Intelligence Agencies Say No ‘Direct Evidence’ For Covid Lab Leak

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An intelligence report declassified last week has found there was no “direct evidence” that the Covid-19 pandemic started from a lab leak at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology. The report prepared by the National Intelligence Officer for Weapons of Mass Destruction and Proliferation found that scientists at the Wuhan lab conducted research involving coronaviruses, “but no known viruses that could plausibly be” the origin of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The idea that Covid came from a lab leak has continually been disputed by scientific experts, who believe it has natural origins from an animal at a food market. However, there continue to be divisions among individual intelligence agencies. The majority of agencies, including the National Intelligence Council, believe the pandemic “most likely was caused by natural exposure to an infected animal,” but the FBI and Department of Energy still believe a lab leak was “the most likely” cause. The Department of Energy has said its lab leak theory is a “low confidence” conclusion, but it’s still been seized on by politicians, including former President Donald Trump. The CIA is “unable to determine the precise origin,” according to the report. The one area all agencies agree on is that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, “was not developed as a biological weapon.”

Thanks to Forbes HBCU Scholar India Rice for her help with today’s newsletter.

Lilly’s Obesity Drug Candidate Shows Promising Results In Trial

An obesity drug candidate from Eli Lilly has shown promising results in a phase 2 trial. The drug, called retatrutide, helped patients lose an average of 24% of their body weight over the course of 48 weeks on the highest dosage, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. That’s the highest weight loss percentage from any drug in its class, which includes FDA-approved drugs like Ozempic, Wegovy and Mounjaro.

Read more here.

Pipeline & Deal Updates

Home Health: UnitedHealth Group’s Optum division will acquire home health provider Amedisys for $101 a share, valuing the transaction at $3.3 billion.

Software Therapeutics: Luminopia announced that it raised a $16 million series A round led by U.S. Venture Partners. The investment will be used to support the company’s commercial rollout of its software-based treatment for amblyopia, a.k.a. “Lazy eye.”

Concierge ER: Sollis Health announced that it has secured a $15 million extension of its series A funding, after previously securing $30 million in December 2021. The new capital is geared towards expanding access to its concierge urgent and emergency care.

Cleared AI Camera: The FDA has cleared the use of L.A.-based Eyenuk’s “EyeArt” artificial intelligence system in conjunction with a Topcon NW400 retinal camera to autonomously detect diabetic retinopathy. This follows the agency’s previous clearance for the software to be used with Canon CR-2 AF and CR-2 Plus AF cameras.

AI For Privacy: San Francisco-based BeeKeeperAi, which aims to build AI software that protects the privacy of healthcare data, raised a $12.1 million series A round led by Santé Ventures.

Medical Supply Startup Bttn Struggles To Inject Itself Into A World Of Established Brands

The medical-supply startup Bttn was supposed to be disruptive. The founders, Forbes Under 30 alumni JT Garwood and Jack Miller, envisioned a “one-stop shop” for healthcare workers, offering everything from N95 masks to wheelchairs without hassle. Two years after the startup’s creation, however, and only a year following a $26.5 million fundraising round that valued Bttn at $110 million, customer loyalty to established distributors, supply chain strains and a climate of dwindling investor support have made it difficult for Bttn to break through.

Read more here.

Other Healthcare News

Drugstore giant Walgreens reported that its quarterly profits plummeted to $118 million, ascribing most of the loss to a significant decline in demand for r Covid tests and vaccines..

Novo Nordisk, the manufacturer of Ozempic and Wegovy, announced that it will be taking legal action against some weight-loss clinics, medical spas and compounding pharmacies for allegedly making illegal versions of its drugs.

The CDC reports that there has been a small outbreak of Malaria in Florida and Texas. Experts warn such outbreaks in the U.S. could become more common due to climate change.

A watchdog report suggests that the Small Business Administration may have lost more than $200 billion in Covid relief funds due to fraud, abuse, and waste during its push to aid small businesses during the pandemic.

Across Forbes

It’s Shockingly Easy To Buy Illegal Gun Modifiers On Instagram, Facebook And Twitter

Everything You Need To Know About Lab-Grown Meat Now That It’s Here

Forget Oil. New Wildcatters Are Drilling For Limitless ‘Geologic’ Hydrogen

What Else We are Reading

A replacement for race: Medical experts explore how to eliminate bias in clinical algorithms (STAT)

The Cancer-Drug Shortage Is Different (The Atlantic)

Why do some people get rashes in space? There’s a clue in astronaut blood (NPR)

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