AstraZeneca may expose coronavirus vaccine participants to pathogen

The chief executive of AstraZeneca, which is developing a leading coronavirus vaccine with Oxford University, said it is too early to deliberately expose trial participants to the pathogen, but it may become an option if ongoing tests hit a snag.

The British drugmaker last week started phase 2 and 3 trials of the vaccine, looking to recruit around 10,000 adults and children in Britain.

A certain number of participants will have to become infected in the course of their normal lives to achieve a reliable reading from the study over the next few months.

So-called human challenge trials have been discussed as an alternative option by scientists, whereby vaccinated volunteers are infected intentionally.

“We are running against time. We are seeing already in Europe the disease is declining,” Soriot told an online press briefing. “Very soon the disease intensity will be low, and it will become difficult, so we have to move very quickly.”

“If the disease gets to a very low level, maybe challenge studies will have to be considered. But we felt it’s too early today to do that,” he added.

Companies and research institutions are currently working on more than 100 vaccines, about 10 of which are being tested on humans, in a bid to stop the respiratory illness that at present has no treatment and has killed about 350,000 people.

Soriot said some of the Oxford University team that started early-stage human trials of the vaccine in April to test for safety and signs of an immune response were already privy to initial results, and that publication was imminent.

“We should see the results very soon,” Soriot said.

Oxford University has said that the read-out of the wider trials may take two to six months, depending on how many participants still catch the virus in the face of public-health efforts to quell its spread.

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Hertz may be on verge of liquidation

Carl Icahn’s car-rental company Hertz may be skidding toward liquidation, The Post has learned.

The 102-year-old Hertz — known for tapping O.J. Simpson as its spokesman in the 1970s — could file for bankruptcy in the coming days tied to a tardy collateral payment next due on Friday.

As The Post has previously reported, the company’s executives have been trying to postpone the roughly $500 million payment — tied to the declining value of Hertz’s 500,000 cars — until after the coronavirus crisis passes. But so far they’ve failed to get enough lenders on board.

In the meantime, Wall Street financiers and analysts crunching the numbers say the former category leader might be worth more if it were sold in parts. If its senior lenders holding some $3.4 billion in debt agree, Hertz could be forced into liquidation even if it plans to continue operating with the consent of lenders through a Chapter 11, sources said.

“It may be in the interest of the senior lenders to liquidate,” said one Wall Street researcher. “I think it is a real distinct possibility.”

The researcher thinks Hertz’s creditors could fetch more than $2 billion through piecemeal sales, including two profitable business units — the Donlen division, which manages vehicle fleets for large companies like Anheuser-Busch and PepsiCo, and its European car-rental arm.

Other assets, including real estate, trademarks and its fleet of cars, could score another $750 million — for a total of $2.25 billion, or 66 cents on the dollar for senior lenders, the researcher said.

The researcher asked to remain anonymous because his firm has a stake in Hertz’s bankruptcy, but Jefferies analyst Hamzah Mazari also believes Hertz creditors could get a pretty penny selling off parts of the company.

While Mazari’s total numbers are more conservative — at $1.6 billion — it’s still more than creditors might expect otherwise. “I think liquidation is a possibility,” the analyst told The Post.

Hertz, which boasts Icahn as a 39 percent stakeholder, could also seek a buyer for the whole shebang, but with the industry in the tank during the pandemic, it could be hard to find someone willing to fork over enough to please creditors.

“Right now, I don’t think anyone will write that check,” a Hertz lender told The Post, adding that at least $1.5 billion would be required for creditors to agree to the deal. “Whether someone will invest depends on what happens in the economy.”

Hertz generated roughly $650 million in earnings before taxes, interest, depreciation and amortization in 2019, but it’s expected to make far less in the coming months and even years as its customers, including many corporations, have been severely hampered by the coronavirus outbreak.

European car-rental company Sixt has been looking to expand in the US and could be a logical suitor, sources said. Sixt also could seek to buy the Hertz trademarks out of bankruptcy for far less, sources added.

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SpaceX may welcome Trump and Pence at historic launch

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Vice President Mike Pence said he plans to attend the historic SpaceX launch at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center next week.

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President Trump may also attend the launch, officials said.

The mission will be the final test for SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft before it enters regular service. It will also mark the first time astronauts launch into orbit aboard a private company’s spacecraft, and it will also be the first launch of American astronauts in an American-made spacecraft since the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft undergoes final processing at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, in preparation for the Demo-2 launch. (SpaceX via NASA)


“I know how important the space enterprise is here in the history of Florida,” Pence said during another visit to the state Wednesday. “And I want to tell you, President Trump and I know the history of space that will be written is going to be greater still.”

Gov. Rick DeSantis said “the big guy” may also be on hand for the launch.

“He’s been a great advocate for the space industry, in terms of NASA and also the private sector,” he said. “That’s been a huge driver here in the state of Florida. They continue to do good things even through this pandemic and will continue going forward.”

Vice President Mike Pence gestures as he speaks to the media with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis after delivering personal protective equipment to Westminster Baldwin Park, Wednesday, May 20, 2020, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)


Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will launch on one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets and pilot the Crew Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station, where they will remain for an as-yet-unspecified amount of time.

Both astronauts are veterans of NASA’s Space Shuttle program who are now serving in the Commercial Crew Program, the agency’s partnership with private businesses, including SpaceX.

NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken familiarize themselves with SpaceX’s Crew Dragon. (SpaceX via NASA)


The launch is scheduled for May 27.

NASA officials are planning to send people to the surface of the moon in 2024 as part of the public-private partnerships.


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American seafood industry may see jobs boost thanks to White House regulation

Trump signs executive order to strengthen seafood industry

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro discusses President Trump’s executive order to strengthen U.S. aquaculture and fishing, the Department of Justice’s decision to drop prosecution against former National Security Adviser Gen. Michael Flynn, and China refusing to share information on any coronavirus vaccine it discovers.

America's seafood industry just got a vote of confidence from the White House after President Trump issued an Executive Order aimed at creating jobs for the nation's fishermen.

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"It will create tens of thousands of jobs in our seafood industry and also keep millions of Americans more healthy and safe," said White House Trade Advisor Peter Navarro during an appearance on FOX Business' 'The Evening Edit' while noting, "It will unleash our commercial fisheries in a way that is good for America" he added.


U.S. fish farms produce $1.5 billion a year, compared with $140 billion in China, according to the White House.


Navarro, along with Joe Grogan, outgoing domestic policy advisor to Trump who drove the E.O., penned an Opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal, highlighting America's chance to capitalize on our vast oceans surrounding the nation.


"These reforms will allow producers to make better use of the country’s ample resources. The U.S. has one of the world’s largest exclusive economic zones, a vast area of ocean in which we have sovereign rights over natural resources…"

Currently, the U.S. imports over 85 percent of seafood consumed by Americans some of which Navarro said has come in from China "poisoned" such as tilapia. Additionally fish farms in China and other countries fail to meet U.S. health and safety standards.

The global fishing industry is rife with illegal abuses, as noted in the E.O., which aims to curb those practices hurting American fishermen.

"By removing outdated and unnecessarily burdensome regulations; strengthening efforts to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing; improving the transparency and efficiency of environmental reviews; and renewing our focus on long-term strategic planning to facilitate aquaculture projects, we can protect our aquatic environments; revitalize our Nation’s seafood industry; get more Americans back to work; and put healthy, safe food on our families’ tables" it states.


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