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Lux Take on News: Weekly Round-Up April 17, 2020

Lux Research
April 17, 2020

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.

U.K. National Health Service teams up with Apple and Google to develop COVID-19 contact tracing app; key problems remain

13261-thumb-squareDanielle Bradnan, Research Associate @DBradnan Ico twitter
Lux Take: Very Important

"While contact tracing is an important part of managing the spread of the disease, and digital tools like this app offer significant aid to that cause, compliance and actionability will remain significant hurdles regardless. The app relies on the majority of citizens downloading and using it, which has not even happened in Singapore, the progenitor of this app – and a city-state with greater comfort with state surveillance than most of the West. Additionally, if compliance is achieved, widespread testing will have to be available in order for the app to have real meaning. Companies should understand the limits of mobile contact tracing, and if looking to engage, target efforts on enabling fast point-of-care testing."

Ford subsidiaries offering free services to public transit agencies

Chad Goldberg - Research Associate at Lux ResearchChad Goldberg, Research Associate
Lux Take: Very Important

"Ford Mobility companies TransLoc, Ride Systems, and DoubleMap are offering free transit consulting services and demand-response software to aid in the transition into uncharted operational environments. While it is still unclear how COVID-19 will affect public transit ridership, perception, and operations long-term, the crisis is presenting an opportunity for transit operators to experiment with more flexible routing and planning systems, a process that would be much more difficult under normal operating circumstances. We expect these new capabilities will not only be essential to effectively respond to future crises but also lead to more effective operation of general transit services in increasingly complex urban mobility environments."

With $11.4 million Series A amid the COVID-19 crisis, Kebotix is on its way to becoming the fastest-growing materials informatics startup

Xiao Zhong - Lux Research -Xiao Zhong, Ph.D., Analyst | @conanxzxz Ico twitter
Lux Take: Very Important

"Kebotix has raised a total of $16.4 million in three years. This has set a few records in the MI space: 1) the fastest in terms of equity capital raising; 2) led by Novo Holdings, this is the first round ever led by a strategic partner (in this case in life science); 3) the round sizes are generally significantly larger for a software startup. The reason: Kebotix's AI technology makes it less dependent on customer data, increasing its confidence in partnerships. It also explains its IP-claiming business model, which is initially controversial but sustainable. Its autonomous lab is still in its infancy, but the closed-loop approach is commercially attractive. Chemical companies are still hesitant to fully engage; a little push is needed.

Zoetis acquires Performance Livestock Analytics, deeming precision livestock farming a vital opportunity

13463-thumb-squareLaura Krishfield, Research Associate | @LKrishfield Ico twitter
Lux Take: Very Important

"Animal health company Zoetis is acquiring Performance Livestock Analytics to strengthen its position within the precision livestock farming (PLF) space. Performance Livestock Analytics develops a cloud-based livestock management platform for beef cattle called Performance Beef and a complementary market analytics tool called Cattle Krush to support profitability. At this time, the global pandemic is causing strain on supply chains for both feed and meat, making PLF a more significant opportunity than ever to encourage appropriate feed delivery, boost livestock welfare, and maintain high productivity. Companies, look for PLF tools that not only optimize the production process but also provide financial tracking and market insights."

Autonomous trucking start up Starsky Robotics closes its doors

Kevin See, Ph.D, Vice President, Digital ProductsKevin See, Ph.D, Vice President, Digital Products
Lux Take: Very Important

"As we caught wind of previously, Starsky Robotics has officially ceased operations. In a blog post, CEO Stefan Seltz-Axmacher cited factors including technical obstacles, value proposition, and VC dynamics. Still, we don't view this as a warning sign for the autonomous trucking space - there remain promising players like Locomation, though interested parties should beware of the tremendous amounts of cash these companies will need to see the long development times through. We remain bullish on the value of automation at levels lower than level 5, given how challenging fully driverless systems will be to achieve." 

Renault's revised China strategy drops combustion engines

Robinson, ChristopherChristopher Robinson, Senior Analyst | @CRobinsonLux Ico twitter
Lux Take: Very Important

"Renault's China strategy was shaped mostly by financial performance, as its joint venture with Dongfeng had reportedly lost more than $200 million in 2019 alone. That venture focused on combustion vehicles, and Renault's revised strategy in China saw it keep its electric vehicle joint venture with Jiangling Motors – likely influenced by the fact that more than half the world's battery electric vehicles (BEV) were sold in the country. Clients should recognize that other automakers with struggling joint ventures – such as Dongfeng Peugeot Citroën and Changan Ford, which both face overcapacity – could adopt a similar strategy focused on BEVs in part due to financial pressure from COVID-19."

Fitbit adds COVID-19 screening and support capabilities through partnership with telehealth provider PlushCare

13261-thumb-squareDanielle Bradnan, Research Associate @DBradnan Ico twitter
Lux Take: Very Important

"This move is a sensible solution right now, but it also opens the door for future plays connecting wearables and telehealth as part of a care ecosystem.  While wearables can collect data to add value to more traditional modes of telehealth, they can also expand the reach of fitness wearables beyond wellness and into into healthcare. By adding telehealth to the fitness wearable and digital workout ecosystem, companies like Fitbit have the ability to address care across a spectrum of health states instead addressing either healthy or sick consumers. Companies interested in healthcare should be looking for partnerships that build solutions ecosystems that address multiple parts of the health spectrum."

Airbus shuts down on-demand helicopter booking application

Chad Goldberg - Research Associate at Lux ResearchChad Goldberg, Research Associate
Lux Take: Very Important

"Despite the claimed effect of COVID-19 on operations, we believe that the pandemic merely accelerated the inevitable decision to cease operations of an unprofitable venture. What is important about this announcement is that Voom basically acted as a proof of concept for on-demand air taxi travel – a concept that, after four years, did not garner the traction necessary to validate air taxi travel as a viable, profitable part of the future of urban mobility. While the data collected throughout Voom's operational period is expected to be used to inform the design of future eVTOLs, it is not clear to Lux how transitioning to arguably more expensive aircraft will influence market dynamics to improve the case for air taxi networks."

NASA in final stages of testing all-electric aircraft in preparation for test flight later in 2020

Chloe HerreraChloe Herrera, Research Associate
Lux Take: Average Importance

"NASA's X-57 Maxwell will seat two passengers and contain 12 electric motors placed near the propellers in the wings. The lightweight all-electric design will have a cruising speed of 172 mph at 8,000 ft and will be equipped with 47 kWh of LFP cells for short flights. NASA has three design drivers: increased energy efficiency, zero in-flight carbon emissions, and quieter movement. The research effort will help develop certification standards for new aviation markets and share the design process with regulators to standardize electric aviation certification. Companies interested in electric aviation should expect this project to result in guidelines for small aircraft development and implementation much like NASA's Urban Air Mobility program."

Hera BioLabs looks to commercialize enhanced-fidelity Cas-CLOVER gene editing system for pharma

12744-thumb-squareJoshua Haslun, Ph.D., Senior Analyst | @JHaslun Ico twitter
Lux Take: Average Importance

"Hera BioLabs will bring its Cas-CLOVER system to market through Demeetra as a platform to edit Chinese hamster ovarian (CHO) cells for bioprocessing within the biotherapeutic drug industry. The dimeric system is composed of two dCas9-Clo51 endonuclease fusion proteins. Each unit binds based on unique left and right gRNAs, resulting in the dimerization of Clo51 at the cut site. The system's redundancy reduces potential off-target mutations while inducing activity levels in CHO lines similar to Cas9 edits. Companies, Cas-CLOVER offers improved confidence in commercial scaling of therapeutically relevant cell lines, but delivery challenges may emerge as more components are required and the development of high-fidelity Cas9 mutants continues."

Perfect Day receives FDA approval for its fermentation-derived dairy protein

Harini Venkataraman Ph.D. Lux ResearchHarini Venkataraman, Ph.D., Analyst
Lux Take: Average Importance

"Perfect Day received "no objection" from the FDA for its dairy protein ingredient beta-lactoglobulin, produced in an engineered strain of Trichoderma reesei. This definitive decision based on the company's self-affirmed GRAS status is a key milestone as Perfect Day looks to ramp up production and get to the market following its recent $140 million Series C funding. As Lux pointed out, the FDA's amendment on voluntary GRAS affirmation will significantly reduce waiting time for regulatory approval, often a key hurdle for commercializing new food ingredients produced using microbial fermentation. Companies should expect to see similar developments on the regulatory front from other startups targeting the fermentation-derived food proteins space."

Northvolt delivers its largest order of battery systems to Epiroc

Chloe HerreraChloe Herrera, Research Associate
Lux Take: Ignore

"Following pilot tests of first-generation batteries from Northvolt, Swedish mining equipment company Epiroc will begin implementing Northvolt's second-generation batteries into more underground mining vehicles. By 2025, Epiroc plans to have a fully electric mining vehicle product line. As Northvolt ramps up production capacities for its large-format Li-ion batteries, its early focus on markets like underground mining and forklift vehicles will be a reliable source of early revenue and product testing. New Li-ion battery makers like Romeo Power similarly target industrial transportation. Companies should note that the exact order amount is still unknown; demand is high for Northvolt's battery, but the company may struggle to maintain output."






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