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Pentagon Belatedly Reveals Two Dozen US Personnel Were Wounded In Spate Of Drone Attacks In Iraq, Syria

Pentagon Belatedly Reveals Two Dozen US Personnel Were Wounded In Spate Of Drone Attacks In Iraq, Syria

Update(1910ET): The Pentagon revealed…

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Pentagon Belatedly Reveals Two Dozen US Personnel Were Wounded In Spate Of Drone Attacks In Iraq, Syria

Update(1910ET): The Pentagon revealed in a late Tuesday statement that in just the past week, US and coalition forces have been attacked at least ten times in Iraq, as well as three times in Syria "via a mix of one way attack drones and rockets," according to Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, speaking to NBC.

But the real bombshell development, which Biden's defense officials have apparently sat on for several days, is that some 24 US personnel were wounded in the attacks. According to the NBC statement:

Two dozen American military personnel were wounded last week in a series of drone attacks at American bases in Iraq and Syria, U.S. Central Command told NBC News on Tuesday.

The Pentagon confirmed the attacks last week, but the number of U.S. casualties has not been previously disclosed.

"Twenty American personnel sustained minor injuries on Oct. 18 when at least two one-way attack drones targeted al-Tanf military base in southern Syria, CENTCOM said," the report continues. 

It appears all the injuries were deemed minor, given Gen. Ryder described that all personnel returned to duty after being evaluated and threated, and there was no significant damage to base installations. However, in Iraq, "The U.S. shot down the one-way attack drones, but the debris from one destroyed a hanger that contained small aircraft, CENTCOM said."

Illustrative: Iranian Army drone training exercise, via Reuters

The defense official said that amid the attacks there was a contractor that suffered cardiac arrest and died while sheltering in place, but the Pentagon isn't necessarily considering the casualty to be the direct result of the assault. 

The Pentagon may have concealed the information until now not only to properly account for all the instances and wounded personnel, but possibly to avoid escalating tensions by releasing the news. The Biden administration has vowed to respond 'decisively' if Americans in the region come under attack by Iran. 

The militias operating in Iraq and Syria, believed to be behind the uptick in attacks, are widely viewed by Washington as being supported from Tehran. 

* * *

Update(1550ET): It's never a good sign when the United States says it "doesn't want war" - at a moment a long known geopolitical flashpoint region stands on the brink. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday delivered a stern warning to Iran before a UN Security council meeting, saying the US is prepared to respond "decisively" if Tehran or its proxies launch attacks on Americans in the Middle East.

Not only does the Pentagon still have thousands of troops and assets in Iraq, long under the domination of Shia paramilitary influence, but it has up to a thousand or so troops occupying broad oil and gas regions of eastern Syria. Missile and drone attacks on Pentagon outposts in Syria and Iraq have been rising in the last days. But the real concern is on Israel's northern border, where Hezbollah has launched multiple guided missile and anti-tank attacks on Israel border posts, including on Tuesday. 

"The United States does not seek conflict with Iran," Blinken told the UNSC "We do not want this war to widen. But if Iran or its proxies attack US personnel anywhere, make no mistake: We will defend our people, we will defend our security, swiftly and decisively." Russia's President Putin, who since 2015 has stationed major assets in neighboring Syria, just the day prior blamed Washington for stoking "escalation" in the Middle East by moving two US carrier strike groups into the region. 

There are building fears that Iran-backed Hezbollah would launch an all-out war on Israel if the IDF moves in full force into Gaza. The only thing which apparently has stalled these plans is the slow release (so far up to four hostages) of Israeli and American captives by Hamas. Domestic political pressure is also building against the Netanyahu government, led by families who see in Qatari mediated efforts hope that loved ones will be released. Hamas has demanded that fuel be transferred into Gaza via the Rafah border, but Israel has countered that all hostages must be freed first. 

"We call on all member states to send a firm, united message to any state or non-state actor that is considering opening another front in this conflict against Israel or who may target Israel's partners, including the United States: don't. Don't throw fuel on the fire," Blinken said. But the historical pattern has been that when the US moves such huge naval power into the Mediterranean and Mideast waters, it plans to do something with it.

Jordan (and others), have at the same time warned the UN assembly that there's "real danger" of a bigger war which draws in superpowers like Russia, or even potentially China, which also has interests and military assets in the region. 

"We're all doing everything we can to stop it. There's the threat of this expanding into the West Bank, into Lebanon, into other fronts. None of us want that, we're all working against that," Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi told the UNSC. 

* * * 

French President Emmanuel Macron has traveled to Israel Tuesday, the latest Western leader to do so, where he's meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top officials in what's scheduled as a two-day trip. He's met with families of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack as well.

He arrived in Tel Aviv just after Gaza's health ministry announced that deaths from Israeli airstrikes have soared past 5,000 killed. Just in the last 24 hours, officials said that 704 Palestinians have been killed. Additionally the ministry has warned that hospitals and medical centers are shutting down at rapid pace, with lack of resources including fuel and electricity. 

Macron, while meeting Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Tuesday, conveyed that the release of the over 220 hostages held in Gaza should be the "first objective" of Israel and its allies. Macron appears to be backing Biden's appeal for Israel to stall the ground invasion in order to provide more time for negotiations. So far, four women have been released from Hamas captivity, including two Americans from Chicago. 

The Tuesday meeting, AFP via Getty Images

But Macron has also made headlines in proposing that France help provide a military solution. He has offered that France's counter-ISIS forces be utilized for anti-Hamas action. He said his country stands ready "to beef up what we are doing in the coalition against ISIS. We are available to include Hamas in the coalition against ISIS depending on what Israel will ask us to deliver."

Macron said at a press conference alongside Netanyahu that terrorism is "our common enemy". Referencing the Islamic State, he explained, "France is ready for the international coalition against Daesh in which we are taking part for operations in Iraq and Syria to also fight against Hamas." 

Shortly after Macron's proposal grabbed international headlines, an Elysee Palace official clarified that "Not every country is fighting on the ground" and that "Much will depend on conversations we have with our allies." The official stressed that Paris will still seek a "more crucial, more decisive peace process," and added:

"If you want to fight effectively and if you want to have everyone with you, you have to offer a political perspective," the official continues. "We need to know altogether why we are fighting."

"The cause that Israel is fighting for is our cause as well."

...France wants to "consolidate the perspective of a ceasefire. I know it is very delicate to discuss. But we need again to know where we are going to have the instruments available that can bring back peace and stability."

Importantly he stressed that in Jerusalem, Macron asked PM Netanyahu for "clarity about the endgame, the modalities with which you operate, the conditions which you create, your political motivation."

France had previously confirmed losing 30 of its nationals during the Oct.7 terror assault, nine of which are still missing - presumably in captivity in Gaza.

The question of "clarity" regarding Israel's goals and strategy is also high on the US administration's agenda. A Times of Israel report this week, commenting on what US officials told The NY Times, issued the following blunt words: "The Biden administration is reportedly concerned that Israel lacks achievable military goals for its operations in Gaza, leading US officials to believe that the IDF is not yet ready for a ground incursion."

Macron's visit, during which time he's seeking "clarity" on objectives, will only heighten this pressure on Netanyahu to convey a clear plan and exit strategy. The fear also is that Israel's military could get bogged down in a costly Gaza fight, leading to escalation and quagmire, including in the north with Hezbollah.

Tyler Durden Tue, 10/24/2023 - 19:10

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Glimpse Of Sanity: Dartmouth Returns Standardized Testing For Admission After Failed Experiment

Glimpse Of Sanity: Dartmouth Returns Standardized Testing For Admission After Failed Experiment

In response to the virus pandemic and nationwide…

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Glimpse Of Sanity: Dartmouth Returns Standardized Testing For Admission After Failed Experiment

In response to the virus pandemic and nationwide Black Lives Matter riots in the summer of 2020, some elite colleges and universities shredded testing requirements for admission. Several years later, the test-optional admission has yet to produce the promising results for racial and class-based equity that many woke academic institutions wished.

The failure of test-optional admission policies has forced Dartmouth College to reinstate standardized test scores for admission starting next year. This should never have been eliminated, as merit will always prevail. 

"Nearly four years later, having studied the role of testing in our admissions process as well as its value as a predictor of student success at Dartmouth, we are removing the extended pause and reactivating the standardized testing requirement for undergraduate admission, effective with the Class of 2029," Dartmouth wrote in a press release Monday morning. 

"For Dartmouth, the evidence supporting our reactivation of a required testing policy is clear. Our bottom line is simple: we believe a standardized testing requirement will improve—not detract from—our ability to bring the most promising and diverse students to our campus," the elite college said. 

Who would've thought eliminating standardized tests for admission because a fringe minority said they were instruments of racism and a biased system was ever a good idea? 

Also, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out. More from Dartmouth, who commissioned the research: 

They also found that test scores represent an especially valuable tool to identify high-achieving applicants from low and middle-income backgrounds; who are first-generation college-bound; as well as students from urban and rural backgrounds.

All the colleges and universities that quickly adopted test-optional admissions in 2020 experienced a surge in applications. Perhaps the push for test-optional was under the guise of woke equality but was nothing more than protecting the bottom line for these institutions. 

A glimpse of sanity returns to woke schools: Admit qualified kids. Next up is corporate America and all tiers of the US government. 

Tyler Durden Mon, 02/05/2024 - 17:20

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Four burning questions about the future of the $16.5B Novo-Catalent deal

To build or to buy? That’s a classic question for pharma boardrooms, and Novo Nordisk is going with both.
Beyond spending billions of dollars to expand…

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To build or to buy? That’s a classic question for pharma boardrooms, and Novo Nordisk is going with both.

Beyond spending billions of dollars to expand its own production capacity for its weight loss drugs, the Danish drugmaker said Monday it will pay $11 billion to acquire three manufacturing plants from Catalent. It’s part of a broader $16.5 billion deal with Novo Holdings, the investment arm of the pharma’s parent group, which agreed to acquire the contract manufacturer and take it private.

It’s a big deal for all parties, with potential ripple effects across the biotech ecosystem. Here’s a look at some of the most pressing questions to watch after Monday’s announcement.

Why did Novo do this?

Novo Holdings isn’t the most obvious buyer for Catalent, particularly after last year’s on-and-off M&A interest from the serial acquirer Danaher. But the deal could benefit both Novo Holdings and Novo Nordisk.

Novo Nordisk’s biggest challenge has been simply making enough of the weight loss drug Wegovy and diabetes therapy Ozempic. On last week’s earnings call, Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen said the company isn’t constrained by capital in its efforts to boost manufacturing. Rather, the main challenge is the limited amount of capabilities out there, he said.

“Most pharmaceutical companies in the world would be shopping among the same manufacturers,” he said. “There’s not an unlimited amount of machinery and people to build it.”

While Novo was already one of Catalent’s major customers, the manufacturer has been hamstrung by its own balance sheet. With roughly $5 billion in debt on its books, it’s had to juggle paying down debt with sufficiently investing in its facilities. That’s been particularly challenging in keeping pace with soaring demand for GLP-1 drugs.

Novo, on the other hand, has the balance sheet to funnel as much money as needed into the plants in Italy, Belgium, and Indiana. It’s also struggled to make enough of its popular GLP-1 drugs to meet their soaring demand, with documented shortages of both Ozempic and Wegovy.

The impact won’t be immediate. The parties expect the deal to close near the end of 2024. Novo Nordisk said it expects the three new sites to “gradually increase Novo Nordisk’s filling capacity from 2026 and onwards.”

As for the rest of Catalent — nearly 50 other sites employing thousands of workers — Novo Holdings will take control. The group previously acquired Altasciences in 2021 and Ritedose in 2022, so the Catalent deal builds on a core investing interest in biopharma services, Novo Holdings CEO Kasim Kutay told Endpoints News.

Kasim Kutay

When asked about possible site closures or layoffs, Kutay said the team hasn’t thought about that.

“That’s not our track record. Our track record is to invest in quality businesses and help them grow,” he said. “There’s always stuff to do with any asset you own, but we haven’t bought this company to do some of the stuff you’re talking about.”

What does it mean for Catalent’s customers? 

Until the deal closes, Catalent will operate as a standalone business. After it closes, Novo Nordisk said it will honor its customer obligations at the three sites, a spokesperson said. But they didn’t answer a question about what happens when those contracts expire.

The wrinkle is the long-term future of the three plants that Novo Nordisk is paying for. Those sites don’t exclusively pump out Wegovy, but that could be the logical long-term aim for the Danish drugmaker.

The ideal scenario is that pricing and timelines remain the same for customers, said Nicole Paulk, CEO of the gene therapy startup Siren Biotechnology.

Nicole Paulk

“The name of the group that you’re going to send your check to is now going to be Novo Holdings instead of Catalent, but otherwise everything remains the same,” Paulk told Endpoints. “That’s the best-case scenario.”

In a worst case, Paulk said she feared the new owners could wind up closing sites or laying off Catalent groups. That could create some uncertainty for customers looking for a long-term manufacturing partner.

Are shareholders and regulators happy? 

The pandemic was a wild ride for Catalent’s stock, with shares surging from about $40 to $140 and then crashing back to earth. The $63.50 share price for the takeover is a happy ending depending on the investor.

On that point, the investing giant Elliott Investment Management is satisfied. Marc Steinberg, a partner at Elliott, called the agreement “an outstanding outcome” that “clearly maximizes value for Catalent stockholders” in a statement.

Elliott helped kick off a strategic review last August that culminated in the sale agreement. Compared to Catalent’s stock price before that review started, the deal pays a nearly 40% premium.

Alessandro Maselli

But this is hardly a victory lap for CEO Alessandro Maselli, who took over in July 2022 when Catalent’s stock price was north of $100. Novo’s takeover is a tacit acknowledgment that Maselli could never fully right the ship, as operational problems plagued the company throughout 2023 while it was limited by its debt.

Additional regulatory filings in the next few weeks could give insight into just how competitive the sale process was. William Blair analysts said they don’t expect a competing bidder “given the organic investments already being pursued at other leading CDMOs and the breadth and scale of Catalent’s operations.”

The Blair analysts also noted the companies likely “expect to spend some time educating relevant government agencies” about the deal, given the lengthy closing timeline. Given Novo Nordisk’s ascent — it’s now one of Europe’s most valuable companies — paired with the limited number of large contract manufacturers, antitrust regulators could be interested in taking a close look.

Are Catalent’s problems finally a thing of the past?

Catalent ran into a mix of financial and operational problems over the past year that played no small part in attracting the interest of an activist like Elliott.

Now with a deal in place, how quickly can Novo rectify those problems? Some of the challenges were driven by the demands of being a publicly traded company, like failing to meet investors’ revenue expectations or even filing earnings reports on time.

But Catalent also struggled with its business at times, with a range of manufacturing delays, inspection reports and occasionally writing down acquisitions that didn’t pan out. Novo’s deep pockets will go a long way to a turnaround, but only the future will tell if all these issues are fixed.

Kutay said his team is excited by the opportunity and was satisfied with the due diligence it did on the company.

“We believe we’re buying a strong company with a good management team and good prospects,” Kutay said. “If that wasn’t the case, I don’t think we’d be here.”

Amber Tong and Reynald Castañeda contributed reporting.

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Petrina Kamya, Ph.D., Head of AI Platforms at Insilico Medicine, presents at BIO CEO & Investor Conference

Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb….

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Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb. 26-27 at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. Dr. Kamya will speak as part of the panel “AI within Biopharma: Separating Value from Hype,” on Feb. 27, 1pm ET along with Michael Nally, CEO of Generate: Biomedicines and Liz Schwarzbach, PhD, CBO of BigHat Biosciences.

Credit: Insilico Medicine

Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb. 26-27 at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. Dr. Kamya will speak as part of the panel “AI within Biopharma: Separating Value from Hype,” on Feb. 27, 1pm ET along with Michael Nally, CEO of Generate: Biomedicines and Liz Schwarzbach, PhD, CBO of BigHat Biosciences.

The session will look at how the latest artificial intelligence (AI) tools – including generative AI and large language models – are currently being used to advance the discovery and design of new drugs, and which technologies are still in development. 

The BIO CEO & Investor Conference brings together over 1,000 attendees and more than 700 companies across industry and institutional investment to discuss the future investment landscape of biotechnology. Sessions focus on topics such as therapeutic advancements, market outlook, and policy priorities.

Insilico Medicine is a leading, clinical stage AI-driven drug discovery company that has raised over $400m in investments since it was founded in 2014. Dr. Kamya leads the development of the Company’s end-to-end generative AI platform, Pharma.AI from Insilico’s AI R&D Center in Montreal. Using modern machine learning techniques in the context of chemistry and biology, the platform has driven the discovery and design of 30+ new therapies, with five in clinical stages – for cancer, fibrosis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and COVID-19. The Company’s lead drug, for the chronic, rare lung condition idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, is the first AI-designed drug for an AI-discovered target to reach Phase II clinical trials with patients. Nine of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies have used Insilico’s AI platform to advance their programs, and the Company has a number of major strategic licensing deals around its AI-designed therapeutic assets, including with Sanofi, Exelixis and Menarini. 

 

About Insilico Medicine

Insilico Medicine, a global clinical stage biotechnology company powered by generative AI, is connecting biology, chemistry, and clinical trials analysis using next-generation AI systems. The company has developed AI platforms that utilize deep generative models, reinforcement learning, transformers, and other modern machine learning techniques for novel target discovery and the generation of novel molecular structures with desired properties. Insilico Medicine is developing breakthrough solutions to discover and develop innovative drugs for cancer, fibrosis, immunity, central nervous system diseases, infectious diseases, autoimmune diseases, and aging-related diseases. www.insilico.com 


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