#3 - Frontier Tech Developments
High-speed flight, drug discovery, semiconductors, Apple's autonomous vehicle play, genome biology, Amazon's satellite patent, and great jobs in the frontier tech space.
This week I’m testing a new format where I’ve aggregated some items of note in the frontier tech space - across investment theses, research developments, market commentary, and job opportunities. Let me know what you think!
Frontier Tech Investment Theses
Aerospace: High-Speed Flight by Liz Stein (Prime Movers Lab, 2.2022) - A brief overview on flow physics, hypersonics history, and a look into the future of hypersonic enabling technologies within propulsion and active thermal management systems for reusable hypersonic vehicles.
“Active thermal systems circulate a fluid to reject the heat load — this is where promising technology development is ongoing for reusable hypersonic vehicles.”
“The last time civilians were able to fly supersonic speeds for commercial air travel was in 2003, when the Concorde retired. For 27 years the Concorde carried 100 first-class passengers, cruising at Mach 2 across the Atlantic Ocean.
While the Concorde was a commercial jet, it was heavily subsidized by the British and French governments due to its operational economics. The subsonic takeoff required after-burning engines with 215 percent higher fuel burn than in supersonic cruise ! By contrast, subsonic high-bypass turbofan engines of that era (eg CF6-80C2) had 217 percent better fuel efficiency in cruise. At take-off the Concorde burned 4x more fuel than a subsonic jet! The Rolls Royce/SNECMA Olympus 593 engine afterburners were throwing 2x more fuel into the back for only 19 percent more thrust. (It’s worth noting the North American Xb-70 Valkyrie had GE YJ93 engines that were more fuel efficient and enabled supersonic cruise at Mach 3.) The unoptimized aerodynamics and underperforming engine limited the Concorde’s range to 3900 nm, constraining operations to transatlantic flights only.
“In 1964, citizens of Oklahoma City experienced 8 sonic booms per day for nearly 6 months. The FAA’s study of ~1,200 flights garnered 15,000+ noise complaints and damaged property claims (cracked brittle materials); 25 percent of the Oklahoma City population was not in favor of the sonic boom noise.”
Key Companies: Boom, Exosonic, Spike, Hermeus, Venus, Radian, FGC Plasma, Reaction Engines, Hypersonix, and Beijing Lingkong Tianxing Technology
Biotech: An Introduction to AI Drug Discovery by Amee Kapadia (Cantos Ventures, 3.8.22)
Biotech: A new Stack for a new Biology by Ferdi Sigona at Local Globe VC & Juan Pinilla at BlueYard Capital
“The idea is that starving off cancer tumors quickly is best enabled by precisely removing the nutrients they feed off of, in a way that is nutritionally sustainable to the patient.” “We have a long way to go in terms of fully understanding these treatments but I’m excited to see what these trials reveal, and are looking for teams with especially thoughtful clinical trial design.”
Research Developments in the Frontier Space
Quantum: Hybrid quantum classical algorithms for Quantum by Google Research
"This division of labor between the classical & the quantum computer helped us make good use of both resources. Using our Sycamore quantum processor, we prepared a kind of approximation to the ground state that would be difficult to scale up classically.”
Genome Biology: “11 Grande Challenges in Single Cell Data Science” (2.7.2020)
AI: Nvidia Canvas, powered by the GauGAN2 AI model, replicated DALL-E or Midjourney but within selected brushes, for particular models. The pace of tooling that increases users control over generative art is speeding up exponentially.
Market Commentary in Frontier Tech Space
Semiconductors: TSMC, Intel, and the Backside Power Delivery Network inflection point!
TLDR: Intel is aiming for Power Via (difficult!) and TSMC is aiming for Buried Power Rail (slightly less difficult!)
Autonomous Vehicles: “Inside Apple’s Eight Year Struggle to Build a Self-Driving Car” (7.11.22)
“The Bozeman demo and its aftermath also underscores a mistake Apple and much of the rest of the self-driving-vehicle industry has repeatedly made: Engineers waste precious time choreographing demonstrations along specific routes using technology that works there but almost nowhere else, a phenomenon known as demoware. Some people who have worked on Titan say Apple fell harder into the demoware trap than some rivals.”
(Apple's self-driving test car, a modified Lexus SUV, in March in Sunnyvale, Calif. Photo: Mario Herger)
Apple's Robo City test track in Arizona with simulated city streets. Satellite image by Google, Maxar Technologies
Autonomous Vehicles: “Apple, Autonomous Vehicles, and First Mover Advantages” by Michael Dempsey (Compound, 7/13/22)
"Apple is a wasteland of unfinished or overextended projects that never reached the public (for better or for worse), and unfortunately AVs is a problem that needs sequencing of deployment in order to both generate revenue to make the R&D moderately sustainable, as well as to keep a growing but still limited set of talent engaged, especially when the best talent likely has been compensated enough in their career to retire relatively quickly or join a research lab and effectively retire.”
Biotech: “UnLearn AI” by Dennis Gong (7.05.22)
Notes on the ‘digital twin’ for clinical trials company, and some critiques on a space that garnered hype that I’ve not seen elsewhere.
Bonus Round: Interesting Patents
Interesting in the context of other platforms that it makes a lot of sense for Amazon to move adjacently to given AWS’ deployment expertise, and the satellites they’re building to provide broadband as well. Of course most of these FAANG patents are precautions regarding fairly unlikely future bets but nonetheless.
via Patent Drop Newsletter (I highly recommend subscribing!)
Frontier tech jobs:
Chemical Engineering / Biology: Helaina, synthetic breast milk
See details on what the team is working on here
Biology / (CV/ Embedded Systems) Engineering: Spaero, lab automation
Biology: Culture Biosciences, cloud-based bioreactors
Psychedelics / Manufacturing: Psygen
Biology / Mechanical Engineering: Bionaut, precision medicine delivery through remote controlled nanobots
Healthcare: ARPA-H, Project Lead, help spin up the newest Advanced Research Projects Agency focused on healthcare and scaled biomedical research.
Biology: Convergent FROs, small agile organizations that aim to fill a gap in the translational science landscape.
Focused Research Organizations (FROs) undertake projects too big for an academic lab but not directly profitable enough to be a venture-backed startup or industrial R&D project. Think "Series-A-sized org whose product is a public good to revolutionize a scientific field".
Crypto: Volt Labs, work on crypto projects for the research arms of crypto-focused Volt Capital.
Looking to bounce around ideas about technology in the space? Looking for a cofounder or team member, or what to submit a job description to be featured in my newsletter? Trying to join a new frontier tech startup? Fill out the form below and let me know what’s on your mind. I’ll do my best do respond with an answer, suggestion, company, or meeting time!
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