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Pandemic

Covid-19 has given South Korea’s biotech firms a shot in the arm

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June 12, 2021

UNTIL BEGINNING 2020 Seegene was a medium-sized South Korean provider of medical diagnostics with annual sales of around 110 million US dollars. On January 27 of the same year, Seegene’s boss Chun Jong-yoon and his colleagues in other biotechnology companies were called to an emergency meeting by the government. Officials asked if they could run tests for a novel coronavirus that had spread rapidly in Wuhan, China. The Seegene test kit received the green light from the regulatory authorities. Shortly afterwards, when cases increased in Daegu, in southeastern South Korea, the company went into emergency mode. “We stopped all other activities and just threw everything we had on Covid-19,” says Mr. Chun.

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Seegenes employees worked around the clock, snapping a few hours of sleep in hotels near the office. Dozens more were hired overnight. In a matter of weeks, the company exported millions of test kits to dozens of countries around the world. It ended the year with sales of $ 1 billion and net income of $ 440 million. Other South Korean biotech companies have had a similarly good pandemic. Five of the ten most valuable companies in the KOSDAQ index for medium-sized companies now come from the biotech sector, compared to two at the end of 2019. Likewise, two of the ten largest companies in the comparison index KOSPI.

In addition to testing, they have made treatments and vaccines for Covid-19. SK Bioscience started manufacturing the AstraZeneca jab this year and signed a contract to manufacture the Novavax jab in February. It raised $ 1.3 billion in an initial public offering over the next month; the share price soared 30% on the first day of trading and ended with a market cap of nearly $ 12 billion. In May, Samsung Biologics, a publicly traded subsidiary of South Korea’s largest conglomerate, signed a deal to distribute hundreds of millions of Moderna shots starting next month. It is building a new factory in Incheon, which, according to its own statements, will give the company a third of the worldwide contract manufacturing capacity for “biosimilars”, generics of biotech drugs.

Even before biotech firms were hired to fight Covid-19, successive governments used tax incentives, partnerships, and research and development grants to advance the industry. Thanks in part to that generosity, it had grown nearly 7% a year before the pandemic, twice as fast as South Korea’s GDP. But that was from a low base and focused on the less lucrative me-too end of the market. South Korean companies have not yet developed a globally licensed blockbuster treatment. As such, they make up less than 2% of the global biotech market, says Lee Seong-kyou of the Korea Biotechnology Industry Organization, a trading group.

Industry boosters believe the pandemic “was a turning point,” according to Kwon Oh-sung of the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade, a government think tank. In the past year, companies would have “learned more and amassed more technology than in the previous ten years,” says Lee.

Some lucky ones, like Seegene, have also amassed winnings that they can use. Mr. Chun had long hoped to perfect diagnostic kits that could test for more diseases with less complex equipment. This would allow him to expand his customer base from government and large hospitals to smaller clinics and even one-on-one practices. “We always had the plan, but we never had the money to work on it,” he says. “Now we’re doing it.”

Can the money keep flowing? Some investors could get cold feet. After the soaring in 2020, the share prices of South Korean biotechnology have fallen somewhat (see chart). At the beginning of this year, six of KOSDAQ’s top ten companies were in the biotechnology sector: one has since joined but two have left. Seegene shares are worth half as much as they were at their peak last August. SK Bioscience’s market value has fallen below what it was after its shiny debut. The shares of Samsung Biologics and Celltrion, the two giants in the industry, are trading below their recent highs.

In view of the relatively simple technology of products such as test kits, companies like Seegene are now exposed to intense competition, including from industry giants such as Roche from Switzerland. Startups complain that financing is difficult to come by. Everyone complains about the shortage of skilled workers. The pandemic gave the industry a chance. For a booster, companies have to look for themselves.

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You can find all of our stories about the pandemic and vaccines on our coronavirus hub. You can also listen to The Jab, our podcast on the race between injections and infection, and trackers that showcase the global adoption of vaccines, excessive deaths by country, and the spread of the virus in Europe and America.

This article appeared in the business section of the print edition under the heading “Booster-Shot”

Pandemic

Europe Keeps Aiding Companies to Avoid Surge of Covid-19 Insolvencies

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Rousselle Industrie SA. a maker of machinery for paint manufacturers in northern France that nearly collapsed in 2020 after the pandemic disrupted supplies and business to its customers.

The 10-person company was bailed out by $ 360,000 worth of loans under a government program that guaranteed debt and deferred interest payments for 12 months.

A year later, the company is still facing repeated delivery and payment delays, making the prospect of debt servicing difficult. Aware of the problems facing Rousselle Industrie and hundreds of thousands of other companies, the French government delayed loan repayments for another year.

Eric Plaisant, CEO of Rousselle Industrie, said the company would not have survived without government help.

“Without the help of the government, we would not have made it through this complicated phase,” said Eric Plaisant, the company’s chief executive officer. “There is still a lot of uncertainty.”

Economies like the US and China are recovering quickly. But in Europe, where vaccination programs have lagged behind other regions and the economy has slowed to adapt, companies continue to struggle. To prevent a bankruptcy avalanche and a new financial crisis on the continent, governments are extending support measures.

“We do not want to abruptly cut support and trigger dozens of bankruptcies,” said French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire.

In addition to delaying loan repayments, the French government extended the program by six months to the end of the year. So far, it has guaranteed around 675,000 companies loans worth the equivalent of 166 billion US dollars.

In Italy, Prime Minister Mario Draghi extended a moratorium on loan repayment by six months until December. In Spain, Madrid provides some state-guaranteed loans.

Some of the measures will weigh more heavily on governments, whose debt has risen to levels above the 2011 sovereign debt crisis since last year.

The pandemic crisis is different from previous recessions. Expecting a sharp decline in economic activity followed by a quick recovery once the virus outbreak was under control, governments in Europe tossed the equivalent of $ 1.8 trillion in moratorium loans, government guarantees and corporate grants to keep them afloat. They kept people in work by paying the payslips. Countries like Germany have even suspended rules that oblige companies that have run out of money to file for bankruptcy locally.

As a result, unemployment remained low on the continent. Bankruptcies even went down. And the banks saw little reason to take large losses on their loan portfolios.

However, this relative stability is due to the loan programs.

Rousselle Industrie is still faced with repeated delivery and payment delays.

“If the current measures are phased out too quickly, companies could be marginalized,” said Martin Oehmke, professor of finance at the London School of Economics and Political Science and co-chaired a report by Europe’s top financial stability regulators on it Theme.

In the document, the European Systemic Risk Board said in a worst-case scenario in which the funding programs only postponed problems instead of fixing them: “The current low bankruptcy rate would then be comparable to the retreat of the sea before a tsunami. ”

If there is a tsunami, the supervisory authorities fear that the banks are not prepared. Andrea Enria, the head of banking supervision at the European Central Bank, warned that around 40% of banks in the euro area have not properly recognized loans that are unlikely to be repaid. Many have even lowered the probability of default on new loans, despite the obvious risks.

“This is something of a mystery to us,” said Mr Enria recently.

The biggest worries are in the economically weaker south of Europe, where the banks are weaker and the countries are more dependent on the heavily affected tourism.

In Italy, CNA, an association of small and medium-sized enterprises, found that over a third of the companies surveyed said they were unable to repay their loans on a regular basis. In the tourism sector, less than 2% said they could survive after the end of June without the moratoria.

“The extension of the moratorium is of vital importance to me,” said Cristina Vincenzi, owner of a lingerie shop in northeast Roncade. Ms. Vincenzi posted a loss last year after the pandemic forced her to close her shop for months. As part of the moratorium, she did not pay the monthly installments of EUR 575 for her EUR 10,000 loan, the equivalent of around EUR 12,000.

In Portugal, around a third of all bank loans to businesses are currently on payment leave, which expires in September. In the restaurant and accommodation sector, the proportion rises to almost 60%, according to the Portuguese central bank.

Cristóvão Lopes owns a 170-room hotel in the southern region of the Algarve, which attracts sun-seekers arriving on cheap flights from northern Europe. When business plunged 85% last year, a government vacation program covered part of his workers’ salaries while receiving a small grant and pay vacation for more than half of his outstanding debt.

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In June, as activity picked up again, the UK – its largest source of customers – put Portugal back on a list of countries from which travelers must be quarantined on return. Refusals followed. Mr Lopes estimates that his business will not return to normal until 2023.

The moratorium on his debt ends in September when hotels enter the off-season.

“Until then, we just can’t generate enough liquidity,” said Lopes. “You can’t expect companies to go from zero to 100% overnight.”

Portugal’s government has presented a plan to intervene after the moratorium is lifted and to guarantee part of the loans in return for the banks to grant further repayment breaks. That carries its own risk: unpaid loans would become a national debt in a country where the national debt – at more than 130% of the gross domestic product – equals the level of the last decade.

France has guaranteed loans worth $ 166 billion for around 675,000 companies such as Rousselle Industrie.

Write to Patricia Kowsmann at patricia.kowsmann@wsj.com, Giovanni Legorano at giovanni.legorano@wsj.com and Noemie Bisserbe at noemie.bisserbe@wsj.com

Copyright © 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

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Pandemic

Experts fear COVID-19 pandemic could cause human trafficking crisis

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ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – Human trafficking is the second fastest growing crime in the world after drug trafficking.

The statistics are terrifying. Most women are raped 6,000 times and each woman is worth $ 100,000 a year, making them very valuable and making their chances of escape almost impossible. It doesn’t just happen in big cities or poor neighborhoods, but in almost every community in our country and experts fear that COVID-19 will trigger a human trafficking crisis.

“I had a very difficult divorce from a very wealthy husband. He actually let me be trafficked so I wouldn’t get custody of my five children, ”trafficked survivor Kimberly Lansford told Ivanhoe.

Kimberly Lansford was 27 when traffickers drugged her and took her from Denver to Mexico City.

“You’re being broken into by terror, a lot of physical abuse, a lot of sexual abuse,” said Kimberly Lansford.

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Kimberly’s nightmare lasted 19 years until …

“The Samaritan Village found me,” said Kimberly Lansford.

For more than a decade, Samaritan Village has been helping women rebuild their lives.

“Young women who feel ugly, unwanted and unseen can visit these traffickers and fill that void,” said Dionne Coleman, executive director of Samaritan Village.

Samaritan Village offers hope and provides housing free of charge for 18 months. Survivors receive mental, physical and dental care, access to professional training and, most importantly, support. Money from donors and from their thrift store is helping to cover the costs, but now organizations like these fear the consequences of the pandemic.

“We call it the calm before the storm, so to speak. I know there will be a lot of people who will need help when we all get back to normal, ”said Dionne Coleman.

Some women could not get any help during the lockdown.

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“It doesn’t just happen to the underclass or to drug addicts, it’s not true. It happens to people like me every day, ”announced Kimberly Lansford.

“When you see something, copy someone who feels, or there’s a pairing of people who doesn’t feel right, call this human trafficking hotline,” said Dionne Coleman.

The biggest misconception about human trafficking is that the victims are runaways or addicts. Family Members Selling Family members, as in Kimberly’s case, is common.

Also, traffickers often target high school girls and threaten to ruin their reputations. Samaritan Village works with local colleges for scholarships. To learn more, visit samaritanvillage.net.

Sources: https://www.hsdl.org/?abstract&did=23329, https://www.rainn.org/statistics/scope-problem https://www.samaritanvillage.net/

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Contributors to this news report are: Marsha Lewis, producer; Matt Goldschmidt, videographer; Roque Correa, editor. To receive a free weekly email on Ivanhoe’s Smart Living, sign up at: http://www.ivanhoe.com/ftk

Copyright 2021 by KSAT – All rights reserved.

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Reuters, New York Times win Pulitzers for coverage of racial injustice, COVID-19

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Reuters and the Minneapolis Star Tribune each won a Pulitzer Prize for Journalism on Racial Inequality in U.S. Police Work on Friday, while the New York Times and the Atlantic were honored for Chronicle of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the two topics that the Last year’s headlines dominated.

The Star Tribune won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news coverage for its “urgent, authoritative and nuanced” coverage of the police murder of George Floyd last May, while Reuters and Atlantic shared the award in explanatory coverage.

The Pulitzer Prizes are the most prestigious awards in American journalism and have been presented since 1917, when newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer bequeathed them to Columbia University in New York.

In 2020, “the country’s news organizations are faced with the complexities of covering a global pandemic, a racial reckoning, and a bitterly competitive presidential election, one at a time,” said Mindy Marques, co-chair of the Pulitzer Board of Directors, at the announcement ceremony, which broadcast online has been .

The board cited Reuters reporters Andrew Chung, Lawrence Hurley, Andrea Januta, Jaimi Dowdell and Jackie Botts for the “groundbreaking data analysis” of their “Shielded” series, which showed how an obscure legal doctrine of “qualified immunity” shielded police officers make excessive use of the force of law enforcement.

Reuters editor-in-chief Alessandra Galloni said in a statement that the series shaped the debate over American police reform.

“In a year of stormy protests against the police killings of black Americans, ‘Shielded’ was a work of tremendous moral force on the persistent problem facing the world’s most powerful democracy, the legacy of racial injustice,” the statement said.

The Pulitzer Prize for Reuters, an entity of Thomson Reuters (TRI.TO), was the ninth since 2008 and the sixth in the past four years.

The Reuters team shared the explanatory coverage award with Ed Yong of The Atlantic, who was recognized by the board for “a series of clear, definitive contributions to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

A SINGLE CASE

Mary Stewart holds an obituary for her son Luke Stewart on November 12, 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio, United States. REUTERS / Megan Jelinger

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Reuters’ series of police stories were triggered by a single case – and required lengthy, complex data analysis.

In April 2017, the US Supreme Court declined to reopen an unarmed suspect alleging unconstitutional excessive violence against a Houston police officer for shooting him in the back. Reuters Supreme Court reporters Chung and Hurley have teamed up with data reporters Januta, Dowdell and Botts. They analyzed hundreds of cases and found that since 2005 the courts have shown an increasing tendency to grant immunity in cases of excessive violence. They then detailed the cases of a number of victims of police violence who were denied justice, even after courts found the officers were too violent.

The first Reuters story came out just weeks before the murder of Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died in handcuffs when a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck. The coverage had a broad influence on the national discussion of US police problems.

“The data we produced was quoted in almost every major news organization immediately after the George Floyd murder,” Hurley said, adding that it was also quoted in court records and informally by judges.

SPECIAL QUOTATION

Many of the 2021 Pulitzer Awards went to coverage of policing and the global protest movement that broke out after Floyd’s assassination: the Associated Press won the Breaking News Photography Award for pictures of the protests, while Robert Greene of the Los Angeles Times for editorial contributions won for his work on bail reform and prisons.

The board also said it gave Darnella Frazier, the teenage viewer who recorded a video of Floyd’s murder on her cell phone, a “special quote” highlighting “the vital role of citizens in helping journalists find truth and justice” .

The New York Times won the Public Service Journalism Award, often considered the most coveted of the 22 awards, for its “predictive and comprehensive coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.” The Boston Globe won for investigative coverage for exposing a systematic failure by state governments to share information about dangerous truck drivers that could have kept them off the road.

The announcement of the prices on Friday, each worth $ 15,000, had been postponed to April amid the pandemic. The awards dinner, which usually takes place shortly after at Columbia University, has been postponed until the fall.

The Pulitzer Board of Directors also recognizes achievements in seven categories in the arts and awarded Louise Erdrich its Fiction Prize for her novel “The Night Watchman” about attempting to evict Indian tribes in the 1950s.

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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