• This is the end of the road for movie theaters…
  • Google’s “moonshot” project just hit a huge milestone…
  • We’ll keep a close eye on this self-driving company in 2021…

Dear Reader,

Today is an auspicious day.

At 6:31 a.m. this morning, U.K. time, a 91-year-old patient received the first shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for COVID-19.

This first shot comes just days after the U.K.’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) gave emergency approval for the vaccine on December 2.

The U.K. is calling today “V-Day.” Indeed, it is quite a victory to develop and deliver a vaccine for COVID-19 in less than nine months.

This stands in stark contrast to the U.S., where approval has not yet been given. The final Phase 3 trial data from Pfizer and BioNTech was released weeks ago on November 18, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will not meet until this Thursday, December 10, to discuss a possible approval.

In many cases, the vaccine has already been distributed to health care facilities across the country. But it has been collecting dust in the absence of an approval from the FDA.

There are enough doses of vaccine available in the U.S. for every healthcare worker and every resident of a nursing home before the end of the year.

Yet the FDA seems to lack a sense of urgency. With every day that passes, thousands of citizens who are 70 years or older with underlying conditions are passing away. This is heartbreaking and senseless.

The availability of a vaccine within nine months is like a modern-day miracle. And it wouldn’t have been possible without bleeding-edge technology like genetic engineering.

A vaccine is like a “cure” for COVID-19 in the sense that it teaches our bodies how to recognize, attack, and ultimately shut down the virus when we are exposed to it.

It preprograms those of us lacking natural immunity to the virus to be able to easily fight it off. And the recent success of Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and many others signals the beginning of many more “cures” to follow.

And speaking of cures, I would like to remind readers about my special presentation tomorrow night. We are calling it The Cure Event. And it’s happening at 8 p.m. ET.

As regular readers 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.

We are seeing an explosion of investment in the biotech space as a result. And that boom is powering next-generation biotech companies forward.

Make no mistake. Some of the largest returns in the next few years will be found in biotechnology. That’s what tomorrow night’s event is about.

Every serious tech investor needs to understand what’s happening behind closed doors in the biotech industry right now. This isn’t a story that we’ll see on the nightly news, but I promise the insiders couldn’t be more excited about what’s happening right now.

And there is one small biotech company at the heart of this story. This company is engaged in clinical trials that will alter the medical field forever.

For that reason, 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% after an upcoming breakthrough is announced.

So please join me tomorrow night, December 9, at 8 p.m. ET for my special event.

I’ll pull back the curtain on the biggest story in biotech today. And I’ll share the details of this little-known company that promises to change the game forever.

For investors who would like to join me, just go right here to reserve your spot.

The movie industry is joining the 21st century…

Warner Brothers just announced that in 2021, it will release all of its new movies on HBO Max simultaneously with theaters. All I can say is that it’s about time…

I remember having a discussion with the chairman of Fox Entertainment at an executive program back in 2011. I told him that in many parts of Asia, people could buy the DVD of a new movie on the street the day before it launched in the theater.  

The demand was so high for the movies. And there was no legal means for consumers to view the movies from home. It created a black market that was disadvantageous to movie studios.

My point was that consumers were and are still willing to pay $20 or $30 to watch new movies at home right when they come out. And by making new releases available to consumers, the industry could reduce the theft and black-market sale of these movies.

And we don’t have to just believe that will be the case. After all, the same exact thing happened in the music industry, which is thriving in the world of digital distribution and streaming audio services.

Of course, the executive simply gave me a few whitewashed talking points that dodged my point all together.

The truth of the matter is that the movie industry has been in bed with the theater companies for many years. It’s a giant racket. The industry gives the theaters exclusivity for a period of time. That forces consumers to go to the theater if they want to watch a movie when it comes out.

Warner Brothers’ announcement signals that this is finally changing. And we have COVID-19 to thank for this…

As we can imagine, movie theaters aren’t doing much business these days. Who wants to go sit in a theater in the middle of a pandemic with a bunch of strangers?

Regardless of how we might feel about the relative risks – or lack thereof – of COVID-19, none of us want our kids to get sick and stuck at home for two weeks in quarantine.

COVID-19 is the perfect catalyst for Warner Brothers to make its new movies available through the HBO Max streaming service.

And this also speaks to the shift toward subscription-based streaming services.

It used to be that the industry focused on one-off sales at a higher price point. For example, full-length movies could be purchased in full, but not rented until weeks later. We can still see that model in play today.

But companies learned that they could make more money by selling lower-cost monthly subscriptions.

Companies like Netflix and Roku figured this out years ago. But it took the launch of Disney+ this year to wake the industry up.

Disney+ went from zero to over 70 million subscribers in mere months. This was a real wake-up call for other programming companies. If Disney can do it, they can do it too.

Now everyone knows that consumers want a simple monthly subscription with lots of strong programming and new titles coming out each month. And it is a lucrative business.

I believe the partnership between Warner Brothers and HBO Max will persist even after the pandemic is a memory. It just makes too much sense.

And looking at the new releases for 2021 has me excited.

A modern redo of the science fiction classic Dune is coming to HBO Max next year. Rumor has it that a new installment of The Matrix franchise is also coming.

Others will follow after the success Warner Brothers is sure to see with HBO Max. It won’t take long. And many will still not feel comfortable returning to movie theaters next year. By then, consumer habits will have already changed. The movie theaters will never fully recover…

A new breakthrough from Google’s Project Loon…

Google has been working on Project Loon for years now. This is one of those seemingly crazy “moonshot” projects that only companies like Google have the resources to take on.

Project Loon launches base stations equipped with solar panels into the stratosphere on special balloons. Powered by the Sun, these base stations provide internet connectivity to devices on the ground below.

Google’s aim is to get these balloons to the last remaining parts of Earth that don’t have internet connectivity. These are places where it is too difficult or expensive to build physical infrastructure because they are too remote and too few people live there.

Why would Google go through this trouble? Simple.

The more people use the internet, the more money Google makes. The company generates revenue every time somebody searches the web through its search engine. So Google wants to make sure that everybody on the planet is using the internet… and Google’s search engine and software applications.

Of course, the challenge here is that these balloons must stay above the target area within about a 20-mile radius to provide connectivity. At the same time, these balloons are constantly being blown about by the wind streams in the stratosphere.

So Google must understand and predict weather patterns in order to keep these balloons from drifting out of range. And that brings us to the big breakthrough…

Google used a form of artificial intelligence (AI) called reinforcement learning to solve the problem. We can think of this as a trial-and-error model for the AI.

The AI experiments with different routes to keep the balloons where we want them. And it uses different techniques to adjust their navigation based on how the winds change.

Using AI to Keep Balloons in Range

Source: Nature

It was slow going at first. But the AI has now gotten to the point where it is far better at predicting weather patterns than the best humans.

As a result, Google can now keep each balloon up for hundreds of days at a time. And the accurate forecasting has reduced the power consumption of each balloon considerably.

Project Loon now claims that it is the first production aerospace system built on reinforcement learning. That’s a big milestone.

And we can expect to see other companies begin experimenting with reinforcement learning for their own purposes. I’m excited to see what comes from this.

Self-driving trucks are almost here…

Another big venture capital (VC) raise in the self-driving industry caught my eye. It seems these big raises are happening almost every other week.

A company called TuSimple just raised $350 million in a Series E VC round. By my estimates, the company is now valued around $2 billion.

TuSimple is a joint U.S. and Chinese company with headquarters in San Diego and offices in Shanghai and Beijing. It focuses on self-driving technology for trucking and logistics.

We first highlighted this company back in May of last year when the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) began testing self-driving trucks using TuSimple’s technology.

TuSimple’s Self-Driving Truck

Source: TuSimple

And think about this – TuSimple was founded in 2015. This company has gone from nothing to being worth $2 billion or more in just five years. That speaks to how fast self-driving technology is advancing.

And what I love about the focus on trucking is that trucks spend most of their time on the highway. It is far easier for self-driving technology to navigate the highway compared to city streets.

And this technology will allow “pods” of trucks to drive closely in line with each other on the highway, taking advantage of air stream to reduce fuel consumption. Racing fans will understand this technique as “drafting.”

This has major implications for any company dealing with trucking and freight. And that’s why we are starting to see strategic investors come in…

TuSimple’s Series E round was led by an investment company called Vector IQ. The person behind this company is former General Motors Vice Chairman Stephen Girsky. Girsky is also behind the special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) that took Nikola public over the summer.

Among the other strategic investors were Goodyear, Union Pacific, and even Kroger. That may seem surprising on the surface.

But each of these companies deals with shipping large volumes of freight. For this reason, they are trying to keep their fingers on the pulse of self-driving technology.

I suspect that these investments are indications of TuSimple’s technology nearing deployment in the next 12–24 months. And this could signal a potential public offering in that same time frame.

Given Girsky’s involvement, I would not be surprised to see TuSimple back into an existing SPAC at some point next year. This has been a very popular approach for private companies working in the autonomous driving technology industry to access the public markets in 2020.

I’m confident that we’ll see even more of this in 2021…


Jeff Brown
Editor, The Bleeding Edge

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