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Economist Impact: World Cancer Series – pharmaphorum in attendance, day one (part i)

It goes without saying that The Economist’s 8th Annual World Cancer Series congress was well-attended in Brussels this
The post Economist Impact: World…



It goes without saying that The Economist’s 8th Annual World Cancer Series congress was well-attended in Brussels this week, the unofficial capital of the European Union. Held at the Marriott Hotel Grand Place, the event’s sponsors included diamond sponsor AstraZeneca, platinum sponsors MSD and Takeda, and gold sponsor Janssen, as well as silver sponsors Guardant and Pfizer, and associate sponsor onko.

Bringing together a “wide range of stakeholders critical to effective cancer care” in order to drive “innovation, equity, and excellence in cancer control across Europe”, the first day of the congress was opened by Dr Vivek Muthu of Marivek Healthcare Solutions and Economist Impact, who advised attendees that panels and presentations would explore strategies to accelerate these foci – to repeat: innovation, equity, and excellence; these, ever to be held at the forefront of some of the brightest minds there in attendance – and in this way find a means by which to reduce inequities across the 27 member states of the European Union.

The essential aim? To reach for and enact “universally excellent cancer control and cancer outcomes across the continent.”

Seeking EU-wide excellence

The event was set against the backdrop of the implementation of the EU’s Beating Cancer Plan, as well as ongoing recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to Europe’s current security challenges and the immense refugee crisis. The present moment within and without healthcare, biotech, and pharma is a difficult and pivotal time in history, a time in which such issues need must be addressed. Nonetheless, what still pervaded the opening day were questions over, ‘Haven’t we been here before?’

Yet, before those were raised, there was positivity to be spread. For one thing, this was the first in-person congress since the pandemic. Further, the multiple meanings of innovation were seen to be both tangible and systematic, including R&D, and developments in policy and regulations. As Dr Muthu put it, in times of crisis like this, a broad conception of innovation is crucial. Thus embracing the moment for opportunity, the day began as a united overview whole, before splitting at midday into two tracks: the first on prevention and early diagnosis, the second on innovation acceleration.

Collaborating and committing to innovation, equity, and cancer care across Europe

The keynote address of the event entire came from Stella Kyriakides, commissioner for health and food safety at the European Commission. Her opener? That there could be some one million cancer cases undiagnosed in Europe today.

Nevertheless, she said that cancer is never just about numbers: it represents families; it represents people. And these families, these people are also representative of what has happened with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, further impacting cancer diagnosis and post-COVID cancer care. In short, health systems have been shaken. However, what is clearer still is that vulnerable groups need support and healthcare systems need to adapt to become stronger and more resistant.

Kyriakides told us that the importance of partnerships and solidarity, and Europe’s very cancer plan, is built on the powerful premise of the strength that comes in working together: such is a quintessentially European view of policy making. It is, she said, the uniting of industry with researchers and researchers with patients, and so forth, that is at the heart of this journey currently being undertaken.

Self-described, Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan is a stated “political commitment to turn the tide against cancer”, as well as being “another stepping-stone towards a strong European Health Union and a more secure, better-prepared, and more resilient EU”. Kyriakides reminded attendees that the first Knowledge Center on Cancer is now up and running, mapping the latest evidence that exists on this terrible disease, and providing guidelines and monitoring trends across the EU.

The financial reality of inequality

However, access is not equal for cancer care; being so, it must now be created. In order to do this, an EU network is in the process of being established between national comprehensive cancer centres and anticipated to be properly in place by 2025. What will then be provided will be personalised cancer care for EU patients. At present, the aim is for 90% access. Of course, there is a budget, but that budget also has targets, and those targets themselves make everyone accountable.

Kyriakides went on to discuss the importance of the right to be forgotten: a fundamental right, and one which many forget. Where this becomes keenly important, however, is when cancer survivors – pretty much all cancer survivors – need access to financial services. What eventuates post-cure is that many survivors face unacceptable difficulties in accessing life insurance and/or loans, even many years after becoming well again.

To combat this, for the first time there has now been launched an EU-wide process for those with a history of cancer under the EU Code of Conduct.

The European Code of Conduct and recommendations on cancer

Also referred to as ‘The Code’, the European Code of Conduct on cancer has been translated into many languages, and provides “a citizen and patient-centred manifesto of the core requirements for good clinical cancer practice, in order to improve outcomes for all of Europe’s cancer patients”. Originating from the European Cancer Patient Bill of Rights, The Code was launched in European Parliament on World Cancer Day 2014, winning the prestigious European Health Award four years later.

Essentially, The Code is there for the entire cancer patient journey. Setting out 10 key and overarching rights, at its base it is “an empowerment tool to ensure the best available care is delivered [to] European citizens and patients”. For, services need to follow the advances of science.

In September, the EU launched its recommendations on cancer screening, updated for the first time since 2003. Yes, 2003. Shocking, when one considers how science overall has changed ‘massively’ – to use Kyriakides’ terminology – in the last 19 years. But, even though only now have the recommendations been updated, they will change the realities of European citizen cancer patients, with the intention being to reach every last corner of the EU.

Questions demand answers

In the Q&A, a financial services audience member revealed himself to be a former cancer patient and asked how the latest medical research can help the concept of ‘the right to be forgotten’. Currently undergoing a mortgage application process, he was aghast that they were using information that is now 10 years old.

Kyriakides agreed that it was a basic right, to ‘be forgotten’ and that such discrimination must be opposed firmly. Sadly, she mentioned the example of those who had been children with cancer and now, as adults, that cancer was haunting them economically. Currently, there are six member states of the EU that have now legislated on this, including Luxembourg, which has made arrangements with insurance companies themselves.

At the end of the day, scientific advancement needs to be transferred to financial advancement.

A European plan for today, a global cancer plan for tomorrow

COVID-19 might have thrown somewhat of a spanner in the works of this EU mission, yet, they have kept on track, Kyriakides assured us. After all, this is Europe’s cancer plan for tomorrow; it is its chance to change the global face of cancer, too. Indeed, the EU has partnered its guiding cancer plan with US President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot.

Kyriakides closed her keynote address with acknowledgement that we each bring a unique perspective and all have different experiences of this disease – some of us through work, some of us through personal experience. But at the same time we all share a vision, and share a determination and an unwavering belief, that if everyone works together, a difference can be made. Disappointment is not an option. It is togetherness that permits possibilities.


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“We Are Headed For Another Train Wreck”: Bill Ackman Blames Janet Yellen For Restarting The Bank Run

"We Are Headed For Another Train Wreck": Bill Ackman Blames Janet Yellen For Restarting The Bank Run

Yesterday morning we joked that every…



"We Are Headed For Another Train Wreck": Bill Ackman Blames Janet Yellen For Restarting The Bank Run

Yesterday morning we joked that every time Janet Yellen opens her mouth, stocks dump.

Well, it wasn't a joke, and as we repeatedly noted today, while Jerome Powell was busting his ass to prevent a violent market reaction - in either direction - to his "most important Fed decision and presser of 2023", the Treasury Secretary, with all the grace of a senile 76-year-old elephant in a China market, uttered the phrase...


... and the rest was silence... or rather selling.

Commenting on our chart, Bloomberg's Mark Cudmore noted it was Yellen who was "to blame for the stock slump", pointing out that "the pessimistic turn in US stocks began within a minute of Janet Yellen starting to speak."

The S&P 500 rose almost 1% in the first 47 minutes after the Fed decision. Powell wasn’t the problem either: the index was 0.6% higher in the first 17 minutes after his press conference started.

Why am I picking that exact timing of 2:47pm NY time? Because that is the minute Yellen started speaking at the Senate panel hearing. The high for the S&P 500 was 2:48pm NY time and it fell more than 2.5% over the subsequent 72 minutes. Good effort.

Picking up on this, Bloomberg's Mark Cranfield writes that banking stocks globally are set to underperform for longer after Janet Yellen pushed back against giving deposit insurance without working with lawmakers. He adds that "to an aggressive trader this sounds like an invitation to keep shorting bank stocks -- at least until the tone changes into broader support and is less focused on specific bank situations." Earlier, we addressed that too:

Looking ahead, Cranfield warns that US financials are likely to be the most vulnerable as they are the epicenter of the debate. Although European or Asian banking names may outperform US peers, that won’t be much consolation for investors as most financial sector indexes may be on a downward path.

The KBW bank index has tumbled from its highs seen in early February, but still has a way to go before it reaches the pandemic-nadir in 2020. Traders smell an opening for a big trade and that will fuel more downside. Probably until Yellen blinks.

And if Bill Ackman is right, she will be doing a whole lot of blinking in days if not hours.

Ackman crying in public

While we generally make fun of Ackman's self-serving hot takes on twitter, today he was right when he accused Yellen of effectively restarting the small bank depositor run which according to JPMorgan has already seen $1.1 trillion in assets withdrawn from "vulnerable" banks. This is what Ackman tweeted:

Yesterday, @SecYellen  made reassuring comments that led the market and depositors to believe that all deposits were now implicitly guaranteed. That coupled with a leak suggesting that @USTreasury, @FDICgov and @SecYellen  were looking for a way to guarantee all deposits reassured the banking sector and depositors.

This afternoon, @SecYellen walked back yesterday’s implicit support for small banks and depositors, while making it explicit that systemwide deposit guarantees were not being considered.

We have gone from implicit support for depositors to @SecYellen explicit statement today that no guarantee is being considered with rates now being raised to 5%. 5% is a threshold that makes bank deposits that much less attractive. I would be surprised if deposit outflows don’t accelerate effective immediately.

Ackman concluded by repeating his ask: a comprehensive deposit guarantee on America's $18 trillion in assets...

A temporary systemwide deposit guarantee is needed to stop the bleeding. The longer the uncertainty continues, the more permanent the damage is to the smaller banks, and the more difficult it will be to bring their customers back.

... but as we noted previously pointing out, you know, the math...

... absent bipartisan Congressional intervention - which is very much unlikely until the bank crisis gets much, much worse - this won't happen and instead the Fed will continue putting out bank fire after bank fire - even as it keeps hiking to overcompensate for its "transitory inflation" idiocy from 2021, until the entire system burns down, something which Ackman's follow-up tweet was also right about:

Consider recent events impact on the long-term cost of equity capital for non-systemically important banks where you can wake up one day as a shareholder or bondholder and your investment instantly goes to zero. When combined with the higher cost of debt and deposits due to rising rates, consider what the impact will be on lending rates and our economy.

The longer this banking crisis is allowed to continue, the greater the damage to smaller banks and their ability to access low-cost capital.

Trust and confidence are earned over many years, but can be wiped out in a few days. I fear we are heading for another a train wreck. Hopefully, our regulators will get this right.

Narrator: no, they won't.

Tyler Durden Wed, 03/22/2023 - 21:20

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China’s Auto Industry Association Urges “Cooling” Of Price War, As Major Manufacturers Slash Prices

China’s Auto Industry Association Urges "Cooling" Of Price War, As Major Manufacturers Slash Prices

Just hours after we wrote about maniacal…



China's Auto Industry Association Urges "Cooling" Of Price War, As Major Manufacturers Slash Prices

Just hours after we wrote about maniacal price cutting in the automotive industry in China, China's auto industry association is urging automakers to "cool" the hype behind price cuts.

The statement was made in order to "ensure the stable development of the industry", Automotive News Europe reported on Tuesday. 

The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers even went so far as to put out a message on its official WeChat account, stating that "A price war is not a long-term solution". Instead "automakers should work harder on technology and branding," it said. 

The consumer disagrees...

Recall we wrote earlier this week that most major automakers were slashing prices in China. The move is coming after lifting pandemic controls failed to spur significant demand in China, the Wall Street Journal reported this week. Ford and GM will be joined by BMW and Volkswagen in offering the discounts and promotions on EVs, the report says. 

Retail auto sales plunged the first two months of the year and automakers are facing additional challenges in trying to transition their business models to prioritize EVs over conventional internal combustion engine vehicles. 

Ford is offering $6,000 off its Mustang Mach-E, putting the standard version of its EV at just $31,000. Last month, only 84 of the vehicles were sold, compared to 1,500 sales in December. There was some pulling forward of demand due to the phasing out of subsidies heading into the new year, and Ford had also cut prices by about 9% in December. 

A spokesperson for Ford called it a "stock clearance". 

Discounts at Volkswagen are ranging from around $2,200 to $7,300 a car. The cuts will affect 20 gas powered and electric models. Its electric ID series is seeing price cuts of almost $6,000. The company called the cuts "temporary promotions due to general reluctance among car buyers, the new emissions rule and discounts offered by competitors."

Even more shocking is Citroën-maker Dongfeng Motor Group, who is offering a 40% discount on its C6 gas-powered sedan, now priced at $18,000. 

Kelvin Lau, an analyst at Daiwa Capital Markets, told the Journal that automakers are also trying to get rid of 500,000 vehicles collectively stored in their inventory, most of which are older vehicles that won't meet new emissions standards.

David Zhang, a Shanghai-based independent automobile analyst, added: “Some car makers have been seeing very few sales. At this rate, the manufacturers’ production and dealership networks will collapse.”

Tyler Durden Wed, 03/22/2023 - 18:00

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COVID origins debate: what to make of new findings linking the virus to raccoon dogs

New reports suggest the pandemic’s origins may be linked to raccoon dogs sold at Wuhan’s Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market. A virologist explains.




The origin of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID, has long been a topic of heated debate. While many believe SARS-CoV-2 spread to humans from an animal at Wuhan’s Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market, others have argued the virus was accidentally leaked from a lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Over the past week there has been intense activity surrounding the emergence of new data relevant to this question. In particular, reports emerged that the pandemic’s origins may be linked to raccoon dogs which were being sold illegally at the market.

The excitement stemmed from a re-analysis of raw data generated as part of official investigations into the role of the Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market in the outbreak.

The team of international scientists working on this re-analysis (from North America, Europe and Australia) alerted the World Health Organization and discussed the topic in an article published in The Atlantic. And the scientists themselves have now released a report on the issue, providing greater detail.

So what can we make of their findings? Will this development shift the course of the ongoing debate? Let’s take a look.

The Huanan market

In January 2020, writing about the emergence of what we now call SARS-CoV-2, I stated the importance of understanding how this pandemic began. It remains important to determine the virus’s origins because this knowledge may help us stop the next pandemic occurring.

Even very early in 2020, it was clear that the central Chinese city of Wuhan (a major metropolis and travel hub) was the epicentre of the outbreak. Within Wuhan, the Huanan seafood market stood out as it was associated with many – but not all – of the earliest cases. Indeed, the market was closed on January 1 2020, animals were culled, and the site was disinfected.

Suspicions arose given the role that animal trade and markets had played in the emergence of the closely related SARS-CoV-1 virus (which caused SARS, a widespread outbreak of viral respiratory disease) nearly two decades earlier. Evidence emerged that the Huanan seafood market also sold live mammals, including a fox-like mammal known as a raccoon dog, that we now know are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2.

Later epidemiological and genetic analyses further focused in on the market, and even specific stalls within it, as being the origin of the pandemic.

Read more: The original Sars virus disappeared – here's why coronavirus won’t do the same

The new data

As part of the official investigations into the market, swabs were collected from various parts of the market in the two months after it shut down at the start of 2020. The scientists who undertook this research, from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, posted their analysis as a pre-print (a study yet to be peer-reviewed) in February 2022.

In this, the team concluded that the market likely played a significant role in SARS-CoV-2’s early spread, but that they couldn’t detect the virus in samples taken directly from animals. They reported that all the virus evidence found was associated with humans, and it was therefore likely the virus had been brought into the market by humans, not animals, and so perhaps the pandemic began elsewhere.

An illustration of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID.
The origin of SARS-CoV-2 has been a topic of heated debate. Kateryna Kon/Shutterstock

However, prior to any official peer-reviewed publication, the raw data from this work was released on an open scientific database called Gisaid. And the group of scientists who re-analysed this data did actually find an association between SARS-CoV-2 and animals, in particular raccoon dogs in the market.

They found DNA from animals mixed in with SARS-CoV-2 in a number of samples from the market. Some positive samples contained no human DNA and mostly raccoon dog DNA. This mix of virus and animal material is consistent with an infected animal – not a human – shedding virus, which is what you might expect if SARS-CoV-2 originated from animals brought into the market. Unfortunately, samples from a living raccoon dog were either not taken or not reported, and the official investigation makes no mention of raccoon dogs.

Where to from here?

While this latest data is one additional piece of the puzzle that supports an origin of the pandemic linked to Wuhan’s animal trade, it is unlikely to provide irrefutable evidence. It’s important to note it’s also a pre-print.

Ideally, we would like animal samples from early December 2019, and to compare animal virus genomes with human ones. It will also be crucial to follow events backwards through the animal trade and farming systems to work out where the animals got the virus from in the first instance.

Further, we must bear in mind that the virus could have easily been given to a raccoon dog by an infected human, or that the association between raccoon dog DNA and SARS-CoV-2 may be coincidental.

Read more: We want to know where COVID came from. But it’s too soon to expect miracles

However, evidence is accumulating that official investigations have left a gap in their research – particularly around the role that animals like raccoon dogs and the wildlife trade played in the origins of the pandemic.

While it may be unlikely that we will ever get concrete evidence as to how SARS-CoV-2 entered the human population, we can still think pragmatically and seek to alter behaviour and practices to reduce the chance of a new pandemic. One immediate target would be food systems (encompassing farm to fork), and how to make farming and the wildlife trade safer for all, potentially by enhancing virus surveillance in animals.

Connor Bamford receives funding from Wellcome Trust, UKRI, SFI and BMA Foundation.

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