OPEN Health to acquire leading US-based life science strategy and advisory firm Acsel Health

London, U.K., Feb. 13, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — OPEN Health, a pre-eminent global provider of scientific communications and HEOR & market access services, announced the acquisition of Acsel Health (“Acsel”), a New York-based life science strategy and advisory firm focused on commercial strategy, pricing and market access, and commercial excellence.

Acsel’s deep industry expertise, scientific rigor, and actionable analysis drives its success in providing valued partnership to life science companies. These capabilities will complement OPEN Health’s existing offering, broadening the range of services it offers to pharma and biotech companies.

Lujing Wang, Managing Partner of Acsel Health, said, “We are thrilled to join OPEN Health and to work with a wider team to solve for today’s demands and meet tomorrow’s expectations for pharma and biotech customers. With new colleagues and capabilities to partner with, we are equipped to answer the most challenging cross-disciplinary questions in life science across all key therapeutic areas.”

“Acsel is an extraordinary addition to OPEN Health. Acsel’s expert team and long-standing client relationships significantly strengthen our ability to support the commercialization of our clients’ assets and unlock access for patients.” said OPEN Health CEO, Rob Barker. “We are excited to welcome Acsel Health into the OPEN Health Group and look forward to working with our new colleagues to offer our clients innovative, scientific solutions around the globe.”

Fairmount Partners acted as exclusive financial advisor to Acsel Health. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

About OPEN Health

OPEN Health unites deep scientific knowledge with wide-ranging specialist expertise to unlock possibilities that improve health outcomes and patient wellbeing. Working in partnership with our clients, we embrace our different perspectives and strengths to deliver fresh thinking and solutions that make a difference. OPEN Health is a flexible global organization that solves complex healthcare challenges across HEOR and market access, medical communications and creative omnichannel campaigns. For more information on OPEN Health, visit www.openhealthgroup.com.

About Acsel Health

Acsel Health is a consulting firm that partners with renowned life science companies to guide life-changing innovations through their critical stages, from early development through market maturity. Acsel applies best-practice principles to develop and deliver highly individualized solutions to challenges across the product lifecycle for our clients. For more information on Acsel Health, visit www.acselhealth.com.

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Candice Subero
OPEN Health
candicesubero@openhealthgroup.com

GlobeNewswire Distribution ID 8744608

German Ballet Director Suspended Over Feces Attack on Critic

A German newspaper critic had animal feces smeared on her face in the city of Hannover by a ballet director who apparently took offense at a review she wrote.

The Hannover state opera house apologized for the incident and said Monday that it was immediately suspending ballet director Marco Goecke.

The daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported that a furious Goecke approached its dance critic, Wiebke Huester, during the interval of a premiere at Hannover’s opera house on Saturday and asked what she was doing there. It said that the two didn’t know each other personally.

The newspaper said that Goecke, who apparently felt provoked by a recent review she wrote of a production he staged in the Dutch seat of government, The Hague, threatened to ban her from the ballet and accused her of being responsible for people canceling season tickets in Hannover.

He then pulled out a paper bag with animal feces and smeared her face with the contents before making off through a packed theater foyer, the newspaper said. Huester identified the substance as dog feces and said she had filed a criminal complaint, German news agency dpa reported.

In a statement on its website, the opera house said Huester’s “personal integrity” was violated “in an unspeakable way.” It said that it contacted her immediately after the incident to apologize.

The opera house said that Goecke’s “impulsive reaction” violated the ground rules of the theater and that “he caused massive damage to the Hannover State Opera and State Ballet.” As a result, it said, he is being suspended and banned from the opera house until further notice.

Goecke has been given the next few days to apologize “comprehensively” and explain himself to theater management “before further steps are announced,” it added.

The ballet director appeared at least partly unrepentant, however. In an interview with public broadcaster NDR, Goecke acknowledged that his “choice of means wasn’t super, absolutely.”

“Of course, socially that is also certainly not recognized or respected, if one resorts to such means,” he said of the attack, adding that he had never done anything like that before and was “a bit shocked at myself.”

Goecke said that while having his work “soiled for years” was a price he had been told he had to pay for being in the public eye, there was a limit.

“Once a certain point has been reached, I disagree,” he said.

The German journalists’ association DJV denounced the attack.

“An artist must tolerate criticism, even if it seems exaggerated,” the union’s regional head in Lower Saxony state, Frank Rieger, said. “Whoever reacts violently to criticism is unacceptable. The attack on the … journalist is also an attack on press freedom.”

Source: Voice of America

Google to Expand Misinformation ‘Prebunking’ in Europe

After seeing promising results in Eastern Europe, Google will initiate a new campaign in Germany that aims to make people more resilient to the corrosive effects of online misinformation.

The tech giant plans to release a series of short videos highlighting the techniques common to many misleading claims. The videos will appear as advertisements on platforms like Facebook, YouTube or TikTok in Germany. A similar campaign in India is also in the works.

It’s an approach called prebunking, which involves teaching people how to spot false claims before they encounter them. The strategy is gaining support among researchers and tech companies.

“There’s a real appetite for solutions,” said Beth Goldberg, head of research and development at Jigsaw, an incubator division of Google that studies emerging social challenges. “Using ads as a vehicle to counter a disinformation technique is pretty novel. And we’re excited about the results.”

While belief in falsehoods and conspiracy theories isn’t new, the speed and reach of the internet has given them a heightened power. When catalyzed by algorithms, misleading claims can discourage people from getting vaccines, spread authoritarian propaganda, foment distrust in democratic institutions and spur violence.

It’s a challenge with few easy solutions. Journalistic fact checks are effective, but they’re labor intensive, aren’t read by everyone, and won’t convince those already distrustful of traditional journalism. Content moderation by tech companies is another response, but it only drives misinformation elsewhere, while prompting cries of censorship and bias.

Prebunking videos, by contrast, are relatively cheap and easy to produce and can be seen by millions when placed on popular platforms. They also avoid the political challenge altogether by focusing not on the topics of false claims, which are often cultural lightning rods, but on the techniques that make viral misinformation so infectious.

Those techniques include fear-mongering, scapegoating, false comparisons, exaggeration and missing context. Whether the subject is COVID-19, mass shootings, immigration, climate change or elections, misleading claims often rely on one or more of these tricks to exploit emotions and short-circuit critical thinking.

Last fall, Google launched the largest test of the theory so far with a prebunking video campaign in Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The videos dissected different techniques seen in false claims about Ukrainian refugees. Many of those claims relied on alarming and unfounded stories about refugees committing crimes or taking jobs away from residents.

The videos were seen 38 million times on Facebook, TikTok, YouTube and Twitter — a number that equates to a majority of the population in the three nations. Researchers found that compared to people who hadn’t seen the videos, those who did watch were more likely to be able to identify misinformation techniques, and less likely to spread false claims to others.

The pilot project was the largest test of prebunking so far and adds to a growing consensus in support of the theory.

“This is a good news story in what has essentially been a bad news business when it comes to misinformation,” said Alex Mahadevan, director of MediaWise, a media literacy initiative of the Poynter Institute that has incorporated prebunking into its own programs in countries including Brazil, Spain, France and the U.S.

Mahadevan called the strategy a “pretty efficient way to address misinformation at scale, because you can reach a lot of people while at the same time address a wide range of misinformation.”

Google’s new campaign in Germany will include a focus on photos and videos, and the ease with which they can be presented of evidence of something false. One example: Last week, following the earthquake in Turkey, some social media users shared video of the massive explosion in Beirut in 2020, claiming it was actually footage of a nuclear explosion triggered by the earthquake. It was not the first time the 2020 explosion had been the subject of misinformation.

Google will announce its new German campaign Monday ahead of next week’s Munich Security Conference. The timing of the announcement, coming before that annual gathering of international security officials, reflects heightened concerns about the impact of misinformation among both tech companies and government officials.

Tech companies like prebunking because it avoids touchy topics that are easily politicized, said Sander van der Linden, a University of Cambridge professor considered a leading expert on the theory. Van der Linden worked with Google on its campaign and is now advising Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, as well.

Meta has incorporated prebunking into many different media literacy and anti-misinformation campaigns in recent years, the company told The Associated Press in an emailed statement.

They include a 2021 program in the U.S. that offered media literacy training about COVID-19 to Black, Latino and Asian American communities. Participants who took the training were later tested and found to be far more resistant to misleading COVID-19 claims.

Prebunking comes with its own challenges. The effects of the videos eventually wears off, requiring the use of periodic “booster” videos. Also, the videos must be crafted well enough to hold the viewer’s attention, and tailored for different languages, cultures and demographics. And like a vaccine, it’s not 100% effective for everyone.

Google found that its campaign in Eastern Europe varied from country to country. While the effect of the videos was highest in Poland, in Slovakia they had “little to no discernible effect,” researchers found. One possible explanation: The videos were dubbed into the Slovak language, and not created specifically for the local audience.

But together with traditional journalism, content moderation and other methods of combating misinformation, prebunking could help communities reach a kind of herd immunity when it comes to misinformation, limiting its spread and impact.

“You can think of misinformation as a virus. It spreads. It lingers. It can make people act in certain ways,” Van der Linden told the AP. “Some people develop symptoms, some do not. So: if it spreads and acts like a virus, then maybe we can figure out how to inoculate people.”

Source: Voice of America