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The Road to Serfdom is Paved by Conservatives

For the last ten years I have been baffled as I watched the conservative movement devolve into a weird wing of progressivism—especially on economic issues….

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For the last ten years I have been baffled as I watched the conservative movement devolve into a weird wing of progressivism—especially on economic issues. While once at least paying lip service to limited government, fiscal prudence, and personal responsibility, conservatives now ignore the size of government and fiscal responsibility. They increasingly call for a larger child tax credit, a universal basic income, and paid leave arranged and ensured by the federal government. Many conservatives now also proudly embrace tariffs, hyperactive antitrust, and industrial policy (often justified, of course, as necessary to ‘fight’ China).

Conservatives – or at least the more politically active ones – are reverting to their 1920s selves (See Matt Continetti’s book, The Right: The 100 year war for American Conservatism.) I failed to see this reversion occurring, in part because I moved to the United States in 1999 and was until recently fairly ignorant of the history of the conservative movement- and how the last forty years were more an exception than the rule.

 

I fear that this recent trend is just the beginning. It won’t be long before the conservatives’ platform is a full-on version of big government, big business, and big unions. It’s depressing.

It is hard not to wonder if the liberty movement is now failing to follow in the footsteps of Hayek, Friedman, and other great 20th-century champions of freedom. It’s important now to recognize that on most fronts the challenges faced by the first- and second-generation members of the Mont Pelerin Society were, if anything, greater than what we champions of freedom face today. After all, people in 1947 – or even in 1987 – could not, as we can today, point to the actual collapse of the socialist states as evidence of the dangers of collectivism. And yet Hayek and his peers left us a world that was more accepting of free trade and free-market economics, even if these liberal policies were not the default position.

Perhaps a more optimistic way to view the current situation is to be inspired by those who fought for a more classical liberal world at a time when things looked particularly grim. Rather than despair, get energized by the challenge. But this raises the question of what is the best way not merely to preserve the flame of freedom but to spread it. What the next steps are, I do not know. I am open to your suggestions. The private sector continues to deliver innovation, growth, and widespread prosperity. But as of today, few people are willing to acknowledge that it is the free-market system that allows these wonderful things to happen, and that while of course imperfect (often because impaired by government interventions), any alternatives would be much worse.

How do you fight the battle of ideas when so many people distrust the institutions that host those of us who produce and apply these ideas? I have spent most of my professional life producing work to show that arguments for government interventions are bunk. For instance, in this new paper with Chuck Blahous, he and I take on the new conservative recommendation that Social Security be used to provide paid-leave benefits. We show, again, all the ways that this is a terrible idea. Of course, I believe that work such as this is important, since these are serious propositions introduced in Congress and supported by a fairly large number of conservatives. But is there a better way?

In this new paper, Gary Leff and I argue that next time legislators are tempted to bail out airlines ostensibly to ensure that they will be ready when the economy reopens, the public should remember the actual, depressing results of the most recent such bailout. But Congress won’t change its response unless we change the incentives politicians face during the next emergency. How do we do that? After all these years, I still don’t know.

Maybe it is more effective to offer a vision of what a libertarian world looks like. This is what Aaron Powell does in this edited volume. I recommend it. I think this approach describes also a lot of the work of former EconLog blogger Bryan Caplan. He inspires by offering a vision of what a world would look like without government subsidies to higher ed, a world with largely open borders, and a world with radically fewer restrictions on home building.

The Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom Index offers such a vision, because it is a concrete way to illustrate what countries with less economic freedom look like compared to those with more freedom. The 2022 Economic Freedom of the World Report was released earlier today; all countries have declined in economic freedom, thanks to over the top pandemic responses, but the U.S. has actually declined even more relative to other countries. The U.S. rating fell by twice the amount of the average reduction worldwide. The U.S. is at its lowest level of economic freedom in four decades.

The bottom line is that while I am usually an optimist, I find myself increasingly worried and wondering what we did wrong and what to do next.

 


Veronique de Rugy is a Senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center and syndicated columnist at Creators.

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FDA’s drug shortages leader wants companies to start reporting increases in demand

It is no secret that drug shortages have been prevalent in 2022. Several major drug products, such as amoxicillin and Adderall, have been in short supply…

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It is no secret that drug shortages have been prevalent in 2022. Several major drug products, such as amoxicillin and Adderall, have been in short supply for several months and have led to members of Congress applying pressure on the FDA and HHS to resolve the situation.

Valerie Jensen

Speaking at a webinar hosted by the Alliance for a Stronger FDA, Valerie Jensen, the associate director of the FDA’s Drug Shortage Staff, noted both the rise in quality-related issues and increased demand for some products. She called on companies to report such demand increases, even though they are not currently required to do so.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, she said, the agency has seen new challenges mainly related to these increases in demand.

“During the pandemic as well, we had competition on manufacturing lines and that’s still occurring due to vaccine production and other Covid products,” Jensen said. “So, the same products are being made on those lines that are making the vaccines and Covid-related products, and then that creates a competition situation.”

Jensen added that an increase in demand for manufacturing commodities due to large-scale vaccine production is also leading to shortages. Items such as glass, filters and vial hoppers are in short supply. And now the increased demand is centered around the increase in drugs to counter respiratory illnesses.

She said the physical number of drug shortages currently sits at 123, which is “a little above normal,” but there have been around 100 shortages at any given time over the past seven years. Some of those can be chalked up to companies not producing the volumes required to meet market demand. She also added that there were 38 new shortages in 2021, but the FDA is still dealing with them this year.

For some temporary solutions, Jensen said that she has been coordinating with international regulatory authorities more often, to find out what is being marketed and to see if they can import a drug in short supply in the US. She is also coordinating experts to try to mitigate the situation, providing the public with widely available information as well as expediting the review of anything that manufacturers need to boost supplies.

However, Jensen said that the increase in the demand for drugs is not something that will be going away anytime soon.

“One thing that we really see going forward are these demand increases, this is something that is fairly new to us. It’s something that we’re looking at closely,” she said. “We would really want companies to inform us if they’re seeing spikes in demand because that’s currently not required.”

While producers do need to let the FDA know of supply disruption, companies do not need to let the FDA know of spikes in demand, and Jensen would like to see this changed. Also, she would like to apply different uses for supply chain data to look for signals or patterns and ultimately predict shortages.

Jensen added that in some cases it is impossible to prevent a shortage, but she stresses that better notification of when companies are seeing a spike in demand can be a key solution:

In those cases, when we can prevent (a shortage), we are using those same tools to prevent it. So, we’re expediting review, we’re looking at potential ways that we can use flexibility to allow a product to be on the market while the company fixes a problem. All of those tools are really the same for prevention and mitigation. But I think that really the key is early notification. The earlier companies let us know about an issue the earlier we can deal with it.

With the uptick in respiratory illnesses and shortages of drugs such as amoxicillin, Jensen noted that it’s a matter of reaching out and monitoring the market to see what manufacturers are contending with. Also, Jensen will look to work with pharmacy associations and other trade groups to see what is occurring at the pharmacy level and then “put all of those pieces together” to try and help end the shortage.

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Scientists reveal encouraging findings in first-in-human clinical trial evaluating HIV vaccine approach

NEW YORK and LA JOLLA, CA—While scientists have struggled in the past to create an effective vaccine against HIV, a novel vaccine design strategy being…

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NEW YORK and LA JOLLA, CA—While scientists have struggled in the past to create an effective vaccine against HIV, a novel vaccine design strategy being pursued by researchers at Scripps Research, IAVI, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center (Fred Hutch) and the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Vaccine Research Center (VRC) shows new promise, according to data from a first-in-human clinical trial.

Credit: CHRISTOPHER COTTRELL, CREATED WITH BIORENDER.COM

NEW YORK and LA JOLLA, CA—While scientists have struggled in the past to create an effective vaccine against HIV, a novel vaccine design strategy being pursued by researchers at Scripps Research, IAVI, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center (Fred Hutch) and the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Vaccine Research Center (VRC) shows new promise, according to data from a first-in-human clinical trial.

In a paper published in Science on December 2, 2022, the scientists reveal critical new insights into their novel vaccine strategy, which involves a stepwise approach to producing antibodies capable of targeting a wide range of HIV variants. 

“The data we are publishing in Science demonstrates for the first time that one can design a vaccine that elicits made-to-order antibodies in humans. We specified in advance certain molecular properties of the antibodies that we wanted to elicit, and the results of this trial show that our vaccine antigen consistently induced precisely those types of antibodies,” says co-senior author William Schief, PhD, a professor and immunologist at Scripps Research and executive director of vaccine design at IAVI’s Neutralizing Antibody Center, whose laboratory developed the vaccine antigen. “We believe this vaccine design strategy will be essential to make an HIV vaccine and may help the field create vaccines for other difficult pathogens.”

The Phase 1 trial, known as IAVI G001, tested the first stage in a multi-stage HIV vaccine regimen the researchers are developing. The trial results show that the vaccine had a favorable safety profile and induced the targeted response in 97% of people who were vaccinated. Importantly, the Science study also provides a detailed immunological analysis of the vaccine responses.

“HIV represents an area of dire unmet need across the world, which is what makes the findings from our Phase 1 clinical trial so encouraging,” says Mark Feinberg, MD, PhD, president and CEO of IAVI. “Through the close-knit collaboration of many different scientists, disciplines and institutions, we are that much closer to designing an effective vaccine that could help end the HIV pandemic.”  

Priming the Immune System

Broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs) are a rare type of antibody that can fight and protect against many different variants of a virus—including HIV. This is why scientists have tried to develop an HIV vaccine that induces bnAbs, but thus far without success.   

The researchers in the study are using a strategy known as ‘germline targeting’ to eventually produce bnAbs that can protect against HIV. The first step of germline targeting involves stimulating the rare immune cells—known as bnAb-precursor B cells—that can eventually evolve into the cells that produce the bnAbs needed to block the virus. To accomplish this first step, the researchers designed a customized molecule—known as an immunogen—that would “prime” the immune system and elicit responses from these rare bnAb-precursor cells.

The overarching goal of the IAVI G001 trial was to determine if the vaccine had an acceptable safety profile and could induce responses from these bnAb-precursor B cells.

“Through extensive safety and tolerability monitoring during the trial, we showed the vaccine had a favorable safety profile, while still inducing the necessary target cells,” says study author Dagna Laufer, MD, vice president and head of clinical development at IAVI. “This represents a large step forward in developing an HIV vaccine that is both safe and effective.”

To determine if the targeted bnAb-precursor B cells were induced, the researchers carried out a sophisticated analytical process.

“The workflow of multidimensional immunological analyses has taken clinical trial evaluation to the next level,” says co-senior author Adrian B. McDermott, PhD, former chief of the Vaccine Immunology Program at the NIAID VRC. “In evaluating these important immunological factors, we helped show why the vaccine antigen was able to induce the targeted response in 97% of vaccine recipients.” 

IAVI G001 was sponsored by IAVI and took place at two sites: George Washington University (GWU) in Washington, D.C., and Fred Hutch in Seattle, enrolling 48 healthy adult volunteers. Participants received either a placebo or two doses of the vaccine antigen, eOD-GT8 60mer, along with an adjuvant developed by the pharmaceutical company GSK. Julie McElrath, MD, PhD, co-senior author, senior vice president and director of Fred Hutch’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division, and David Diemert, MD, professor of medicine at GWU School of Medicine and Health Sciences, were lead investigators at the trial sites.

A Deeper Immunological Dive

The study also carefully examined the properties of the antibodies and B cells induced by the vaccine antigen, in what Schief likens to “looking under the car hood” to understand how the immune system operated in response to the vaccine. One analysis showed that the vaccine antigen first stimulated an average of 30 to 65 different bnAb precursors per person vaccinated, and then caused those cells to multiply. This helped explain why the vaccine induced the desired response in almost all participants.

Other analyses delved into the specific mutations the bnAb-precursor B cells acquired over time and how tightly they bound to the vaccine antigen. These investigations showed that that after each dose of the vaccine, the bnAb-precursor B cells gained affinity and continued along favorable maturation pathways.

One concern for this type of vaccine approach is the notion of “competitors”—in other words, the B cells induced by the vaccine antigen that are not bnAb precursors. The researchers extensively studied the “competitor” responses, and the results were very encouraging. Although the majority of the B cells triggered by vaccination were, in fact, “competitors”, these undesired B cells could not match the binding strength of the desired bnAb precursors and did not seem to impede maturation of the bnAb-precursor responses.

“These findings were very encouraging, as they indicated that immunogen design principles we used could be applied to many different epitopes, whether for HIV or even other pathogens,” adds Schief.

With these promising data in hand spanning both safety and immune responses, the researchers will continue to iterate and design boosting immunogens that could eventually induce the desired bnAbs and provide protection against the virus. These findings also come shortly after two additional studies in Immunity published in September 2022, which helped validate the germline-targeting approach for vaccinating against HIV.

“Working together with IAVI, Scripps Research, the VRC, GWU, additional investigators at Fred Hutch and many others, this trial and additional analyses will help inform design of the remaining stages of a candidate HIV vaccine regimen—while also enabling others in the field to develop vaccine strategies for additional viruses,” says McElrath of Fred Hutch.

IAVI, Scripps Research, NIAID, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) are partnering with the biotechnology company Moderna to develop and test mRNA delivery of these HIV vaccine antigens. Two Phase I clinical trials are underway that build on IAVI G001, one (IAVI G002) at four sites in the U.S. and another (IAVI G003) at the Center for Family Health Research in Kigali, Rwanda, and The Aurum Institute in Tembisa, South Africa. Both are testing mRNA delivery of the eOD-GT8 60mer that was evaluated as recombinant protein in IAVI G001, and the U.S. trial includes a boost antigen designed by the Schief lab and delivered with Moderna mRNA technology. A third trial (HVTN302), at ten sites in the U.S., is testing mRNA delivery of three different stabilized HIV trimers designed in the Schief laboratory that are candidates for late-stage boosters in multi-stage vaccines aiming to induce bnAbs. Using mRNA technology could significantly accelerate the pace of HIV vaccine development as it allows for faster production of clinical trial material.

This work was supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Collaboration for AIDS Vaccine Discovery; the IAVI Neutralizing Antibody Center; NIAID; Scripps Center for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology and Immunogen Discovery and Scripps Consortium for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Development; and the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard. Other collaborating organizations include Duke Human Vaccine Institute, Karolinska Institutet, and La Jolla Institute. 

Research at the IAVI Neutralizing Antibody Center that contributed to the development of the vaccine antigen eOD-GT8 60mer was also made possible by the government of the Netherlands through the Minister of Foreign Trade & Development Cooperation and through the generous support of the American people through PEPFAR through USAID. The contents are the responsibility of IAVI and Scripps Research and do not necessarily reflect the views of PEPFAR, USAID, or the United States government.

About IAVI

IAVI is a nonprofit scientific research organization dedicated to addressing urgent, unmet global health challenges including HIV and tuberculosis. Its mission is to translate scientific discoveries into affordable, globally accessible public health solutions. Read more at iavi.org.

About Scripps Research

Scripps Research is an independent, nonprofit biomedical institute ranked the most influential in the world for its impact on innovation by Nature Index. We are advancing human health through profound discoveries that address pressing medical concerns around the globe. Our drug discovery and development division, Calibr, works hand-in-hand with scientists across disciplines to bring new medicines to patients as quickly and efficiently as possible, while teams at Scripps Research Translational Institute harness genomics, digital medicine and cutting-edge informatics to understand individual health and render more effective healthcare. Scripps Research also trains the next generation of leading scientists at our Skaggs Graduate School, consistently named among the top 10 US programs for chemistry and biological sciences. Learn more at www.scripps.edu.


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Chevron will still be drilling in 2050: CEO Mike Wirth

Chevron Corporation (NYSE: CVX) will most certainly be drilling about thirty years from now, says CEO Mike Wirth – in contrast with President Biden who…

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Chevron Corporation (NYSE: CVX) will most certainly be drilling about thirty years from now, says CEO Mike Wirth – in contrast with President Biden who recently reiterated that the U.S. will pull out of drilling.

Chevron is continuing to invest

The oil and gas behemoth plans on spending $15 billion to $17 billion a year to meet the growing demand. Speaking with folks at CNBC’s “Squawk Box”, the chief executive noted:

We’re growing production because world’s growing in terms of demand. We have to look well into the future and invest to meet that demand. We’re up this year 15% in Permian versus same period last year and continuing to invest.

While that’s well-below what the multinational was spending before the COVID pandemic, the output, CEO Wirth added, remains the same as Chevron is now more capital-efficient.

For the year, Chevron shares are up more than 50% at writing.

CEO Wirth’s view of the future

It is noteworthy here that Chevron refused to cave in the face of pressure in recent years to lower production and that’s contributing to the ability of the U.S. today to help its allies fight the Russia-driven energy crisis.

Moving forward as well, CEO Mike Wirth sees future in a blend of clean energy and hydrocarbons.

Affordable energy is essential for economic prosperity, reliable energy for national security, and environmental protection is essential for a sustainable planet. We have to balance all three. If you over index one, you can create vulnerabilities.

In related oil news, OPEC+ is expected to reveal plans of further cutting production on Sunday.

The post Chevron will still be drilling in 2050: CEO Mike Wirth appeared first on Invezz.

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