Weekly Dose of Optimism #17
Cancer Vaccines, Super Sponges, Starlink Aviation, Pillars of Creation, Q>1, Lex
Come for the Optimism, stay for the in-depth analyses of tech companies and trends:
Hi friends 👋,
Happy Friday and welcome to our 17th Weekly Dose of Optimism.
The Weekly Dose is brought to you by…Masterworks
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See important Reg A disclosures.
Ian Sample for The Guardian
It’s not everyday at Not Boring that we’re giving a positive shoutout to The Prof, but props where props are due: he brought this incredible story to our attention. The company that partnered with Pfizer to manufacture its mRNA Covid vaccine is now claiming that similar technologies can be used to create cancer vaccines by the end of this decade. BioNTech, founded by a Husband-Wife duo profiled in this 2020 NYT’s piece, had been researching mRNA cancer vaccines prior to Covid, but when the emergency need for a vaccine occured, they pivoted. Now, flush with cash from the successful Pfizer Covid vaccine, the company has several cancer vaccines already in clinical trials.
Dominique Mosbergen for The Wall Street Journal
Imagine a tiny sponge that weighs as much as a couple of sugar cubes, but that contains so many itty bitty pores that its surface area equals that of a football field. What if scientists could engineer the sponge to serve a variety of therapeutic purposes, including storing drugs and enhancing cancer therapies? Such sponges exist, in a class of ultra-porous crystals known as metal-organic frameworks, or MOFs.
Cancer is getting it from all sides this week. Good. Fuck cancer.
New research on sponge-like crystals known as metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) suggests that the crystalline compounds could transform cancer therapeutics in various ways, from absorbing radiation that harms normal cells during radiation therapy to delivering drugs directly into cancer cells.
But MOFs aren’t cancer-specific. They might have applications in a number of important areas, from healthcare to energy and beyond. Chemists who the WSJ interviewed said “MOFs could become as widespread as polymers, compounds that form the basis of many man-made materials like plastics, in the next decade or two.”
Our ears perked up when we read that (or, our eyes perked up?). After reading Tsung Xu’s excellent two-parter on materials innovation, in which he writes that synthetic polymers were the last real materials breakthrough at scale and argues that a new energy paradigm will come with new materials, we’ve been on the lookout. MOFs, which can pack 7,000 square meters of space into a single gram, seem incredibly cool (but beyond our comprehension. Howwww?).
Proponents believe that MOFs might also play a role in toxic gas detection, tissue regeneration, and carbon capture. MOFs are expensive, but as costs come down, we’re excited to see the new applications that smart people dream up with new materials.
Wifi on airplanes is simultaneously absolutely mind-blowing and incredibly frustrating. On one hand, the fact that we can get wifi aboard a metal bird flying 500 mph 36,000 feet in the air seems like one of the great technological feats of our lifetime. On the other, now that we’ve been spoiled with superfast and capable wifi down on earth, the slow, glitchy and limited airplane connection is one of modern human’s biggest annoyances. You know the bit:
You know what (or rather, who) else is absolutely mind-blowing and incredibly frustrating? Elon Musk. Starlink, a spin-off product from Musk’s second biggest company, has already made waves for bringing high-speed internet access to hard to reach places, such as Ukraine. Now, with this announcement, it’s bringing that same internet to aviation. At ~$200K per year with a 1-time installation fee of $150K, it seems like a no-brainer for private jets that are often ferrying folks with hourly-rates higher than the annual subscription fee. Hopefully, Starlink also strikes deals with commercial airliners, so we normal folk can get our grubby hands on some of that sweet, sweet high-speed internet too!
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has captured a lush, highly detailed landscape – the iconic Pillars of Creation – where new stars are forming within dense clouds of gas and dust. The three-dimensional pillars look like majestic rock formations, but are far more permeable. These columns are made up of cool interstellar gas and dust that appear – at times – semi-transparent in near-infrared light.
Not going to be able to sleep tonight. Anytime one of these beautiful, surreal images of the universe are published, I am left contemplating how I can at once feel so infinitesimally small and also so singularly important. The “Pillars of Creation” have been making people feel this way since 1995, when the Hubble Telescope first captured photos of the star-forming region. The Webb Telescope’s latest photo — a near-infrared-light shot — lets us peer deeper into the region and reveals new stars being formed. Supposedly, the new imagery will allow researchers to have a much deeper understanding of the region…but for our purposes, we just think it’s beautiful.
(5) The race to Q>1
Chris Sacca for Lowercarbon Capital
Q>1 is the Kitty Hawk moment for energy. It’s Lindbergh crossing the Atlantic, Armstrong and Aldrin bouncing around the moon, and Bell calling up Watson because it would be another 120 years before he could just text him memes.
Chris Sacca is famous for running (perhaps) the best returning VC fund of all-time: Lowercase Capital Fund 1 made early bets on Uber, Instagram, Twitter and reportedly returned 250x to LPs. If you invested $100K in that fund, it returned you $25M. After a two year stint on Shark Tank and a four year retirement from investing, Sacca burst back on the scene with Lowercarbon Capital — a climate-focused VC firm with the mission to unf*ck the planet.
Lowercarbon has been one of the most active climate investors of the past few years and on Wednesday it announced a $250M fund, Q>1, dedicated entirely towards advancing fusion technologies. At Not Boring, we’ve written extensively on the Abundance Agenda, which in part advocates for the production of a massive clean energy surplus from sources like nuclear, solar, hydrogen, and new battery technologies. But we haven’t really covered fusion, which seems like a miss. Fusion is the holy grail. If we can pull off fusion, we’ll have unlimited, cheap, clean energy to power a whole new wave of innovations.
So what is Lowercase’s Q1 fund trying to achieve? It’s in the name. Q>1 — “the relationship between the energy required to ignite a fusion reaction and the energy the reaction itself produces is known as the “fusion energy gain factor,” and it is denoted by the character Q.” Q>1 is backing companies and technologies that will make the energy produced by fusion greater than the energy required to ignite a fusion reaction.
If the Q>1 fund is successful, we might have a new best performing venture fund of all time.
Bonus: Our friend Nathan Baschez at Every launched an AI-powered word processor, Lex, this week and lit the internet on fire, with 26k signups and counting. I’ve been using it and loving it to help get unstuck. We have 5 invites: get ‘em while they last!
There’s so much happening in AI right now that it’s moving too fast for even the Weekly Dose. Daily seems to be the right dosage. If you want to keep up, we highly recommend Ben Tossell’s Ben’s Bites: “Your daily dose of what’s going on in AI. 5 minutes or less.” Subscribe.
That’s all for this week. If you enjoyed this week’s email, please share it with a friend or two!
We’ll be back in your inbox 9am EST on Monday morning. Enjoy the weekend.