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Elon goes to China, Rivian is selling stock for $3 billion, and Fiat’s cutest tiny EV

Welcome back to The Station, your central hub for all past, present and future means of moving people and packages from Point A to Point B. Rebecca Bellan…

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Welcome back to The Station, your central hub for all past, present and future means of moving people and packages from Point A to Point B.

Rebecca Bellan here, and yup, I’m still steering the ship.

The biggest news this week has been Elon Musk’s visit to China, a move that has the potential to strengthen Tesla’s ties with the world’s largest auto market. It’s Musk’s first visit since the COVID-19 pandemic, and his commitment to China isn’t surprising given how much China’s vehicle sales carry the automaker’s global sales. In Q1, China accounted for over half of Tesla’s deliveries.

Even though Twitter is banned in China, Musk has still managed to make himself something of a legend to the Chinese people, reports Rita. The CEO has over 2 million followers on Weibo, where Musk shares his admiration for China, his opposition to cutting off supply chains and his plans to expand his business in China.

“The China space program is far more advanced than most people realize,” wrote Musk on Weibo.

His sweet-talking has earned him the nickname “Iron Man.”

The pieces of Musk’s visit to China are still falling, and we’ll keep updating, but here’s what we know so far. Musk kicked off his trip by dining with Zeng Yuqun, chairman of CATL, one of the largest battery manufacturing companies. There have been talks lately of CATL and Tesla partnering to build cheaper batteries in the U.S., but there’s nothing solid yet.

Musk also paid a visit to the Shanghai Gigafactory, where he met the staff behind Tesla’s popular Model 3 and Model Y.

We’re keeping our eyes out for more news of Musk’s happenings in China. And with that, onto the rest!


Want to reach out with a tip, comment or complaint? Email Kirsten at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com. You also can send a direct message to @kirstenkorosec. Or you can reach Rebecca at rebecca.techcrunch@gmail.com or follow her at @rebeccabellan.

Reminder that you can drop us a note at tips@techcrunch.comIf you prefer to remain anonymousclick here to contact us, which includes SecureDrop (instructions here) and various encrypted messaging apps.

Micromobbin’

Cake is expanding into India via a partnership with Pepfuels under the brand name CollarEV.

Cowboy is being sued by eBikeLabs, a French startup that builds embedded software for e-bikes, for patent infringement and copying eBikeLabs’ tech in its latest feature, AdaptivePower. Cowboy has refuted the claims and accused eBikeLabs of running a smear campaign. As Romain Dillet reports, “This is a messy story about a business relationship that fell apart between a small startup that doesn’t have deep pockets and a popular consumer brand that wants to protect its reputation.”

Zoomo will start offering Urban Arrow’s electric cargo bikes on its e-bike subscription platform.

Residents of Santa Barbara can check out e-bikes on a weekly basis from a new e-bike lending library.

Honda filed patents for two new moped-style electric scooters called Dax:e and Zoomer:e. Both are poised to enter the Indian market.

Zeus launched a solar panel charging pilot program in Regensburg, Germany. Under the pilot, scooters parked at the company’s three “Zolar stations” will get a charge from the sun. Maybe they should be called Helios stations, amiright?!

Porsche has launched two new e-bike cross-performance models that look like they can absolutely shred mountains.

City Spotlight: Atlanta

On June 7, TechCrunch is going to (virtually) be in Atlanta. We have a slate of amazing programming planned, including the mayor himself, Andre Dickens. If you are an early-stage Atlanta-based founder, apply to pitch to our panel of guest investors/judges for our live pitching competition. The winner gets a free booth at TechCrunch Disrupt this year to exhibit their company in our startup alley. Register here to tune in to the event.

Deal of the week

money the station

Lucid Group plans to raise $3 billion through a stock offering, the majority of which will come from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF). PIF already owns more than 60% of the company, and it’s agreed to buy 265.7 million shares in a private placement for about $1.8 billion, which suggests a price of about $6.80 per share. The rest will be raised from a public offering of 173.5 million shares of common stock, according to the company.

Shares immediately dropped 9% after-hours on the news as investors considered how much more money Lucid would need to surmount its rising losses and diminishing available capital. And all of this amid a looming recession, a Tesla-sparked price war, and the aftertaste of large-scale layoffs in March.

Sure, Lucid can bring in more cash, but the company really needs to cure its spending problem. In the first quarter, Lucid’s cash and cash equivalents dropped to $900 million, down from $1.74 billion at the end of Q4 2022.

Other deals that got my attention this week …

Boeing has fully acquired eVTOL startup Wisk Aero. The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Boeing already owned part of Wisk and had committed $450 million in capital back in January.

A British consortium that includes mining company Glencore will invest $9 billion in Indonesia’s mining and EV battery sectors. Indonesia has the world’s biggest nickel reserves.

General Motors and South Korea’s Posco Chemical are getting C$150 million from Canada’s federal government and Quebec to build a battery materials facility. The companies aim to have the C$600 million project up and running by 2025.

Loewi, a Paris-based e-bike refurbishment startup, raised €1 million in funding to help it reach 300 refurbishments per month and expand globally.

Ola Electric, an Indian manufacturer of electric two-wheelers, is said to be preparing for an initial public offering before the year’s end. The company achieved a valuation of $5 billion during its most recent fundraising round in 2022.

Notable reads and other tidbits

Autonomous vehicles

A California bill that would require a trained human safety operator to be present anytime a heavy-duty autonomous vehicle operates on public roads passed the state’s Assembly floor. It’ll go to the Senate now and, if passed, to the governor’s desk. The AV industry argues the bill stifles California’s competitiveness and defeats the whole purpose of self-driving trucks. The bill’s authors are concerned about safety on highways and job security for truckers.

Cruise is expanding hours of operation in San Francisco for certain riders who have access to its free service. For some, rides will start at 9 p.m. and go until 5:30 a.m.

Einride announced a partnership with the UAE Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure to deploy 2,000 EVs, 200 autonomous vehicles, eight charging stations and Einride’s SaaS product Saga across 550 km of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah. The partnership is expected to play out over the next five years. Einride did not share the financial terms.

Serve Robotics and Uber have expanded their existing partnership. Over the next couple of years, about 2,000 of Serve’s little autonomous sidewalk delivery robots will deliver food via the Uber Eats platform in multiple markets across the U.S.

Electric vehicles, batteries and charging

Arcimoto unveiled its new tiny, three-wheeled flatbed truck called the MUV. It has a customizable rear storage space, top speed of 75 mph, and about 102 miles of city range. The MUV is available now for $23,500, and Arcimoto is aiming to sell fleets.

Select 2024 Audi and other VW Group cars will have Webex available to download from the automaker’s in-app car store. Webex is also available on the 2024 Mercedes-Benz E-Class and in Ford vehicles.

Fiat’s new Topolino tiny EV is so cute we could scream. The remade Citroen Ami is a retro-looking quadricycle with a convertible top and ropes instead of doors, and aside from a teaser image, that’s really all we know about it. It probably won’t go any faster than the Ami, which hits around 28 mph, so it’ll be a no-go for the States. Which is sad because, again, it’s super cute and better for the environment and urban landscapes than an electric Hummer.

Ford’s CEO Jim Farley said the automaker might not break even on its EVs until 2030.

Geely is preparing to enter Thailand’s electric vehicle market.

The 2023 Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV is a practical, luxurious car with top-notch tech in the form of a Hyperscreen and a handful of driver-assist features. It’s great for tech-forward families who like the finer things in life and plenty of space. Only downside? The exterior is a bit meh. As Tim Stevens describes it, “The result is a bit of a blob that absolutely disappears into any parking lot.”

Polestar’s latest software update includes YouTube. Like other similar iterations, users can stream video while stopped, like if they’re waiting for a pickup or charging their vehicles. The Polestar 2 software update also includes an updated version of Apple CarPlay that lets you project Apple Maps onto the instrument cluster.

Rivian has teased its smaller, lower-cost R2 SUV design over the Memorial Day weekend during an Instagram Q&A. CEO RJ Scaringe stood in front of a clay model of an R2 covered with a black cloth, outlining a boxy-looking compact vehicle.

Tesla says all of its Model 3 sedans now qualify for the full $7,500 EV tax credit.

Toyota has committed another $2.1 billion to its battery factory in North Carolina. The automaker also said its first U.S.-made electric SUV will be built at its Kentucky factory.

Volkswagen has finally debuted its U.S. version of the Volkswagen ID.Buzz minivan after years of teasing. The specs on the U.S. van are, unsurprisingly, much bigger than the European bus. The whole feel of it is retro-meets-cool, and indeed, we have ourselves asking, Can VW make minivans cool? Once factoring in the nostalgia aspect, the answer is undoubtedly yes. And VW will need that as it coasts into EV-land.

Volvo revealed some details about the interior of its new EX30. From what we can tell, that good old Scandinavian design is really pulling through to optimize space in the small SUV.

Miscellaneous

Attending Apple’s WWDC this month? Check out this new website from flight tracking tool Flighty to find others who are traveling to the event and connect with them, maybe even en route!

Delta Air Lines is being sued in a class action lawsuit for allegedly greenwashing. The company made a $1 billion pledge in 2020 to become carbon neutral, but the plan relied on carbon credits to offset the airline’s pollution.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed a new rule that would require all new cars and trucks sold in the U.S. to be equipped with automatic emergency braking systems.

Tesla has been given the all-clear by NHTSA after the agency closed an investigation into Tesla for allowing in-dash gaming while its vehicles were moving.

Bored of the standard navigation voice on Waze? Now you can have Roger Federer give you turn-by-turn directions, because why not?

Wingcopter and Siemens have signed an MoU to develop and roll out an integrated drone delivery solution to transport lab diagnostics and other medical supplies in Africa.

Ride-hail

Ford launched a new pilot called Ford Drive that will give Uber drivers in San Diego, San Francisco and Los Angeles access to flexible leases on Mustang Mach-Es.

Revel is diversifying its all-Tesla ride-share fleet with about 50 Kia Niro EVs.

Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and other app-based ride-hail and delivery companies will have to reimburse California gig workers potentially millions of dollars for unpaid vehicle expenses between 2022 and 2023. The backpay comes from a provision in Prop 22 that gives low-earning drivers a vehicle reimbursement fee of $0.30 per active mile driven. That fee was meant to increase with the rate of inflation, but for the past year and a half, it has remained stagnant.

Uber is dropping the 5% discounts on rides that it used to offer members of its Uber One subscription service. Instead, riders can now earn 6% Uber Cash on rides that can be spent on more Uber stuff. It’s a bold move, and one that might see the instant gratification seekers among us ditch their memberships. But if it works out for Uber, the company might see even more spend coming from its subscribers.

* A previous newsletter inadvertently had some missing words in the following write-up. Here is the complete sentence. QuantumScape, the solid-state battery company, is (sort of) pivoting. The company said it is planning to focus more on the consumer-electronics sector in an effort to bring in the capital it needs to commercialize automotive-grade cells.

Elon goes to China, Rivian is selling stock for $3 billion, and Fiat’s cutest tiny EV by Rebecca Bellan originally published on TechCrunch

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Glimpse Of Sanity: Dartmouth Returns Standardized Testing For Admission After Failed Experiment

Glimpse Of Sanity: Dartmouth Returns Standardized Testing For Admission After Failed Experiment

In response to the virus pandemic and nationwide…

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Glimpse Of Sanity: Dartmouth Returns Standardized Testing For Admission After Failed Experiment

In response to the virus pandemic and nationwide Black Lives Matter riots in the summer of 2020, some elite colleges and universities shredded testing requirements for admission. Several years later, the test-optional admission has yet to produce the promising results for racial and class-based equity that many woke academic institutions wished.

The failure of test-optional admission policies has forced Dartmouth College to reinstate standardized test scores for admission starting next year. This should never have been eliminated, as merit will always prevail. 

"Nearly four years later, having studied the role of testing in our admissions process as well as its value as a predictor of student success at Dartmouth, we are removing the extended pause and reactivating the standardized testing requirement for undergraduate admission, effective with the Class of 2029," Dartmouth wrote in a press release Monday morning. 

"For Dartmouth, the evidence supporting our reactivation of a required testing policy is clear. Our bottom line is simple: we believe a standardized testing requirement will improve—not detract from—our ability to bring the most promising and diverse students to our campus," the elite college said. 

Who would've thought eliminating standardized tests for admission because a fringe minority said they were instruments of racism and a biased system was ever a good idea? 

Also, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out. More from Dartmouth, who commissioned the research: 

They also found that test scores represent an especially valuable tool to identify high-achieving applicants from low and middle-income backgrounds; who are first-generation college-bound; as well as students from urban and rural backgrounds.

All the colleges and universities that quickly adopted test-optional admissions in 2020 experienced a surge in applications. Perhaps the push for test-optional was under the guise of woke equality but was nothing more than protecting the bottom line for these institutions. 

A glimpse of sanity returns to woke schools: Admit qualified kids. Next up is corporate America and all tiers of the US government. 

Tyler Durden Mon, 02/05/2024 - 17:20

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Four burning questions about the future of the $16.5B Novo-Catalent deal

To build or to buy? That’s a classic question for pharma boardrooms, and Novo Nordisk is going with both.
Beyond spending billions of dollars to expand…

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To build or to buy? That’s a classic question for pharma boardrooms, and Novo Nordisk is going with both.

Beyond spending billions of dollars to expand its own production capacity for its weight loss drugs, the Danish drugmaker said Monday it will pay $11 billion to acquire three manufacturing plants from Catalent. It’s part of a broader $16.5 billion deal with Novo Holdings, the investment arm of the pharma’s parent group, which agreed to acquire the contract manufacturer and take it private.

It’s a big deal for all parties, with potential ripple effects across the biotech ecosystem. Here’s a look at some of the most pressing questions to watch after Monday’s announcement.

Why did Novo do this?

Novo Holdings isn’t the most obvious buyer for Catalent, particularly after last year’s on-and-off M&A interest from the serial acquirer Danaher. But the deal could benefit both Novo Holdings and Novo Nordisk.

Novo Nordisk’s biggest challenge has been simply making enough of the weight loss drug Wegovy and diabetes therapy Ozempic. On last week’s earnings call, Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen said the company isn’t constrained by capital in its efforts to boost manufacturing. Rather, the main challenge is the limited amount of capabilities out there, he said.

“Most pharmaceutical companies in the world would be shopping among the same manufacturers,” he said. “There’s not an unlimited amount of machinery and people to build it.”

While Novo was already one of Catalent’s major customers, the manufacturer has been hamstrung by its own balance sheet. With roughly $5 billion in debt on its books, it’s had to juggle paying down debt with sufficiently investing in its facilities. That’s been particularly challenging in keeping pace with soaring demand for GLP-1 drugs.

Novo, on the other hand, has the balance sheet to funnel as much money as needed into the plants in Italy, Belgium, and Indiana. It’s also struggled to make enough of its popular GLP-1 drugs to meet their soaring demand, with documented shortages of both Ozempic and Wegovy.

The impact won’t be immediate. The parties expect the deal to close near the end of 2024. Novo Nordisk said it expects the three new sites to “gradually increase Novo Nordisk’s filling capacity from 2026 and onwards.”

As for the rest of Catalent — nearly 50 other sites employing thousands of workers — Novo Holdings will take control. The group previously acquired Altasciences in 2021 and Ritedose in 2022, so the Catalent deal builds on a core investing interest in biopharma services, Novo Holdings CEO Kasim Kutay told Endpoints News.

Kasim Kutay

When asked about possible site closures or layoffs, Kutay said the team hasn’t thought about that.

“That’s not our track record. Our track record is to invest in quality businesses and help them grow,” he said. “There’s always stuff to do with any asset you own, but we haven’t bought this company to do some of the stuff you’re talking about.”

What does it mean for Catalent’s customers? 

Until the deal closes, Catalent will operate as a standalone business. After it closes, Novo Nordisk said it will honor its customer obligations at the three sites, a spokesperson said. But they didn’t answer a question about what happens when those contracts expire.

The wrinkle is the long-term future of the three plants that Novo Nordisk is paying for. Those sites don’t exclusively pump out Wegovy, but that could be the logical long-term aim for the Danish drugmaker.

The ideal scenario is that pricing and timelines remain the same for customers, said Nicole Paulk, CEO of the gene therapy startup Siren Biotechnology.

Nicole Paulk

“The name of the group that you’re going to send your check to is now going to be Novo Holdings instead of Catalent, but otherwise everything remains the same,” Paulk told Endpoints. “That’s the best-case scenario.”

In a worst case, Paulk said she feared the new owners could wind up closing sites or laying off Catalent groups. That could create some uncertainty for customers looking for a long-term manufacturing partner.

Are shareholders and regulators happy? 

The pandemic was a wild ride for Catalent’s stock, with shares surging from about $40 to $140 and then crashing back to earth. The $63.50 share price for the takeover is a happy ending depending on the investor.

On that point, the investing giant Elliott Investment Management is satisfied. Marc Steinberg, a partner at Elliott, called the agreement “an outstanding outcome” that “clearly maximizes value for Catalent stockholders” in a statement.

Elliott helped kick off a strategic review last August that culminated in the sale agreement. Compared to Catalent’s stock price before that review started, the deal pays a nearly 40% premium.

Alessandro Maselli

But this is hardly a victory lap for CEO Alessandro Maselli, who took over in July 2022 when Catalent’s stock price was north of $100. Novo’s takeover is a tacit acknowledgment that Maselli could never fully right the ship, as operational problems plagued the company throughout 2023 while it was limited by its debt.

Additional regulatory filings in the next few weeks could give insight into just how competitive the sale process was. William Blair analysts said they don’t expect a competing bidder “given the organic investments already being pursued at other leading CDMOs and the breadth and scale of Catalent’s operations.”

The Blair analysts also noted the companies likely “expect to spend some time educating relevant government agencies” about the deal, given the lengthy closing timeline. Given Novo Nordisk’s ascent — it’s now one of Europe’s most valuable companies — paired with the limited number of large contract manufacturers, antitrust regulators could be interested in taking a close look.

Are Catalent’s problems finally a thing of the past?

Catalent ran into a mix of financial and operational problems over the past year that played no small part in attracting the interest of an activist like Elliott.

Now with a deal in place, how quickly can Novo rectify those problems? Some of the challenges were driven by the demands of being a publicly traded company, like failing to meet investors’ revenue expectations or even filing earnings reports on time.

But Catalent also struggled with its business at times, with a range of manufacturing delays, inspection reports and occasionally writing down acquisitions that didn’t pan out. Novo’s deep pockets will go a long way to a turnaround, but only the future will tell if all these issues are fixed.

Kutay said his team is excited by the opportunity and was satisfied with the due diligence it did on the company.

“We believe we’re buying a strong company with a good management team and good prospects,” Kutay said. “If that wasn’t the case, I don’t think we’d be here.”

Amber Tong and Reynald Castañeda contributed reporting.

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Petrina Kamya, Ph.D., Head of AI Platforms at Insilico Medicine, presents at BIO CEO & Investor Conference

Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb….

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Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb. 26-27 at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. Dr. Kamya will speak as part of the panel “AI within Biopharma: Separating Value from Hype,” on Feb. 27, 1pm ET along with Michael Nally, CEO of Generate: Biomedicines and Liz Schwarzbach, PhD, CBO of BigHat Biosciences.

Credit: Insilico Medicine

Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb. 26-27 at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. Dr. Kamya will speak as part of the panel “AI within Biopharma: Separating Value from Hype,” on Feb. 27, 1pm ET along with Michael Nally, CEO of Generate: Biomedicines and Liz Schwarzbach, PhD, CBO of BigHat Biosciences.

The session will look at how the latest artificial intelligence (AI) tools – including generative AI and large language models – are currently being used to advance the discovery and design of new drugs, and which technologies are still in development. 

The BIO CEO & Investor Conference brings together over 1,000 attendees and more than 700 companies across industry and institutional investment to discuss the future investment landscape of biotechnology. Sessions focus on topics such as therapeutic advancements, market outlook, and policy priorities.

Insilico Medicine is a leading, clinical stage AI-driven drug discovery company that has raised over $400m in investments since it was founded in 2014. Dr. Kamya leads the development of the Company’s end-to-end generative AI platform, Pharma.AI from Insilico’s AI R&D Center in Montreal. Using modern machine learning techniques in the context of chemistry and biology, the platform has driven the discovery and design of 30+ new therapies, with five in clinical stages – for cancer, fibrosis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and COVID-19. The Company’s lead drug, for the chronic, rare lung condition idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, is the first AI-designed drug for an AI-discovered target to reach Phase II clinical trials with patients. Nine of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies have used Insilico’s AI platform to advance their programs, and the Company has a number of major strategic licensing deals around its AI-designed therapeutic assets, including with Sanofi, Exelixis and Menarini. 

 

About Insilico Medicine

Insilico Medicine, a global clinical stage biotechnology company powered by generative AI, is connecting biology, chemistry, and clinical trials analysis using next-generation AI systems. The company has developed AI platforms that utilize deep generative models, reinforcement learning, transformers, and other modern machine learning techniques for novel target discovery and the generation of novel molecular structures with desired properties. Insilico Medicine is developing breakthrough solutions to discover and develop innovative drugs for cancer, fibrosis, immunity, central nervous system diseases, infectious diseases, autoimmune diseases, and aging-related diseases. www.insilico.com 


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