Every week our researchers comb through the biggest headlines and provide their analysis on major industry developments and trends in the news. Our analysts evaluate news based on potential importance ranking developments from Truly Disruptive to Ignore.
Each Friday we will highlight our Lux Take on the news for the week. Check out our thoughts on the top emerging technology and innovation news, including our researcher's coverage of tech as it relates to COVID-19.
Apple and Google to partner for COVID-19 contact tracing app
Danielle Bradnan, Research Associate | @DBradnan
Lux Take: Truly Disruptive
"Under the guise of a (me-too) contact tracing app for COVID-19, this partnership will change the consumer relationship with personal healthcare data. The first proposed API rollout will allow both tech giants to access EHRs that were previously siloed via partnerships, giving them access to an enormous volume of development data. The second rollout, the tracing app itself, will set a precedent for individuals to use their data to achieve a meaningful personal goal – ultimately planting a flag on the idea that healthcare data belongs to the consumer. This partnership is a watershed moment for data access and will set a precedent for determining what privacy and healthcare data ownership means in the modern digital health landscape."
OneWeb's bankruptcy shows need for microsatellites to stick to known business models, especially as launches are delayed by COVID-19
"Grounded by COVID-19 safety measures, the microsatellite industry has seen another casualty – OneWeb declared bankruptcy. It had raised $3.4 billion, enabling it to launch six of 30 satellites in 2019, with its 2020 launch postponed. OneWeb blamed an inability to gain further funding due to COVID-19, notably from its biggest investor SoftBank, but other factors are at play. For example, the crowded market already claimed LeoSat due to a fund shortage. Another factor is the business model. While OneWeb was seeking to be an internet provider, companies like Myriota ($19 million in new funding) and Swarm (new U.S. launch approvals) are finding sustainable models by focusing on proven use cases like asset monitoring, agriculture, and shipping."
Scientists use the world's fastest supercomputer to search for COVID-19 treatments
Xiao Zhong, Ph.D., Analyst | @conanxzxz
Lux Take: Very Important
"A typical virus infects its host through binding sites, and COVID-19 is no exception. Researchers from the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Lab are using SUMMIT, the world's faster supercomputer built by IBM, to screen for small-molecule drugs that can prevent COVID-19 binding. Balancing the many years it takes to develop a drug from scratch and the extreme urgency created by the pandemic, this work focuses on screening over 8,000 approved drugs, metabolites, and natural products. They came up with seven compounds that are already available. While this work does not rely on an accurate crystal structure of COVID-19, it sheds light on a potential treatment, and the use of supercomputers can accelerate the screening process."
Abu Dhabi Investment Office injects $100 million for agtech development
Joshua Haslun, Ph.D., Senior Analyst | @JHaslun
Lux Take: Very Important
"The $100 million investment, part of ADIO's $272 million agtech fund, is spread among four companies: Madar Farms, a local vertical agtech developer; AeroFarms, a leading vertical agtech company; RDI, a startup developing plant-responsive irrigation systems; and RNZ, a developer of innovative fertilizers. The funding encourages R&D expenditure with 75% rebates upon commercialization. For vertical farming, the funding provides an opportunity to expand crop choice (tomatoes first) or advance automation. The remaining $170 million will be allocated over two years, and along with other recent funding events, the UAE will become a vertical agtech innovation engine, with the water-energy-food nexus acting as a key driver in the region.
Automakers to the rescue: Ford, GM, and Tesla use car parts to ramp up ventilator production, showing value of supply chain flexibility
"Two factors enabling automakers to shift gears to medical device production are (1) the adaptability of car parts to ventilators, and (2) the flexibility of digitally enabled supply chains. Ford, GM, and Tesla are among the most advanced in digital supply chain management, which enables them to quickly locate and send specifications to suppliers, who are able to adapt production processes to create the parts. For the designated small manufacturers, the shift fills the gap caused by idle auto part production but also requires adapting processes to the smaller form factor and higher volume of ventilator parts. Manufacturers should use this example as a comparison case study to assess their own adaptability to new product demands."
Pirbright Institute engineers synthetic antibodies to combat avian influenza
Laura Krishfield, Research Associate | @LKrishfield
Lux Take: Average Importance
"Using genetic engineering, scientists at The Pirbright Institute have developed single-chain variable-fragment antibodies (scFvs) against the H9N2 strain of avian influenza. In lab testing, the scFvs bound to proteins on the outside of H9N2, preventing it from invading the host cell. However, the results also indicated that complete virus attenuation in poultry was not achieved. While this development is not a cure for H9N2, it does highlight biosynthetic antibody therapy as a method to reduce the symptoms of avian flu and thus decrease reliance on antibiotics and lower medication costs. Biosynthesized antibodies may aid in symptom reduction for viral animal diseases and have an established scalability and likely economic return."
ARM Institute opens robotics funding opportunity for COVID-19 response
Josh Kern, Analyst | @josh_kern_
Lux Take: Average Importance
"The original call from the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will allow funds from the recently signed CARES Act to be used to sponsor projects related to the production of critical materials and other response measures to the current pandemic. The ARM Institute is a public-private consortium that brings together large corporations with startups and academia to push the field of robotics forward. Those who are developing or using robotics systems should see this as an opportunity to receive funding assistance from the U.S. government for both healthcare and manufacturing robotics projects. Companies that wish to participate in co-development projects must be members of the ARM Institute."
Adaptive Phage Therapeutics gets initial green light from FDA for its phage-based therapy
"APT obtained clearance from the FDA for its Investigational New Drug (IND) application focused on the company's PhageBank, a collection of phages targeting six bacterial pathogens that show high antibiotic resistance. Following this, the company will enroll patients for the clinical evaluation of PhageBank toward treating urinary tract infections (UTIs) in Q2 2020. This development comes on the heels of its $10 million funding received from the U.S. Department of Defense. Phage therapeutics as viable antibiotic alternatives still seem to be a long-term commercial opportunity; however, recent major partnerships like that of Johnson & Johnson with Locus Biosciences and developments on the regulatory front indicate a positive step forward."
Corvus Energy expands production capabilities to Canada as part of $16 million investment
"The investment in the Richmond BC facility includes expanded production of its 20 MWh to 50 MWh battery pack, Blue Whale. Corvus Energy expects to begin shipping its products from the Richmond plant in 2021. Canada's National Research Council contributed to the investment to drive R&D efforts. Corvus was recently selected by Westcon Power & Automation to supply 1,500 kWh battery packs for a new hybrid vessel. The Canadian facility signals the company's intention to target North American markets, but electrification efforts in marine vessels have historically been driven by policy centered in Europe. Companies should be aware that North America lacks the same policy incentives, but the move gives Corvus a first-mover advantage."
Indian nutraceutical startup Bhookha Haathi launches AI-based personalized nutrition service