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Israel rescues four hostages in Gaza raid that Hamas says kills 210 Palestinians

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By Maayan Lubell and Nidal al-Mughrabi

JERUSALEM/CAIRO (Reuters) -Israeli forces rescued four hostages held by Hamas since October in a raid in Gaza on Saturday that Palestinian officials said killed more than 200 people, one of the single bloodiest Israeli assaults of the eight-month-old war.

The hostage rescue operation and an intense accompanying air assault took place in central Gaza’s al-Nuseirat, a densely built-up and often embattled area in the conflict between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian territory’s ruling Islamist group.

An Israeli military spokesperson said the operation took place in the heart of a residential neighbourhood in Nuseirat where Hamas had kept the hostages in two separate apartment blocks. Israel’s forces came under intense fire during the assault and responded by firing “from the air and from the street”, the spokesperson, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, said.

“We know about under 100 (Palestinian) casualties. I don’t know how many from them are terrorists,” he said in a briefing with journalists. A Israeli special forces commander was killed during the operation, a police statement said.

Gazan paramedics and residents said the assault killed scores of people and left mangled bodies of men, women and children strewn around a marketplace and a mosque.

Israel named the rescued hostages as Noa Argamani, 26, Almog Meir Jan, 22, Andrey Kozlov, 27, and Shlomi Ziv, 41. They were taken to hospital for medical checks and were in good health, the military said.

They were all kidnapped from the Nova music festival during the deadly raid by Hamas-led Palestinian militants on Israeli towns and villages near Gaza on Oct. 7, which precipitated the devastating war.

Hamas’ raid killed some 1,200 people, according to Israeli authorities, and Israel’s subsequent bombardment and invasion of Gaza has killed at least 36,801 Palestinians, according to an updated tally by the territory’s health ministry on Saturday.

CALL TO PRESIDENT

Gunmen took around 250 hostages back to Gaza on Oct. 7, more than 100 of whom were released in exchange for about 240 Palestinians held in Israeli jails during a week-long truce in November. There are 116 hostages left in the coastal enclave, according to Israeli tallies, including at least 40 whom Israeli authorities have declared dead in absentia.

The spokesperson for Hamas’ armed al-Qassam Brigades, Abu Ubaida, said some hostages were killed during the rescue operation. Hamas had earlier said it still held a large number of hostages.

Attempts by the United States and regional countries to forge a deal that would release all remaining hostages in return for a ceasefire have repeatedly failed as Israel presses its assault in Gaza. Fresh airstrikes in the southern city of Rafah hit homes later on Saturday, residents and Hamas officials said.

Israeli News 12 broadcast footage of Argamani reunited with her father, smiling and embracing him. Video of Argamani’s kidnapping, showing her shouting “Don’t kill me!” as she was driven into Gaza on a motorbike, had circulated soon after she was taken on Oct. 7.

A smiling Argamani was shown speaking by phone to Israeli President Isaac Herzog from hospital surrounded by family and friends, in footage released by the president’s office.

“Thank you for everything, thank you for this moment,” she said.

“I am so excited to hear your voice, it brings tears to my eyes … Welcome home,” Herzog said.

Poland praised the rescue of the hostages and said that one was a dual Israeli-Polish citizen.

BLOODY SCENES

A different picture unfolded back in Gaza, where Palestinian health ministry officials and local medics said that an Israeli military assault in Nuseirat had killed scores of people including women and children.

The ministry did not say how many of the fatalities were combatants.

The Hamas-run government media office in Gaza said later the death toll had risen to at least 210 Palestinians with many more wounded, after medics and health officials gave earlier tolls of up to 100 dead. There was no immediate confirmation of the highest figure from Gaza’s health ministry.

Social media footage that Reuters could not immediately verify showed bodies spilling entrails onto bloodstained streets.

“It was like a horror movie but this was a real massacre. Israeli drones and warplanes fired all night randomly at people’s houses and at people who tried to flee the area,” said Ziad, 45, a paramedic and resident of Nuseirat, who gave only his first name.

The bombardment focused on a local marketplace and the al-Awda mosque, he told Reuters via a messaging app. “To free four people, Israel killed dozens of innocent civilians,” he said.

Emergency response teams sought to ferry the dead and wounded to hospital in the nearby city of Deir al-Balah but many bodies were still lying in the streets, including around the market district, Ziad and other residents said.

© Reuters. June 8, 2024. The Families Forum/Handout via Reuters

Nuseirat, a historic Palestinian refugee camp, has been subjected to heavy Israeli bombing during the war and there has also been fierce ground fighting in its eastern areas.

The war has destabilised the wider Middle East, drawing in Hamas’s main backer Iran and its heavily armed Lebanese ally Hezbollah, which Israeli officials are threatening to go to war with on Israel’s northern border.

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Altimmune Presents Data from Phase 2 MOMENTUM Trial of Pemvidutide in Obesity during Oral Presentation at the American Diabetes Association’s 84th Scientific Sessions

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GAITHERSBURG, Md., June 23, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Altimmune, Inc.  (Nasdaq: NASDAQ:), a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company, today presented data from the 48-week Phase 2 MOMENTUM clinical trial of pemvidutide, its GLP-1/glucagon dual receptor agonist candidate, in obesity, including the results of a recently completed body composition analysis, at the American Diabetes Association’s (ADA) 84th Scientific Sessions.

We’re pleased with the data presented at ADA that highlight the impressive lean mass preservation achieved with pemvidutide, with only 21.9% of weight loss attributable to lean mass, said Vipin K. Garg, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Altimmune. The preservation of lean mass observed in this trial was better than reported historically with diet and exercise programs and greater than what has been publicly reported with other incretin weight loss drugs, where lean mass has accounted for as much as 40% of total weight loss. Preservation of lean mass, which is primarily muscle tissue, is believed to be important in maintaining healthy weight loss and physical function. We believe that the level of muscle preservation observed in the Phase 2 trial further adds to the differentiation of pemvidutide in the treatment of obesity.

The trial enrolled 391 subjects with obesity, or overweight with at least one co-morbidity and without diabetes. Subjects were randomized 1:1:1:1 to 1.2 mg, 1.8 mg, 2.4 mg pemvidutide or placebo administered weekly for 48 weeks in conjunction with diet and exercise. A subgroup of subjects was evaluated in a body composition analysis.

At Week 48, subjects receiving pemvidutide achieved mean weight losses of 10.3%, 11.2%, 15.6% and 2.2% at the 1.2 mg, 1.8 mg, and 2.4 mg doses and placebo, respectively, with a near-linear continued weight loss observed on the 2.4 mg dose at the end of treatment. The full MRI-based body composition analysis included 50 subjects who received pemvidutide and showed that subjects in the pemvidutide groups had an average lean mass loss of 21.9% with 78.1% of weight loss attributable to fat. In addition, pemvidutide resulted in robust reductions in serum lipids and improvements in blood pressure without imbalances in cardiac events, arrhythmias or clinically meaningful increases in heart rate.

Obesity is a multifactorial disease, and patients will need a variety of treatment options that fit their specific needs and comorbidities, said Louis Aronne, M.D., Director of the Comprehensive Weight Control Center, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism at Weill Cornell Medicine and Scientific Advisor of Altimmune. These latest findings are particularly exciting given that pemvidutide has not only demonstrated significant weight loss but an impressive ability to preserve lean mass. With its favorable safety profile to-date and the potential to drive clinically meaningful improvements in other obesity-related conditions such as dyslipidemia and hypertension, pemvidutide could offer a highly promising, long-term treatment option for multiple segments of the obese patient population to safely and effectively manage body weight.

About Pemvidutide

Pemvidutide is a novel, investigational, peptide-based GLP-1/glucagon dual receptor agonist in development for the treatment of obesity and MASH. Activation of the GLP-1 and glucagon receptors is believed to mimic the complementary effects of diet and exercise on weight loss, with GLP-1 suppressing appetite and glucagon increasing energy expenditure. Glucagon is also recognized as having direct effects on hepatic fat metabolism, which is believed to lead to rapid reductions in levels of liver fat and serum lipids. In clinical trials to date, once-weekly pemvidutide has demonstrated compelling weight loss, robust reductions in triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, liver fat content and blood pressure. The¯U.S.¯FDA has granted Fast Track designation to pemvidutide for the treatment of MASH. Pemvidutide recently completed the MOMENTUM Phase 2 obesity trial and is being studied in the ongoing IMPACT Phase 2b MASH trial.

About Altimmune

Altimmune is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on developing innovative next-generation peptide-based therapeutics. The Company is developing pemvidutide, a GLP-1/glucagon dual receptor agonist for the treatment of obesity and MASH. For more information, please visit  www.altimmune.com.

Forward-Looking Statement

Any statements made in this press release relating to future financial or business performance, conditions, plans, prospects, trends, or strategies and other financial and business matters, including without limitation, the timing of key milestones for our clinical assets, and the prospects for the utility of, regulatory approval, commercializing or selling any product or drug candidates, are forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. In addition, when or if used in this press release, the words may, could, should, anticipate, believe, estimate, expect, intend, plan, predict and similar expressions and their variants, as they relate to Altimmune, Inc. may identify forward-looking statements. The Company cautions that these forward-looking statements are subject to numerous assumptions, risks, and uncertainties, which change over time. Important factors that may cause actual results to differ materially from the results discussed in the forward-looking statements or historical experience include risks and uncertainties, including risks relating to: delays in regulatory review, manufacturing and supply chain interruptions, access to clinical sites, enrollment, adverse effects on healthcare systems and disruption of the global economy;  the reliability of the results of studies relating to human safety and possible adverse effects resulting from the administration of the Company’s product candidates; the Company’s ability to manufacture clinical trial materials on the timelines anticipated; and the success of future product advancements, including the success of future clinical trials. Further information on the factors and risks that could affect the Company’s business, financial conditions and results of operations are contained in the Company’s filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, including under the heading Risk Factors in the Company’s most recent annual report on Form 10-K and our other filings with the SEC, which are available at www.sec.gov.

Follow @Altimmune, Inc. on  LinkedIn
Follow @AltimmuneInc on  Twitter

Company Contact:
Richard Eisenstadt
Chief Financial Officer
Phone: 240-654-1450
ir@altimmune.com

Investor Contacts:
Lee Roth
Burns McClellan
Phone: 646-382-3403
lroth@burnsmc.com

Julia Weilman
Burns McClellan
Phone: 646-732-4443
jweilman@burnsmc.com

Media Contact:
Danielle Cantey
Inizio Evoke, Biotech
Phone: 619-826-4657
Danielle.cantey@inizioevoke.com

Source: Altimmune, Inc

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Fractyl Health Presents New Preclinical Data on Sustained Weight Maintenance and Improved Body Composition from its Rejuva ® Single-Administration GLP-1 Pancreatic Gene Therapy in President’s Select

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Single administration of Rejuva reduced fat mass and improved glycemia in the well-validated diet-induced obesity (DIO) mouse model

Rejuva also prevented weight and glycemic rebound after semaglutide withdrawal

Data provide first demonstration that Rejuva treatment has potential to mimic natural release of GLP-1 from pancreas

BURLINGTON, Mass., June 23, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Fractyl Health, Inc. (Nasdaq: GUTS) (the Company), a metabolic therapeutics company focused on pioneering new approaches for the treatment of obesity and type 2 diabetes (T2D), today presented new data from its preclinical Rejuva pancreatic gene therapy program in an oral presentation at the American Diabetes Association (ADA)’s 84th Scientific Sessions in Orlando, FL. The presentation titled Single-Dose GLP-1-Based Pancreatic Gene Therapy Durably Maintains Body Composition and Glycemia After Semaglutide Withdrawal in a Murine Model of Obesity, and was chosen as noteworthy and one of eight President’s Select Abstracts at ADA this year.

Rejuva is the Company’s adeno-associated virus (AAV)-based GLP-1 pancreatic gene therapy program (PGTx), designed to enable durable production of GLP-1 in the pancreas for the treatment of obesity and T2D. The study presented at ADA compared the effects of a single dose of Rejuva and daily semaglutide treatment on body composition and glycemic parameters in the well-validated mouse model of diet-induced obesity (DIO). It also examined the effects of single-dose Rejuva in the DIO mice after semaglutide was discontinued.

These data demonstrate that Rejuva can durably improve body composition and fasting glucose, compared to or better than semaglutide, by restoring GLP-1 production in a ˜one-and-done’ treatment, said Harith Rajagopalan, M.D., Ph.D., co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Fractyl. These data also show Rejuva could help maintain improvements after semaglutide is withdrawn, highlighting our therapy’s potential to fill an emerging and critical need in the management of obesity and T2D: a reliable, ˜off ramp’ from chronic GLP-1 drugs that allows people to maintain the weight loss and blood sugar benefits, even as they stop taking these medicines.

In the study presented at ADA, obese (DIO) mice were randomized 1:1:1 to one of the following and followed for 4 weeks:

  • Arm 1: single administration of a Rejuva GLP-1-based gene therapy candidate,
  • Arm 2: daily semaglutide injections, or
  • Arm 3: placebo

At the end of 4 weeks, semaglutide was discontinued for mice in Arm 2 and those animals were further randomized 1:1 to receive either a single administration of the Rejuva gene therapy candidate or placebo, and all animals were followed for an additional 4 weeks, leading to the following assessment arms at 8 weeks:

  • Arm 1: continued follow-up of a single administration of a Rejuva GLP-1-based gene therapy candidate
  • Arm 2a: semaglutide withdrawal at week 4
  • Arm 2b: semaglutide withdrawal with crossover to single administration Rejuva at week 4
  • Arm 3: continued follow up of placebo

At the end of 8 weeks, the pancreatic islets were then isolated to study the effect of glucose exposure on GLP-1-based transgene release from genetically modified islets.

At week 4, the Rejuva arm experienced reduced fat mass of 21% versus 16% of body weight with semaglutide (both p

At week 8, fat mass rebounded to 1% below baseline (n.s.) in the semaglutide withdrawal group (Arm 2a), whereas semaglutide-withdrawn mice treated with Rejuva (Arm 2b) maintained fat reduction of 17% (p

Glucose and insulin levels in all intervention groups corresponded to changes observed in fat mass, with statistically significant improvements in fasting glucose and fasting insulin in semaglutide-treated and Rejuva treated mice at 4 and 8 weeks, but no improvement in glucose or insulin in semaglutide-withdrawn mice that did not crossover to Rejuva at week 8.

In addition to the compelling durability of weight loss, body composition, and glucose improvements seen in this model, we are pleased that isolated, genetically modified islets from Rejuva-treated mice show this release of GLP-1 in response to nutrients, said Timothy Kieffer, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer of Fractyl. We believe this clearly demonstrates that Rejuva can mimic the physiologic release of GLP-1 that occurs naturally in the human body.

About Fractyl Health
Fractyl Health is a metabolic therapeutics company focused on pioneering new approaches to the treatment of metabolic diseases, including obesity and T2D. Despite advances in treatment over the last 50 years, obesity and T2D continue to be rapidly growing drivers of morbidity and mortality in the 21st century. Fractyl Health’s goal is to transform metabolic disease treatment from chronic symptomatic management to durable disease-modifying therapies that target the organ-level root causes of disease. Fractyl Health is based in Burlington (NYSE:), MA. For more information, visit‰www.fractyl.com‰or‰https://twitter.com/FractylHealth.

About Rejuva
Fractyl Health’s Rejuva ®‰platform focuses on developing next-generation adeno-associated virus (AAV)-based, locally delivered gene therapies for the treatment of obesity and T2D. The Rejuva platform is in preclinical development and has not yet been evaluated by regulatory agencies for investigational or commercial use. Rejuva leverages advanced delivery systems and proprietary screening methods to identify and develop metabolically active gene therapy candidates targeting the pancreas. The program aims to transform the management of metabolic diseases by offering novel, disease-modifying therapies that address the underlying root causes of disease.

Forward-Looking Statements
This press release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. All statements contained in this press release that do not relate to matters of historical fact should be considered forward-looking statements, including, without limitation, statements regarding the promise and potential impact of our preclinical or clinical trial data, the design, initiation, timing and results of clinical enrollment and any clinical trials or readouts, the content, information used for, timing or results of any IND-enabling studies or IND applications, the potential launch or commercialization of any of our product candidates or products, the sufficiency of our cash, cash equivalents, and investments to fund our operating activities for any specific period of time, and our strategic and product development objectives and goals, including with respect to enabling long-term control over obesity and type 2 diabetes without the burden of chronic therapies. These statements are neither promises nor guarantees, but involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other important factors that may cause the Company’s actual results, performance or achievements to be materially different from any future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements, including, but not limited to, the following: the Company’s limited operating history; the incurrence of significant net losses and the fact that the Company expects to continue to incur significant net losses for the foreseeable future; the Company’s need for substantial additional financing; the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern; the restrictive and financial covenants in the Company’s credit agreement; the lengthy and unpredictable regulatory approval process for the Company’s product candidates; uncertainty regarding its clinical studies; the fact that the Company’s product candidates may cause serious adverse events or undesirable side effects or have other properties that may cause it to suspend or discontinue clinical studies, delay or prevent regulatory development, prevent their regulatory approval, limit the commercial profile, or result in significant negative consequences; additional time may be required to develop and obtain regulatory approval or certification for the Company’s Rejuva gene therapy candidates; the Company’s reliance on third parties to conduct certain aspects of the Company’s preclinical studies and clinical studies; the Company’s reliance on third parties for the manufacture of the materials for its Rejuva gene therapy platform for preclinical studies and its ongoing clinical studies; the regulatory approval process of the FDA, comparable foreign regulatory authorities and lengthy, time-consuming and inherently unpredictable, and even if we complete the necessary clinical studies, we cannot predict when, or if, we will obtain regulatory approval or certification for any of our product candidates, and any such regulatory approval or certification may be for a more narrow indication than we seek; and the potential launch or commercialization of any of Company’s product candidates or products and our strategic and product development objectives and goals, and the other factors discussed under the caption Risk Factors in our Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the SEC) on May 13, 2024 and in our other filings with the SEC. These forward-looking statements are based on management’s current estimates and expectations. While the Company may elect to update such forward-looking statements at some point in the future, the Company disclaims any obligation to do so, even if subsequent events cause its views to change.

Contacts‰
Corporate Contact‰
Lisa Davidson, Chief Financial Officer‰
ir@fractyl.com, 781.902.8800

Media Contact‰
Jessica Cotrone, Corporate Communications‰
jcotrone@fractyl.com, 978.760.5622

Investor Contact
Stephen Jasper Gilmartin Group
stephen@gilmartinir.com, 619.949.3681

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Israeli airstrike kills eight at Gaza aid centre, witnesses say

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By Nidal al-Mughrabi

CAIRO (Reuters) -Eight Palestinians were killed on Sunday in an Israeli airstrike on a training college near Gaza City being used to distribute aid, Palestinian witnesses said, as Israeli tanks pushed further into the southern city of Rafah.

The strike hit part of a vocational college run by the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA that is now providing aid to displaced families, the witnesses said. 

“Some people were coming to receive coupons and others had been displaced from their houses and they were sheltering here. Some were filling up water, others were receiving coupons, and suddenly we heard something falling. We ran away, those who were carrying water let it spill,” said Mohammed Tafesh, one of the witnesses.

A Reuters photographer saw a low-rise building completely demolished and bodies wrapped in blankets laid out beside the road, waiting to be taken away. 

“We pulled out martyrs (from beneath the rubble), one who used to sell cold drinks and another who used to sell pastries and others who distributed or received coupons,” Tafesh said. “There are about four or five martyrs and 10 injured. Thank God, the condition of the injured is good.”

The Israeli military said the site, which it said had served in the past as a UNRWA headquarters, has been used by Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants. It added that precautionary measures were taken before the strike to reduce the risk of harming civilians.

“This morning (Sunday), IAF fighter jets directed by IDF and ISA intelligence struck terrorist infrastructure in which Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists were operating,” the military said in a statement.

“This is another example of Hamas’ systematic exploitation of civilian infrastructure and the civilian population as a human shield for its terrorist activities,” it added.

Hamas denies Israeli accusations it uses civilians as human shields or uses civilian facilities for military purposes.

Juliette Touma, UNRWA’s Director of Communications, said the agency was looking into the details of the reported attack before providing more information.

“Since the beginning of the war, we have recorded that nearly 190 of our buildings have been hit. This is the vast majority of our buildings in Gaza,” she said. A total of 193 UNRWA team members have been killed in the conflict, she added.

ADVANCE INTO RAFAH

More than eight months into Israel’s war in the Hamas-administered Palestinian enclave, its advance is focused on the two areas its forces have yet to seize – Rafah on Gaza’s southern tip and the area surrounding Deir al-Balah in the centre.

Israel’s ground and air campaign in Gaza was triggered when Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

The offensive has killed almost 37,600 people, according to Palestinian health authorities, and left Gaza in ruins .

Residents said Israeli tanks had advanced to the edge of the Mawasi displaced persons’ camp in the northwest of Rafah in fierce fighting with Hamas-led fighters, part of a push into western and northern Rafah in which they had blown up dozens of houses in recent days.

“The fighting with the resistance has been intense. The occupation forces are overlooking the Mawasi area now, which forced families there to head for Khan Younis,” said one resident, who asked not to be named, on a chat app.

The Israeli military said it was continuing “intelligence-based, targeted operations” in the Rafah area and had located weapons stores and tunnel shafts, and killed Palestinian gunmen.

The armed wings of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad movement said their fighters had attacked Israeli forces in Rafah with anti-tank rockets and mortar bombs and pre-planted explosive devices.

© Reuters. Gaza City, June 23, 2024. REUTERS/Mahmoud Issa

Another strike killed two people in Nuseirat in central Gaza.

In Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip, health officials at Kamal Adwan Hospital said two babies had died of malnutrition, taking the number of children who have died of malnutrition or dehydration since Oct. 7 to at least 31, a number that health officials say reflects under-recording.

(Reporting and writing by Nidal al-MughrabiAdditional reporting by Ari Rabinovitch, Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem and Mahmoud Issa in GazaEditing by Kevin Liffey and Frances Kerry)

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