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Weekly News of 9th of November

Alphabet launches AI company to discover new drugs


Google owner Alphabet has launched an artificial intelligence company to discover new drugs, reports The Financial Times. UK-registered Isomorphic Labs will use technology from its sister company DeepMind “to accelerate drug discovery, and ultimately, find cures for some of humanity’s most devastating diseases”.

Scientists around the world were awed in July when DeepMind unveiled how its AlphaFold2 technology could be used to predict the shape of every protein in the human body with almost perfect accuracy. DeepMind’s model can solve one of the trickiest problems in biology by taking a sequence of amino acids and mapping the twists and turns of its shape. The algorithm could help replace or enhance painstaking laboratory work to identify the structures of proteins, which dictate how they behave. Pharmaceutical companies and academic researchers are eager to use the tool — which DeepMind has made available on an open source basis — to discover new targets for drugs. Its speed could cut the time to discovering innovative treatments, although the process of clinical trials is still likely to take several years. DeepMind said it would use the technology to try to find treatments for Chagas disease and Leishmaniasis, two of the most deadly diseases in the world. Isomorphic Labs will partner with pharmaceutical and biomedical companies and is currently hiring scientists, engineers, and machine learning experts.


EV maker Rivian aims for $65 bln valuation


Rivian Automotive, backed by Amazon.com, significantly raised the expected offer price of its shares, reports Reuters. Now, the electric vehicle manufacturer aimes for a valuation of as much as $65 billion in its initial public offering.

The increased price band follows a successful investor roadshow this week, as Wall Street’s big IPO investors bet on Rivian to be the next big player in a sector dominated by Tesla. The IPO could make Rivian one of the only three companies that have raised more than $8 billion in a decade after Alibaba and Facebook.


U.S. zero-carbon fusion energy startup Helion raises $500 mln


Helion Energy, a fusion energy tech startup, raised $500 million to build a net positive electrical generator, one that creates more power than it uses, reports Reuters.

The latest round values the company at $3 billion. Helion said $1.7 billion in follow on investments were committed if it can prove its technology works, which would be a major step toward making fusion technology a practical solution for generating power while emitting no carbon.

Fusion is the process that fires the sun as the nuclei of two atoms fuse under extreme heat. It creates enormous amounts of energy.

Helion’s newest prototype named Polaris will add a so-called regenerative energy technology to its fusion technology already developed to generate electricity. The target date for demonstration is 2024.

The company broke ground in Everett, Washington in July to build the generator which will be the size of two shipping containers and create enough electricity to power 40,000 homes. If it works, the $1.7 billion follow-on investments will be used to develop a commercial system. Fusion has advantages over fission as the fuel is derived from water, not radioactive uranium or plutonium and doesn’t generate long-term radioactive waste.


Amazon to deploy 4,500 additional satellites for internet project


Amazon.com seeks approval from U.S. communications regulators to deploy more than 4,500 additional satellites as part of the company’s effort to deliver broadband internet to areas around the world that lack high-speed service, reports Reuters.

Amazon had said previously it planned to spend at least $10 billion to build 3,236 such satellites through its Project Kuiper program. Then it asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for approval to deploy a total of 7,774 satellites for the project.

Software maker MotorK raises $86 million in IPO


Shares in Italian software maker MotorK slumped nearly 10% on Friday, the first day of trading after their initial public offering on Amsterdam Euronext, reports Reuters.

MotorK, whose software helps car dealerships manage their digital presence, as well as with sales and marketing, raised 75 million euros ($86 million) in the offering, selling a 36.4% stake in the company. CEO Marco Marlia said proceeds would go to R&D and growing the business by “pursuing organic and inorganic growth to drive market share gains, as evidenced by our recent acquisitions in France and Spain.”