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Reuters

Study panning anti-malaria drug Trump took against COVID faces new questions

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NEW YORK (Reuters) – British medical journal the Lancet on Tuesday said it had concerns about data behind an influential article that found hydroxychloroquine increased the risk of death in COVID-19 patients, a conclusion that undercut scientific interest in the medicine championed by U.S. President Donald Trump.

FILE PHOTO: The drug hydroxychloroquine, pushed by U.S. President Donald Trump and others in recent months as a possible treatment to people infected with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), is displayed at the Rock Canyon Pharmacy in Provo, Utah, U.S. May 27, 2020. REUTERS/George Frey/File Photo

Hydroxychloroquine – which has anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties – inhibited the coronavirus in laboratory experiments but has not been proven effective in humans, particularly in placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trials considered the gold standard for data.

The debate has become highly politicized, and many scientists have voiced concern.

Nearly 150 doctors signed an open letter to the Lancet last week calling the article’s conclusions into question and asking to make public the peer review comments that preceded publication.

“This is not some sideshow or minor issue,” said Dr. Walid Gellad, a professor at University of Pittsburgh’s medical school, who was not a signatory of the letter but has been critical of the study.

“We’re in an unprecedented pandemic. We’ve organized these enormous clinical trials to figure out if something works. And this study stopped or paused a couple of those trials, and changed the narrative around a drug that no one knows if it works or not,” he said.

The observational study published in the Lancet on May 22 looked at 96,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, some treated with the decades-old malaria drug that Trump said he took and has urged others to use.

Several clinical trials were put on hold after the study was published.

The study, using data provided by healthcare data analytics firm Surgisphere, was not a traditional clinical trial that would have compared hydroxychloroquine to a placebo or other medicine.

The Lancet’s editors said in a note that serious scientific questions about the study were brought to their attention and an independent audit of the data has already been commissioned.

Surgisphere said in a statement that the audit “will bring further transparency to our work (and) further highlight the quality of our work.”

Earlier on Tuesday, the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) said it was concerned about the quality of the data behind a different study it published in May that also used data from Surgisphere and had the same lead author.

Dr. Mandeep Mehra, the lead author and a professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, defended the use of the Surgisphere dataset as an intermediary step until clinical data is available.

“I eagerly await word from the independent audits, the results of which will inform any further action,” Mehra said in a statement after the Lancet note.

The World Health Organization (WHO) suspended hydroxychloroquine’s use in a large trial on COVID-19 patients after the Lancet study. Following the WHO trial suspension, the governments of France, Italy and Belgium halted the use of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 patients.

Among the critics of the study to sign the letter last week were several academics from the University of Oxford and Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU) in Bangkok, which had been conducting the global “COPCOV” trial of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment of COVID-19.

FILE PHOTO: A nurse shows a pill of hydroxychloroquine, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at Nossa Senhora da Conceicao hospital in Porto Alegre, Brazil, April 23, 2020. REUTERS/Diego Vara/File Photo

The trial was paused last week, after the Lancet article.

In March, Trump, with little scientific evidence, said hydroxychloroquine used in combination with the antibiotic azithromycin had “a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine.” He later said he took the drugs preventively after two people who worked at the White House were diagnosed with COVID-19.

Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro discussed a joint research effort on using hydroxychloroquine as both a prophylaxis and treatment for the coronavirus, the White House said on Tuesday.

Reporting by Michael Erman; additional reporting by Alistair Smout, Editing by Bill Berkrot, Peter Henderson and Tom Brown

Source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/topNews/~3/8RvQdm59PdU/study-panning-anti-malaria-drug-trump-took-against-covid-faces-new-questions-idUSKBN2392WR

Blockchain

India to have a ‘window’ for Bitcoin, says minister amid crypto ban FUD

The Ministry of Finance of India continues to form a careful position on private cryptocurrencies.

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The minister of finance of India, Nirmala Sitharaman, has given a ray of hope for the Indian cryptocurrency community as more fear, uncertainty and doubt circulate regarding a supposedly impending ban on digital assets. 

In a Saturday interview with India Today, Sitharaman emphasized that the ministry does not plan to shut off Indian innovations associated with Bitcoin (BTC) and its underlying blockchain technology.

“From our side, we are very clear that we are not shutting all options off. We will allow certain windows for people use, so that experiments on the blockchain, Bitcoins or cryptocurrency […] and fintech, which depend on such experiments, will have that window available for them. We are not going to shut it off,” she said.

Sitharaman said that the ministry is finalizing a cabinet note on crypto as India continues formulating its official stance on the asset class. “It is nearing completion, and then it will be taken to the cabinet. The Supreme Court had commented on cryptocurrency. We are very clear that the Reserve Bank of India will take a call on an official cryptocurrency,” she said.

After India’s supreme court lifted a crypto banking ban one year ago, reports of a new ban started circulating in early 2021. In February, another anonymous Indian official claimed that the government was about to introduce a complete ban on crypto, giving investors up to six months to liquidate their holdings.

On Sunday, Reuters published a report citing an anonymous senior government official who claimed that India is preparing to enforce a blanket ban on crypto and impose major penalties on rule-breakers. As part of an alleged bill, India is planning to criminalize “possession, issuance, mining, trading and transferring crypto-assets,” the source claimed.

Despite reports of a ban from anonymous sources continuing to surface, Sitharaman said in early March that the ministry wants to form a “calibrated” stance on digital assets. 

Nischal Shetty, founder of local crypto exchange WazirX, seemed optimistic about Sitharaman’s comments in a tweet, stating that it is time for the Indian crypto community to build. 

The RBI and the Ministry of Finance did not immediately respond to Cointelegraph’s request for comment.

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Source: https://cointelegraph.com/news/india-to-have-a-window-for-bitcoin-says-minister-amid-crypto-ban-fud

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Reuters

Fintech banker McLaughlin hunts bigger deal after upsized SPAC IPO

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NEW YORK (Reuters) – The blank check firm co-founded by one of the most prominent U.S. financial technology investment bankers will broaden its search for merger partners to companies worth up to $10 billion after pricing a larger initial public offering (IPO).

Steve McLaughlin started FT Partners in 2001 and since then, the fintech-focused investment bank has worked on mergers and acquisitions and public and private fundraising for the likes of BlackRock Inc, StoneCo Ltd and GreenSky Inc.

An alumnus of Goldman Sachs, McLaughlin and FT Partners have also been involved in advising a half-dozen firms in mergers with so-called special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs), most recently mobile bank MoneyLion’s $2.9 billion combination with Fusion Acquisition Corp.

Alongside Gene Yoon, founder of technology-focused investment firm Bregal Sagemount, McLaughlin is now sponsoring his own SPAC. Independence Holdings Corp. priced a $435 million IPO on Monday, having increased the number of units sold due to investor demand.

SPACs are shell companies that raise funds from investors to take a private company public.

Pulling in extra cash and fully exercising the greenshoe, a share allotment potentially sold in the days after an IPO prices, McLaughlin told Reuters on Tuesday, will allow Independence to target larger fintech companies, beyond the $5 billion maximum size previously considered.

He added a deal involving a company that processes payments between businesses, or one providing financial management services, would be likely for Independence.

“We provide an incredibly attractive option for a company as we’ve successfully taken many companies through this complex process, so we can give comfort to founders and investors along the way,” McLaughlin said.

Despite heightened investor interest in cryptocurrencies, McLaughlin said Independence wouldn’t be investing in a firm in that industry because most businesses are still too early in their development.

He added it was highly unlikely that Independence would end up merging with a client of his investment bank.

Source: Reuters – Fintech banker McLaughlin hunts bigger deal after upsized SPAC IPO

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Reuters

Former Disney executives Mayer and Staggs plan new SPAC – source

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(Reuters) – Former Walt Disney Co executives Kevin Mayer and Thomas Staggs plan to raise $300 million in an initial public offering for a new special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), a person familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

The duo’s first SPAC, Forest Road Acquisition Corp, agreed a three-way merger last week with fitness companies Beachbody LLC and Myx Fitness LLC that was valued at around $2.9 billion.

Former basketball star Shaquille O’Neal, who is also on the board of directors at pizza chain Papa John’s International Inc, and Martin Luther King III, the oldest son of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr, are working for Forest Road II as a strategic advisor and a director, respectively, the source said.

Mayer and Staggs will serve as co-chief executives and co-chairmen of the new SPAC, the source said. They had worked with the first Forest Road SPAC as a strategic advisor and director, respectively.

The source requested anonymity ahead of a regulatory disclosure on the SPAC IPO.

Mayer was Disney’s top streaming executive before he left the media giant last year to become the chief executive of popular video app TikTok. He departed the company three months after joining. Staggs worked at Disney for 26 years and held various roles including chief operating officer.

SPACs are shell companies that raise funds to take a private company public. They have gained immense popularity since last year, as they allow companies to go public by eschewing traditional IPOs.

A string of high-profile SPACs have been raised in the last 12 months, including by financial investors William Ackman and Barry Sternlicht, former U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and ex-NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Source: Reuters – Former Disney executives Mayer and Staggs plan new SPAC-source

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Reuters

Global firms raise $546 billion in January as SPAC frenzy continues

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(Reuters) – Companies raised $546 billion from new bond and share issues in January, as a flood of central bank money-printing and recovering stock markets brought record numbers of new listings, SPAC deals and share sales, Refinitiv data showed on Wednesday.

The numbers included $106.15 billion in initial public offerings (IPOs), SPACs and secondary offerings, with the amount of money raised by SPACs alone soaring 20 times to $24.26 billion from a year earlier, the data showed.

Companies also raised nearly $439.9 billion in corporate debt in January, a 5% fall since the same period last year, but still the second largest January in 25 years.

A SPAC, a shell company that raises money in an IPO before later merging with a privately held company to take the latter public, has become many investors structure of choice over the past year.

January’s haul was already 30% of a total $79 billion raised by SPACs in the whole of 2020.

Traditional IPO volumes in the United States, however, remained higher than SPACs in January, hitting a 25-year high of $33.9 billion.

Some 47% new bond and share issues were U.S. offerings in January this year, with China second with $23.96 billion.

Nasdaq was the clear winner among exchanges, with 167 issues raising $41.12 billion, followed by the New York Stock Exchange and the Hong Kong Exchange a close third, with both raking in a little more than $18 billion respectively.

That was in stark contrast to European financial hubs London and Frankfurt, which raised $4.29 billion and $1.72 billion respectively.

Chinese online video company Kuaishou Technology is the biggest IPO globally so far this year, raising $5.42 billion in Hong Kong, followed by Polish parcel locker business InPost SA which raised $3.40 billion in Amsterdam.

Source: Reuters – Global firms raise $546 billion in January as SPAC frenzy continues

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