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With new Atlantic Charter, Biden and Johnson reset the special relationship

Eighty years after Churchill and Roosevelt established the Atlantic Charter, Biden and Johnson have pressed the ‘reset’ button.

Boris Johnson and Joe Biden signed a New Atlantic Charter, an echo of the Roosevelt-Churchill meeting 80 years earlier. Hollie Adams/EPA-EFE

Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill first met in the summer of 1941 on HMS Prince of Wales to create the Atlantic Charter, establishing the terms of their countries’ relationship in war, and, as it was to prove, in peace.

Eighty years later, Joe Biden and Boris Johnson meet in front of a new HMS Prince of Wales to renew the constitution of the “special relationship”, with the New Atlantic Charter. These are about as piquant a series of historical coincidences as an administration (or historian) could wish for.

Both charters commit the US and the UK to what they deem the pressing issues of the day. The original’s call for the lowering of trade barriers, self-determination, and economic cooperation remains not only pertinent, but crucial, both for a post-Brexit, “global” Britain, and for an America which wants once again to lead through alliances.

In an age when the world is actually becoming less democratic, the new accord makes paramount the defence of democracy, followed by strengthening international institutions, recognising sovereignty and territorial integrity, supporting collective security, and a rules-based global economy. It ends with tackling the climate crisis – a notion unknown in 1941 – and, topically, the catastrophic impact of health crises.

Where once there was war, now there is pandemic. Both Biden and Johnson have announced plans to collectively vaccinate 600 million people through another legacy of 1941, the World Health Organization. The leaders of the two countries which led the fightback in the second world war may think of themselves as leading the world again, but against a different kind of tyranny.

Historic echoes

Five months after Roosevelt and Churchill met, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour and delivered what the prime minister wanted most: America in the war. Two days later, the Japanese sank the HMS Prince of Wales and another experience was shared.

On the eve of his departure, Biden noted his intention to “affirm the special relationship between our nations”. This set up Johnson’s revelation that he didn’t like the term, saying he thought it was “needy and weak”. To freshen it up, he renamed it the “indestructable relationship”. This isn’t the first attempt to revamp it.

For example, it’s not uncommon for the US and UK to publicly mark anniversaries of the furniture of the special relationship: the NSA and GCHQ marked 75 years of their intelligence partnership while the US has celebrated how Churchill coined the term.. Churchill happens to be the Brit most revered by Americans – to the extent of having a warship named after him.

And this week, the 21st century may be seen to look back to the 20th. There’s even a biographical relationship: President Biden is as old as the Atlantic Charter. And he became a senator in 1973, the year that Britain pivoted from the new world back to the old. After the G7, Biden and Johnson will go on to NATO – yet another legacy of 1941 (as are the summits themselves).

A changing relationship

The precedents for the two men alone are auspicious. Biden-Johnson succeeds Trump-May and Trump-Johnson, respectively the worst, and the most dysfunctional presidential and prime ministerial relationships in history.

Neither having much in the way of fixed beliefs, for Trump and Johnson the personal had primacy. The preoccupation with their personalities and idiosyncrasies overwhelmed other aspects of US-UK relations.

Nevertheless, Biden – the most career of career politicians – and Johnson – whose non-conformity is central to his appeal – find their relationship more than usually freighted with baggage.

Overtly Irish-American, Biden publicly voiced his concerns about the implications of Brexit trade issues on peace in Northern Ireland.

Johnson’s reckless remark about Obama the Kenyan “has never gone away”. According to a member of Biden’s campaign team: “Biden’s got a long memory and Boris is not in his good books. Biden and Obama are like family.”

Equally unwisely, Biden described the new prime minister as a “kind of a physical and emotional clone” of Trump. Such antipathy stemmed from both the pro-Trump present and the anti-Obama past of the prime minister.

But ascending to office can do wonders to opinions. Biden appropriated Johnson’s slogan about the impending post-pandemic reconstruction: “Build Back Better”, while Johnson immediately welcomed the “incoming Biden-Harris administration” and spoke of “the previous president” without Trump’s name passing his lips.

With Biden’s election, in London and Washington the commentators’ word of choice for US-UK relations was “reset”. With Biden’s record of pragmatism and cooperation and the fortuitous coincidence of UK leadership of the UN Security Council – the core of the 1941 settlement –- as well as the G7 and COP26, an opportunity presented itself.

Scepticism will persist about the nature and extent – even the existence – of the special relationship. But the first world leader the new American president spoke to (other than those of the two countries bordering his own) was British, the first he met in person was British and the first country he visited as president was Britain.

And when they met, the president and the prime minister chose to retell the origin story of the special relationship.

Martin Farr does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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AstraZeneca antibody cocktail fails to prevent Covid-19 symptoms in large trial

AstraZeneca said a late-stage trial failed to provide evidence that the company’s Covid-19 antibody therapy protected people who had contact with an infected person from the disease, a small setback in its efforts to find alternatives to vaccines.



Astra antibody cocktail fails to prevent COVID-19 symptoms in large trial

(Reuters; )

June 15 (Reuters) – AstraZeneca (AZN.L) said on Tuesday a late-stage trial failed to provide evidence that its COVID-19 antibody therapy protected people who had contact with an infected person from the disease, a small setback in its efforts to find alternatives to vaccines.

The study assessed whether the therapy, a cocktail of two types of antibodies, could prevent adults who had been exposed to the virus in the past eight days from developing COVID-19 symptoms.

The therapy, AZD7442, was 33% effective in reducing the risk of people developing symptoms compared with a placebo, but that result was not statistically significant — meaning it might have been due to chance and not the therapy.

The Phase III study, which has not been peer reviewed, included 1,121 participants in the United Kingdom and the United States. The vast majority, though not all, were free of the virus at the start of the trial.

Results for a subset of participants who were not infected to begin with was more encouraging but the primary analysis rested on results from all participants.

FILE PHOTO: A computer image created by Nexu Science Communication together with Trinity College in Dublin, shows a model structurally representative of a betacoronavirus which is the type of virus linked to COVID-19, better known as the coronavirus linked to the Wuhan outbreak, shared with Reuters on February 18, 2020. NEXU Science Communication/via REUTERS

“While this trial did not meet the primary endpoint against symptomatic illness, we are encouraged by the protection seen in the PCR negative participants following treatment with AZD7442,” AstraZeneca Executive Vice President Mene Pangalos said in a statement.

The company is banking on further studies to revive the product’s fortunes. Five more trials are ongoing, testing the antibody cocktail as treatment or in prevention.

The next one will likely be from a larger trial testing the product in people with a weakened immune system due to cancer or an organ transplant, who may not benefit from a vaccine.


AZD7442 belongs to a class of drugs called monoclonal antibodies which mimic natural antibodies produced by the body to fight off infections.

Similar therapies developed by rivals Regeneron (REGN.O) and Eli Lilly (LLY.N) have been approved by U.S. regulators for treating unhospitalised COVID patients.

European regulators have also authorised Regeneron’s therapy and are reviewing those developed by partners GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L) and Vir Biotechnology (VIR.O) as well as by Lilly and Celltrion (068270.KS).

Regeneron is also seeking U.S. authorisation for its therapy as a preventative treatment.

But the AstraZeneca results are a small blow for the drug industry as it tries to find more targeted alternatives to COVID-19 inoculations, particularly for people who may not be able to get vaccinated or those who may have an inadequate response to inoculations.

The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker, which has faced a rollercoaster of challenges with the rollout of its COVID-19 vaccine, is also developing new treatments and repurposing existing drugs to fight the virus.

AstraZeneca also said on Tuesday it was in talks with the U.S. government on “next steps” regarding a $205 million deal to supply up to 500,000 doses of AZD7442. Swiss manufacturer Lonza (LONN.S) was contracted to produce AZD7442.

Shares in the company were largely unchanged on the London Stock Exchange.

The full results will be submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed medical journal, the company said.

Reporting by Vishwadha Chander in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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Former FDA Head Takes on Exec Role at Flagship’s Preemptive Health Initiative

Stephen Hahn, the Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration under former President Donald Trump, took on a new role as chief medical officer of a new health security initiative launched by Flagship Pioneering, a life sciences venture firm…



Former FDA Head Takes on Exec Role at Flagship’s Preemptive Health Initiative


Stephen Hahn, the Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under former President Donald Trump, has taken on a new role as chief medical officer of a new health security initiative launched by Flagship Pioneering, a life sciences venture firm that incubates and curates biopharma companies.

First announced Monday, Flagship’s Preemptive Medicine and Health Security initiative aimed at developing products that can help people before they get sick. This division will focus on infectious disease threats and pursue bold treatments for existing diseases, including cancer, obesity, and neurodegeneration. 

In a brief statement, Hahn, who served as commissioner from December 2019 until January 2021, said the importance of investing in innovation and preemptive medications has never been more apparent. 

“In my career I have been a doctor and a researcher foremost and it is an honor to join Flagship Pioneering in its efforts to prioritize innovation, particularly in its Preemptive Medicine and Health Security Initiative. The more we can embrace a “what if …” approach the better we can support and protect the health and well-being of people here in the U.S. and around the world,” Hahn said in a statement. 

During his time at the FDA, Hahn was at the forefront of the government’s effort to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. His office oversaw the regulatory authorization of antivirals, antibody therapeutics and vaccines, as well as diagnostics and other tools to battle the novel coronavirus. 

Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

Hahn bore the brunt of verbal barbs aimed at the FDA by the former president for not rushing to authorize a vaccine for COVID-19 ahead of the November 2020 election. The second vaccine authorized by the FDA for COVID-19 was developed by Moderna, a Flagship company. 

Prior to his confirmation as FDA Commissioner, Hahn, a well-respected oncologist, served as chief medical executive of the vaunted The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Hahn was named deputy president and chief operating officer in 2017. In that role, he was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the cancer center, which includes managing more than 21,000 employees and a $5.2 billion operating budget. He was promoted to that position two years after joining MD Anderson as division head, department chair and professor of Radiation Oncology. Prior to MD Anderson, Hahn served as head of the radiation oncology department at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.

Flagship Founder and Chief Executive Officer Noubar Afeyan said the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down economies and caused the deaths of more than 3.8 million people across the world was an important reminder that health security is a top global priority. In addition, the ongoing pandemic brings into “stark focus” the importance of preemptive medications. 

Hahn, who helmed the FDA for three years and before that served as chief medical executive at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, has extensive experience overseeing clinical and administrative programs. Afeyan said the new division would benefit from Hahn’s experience as FDA Commissioner and help steer the Preemptive Medicine and Health Security initiative as it explores Flagship’s “growing number of explorations and companies in this emerging field.”

It is not unusual for former FDA heads to take prominent roles with companies. For example, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, Trump’s first FDA Commissioner, took a position on the Pfizer Board of Directors weeks after departing his government role. He has also taken positions on other boards since then, including Aetion, FasterCures and Illumina.


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Five U.S. states had coronavirus infections even before first reported cases – study

At least seven people in five U.S. states were infected with the novel coronavirus weeks before those states reported their first cases, a new government study showed.



Five U.S. states had coronavirus infections even before first reported cases – study

(Reuters) – At least seven people in five U.S. states were infected with the novel coronavirus weeks before those states reported their first cases, a new government study showed.

Participants who reported antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 were likely exposed to the virus at least several weeks before their sample was taken, as the antibodies do not appear until about two weeks after a person has been infected, the researchers said.

The latest results build on findings from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that suggested the novel coronavirus may have been circulating in the United States last December, well before the first COVID-19 case was diagnosed on Jan. 19, 2020.

A protective face mask lays, as the global outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, beside leaves at the lakefront in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., December 6, 2020. REUTERS/Shannon/File Photo

The positive samples came from Illinois, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and were part of a study of more than 24,000 blood samples taken for a National Institutes of Health research program between Jan. 2 and March 18, 2020.

Samples from participants in Illinois were collected on Jan. 7 and Massachusetts on Jan. 8, suggesting that the virus was present in those states as early as late December.

“This study allows us to uncover more information about the beginning of the U.S. epidemic,” said Josh Denny, one of the study authors.

The findings were published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Reporting by Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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