Braze Begins The IPO Process Amid Pandemic-Era Growth In Digital Marketing

A decade after its founding, the marketing tech startup Braze is beginning the process of becoming a publicly traded company.

Today, the New York-based company filed its Form S-1 with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to go public on the Nasdaq stock exchange under the ticker symbol “BRZE.” Braze is part of the growing industry of marketing campaign management software companies, a market sector that the research group IDC says could reach $15 billion in 2021 and $19.4 billion in 2024.

The customer engagement company provides technology for brands to interact directly with consumers through various channels. By using Braze’s platform, companies can use data from email, apps and other digital platforms to better understand their customers before targeting them with personalized messages. Well known brands that use Braze for their marketing include Burger King, Anthropologie, Birchbox, Grubhub, IBM, Hinge, Nascar, PayPal, HBO, iHeartRadio, Sephora and Rosetta Stone.

According to its SEC filing, Braze reported large revenue growth in the past two years with $150.2 million in fiscal-year 2021 and $96.4 million in 2020. While the company has experienced momentum in 2020 and 2021, it’s still not profitable: Net losses totaled $31.43 million in 2021 and $31.36 million in 2020. Braze also reported annual recurring revenue passing $200 million in 2021, up from $100 million in 2019.

When Braze was cofounded in 2011 by CEO Bill Magnuson, Jon Hyman and Mark Ghermezian, it wanted to build a business that was mobile-first to help companies adapt to changing consumer behaviors. At the time of publication, the company was unavailable for comment about its IPO plans, but in a letter included in the S-1 Magnuson wrote that the “goal was to build a company that would capitalize on new technology to help the world’s best companies grow by trusting us with their most valuable asset: their customer relationships.”

“While technological change drove us forward, we knew that humanity should always guide us,” Magnuson wrote. “Great human relationships are built on mutual understanding, engaging communication and shared experience. It’s thus no surprise that the secret weapon of exceptional, enduring companies is the quality of their customer engagement.”

In the past two years, Braze has continued to grow its customer base from 728 in January 2020 to 890 January 2021 and 1,119 as of July 2021. The company has also continued to scale its cloud-based platform and now reaches 3.3 billion monthly active users through its customers’ applications, websites and other digital platforms—up from 2.3 billion in January 2020 and from 1.6 billion in January 2019.

Issues around privacy are also something Braze listed as a risk factor, citing international, federal and state regulations including newly passed legislation in California, Virginia and Colorado and existing laws such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation. Several pages of the S-1 detail many of the laws and provide a glimpse into the various ways rules around data privacy could impact the company both legally and financially.“The laws are not consistent, and compliance in the event of a widespread data breach could be costly,” according to the SEC filing. “In addition, while we contractually limit the types of data our customers may process and store using our platform, we cannot fully control the actions of our customers. The failure of customers to comply with their contractual obligations may subject us to liability, and we may not have sufficient recourse to cover our related liabilities.”

Braze’s S-1 filing comes just a day after the advertising technology company Basis Globally Technologies—formerly known as Centro—confidentially filed its own S-1 with the SEC, further adding to the string of ad-tech and mar-tech IPOs that have taken place this year. Companies that have either gone public or begun the IPO process in 2021 include the content recommendation company Taboola, ad measurement firms DoubleVerify and Integral Ad Science and other marketing tech companies such as Zeta Global and Sprinklr.

Over the past decade, Braze has raised $175.1 million, according to Crunchbase. It raised an $80 million Series E round led by Meritech Capital Partners in 2018, just a year after raising a $50 million Series D round led by ICONIQ Capital. Other investors have included Battery Ventures, InterWest Partners, Rally Ventures and Blumberg Capital.

While Braze was growing quickly even before the Covid-19 crisis began, the company said the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital and mobile usage. Braze is also betting on the increased reliance on first-party data, especially as companies adapt to finding ways to reach people without as much third-party aggregated data.

“Modern brands know that when a customer is intermediated by a third-party aggregator, ad platform or distribution channel, it’s not really their customer relationship,” Magnuson wrote. “The highest value customer relationships are informed by first-party data and cemented through direct engagement.”

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Send me a secure tip.

I’m a Forbes staff writer and editor of the Forbes CMO Network, leading coverage of marketing and advertising especially related to the ever-evolving role of chief

Source: Braze Begins The IPO Process Amid Pandemic-Era Growth In Digital Marketing

.
Related Contents:

Experts Slam Apple’s Child Protection Phone-Scanning Technology

A group of leading cybersecurity experts has spoken out against Apple’s plan to detect child sexual abuse images on iPhones, claiming it amounts to mass surveillance and should be banned.

Earlier this year, Apple announced plans to introduce client side scanning, searching individual devices’ iCloud photo libraries for child sexual abuse material (CSAM). Images would be scanned using a technology called NeuralHash and then compared with known CSAM material, before being reported to the authorities.

The plans were delayed last month, with Apple stating that feedback from customers, advocacy groups, researchers and others was prompting it to look for improvements.

Now, though, there’s more feedback, and from sources that it’s hard to downplay. In a paper titled Bugs in our Pockets: The Risks of Client-Side Scanning, security and cryptograhy experts Hal Abelson, Ross Anderson, Steven M. Bellovin, Josh Benaloh, Matt Blaze, Jon Callas, Whitfield Diffie, Susan Landau, Peter G. Neumann, Ronald L. Rivest, Jeffrey I. Schiller, Bruce Schneier, Vanessa Teague, and Carmela Troncoso claim the technology goes much too far.

“In this report, we argue that CSS neither guarantees efficacious crime prevention nor prevents surveillance,” they write.

“Indeed, the effect is the opposite. CSS by its nature creates serious security and privacy risks for all society while the assistance it can provide for law enforcement is at best problematic. There are multiple ways in which client-side scanning can fail, can be evaded, and can be abused.”

The main fear is the risk of abuse by repressive governments. While Apple says that only CSAM and terrorist material would be flagged, the researchers aren’t so sure.

“If device vendors are compelled to install remote surveillance, the demands will start to roll in. Who could possibly be so cold-hearted as to argue against the system being extended to search for missing children?” writes Ross Anderson, professor of security engineering at the University of Cambridge.

“Then President Xi will want to know who has photos of the Dalai Lama, or of men standing in front of tanks; and copyright lawyers will get court orders blocking whatever they claim infringes their clients’ rights.”

With the EU believed to be considering device scanning as a part of a new law on child protection, the researchers say that it should be a national-security priority to ‘resist attempts to spy on and influence law-abiding citizens’.

And, they point out, the Data Retention Directive has already been struck down on the grounds that such bulk surveillance, without warrant or suspicion, was an unacceptable infringement of privacy, even in the fight against terrorism. Client-side scanning is equally problematic, the researchers say.

“Instead of having targeted capabilities such as to wiretap communications with a warrant and to perform forensics on seized devices, the agencies’ direction of travel is the bulk scanning of everyone’s private data, all the time, without warrant or suspicion,” they write.

“That crosses a red line. Is it prudent to deploy extremely powerful surveillance technology that could easily be extended to undermine basic freedoms?”

I’ve been writing about technology for most of my adult life, focusing mainly on legal and regulatory issues. I write for a wide range of publications: credits include the Times, Daily Telegraph and Financial Times newspapers, as well as BBC radio and numerous technology titles. Here, I’ll be covering the ways content is controlled on the internet, from censorship to online piracy and copyright. You can follow my posts by clicking the ‘ Follow’ button under my name.

Source: Experts Slam Apple’s Child Protection Phone-Scanning Technology

.

Related Contents:

5G Technology Begins To Expand Beyond Smartphones

Proponents of 5G technology have long said it will remake much of day-to-day life. The deployment of superfast 5G networks is believed to herald a new era for much more than smartphones – everything from advanced virtual-reality video games to remote heart surgery. The vision has been slow to come to mind, but the first wave of 5G-enabled gadgets is emerging.

Last among the first uses of 5G to enter the consumer market is the delivery of home broadband Internet service to cord-cutters: those who want to not only drop their cable-TV bills but also give up internet access via wires altogether. give. For example, Samsung Electronics Co. has partnered with Verizon Communications Inc. to offer a wireless 5G router. Which promises to provide broadband access at home. The router takes a 5G signal just like a smartphone.

Other consumer devices that are starting to hit the market include 5G-compatible laptops from several manufacturers, all of which are faster than other laptops and offer high-quality video viewing when connected to a 5G network. (The laptop requires a 5G chip to make that connection.)

In the latest: Lenovo Group Ltd., in association with AT&T Inc., in August released a 5G laptop, the ThinkPad X13 5G. The device, which started shipping last month, comes with a 13.3-inch screen and retails for around $1,500. Samsung also introduced a new laptop in June that offers 5G connectivity. The Galaxy Book Go 5G has a 14-inch screen, and retails for around $800.

OK, but what if you want a 5G connection on your yacht, miles offshore? You have good luck. Meridian 5G, a Monaco-based provider of internet services for superyachts – the really big ones – advertises 5G Dome Routers, a combination of antennas and modems that are within about 60 miles of the coast to access 5G connectivity. Allows sailing. Hardware costs about $17,000 for an average-sized Superyacht.

America is ready for China’s Huawei, and it just happened

Of course, all of these gadgets are only useful where 5G networks are available, which still doesn’t cover a lot of locations, onshore or off. The same holds true for new drone technology unveiled by Qualcomm Inc in August with 5G and artificial-intelligence capabilities. The company says the technology called Qualcomm Flight RB5 5G Platform enables high-quality photo and video collection.

Drones equipped with 5G technology can be used in a variety of industries, including filming, mapping and emergency services like firefighting, Qualcomm notes. For example, due to new camera technology enabled by 5G, drones can be used for mapping large areas of land and for rapidly transferring data for analysis and processing.

Proponents of 5G technology have long said it will remake much of day-to-day life, bringing the so-called Internet of Things to a point where you can name any number of devices—home and office appliances, Industrial equipment, hospital equipment, vehicles, etc.—will be connected to the Internet and exchange data with the cloud at a speed that will allow for new capabilities.

“The goal of 5G, when we have a mature 5G network globally, is to make sure everything is connected to the cloud 100% of the time,” Qualcomm CEO Cristiano Amon said at a conference in Germany last month.

But it will take years for 5G devices to become widespread, analysts say, as network coverage expands and markets develop for all those advanced new products.

By: Meghan Bobrowsky

Meghan Bobrowsky is reporter with the tech team. She is a graduate of Scripps College. She previously interned for The Wall Street Journal, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Sacramento Bee. As an intern at the Miami Herald, she spent the summer of 2020 investigating COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes and federal Paycheck Protection Program fraud. She previously served as editor in chief of her school newspaper, the Student Life.

Source: 5G technology begins to expand beyond smartphones

.

Related Contents:

China Leaps Ahead in Effort to Rein In Algorithms

Beijing is building a system to ensure that the automated processes of Internet platforms are fair, transparent and in line with the ideology of the Communist Party

Regulators called for the algorithms to be fair and transparent, following the ideology of the Communist Party of China.

The campaign puts China one step ahead in policing tech forums, as governments around the world grapple with how to respond to automated technologies that reshape business, social interactions and politics.

Earlier this year, the European Union proposed restricting certain uses of artificial intelligence to reduce potential harm. In the US, lawmakers are investigating Facebook’s influence Inc. NS

Algorithm-driven content on users, after Businesshala reported that the company’s Instagram app has a negative impact on children’s mental health.

China has targeted algorithms more aggressively under the close watch of its domestic tech sector. Draft guidelines released this summer would require algorithms to protect the rights of workers and consumers, and restrict the use of algorithms to manipulate user accounts, online traffic or search results.

“We don’t necessarily see China as a regulatory innovator, but in this case they are,” said Rogier Creamers, an assistant professor at Leiden University in the Netherlands, which focuses on Chinese technical policy.

Under a three-year plan released last week, Chinese regulators outlined steps to monitor algorithms, including a registration process and the establishment of a technical team to evaluate the mechanisms and risks of an algorithm.

The latest campaign builds on a broad regulatory push in China’s tech sector that has prompted investigations into some of the country’s biggest companies, including e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding. Ltd.

The push is partly directed at business practices that regulators deem harmful so workers or consumers.

Companies such as Meituan and Didi have faced heat over the working conditions of drivers, as well as calls for creating algorithms that schedule workers’ tasks and pay more transparently. Officials have also warned tech companies this year against exploiting personal data and using algorithms to charge discriminatory prices from customers.

China’s Cyberspace Administration, Alibaba and Didi did not respond to requests for comment. China is currently celebrating its National Day holiday.

Meituan declined to comment. The company previously published an explanation of its delivery algorithm and said it is making changes to give delivery drivers more flexibility.

Experts said it would be a challenge for regulators to tighten controls on algorithms without hindering development or innovation in one of China’s most successful sectors. Internet companies rely on complex mathematical instructions for tasks ranging from analysis of social-media behavior to mapping optimal distribution routes.

While algorithms have contributed to technological advancement and societal development, the CAC said in last week’s announcement, they have also brought “challenges to ideological security, a fair and equal society, and the protection of the legal rights of Internet users.”

Beijing-based partner at law firm Bird & Bird, James Gong, said tighter regulatory oversight of algorithms is likely to impact China’s internet industry.

Mr. Gong said of the country’s Internet companies, “Almost all of them use algorithms and automated decision-making and profiling to ensure that their marketing is more accurate and to improve business efficiency and increase profits.” Is.”

A senior manager at ByteDance Ltd said the requirement to register the algorithm would only add a step, restricting the learning of user behavior and recommendation services, as well as requiring disclosure of proprietary technology that could hurt the company’s business. .

ByteDance, which owns social-media sensation TikTok and its Chinese sister app Douyin, is known for its powerful algorithms that drive user recommendations and content.

“The regulatory environment is clear, and we need to start thinking about how to adjust accordingly,” the ByteDance manager said. He said that since most of the new regulation is still under debate, it is difficult to say what the immediate commercial impact will be.

ByteDance did not respond to a request for comment.

Sam Sachs, senior fellow at Yale Law School’s Paul Tsai China Center, said China’s approach could appeal to other countries that want a thriving digital economy while maintaining a firm grip on political and social discourse. However, she said there is still a lot of uncertainty over the details and enforcement of these new rules.

“I think they understand that this is an impossible task that they have set for themselves,” Ms Sachs said. “I would also say that three years can be ambitious.”

The CAC guidelines also state that algorithms used by Chinese companies must uphold core socialist values ​​and promote “positive energy” in content provided to users.

China is taking more control of online content and communities. In recent months, it has severely restricted online-videogame time for players under the age of 18, banned pop-idol rankings and criticized online male personalities for being too sacrilegious. are visible.

“It’s almost taking online censorship up a notch,” Ms Sachs said. “It is saying that you have an obligation to ensure that any content that is algorithmically driven that you feed into the online space is to shape socialist values.”

By: Stephanie Yang, Reporter, The Wall Street Journal

Source: China Leaps Ahead in Effort to Rein In Algorithms

.

Related Contents:

These Are The Top Tech Startups Attracting Talent in 2021, According to LinkedIn

LinkedIn has identified the startups that are attracting top talent this year, even amid some of the largest employee turnover in history.

On Wednesday, the Sunnyvale, California-based networking platform released its fifth annual list of 50 U.S. companies on the rise. The list tracks growth in employee count, interest from people looking for jobs, and how people interact with the online presence of the company and its employees. It also measures the startups’ ability to bring in employees from LinkedIn’s Top Companies list, which includes more established businesses like Amazon and Alphabet.

All startups on the list are less than seven years old, headquartered in the U.S., and have at least 50 employees. LinkedIn used data from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021. The ranking features some of the year’s breakout companies, like Clubhouse, and others that flourished in the pandemic, like Discord. Several of them have succeeded through their use of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics. Here are six of the most innovative from LinkedIn’s list.

Gong

Coming in at No. 2 on LinkedIn’s list, Gong uses artificial intelligence to analyze all of a company’s interactions with customers — calls, meetings, and emails — to improve their sales and marketing. The San Francisco-based company boasts clients including LinkedIn and Pinterest and was a 2021 Inc. 5000 honoree, ranking No. 99 with over $37 million in 2020 revenue.

Outreach

The Seattle-based sales management platform, an Inc. Best Workplaces company in 2021, uses machine learning to optimize customer communications, from social media to text to email. It ranked No. 9 on LinkedIn’s list and counts customers including Zoom and Adobe.

ScaleAI

ScaleAI helps clients process data faster via what it calls scaled artificial intelligence. The goal is to manage the swath of data that A.I. can generate, founder Alexandr Wang told Inc. The San Francisco-based company’s products can track visual data for AR companies or autonomous driving and provide complex models and results displays. Ranked No. 29 on LinkedIn’s list, the startup has a $7 billion valuation.

Neuralink

Elon Musk co-founded this startup, and its mission, predictably, is futuristic: It’s developing technology to connect the human brain to devices that can translate thoughts into speech or text, which could have wide applications for people who are paralyzed, for example. Neuralink is based in Fremont, California and ranked No. 33 on LinkedIn’s list. Its eventual goal is to merge mankind with computers, Musk said in 2017.

Nuro

Nuro sells self-driving cars, but not ones meant to ferry humans around. Nuro cars just deliver goods — and are programmed to avoid loss of life. The Mountain View, California-based startup, which became a unicorn in 2019, now delivers for the likes of Walmart, FedEx, and CVS Pharmacy. Nuro says it is the first self-driving, driverless car to get permission to operate from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The number of cars is still limited, but they are now available in San Jose, California; Houston; Silicon Valley; and Phoenix.

Relativity Space

Relativity Space builds rockets. In the future, it hopes to establish a society on Mars. The Long Beach, California-based company produces a 3-D printed, reusable rocket called Terran 1, using robotics and artificial intelligence for its development. Mark Cuban was an early investor, as was Y Combinator. LinkedIn ranked the company No. 45 on its list.

By Gabrielle Bienasz, Editorial assistant, Inc.@gbienasz

Source: These Are the Top Tech Startups Attracting Talent in 2021, According to LinkedIn | Inc.com

.

Related Contents:

To Reimagine The Student Experience, Think Like A Tech Company

With these five mindset shifts, higher-ed institutions can immerse digital learning into their strategies and operations, reveals Tij Nerurkar, Business Leader for Cognizant’s Education practice.

The news that online learning platform 2U is acquiring edX, a nonprofit platform run by Harvard and MIT, is yet another sign of the momentum of digital learning.

Among the deal’s synergies is 2U’s access to edX’s global learner base of 39 million registered users and 120 million annual website visitors. This increases 2U’s reach and stands to lower student acquisition costs, which typically account for as much as 20% of online program managers’ revenues.

Often overlooked amid the headlines, however, is the reality that technology is only part of the change that digital learning is inflicting on higher education. Equally important is the change in mindset among colleges and universities as they shape the direct-to-consumer (DTC) learning experiences that will engage today’s students.

How to make the higher-ed shift

To reimagine the college experience and make the transition to digital learning, higher-education leaders need to think like a tech company would. The following mindset shifts will propel them forward to immersing digital learning into their strategies and operations:

  • Out with the old culture, in with the new.

This change is among the toughest for colleges and universities to execute. Many university leaders we talk with focus exclusively on the technology that the DTC model requires. But the reality is that DTC is an outside-in approach that puts the student experience first, ahead of any administrative and departmental priorities. It brings changes that ripple across campuses, especially the institutional mindset.

Thriving in today’s higher-education environment requires all campus functions — from recruitment and admissions to financial aid and academics — to move quickly and in seamless, connected ways. Reimagining the student experience will require organizational changes that break down siloes and emphasize collaboration.

  • Be willing to take risks.

While bold moves don’t come naturally to higher-ed institutions, they can be an important differentiator. For example, when the pandemic halted college entrance exams, a nonprofit testing organization used the hiatus to overhaul the paper-based exams that millions of students took annually at its 7,000 centers. Our team built a new-generation platform that digitized the entire testing workflow, including online and mobile apps designed to appeal to Gen Z learners accustomed to multitasking and virtually interacting with their peers. As higher ed begins to emerge from the pandemic, the company is ready with a business model fit for today’s students.

  • View the CIO’s role as strategic.

In our recent research, higher-ed leaders said they believe industry disruption will only accelerate; however, we see too many higher-ed institutions that still limit their CIOs to overseeing back-office operations. A talented CIO can help institutions think out of the box by spotting new business models and investment opportunities to drive enrollments and revenue.

For example, Arizona State University’s widely admired CIO helped ASU break ahead early in online learning with innovative programs like its Global Freshman Academy. By providing CIOs with a seat at the table, higher-ed institutions and their governing boards open themselves to emerging ideas such as adopting blockchain for digital credentials or applying mixed-reality simulations to learning.

  • Reassess your marketing strategies.

Glossy direct-mail brochures are a common and costly rite of passage. The median public university spends 14% of its marketing and recruiting budget on student lists purchased to identify prospects, with one public university’s student data costs topping $2 million from 2010 to 2018. Building predictive analytics capabilities can help organizations reach targeted student populations more intelligently and fill seats more effectively than the basic demographics of lists.

For example, St. Mary’s College credits predictive analytics with increasing its applicant pool. When data showed that prospective students who visited the Maryland campus were more likely to enroll, St. Mary’s doubled down on personalized campus tours that deliver a more on-brand experience. Investing in data modernization, automation and robust platforms requires greater capital investments upfront, but it also creates better and long-lasting pull as universities seek to attract lifelong learners.

  • It takes a platform.

The single biggest lesson to learn from educational technology players is the ability to respond to market conditions with agility, and platforms are at the heart of that flexibility. Ed-tech companies are able to pivot quickly and scale their business models in new directions.

For instance, 2U built momentum and scale by positioning itself not just as a provider of online degree classes for individual students but also as a provider of cloud-based software as-a-service (SaaS) platforms to colleges and universities. The strategy elevates 2U from a services-only business model to the SaaS model.

Now colleges and universities are beginning to take steps in the same direction: Last fall, ASU launched the University Design Institute, through which it scales the innovative approaches and solutions it has developed for its own campus to help other universities create online offerings and is even partnering on community-based projects such as supply chain improvements in Ghana and across Africa. Thinking like a tech company means investing in the right platforms and building the ability to scale.

Capitalize on higher-ed strengths

The most successful tech companies also know and relentlessly develop their strengths, which is why you don’t see Apple rolling out a social network or Netflix designing smartphones. It’s no secret that education’s disruptors offer curriculum options that are fast, dirt-cheap and job-ready. Coursera estimates students can complete a Google Professional Certificates program by studying five to 10 hours per week for eight months or less.

Ed-tech clearly knows its market strengths. At the same time, two-thirds of students between the ages of 19 and 30 still think a college degree is a good investment, whether in-person or virtually. Higher ed’s brand value remains strong in the wake of COVID-19: In another survey, 93% of students polled — both enrolled in fully online programs and studying remotely due to COVID-19 — expect a positive return on their online education investment.

The scalability enabled through digital can help colleges and universities press their pedagogic advantages and compete with online competitors’ lean operations. For example, at a time when applications to full-time MBA programs have declined, enrollment in the University of Illinois’ online MBA program has reached 4,000 — up from 114 since the program’s 2016 launch.

The key to capitalizing on the momentum of digital learning is to reimagine a student experience that taps into today’s youth by reshaping your institution’s mindset and approach to education.

Download our latest research report “The Work Ahead in Higher Ed: Repaving the Road for the Employees of Tomorrow.”

Kshitij (Tij) Nerurkar is the North America leader for Education Business at Cognizant. For over 25 years, Tij has advised and implemented digital learning solutions across private and public sector clients on a global basis. In his current role, he helps educational institutions and ed-tech companies develop and implement digital strategies to transform their business model, reimagine learner experience and drive skill enablement. Previously, Tij was the Head of Cognizant Academy in North America. In this role, he was responsible for developing industry partnerships for the Academy and worked as a core member of the talent team to help bridge the reskilling gap through innovative synergistic business models. Tij has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s degree in management studies from the University of Bombay, India, and he has completed a sales and leadership program at Harvard University. Tij is also on the executive learning council of the Association for Talent Development (ATD). He can be reached at Kshitij.Nerurkar@cognizant.com

Source: To Reimagine The Student Experience, Think Like A Tech Company

.

Related Contents:

Teaching with Digital Technologies

Digital Learning: Data, Trends, and Strategies You Need to Know

Digital Transformation 101: The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need

The case for digital reinvention

The Company Cultures That Help (or Hinder) Digital Transformation

La Transformación digital desde la arquitectura empresarial

The impact of digital transformation on the retailing value chain

E-commerce to Account for Half the Growth in Global Retail by 2025

Evolution Is not enough: Revolutionizing Current Learning Environments to Smart Learning Environments

ECE Technology: 10 Trending Tools for Teachers

Confusing terminologies: #e-learning, learning technologist, educational technologist

Zero to six: Electronic media in the lives of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers

Technology in the Preschool Classroom

Technology Education for High-Ability Students

An efficient, portable authoring language for microcomputers

Computer-based Mathematics and Physics for Gifted Remote Students

Computer-based Education Research Laboratory

History of Manhattan Virtual Classroom

 

SoftBank Makes First Saudi Deal Together With Wealth Fund’s Unit

SoftBank Group Corp. has made its first investment in a company based in Saudi Arabia, partnering with a unit of the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund to lead a $125 million financing for customer communication platform Unifonic.

Proceeds will be used to fund growth in the Middle East and expansion into Asia and Africa, Unifonic co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Ahmed Hamdan said in an interview. The company will also look at acquisitions in those regions to help it expand faster, he said.

The Unifonic deal is funded through SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2, and follows on from July’s $415 million fundraising by Dubai-based cloud kitchen startup Kitopi, which was SoftBank’s first in a business based in the United Arab Emirates and took that company’s valuation past $1 billion. Last month, it also co-led a financing round for Turkish e-commerce company Trendyol.

SoftBank’s foray in the Middle East comes with a growing number of so-called unicorn businesses worth at least $1 billion. More investors from outside are looking to bet on a shift to online services that has lagged other regions.

Read more on SoftBank’s deals in Middle East and Africa:

Swvl, a Dubai-based provider of mass transit solutions, said in July it expects to list on Nasdaq in a combination with special-purpose acquisition company Queen’s Gambit Growth Capital, with an implied equity value of about $1.5 billion.

Unifonic provides cloud-based software to send automated messages. As the pandemic spread, businesses turned to these services to send one-time passwords or shipping updates to customers. The company processed 10 billion transactions last year, charging a small fee for every message it sends to customers.

Hamdan declined to comment on the latest valuation, but said the company is forecasting sales for the year of more than $100 million and will start planning a listing on a global exchange in the next three years.

“Being able to attract one of the top international funds to invest in Saudi Arabia is a big milestone that will encourage more foreign direct investment to come into the digital and technology space,” Hamdan said. “We will optimize to list on a global market that can provide the best valuation.”

STV, Sanabil

Founded by Ahmed and his brother Hassan Hamdan in 2006, Unifonic was largely self-funded for the first decade. It raised $21 million in 2018 led by STV, a $500 million venture fund established by Saudi Telecom Co.

Sanabil, a unit of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, was also an investor in the company. The PIF, as the wealth fund is known, put $45 billion into the first Vision Fund, which backed many of the largest technology startups including Uber Technologies Inc., Opendoor Technologies Inc. and DoorDash Inc.

“Over the next five years, we see the business growing by 10 times,” Hamdan said. “So we could process 100 billion transactions, impact 400 million people, and potentially be working with 50,000 companies.”

The valuation of Twilio Inc., which operates a similar business and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, has more than tripled to almost $60 billion since the pandemic forced more transactions to move online.

By:

Source: http://bloomberg.com

.
.
Related Contents:

Electric Sleep: The Gadgetry Tracking and Hacking The Way We Rest

As activity tracking goes mainstream, an arsenal of consumer technology is rolling out for sleep. But how much do these interventions help?

At 2.16am, I stumble to the bathroom. I catch a glimpse of myself. The light from the red bulb is flattering – I’ve been told to eliminate all blue light on my nocturnal trek – but the sleep-tracker headband, currently emitting the sound of gently lapping waves, kills any woke-up-like-this vibe. I adjust its double straps and feel my way back to bed.

The next time I wake is at 6.30am – after fractured dreams in which the Dreem 2 headband makes many cameos – to birdsong, also from the headband. When I check the app, I see I have slept six-and-a-half hours of my anticipated eight. Anxious to remedy this, I head out for my first coffee. In his new book Blueprint: Build a Bulletproof Body for Extreme Adventure in 365 Days, athlete Ross Edgley warns that this sort of overriding behaviour can bring about “biochemical bankruptcy”. Not now, Ross.

Health influencers like Edgley are all over sleep lately, and no wonder, when so many of us obsess over it. A 2021 report released by the Sleep Health Foundation estimates around one in 10 Australians have a sleep disorder, while a report from 2019 found that more than half are suffering from at least one chronic sleep symptom. Studies have suggested that sleep deficiency can lead to weight gain and a weakened immune system and that poor sleep patterns may contribute to later dementia risk.

In recent years, sleep-fretting has intersected with fitness-tracking, with the latest bio-hacks regularly featured on the podcasts of personal-development heavyweights such as Joe Rogan, whose Whoop Strap – worn around the wrist – told him he was getting four or five hours a night, not the seven or eight he’d thought; and Aubrey Marcus, whose Oura ring measures various biomarkers overnight and gives him a total score in the morning. “If I can get close to 80%, I’m golden for the day,” Marcus told the authors of My Morning Routine.

Wearables, such as watches, rings and headbands, appeal to those of us who enjoy geeking out on our stats, but could they also be cultivating anxiety and feeding into insomnia? Associate Prof Darren Mansfield, a sleep disorders and respiratory physician who is also deputy chair of the Sleep Health Foundation, thinks some balance is needed.

“These devices in general can be a good thing,” he says. “They’re not as accurate as a laboratory-based sleep study, but they are progressing in that direction, and technology enables the person to be engaged in their health. Where it can become problematic is people can become a bit enslaved by the data, which can lead to anxiety or rumination over the results and significance. That might escalate any problems, or even start creating problems.”

As a clinician, Mansfield thinks that the most useful role of these devices is monitoring routine, not obsessing over the hours of good-quality sleep. “There will be some error margin, but nonetheless when we’re looking for diagnostic information, like timing of sleep and duration of sleep, they can capture that,” he says.

Since Mansfield admits his sleep doesn’t need much hacking, I seek out an insomniac-turned-human guinea pig. Mike Toner runs the dance music agency Thick as Thieves, and has been on a mission for five years to fix the sleep issues earned from a decade of late nights in Melbourne clubs and reaching for his phone to answer international emails at 3am.

“I tried everything,” he says. “Magnesium capsules and spray, melatonin and herbal sleep aids. I even signed up for treatment at a sleep centre. You sleep in this room with all these wires connected to you, things coming out of your nose, cameras trained on you. Ironically, I slept better that night than I have any other night.”

He decided to start monitoring his body in earnest, learning about the latest devices from the Huberman Lab Podcast and The Quantified Scientist. Sleep-monitoring wearables have progressed from having an accelerometer to track movements which are fed through an algorithm to predict when a person is asleep, to being able to track sleep latency; sleep efficacy; heart-rate variability; light, deep and REM sleep and sleeping positions.

Toner’s accumulated a few as the technology becomes more sophisticated. He estimates having spent around $1,500 on them, and a further $3,500 for the sleep-centre treatment.

Then there are the cooling devices. Toner beds down on a Chilipad as soon as the weather gets warmer – a hydro-powered cooling mattress.

The idea is that lying down in a cool room – perhaps after taking a warm shower – tricks the body into slumber, since our body temperature drops when we’re asleep.

Non-techy strategies include having hands and feet out from under the covers, or using a fan. Lifestyle guru and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss recommends a short ice bath before bed. Be warned, though: Dave Asprey – founder of Bulletproof, which sells high-performance products – once tried putting ice packs on his body right before bed. As he told MensHealth.com: “I ended up getting ice burns on about 15% of my body.”

Mansfield says that ensuring you’re cooler in the evenings may help with sleep. “Generally, a lower-level temperature is better tolerated at night … 25C can make a beautiful, comfortable day, but can be unbearably hot at night when our own core temperature drops, so 18C or 19C is more tolerable.

“Then in the last two hours before getting up, your temperature rises again – you might have thrown off the blanket in the night and then might wake up at 5am feeling freezing cold.”

And what about the new frontiers of technology? According to neuroscientist Matthew Walker, in his influential book Why We Sleep, in the future, we can expect the marriage of tracking devices with in-home networked devices such as thermostats and lighting.

“Using common machine-learning algorithms applied over time, we should be able to intelligently teach the home thermostat what the thermal sweet spot is of each occupant in each bedroom, based on the biophysiology calculated by their sleep-tracking device,” Walker says. “Better still, we could program a natural circadian lull and rise in temperature across the night that is in harmony with each body’s expectations.”

Mansfield thinks this kind of integration is feasible, and that a thermostat linked to a device measuring circadian rhythms offers plausible benefits in preparing people’s sleep, but he predicts that automated control of room lighting will wind up being manually overridden, because technology can’t necessarily gauge when we’re in the middle of reading a book or having a conversation. “It’s liable to just irritate people,” he says. He’s more interested in technology that will track conditions like sleep apnoea.

As Toner has concluded, no device is a silver bullet. Ultimately, it was a $70 online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) course that his GP referred him to that fixed his sleep over three months of strict adherence. Now he just uses technology to make sure he’s not drifting off track.

The key lessons? Only use your bedroom for sleep and sex. Set your alarm for the same time, no matter how late you get to bed. Screens off early. No day-napping. Alcohol is a bad idea. All of these things are easily monitored yourself using a good old notebook, and they don’t cost a cent. They just take persistence.

With those good habits in place, Toner is now mindful of how he will put the CBT pointers he’s learned during lockdowns into practice once his life picks up its pace again.

“I used to put this obligation on myself to be there all the time with my artists, but interestingly, coming out of this pandemic, a lot of the artists are having the same train of thought as I am, wanting to avoid late nights,” Toner says.

He’s even coaching some of them for a charity run – quite the lifestyle change for many. “I’ve spent so long fixing this that one of the things I’ve realized, when we eventually go back to work routines, is I’m going to be fiercely protective of my sleep.

By:

Source: Electric sleep: the gadgetry tracking and hacking the way we rest | Sleep | The Guardian

.

Related Contents:

What is sleep tracking, how does it work and what devices offer it

Do Sleep Trackers Really Work

What Is a Sleep Tracker and Why Would You Need One

Orthosomnia: Are Some Patients Taking the Quantified Self Too Far

The Sad Truth About Sleep-Tracking Devices and Apps

SleepBot – Smart Cycle Alarm with Motion & Sound Tracker

SleepBot includes a “smart alarm” feature which has been failing on Android 6.x “Marshmallow” due to “Doze” mode.

Collecting Data on a Good Night’s Sleep

Meet Sleepbot, the fast-growing sleep tracking app with a over a million users

Sleep-tracking apps: Sleep Cycle v SleepBot

off-the-companies-introducing-nap-time-to-the-workplace “Clocking off: the companies introducing nap time to the workplace

Dreams of the future: How sci-fi sees sleep

Airport Sleep Pods Are Here for Stranded Passengers

Sleeping through Class to Success

How Digital Makes Banks Flexible, Responsive And Intimate

While making digital the main channel of customer engagement, banks are also looking to move beyond business as usual, says Amit Anand, a Vice President in Cognizant Consulting’s Banking and Financial Services.

COVID-19 made online channels indispensable for bank customers, including those who preferred in-person banking. This accelerated their digital strategies and created an opportunity to go beyond the basics and become partners in their customers’ pursuit of financial wellness.

As banks bet big on digital, they are looking at technologies such as AI, advanced analytics, and automation to provide personalization, prediction and speed in creating powerful customer experiences. Banks are also increasingly relying on machines to automate repetitive tasks and make complex decisions, creating demand for human skillsets that complement intelligent machines.

Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work (CFoW), working with Oxford Economics, recently surveyed 4,000 C-level executives globally, including 287 senior banking and financial services executives to understand how banks are adapting to fast and dramatic changes.

The earliest forms of digital banking trace back to the advent of ATMs and cards launched in the 1960s. As the internet emerged in the 1980s with early broadband, digital networks began to connect retailers with suppliers and consumers to develop needs for early online catalogues and inventory software systems.

By the 1990s the Internet became widely available and online banking started becoming the norm. The improvement of broadband and ecommerce systems in the early 2000s led to what resembled the modern digital banking world today. The proliferation of smartphones through the next decade opened the door for transactions on the go beyond ATM machines. Over 60% of consumers now use their smartphones as the preferred method for digital banking.

The challenge for banks is now to facilitate demands that connect vendors with money through channels determined by the consumer. This dynamic shapes the basis of customer satisfaction, which can be nurtured with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. Therefore, CRM must be integrated into a digital banking system, since it provides means for banks to directly communicate with their customers.

There is a demand for end-to-end consistency and for services, optimized on convenience and user experience. The market provides cross platform front ends, enabling purchase decisions based on available technology such as mobile devices, with a desktop or Smart TV at home. In order for banks to meet consumer demands, they need to keep focusing on improving digital technology that provides agility, scalability and efficiency.

Seven Ways to Capitalize on Digital

  1. Institute front-to-back digitization. Banks can effectively compete with fintech competitors by becoming digital institutions.
  2. Explore new customer segments and business paradigms. Digital makes it easier than ever for banks to explore small business segments, even as they pursue existing markets.
  3. Emphasize platform centricity and smart aggregation. Open banking standards can help banks to provide personalized products to customers in collaboration with third-party providers and fintechs.
  4. Invest in personalizing the customer relationship. Banks should use personalized experiences to make customers’ lives as frictionless as possible.
  5. Focus on re-building trust and resiliency. Banks need to eliminate any biases in decisions made by machines.
  6. Enshrine inclusivity into your digital strategy. Banks should use digital to reach customers who are left out by being physically and cognitively challenged.
  7. Balance machine-driven and human-centric work. Create sturdy human-machine collaboration by reevaluating jobs for a shared environment.

For more, read our paper “The Work Ahead in Banking: The Digital Road to Financial Wellness”.

Amit Anand is Vice President and North American Practice Leader for Cognizant Consulting’s Banking and Financial Services. Amit has 20 years of experience with firms such as Accenture, Infosys and Cognizant. He has successfully led and managed large business transformation, digital and IT transformation, and associated organizational change management for several financial services clients. Amit is a recognized thought leader with more than 15 publications on topics such as Open Banking, Digital 2.0 and new-age operating models. He can be reached at Amit.Anand@cognizant.com

Manish Bahl leads the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East. A respected speaker and thinker, Manish has guided many Fortune 500 companies into the future of their business with his thought-provoking research and advisory skills. Within Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work, he helps ensure that the unit’s original research and analysis jibes with emerging business-technology trends and dynamics in APAC, and collaborates with a wide range of leading thinkers to understand and predict how the future of work will take shape. He most recently served as Vice President, Country Manager with Forrester Research in India. He can be reached at Manish.Bahl@cognizant.com

Source: How Digital Makes Banks Flexible, Responsive And Intimate

.

Related Contents:

The irresistible rise of digital banking

What really is “digital banking”? Consensus on this oft-used term’s meaning eludes

Will cash disappear? Many technology cheerleaders believe so, but as Rose Eveleth discovers, the truth is more complicated

Computer Giants Giving a Major Boost to Increased Use of Corporate Videotex

Is Your Digital Banking Vendor Hurting Adoption Rates

New banking services for personal customers

China’s First Online Bank Finally Launches

Online banking fraud has doubled since 2011

Security Flaws in Online Banking Sites Found to be Widespread

Australia’s Newest Digital Bank Goes Live on Temenos to Champion Fairer, More Human Banking Experiences

Hamilton Reserve Bank Completes Temenos End-to-End Digital Transformation

Global Fintech Investment Growth Continues in 2016

Investment in fintech booms as upstarts go mainstream

Beyond Banks and Money: A Guide to Banking Services in the Twenty-First Century

Criminalizing Free Enterprise: The Bank Secrecy Act and the Cryptocurrency Revolution

The Most Innovative Fintech Companies In 2021

Vietnam closes in on Singapore as fintech funding booms

Stockholm FinTech: An overview of the FinTech sector in the greater Stockholm Region

Ensuring Cybersecurity In Fintech: Key Trends And Solutions

Data Security Considerations for FinTech Companies

How Hackers Make Money from DDoS Attacks

OCC Begins Accepting National Bank Charter Applications From Financial Technology Companies

How FutureAdvisor plans to shake up wealth management

 

Covid’s Forgotten Hero: The Untold Story Of The Scientist Whose Breakthrough Made The Vaccines Possible

In the summer of 2020, as the pandemic raged, infecting more than 200,000 people a day across the globe, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla and BioNTech CEO Uğur Şahin boarded an executive jet en route to the hilly countryside of Klosterneuburg, Austria. Their destination: a small manufacturing facility located on the west bank of the Danube River called Polymun Scientific Immunbiologische Forschung.
Bourla and Şahin were on a mission to get the company to manufacture as many lipid nanoparticles as possible for their new Covid-19 vaccine, which was on a fast track to receive emergency authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine had been engineered with messenger RNA technology that instructs the body’s immune system to combat the coronavirus. But to get it safely into human cells, the mRNA needed to be wrapped in microscopic fragments of fat known as lipids. The Austrian manufacturing plant was one of the few places on earth that made the required lipid nanoparticles, and Bourla insisted Şahin go with him personally to press their case.

“The whole mRNA platform is not how to build an mRNA molecule; that’s the easy thing,” Bourla says. “It is how to make sure the mRNA molecule will go into your cells and give the instructions.”

Yet the story of how Moderna, BioNTech and Pfizer managed to create that vital delivery system has never been told. It’s a complicated saga involving 15 years of legal battles and accusations of betrayal and deceit. What is clear is that when humanity needed a way to deliver mRNA to human cells to arrest the pandemic, there was only one reliable method available—and it wasn’t one originated in-house by Pfizer, Moderna, BioNTech or any of the other major vaccine companies.

A months-long investigation by Forbes reveals that the scientist most responsible for this critical delivery method is a little-known 57-year-old Canadian biochemist named Ian MacLachlan. As chief scientific officer of two small companies, Protiva Biotherapeutics and Tekmira Pharmaceuticals, MacLachlan led the team that developed this crucial technology. Today, though, few people—and none of the big pharmaceutical companies—openly acknowledge his groundbreaking work, and MacLachlan earns nothing from the technology he pioneered.


“I look at the news, and 50% of it is vaccines—it’s everywhere—and I have no doubt the vaccines are using the technology we developed.”


“I just wasn’t going to spend the rest of my life dealing with it, but I can’t escape it,” MacLachlan says. “I open my browser in the morning and look at the news, and 50% of it is vaccines—it’s everywhere—and I have no doubt the vaccines are using the technology we developed.”

Moderna Therapeutics vigorously disputes the idea that its mRNA vaccine uses MacLachlan’s delivery system, and BioNTech, the vaccine maker partnered with Pfizer, talks about it carefully. Legal proceedings are pending, and big money is at stake.

Moderna, BioNTech and Pfizer are on their way to selling $45 billion worth of vaccines in 2021. They don’t pay a dime to MacLachlan. Other coronavirus vaccine makers, such as Gritstone Oncology, have recently licensed MacLachlan’s Protiva-Tekmira delivery technology for between 5% and 15% of product sales. MacLachlan no longer has a financial stake in the technology, but a similar royalty on the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines could yield as much as $6.75 billion in 2021 alone. In an ironic twist of fate, though, President Biden’s proposal to waive Covid-19 vaccine patents would make it unlikely that the intellectual property related to MacLachlan’s advances could be a source of riches.

Despite their denials, scientific papers and regulatory documents filed with the FDA show that both Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccines use a delivery system strikingly similar to what MacLachlan and his team created—a carefully formulated four-lipid component that encapsulates mRNA in a dense particle through a mixing process involving ethanol and a T-connector apparatus.

For years, Moderna claimed it was using its own proprietary delivery system, but when it came time for the company to test its Covid-19 vaccine in mice, it used the same four kinds of lipids as MacLachlan’s technology, in identical ratios.

Moderna insists the preclinical formulation of the vaccine was not the same as the vaccine itself. Subsequent regulatory filings by Moderna show its vaccine uses the same four types of lipids as MacLachlan’s delivery system but with a proprietary version of one of the lipids and the ratios “slightly modified” in a still undisclosed manner.

It’s a similar story for Pfizer and BioNTech. FDA documents show their vaccine uses the same four kinds of lipids in nearly the exact ratios that MacLachlan and his team patented years ago, albeit with one of those lipids being a new proprietary variation.

Not everyone ignores MacLachlan. “A lot of credit goes to Ian MacLachlan for the LNP [lipid nanoparticle],” says Katalin Karikó, the scientist who laid the groundwork for mRNA therapies before joining BioNTech in 2013. But Karikó, now a frontrunner for a Nobel Prize, is angry that MacLachlan didn’t do more to help her use his delivery system to build her own mRNA company years ago. “[MacLachlan] might be a great scientist, but he lacked vision,” she says.

Seven years ago, MacLachlan quit his position at Tekmira, walking away from his brilliant discovery and any potential financial rewards. Messy legal battles and political infighting within the biopharma industry over the delivery system had taken a toll on him. His emotions are complex. He may be overlooked, but he knows that he helped save the world.

“There’s a team of people who gave a great deal of their lives to the development of this technology. They gave their heart and soul,” MacLachlan says. “These people worked like dogs and gave the best part of themselves to develop it.”

Perched on a hilltop, Hohentübingen Castle towers above the town of Tübingen, Germany. In October 2013, MacLachlan, then the chief scientific officer of Tekmira Pharmaceuticals, trudged up the hill to the castle to attend a cocktail party at the first International mRNA Health Conference. During the evening, MacLachlan struck up a conversation with Stéphane Bancel, the CEO of an upstart mRNA company called Moderna Therapeutics. MacLachlan suggested Tekmira and Moderna collaborate using his innovative drug delivery system. “You are too expensive,” Bancel told him.

The exchange gave MacLachlan a bad feeling. So did the presence of a former colleague, Thomas Madden, who had been fired by Tekmira five years earlier. By this point MacLachlan had spent more than a decade working on his delivery system, yet people like Bancel seemed more interested in working with the London-born Madden.

The rivalry between these two scientists is the root of the controversy over the delivery technology that today’s Covid-19 vaccines rely on. MacLachlan and Madden met 25 years ago, when they worked together at a small Vancouver-based biotech called Inex Pharmaceuticals. With a Ph.D. in biochemistry, MacLachlan joined Inex in 1996, his first job after completing a postdoctoral fellowship in a gene lab at the University of Michigan.

Inex was cofounded by its chief scientific officer, Pieter Cullis, now 75, a long-haired physicist who taught at the University of British Columbia. From his perch there Cullis started several biotechs, cultivating an elite community of scientists that made Vancouver a hotbed of lipid chemistry.

Inex had a small-molecule chemotherapy drug candidate, but Cullis was also interested in gene therapy. His goal was to deliver large-molecule genetic material, like DNA or RNA, inside a lipid bubble so it could be safely ferried as medicine to the inside of a cell—something biochemists had dreamed about for decades but had been unable to accomplish.

Using a new method that mixed detergent with liquid, Cullis and his team at Inex successfully encapsulated small pieces of DNA in microscopic bubbles called liposomes. Unfortunately, the system could not consistently deliver bigger molecules, the type needed for gene therapy, in medically useful ways. They tried other approaches, including using ethanol, but didn’t succeed.

“We assembled all the LNP [lipid nanoparticle] pieces at Inex, but we didn’t get it to work” for genetic material, Cullis says.

Inex was a business, not a research lab, so it shifted its emphasis to the more promising chemotherapy drug. The gene therapy group was largely disbanded. MacLachlan ran what was left of it until, in 2000, he too decided to quit. Rather than let him completely walk away, Cullis persuaded MacLachlan to take the firm’s delivery assets and spin them out in a new company. Thus was born Protiva Biotherapeutics (MacLachlan became chief scientific officer), in which Inex retained a minority stake. MacLachlan recruited Mark Murray, now 73, a longtime American biotech executive with a Ph.D. in biochemistry, to be CEO.

It wasn’t long before two Protiva chemists, Lorne Palmer and Lloyd Jeffs, made a crucial discovery that led to a new mixing method. They put lipids dissolved in ethanol on one side of a physical T-connector apparatus, and, on the opposite side, genetic material dissolved in saltwater, then shot streams of the two solutions at each other. It was the moment they had been hoping for. The collision resulted in lipids forming a dense nanoparticle that instantly encapsulated the genetic material. The method was elegantly simple, and it worked.


In the midst of all this furious legal fighting, Hungarian biochemist Katalin Karikó showed up at MacLachlan’s door. Karikó was early to grasp that MacLachlan’s delivery system was key to mRNA therapies.


“The various methods that had been used previously were all highly variable and ineffective,” MacLachlan says. “Completely unsuitable for manufacturing.

The team he led quickly went on to develop a new lipid nanoparticle made of four specific kinds of lipids. Though these were among the lipids Inex had also been using in its experiments, MacLachlan’s LNP had a dense core that differed significantly from the sac-like liposome bubbles developed by Inex. MacLachlan’s team had figured out the specific ratios of the four kinds of lipids that worked best relative to one another. Everything was dutifully patented.

Moderna and Pfizer’s Covid vaccines use a type of gene therapy based on the messenger RNA molecule. Protiva’s scientists, though, initially gravitated toward a different type of gene therapy using RNA interference, or RNAi. While mRNA instructs the body to create therapeutic proteins, RNAi aims to silence bad genes before they cause disease. With MacLachlan’s delivery system in hand, Protiva started collaborating with Alnylam, a Cambridge, Massachusetts–based biotech, to make RNAi therapy viable.

Meanwhile, MacLachlan’s old company, Inex, was imploding after the FDA denied accelerated approval to its chemotherapy drug. Inex fired most of its staff and then—despite having spun off Protiva only a few years earlier—looped back to drug delivery. It, too, started working in partnership with Alnylam. In 2005 Cullis quit, leaving none other than MacLachlan’s archrival Thomas Madden to run Inex’s delivery efforts.

In 2006, Protiva and Alnylam published a landmark study in Nature demonstrating the first effective gene silencing in monkeys. The study used the delivery system MacLachlan’s team had developed.

Alnylam went on to develop Onpattro, an RNAi drug used to treat nerve damage in adults with a certain hereditary condition. The drug would become the first RNAi medicine ever approved by the FDA. Regulatory filings show Alnylam used MacLachlan’s delivery system for Onpattro—with one exception. For one of the four kinds of lipids, Alnylam used a modified version it developed with Thomas Madden.

In October 2008, Mark Murray, the CEO MacLachlan had recruited to run Protiva, stood in a room at Tekmira Pharmaceuticals, a small publicly traded shell company he had just taken over. Like Protiva, Tekmira had been created by Inex, which had finally burned out a year earlier, but not before transferring all its remaining assets to Tekmira. Assembled before Murray were some 15 former Inex scientists who had come along in the deal, including Thomas Madden.

“Unfortunately, we are not going to be able to keep you guys any longer,” Murray told them.

Madden’s firing was one result of a massive legal brawl sparked by the fact that both Inex and Protiva had been working separately with Alnylam on drug delivery. The dispute would continue for years. In each iteration, Murray and MacLachlan would accuse Madden and Cullis of having improperly taken their ideas. Cullis and Madden, offended by the accusations, denied them. Sometimes they sued back, claiming Murray and MacLachlan had acted wrongly.

The first round of litigation resulted in a 2008 settlement that saw Protiva take over Tekmira, with Murray as CEO, MacLachlan as chief scientific officer and Madden soon fired. Despite the bruising, Madden and Cullis founded a new company in 2009 to continue working with Alnylam.

Tekmira responded by suing Alnylam, claiming the Massachusetts biotech conspired with Madden and Cullis to cheaply gain ownership of the delivery system developed by MacLachlan. Alnylam denied wrongdoing and—of course—filed counterclaims, saying it simply wanted to work with Madden and Cullis, who had created an improved variation of one of the four kinds of delivery-system lipids.

That round of the legal brawl was settled in 2012, with Alnylam paying Tekmira $65 million and agreeing to assign dozens of its patents back to Tekmira. Those patents included ones for the improved lipid that Madden had developed for Onpattro. Under the deal, Cullis and Madden’s new company was granted a narrow license to use the MacLachlan delivery system to create new mRNA products from scratch.


Feeling defeated, MacLachlan quit Tekmira. He sold his stock, purchased a used Winnebago Adventurer for $60,000 and set off with his wife, two kids and their dog for a 5,200-mile road trip. “I was exhausted and demoralized.”


It was in the midst of all this furious legal fighting that Hungarian biochemist Katalin Karikó first showed up at MacLachlan’s door. Karikó was early to grasp that MacLachlan’s delivery system held the key to unlocking the potential of mRNA therapies. As early as 2006, she began sending letters to MacLachlan urging him to encase her groundbreaking chemically altered mRNA in his four-lipid delivery system. Embroiled in litigation, MacLachlan passed on her offer.

Karikó didn’t give up easily. In 2013, she flew to meet with Tekmira’s executives, offering to relocate to Vancouver and work directly under MacLachlan. Tekmira passed. “Moderna, BioNTech and CureVac all wanted me to work for them, but my number one choice, Tekmira, didn’t,” says Karikó, who took a job at BioNTech in 2013.

By this time, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel was also trying to solve the delivery puzzle. Bancel held discussions with Tekmira about collaborating, but talks stalled. At one point, Tekmira indicated it wanted at least $100 million up front, plus royalties, to strike a deal. Instead, Moderna partnered with Madden, who was still working with Cullis at their drug delivery company, Acuitas Therapeutics.

In February 2014, MacLachlan turned 50. His life partner, Karley Seabrook, lured him to Vancouver’s Imperial theater, which was packed with friends and family. She surprised him in a wedding dress, and their two children greeted MacLachlan with cards that read WILL YOU MARRY MOMMY? Seabrook had never thought it important that they get married, but a brush with cancer had altered her perspective—and the wedding would alter his.

For the workaholic scientist, dealing with lawyers and endless corporate maneuvering had taken its toll. Feeling defeated, MacLachlan quit Tekmira in 2014. He sold his stock in the company, purchased a used Winnebago Adventurer for $60,000 and set off with his new wife, two kids and their dog for a 5,200-mile road trip across Canada.

“I was exhausted and demoralized,” he says. With MacLachlan gone, CEO Murray renamed Tekmira, calling it Arbutus BioPharma, and decided the company should focus on creating hepatitis B treatments with New York drug development company Roivant Sciences. Yet he held on to the patents for the four-lipid drug delivery system.

Then Madden’s company, Acuitas, sublicensed the delivery technology to Moderna for the development of an mRNA flu vaccine. Murray was confident Madden had no right to do so, and in 2016 he gave notice that he intended to terminate Acuitas’ licensing agreement. Per custom, two months later, Acuitas sued in Vancouver, denying that it had violated any deal. On cue, Murray countersued, initiating a fresh round of legal combat. Importantly, though, this batch of lawsuits directly involved mRNA.

After battling for two more years, the parties settled. Murray terminated Thomas Madden’s license to MacLachlan’s delivery technology for any future medicines other than four products Moderna had already begun to develop (Murray also lost the rights to some of Madden’s technology). Murray and Roivant then created another company, Genevant Sciences, specifically to house the intellectual property related to the four-lipid delivery system and commercialize it.

Some companies were quick to come on board. Within a few months BioNTech CEO Şahin struck a deal with Genevant to use the delivery system for five of BioNTech’s existing mRNA cancer programs. The companies also agreed to work together on five other mRNA programs targeting rare diseases. There was no provision in the agreement about using the delivery technology for something completely unforeseen—something like Covid-19.

Moderna pursued a different strategy. It filed lawsuits with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office seeking to nullify a series of patents related to MacLachlan’s delivery system, now controlled by Genevant. But in July 2020, as Moderna was pushing its vaccine through clinical trials, an adjudicative body largely upheld the most important patent claims. (Moderna is appealing.)

After the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines were authorized, Drew Weissman, a prominent mRNA researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, concluded in a peer-reviewed journal that both use delivery systems that are “similar to the Alnylam Onpattro product” but with a proprietary version of one of the lipids. Weissman noted both companies were using T-junction mixing.

Thomas Madden worked on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine delivery system and says he used enhanced versions of two of the four kinds of lipids. Madden says neither Onpattro nor the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine would have been green-lighted by the FDA without his team’s improvements to the lipids.

MacLachlan dismisses the new variations as “iterative innovation.”

In a written statement to Forbes, Ray Jordan, Moderna’s corporate affairs chief, stated, “I can confirm that we did take a license to Tekmira’s IP for certain of our older products. But our newer products (including the Covid vaccine) have moved on with new technology.”

BioNTech declined to comment. Mikael Dolsten, Pfizer’s chief scientific officer, says the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is fully covered by patents and that in creating the first authorized mRNA product, Pfizer modified the delivery system to produce 3 billion doses annually.

“It’s different to have a process that may work for a very small scale than a large scale, and some of the assumptions that may look similar are based on how the scientific field evolved and [on] contributions from many different sources,” Dolsten says. “One needs to be careful in assuming that [if] things have similar names and similar molar ratios, it means it’s the same thing.”

Genevant declined to comment, but it could be fighting an uphill battle. In May, the Biden Administration backed waiving intellectual property protection on Covid-19 vaccines. Ironically, such a move might benefit, not hurt, Moderna, BioNTech and Pfizer by preventing Genevant from making any claims on their gigantic vaccine cash pile.

That’s just as well for Ian MacLachlan, whose role in what may be the most important medical advance in a century has been all but erased by the biotech industry.

“I definitely feel I made a contribution,” he says. “I have mixed feelings because of the way it’s being characterized, and I know the genesis of the technology.”

Send me a secure tip.
%d bloggers like this: