- “Hyperloop” technology can help address our supply chain woes…
- The DAO experiment continues…
- Intel is making a move into crypto mining…
In a stunning defeat on Monday, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) ruled definitively that the foundational patents for CRISPR genetic editing technology belong to the Broad Institute (Harvard & MIT).
This is an outcome that I have been predicting for years, and it has massive implications for the biotechnology industry.
It is also a painful loss for the group affiliated with U.C. Berkeley, who tried every legal trick in the book in an attempt to wrest the priority position held by the Broad Institute with its CRISPR patents as applied to eukaryotic cells (those of plants, animals, and – of course – humans).
I’m happy to say that the facts prevailed. Scientist Feng Zhang of the Broad Institute was the first to use CRISPR with a guide RNA, and file patents for its application for eukaryotic cells.
Billions were at stake, which is why the team at U.C. Berkeley spent years attacking the Broad Institute. Here is what the rough timeline looked like:
2016: U.C. Berkeley files a patent interference case petitioning to have Broad’s patents thrown out – the court denies the petition.
2017: The USPTO rules that there is no patent interference at all, and the patents in question belong to the Broad Institute.
2017: After the USPTO ruling, U.C. Berkeley appeals the decision.
2018: The appeals court upholds the USPTO ruling, and the Broad Institute wins again.
2018: U.C. Berkeley filed new patent applications that effectively claimed prior use of CRISPR technology in eukaryotic cells – this was essentially an attempt to rewrite history in an effort to make their case stronger.
2020: The two scientists affiliated with U.C. Berkeley, Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier, very oddly win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry – leaving Feng Zhang, the inventor of the foundational patents, with no award.
2020: The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) again rejects U.C. Berkeley’s arguments in their appeal, but announces that there will be a formal ruling on the priority of patents.
2022: On Monday afternoon, the USPTO ruled definitively in favor of the Broad Institute.
It should have been over in 2017, but it dragged on for another six years. And the team at U.C. Berkeley is already clamoring about another appeal. Ridiculous.
Time to move on and get to work on curing the 6,000 plus diseases caused by genetic mutations that can be cured using CRISPR technology… And this is why this is such a groundbreaking case.
Literally, the cures to these diseases are within our grasp.
For the first time in human history, we actually have the toolkit to develop therapies – cures – for diseases for which there are no existing therapies. That’s what the industry should be focused on.
And now it can.
The problem over the last seven years was that the biotechnology industry didn’t know who to license CRISPR technology from.
U.C. Berkeley licensed its patents to two companies, Intellia Therapeutics and CRISPR Therapeutics. Both of those companies have been posturing and licensing those patents out to other players in the industry as if they would win their patent appeals.
Now, based on the USPTO ruling, those patent rights are invalidated.
Here’s the catch…. The Broad Institute comes out on top, and it gave an exclusive license to just one company, the company that was founded by Feng Zhang himself – Editas Medicine.
That’s right, one single company has the exclusive license to the foundational patents for CRISPR genetic editing technology and its use of guide RNA.
If any company wants to develop therapies and eventually commercialize those therapies based on CRISPR technology, there is only one place they can go to license the patents…
Game, set, match.
A smart move by Virgin Hyperloop…
Virgin Hyperloop has just announced a major pivot away from shuttling passengers to moving cargo. This move comes as the company cut half its staff to be more efficient.
Regular readers may be familiar with Virgin Hyperloop. It develops hyperloop technology to deliver fast, direct, and autonomous travel at scale.
Specifically, it uses magnetic levitation and vacuum tubes to power super-fast “pods” at speeds of up to 600 miles per hour (mph). At this speed, we could travel from New York City to Washington, D.C., in just 30 minutes.
And it’s the only company that has proven this technology with human passengers. Passengers have successfully traveled in a 500-meter-long test tube facility in West Virginia. The capsule hit speeds over 100 mph.
We can see the hyperloop in action below:
The Hyperloop in Action
And while its shift away from human transport might seem surprising, Virgin Hyperloop’s pivot is a smart move for multiple reasons.
Since the onset of COVID-19, travel has naturally fallen. We see this in weekly flight departure statistics. At the end of 2021, the number of flights was still 11% below 2019 levels.
This makes sense. We can now “zoom in” to a meeting anywhere in the world. No train or plane needed – only a good internet connection.
Additionally, there are far fewer regulatory hurdles in transporting cargo than people, which simplifies Hyperloop’s business. On the very low chance of an accident, the loss is cargo – not human life.
And there is a need. We’ve seen massive disruption to both supply chains and labor in the last couple of years.
I can imagine Hyperloop building either above ground, or – even better – an underground network of tubes to connect major shipping and logistics hubs. This would reduce the need for semi-truck drivers. And as the tunnel is underground, there is no risk of running into weather delays.
Imagine having a Hyperloop station at the Port of Los Angeles, where goods could be simply unloaded, checked through customs, and then placed in a pod to shuttle the products out to a distribution facility for sorting and re-routing.
What’s more, goods could travel at speeds up to 600 mph. This is 10 times the speed of long-haul truckers. And this hyperloop technology will reduce gasoline demand since the pods run on electricity.
Hyperloop already is in talks with 15 potential customers to deliver goods… And the company has government interest. The Saudi Arabian government is considering a tube from Jeddah, a major port city, to the capital of Riyadh.
Virgin Hyperloop is a company we are tracking on our list of private companies. I wouldn’t be surprised to see customers line up for its technology. If this happens, it could make for an exciting initial public offering (IPO).
And this is one more piece of evidence of the shift toward automation.
We’re seeing this shift across the board as a result of the supply chain crunch and worker shortages… That’s why Virgin Hyperloop’s new focus makes so much sense.
Passenger travel can come later after the cargo business takes off. Not having passengers also accelerates time to market because it no longer requires the intense regulatory approvals related to safety that would be required for passenger transport.
This is the future of transportation – a theme that I’ve been tracking for years and one that gets more exciting with every month that passes. To learn about some of the best ways to profit right now, you can go right here to view my recent presentation.
A new DAO wants to buy a football franchise…
Back in November, we talked about a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) that formed to attempt to buy one of the 13 copies of the U.S. Constitution at auction. The DAO raised over $43 million in Ethereum (ETH) for the cause.
The DAO failed to win the auction. Ultimately, hedge fund titan Ken Griffin placed the winning bid at $43.2 million.
Yet as we noted at the time, this is a blossoming trend… And sure enough, a new DAO just formed with the goal of buying the Denver Broncos, a National Football League (NFL) franchise.
For the sake of new readers, DAOs are the Web 3.0 version of limited liability companies (LLCs). They are built on blockchain technology.
And DAOs allow many different people to “buy in” using cryptocurrency – typically ETH. Investors then receive a proportionate ownership interest in the DAO.
Once established, DAO stakeholders vote on actions and decisions. In this way, DAOs are a community-driven structure. They do not have a management team or board of directors.
In this case, a former lawyer at Cisco started the DAO seeking to buy the Broncos.
The franchise’s price tag is $4 billion… However, the DAO doesn’t need to raise the entire amount.
If it can raise a material amount – say $1 billion – it could partner with other individuals to make the purchase. The DAO would receive proportionate ownership to how much it contributes to the purchase.
What’s interesting here is that this would result in the Denver Broncos being at least partially community-owned.
The NFL doesn’t allow full community ownership – and it requires at least one individual franchise owner to have a 30% ownership interest.
But as long as that requirement is satisfied, the DAO could still be a partial owner. And then all its stakeholders would have a say in how the football franchise is run.
That’s what is so interesting about this. We are watching a new experiment in organizational governance here… all built on blockchain technology.
This is one of the reasons I’m so bullish on the power of this tech.
This power is enabling us to rearchitect how organizations are governed, managed, and led. And for certain kinds of applications and organizations, a DAO makes a lot of sense.
It’s also giving us new ways to profit as well… You can learn about some of my favorite recommendations in this space right here.
And I’m excited to see how this DAO plays out.
This would be a groundbreaking development if successful and it would usher in a wave of DAOs whose sole purpose would be to acquire partial or full ownership in corporations.
And every stakeholder in the DAO would have their proportional voting rights on the direction of the corporation – all done in real-time – all electronically – and visible on a blockchain. Exciting.
Intel wants to try its hand in the digital asset space…
I have been going through presentations from the International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) this week. I don’t expect anyone to have heard of this conference before. And to be sure, it’s often a bit dry.
However, Intel’s presentation at ISSCC this year certainly caught my eye. The legacy semiconductor company announced its first-generation blockchain accelerator chip.
It’s called Bonanza Mine (BMZ1)… an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) designed exclusively to mine Bitcoin.
As a reminder, ASICs are semiconductors designed to perform a specific application. While they cannot be reprogrammed after their manufacture, they are cheaper to make and consume less power once implemented.
And this new ASIC means Intel wants to make a product entry into the digital asset space.
In addition, Intel revealed its first Bitcoin mining rig: a 3,600-watt machine comprising 300 BMZ1 chips. The rig can run at 40 terahashes per second (TH/s).
As we know, computational power is everything when it comes to mining bitcoin. The miners compete with each other to see who can solve complicated math problems first. The winner gets to mine the next block, which entitles them to the new bitcoins minted from that block.
So on the surface, Intel’s first mining rig sounds impressive. But it’s actually a ways behind the top rigs on the market today.
China-based semiconductor company Bitmain is one of the top players in bitcoin-specific mining technology. And it recently unveiled a 5,400-watt, liquid-cooled rig that’s capable of nearly 200 TH/s.
That’s about five times as much as Intel’s latest rig can perform. Bitmain expects this rig to be out by the summer. And no surprise, it’s already sold out.
This means Intel’s first-generation mining rig will run at about 1/5 the computational performance compared to the top competition.
With that said, it doesn’t mean that Intel won’t be successful here. The company has still received orders from some big names. Argo Blockchain and Block (formerly Square) have each preordered Intel’s mining rig.
That speaks to the supply chain shortage around semiconductors, which is also affecting the crypto mining industry.
There is a lack of mining rigs available right now, so anyone who wants to mine is basically buying anything they can get their hands on. Something is better than nothing, after all. That means that there will initially be a large market for anything Intel can produce.
To be fair, this is only Intel’s first-generation product. I think it’s a smart move for the company to get into this space. And who knows? Perhaps its second-generation rig will shrink the performance gap next year.
I doubt that this new revenue segment will move the needle for Intel, but I’m still happy to see Intel stepping up with new product development for an exciting industry.
And I hope for its success. With the geopolitical problems and supply chain issues, having a U.S.-based supplier of mining ASICs will be fantastic for the entire industry.
Editor, The Bleeding Edge
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