This week, in our tech overview of the most interesting and important headlines covering the tech world, we will share all the stories you do not want to miss the fintech, biotech, and telecom sector. We look at the possible revolution in migraine treatments, a new study providing insights on muscle-related disease therapies, telecoms in India come together to fight for a governmental reform of the telecom sector, China Unicom looks for alternative ways to raise funding after its NYSE ban, Qualcomm attempts to dominate the drone market, Minted launches an app for gold investment, UOB is approved for Equator Principles Association, and Microsoft invests in Zero-Trust solutions as ransomware skyrockets. We will also describe some of the most awaited launches that took place the past week, including Revolut’s earned wage access platform and Boku launching the biggest mobile payment network in the world.
The biotech company, AbbVie, has recently acquired Allegan in a deal valued at $63 billion. One of the biggest competitive advantages that the new acquisition can bring to AbbVie is the well-developed migraine therapy sector.
The New England Journal of Medicine recently published a phase 3 clinical trial results that explored the effect of the migraine prevention atogepant. The study showed the drug was effective in decreasing the number of headaches after a treatment round that lasted 12 weeks. After the positive results showed in the trials, AbbVie has applied for the FDA review and we can soon expect a decision or further steps required for approval.
If the review is successful, atogepant will be one of the very first oral medicines that can prevent migraines. The analysts predict up to $1.2 billion of the market in peak sales with AbbieVie’s estimation being slightly more conservative at roughly $1 billion.
“Migraine prevention hasn’t been dominated by any of the injectable medicines, and we expect the orals to take share from the injectables, and to expand the market,” SVB Leerink said. Moreover, SVB Leering added the approval by the FDA is expected by September in terms of using atogepant to prevent episodic migraines. The company is currently studying the use of the treatment in chronic migraines, with the results to be ready next year.
“Given the results in episodic migraine, and the efficacy results of other CGRP’s in chronic migraine, we expect the chronic trial to be successful,” SVB Leerink said.
New research led by scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and published in Genes & Development provides us with insights on what mechanism could be a game-changer in treated muscle-related conditions. The information published in the study shows how clinicians could generate patient-matched muscle cells that would be a tremendous help in muscle injuries, muscle degeneration or diseases such as muscular dystrophy.
As the research shows, the expression of MyoD, a muscle regulatory gene, could convert skin cells into fully mature muscle cells. The biggest problem up until now was that such mature muscle cells are not able to divide and self-renew which does not close the gap in current muscle-related disease therapy. “To address this shortcoming, we developed a system several years ago to convert skin cells into self-renewing muscle stem-like cells we coined induced myogenic progenitor cells or iMPCs. Our system uses MyoD in combination with three chemicals we previously identified as facilitators of cell plasticity in other contexts,” explains senior author Konrad Hochedlinger, PhD, a principal investigator at the Center for Regenerative Medicine at MGH and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Hochedlinger and his colleagues were able to dig deep into the details of how this combination can convert skin cells into iMPCs. “Mechanistically, we showed that MyoD and the chemicals aid in the removal of certain marks on DNA called DNA methylation,” says lead author Masaki Yagi, PhD, a research fellow at MGH. “DNA methylation typically maintains the identity of specialized cells, and we showed that its removal is key for acquiring a muscle stem cell identity.”
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, Massachusetts General Hospital and the Gerald R. and Darlene Jordan Chair in Regenerative Medicine.
A rare sighting could be observed in the Indian telecom world, as India’s telcos decided to unite and pressure the government to take steps needed for sector reform. Some of the key points that the telecom operators want to achieve are lower taxes, decreased spectrum payments, and a series of other levies. The Indian press is covering this case in detail, claiming that Vodafone India is barely managing to prosper due to the large burden of costs.
“VIL has paid its license fee dues for first quarter 2021-22,” the operator said in a statement that was released after it was reported Vodafone India t had fallen short to the tune of almost $20 million. Furthermore, it is reported that it is not just Vodafone but other telecoms as well that find it hard to operate in the current telecom framework in India.
“[The] Indian telecom sector remains one of the most heavily taxed sectors. The Government needs to recognize that the current revenue sharing regime of around 32% of revenue outgo as taxes and levies is unsustainable and will always be detrimental to the growth of the industry due to perennial lack of surplus cash to reinvest,” the letter signed by S. P. Kochhar, Director-General of the COAI says.
The telecom operators have also asked for a 2% price reduction for an annual license and a significant reduction in spectrum usage charges.
One of three state-owned telecom giants in China announced its plans to list its SMART Connection tech business in mainland China. The announcement is the latest in a series of moves coming from the state-owned telecoms in China that have struggled with raising funds after they were banned from NYSE at the beginning of 2021.
“Upon the spin-off and listing, SMART Connection Technology as an independent listed company can strengthen its financing ability and operational flexibility, better attract talents and strategic partners, enhance its competitiveness, accelerate its business development and improve returns, and release its value in a better way,” Unicom said, in a statement.
The US-based telecom giant Qualcomm that specialized in mobile chips wants to seize the opportunity and dominate the drone sector with the launch of its brand new 5G drone platform, Flight Platform. “We are proud to continue our momentum of enabling the digital transformation of global industries by unveiling the Qualcomm Flight RB5 5G Platform, a solution that is purpose-built for drone development with enhanced autonomy and intelligence features, bringing premium connected flight capabilities to industrial, enterprise and commercial segments,” said Dev Singh, General Manager of autonomous robotics, drones and intelligent machines at Qualcomm.
“As one of our important collaborators, Qualcomm Technologies has been working with China Unicom to drive integration of 5G and IoT into vertical use cases and provide products such as 5G modules and 5G industrial gateways for automation and robotics use cases, with focused areas including industrial equipment, iron and steel manufacturing, transportation and port, mining and energy, and healthcare,” said Li Kai, Chief Product Officer, IoT division, China Unicom.
As we are currently experiencing a boom of ransomware, all major tech companies are trying to intensify their efforts to meet the demand for efficient solutions that will reduce the threats of cybercrime. Now, Microsoft announced its new strategic partnership with Rubrik that provides Zero Trust data protection. Based on the initial reports, Microsoft is ready for a hefty investment into Rubrik, however, no exact numbers have been announced. In a report put together by Bloomberg, the figure can be estimated in “tens of millions of dollars.”
It is worth mentioning that the partnership between Microsoft and Rubrik is not unexpected as the two tech companies have a long-standing relationship and currently serve over 2000 mutual customers with their shared solutions. Now, they will focus on Zero Trust data protection solutions through Microsoft 365, cloud data protection, and solutions built on Microsoft Azure.
“Customers, across industries, are migrating to the cloud to drive business transformation and realize growth,” said Nick Parker, Corporate Vice President, Global Partner Solutions, Microsoft. “End-to-end application and data management is critical to business success, and we believe that integrating Rubrik’s Zero Trust Data Management solutions with Microsoft Azure and Microsoft 365 will make it easy for customers to advance their Zero Trust journey and increase their digital resilience.”
The UK-based fintech Minted has launched a new savings app that focuses on physical gold investments and lets customers buy, sell, and save physical gold. With saving plans starting with as little as £30 per month, users will be able to purchase pure gold from an LBMA (London Bullion Market Association) approved partner. There are also additional features such as free insurance or the free option to store the gold in a London vault.
Becky Hutchinson, MD at Minted, says: “Right from the start, we wanted to make investing in gold a possibility for absolutely everyone. There is no reason why it should still be thought of as the preserve of the extremely wealthy or experienced investors. These are uncertain times and investing in precious metals can provide stability and the prospect of strong growth.”
“We’ve worked hard to ensure that our app is easy to use, intuitive and gives customers just the right amount of information to guide their investment decisions. The fintech sector is evolving rapidly and the boundaries are constantly being pushed in terms of the investment products and services coming to market. It is extremely important to us that our platform stands out from the crowd,” she adds.
Minted offers a wide range of gold bars, with the size starting at 10g and going up to 1kg. Moreover, the fintech does not want to stop at gold and its long-term goal is expanding the platform to include other precious metals.
“People may have various reasons for choosing gold: diversifying their investments, building an emergency fund, putting away money for their families in a safe place, or simply saving enough to splash out on a big purchase. We believe Minted offers options for everyone, and we are extremely proud to be bringing this new product to market,” Hutchinson adds.
Another interesting launch that occurred in the fintech sector this past week comes from Boku. The company launched what they describe as the world’s largest mobile payments network, with 5.7 billion payments accounts that are to be found in 90 countries around the globe. The competitive advantage of the network, M1ST, is making the mobile payment acceptance market easier and more accessible. With over 330 methods such as mobile wallets, direct carrier billing, and real-time payments schemes, the network is a huge operation that is supposed to support 0-tap subscriptions and 1-tap checkout transactions.
Moreover, the merchants will be able to benefit from a single global settlement that saves them from the burden of foreign exchange, local taxes, and cash repatriation.
Jon Prideaux, CEO, Boku, says: “For merchants to capitalize on the massive potential of mobile-first consumers, they need to accept the payment methods they have and prefer, which are increasingly behind glass screens, not rectangular pieces of plastic.
“We’ve spent the past decade delivering new customers to our merchants through mobile payments. Now that mobile payments have overtaken credit cards globally, merchant acceptance has moved from a competitive advantage to a strategic imperative,” he adds.
United Overseas Bank (UOB) which is currently the leading bank in Asia has just announced that it has been approved for the Equator Principles Association, and has subsequently adopted the Equator Principles (EPs). The EPs are risk management rules that financial institutions are using to improve risk decision-making across all environmental and social policies, procedures, and standards for financing projects.
Mr Eric Lim, Chief Sustainability Officer, UOB, said, “UOB’s adoption of the EPs underscores our ongoing integration of sustainability into our business strategy and lending practices, as we fulfill our role as a catalyst and enabler in helping our clients across the region to grow responsibly.”
When talking about exciting launches in the fintech sector, one can not miss the latest move from Revolut. The fintech giant has just unveiled Payday, its new earned wage access platform that will allow employees to track the money they have earned and provide them with access to the money they have earned but not yet been paid for through a traditional salary system.
Currently, Revolut is in the first phase of the launch that will serve UK-based employers. However, the company plans to expand to EEA and the US next. Although the fee for using the platform has not been disclosed yet, Revolut stated it will be a “small, flat fee”.
According to the information provided by Revolut, Payday will be cost-free for employers and simple to integrate into the existing payroll systems. What is important, the credit scores of the employees participating in the program will not be affected as PayDay is not a credit or loan system. The biggest selling point is that employees will have a higher degree of control and flexibility when it comes to their salaries and will hopefully avoid accumulating debt between paychecks.
Nik Storonsky, founder and CEO at Revolut, states: “We believe in the importance of making financial wellbeing accessible to all, and this includes focusing on the impact of financial stability on employees’ mental health. After the difficulties of the past year, the last thing employees need now is financial uncertainty and stress. It is important to move away from a situation where many are dependent on payday loans and expensive short-term credit, a reliance that is exacerbated by the monthly pay cycle.