• An early stage aerospace company hit an important milestone…

  • We just saw a 350x improvement in robotics…

  • This CEO just made an absurd claim…

Dear Reader,

I hope that my U.S.-based subscribers had a wonderful holiday weekend. It was certainly a welcome break from the chaos this year.

We’re now in the sprint toward the end of the year, and the positive developments continue unabated.

Early this morning, Moderna announced it will file for approval of its COVID-19 vaccine with both U.S. and European health regulators.

This news came on the back of the full analysis of Moderna’s Phase 3 clinical trials. The study determined that the vaccine was 94.1% effective. It appears to be safe as well, with only headaches and other mild reactions in those who’ve taken the vaccine.

Not to be outdone by any of the other biotech companies pursuing emergency use authorization (EUA), Moderna was quick to point out that its vaccine was 100% effective against severe cases of COVID-19.

Not 94.1%, not 94.5%, not 95%… but 100% effective. We can’t make this up. All of the biopharma companies are jockeying for the title of “the best” vaccine.

Humor aside, this is incredible news.

It effectively means that within days, the world will have two approved vaccines for COVID-19. (The other is the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.)

And the advantage of the Moderna vaccine is that it can survive for 30 days at standard refrigerator temperatures rather than the extreme cold temperatures that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine needs.

And it gets better.

Over the long weekend, charter flights full of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine were flown from Belgium to the U.S. The vaccine is already in Europe and the U.S. And it’s being distributed in preparation for administration of the shots.

Not to be outdone, the British government is preparing to distribute it next Monday, December 7, in the U.K. It’s a race to see which country can begin administering a vaccine first.

Assuming quick distribution of the vaccine(s), there are enough doses available to provide them to both health care workers and those 65 years and older before the end of the year.

Achieving this would be the capstone to the most successful public-private partnership in history – Operation Warp Speed.

Now let’s turn to our insights…

Another promising aerospace company for our watchlist…

We talked about early stage aerospace company Rocket Lab back in June. This is the company that makes its rockets using 3D printing technology.

This approach has allowed Rocket Lab to produce an engine that is highly efficient, lighter, cheaper, and capable of launching small payloads into space. And get this – an entire engine can essentially be “printed” in just 24 hours.

And Rocket Lab just hit a major milestone.

The company completed its 16th launch. Even more impressive, Rocket Lab managed to return its first-stage booster safely to the ocean for the first time.

Rocket Lab’s Booster

Source: Rocket Lab

Recovering the first-stage booster is what SpaceX has mastered for years now. Its approach is to land the boosters on floating platforms in the ocean or on launch pads as they return to Earth after having lifted their payloads.

Rocket Lab’s approach to capturing its rocket boosters is unique and probably more exciting. It has programmed the booster to deploy a parachute as it falls back down to Earth. Then Rocket Lab uses a helicopter with a hook that flies out and “catches” the booster, bringing it down safely.

At least, that’s the plan. It has some more work to do to prove the recovery model, but it certainly is fun to watch.

Worth noting is that Rocket Lab isn’t competing directly with SpaceX. Instead, it is targeting a niche in the aerospace industry.

SpaceX has demonstrated that it can get heavy payloads into orbit, like astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS) in its Crew Dragon capsule. And it has also launched large payloads into space, including a Tesla Roadster.

In contrast, Rocket Lab is focused on lighter payload missions. And because of its 3D-printed rocket, the company can get these small payloads into low Earth orbit at lower costs.

Rocket Lab’s last venture capital (VC) round was its Series E round all the way back in 2018. It raised $140 million in that round, valuing the company at $1.4 billion.

Given that it has gone two years without a VC raise, I expect to see Rocket Lab conduct another raise on the back of this milestone. And we can expect to see its valuation increase substantially as well.

So this is certainly a company to watch. In fact, there’s a good chance we’ll see Rocket Lab go public before SpaceX does.

The robotics industry has been laser-focused on refining its bottleneck…

We have talked quite a bit about artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled robots and robotic arms this year.

The technology has come a long way. There have been major advancements in using AI to solve the complexity of gripping different kinds of objects.

As a result, we have seen robotic dogs, fruit-picking robots, robotic lab assistants, robotic burger flippers, and even a robotic butler.

The functionality of these robots is incredible. But there has been one major remaining challenge – the speed at which robotic arms can pick up and move objects around has been slow.

That’s been the industry’s biggest bottleneck, and it came to light this year.

As we know, e-commerce has exploded in popularity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This caused distribution centers to become overloaded.

Like me, many readers probably saw this firsthand with Amazon. Two-day Prime deliveries stopped coming in two days. Amazon simply couldn’t hire enough people in its warehouses to fulfill orders fast enough.

This is where fast, efficient robotic arms would have come in handy. But the best robotic arms available weren’t as fast as human workers in picking and sorting tasks.

A team of researchers at UC Berkeley may have solved the problem. The team used a form of AI called deep neural networks to train a robotic arm on the optimal way to move objects around without damaging them.

And after a week of training, the deep neural network’s approach demonstrated extraordinary results.

Previously, it took about 29 seconds for the robotic arm to figure out how to get an object from Point A to Point B safely. After training, it took just 80 milliseconds. That’s an incredible 350x improvement.

This training now puts robotic arms on par with human workers in terms of their speed. And, of course, the robots can work 24 hours a day without food, water, or rest. That makes them far more efficient than their human counterparts.

This was the last piece of the puzzle to making robotic arms as efficient as humans in tasks like picking and sorting. This technology will be used to perform the work that e-commerce companies have struggled to hire for.

So I expect to see an aggressive rollout of this technology in warehouses and distribution centers in 2021. This tech is going to spread rapidly.

Another major self-driving player goes live…

We talked last week about how Uber is in talks to sell its self-driving unit called Advanced Technologies Group (ATG). This is part of a move to shore up its finances by focusing only on businesses that will drive short-term revenues.

Naturally, Uber got a lot of questions since the ATG announcement.

In response, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi made a comment that jumped off the page at me. Khosrowshahi said that he believes fully autonomous vehicles are 10 to 15 years away.

That might be a convenient statement for someone selling off self-driving assets… but what an absurd statement to make.

After all, Tesla launched the beta version of its fully self-driving software last month. And Tesla cars have already driven more than 4.5 billion miles on Autopilot to date. Furthermore, Waymo announced its autonomous taxi service in Phoenix last month as well, with no safety driver in the front seat.

These two programs have nearly full self-driving cars on the road right now.

What’s more, Hyundai and Aptiv just announced that their robotaxi joint venture Motional received permission to test a fleet of self-driving cars in Las Vegas – again, without a safety driver.

We have talked about Aptiv before. This is the company whose self-driving technology is powering Lyft’s autonomous taxi pilot program in Las Vegas. That program hit the milestone of 100,000 self-driving rides earlier this year, proving that Aptiv’s tech works.

Now Aptiv will power self-driving Hyundai robotaxis in Las Vegas as well.

So there’s no question about it – autonomous vehicles are here today. While there is still some optimization to do, the tech is ready. It certainly won’t take 10–15 years for consumer adoption to happen.

2021 is going to be an incredible year for the self-driving industry.


Jeff Brown
Editor, The Bleeding Edge

P.S. As readers of The Bleeding Edge know, COVID-19 has ushered in a “golden age” of biotechnology.

Suddenly, the world has woken up to the fact that today’s biotech companies employ bleeding-edge technology. Every venture capitalist and private equity house has realized how powerful these technologies are and how quickly biotech can move.

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Make no mistake – some of the largest returns in the next few years will be found in biotechnology.

And there is one biotech stock that is at the top of my list. This is a company that needs to be in every tech investor’s portfolio. There are circumstances at play that will cause this biotech stock to soar, possibly going as high as 1,000%.

To share the details of this company – and cover the major developments happening in biotech right now – I am hosting a free event on December 9 at 8 p.m. ET. And I’d love it if every reader of The Bleeding Edge could attend.

For those interested, simply go right here to reserve your spot.

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