growth in mortality rates, however, has fallen by nearly half from the March-April peaks, reflecting the shift in the focus of the pandemic towards emerging markets. Here, mortality rates have been consistently lower than in developed markets. Meanwhile, curves continue to flatten in the US and in particular in major European economies. Globally, deaths topped 382 000, as of 3 June.
Easing spreads across Europe
All major European countries have now eased the restrictions put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19, the Oxford Stringency index shows. Some countries are easing faster than others. Italy, in particular, stands out. Where the restrictions were once seen as the toughest in Europe, Italy now ranks as the laxest, with Spain now assessed to have the toughest regime.
Latin America remains the current pandemic hotspot: four out of the 10 countries reporting the highest number of new infections in recent days are from the region: Brazil, Peru, Chile and Mexico.
Brazil is now second only to the US in terms of confirmed cases and is fourth in fatalities after the US, UK and Italy. Brazil’s mortality curve remains worrying, and since there is no national lockdown, it is hard to tell when the peak will be reached.
No plain sailing after lockdown
Meanwhile, events in South Korea remind us that managing the virus outside of lockdown is not straightforward even for the best-in-class regime. South Korea reintroduced quarantine measures for the next two weeks due to the recent uptick in cases: parks, museums and art galleries were temporarily closed and school quarantine and distancing rules in Seoul were tightened.
On Thursday, 79 new cases had emerged, the highest since early April. Most of them were attributed to a single distribution centre for an online retailer. The new cluster led provincial governments in the region to postpone plans to reopen schools for kindergarteners and primary schoolers on Wednesday, although most of the country’s schools have reopened as planned.
The main news in recent days has been the announcement by the European Commission of the details of the long-term budget, the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), and its response to the current crisis, Next Generation EU.
Markets had focused on the latter. The Commission proposes a EUR 500 billion package of grants and EUR 250 billion in loans to be financed by debt issued in the capital markets. This is backed by the headroom in the EU budget between actual spending and the theoretical limit on the funds that the EU can claim from the member states.
Next Generation EU sets out an important principle: establishing a genuine fiscal capacity at the centre of Europe, which can be deployed to support demand in member, states that are hit by large shocks.
However, the details of the package are yet to be agreed by all member states. It seems likely that the generosity of the scheme may be diluted in the search for a compromise. The scale of the net transfers may be reduced. The conditionality attached to funds that already exists may be strengthened. The split between grants and loans may be recalibrated.
There have been two significant developments:
- The fallout from the decision by the Chinese authorities to introduce national security legislation in Hong Kong’s Basic Law. This has added to tensions in Sino-US relations over and above the blame game over the virus and an uneasy truce in the trade/tech war. There is a real risk of an escalation with obvious market consequences: China’s Foreign Ministry has warned, “Any words or actions by the US that harm China’s interests will meet with China’s firm counterattack.”
- In the US, George Floyd’s death has led to widespread public protest and instances of violence that prompted the authorities to impose curfews in cities and deploy the National Guard in multiple states. As yet, it is unclear whether this latest tragedy will trigger a moment of national reflection on the question of racial injustice and ultimately positive change, and whether more immediately it affects the presidential election.
- In an encouraging sign, US continuing claims for unemployment benefits have dropped for the first time since February. This points to the first green shoots in the labour market as quarantine restrictions are lifted. Any recovery hinges on improving employment for the bounce-back to be sustainable over the medium term. It is also crucial to keep social tensions to a minimum.
- We believe the economic environment remains weak and that the recovery will take longer than expected. This assessment is echoed by the ECB. Most developed economies will not have returned to the 2019 levels of activity by the end of 2021. In Europe, a greater dispersion in growth among countries has increased divergence. This is a key reason to have a unified fiscal approach, as per the latest European Commission proposal (see above).
- We expect further stimulus and central bank support given this weak outlook. On 4 June, the ECB is expected to announce a EUR 500 billion increase of its PEPP programme. It comes on top of the EUR 750 billion package proposed by the Commission. Extra packages by Japan, China and Germany all aim at securing a recovery and stabilising badly hit small and medium-sized firms.
- Government and central bank support is expected to ease financial conditions, especially in Europe where they have remained restrictive, and could lower the risk premium of eurozone assets and support the euro.
- The current backdrop supports risky asset valuations, even as the real economy struggles. The outlook for the US dollar is less solid: carry and growth advantages over the rest of the world have dissipated and political risk, once a US dollar supportive factor, has become a headwind.
- Investment-grade (IG) corporates have been tapping the market at a record pace and rotating away from funding via commercial paper (CP). This is further easing the stress on USD liquidity and demand for the US currency. Moreover, it creates a stronger liquidity backdrop for higher-rated corporates. That said, we see continued stress for the weaker companies and sectors most affected by the virus outbreak, creating greater dispersion in credit and equity markets.
- A slow weakening of the USD could enhance emerging market (EM) carry trades. Prospects look better for the less volatile Asian currencies over the more market-sensitive currencies as many of these countries have now become the new epicentres of the COVID-19 crisis (see above).
Any views expressed here are those of the author as of the date of publication, are based on available information, and are subject to change without notice. Individual portfolio management teams may hold different views and may take different investment decisions for different clients.
The value of investments and the income they generate may go down as well as up and it is possible that investors will not recover their initial outlay. Past performance is no guarantee for future returns.
Investing in emerging markets, or specialised or restricted sectors is likely to be subject to a higher-than-average volatility due to a high degree of concentration, greater uncertainty because less information is available, there is less liquidity or due to greater sensitivity to changes in market conditions (social, political and economic conditions).
Some emerging markets offer less security than the majority of international developed markets. For this reason, services for portfolio transactions, liquidation and conservation on behalf of funds invested in emerging markets may carry greater risk.
Bridgit closes $9.4 million CAD strategic investment led by Autodesk – BetaKit
Kitchener-Waterloo-based Bridgit, which offers a project management platform for construction businesses, has raised $9.4 million CAD in funding, bringing its total amount of equity financing to date to $21.2 million.
“Tracking people during COVID was that much more of a priority for companies, and we saw that reflected within the usage of our product.”
The investment was led by construction and engineering software firm Autodesk, with participation from Export Development Canada and existing investors, including the Business Development Bank of Canada, Salesforce Ventures, Sands Capital, and StandUp Ventures. Bridgit will use this funding to add new partner integrations and build more advanced features for its Bridgit Bench offering, in order to help contractors better understand their workforce utilization and resource planning.
While Bridgit’s last round of financing was classified as a $6.2 million Series A round, Mallorie Brodie, CEO and co-founder of Bridgit, told BetaKit the company is classifying this financing not as the startup’s Series B, but as a “strategic investment.” Brodie added that the company is not in the process of raising Series B financing.
“We’re really defining [a strategic investor] as an investment partner that is able to really push the overall strategy and mission of Bridgit forward, within the construction space specifically,” Brodie told BetaKit. “Given that Autodesk has customers in the architecture, engineering, and construction space, we have a lot of shared customers, and we both feel that there’s a mutual benefit to working together and partnering on initiatives together in the future.”
Bridgit was founded in 2017 by Brodie and Lauren Lake, who have both been named on the 2019 Forbes Manufacturing and Industry 30 Under 30. The company’s solutions are targeted toward general contractors, engineering firms, and real-estate developers in North America.
Bridgit’s flagship solution, Bridgit Bench, which launched last year, helps users manage workforce utilization and capacity, resource allocation, skills tracking, and employee scheduling, and is aimed to replace the use of spreadsheets.
Brodie said a priority for the company following the recent funding will be to streamline solutions on the Bench platform, and to ensure Bench users understand project requirements and hiring needs. The $9.4 million in financing comes as the startup reports a 72 percent increase in usage of its Bench platform since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CEO added that as with many other sectors ripe for disruption, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the construction industry’s eagerness to adopt new tools.
Brodie claimed that Bridgit was able to triple its monthly recurring revenue, hire in two positions, and secure new customers during the pandemic.
“Resource planning and workforce planning is one of those workflows within the construction industry that is difficult to track at the best of times. Throughout COVID, there are potential project delays, there are certain people that need to be on the job site, or that need to be at a different job site, there are maybe people that need to quarantine, that can’t go to the job site,” Brodie told BetaKit. “So tracking people during COVID was that much more of a priority for companies, and we saw that reflected within the usage of our product.”
In addition to the increased usage of its Bench platform, the CEO claimed Bridgit tripled its monthly recurring revenue, hired two new employees, and secured new customers during the pandemic.
Bridgit is now ahead of its original forecast for this fiscal year, Brodie claimed, adding that this growth for the startup is a reflection of how the construction industry has been impacted by the pandemic.
“In terms of the construction market, it was, in most geographies, deemed as an essential service throughout most of the pandemic to date,” Brodie said. “We were seeing various [project] shutdowns in certain cities or certain provinces and states for a very short amount of time, but in general, it was an industry that continued to move forward.”
Last year, when Bridgit opened its first satellite office in Toronto, Brodie and Lake told BetaKit a focus for 2020 would be to expand to new geographic markets within Canada, as well as in the United States and Europe.
Given the current pandemic and restrictions on travel, Brodie said Bridgit has deferred its global expansion initiatives, but noted that she believes the new strategic investment from multinational organization Autodesk, will help accelerate Bridgit’s expansion efforts when the time is right to enter new markets.
Bridgit first connected with Autodesk more than four years ago. In 2018, Autodesk acquired a company called BuildingConnected, a fellow construction software startup. Brodie said the acquisition, which took place around the same time Bridgit launched Bench, led to more conversations between Bridgit and Autodesk.
The Bridgit CEO added that she has noticed over the last few years, more venture capital has been deployed into the construction tech sector, and adoption has been increasing with the emergence of new technologies.
“As new platforms are introduced to construction and as we continue to build on our platform, there will be an even wider acceptance and excitement around those tools, because [they give] companies more flexibility to access important information from wherever they are,” Brodie added.
Image courtesy Bridgit.
IRICoR and the Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation: Joint $3M investment for new treatments – Canada NewsWire
MONTREAL, July 14, 2020 /CNW Telbec/ – The pandemic has highlighted the importance of supporting scientific research in order to allow investigators to find real solutions to deal with public health issues such as COVID-19 or cancer. In this context, IRICoR and the Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation (QBCF) have joined forces to fund research on breast cancer, a cancer that affects a large and vulnerable population. Today, they proudly announce the four recipients of their joint LeadAction|Breast Cancer du Sein Competition, launched across Canada. These winning investigators from Quebec will benefit from a total amount of 3 million dollars over three years, with $1.5M coming from IRICoR and $1.5M from the QBCF.
This substantial support will enable recipients to accelerate their innovative breast cancer research work in order to offer more therapeutic options to those affected. The projects selected target two major breast cancer issues:
- Understanding why certain types of breast cancer are treatment-resistant and thus fight these resistance mechanisms with new therapies.
- Developing new treatments for aggressive types of breast cancer, such as triple-negative and HER2-dependent.
“The LeadAction|Breast Cancer du Sein Competition is unique and innovative! It is translated by the convergence of three vital scientific and social innovation components, namely science, industry and the patient community. Therefore, by jointly launching this call, IRICoR and the Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation have met the glaring needs of the people affected by breast cancer, by supporting large-scale projects that will result in developing new promising therapies”, points out Jida El Hajjar, Ph.D., Vice-President of Investment and Health Promotion at the QBCF.
“Leading-edge breast cancer research must effectively translate into benefits to patients. The LeadAction|Breast Cancer du Sein Competition represents an exceptional opportunity to support creative projects that will ensure the development of novel therapeutic solutions for those suffering from breast cancer. This Competition allows us to seize the opportunity of combining our expertise in transforming research into therapeutic innovations with respect to the needs of breast cancer patients. IRICoR is excited about the outstanding quality of the projects submitted as part of the LeadAction|Breast Cancer du sein Competition launched across Canada“, added Dr. Nadine Beauger, Ph.D., MBA, Chief Executive Officer of IRICoR.
Recipients of the LeadAction|Breast Cancer du Sein Competition
Following a competitive process and a thorough assessment of applications from Quebec and the rest of Canada by an independent international peer committee, four projects were selected:
1. Blocking the addictions of cancerous tumors in order to destroy them
Rationally designed approaches to target mRNA translation in eradicating poor outcome breast cancers [Team headed by Jerry Pelletier, Principal Investigator at the Goodman Cancer Research Centre, McGill University]
While cancer cells depend on the translation of mRNA to produce the proteins required for their aggressive nature, no molecule has yet been developed to block that process in breast cancer. The team headed by Jerry Pelletier seeks to remedy that situation by developing a molecule belonging to a whole new class of anti-cancer agent that can target and block that addiction.
2. Countering resistance to treatments
Development of orally bioavailable antiestrogens optimized for induction of estrogen receptor post-translational modifications by SUMOylation [Team headed by Sylvie Mader, Principal Investigator at the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer (IRIC) of the Université de Montréal]
30 to 50% of patients affected by hormone-dependent (ER+) breast cancer develop resistance to therapies targeting the estrogen receptor. This team has already discovered that SUMOylation of the estrogen receptor contributes to the efficacy of fulvestrant, an anti-estrogen used in the treatment of ER+ breast cancer progressing after hormonal therapy. They are now working on developing new molecules optimized for this activity to better treat those affected by ER+ metastatic breast cancer.
3. Demystifying the role of a protein responsible for the spread of triple-negative breast cancer
Development of small-molecule inhibitors of Ran GTPase as anti-cancer agents [Team headed by Anne-Marie Mes-Masson, Principal Investigator at the CHUM Research Centre]
Breast cancer is much more difficult to treat at the metastatic stage. In many cases, the protein Ran is associated with the spread of the disease to the other healthy tissues. The two investigators are currently testing molecules to curb the protein Ran for the purpose of slowing down or stopping the progression of breast cancer.
4. Developing a new molecule comparable to vitamin D to fight triple-negative breast cancer
Bifunctional vitamin D analogues as novel therapeutics against triple-negative breast cancer [Team headed by John White, Principal Investigator at the Lady Davis Institute, Jewish General Hospital]
This team of investigators developed a new class of molecules as therapeutic agents against triple-negative breast cancer. They are vitamin D analogues. Their distinctive feature: they combine 2 active functions against cancer, namely HDAC inhibitors and the active form of vitamin D.
Designated as a Centre of Excellence in Research and Commercialization (CECR) by the Canadian government and based at the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer (IRIC) of the Université de Montréal, IRICoR is a pan-Canadian leader in the de-risking of early-stage assets in the field of drug discovery. IRICoR’s mandate is to accelerate the discovery, development, and commercialization of novel therapies in cancer and rare diseases. Since 2008, IRICoR has been successfully investing in and supporting selected high-value projects in order to rapidly translate early-stage innovation into potential new therapies, through either co-development partnerships with the biopharmaceutical industry or the creation of spin-off companies. IRICoR seamlessly combines its business-related expertise with access to industry-level drug discovery capabilities, providing selected academic and industry projects with access to its network of experts and cutting-edge infrastructure, including one of the largest academia-based drug discovery unit in Canada. IRICoR’s major funding sources include the federal CECR Program, the Ministère de l’Économie et de l’Innovation du Québec (MEI), and collaborative partnerships with the biopharmaceutical industry.
For more information about IRICoR: iricor.ca
About the Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation
The Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation (QBCF) is dedicated to achieving its vision: a breast cancer free future. Breast cancer milestones underline the importance of our MISSION: advancing leading-edge research, education, community support, and advocacy. Since 1994, QBCF has raised more than $46 million to support promising research leading to key breakthroughs in breast cancer screening, diagnosis, treatment, survivorship, and end-of life care. Our role as catalyst for establishing strategic collaborations brought cancer institutions, health professionals, and researchers to adopt interesting innovations such as artificial intelligence, telehealth, 3-D printing, big data, and many more. Together with our researchers, volunteers, supporters, stakeholders and staff, we are committed to continue our mission and to transform breast cancer control.
For more information about the Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation: rubanrose.org/en
For further information: For further information or interviews: Marie-Pier Cornellier, Media Relations and Communications Specialist, Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation, 819 572-1254, [email protected] ; Noémie Desbois Mackenzie, Communication Advisor, Public Relations, IRICoR, 514 475-7682, [email protected]
Google Is in Advanced Talks to Invest $4 Billion in Jio Platforms – BNN
Google is in advanced talks to buy a stake in Reliance Industries Ltd.’s digital arm Jio Platforms Ltd., according to people familiar with the matter.
The U.S. technology company has been discussing an investment of about US$4 billion, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private. An announcement could come as soon as the next few weeks, according to the people.
Details of the potential deal could change, and negotiations could still be delayed or fall apart, the people said. Representatives for Google and Reliance didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Google would join Facebook Inc. and a slew of private equity firms piling into billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s technology venture, which has already attracted more than US$15 billion of investments in just a few months. An arm of Qualcomm Inc. was the latest in Jio’s growing list of high-profile investors, who also include Silver Lake Partners and Mubadala Investment Co.
Shares of Reliance Industries pared losses in Mumbai on the Bloomberg News report. The stock slipped about one per cent as of 2:42 p.m. local time, outperforming a 1.8 per cent decline in S&P BSE Sensex index. Reliance shares have more than doubled since a low in March to a record on investments into Jio.
On Monday, Google said it plans to spend US$10 billion over the next five to seven years to help accelerate the adoption of digital technologies in India. The amount could be put into partnerships and equity investments among others.
Sundar Pichai, who was born in the country and is now chief executive officer of parent Alphabet Inc., said the outbreak of the coronavirus has made clear the importance of technology for conducting business and for connecting with friends and family.
Google, founded in 1998 in Silicon Valley, entered India six years later with offices in Bangalore and Hyderabad. The India business has since grown into one of the company’s most important. The country now has more than 500 million internet users, second only to China, with growth that has drawn all the American technology giants.
In the last decade, Google has successfully launched several products in India, including a Google internet Saathi service to bring women in rural areas online and its popular Google Pay service.
–With assistance from P R Sanjai
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