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The FDA plays defense on its coronavirus actions

The uproar over the FDA's authorization for the use of convalescent plasma in coronavirus patients is only partially about convalescent plasma. It's also about a vaccine that doesn't exist yet, and trust in the FDA's eventual stamp of approval.

The state of play: The FDA has been forced to defend itself on both fronts.

  • Peter Marks, who leads the relevant division within the FDA, said at a news conference yesterday that the evidence of plasma's effectiveness "more than adequately met" the standards for emergency use, noting that there is little question about its safety, per the Wall Street Journal.

And FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn, in an interview with Bloomberg's Drew Armstrong, owned up to a mistake in how he described the effectiveness of convalescent plasma while also addressing bigger-picture concerns about the FDA's independence.

  • "Yeah, I'm aware of it. I've listened to all the conversations," Hahn told Bloomberg when asked about political pressure. "But what I tell internally our folks is they need to make the decisions based upon the data. I have not reversed one of their decisions, nor do I intend to unless I think it's absolutely wrong."
  • Hahn also said he wasn't present when White House economic adviser Peter Navarro berated FDA officials as members of the "Deep State" and told them to "get on Trump Time."
  • He said he "would not participate in any decision that was made on anything other than the science."

Why the startup world needs to ditch "unicorns" for "dragons"

When Aileen Lee originally coined the term "unicorn" in late 2013, she was describing the 39 "U.S.-based software companies started since 2003 and valued at over $1 billion by public or private market investors."

Flashback: It got redefined in early 2015 by yours truly and Erin Griffith, in a cover story for Fortune, as any privately-held startup valued at $1 billion or more. At the time, we counted 80 of them.

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Scoop: Facebook's new moves to lower News Feed's political volume

Facebook plans to announce that it will de-emphasize political posts and current events content in the News Feed based on negative user feedback, Axios has learned. It also plans to expand tests to limit the amount of political content that people see in their News Feeds to more countries outside of the U.S.

Why it matters: The changes could reduce traffic to some news publishers, particularly companies that post a lot of political content.

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Scoop: Amazon quietly getting into live audio business

Amazon is investing heavily in a new live audio feature that's similar to other live audio offerings like Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces and Spotify's new live audio platform, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: As with Amazon's efforts in podcasting and music subscriptions, the company sees live audio as a way to bolster the types of content it can offer through its voice assistant, Alexa, and its smart speaker products.

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Hurricane Ida exposes America's precarious energy infrastructure

The powerful hurricane that plunged New Orleans into darkness for what could be weeks is the latest sign that U.S. power systems are not ready for a warmer, more volatile world.

The big picture: “Our current infrastructure is not adequate when it comes to these kinds of weather extremes,” Joshua Rhodes, a University of Texas energy expert, tells Axios.

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"We must go further": 70% of adults in European Union are fully vaccinated

About 70% of adults in the European Union are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said Tuesday.

Why it matters: The milestone makes the E.U. one of the world's leaders in inoculations, after an initially lagging vaccine campaign, the New York Times notes.

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What Elizabeth Holmes jurors will be asked ahead of fraud trial

Jury selection begins today in USA v. Elizabeth Holmes, with the actual jury trial to get underway on Sept. 8.

Why it matters: Theranos was the biggest fraud in Silicon Valley history, putting both hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of patients' health at risk.

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