and analysts that indicated a key dossier subsource may have been fictionalized. Stuart Sears, one of Danchenko's attorneys, argued earlier this month in a motion to dismiss the charges that investigators "essentially ignored" any concerns they may have had about Danchenko's sourcing, because they continued to renew the FISA warrants based upon it. Therefore, he argued, any lies his client allegedly told them were inconsequential, making them un-prosecutable under federal statutes requiring such false statements to have a "material" impact on a federal proceeding.
While Durham did not dispute the FBI's apparent complicity in the fraud, he waved it aside as immaterial to the case at hand. "The fact that the FBI apparently did not identify or address these inconsistencies is of no moment," he said in his filing.
At the same time, Durham acknowledged agents allowed the fabrications to contaminate their wiretap warrants – noting they were "an important part of the FISA applications targeting Carter Page." But he stopped short of blaming the FBI, even for incompetence. According to Durham, the nation's premiere law enforcement agency was misled by a serial liar and con man.
"He's painting it as though the FBI was duped when the FBI was more than willing to take the initiative and go after Trump," Kamenar said, adding that though Danchenko may have been a liar, he was a useful liar to FBI officials and others in the Justice Department who were pursuing Trump.
The special prosecutor's indifference to the FBI's role in the scandal is more remarkable in light of what Danchenko admitted in his January 2017 interviews with the FBI. He told investigators that much of what he reported to Steele was "word-of-mouth and hearsay," while some was cooked up from "conversation that [he] had with friends over beers," according to a declassified FBI summary of the interviews, which took place over three days. He confessed the most salacious allegations were made in "jest."
Still, the FBI continued to use Danchenko's claims of a "well-developed conspiracy of cooperation" between Russia and Trump to convince the FISA court to allow investigators to continue to surveil Page, whom the FBI accused of masterminding the conspiracy based on Danchenko's bogus rumors. Agents even swore in FISA court documents reviewed by RealClearInvestigations that Danchenko was "truthful and cooperative."
The combination of Danchenko reporting a "conspiracy" and the FBI vouching for his credibility persuaded the powerful FISA court to continue to authorize wiretapping Page as a suspected Russian agent for almost a year. In addition to collecting his emails and text messages in 2017, agents were able to sweep up all his prior communications with Trump officials from 2016.
If the FBI were skeptical of Danchenko, it didn't show it. The next month, the bureau put him on its payroll as a confidential human source, or CHS, making him part of the bureau's untouchable "sources and methods" sanctum and thereby protecting him and any documents referencing him from congressional and other outside scrutiny. It made him a paid informant in spite of knowing Danchenko was a potential Russian spy threat who could be feeding federal agents disinformation. The FBI had previously opened a counterespionage probe of Danchenko from 2009 to 2011, and as his lawyers pointed out in a recent court filing, agents who were part of the case probing Trump/Russia ties, codenamed Crossfire Hurricane, "were well aware of the prior counterintelligence investigation" when they were supposedly conned by their informant.
"It stretches credibility to suggest that anything else would have caused the FBI to be more suspicious of Mr. Danchenko's statements and his potential role in spreading disinformation than the very fact that he was previously investigated for possibly engaging in espionage on behalf of Russia," Sears said. "Armed with that knowledge, however, the FBI nevertheless persisted" in using him as a source – while never informing the FISA court of the prior investigation.
The FBI didn't terminate Danchenko until October 2020, the month after the Senate declassified documents revealing the FBI had investigated him as a Russian agent. It also happened to be the same month Durham was appointed special counsel.
On Oct. 19, 2020, then-Attorney General Bill Barr tapped Durham "to investigate whether any federal official, employee, or any other person or entity violated the law in connection with the intelligence, counter-intelligence, or law-enforcement activities directed at the 2016 presidential campaigns, individuals associated with those campaigns, and individuals associated with the administration of President Donald J. Trump, including but not limited to Crossfire Hurricane and the investigation of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller, III."
So far, Durham has focused on the "any other person" part of his mandate. Federal officials and employees appear to be getting a pass.
Though Durham prosecuted former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith in August 2020, when he was acting as a U.S. attorney, he did not initiate the case. Rather, it was referred to him by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who first exposed how Clinesmith had doctored exculpatory evidence in the Page warrant process. Even though Clinesmith admitted forging a CIA email to make it look like Page never helped the agency monitor Russia, when in fact he did and clearly wasn't acting as a Russian agent, Durham failed to put him behind bars. Clinesmith was sentenced to 12 months' probation and 400 hours of community service, which as RCI first reported, the registered Democrat satisfied by researching and editing articles for his favorite liberal weekly newspaper in Washington.
Kamenar said the Clinesmith case was a "bad omen" for how Durham would handle dirty FBI agents. He pointed out that the prosecutor could have charged Clinesmith with the more serious crime of altering a CIA document, but instead negotiated a deal letting him plead to the lesser offense of lying to a government agency, which Kamenar called "a garden variety process crime." And "now he's got his law license back."
Clinesmith worked closely on the case with FBI Supervisory Intelligence Analyst Brian Auten, who was singled out by Horowitz in a 2019 report for cutting a number of corners in the dossier verification process and even allowing information he knew to be incorrect slip into the FISA affidavits and mislead the court.
Auten met with Danchenko at the bureau's Washington field office and helped debrief him about the dossier in January 2017. And he wrote the official FBI summary of those meetings, which noted Danchenko "contradicted" himself several times. Auten learned firsthand that the information Danchenko passed to Steele was nothing more than bar gossip, and that his "network of subsources" was really just a circle of drinking buddies. Also at those meetings, the analyst received an Aug. 24, 2016, email revealing that Danchenko never actually communicated with Sergei Millian, the Belarusian-born American businessman whom he had identified as his main source of Trump/Russia connections – the all-important, albeit apocryphal, "Source E" and "Source D" of the dossier. It turns out Danchenko attributed the critical "conspiracy of cooperation" allegation the FBI cited as probable cause for all four FISA warrants to this made-up source, meaning the cornerstone evidence of suspected Trump-Russia espionage was also made up.
What's more, Auten learned that though Danchenko was born in Russia, he was not based there and had no access to Kremlin insiders. On the contrary, he confirmed that Danchenko had been living in Washington and had previously worked for the Brookings Institution, a Democratic Party think tank whose president at the time was tied to Clinton.
Yet Auten and his Crossfire team led the FISA court to believe Danchenko was "Russian-based" – and therefore presumably more credible. They used this same description in all four FISA affidavits, including the two renewals that followed the January 2017 meetings with Danchenko.
Internal FBI emails from two months later revealed that Auten knew that using the term "Russian-based" was deceptive. While tasked with helping review Crossfire documents requested by Congress, including FISA applications, he worried about the description and whether it should be corrected. He discussed the matter with Clinesmith. But the falsehood reappeared in subsequent FISA applications.
It was also in January 2017 that Danchenko revealed to Auten and his FBI handlers that one of his subsources was his childhood friend Olga Galkina, whom he said supplied him the rumor that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen traveled to Prague during the campaign to hatch a plot with Kremlin officials to hack Clinton campaign emails.
The FBI already knew from intelligence reports that Cohen had not, as the dossier claimed, traveled to Prague to conspire in the alleged Russian hacking of Democrats, or for any other reason.
On Jan. 12, 2017, Auten and his Crossfire teammates received a CIA report that warned the Cohen rumor was likely part of a Russian disinformation campaign. The agency had discovered no such Prague meeting took place after querying foreign intelligence services, shooting a major hole in the dossier. The CIA report should have led the Crossfire team to treat any allegations sourced to Galkina with caution. But on the same day, the FBI got its FISA wiretap on Page renewed based on another groundless claim by Galkina – this one alleging the Trump aide secretly met with top Kremlin officials in Moscow to discuss removing U.S. sanctions. The falsehood showed up in two more FISA applications, which alleged "Russia's efforts to influence U.S. policy were likely being coordinated between the RIS [Russian Intelligence Services] and Page, and possibly others."
Galkina also had a relationship with Charles Dolan, a Clinton adviser who figures prominently in the Danchenko case Durham is prosecuting.
It turns out Dolan was one of the sources for the infamous "pee-tape" allegation about the Kremlin supposedly having blackmail evidence of Trump consorting with prostitutes at the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow, which has been debunked as another dossier hoax. But according to Durham, Danchenko tried to conceal Dolan's role in the dossier from the FBI. The special prosecutor argued that the deception deprived FBI agents and analysts information that would have helped them evaluate "the credibility, reliability and veracity" of the dossier. He said if they had known Dolan was a source, they might have, among other things, sought emails Dolan and Danchenko exchanged exposing their Ritz-Carlton hoax.
"Had the defendant truthfully told the FBI that Dolan played a role in providing certain information for the Steele reports the FBI might well have interviewed and/or collected such emails from Dolan," Durham speculated.
In addition, the prosecutor said, investigators might have learned of Dolan's "involvement in Democratic politics" and "potential bias as a source for the Steele reports." Except that they already knew about Dolan and his politics – as well as his involvement in the dossier. It's also likely they already had his emails.
In another interview with Danchenko about his dossier sources, which took place June 15, 2017, FBI agents asked Danchenko if he knew Dolan and whether he was "contributing" to the Steele reports. Though Danchenko acknowledged he knew Dolan, he denied he was a source. Agents didn't ask any follow-up questions. (They also never sought to charge him with making false statements to federal agents.)
How did the FBI know to ask about Dolan? Because he was well-known to the bureau's Russia counterintelligence agents as a businessman who frequently traveled to Moscow and met with Kremlin insiders. But more importantly, his friend Galkina was under FISA surveillance as a suspected Russian spy at the time, according to declassified records. The FBI was collecting not only Galkina's emails, but also those of Dolan and Danchenko, all of whom regularly communicated in 2016 – which suggests that at the time the FBI asked Danchenko about Dolan, it had access to those emails and was reviewing them.
This may explain why, as defense lawyer Sears noted, "the FBI never asked Mr. Danchenko about emails or any other written communications with Dolan" – and why it never interviewed Dolan.
While Durham acknowledged that the FBI knew about Dolan's troubling ties at the time and neglected to dig deeper, he said he's not bothered by the oversight. "The fact that the FBI was aware that Dolan maintained some of these relationships and failed to interview Dolan is of no moment," he maintained dismissively in a court filing. All that matters, he suggested, is that the FBI was lied to.
One of those emails was particularly alarming. In an Aug. 19, 2016, email to Dolan, Danchenko made it clear he was compiling dirt on Trump and his advisers and sought any rumor, no matter how baseless and scurrilous. He solicited Dolan, specifically, for "any thought, rumor, allegation" on former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.
Such emails called into question the veracity of the whole dossier and further tainted the credibility of Danchenko's "network of subsources." But on June 29, 2017 – two weeks after the FBI asked about Dolan – the FBI renewed the FISA wiretap on Trump adviser Page based on, once again, the dubious dossier.
From its wiretapping of Galkina, moreover, Auten and others at the FBI who sorted through such FISA collections would have seen communications showing her strong support for Hillary Clinton, and how Galkina was expecting political favors in exchange for spreading dirt on Trump. In an August 2016 email to a friend, Galkina expressed hopes that Dolan would help her score a State Department job if Clinton won election.
It was a major red flag. But like all the others, the FBI blew right past it. Agents continued to vouch for Danchenko as "truthful" and his subsources as reliable, and continued to cite Galkina's fabrications in FISA renewals.
Under FISA rules, the FBI had a duty to "immediately inform" the secret court of any misstatements or omissions, along with any "necessary corrections" of material facts sworn in affidavits for warrants. But the FBI failed to correct the record, even after it became obvious it had told the court falsehoods and hid exculpatory evidence. In August 2017, agents finally got around to interviewing Galkina, who confessed the dossier allegations attributed to her were "exaggerated," according to the Horowitz report.
Scammed by the Alfa Bank Scam?
Last year, Durham also painted the FBI as a victim of the 2016 political machinations of two other anti-Trump informants – Michael Sussmann and Rodney Joffe, who conveyed to investigators false rumors about Trump allegedly setting up a secret hotline with the Kremlin through Russia-based Alfa Bank.
Durham charged Sussmann, a Washington lawyer who represented the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign, with lying to the FBI's top lawyer James Baker when he told him he was coming in with the tip – outlined in white papers and thumb drives – all on his own and not on behalf of Democrats and Clinton, whom he was billing for the Trump-Alfa "confidential project."
"Sussmann's false statement misled the FBI general counsel and other FBI personnel concerning the political nature of his work and deprived the FBI of information that might have permitted it more fully to access and uncover the origins of the relevant data and technical analysis, including the identities and motivations of Sussmann's clients," Durham maintained in the indictment.
But evidence emerged at the trial of Sussmann, who was acquitted, that bureau officials already knew the "political nature" of the tip and where the data came from, but withheld the information from field agents so they would continue investigating Trump through the election.
For example, in a Sept. 22, 2016, email describing the "special project," an FBI official in Washington stated that "Counsel Baker provided [Supervisory Special Agent] Joe Pientka with 2 thumb drives and identified they were given to him by the DNC."
"Everybody at the FBI actually thought the data came from a political party," Sussmann lawyer Sean Berkowitz argued, according to the trial transcript. "The (case) file is littered with references to the DNC."
But Durham kept offering explanations for why FBI brass bit on the politically tainted tip, opening a full field investigation based on it.
"Had Sussmann truthfully disclosed that he was representing specific clients [the Clinton campaign], it might have prompted the FBI general counsel to ask Sussmann for the identity of such clients, which, in turn, might have prompted further questions," Durham argued.
"In addition, absent Sussmann's false statement, the FBI might have taken additional or more incremental steps before opening an investigation," he added. "The FBI also might have allocated its resources differently, or more efficiently, and uncovered more complete information about the reliability and provenance of the purported data at issue."
Headquarters, however, did know the identity of the clients. Problem was, they blinded agents in Chicago, where a cyber unit was assigned to the case, to the fact that the source for the information was Sussmann and Joffe – a federal cyber-security contractor who was angling for a job in a Clinton administration. (A longtime FBI informant, Joffe was terminated last year after he was exposed as the ringleader of the Alfa Bank scam.)
"You were not allowed to speak to either the source of the information, the author of the white paper, or the person who provided the source of the information and the data?" Berkowitz asked Chicago-based FBI agent Curtis Heide during the trial, according to transcripts.
"Correct," Heide replied.
Another Chicago investigator was led to believe the tip came into the bureau as a referral from the "U.S. Department of Justice."
Still, field agents were able to debunk it within two weeks.
The FBI was not fooled by the hoax, yet nonetheless went along with it for the next four months. The case wasn't formally closed until Jan. 18, 2017, just two days before Trump was inaugurated. But then it was soon reopened after Clinton operatives again approached the FBI – as well as the CIA – with supposedly new evidence, which also proved false.
"Comey and crew kept the hoax alive," former FBI counterintelligence lawyer Mark Wauck said, referring to then-FBI Director James Comey. They welcomed any predication that allowed them to open investigations on Trump, he added.
Pientka testified that Comey was "fired up" about the tip, despite the fact nothing had been corroborated. Comey even held senior-level meetings on the Alfa investigation in his 7th floor office. (Pientka, who led the "close-hold" investigation from headquarters, also helped supervise the Crossfire Hurricane probe.)
Ironically, no one knew better that Sussmann was a Democratic operative with an agenda than Baker – the official Durham claimed was the direct victim of the scam.
Baker, a fellow Democrat, was a close friend of Sussmann, who had his own badge to get past security at the Hoover Building. Sussmann had Baker's personal cell number and Baker cleared his busy schedule to meet with him within hours of Sussmann calling to discuss his tip. Baker was well aware that Sussmann was representing the DNC, because Sussmann entered the building numerous times during the 2016 campaign to talk with top FBI officials about the alleged DNC hack by Russia. In fact, Sussmann had just visited headquarters with a delegation from the DNC on Aug. 12, 2016 – several weeks before he approached Baker with the bogus Alfa tip. They were there to pressure the FBI into concluding Russian intelligence was behind the "hacking" of DNC emails.
"I understood he had been affiliated with the Democratic Party, but that he had come representing himself," Baker testified during the trial.
Why didn't he tell investigators about Sussmann? "I didn't want to share his name because I didn't want to color the investigation," he said. "I didn't want to color it with politics."
In his closing argument, Durham prosecutor Andrew DeFilippis told jurors the FBI's conduct was "not relevant."
"Ladies and gentlemen, you've seen that the FBI didn't necessarily do everything right here. They missed opportunities. They made mistakes. They even kept information from themselves," he said. "That is not relevant to your evaluation of the defendant's lie."
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton complained Durham and his team have been acting more like apologists for the FBI than potential prosecutors of the FBI.
"The FBI leadership knew full well the Clinton gang was behind the Alfa Bank-Russia smears of Trump," he said. "Durham tried to pretend (the) FBI was a victim (when) it was a co-conspirator."
Wauck agreed. "The FBI-as-victim narrative was a bit of a legal fiction that Durham deployed for the purposes of the trial," he said. "The reality that emerged is that the FBI's top management was complicit in the Russia hoax that Sussmann was purveying."
Folding Up His Tent
Durham was first tasked with looking into the origins of the Russiagate probe in May 2019, before his formal appointment as special counsel in 2020. Trump and Republicans have expressed disappointment that after a total of more than three years of investigation, he has not prosecuted any top former FBI officials, including Comey and Andrew McCabe, who signed some of the FISA affidavits, or Peter Strzok, the biased leader of the Crossfire Hurricane probe who assured McCabe's lawyer in an August 2016 text that "we'll stop" Trump from becoming president. None has received a target letter. In recent months, McCabe and Strzok have gone on CNN, where they work as paid contributors, and smugly bashed Durham for running a "partisan" investigation, while at the same time gloating he's held the FBI up to be more of a victim than a culprit.
"Comey and Strzok and McCabe have gotten a free ride out of all this," Kamenar said.
Also, Durham went easy on Baker, another top FBI official, even after he held back key evidence from the special prosecutor before the Sussmann trial, a blatant lack of cooperation that may have cost Durham a conviction in the case. Comey's general counsel has received "favorable treatment," Wauck observed.
Baker, who reviewed and OK'd the FISA applications, never told Durham about a damning text message he received from Sussmann on his cellphone. Durham had already indicted Sussmann for lying to Baker, and he could not use Sussmann's smoking-gun message – "I'm coming on my own – not on behalf of a client or company" – during the trial to convince jurors he was guilty of lying about representing the Clinton campaign. Legal analysts said it was slam-dunk evidence that would have sealed his case.
Baker testified he didn't turn over the text to Durham because no one asked for it. He proved a reluctant witness on the stand against his old pal Sussmann.
"I'm not out to get Michael and this is not my investigation. This is your investigation," he told DeFilippis during questioning. DeFilippis has since stepped down to take a job in the private sector.
(Demonstrating the incestuous nature of the Beltway, Baker also happens to be an old friend of Bill Barr, who hired Durham. Barr hired Baker as his deputy when he ran Verizon's legal shop in 2008.)
In another sign Durham has not lived up to his billing as an aggressive prosecutor, FBI Director Christopher Wray suggested in recent Senate testimony that Durham's team has not interviewed all of the Crossfire members still employed at the bureau. In lieu of face-to-face interviews, he said Durham's investigators have reviewed transcripts of interviews of the agents previously conducted by the Office of Professional Responsibility, the FBI's in-house disciplinary arm.
Recent published reports say Durham is in the process of closing up shop and completing a final report on his findings by the end of the year. Republicans have promised to seize on the report if they win control of the House in November and take back the gavel to key oversight committees on the Hill, along with subpoena power.
Some former colleagues who have worked with Durham and are familiar with his inquiry blame COVID-19 for his relatively few prosecutions and lackluster record. They say pandemic-related shutdowns in 2020 and 2021 set back his investigation by limiting travel, interviews, and grand jury hearings. As a result, they say, the clock ran out on prosecuting a number of potential crimes. The last FISA warrant, which according to the court was illegally obtained, was approved June 29, 2017, which means the five-year federal statute of limitations for that crime expired months ago.
Though Durham hinted in the Sussmann case about investigating a broader "conspiracy" or "joint venture," there are few signs pointing to such a massive undertaking. Bringing a "conspiracy to defraud the government" charge, naming multiple defendants, would require Durham adding staff and office space and beefing up his budget by millions of dollars, the former colleagues said.
According to expenditure statements, Durham continues to operate on a shoestring budget with a skeletal staff compared with his predecessor Mueller's robust operation, which indicted 34 people. And one of the two grand juries Durham used to hear evidence has expired. It recently wrapped up work, apparently without handing down new indictments (though some could be under seal).
"If Durham were building toward an overarching indictment alleging a corrupt conspiracy between the Clinton campaign and the FBI to deceive the court, he would not be charging people with lying to the FBI," former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy said.
If there are any investigations still open after Durham retires, they could be handled by U.S. attorneys, the sources said. At least one of Durham's prosecutors works as a trial lawyer in the U.S. Attorney's Office in D.C.
According to a court exhibit, Joffe "remains a subject" in the Sussmann-related investigation into alleged attempts by federal contractors to defraud the government with false claims about Trump and Russia. Joffe invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify after receiving a grand jury subpoena and has not cooperated with requests for documents. His lawyer did not return phone calls and emails.
The Special Counsel's Office did not respond to requests for comment.
The FBI declined comment for this article, but issued a statement last year saying it "has cooperated fully with Special Counsel Durham's review."
Asking the right dumb questions
You’ll have to forgive the truncated newsletter this week. Turns out I brought more back from Chicago than a couple of robot stress balls (the one piece…
You’ll have to forgive the truncated newsletter this week. Turns out I brought more back from Chicago than a couple of robot stress balls (the one piece of swag I will gladly accept). I was telling someone ahead of the ProMat trip that I’ve returned to 2019 travel levels this year. One bit I’d forgotten was the frequency and severity of convention colds — “con crud,” as my comics friends used to call it.
I’ve been mostly housebound for the last few days, dealing with this special brand of Chicago-style deep-dish viral infection. The past three years have no doubt hobbled my immune system, but after catching COVID-19 three times, it’s frankly refreshing to have a classic, good old-fashioned head cold. Sometimes you want the band you see live to play the hits, you know? I’m rediscovering the transformative properties of honey in a cup of tea.
The good news for me is that (and, hopefully, you) is I’ve got a trio of interviews from ProMat that I’ve been wanting to share in Actuator. As I said last week, the trip was really insightful. At one of the after-show events, someone asked me how one gets into tech journalism. It’s something I’ve been asked from time to time, and I always have the same answer. There are two paths in. One is as a technologist; the other is as a journalist.
It’s obvious on the face of it. But the point is that people tend to enter the field in one of two distinct ways. Either they love writing or they’re really into tech. I was the former. I moved to New York City to write about music. It’s something I still do, but it’s never fully paid the bills. The good news for me is I sincerely believe it’s easier to learn about technology than it is to learn how to be a good writer.
I suspect the world of robotics startups is similarly bifurcated. You enter as either a robotics expert or someone with a deep knowledge of the field that’s being automated. I often think about the time iRobot CEO Colin Angle told me that, in order to become a successful roboticist, he first had to become a vacuum salesman. He and his fellow co-founders got into the world through the robotics side. And then there’s Locus robotics, which began as a logistics company that started building robots out of necessity.
Both approaches are valid, and I’m not entirely sure one is better than the other, assuming you’re willing to surround yourself with assertive people who possess deep knowledge in areas where you fall short. I don’t know if I entirely buy the old adage that there’s no such thing as a dumb question, but I do believe that dumb questions are necessary, and you need to get comfortable asking them. You also need to find a group of people you’re comfortable asking. Smart people know the right dumb questions to ask.
Covering robotics has been a similar journey for me. I learned as much about supply chain/logistics as the robots that serve them at last week’s event. That’s been an extremely edifying aspect of writing about the space. In robotics, no one really gets to be a pure roboticist anymore.
Q&A with Rick Faulk
I’m gonna kick things off this week with highlights from a trio of ProMat interviews. First up is Locus Robotics CEO, Rick Faulk. The full interview is here.
TC: You potentially have the foundation to automate the entire process.
RF: We absolutely do that today. It’s not a dream.
It’s not lights out. Lights out might happen 10 years from now, but the ROI is not there to do it today. It may be there down the road. We’ve got advanced product groups working on some things that are looking at how to get more labor out of the equation. Our strategy is to minimize labor over time. We’re doing integrations with Berkshire Grey and others to minimize labor. To get to a dark building is going to be years away.
Have you explored front-of-house — retail or restaurants?
We have a lot of calls about restaurants. Our strategy is to focus. There are 135,000 warehouses out there that have to be automated. Less than 5% are automated today. I was in Japan recently, and my meal was filled by a robot. I look around and say, “Hey, we could do that.” But it’s a different market.
What is the safety protocol? If a robot and I are walking toward each other on the floor, will it stop first?
It will stop or they’ll navigate around. It’s unbelievably smart. If you saw what happened on the back end — it’s dynamically planning paths in real time. Each robot is talking to other robots. This robot will tell this robot over here, “You can’t get through here, so go around.” If there’s an accident, we’ll go around it.
They’re all creating a large, cloud-based map together in real time.
That’s exactly what it is.
When was the company founded?
[In] 2014. We actually spun out of a company called Quiet Logistics. It was a 3PL. We were fully automated with Kiva. Amazon bought Kiva in 2012, and said, “We’re going to take the product off the market.” We looked for another robot and couldn’t find one, so we decided to build one.
The form factors are similar.
Their form factor is basically the bottom. It goes under a shelf and brings the shelf back to the station to do a pick. The great thing about our solution is we can go into a brownfield building. They’re great and they work, but it will also take four times the number of robots to do the same work our robots do.
Amazon keeps coming up in my conversations in the space as a motivator for warehouses to adopt technologies to remain competitive. But there’s an even deeper connection here.
Amazon is actually our best marketing organization. They’re setting the bar for SLAs (service-level agreements). Every single one of these 3PLs walking around here [has] to do same- or next-day delivery, because that’s what’s being demanded by their clients.
Do the systems’ style require in-person deployment?
The interesting thing during COVID is we actually deployed a site over FaceTime.
Someone walked around the warehouse with a phone?
Yeah. It’s not our preferred method. They probably actually did a better job than we did. It was terrific.
As far as efficiency, that could make a lot of sense, moving forward.
Yeah. It does still require humans to go in, do the installation and training — that sort of thing. I think it will be a while before we get away from that. But it’s not hard to do. We take folks off the street, train them and in a month they know how to deploy.
Where are they manufactured?
We manufacture them in Boston, believe it or not. We have contract manufacturers manufacturing some components, like the base and the mast. And then we integrate them together in Boston. We do the final assembly and then do all the shipments.
As you expand sales globally, are there plans to open additional manufacturing sites?
We will eventually. Right now we’re doing some assemblies in Amsterdam. We’re doing all refurbishments for Europe in Amsterdam. […] There’s a big sustainability story, too. Sustainability is really important to big clients like DHL. Ours is an inherently green model. We have over 12,000 robots in the field. You can count the number of robots we’ve scrapped on two hands. Everything gets recycled to the field. A robot will come back after three or four years and we’ll rewrap it. We may have to swap out a camera, a light or something. And then it goes back into service under a RaaS model.
What happened in the cases where they had to be scrapped?
They got hit by forklifts and they were unrepairable. I mean crushed.
Any additional fundraising on the horizon?
We’ve raised about $430 million, went through our Series F. Next leg in our financing will be an IPO. Probably. We have the numbers to do it now. The market conditions are not right to do it, for all the reasons you know.
Do you have a rough timeline?
It will be next year, but the markets have got to recover. We don’t control that.
Q&A with Jerome Dubois
Next up, fittingly, is Jerome Dubois, the co-founder of Locus’ chief competitor, 6 River Systems (now a part of Shopify). Full interview here.
TC: Why was [the Shopify acquisition] the right move? Had you considered IPO’ing or moving in a different direction?
JD: In 2019, when we were raising money, we were doing well. But Shopify presents itself and says, “Hey, we’re interested in investing in the space. We want to build out a logistics network. We need technology like yours to make it happen. We’ve got the right team; you know about the space. Let’s see if this works out.”
What we’ve been able to do is leverage a tremendous amount of investment from Shopify to grow the company. We were about 120 employees at 30 sites. We’re at 420 employees now and over 110 sites globally.
Amazon buys Kiva and cuts off third-party access to their robots. That must have been a discussion you had with Shopify.
Up front. “If that’s what the plan is, we’re not interested.” We had a strong positive trajectory; we had strong investors. Everyone was really bullish on it. That’s not what it’s been. It’s been the opposite. We’ve been run independently from Shopify. We continue to invest and grow the business.
From a business perspective, I understand Amazon’s decision to cut off access and give itself a leg up. What’s in it for Shopify if anyone can still deploy your robots?
Shopify’s mantra is very different from Amazon. I’m responsible for Shopify’s logistics. Shopify is the brand behind the brand, so they have a relationship with merchants and the customers. They want to own a relationship with the merchant. It’s about building the right tools and making it easier for the merchant to succeed. Supply chain is a huge issue for lots of merchants. To sell the first thing, they have to fulfill the first thing, so Shopify is making it easier for them to print off a shipping label.
Now, if you’ve got to do 100 shipping letters a day, you’re not going to do that by yourself. You want us to fulfill it for you, and Shopify built out a fulfillment network using a lot of third parties, and our technology is the backbone of the warehouse.
Watching you — Locus or Fetch — you’re more or less maintaining a form factor. Obviously, Amazon is diversifying. For many of these customers, I imagine the ideal robot is something that’s not only mobile and autonomous, but also actually does the picking itself. Is this something you’re exploring?
Most of the AMR (autonomous mobile robot) scene has gotten to a point where the hardware is commoditized. The robots are generally pretty reliable. Some are maybe higher quality than others, but what matters the most is the workflows that are being enacted by these robots. The big thing that’s differentiating Locus and us is, we actually come in with predefined workflows that do a specific kind of work. It’s not just a generic robot that comes in and does stuff. So you can integrate it into your workflow very quickly, because it knows you want to do a batch pick and sortation. It knows that you want to do discreet order picking. Those are all workflows that have been predefined and prefilled in the solution.
With respect to the solving of the grabbing and picking, I’ve been on the record for a long time saying it’s a really hard problem. I’m not sure picking in e-comm or out of the bin is the right place for that solution. If you think about the infrastructure that’s required to solve going into an aisle and grabbing a pink shirt versus a blue shirt in a dark aisle using robots, it doesn’t work very well, currently. That’s why goods-to-person makes more sense in that environment. If you try to use arms, a Kiva-like solution or a shuttle-type solution, where the inventory is being brought to a station and the lighting is there, then I think arms are going to be effective there.
Are these the kinds of problems you invest R&D in?
Not the picking side. In the world of total addressable market — the industry as a whole, between Locus, us, Fetch and others — is at maybe 5% penetration. I think there’s plenty of opportunity for us to go and implement a lot of our technology in other places. I also think the logical expansion is around the case and pallet operations.
Interoperability is an interesting conversation. No one makes robots for every use case. If you want to get near full autonomous, you’re going to have a lot of different robots.
We are not going to be a fit for 100% of the picks in the building. For the 20% that we’re not doing, you still leverage all the goodness of our management consoles, our training and that kind of stuff, and you can extend out with [the mobile fulfillment application]. And it’s not just picking. It’s receiving, it’s put away and whatever else. It’s the first step for us, in terms of proving wall-to-wall capabilities.
What does interoperability look like beyond that?
We do system interoperability today. We interface with automation systems all the time out in the field. That’s an important part of interoperability. We’re passing important messages on how big a box we need to build and in what sequence it needs to be built.
When you’re independent, you’re focused on getting to portability. Does that pressure change when you’re acquired by a Shopify?
I think the difference with Shopify is, it allows us to think more long-term in terms of doing the right thing without having the pressure of investors. That was one of the benefits. We are delivering lots of longer-term software bets.
Q&A with Peter Chen
Lastly, since I’ve chatted with co-founder Pieter Abbeel a number of times over the years, it felt right to have a formal conversation with Covariant CEO Peter Chen. Full interview here.
TC: A lot of researchers are taking a lot of different approaches to learning. What’s different about yours?
PC: A lot of the founding team was from OpenAI — like three of the four co-founders. If you look at what OpenAI has done in the last three to four years to the language space, it’s basically taking a foundation model approach to language. Before the recent ChatGPT, there were a lot of natural language processing AIs out there. Search, translate, sentiment detection, spam detection — there were loads of natural language AIs out there. The approach before GPT is, for each use case, you train a specific AI to it, using a smaller subset of data. Look at the results now, and GPT basically abolishes the field of translation, and it’s not even trained to translation. The foundation model approach is basically, instead of using small amounts of data that’s specific to one situation or train a model that’s specific to one circumstance, let’s train a large foundation-generalized model on a lot more data, so the AI is more generalized.
You’re focused on picking and placing, but are you also laying the foundation for future applications?
Definitely. The grasping capability or pick and place capability is definitely the first general capability that we’re giving the robots. But if you look behind the scenes, there’s a lot of 3D understanding or object understanding. There are a lot of cognitive primitives that are generalizable to future robotic applications. That being said, grasping or picking is such a vast space we can work on this for a while.
You go after picking and placing first because there’s a clear need for it.
There’s clear need, and there’s also a clear lack of technology for it. The interesting thing is, if you came by this show 10 years ago, you would have been able to find picking robots. They just wouldn’t work. The industry has struggled with this for a very long time. People said this couldn’t work without AI, so people tried niche AI and off-the-shelf AI, and they didn’t work.
Your systems are feeding into a central database and every pick is informing machines how to pick in the future.
Yeah. The funny thing is that almost every item we touch passes through a warehouse at some point. It’s almost a central clearing place of everything in the physical world. When you start by building AI for warehouses, it’s a great foundation for AI that goes out of warehouses. Say you take an apple out of the field and bring it to an agricultural plant — it’s seen an apple before. It’s seen strawberries before.
That’s a one-to-one. I pick an apple in a fulfillment center, so I can pick an apple in a field. More abstractly, how can these learnings be applied to other facets of life?
If we want to take a step back from Covariant specifically, and think about where the technology trend is going, we’re seeing an interesting convergence of AI, software and mechatronics. Traditionally, these three fields are somewhat separate from each other. Mechatronics is what you’ll find when you come to this show. It’s about repeatable movement. If you talk to the salespeople, they tell you about reliability, how this machine can do the same thing over and over again.
The really amazing evolution we have seen from Silicon Valley in the last 15 to 20 years is in software. People have cracked the code on how to build really complex and highly intelligent looking software. All of these apps we’re using [are] really people harnessing the capabilities of software. Now we are at the front seat of AI, with all of the amazing advances. When you ask me what’s beyond warehouses, where I see this really going is the convergence of these three trends to build highly autonomous physical machines in the world. You need the convergence of all of the technologies.
You mentioned ChatGPT coming in and blindsiding people making translation software. That’s something that happens in technology. Are you afraid of a GPT coming in and effectively blindsiding the work that Covariant is doing?
That’s a good question for a lot of people, but I think we had an unfair advantage in that we started with pretty much the same belief that OpenAI had with building foundational models. General AI is a better approach than building niche AI. That’s what we have been doing for the last five years. I would say that we are in a very good position, and we are very glad OpenAI demonstrated that this philosophy works really well. We’re very excited to do that in the world of robotics.
News of the week
The big news of the week quietly slipped out the day after ProMat drew to a close. Berkshire Grey, which had a strong presence at the event, announced on Friday a merger agreement that finds SoftBank Group acquiring all outstanding capital stock it didn’t already own. The all-cash deal is valued at around $375 million.
The post-SPAC life hasn’t been easy for the company, in spite of a generally booming market for logistics automation. Locus CEO Rick Faulk told me above that the company plans to IPO next year, after the market settles down. The category is still a young one, and there remains an open question around how many big players will be able to support themselves. For example, 6 River Systems and Fetch have both been acquired, by Shopify and Zebra, respectively.
“After a thoughtful review of value creation opportunities available to Berkshire Grey, we are pleased to have reached this agreement with SoftBank, which we believe offers significant value to our stockholders,” CEO Tom Wagner said in a release. “SoftBank is a great partner and this merger will strengthen our ability to serve customers with our disruptive AI robotics technology as they seek to become more efficient in their operations and maintain a competitive edge.”
Unlike the Kiva deal that set much of this category in motion a decade ago, SoftBank maintains that it’s bullish about offering BG’s product to existing and new customers. Says managing partner, Vikas J. Parekh:
As a long-time partner and investor in Berkshire Grey, we have a shared vision for robotics and automation. Berkshire Grey is a pioneer in transformative, AI-enabled robotic technologies that address use cases in retail, eCommerce, grocery, 3PL, and package handling companies. We look forward to partnering with Berkshire Grey to accelerate their growth and deliver ongoing excellence for customers.
A healthy Series A this week from Venti Technologies. The Singapore/U.S. firm, whose name translates to “large Starbucks cup,” raised $28.8 million, led by LG Technology Ventures. The startup is building autonomous systems for warehouses, ports and the like.
“If you have a big logistics facility where you run vehicles, the largest cost is human capital: drivers,” co-founder and CEO Heidi Wyle tells TechCrunch. “Our customers are telling us that they expect to save over 50% of their operations costs with self-driving vehicles. Think they will have huge savings.”
This week in fun pivots, Neubility is making the shift from adorable last-mile delivery robots to security bots. This isn’t the company’s first pivot, either. Kate notes that it’s now done so five times since its founding. Fifth time’s the charm, right?
Neubility currently has 50 robots out in the world, a number it plans to raise significantly, with as many as 400 by year’s end. That will be helped along by the $2.6 million recently tacked onto its existing $26 million Series A.
Model-Prime emerged out of stealth this week with a $2.3 million seed round, bringing its total raise to $3.3 million. The funding was led by Eniac Ventures and featured Endeavors and Quiet Capital. The small Pittsburgh-based firm was founded by veterans of the self-driving world, Arun Venkatadri and Jeanine Gritzer, who were seeking a way to create reusable data logs for robotics companies.
The startup says its tech, “handles important tasks like pulling the metadata, automated tagging, and making logs searchable. The vision is to make the robotics industry more like web apps, or mobile apps, where it now seems silly to build your own data solution when you could just use Datadog or Snowflake instead.”
Saildrone, meanwhile, is showcasing Voyager, a 33-foot uncrewed water vehicle. The system sports cameras, radar and an acoustic system designed to map a body of water down to 900 feet. The company has been testing the boat out in the world since last February and is set to begin full-scale production at a rate of a boat a week.
Finally, some research out of MIT. Robust MADER is a new version of MADER, which the team introduced in 2020 to help drones avoid in-air collisions.
“MADER worked great in simulations, but it hadn’t been tested in hardware. So, we built a bunch of drones and started flying them,” says grad student Kota Kondo. “The drones need to talk to each other to share trajectories, but once you start flying, you realize pretty quickly that there are always communication delays that introduce some failures.”
The new version adds in a delay before setting out on a new trajectory. That added time will allow it to receive and process information from fellow drones and adjust as needed. Kondo adds, “If you want to fly safer, you have to be careful, so it is reasonable that if you don’t want to collide with an obstacle, it will take you more time to get to your destination. If you collide with something, no matter how fast you go, it doesn’t really matter because you won’t reach your destination.”
Here you go, way too fast. Don’t slow down, you’re gonna crash. Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na. (Subscribe to Actuator!)
Asking the right dumb questions by Brian Heater originally published on TechCrunchtesting covid-19 singapore japan europe
Cuban election: high turnout despite opposition call for boycott
Cubans turned out in higher numbers than expected at the recent elections.
Results of the five-yearly Cuban national assembly elections on March 26 will have disappointed opposition figures, who had called for a boycott to signal unhappiness with the government’s performance.
Two-thirds of the electorate submitted valid votes (that were not spoiled nor blank) despite opposition calls for people to stay away. Given all the difficulties and tensions of the past few years, the high numbers of voters seems to suggest that, although it is under strain, the Cuban political system is more resilient than expected. Turnout had been dropping since the days of former leader Fidel Castro, and poor voter numbers could have signalled significant dissatisfaction with the current president, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez.
One of the reasons for the high turnout may be a sense of communal rejection of US threats to national sovereignty, the importance of which should not be ignored, according to historians such as Louis Pérez. Tightening of US sanctions has certainly contributed to everyday suffering and economic hardship. Another reason for a high turnout may be President Díaz-Canel Bermúdez’s efforts to push ahead with reforms, increasing accountability and creating more opportunities for private enterprise and participation in decision-making at local level.
The election results and turnout of 76% might also be interpreted as an indication that among the majority who still support the government even in the middle of the recession, there is an increased willingness to actively express preferences rather than offer unconditional loyalty. This shift is expressed in the growing proportion (up from 20% of valid votes in 2018 to 28% in 2023) who selected specific candidates from the list for their constituency, rather than fully complying with official encouragement to simply indicate acceptance of the complete slate.
The elections mark the end of the first term of Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, during which the population has suffered from a severe recession.
Since the last election in 2018, the country has witnessed a series of major disasters, including a plane crash, three hurricanes, three tropical storms, a tornado, a gas explosion that destroyed a hotel and a huge fire at the country’s main oil depot. But the economic impact of those disasters were dwarfed by two further blows: the COVID pandemic and, above all, US foreign policy towards Cuba.
Despite the development and successful roll-out of effective vaccines, the possibility of an economic bounce-back from the COVID-induced recession (an 11% fall in GDP) has been effectively blocked by unprecedented restrictions on Cuba’s access to international trade and finance resulting from US sanctions imposed by the Trump administration and maintained under Joe Biden’s presidency.
March 2023 election: type of vote
The effects of COVID and tightened US sanctions have combined with the sorry state of the country’s infrastructure. Another factor was caused by the price of food and energy imports soaring between 2020 and 2022, which resulted in power outages and food shortages. A 2021 currency reform exacerbated disruption and hardships by sparking an inflationary surge.
Read more: Cuba: why record numbers of people are leaving as the most severe economic crisis since the 1990s hits -- a photo essay
Long queues and a growing sense of frustration also contributed to unprecedented protests in mid-2021 and a record-breaking wave of emigration. In 2022, almost 250,000 people – over 2% of the population – are reported to have left for the US, including many of Cuba’s youngest and brightest.
How do elections work?
The Cuban electoral system was originally created as a “participatory” rather than “representative” system of democracy in an attempt to avoid the political conflict, violence, corruption and foreign interference experienced before the 1959 revolution, as described by political scientist William LeoGrande.
As the Cuban Communist party is the only legal political party, Cuban elections are not contests between parties. The 470 candidates for the national assembly do not represent the party. Instead, around half of them are representatives of municipal governments (themselves elected in municipal elections) and the rest are nominated by bigger organisations. These include neighbourhood committees, official trade unions, the women’s federation, students’ organisations and the small farmers’ association. Local electoral commissions then select one candidate for each seat from the list of nominated candidates. It is not a requirement for candidates, members of mass organisations or the electoral commission to be members of the party; however, many are, effectively making it impossible for self-proclaimed dissidents to be selected.
The local electoral commissions, whose members are selected from the mass organisations, are responsible for the organisation of the ballots and counting of the vote. Once selected, candidates must receive over 50% of valid votes to become a member of the national assembly. Voters can either accept all the candidates on the list for their constituency (a “united vote”) or select some and not others. Voting is secret and voluntary.
Over the years, and particularly over the past decade, efforts have been made to ensure that candidates are representative of the population. They include ministers, workers, farmers, educators, managers and health workers. The average age of candidates in 2023, at 46 years, is lower than previous elections, while the proportion who are non-white has increased (45% compared with 41% in 2018), and 53% are women.
The national turnout for these elections, confirmed by the national electoral commission, was 76%. Although this is above the turnout in legislative elections in the UK (67.3% in 2019) and US (at 62.8% of the voting age population in 2020 and 47.5% in 2022, according to the Pew Research Center), it is significantly less than the 86% recorded in the last national election in 2018. The abstention rate increased, from 14% registered electors in 2018 to 24% in 2023, and in blank or spoiled ballots, from 5.6% to 9.7%, a possible indication that the hardship of the past few years have taken their toll on public confidence in the government.
Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, who lacks the status and charisma of his predecessors Fidel Castro and his brother, Raúl Castro (who were both leaders of the 1959 revolution), will need to be alert to concerns of the electorate as he begins his second term. He will need to find ways to improve living standards quickly. He has pushed ahead with reforms to allow Cubans to create private companies, foster innovation through university-enterprise links, and devolve budgets and decision-making to enable municipal authorities to directly respond to local demands.
However, with inflation persisting and fiscal resources overstretched, his scope for macroeconomic stimulation is restricted. A major obstacle is the US government’s seeming commitment to retain the most important economic sanctions, but Díaz-Canel Bermúdez must prevent further erosion in confidence in Cuba’s government and its political system.
Emily Morris has received funding from University College London, the Ford Foundation and the British Embassy, Havana.recession pandemic us government trump gdp oil uk
Aspen looks to rebound in production and revenue after Covid-19
Last year, South African-based vaccine manufacturer Aspen Pharmacare was facing reports that it had not received a single order for its manufactured Covid-19…
Last year, South African-based vaccine manufacturer Aspen Pharmacare was facing reports that it had not received a single order for its manufactured Covid-19 shots and that manufacturing lines were sitting idle. But now the vaccine producer is looking to turn things around.
Aspen’s disclosure of its financial results in March unveiled that manufacturing revenue had decreased by 12% to R 603 million ($33.8 million), which Lorraine Hill, Aspen Group’s COO, said is attributable to lower Covid vaccine sales.
However, things were not all negative as Aspen said it was in negotiations with customers seeking to “secure a portion of Aspen’s sterile manufacturing capabilities.”
Aspen CEO Steven Saad said in a release:
The Group’s performance under challenging trading conditions was anticipated and is aligned to guidance previously shared for the first half of the financial year. Consistent with our previous communications, we are optimistic that the results for the second half of this financial year will not only exceed those reported for the first half but will also exceed those of the second half of the prior year.
Aspen had initially invested in three sterile manufacturing lines at its production site in Gqeberha, South Africa, and had plans to invest in two more production lines. The intention was to transition the manufacturing of its own anesthetic products from third-party producers to enhance the supply, Hill told Endpoints News in an email.
“The COVID pandemic, however, fast-tracked our plans to manufacture vaccines as we pivoted and re-prioritized in-housing our anesthetic products to manufacture the COVID vaccine,” Hill said.
Hill stated that in August of last year, Aspen entered a long-term agreement with India’s Serum Institute for Aspen to manufacture, market and eventually distribute four vaccines in Africa. The Serum Institute deal will also help Aspen gain further entry into the routine vaccine market, which has “sustainable” demand and can diversify the manufacturer’s portfolio, Hill told Endpoints.
“This is an important milestone as Aspen seeks to optimize our sterile manufacturing capacity in Gqeberha. The four products are Pneumococcal vaccine, Rotavirus vaccine, Polyvalent Meningococcal Vaccine and the Hexavalent Vaccine with transfer activities currently underway,” Hill said.
The company also secured agreements with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations in the meantime. Hill added that the grant funding from these deals has helped to offset the production costs related to starting production of the Serum Institute vaccines.
Saad added in the release that Aspen expects the new manufacturing business to bring in around R 2 billion ($112 million) in 2024.vaccine pandemic covid-19 africa india
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