Sunday Briefing | #124
"It's an investment in pandemic preparedness... an investment in these critical technologies that are really the technologies of the future." - James Taylor, CEO, Precision Nanosystems, Inc.
Good afternoon and hello to our new subscribers. This week, explore the Vancouver biotech firm set to produce 240 million doses of vaccine every year; the company helping people track healthcare websites to secure their vaccine shots; the controversial facial recognition software that five B.C. police officers reportedly used, and; a new $12 million government program to help businesses launch online stores.
Today’s Sunday Briefing is about 1,700 words, a 5-minute read. Enjoy.
Founder, Vancouver Tech Journal
(Always feel free to email me at email@example.com with questions or comments.)
💉 South Vancouver-based Precision Nanosystems (PNI) is building a $50.2 million 40,000 square foot manufacturing centre that could produce up to 240 million doses of vaccine every year.
The federal government has chipped in $25.1 million from its Strategic Innovation Fund to create the facility.
Why now? Well, it turns out that every COVID-19 vaccine maker that Canada signed a contract with last year was asked if they could make the actual doses in Canada. The pharma companies reviewed Canada’s biomanufacturing infrastructure and said, “Uh, hard pass.”
According to Canada’s Procurement Minister Anita Anand, “The manufacturers reviewed the identified assets here in Canada and concluded that biomanufacturing capacity in this country… was too limited to justify the investment of capital and expertise to start manufacturing in Canada.”
I guess sometimes you do need to just throw money at a problem, and that’s what the federal government is doing here. And although the new facility will not produce vaccines until 2023, PNI CEO James Taylor told CTV that the facility’s importance goes beyond it: “It's an investment in pandemic preparedness, an investment in the future, an investment in these critical technologies that are really the technologies of the future.”
Big picture: The centre will support the Government of Canada's national biomanufacturing strategy to expand the production capacity of critical medicines for the prevention and treatment of all diseases.
🏥 Speaking of vaccinations, people are leveraging the technology of software firm Visualping to track, find and secure vaccination appointments.
Vancouver-based Visualping is a simple yet powerful tech tool that allows anyone to track changes to a website.
For example, in the past users might use it to monitor when concert tickets go on sale; similarly, a job hunter could track changes to a company’s careers page and get notified when a new job is posted.
As a writer, I use it to track corporate websites and catch corporations trying to quietly share bad news.
Now, as NBC reports, people are using the tool to “keep track of health care, county and drug store websites…” for vaccinations. The tool even sends users links, so they’re able to visit the website they’re tracking right away and potentially secure an appointment. I’m surprised health care providers haven’t setup simple digital sign up forms and waitlists. Until then, I’m sure Visualping appreciates the attention and creative uses of its product, even if a medical tech tool is not what they initially set out to build.
🌯 Food fight: Innovation Minister Ravi Khalon is “extremely disappointed” by Skip The Dishes decision to add $0.99 “BC fee” to delivery orders.
Rewind: As provinces have weaved in and out of lockdown, people have increasingly through necessity or preference turned to food delivery apps like Skip the Dishes and UberEats for their meals.
As these services have proliferated, a spotlight has been put on the significant fees (as much as 30% of order totals) they charge the restaurants that rely on them as a revenue channel. In response, the B.C. government enacted a temporary 15% cap on the fee amount that delivery services can charge restaurants as a way to help the struggling hospitality industry.
This brings us to today: Skip quietly added a $0.99 BC fee to all orders that the consumer now pays, theoretically to make up the revenue shortfall—and there are many opinions on this.
“I’m extremely disappointed in this decision by Skip The Dishes,” said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Jobs, Economy Recovery and Innovation. He also indicated that the province’s Solicitor General’s office would seek legal advice on further action.
Political writer Rob Shaw shared his disgust with the move, tweeting: “@SkipTheDishes, which has hurt B.C. restaurants with up to 30% delivery fees during this pandemic, now has the gall to charge British Columbians a 99c surcharge as retribution for the BC government stepping to set a cap on its gouging of local businesses? Outrageous.”
Not everyone is up in arms: Former BC Green Party leader Dr. Andrew Weaver weighed in with the following: “The 99¢ is paid by consumer. Have you ever looked at the delivery cost for grocery delivery? You realize a driver has to get paid. And they drive their own cars. Better the consumer pay than gouge the restaurant. Classic sensationalist overblown journalism at its worst IMHO.”
What now? Firstly, we should support restaurants by ordering from them directly when possible. Secondly, and more importantly, we should do everything we can to end this pandemic, so we can all go back to eating in full capacity restaurants as soon as possible.
⏩ Quick Takes
The privacy commissioner of British Columbia has revealed five individual police officers in the province used a controversial facial recognition service that “illegally” harvested billions of social media images.
Routific has launched Shop Local, an online hub for Vancouverites to discover bakeries, florists, breweries, and other companies that deliver in their area.
From food delivery solutions to mental health apps, many of the most creative solutions to national problems in 2020 came from Canada’s technology industry.
More than 900 people have enrolled in the B.C. government's digital marketing program.
Vancouver-based mCloud Technologies Corp., which uses artificial intelligence, cloud computing and sensors to monitor and improve the efficiency of energy-intensive assets — from commercial buildings to oil and gas facilities — announced that it will relocate its head office to Calgary.
📈 Pulse check: The health and biotech news keeping hearts racing.
Techcouver: A consortium of leading Canadian organizations has come together to launch Telewound Care Canada, a virtual care initiative designed to help patients connect with their care teams while reducing unnecessary travel and in-person care
💰Money talks: Financial news to know.
Get up to $7,500 to create or improve your online store. The B.C. government is investing $12 million to help businesses launch or upgrade an online store that will provide the platform they need to increase their sales revenues, become more competitive and grow.
Carbon capture tech firm Svante raised USD $75M financing led by Temasek and strategic investors Chart Industries, Carbon Direct and Export Development Canada. Svante offers companies in emissions-intensive industries a commercially viable way to capture large-scale CO2 emissions from existing infrastructure, either for safe storage or to be used for further industrial use in a closed loop.
UpMeals, a leading white-label, prepared-meal solution for businesses, recently closed its seed capital raise at $800,000. The funds will be used to expand its proprietary software for its SmartVending machines and app.
Vancouver’s Vancity is a limited partner (LP) in a massive $150 million fund being raised by MacKinnon, Bennett & Co. for cleantech investing. Other investors include Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and the Quebec government.
📝 Views from the 604: The week’s smartest ideas and opinions.
Techcouver / Charli
LinkedIn / Maria Pacella
BCBC / Greg D’Avignon
The CEO of the Business Council of B.C. writes that Canada and B.C. have been punching above their weight in developing new science, ideas and applications, but hasn’t done well in converting those into commercial success or leveraging home-grown innovation to create larger businesses
LinkedIn / David Brodie
Forbes / Michelle Kwok
IDG Connect / Ryan Wong
CVCA CENTRAL / Brenda Irwin
Pender Ventures blog / Kenndle McArdle
Pacific Content / Steve Pratt
📅 Get tech news briefings every day.
The Vancouver Tech Journal is testing a Morning Report. It includes everything in the Sunday Briefing and more—delivered to your inbox daily at 6:00am from Tuesday to Friday. For anyone who relies on the most up to date tech news to fuel their workday, deal flow and decision making, the Morning Report is for you. Join the waitlist to be considered for our ongoing beta test.
😎 Pretty cool: What’s new and novel.
Vancouver is Awesome / Brent Richter: North Vancouver’s Hatfield Consultants is leading a $5.3-million smartWhales program and consortium set up by the Canadian Space Agency to spend the next three years spying on the North Atlantic right whale from space in hopes of saving the species from extinction
MobileSyrup / Bradly Shankar: Vancouver’s WildBrain developing Sonic the Hedgehog animated series for Netflix
BCBusiness / Nathan Caddell: Creatus Biosciences has genetically engineered a new species of micro-organism to produce compounds from xylose sugars, with applications ranging from biofuels to food additives