• Everything we need to know about remdesivir
  • This legacy automaker is blaming COVID-19 for its self-driving car troubles. But I don’t buy it…
  • Is Moore’s Law dying? Here’s how to save it…

Dear Reader,

Early research was just published on Friday by scientists from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Foundation Trust that revealed a tight link between vitamin D levels and COVID-19 mortality rates.

The researchers analyzed vitamin D levels among citizens of 20 European countries and mapped that data with COVID-19 deaths. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is a strong correlation between low vitamin D levels and those impacted most by COVID-19.

This seems logical. After all, vitamin D is already well known to boost our immune systems and reduce the risk of respiratory infections like influenza, pneumonia, and even tuberculosis.

And what’s the best way to get vitamin D? Sunshine. That’s right. All we have to do is get outside, get some fresh air, and enjoy some sunlight. Our body’s skin contains a kind of cholesterol that becomes vitamin D when exposed to UV light.

And here is the best part… Sun-derived vitamin D can circulate for twice as long as vitamin D derived from a food source or supplements.

But what did the state governments do? They closed down the parks and school playgrounds and told us to stay indoors. When we think about it, it is not logical at all. Canceling mass gatherings makes sense. But restricting our exposure to sunshine and the outdoors is completely illogical.

Maybe the beachgoers in California and Florida aren’t so crazy after all…

We should see some early data later this week from states that have already begun the process of reopening. I remain optimistic.

Now let’s turn to our insights…

The scoop on Gilead’s COVID-19 therapy…

Gilead’s antiviral drug remdesivir has been all over the news lately. This is an interesting story…

Remdesivir is currently being studied as a treatment for COVID-19. It was originally developed to treat the Ebola virus.

Just over a week ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) released the results of Gilead’s remdesivir study in China… and they were not very good. The Financial Times picked up this news and ran with it, suggesting that remdesivir doesn’t work for COVID-19 patients.

But both the WHO and the Financial Times left out one key point – Gilead had to shut down the clinical trial in China because it ran out of patients. It couldn’t find enough people with COVID-19 to complete the trial. Odd point to leave out of the story, wasn’t it?

Later, the WHO said it released the negative results in error… But I don’t believe that for a second. Clinical trials follow a formal process, and the decision on when to release trial results is always carefully considered. It appears to me that the WHO and FT simply wanted to project a negative outcome.

Fortunately, we just got results from the remdesivir clinical trial conducted by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in the U.S.

This is a double-blind placebo trial. There were 1,063 patients, and a portion of them received a placebo instead of remdesivir. The key is that neither the patient nor the physician knows what treatment each patient is getting. This removes bias and subjectivity from the trial. The data speaks for itself.

And the data clearly shows that the patients who took remdesivir got better more quickly than those who got the placebo. The therapy has shown to be effective in many patients.

And it works well enough that on Friday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency use authorization (EUA) for remdesivir to treat patients with COVID-19. And Japan’s prime minister said Japan will likely approve remdesivir soon. We can expect other countries to follow suit.

This is a great development in the fight against this virus. The results demonstrated efficacy in a properly run clinical trial. We wouldn’t know that if we read The New York Times, which is calling remdesivir the drug that “failed as a treatment for hepatitis and Ebola” and is further amplifying the negativity by reporting that “not everyone is convinced that remdesivir will live up to its promise.”

I’ll be the first to say that remdesivir is not a cure for COVID-19. Nor is it a vaccine. But it is a very positive development that has demonstrated efficacy in fighting COVID-19. A lot of people, both at Gilead and the NIAID, strived to rework remdesivir and bring it to market for COVID-19. I, for one, applaud their efforts and see this as a cause for optimism.

How COVID-19 is impacting historic carmaker Ford…

Back in March, we talked about how Ford was gearing up to launch a fleet of self-driving cars in Austin, Texas, next year. Well, the company just announced that it is pushing that launch date back to 2022.

The reason? COVID-19.

Let’s think about this for a minute…

I expect that COVID-19 will be a bad memory by this time next year. The mass media are trying to make us believe that COVID-19 will be around for years. But there simply isn’t any logic to support that rhetoric.

As we have talked about before, viruses often mutate until they burn themselves out. And populations can develop broad immunity to an airborne virus like COVID-19.

COVID-19’s unique characteristic isn’t its deadliness but how quickly it spreads. Viruses with a high reproduction rate will run their course more quickly than others.

But for the sake of argument… Let’s suppose COVID-19 was still around. Would we rather hail a car with a driver who could potentially carry the virus? Or would we rather hail a self-driving car and avoid contact with other people?

I think the answer is clear. We would see accelerated adoption of self-driving cars in that environment.

That means Ford is using COVID-19 as an excuse. But why?

Well, one look at Ford’s financials tells the story. The carmaker had negative free cash flow of $2.2 billion this quarter. Its net income was negative $1.9 billion. And Ford is now sitting on a grand total of $169 billion of debt.

And get this – Ford is on pace to lose about $5 billion in free cash flow this year. That’s $5 billion flowing out of the company.

Want to know why Ford isn’t going through with its self-driving taxi service?

Simple – the company is hemorrhaging money, and the business is in big trouble. COVID-19 doesn’t have anything to do with it. It is nothing but a convenient excuse.

That said, Ford’s decision to postpone its autonomous vehicle program won’t slow down the adoption of self-driving cars. Nor will COVID-19. Like I mentioned, I believe people would jump at the opportunity to ride in a self-driving car right now to avoid coming into contact with a human driver.

This is a very bad tactical decision by Ford. It has an opportunity to be relevant in the next generation of automotive technology. But the company is now taking a back seat.

Tesla, and others, will certainly take advantage of this decision. Autonomous technology was already inevitable. But COVID-19 and its psychological aftermath will be an additional catalyst for adoption.

Chiplets will keep Moore’s Law going strong…

Even for investors who are relatively new to the world of high technology, I’m sure most of us have heard of Moore’s Law.

Originally envisioned in 1965 by Intel cofounder Gordon Moore, Moore’s Law states that the number of transistors in an integrated circuit tends to double about every two years. And this prediction has proved astoundingly accurate.

Moore’s Law is the reason for the exponential growth in processing power over the past few decades. It’s the reason the smartphone in your pocket is more powerful than all the computers used to send the first man to the Moon.

But in recent years, technologists have noted that Moore’s Law is slowing down. The doubling is now taking place about every 2.5 years. As a result, the industry is looking for a way to keep Moore’s Law alive. That’s where “chiplets” come in…

Chiplets are modules that integrate several semiconductors, so the chips act as a single unit. Here’s a visual:

Chiplets Integrate Multiple Semiconductors

Source: Wired

Each black unit on the board is an individual semiconductor. The chiplet interconnects the chips so they work together as one.

Chiplets allow chipmakers to put many small semiconductors on the same board. Since these small semis are working together, they are as powerful as larger semiconductors, except they are more economically efficient. Chipmakers can get a higher yield making smaller semiconductors.

So chiplets are an economical way to deliver high performance and keep Moore’s Law going. As consumers, we can look forward to even more powerful processing power in the years ahead.

And, of course, this will lead to some great investment opportunities this year.

In 2018, the market for chiplets was just $645 million. By 2024, that number will grow to $5.8 billion. That’s a 9x increase in market size just over the span of a few years.

I always keep my eye on markets that are experiencing an inflection point in growth. I’m talking about products that are in the hundreds of millions and then are suddenly on a trajectory to billions. This is always an indication of a major technological trend that has exciting investment implications.


Jeff Brown
Editor, The Bleeding Edge

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