Daily Archives: June 21, 2021

Maybe both sides are right: If SARS-CoV-2 was leaked from a Wuhan lab, it doesn’t mean the virus was necessarily engineered – Genetic Literacy Project

Posted: June 21, 2021 at 3:27 pm

The lab leak hypothesis about the origin of Covid-19 has been getting a lot of attention lately, and deservedly so. This is the idea that the SARS-CoV-2 virus accidentally escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan, China, that conducts research on coronaviruses. Just a few weeks ago, a group of highly respected virologists and epidemiologists published a letter in the journal Sciencecalling for a more thorough investigation, stating that the lab leak hypothesis was not taken seriously enough in earlier investigations.

The coincidence of having a major virus research facility, the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), just a short distance from the live animal food market that was originally believed to be the source of the outbreak is too great to ignore. Even more curious is that WIV was actively doing research on coronaviruses in bats, including the bats that carry a strain of SARS-CoV-2 that is the closest known relative to the Covid-19 virus itself.

From the beginning of the outbreak, attention was focused on WIV, and various conspiracy theorists suggested, without any evidence, that the Covid-19 virus was either intentionally engineered, intentionally released, or both. Let me just say right off the bat that I dont believe either of those claims.

However, I do think the lab leak hypothesis is credible, and its also possible that gain of function research (more about this below) might be responsible.

In arguing against (unsupported) claims that the Chinese released the virus on purpose, a group of virologists published a paper very early in the pandemic, in March 2020, which looked at the genome sequence of the virus and concluded that SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus. Other studies since then have come to similar conclusions: the virus is very similar to naturally-occurring coronaviruses, and it is possible that it simply evolved naturally in the wild, probably in bats.

Even so, the lab leak hypothesis remains highly credible, regardless of whether or not the virus was genetically engineered. Heres why. First, we know that lab accidents can happen and viruses can escape, even if these accidents are rare. We also know that the Wuhan Institute of Virology had thousands of viruses, including coronaviruses, in its facility. And despite claims that viruses couldnt possibly have escaped accidentally, a 2017Naturearticle describing the then-new Wuhan Institute reported, perhaps prophetically, that worries surround the [Wuhan Institute of Virology], too. The SARS virus has escaped from high-level containment facilities in Beijing multiple times.

The secrecy of the Chinese government, which has not yet allowed independent, outside scientists full access to WIV to investigate, hasnt helped matters. We need to know if any viruses in WIV are similar to the Covid-19 virus, and at this point we cant trust the Chinese governments assurances on this question. Of course, even if they allow outsiders to investigate now, we cannot know that they have preserved all the viruses that were present in the lab in the winter of 2019-2020.

Now lets talk about gain-of-function research. Gain of function, or GoF, refers to research that tries to make viruses or bacteria more harmful, by making them more infectious. This seems crazy, right? And yet its been going on for years, despite the efforts of many scientists to stop it. In the past, GoF research focused on the influenza virus, and in particular on a small number of scientists (highly irresponsible ones, in my view) who were trying to give avian influenzabird fluthe ability to jump from birds into humans. I wrote about this in 2013, and in 2017, and again in 2019, each time calling on the US government to stop funding this extremely dangerous work. The NIH did put a pause on gain-of-function research for a few years, but the work resumed in 2019.

Now, let me explain why GoF research does not require artificially engineering a virus. Viruses mutate very rapidly all by themselves, and RNA viruses like influenza and SARS-CoV-2 mutate even more rapidly than DNA viruses. So a GoF experiment doesnt need to engineer a virus to make it more infectious: instead, scientists can simply grow a few trillion viral particles, which is easy, and design experiments to select the ones that are more infectious. For example, some GoF research on bird flu simply sprays an aerosol mixture of viruses into a ferrets nose (influenza research often uses ferrets, since you cant ethically do this with people), and waits to see if the ferret comes down with the flu. If it does (and this has been done, successfully), the strain that succeeds now has a new function, because it can infect mammals. The viruses that are artificially selected (as opposed to natural selection) in these experiments will appear completely natural; no genetic engineering required.

We know that WIV was conducting gain-of-function experiments, and we know that its work included coronaviruses. Was the Wuhan Institute of Virology running GoF experiments on SARS-CoV-2 viruses from bats? Possibly. And if it was, these experiments could easily have produced a strain that infected humans. If a lab employee was accidentally infected with such a strain, that could have started the pandemic. And even if SARS-CoV-2 wasnt the subject of GoF experiments, a naturally-occurring strain being studied at WIV could still have infected one of their scientists and thereby leaked out into the population.

Im not saying that any of these events is likely. I am, however, agreeing with the scientists who, in their recent letter toScience, called for a deeper investigation into the cause of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Finally, let me echo a sentiment they expressed in their letter, which is best said by simply quoting them: in this time of unfortunate anti-Asian sentiment in some countries, we note that at the beginning of the pandemic, it was Chinese doctors, scientists, journalists, and citizens who shared with the world crucial information about the spread of the virusoften at great personal cost. Rather than seeking to cast blame, we need to uncover the origin of the Covid-19 pandemic, and any behaviors that led to it, as a means to help all societies prevent future pandemics.

Steven Salzberg is a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor in the Departments of Biomedical Engineering, Computer Science, and Biostatistics at Johns Hopkins University. He conducts research on genomics and computational biology. Find Steven on Twitter @StevenSalzberg1

A version of this article was originally posted at the Genomics, Medicine and Pseudoscience blog in the Field of Science Network and has been reposted here with permission. Find Field of Science on Twitter @fieldofscience

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Maybe both sides are right: If SARS-CoV-2 was leaked from a Wuhan lab, it doesn't mean the virus was necessarily engineered - Genetic Literacy Project

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Kytopen Awarded NIH Grant of Up to $2M to Unlock the Power of Engineered Natural Killer (NK) Cells via Flowfect Platform – Business Wire

Posted: at 3:27 pm

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Kytopen., a transformative biotechnology company offering non-viral delivery that links the discovery, development and manufacturing of engineered cell therapies, today announced it was awarded a SBIR Fast Track grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a part of the National Institute of Health (NIH). Kytopen is eligible for up to $2M over the course of the 3-year award as project milestones are successfully completed within the Phase I and Phase II portions of the grant.

Natural killer (NK) cells represent a high impact population for cell therapy, but due to limitations in current methodologies for gene delivery, NK cells remain a largely untapped resource. This SBIR grant will be used to demonstrate that non-viral delivery via Kytopens Flowfect platform can alleviate this limitation on NK cell gene editing at both research and manufacturing scale, which is needed for pre-clinical and clinical studies. Due to the major potential impact NK cells represent in a clinical setting, non-viral Cas Ribonucleoprotein (RNP) gene knockout will allow for novel therapeutic applications in infectious disease, autoimmune disorders, and immuno-oncology.

Paulo Garcia, Kytopens CEO and Co-Founder will serve as the Principal Investigator (PI) on the grant. Dr. Garcia explains that engineered NK cells have tremendous therapeutic promise including the potential to treat solid tumors in an allogeneic modality. The Flowfect platform will facilitate high-throughput target discovery while providing a clear path towards clinical manufacturing of next-generation cell products.

NK cells are a subset of innate immune cells that can respond to threat without antibody priming. This quick response to stimuli makes them an ideal immunotherapy candidate. Yet, genetic modification in NK cells has proven to be difficult using conventional viral and non-viral transfection methodologies. Alternative delivery methods are necessary in order to make genetic modifications at reproducible and efficient rates, while maintaining high cell viability and functionality.

The awarded study leverages continuous fluid flow coupled with low energy electric fields for transfection via a proprietary Flowfect platform (Figure 1). This platform represents a novel approach to non-viral delivery in historically hard-to-transfect human cells. The current research proposes to engineer non-activated NK cells with Cas RNPs for gene editing using the Flowfect platform. To achieve this goal, Kytopen has outlined a two-phase research strategy which focuses on stability and functionality of edited NK cells both in vitro and in vivo.

NIH sponsored grant programs are an integral source of capital for early-stage U.S. small businesses that are creating innovative technologies to improve human health. These programs help small businesses break into the federal research and development arena, create life-saving technologies, and stimulate economic growth. Kytopen is honored to be a recipient of this competitive award from the NIH/NIAID and looks forward to unlocking biological capabilities of engineered NK cells for improving patients lives during the performance of this project.

About the Flowfect Technology

Kytopens proprietary Flowfect platform eliminates the complexity of gene editing and integrates discovery, development and manufacturing in one flexible and scalable non-viral delivery solution. The Flowfect technology utilizes electro-mechanical energy to disrupt the cell membrane and introduce genetic material (such as RNA, DNA, or CRISPR/Cas RNP) to a wide variety of hard-to-transfect primary cells. During the Flowfect process, a solution containing cells and genetic payload suspended in a proprietary buffer flows continuously through a channel while the solution is exposed to a low energy electric field. Due to the continuous flow and low electrical energy required, cells engineered using Flowfect exhibit high viability while also exhibiting high transfection efficiency post-processing. The Flowfect technology utilizes relatively high flow rates enabling cell engineering in minutes for discovery and optimization (e.g. 96 well plate in <10 minutes) and direct scale up to manufacturing volumes of >10mL, engineering over 2 billion cells per minute in a single channel.

About Kytopen

Kytopen, an MIT spin-out, is a transformative biotechnology company that offers a customizable yet scalable multi-solution platform, which seamlessly links the discovery, development and manufacturing phases of cell engineering. Flowfect, a gentle, non-viral delivery method unlocks new therapeutic approaches, by engineering immune cells with minimal disruption, preserving the functionality and viability of human cells and enhancing the cells biology. The Flowfect platform accelerates therapies from the bench to clinical through flexibility and scalability, which drives higher cell yields, faster approvals, and better outcomes from potentially curative cell-based treatments. Kytopens goal is to enable simple and efficient non-viral manufacturing of cell therapies in days versus weeks to increase access to many more patients. For more information, visit: http://www.kytopen.com

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Genome Editing or Genome Engineering Market Market: Latest Innovations, Drivers and Industry Key Events 2021 2027 The Courier – The Courier

Posted: at 3:27 pm

The report named GlobalGenome Editing or Genome Engineering Market2020 by Company, Regions, Type, and Application, Forecast to 2025 is a broad audit of the market size and patterns with values. The report is a thorough report on worldwide market investigation and experiences. The report is an arrangement of itemized market outline dependent on sorts, application, patterns and openings, consolidations and acquisitions, drivers and restrictions, and a world coming to. The report centers around the arising patterns in the worldwide and provincial spaces on all the huge segments, for example, market limit, cost, value, request and supply, creation, benefit, and serious scene. It offers a board translation of the worldwide Genome Editing or Genome Engineering industry from a scope of data that is gathered through respectable and checked sources.

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The central participants concentrated in the report include:Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc (U.S.), Origene Technologies Inc (U.S.), Merck KGAA (Germany), Lonza Group Ltd. (Switzerland), Transposagen Biopharmaceuticals Inc (U.S.), Genscript Biotech Corporation (U.S.), New England Biolabs Inc (U.S.), Sangamo Biosciences Inc (U.S.), Integrated DNA Technologies Inc (U.S.), Horizon Discovery Group Plc (U.K.)

The main sorts of worldwide market items shrouded in this report are:CRISPR, TALEN, ZFN, Antisense, Other Technologies

The most generally utilized downstream fields of the worldwide market canvassed in this report are:Cell Line Engineering, Animal Genetic Engineering, Plant Genetic Engineering, Other Applications

Key areas and nations are canvassed in the worldwide Genome Editing or Genome Engineering market as follows: North America (the United States, Canada, and Mexico), Europe (Germany, France, UK, Russia, and Italy), Asia-Pacific (China, Japan, Korea, India, and Southeast Asia), South America (Brazil, Argentina, and so forth), Middle East and Africa (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Nigeria, and South Africa)

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Genome Editing or Genome Engineering Market Market: Latest Innovations, Drivers and Industry Key Events 2021 2027 The Courier - The Courier

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Global CRISPR Gene-Editing Market Recent Trends and Developments, Challenges, key drivers and Restraints and Forecast 2021-2028 The Manomet Current -…

Posted: at 3:27 pm

Washington, June 20, 2021 Databridgemarketresearch.com announces the release of the report Global CRISPR Gene-Editing Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report By 2027. Market research report proves to be an ideal solution when it comes to a better understanding of the chemical and materials industry and lead the business growth. Market definitions, segmentation, applications, and value chain structure of this industry are all mentioned in the report. This report provides current as well as upcoming technical and financial details of the industry to 2026. According to this report, the market renovation will mainly take place due to the actions of key players or brands like developments, product launches, joint ventures, mergers, and acquisitions. The company profiles of all the key players and brands that are dominating this Report have been taken into consideration here.

Global CRISPR gene-editing market is rising gradually with a healthy CAGR of 23.35 % in the forecast period of 2019-2026. Growing prevalence of cancer worldwide and expanding the application of CRISPR technology by innovative research from the different academic organizations are the key factors for market growth.

Get a Free Sample Copy of the Report @ (Use Corporate email ID to Get Higher Priority) @https://www.databridgemarketresearch.com/request-a-sample/?dbmr=global-crispr-gene-editing-market

Few of the major competitors currently working in the global CRISPR gene-editing market are Applied StemCell, ACEA BIO, Synthego, Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc, GenScript, Addgene, Merck KGaA, Intellia Therapeutics, Inc, Cellectis, Precision Biosciences, Caribou Biosciences, Inc, Transposagen Biopharmaceuticals, Inc, OriGene Technologies, Inc, Novartis AG, New England Biolabs among others

Global CRISPR Gene-Editing Market By Therapeutic Application (Oncology, Autoimmune/Inflammatory), Application (Genome Engineering, Disease Models, Functional Genomics and Others), Technology (CRISPR/Cas9, Zinc Finger Nucleases and Others), Services (Design Tools, Plasmid and Vector, Cas9 and g-RNA, Delivery System Products and Others), Products (GenCrispr/Cas9 kits, GenCrispr Cas9 Antibodies, GenCrispr Cas9 Enzymes and Others), End-Users (Biotechnology & Pharmaceutical Companies, Academic & Government Research Institutes, Contract Research Organizations and Others), Geography (North America, South America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa) Industry Trends and Forecast to 2026

Global CRISPR Gene-Editing Research Methodology

Data Bridge Market Research presents a detailed picture of the market by way of study, synthesis, and summation of data from multiple sources. The data thus presented is comprehensive, reliable, and the result of extensive research, both primary and secondary. The analysts have presented the various facets of the market with a particular focus on identifying the key industry influencers.

Market Drivers

Market Restraints

Some of the Major Highlights of TOC covers:

Chapter 1: Methodology & Scope

Definition and forecast parameters

Methodology and forecast parameters

Data Sources

Chapter 2: Executive Summary

Business trends

Regional trends

Product trends

End-use trends

Chapter 3: CRISPR Gene-Editing Industry Insights

Industry segmentation

Industry landscape

Vendor matrix

Technological and innovation landscape

Chapter 4: CRISPR Gene-Editing Market, By Region

Chapter 5: Company Profile

Business Overview

Financial Data

Product Landscape

Strategic Outlook

SWOT Analysis

Complete report is available (TOC) @https://www.databridgemarketresearch.com/toc/?dbmr=global-crispr-gene-editing-market

Key Developments in the Market:

In April 2019, GenScript has launched Single-stranded DNA Service for CRISPR-based Gene Editing which help the key researchers to have access on the high quality, pure ssDNA for CRISPR-based gene insertion and hence can accelerate the development of gene as well as cell therapy for cancer immunotherapy

In February 2018, Cellectis has received two U.S. patents (US#9,855,297 and US#9,890,393) entiled as Methods for engineering T cells for immunotherapy by using RNA-guided CAS nuclease system for CRISPR Use in T-Cells. The U.S. grant of these patents, the company can generate revenue by out-licensing the products to the pharma companies that are ready to use CRISPR technologies in T-cells

Competitive Analysis:

Global CRISPR gene-editing market is highly fragmented and the major players have used various strategies such as new product launches, expansions, agreements, joint ventures, partnerships, acquisitions, and others to increase their footprints in this market. The report includes market shares of CRISPR gene-editing market for Global, Europe, North America, Asia-Pacific, South America and Middle East & Africa.

Thanks for reading this article, you can also get individual chapter wise section or region wise report version like North America, Europe or Asia.


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Gain Of Function Research And Why It Matters – Science 2.0

Posted: at 3:27 pm

Due to unanswered questions into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, both the U.S. government and scientists have called for a deeper examination into the validity of claims that a virus could have escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China.

Much of the discussion surrounds gain-of-function research. So The Conversation asked David Gillum and Rebecca Moritz, who work closely with virologists on a day-to-day basis to ensure the safety and security of the research, and Sam Weiss Evans and Megan Palmer, who are science and technology policy experts, to explain what this term means and why this kind of research is important.

Any organism can acquire a new ability or property, or gain a function. This can happen through natural selection or a researchers experiments. In research, many different types of experiments generate functions, and some pose certain safety and security concerns.

Scientists use a variety of techniques to modify organisms depending on the properties of the organism itself and the end goal. Some of these methods involve directly making changes at the level of genetic code. Others may involve placing organisms in environments that select for functions linked to genetic changes.

Gain of function can occur in an organism in either nature or the laboratory. Some lab examples include creating more salt- and drought-resistant plants or modifying disease vectors to produce mosquitoes that are resistant to transmitting dengue fever. Gain of function can also be useful for environmental reasons, such as modifying E. coli so that it can convert plastic waste into a valuable commodity.

In the current debate around SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, gain of function has a much narrower meaning related to a virus becoming easier to move between humans, or becoming more lethal in humans. It is important to remember, though, that the term gain of function by itself covers much more than this type of research.

Two researchers working in a high-containment laboratory hold cell cultures infected with the novel coronavirus.picture alliance via Getty provided by The Conversation,

Gain-of-function experiments may help researchers test scientific theories, develop new technologies and find treatments for infectious diseases. For example, in 2003, when the original SARS-CoV outbreak occurred, researchers developed a method to study the virus in the laboratory. One of the experiments was to grow the virus in mice so they could study it. This work led to a model for researching the virus and testing potential vaccines and treatments.

Gain-of-function research that focuses on potential pandemic pathogens has been supported on the premise that it will help researchers better understand the evolving pathogenic landscape, be better prepared for a pandemic response and develop treatments and countermeasures.

But critics argue that this research to anticipate potential pandemic pathogens does not lead to substantial benefit and is not worth the potential risks. And they say getting out ahead of such threats can be achieved through other means biological research and otherwise. For instance, the current pandemic has provided numerous lessons on the social and behavioral dynamics of disease prevention measures, which could lead to robust new research programs on the cultural aspects of pandemic preparedness. Understanding when the risks of gain-of-function research outweigh the potential benefits and alternatives, therefore, continues to be subject to debate.

Some potential outcomes of gain-of-function research may include the creation of organisms that are more transmissible or more virulent than the original organism or those that evade current detection methods and available treatments. Other examples include engineering organisms that can evade current detection methods and available treatments, or grow in another part of an organism, such as the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier.

There is no such thing as zero risk in conducting experiments. So the question is whether certain gain-of-function research can be performed at an acceptable level of safety and security by utilizing risk-mitigation measures. These strategies for reducing risk include the use of biocontainment facilities, exposure control plans, strict operating procedures and training, incident response planning and much more. These efforts involve dedication and meticulous attention to detail at multiple levels of an institution.

Lab incidents will still occur. A robust biosafety and biosecurity system, along with appropriate institutional response, helps to ensure that these incidents are inconsequential. The challenge is to make sure that any research conducted gain-of-function or otherwise doesnt pose unreasonable risks to researchers, the public and the environment.

Determining whether specific experiments with potential pathogens should be conducted remains a difficult and contentious topic.

There are multiple ways to answer this question. The first is if the research is intended to develop a biological weapon. The United Nations Biological Weapons Convention, which went into effect in 1975, forbids state parties from developing, producing, stockpiling, or otherwise acquiring or sharing biological agents, toxins and equipment that have no justification for peaceful or defensive purposes. There should be no research, then, whether gain-of-function or otherwise, that seeks to purposefully develop a biological weapon.

Another way to answer the question is by focusing on the content of the research, rather than its intent. Through experience, researchers and governments have developed lists of both experiments and organisms that need additional oversight because of their potential safety and security risks. One example of this arose when flu researchers placed a self-imposed pause on gain-of-function research involving the transmissibility of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 viruses in 2012. The U.S. government subsequently imposed a moratorium on the work in 2014. Both moratoriums were lifted by the end of 2017 following a lengthy debate and study of the risks and the development of additional oversight and reporting requirements.

In the past decade, the United States has developed oversight for research that could be directly misused for nefarious purposes. This includes policies on dual-use research of concern (DURC) and policies on pathogens of pandemic potential enhanced to gain transmissibility or virulence.

The main point is that our understanding is constantly evolving. Just before the COVID-19 pandemic began, the U.S. government had started to review and update its policies. It is an open question what lessons will be learned from this pandemic, and how that will reshape our understanding of the value of gain-of-function research. One thing that is likely to happen, though, is that we will rethink the assumptions we have been making about the relationships between biological research, security and society. This may be an opportunity to review and enhance systems of biosecurity and biosafety governance.

David Gillum, Senior Director of Environmental Health and Safety and Chief Safety Officer, Arizona State University and Rebecca Moritz, Biosafety Director and Responsible Official, Colorado State University. This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article. Disclosures: David Gillum is the past president of the American Biological Safety Association (ABSA) International. He is a past-judge and member of the safety and security committee for the International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition. Megan J. Palmer receives funding from the Open Philanthropy Project and the Nuclear Threat Initiative. She is on the Council of the Engineering Biology Research Consortium, co-chairs a World Economic Forum Global Future Council on Synthetic Biology, is an Advisor to the International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition, is a member of a World Health Organization Working Group on the Responsible Use of Life Sciences, and is a member of the Board of Directors of Revive and Restore. Sam Weiss Evans receives funding from the Schmidt Futures Foundation. He is a member of the Engineering Biology Research Consortiums Security Working Group, and an Advisor to the international Genetically Engineered Machines Competition. Rebecca Moritz 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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Return of the Alamo: How the iconic theater chain emerged from bankruptcy – KXAN.com

Posted: at 3:25 pm

by: Paul Thompson/Austin Business Journal

AUSTIN (Austin Business Journal) Last December marked an all-time low for Alamo Drafthouse Cinema LLC.

Revenue was essentially nonexistent as the COVID-19 pandemic rushed into another devastating surge. Despite the companys best efforts, executives looked toward the new year and realized they wouldnt have the funds to make payroll.

We had done our absolute best to make the limited amount of money we had in the bank last, said Alamo Drafthouse founderTim League, now executive chairman of the company he started with wifeKarrie Leaguein 1997.

What we had to do between December and March is we had to reduce our debt, negotiate with the bank, negotiate with landlords, he added. If we were able to hit this benchmark, then we would not go into bankruptcy. And we didnt hit it.

The result: aMarch Chapter 11 bankruptcy filingand a plan to sell substantially all of its assets to a lender group led by Altamont Capital Partners, Fortress Investment Group andTim League.

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Return of the Alamo: How the iconic theater chain emerged from bankruptcy - KXAN.com

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Arabtec Holding and units bankruptcy approved by Dubai court – Arab News

Posted: at 3:25 pm

DUBAI: The reluctance of Gulf states to hike taxes is among the reasons that the region will remain dependent on hydrocarbons for at least a decade, Moodys said.Gulf states reliance on hydrocarbons will remain the key credit constraint despite ongoing diversification efforts, it saidEconomic diversification away from hydrocarbons remains the most frequently stated policy objective in the region but will likely take many years to achieve, said Alexander Perjessy, a senior analyst at Moodys and the author of the report. The announced plans to boost hydrocarbon production capacity and government commitments to zero or very low taxes make it unlikely that heavy reliance on hydrocarbons will diminish significantly in the coming years.

For most Gulf countries, oil and gas still account for at least a fifth of GDP, more than 65 percent of total exports and at least 50 percent of government revenue.Despite ambitious governments plans, diversification efforts since 2014 have yielded only limited results and will be held back by lower oil prices, Moodys warned.While diversification momentum may accelerate, it is likely to be held back by the reduced availability of resources to fund projects as well as intra-GCC competition in a narrow range of sectors.Hydrocarbon revenue, collected in the form of profit taxes, royalties and dividends (paid by the national oil companies), still account for the lions share of government income across the region.Moodys sees this partly as a consequence of GCC governments long-standing commitment to a zero or very low tax environment, which is part of the implicit social contract between the rulers and the citizens but also reflects the desire to incentivize non-oil sector growth and development. it said.It estimates that GCC sovereign states collected non-hydrocarbon tax revenues equivalent, on average, to less than 4 percent of non-shuhydrocarbon GDP in 2019. That compares to an equivalent rate of more than 22 percent for major high-income economies.Moodys said that if oil prices average $55 per barrel (around the middle of its medium range forecast) hydrocarbons would likely remain the single largest contributor to GCC sovereigns GDP and the main source of government revenue over at least the next decade.

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Arabtec Holding and units bankruptcy approved by Dubai court - Arab News

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Human development and family studies professor joins Recovery Rising initiative | Penn State University – Penn State News

Posted: at 3:24 pm

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. H. Harrington Bo Cleveland, professor of human development and family studies at Penn State, has been appointed to the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Recovery Rising initiative.

H. Harrington Bo Cleveland

Recovery Rising works to foster a resilient, diverse and accessible recovery framework in Pennsylvania, including pathways to improved health and wellness, community acceptance, and personal empowerment.

Cleveland joins an advisory commission of individuals in clinical, policy, family and community roles that will work to create a framework of recovery support services. The commission will consider research and data to offer specific steps to implement a full range of recovery options, which will be provided to service providers, community organizations, and policymakers to generate widespread support.

For Cleveland, who has worked with Penn States Collegiate Recovery Program for over 10 years, it is important that research play a part in shaping the commonwealths policy on recovery.

I hope to see policies that support removing barriers to people attempting to build and maintain their recovery from substance abuse, said Cleveland, who studies individual differences and experiences in substance use and abuse. Recovery is difficult for everyone. But it is especially hard, if not bordering on impossible, for Pennsylvanias citizens whose efforts to build stable and purposeful lives are consistently blocked by economic and structural barriers.

The Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) works to reduce the stigma of recovery, increase prevention programs, strengthen treatment systems, and empower sustained recovery for individuals with opioid use disorder.

Last Updated June 21, 2021


Human development and family studies professor joins Recovery Rising initiative | Penn State University - Penn State News

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FICO Partners with Leading National Small Business Organizations to Empower Entrepreneurs with Credit Education – PRNewswire

Posted: at 3:24 pm

Since 2018, FICO has invited consumers to broaden their credit education through its successful, free-to-attend Score A Better Future program. This event series has provided thousands of attendees with the opportunity to learn about the key ingredients that make up the FICO Score, how credit scores are used in credit decisions by lenders, as well as the myths and facts about FICO Scores, which are used by 90% of top U.S. lenders.

Continuing FICO's unwavering commitment to financial education and empowerment, FICO, alongside its national partners, is building on the success of the nationwide event series by inviting small business owners to attend Score A Better Future | Small Business on June 24. The session will focus on demystifying FICO Scores and empowering attendees with personal finance knowledge to reach their entrepreneurial goals, such as how to receive a low-interest loan, and steps to take during a financial downturn.

"Small Business Roundtable is delighted to partner with FICO on the Score a Better Future educational event for small businesses, and we are equally excited to share this honor with SBR Members, the National Association of Women Business Owners and the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. As our nation continues to recover, capital access remains a top issue for American entrepreneurs. Good credit is paramount to ensure business owners can succeed and grow their businesses," said John Stanford, co-executive director at Small Business Roundtable.

Recognizing that 75% of small business owners depend on personal capital in order to fund their businesses (US Census), FICO is committed to extending its financial education resources to the individuals pursuing small business ownership who are at the backbone of the US economy. Over 30 million small businesses existed in 2020 and employ more than 60.5 million workers, accounting for 47% of the United States workforce (SBA).

"Financial literacy is incredibly important for our community of women business owners as they work through every stage of their business, and understanding their FICO Score and how to leverage it is a large part of that," said Jen Earle, CEO of the NationalAssociation of Women Business Owners. "NAWBO is proud to partner with FICO to bring credit education to our nation's entrepreneurs to help propel their success."

"FICO is providing the opportunity for small business owners to acquire the necessary resources to uplevel their personal finance knowledge. Our organization represents over 4.7 million Hispanic owned businesses and we are thrilled to have FICO share key credit information and resources with our vibrant community," said C. LeRoy Cavazos-Reyna, vice president of Government and International Affairs, United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Other national partners supporting the event include:

To register for the event or get more information about the Score A Better Future program, visit http://www.scoreabetterfuture.com/


What:Score A Better Future is a free community education and financial empowerment program by FICO in partnership with national nonprofits, consumer advocates, credit educators and community leaders

When:Thursday, June 24, 2021 from 2:00 pm EDT

Where:http://www.scoreabetterfuture.com/(Virtual link to webinar provided upon registration)

About FICOFICO (NYSE: FICO) powers decisions that help people and businesses around the world prosper. Founded in 1956 and based in Silicon Valley, the company is a pioneer in the use of predictive analytics and data science to improve operational decisions. FICO holds more than 200 US and foreign patents on technologies that increase profitability, customer satisfaction and growth for businesses in financial services, telecommunications, health care, retail and many other industries. Using FICO solutions, businesses in more than 100 countries do everything from protecting 2.6 billion payment cards from fraud, to helping people get credit, to ensuring that millions of airplanes and rental cars are in the right place at the right time. Learn more at http://www.fico.com.

Join the conversation at https://twitter.com/fico, and https://www.instagram.com/ficoscoreabetterfuture/.



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FICO Partners with Leading National Small Business Organizations to Empower Entrepreneurs with Credit Education - PRNewswire

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To Enjoy a Luxury Watch, You Dont Really Need to Own It – The New York Times

Posted: at 3:24 pm

As the famous slogan has it, you never actually own a Patek Philippe. And if forecasts are right, you never will. Instead, youll be happy to rent one.

Its early days, but there are signs that a new luxury watch rental market led by the brands is coming. According to the market research company Bain & Company, rentals could account for 10 percent of luxury brand revenues by 2030. Now, it says, is the time for brands to engage with subscription culture and generation rent, a growing number of young people less inclined to spend money on high-priced luxury goods.

Something is changing in the way consumers think about and interact with luxury products, said Claudia DArpizio, a partner at Bain and co-author of LuxCo 2030: A Vision of Sustainable Luxury. The willingness of the younger generation to embrace renting and secondhand is very high. The shift from owning to having an experience is super strong.

Rentals, according to Bains research, could also reinvigorate a flagging market. Exports of luxury Swiss watches have been in decline for years, made worse by the coronavirus pandemic. The numbers contracted to 13.8 million last year from 28.6 million in 2014, according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry.

Bains forecast concluded that brands needed to decouple growth from volume and adopt circular business models that cater to certified pre-owned (secondhand) and rental services, as well as sales of new watches. An item rented 20 times could generate a profit margin of 41 percent, according to the research.

So far, uptake is slow. In March, Breitling became the first mainstream luxury watch brand to enter the rental space when it introduced a 12-month subscription service called Breitling Select. Subscribers pay a one-time fee of $450, and then for $129 a month they can rent three watches a year, one at a time. At the moment, the service is available only in the United States, but Breitling has plans to roll it out in Europe this year.

Georges Kern, the companys chief executive, said the initiative was intended to attract consumers away from unauthorized dealers online who obtained and sold slower-moving brands or designs at lower prices.

We dont give discounts, especially not online, he said. So how do you respond to consumer needs and create new offerings in order to make your online business interesting?

Mr. Kern said subscribers could buy their watches during the rental period for less than the retail price, depending on how long they had borrowed it, and that there were around 200 refurbished watches in the rental pool, covering around 35 different models from Breitlings mens and womens collections. He said the average retail price of the rental collection was $4,500 and that the company might one day release a special-edition watch that was available only to rent.

Is it profitable? This is a business that is direct to consumer, he said. We make margins. After three months, Breitling Select accounted for 15 percent of his e-commerce business in the United States, he added.

Adopting rental strategies poses a number of problems for brands, such as the high tariffs associated with shipping; returns; insurance against loss, damage and theft; and maintenance. Mr. Kern said the $450 sign-on fee covered these costs.

Ms. DArpizio said that in the early stages brands going it alone would struggle to make a profit from rental services. In the short term, I dont see brands doing this by themselves, she said. Theyll do it as a partnership, unless theyre part of a group, where you can have a critical mass.

Rental programs also present watch brands with a marketing challenge. For years, the industry has pushed luxury watches as exclusive objects, meant as lifetime investments. Can the same product be an heirloom and also a brief encounter?

Ms. DArpizio said she believed that brands offering rentals would be helped by a shift in consumer attitudes toward luxury.

It used to be that if you couldnt afford a product, you werent part of the circle, she said. Not anymore. Besides, now you dont want to show off your money; you want to show off your personality and that you know how to live. Youre not posting on Instagram the name of the three-Michelin star restaurant; youre posting the food and the experience youre having. It seems a slight difference, but its not.

One brand was using a rental service to demonstrate its own personality. Last month, Fears, a British company, introduced Be Fearless, a free watch-for-rent service offered to anyone with an upcoming job interview.

For us, theres no return on investment, other than that its doing the right thing, said Nicholas Bowman-Scargill, owner of the company. The pandemic hasnt been as harsh on us as on others, so you dont just say, We were lucky. You have to stop and ask what you can give back. You have to think like this in the 21st century, and not purely in terms of product. I cant see why this wouldnt be the start of this business growing.

Mr. Bowman-Scargill, who rolled out his Britain-wide service only a week after he came up with it while sitting in a pub garden, said his business was perfectly suited to the weeklong rental service. For the last five years, weve been an online business, so were geared up for shipping, he said. To keep it simple, were not taking a deposit. It costs us a lot more in insurance, but the logistics are easy.

Will rentals cannibalize sales of new watches? It doesnt mean consumers will never buy a watch, Ms. DArpizio said. This is a huge opportunity to create the new growth engine for the new generation. You can attract them through this market and grow them in your brand and then upgrade them.

Mr. Kern agreed. He said that he expected around 80 percent of subscribers to buy a watch, but that for some, ownership simply wasnt an issue.

You have people who want to experience luxury but dont want to own it, he said. This is a trend. It could be superficial for those who like to own luxury, but not for those who want to experience luxury. Its a very personal question.

Ms. DArpizio said rental services could help make luxury watches relevant to a new audience. Gen Z are very much into achievement and self-empowerment, but they live it in a more social way, she said. Watches can play an important role because they are both a symbol of achievement and self-empowerment, and at the same time of personality and experience.

Should every luxury watch brand adopt a rental strategy? Its mandatory to change the marketing formula to attract and engage younger consumers, Ms. DArpizio said. But rental is not mandatory. It can be an interesting enabler. Its the lifetime value of the customer that is important, not the volumes you do every year.

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To Enjoy a Luxury Watch, You Dont Really Need to Own It - The New York Times

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