Dude, Where's My Vaccine?

So, when are we getting that COVID vaccine? Is anyone on that? Turns out some people are — many people, in fact. And thanks to a range of factors, we may have something useful in record time (like, this year).

The lead scientist developing the Oxford vaccine says they could be through large-scale (10,000 people) human trials by September, and believes there's an 80% chance it'll work. That's some good news for a change.

There are dozens of other vaccine candidates in development:

  • Moderna's vaccine is in Phase 2 (small scale human testing) and early results look somewhat promising.
  • A number of vaccines in development in China are in Phase 3.
  • A clinical trial of a Canadian-made vaccine is under way in Quebec City with 6 participants.
Why it matters: Getting a vaccine or effective treatment is crucial to saving lives and fully restarting the economy. But vaccines usually take many years to develop, so compressing that into the course of months would be a remarkable feat of science.
Read more

Digging Out Of The Hole

The Bank of Canada's new forecast for the economy is out, and it ain't pretty. The Bank reported that GDP fell 15% so far this year, and predicted the economy will shrink by 7.8% in 2020. Some other key notes from the report:

  • Inflation: Despite record spending and the Bank pumping money into the economy, inflation fell to -0.1% and is expected to only reach 0.6% by the end of the year.
  • Interest Rates: The Bank is keeping them at 0.25%, the lowest they've ever been.
  • Rebound: The report assumes no major second wave of COVID and an end to the virus by mid-2022.

What is the Bank doing?


  • Keeping interest rates low. The Bank has pledged to keep interest rates at record lows until at least 2023. Tiff Macklem, the Bank's Governor, also said rates wouldn't be going lower than that. Sad news for everyone hoping to see the rates go negative.
  • Buying more government bonds... $5 billion each week, to be precise. Macklem said this will continue until the recovery picks up pace.
  • And buying them more often. It's doing weekly purchases, rather than bi-weekly, to keep liquidity flowing into financial markets.

Will it be enough?


Even with unprecedented intervention by the Bank and Federal government to boost the economy, there's still significant risks ahead:

  • A second wave. If there's another round of lockdowns, all bets are off.
  • Global market instability and bad corporate debts, a risk which the Fed's top regulator warned of today.
  • America. We're tightly connected to the U.S. economy, and things there aren't going so great (have you noticed?). 3 of the top 6 U.S. banks are stockpiling cash to handle future losses... $47 billion at this point, in fact.
Read more

Peak Picks

  • Washington's football team is getting a new name, here are five other pro franchises who took on a new moniker.
  • Italian scientists complete an extremely socially distanced surgery.
  • Want to go on vacation while stuck at home? Check out these live streams of beautiful beaches. 
Read more

Leftovers

Read more

Cops Go Rogue on Minister

A bizarre story has come in to public view in Alberta after three years in the shadows. The 2017 event, first reported on this week, involves a pair of police officers who photographed and surveilled the then provincial Environment Minister Shannon Philips.

Apparently, the keystone cops where upset that the minister planned to ban ATVs from a wilderness area.

So What Happened?

  • The officers involved have been demoted for a 1-2 years.
  • Premier Kenny and Justice Minister Schweitzer expressed 'outrage' and have asked the police watchdog to investigate.
  • Alberta's opposition NDP are calling for an out of province investigation into the matter.
Read more

A Bridge to Autodesk

Autodesk has taken a stake in Canadian construction tech startup Bridgit Bench as part of a $9.2M financing round. Bridgit, which automates a number of previously manual process, is used by over 70 constructions firms in North America. The deal isn't just about cash, Bridgit will be added to Autodesk's construction cloud platform, opening up access to new customers already using Autodesk's 3D modelling software, a 10 times bigger pool than their current customer base.

Other investors in Bridgit's latest round include: Export Development Canada and past investors Business Development Bank of Canada Women in Technology Venture Fund, Salesforce Ventures, Sands Capital and StandUp Ventures.
Read more

Huawei Loses Reception In The West

Huawei is finding itself increasingly isolated in the west, as the U.K bans the Chinese telecom giant from providing equipment to their new 5G network. In January, the British Government said Huawei would be able to supply the network, albeit in a limited capacity, but reversed the decision this week, going further requiring all equipment be removed by 2027.

The reversal can be attributed to the widely held belief Huawei is used by the Chinese state to spy on rival nations, this is on top of long simmering but now rising tensions between the west and China, over trade policy, human rights, most notably the recent crackdown on Hong Kong, as well as blame for the outbreak and response to the Corona Virus.
 
Recent Dropped Calls for Huawei:

Read more

Canada's Back...In The Red

Canada is on some shaky fiscal footing according to analysis by Bloomberg which predicts a doubling of federal interest payments if interest costs on debt returns to last year's levels. On the bright side with interest rates at an all time low, the cost of Canada's debt is at its lowest level since the 1980s. Taking advantage of the cheap debt, Finance Minister Morneau is ramping up the nation's borrowing with plans to issue $107B in 10 and 30 year bonds, six times the amount issued last year. Canada's total debt has surpassed $1 trillion for the first time ever this year, creating a risk experts are calling very real.
Read more

La Belle Province Takes The Lead

Quebec took an early lead among Canadian provinces in Corona Virus cases and deaths but quickly righted the ship with early and immediate measures to lock down. Now the province is once again out in front of the rest of Canada by becoming the first provincial government to require masks in all indoor public spaces.
 
La Controversy
 
If a customer is found to be not wearing a mask in a private business the owners are responsible for fines ranging from $400 to $6,000. Business owners are upset the burden of enforcement falls to them. After months of economic hardship they'll have to police lunatics with a cellphone filming in one hand, who gleefully push their way past minimum wage grocery store workers to breath freely sans mask on fellow shoppers. In contrast, Toronto who passed a similar mask by-law levies a $1000 fine against the maskless individual.

La Vaccine

 
Residents of Quebec now have the distinct honour of being the first Canadians to have a Covid-19 vaccine tested on them. The vaccine, developed by biotech Medicago, was injected in six volunteers this week, with another 180 to follow. According to the company there's no shortage of participants.

This trial is in the earliest stages, human safety studies, the actual efficacy is next, simply put it's along way to go.

Quoi Suivant?

Globally, there are 180 vaccines in development but experts stress the need for a homegrown solution to deal with unprecedented demand. Another promising Canadian option is being developed by CanSino, a Chinese company, in partnership with the Canadian National Research Council, which has already conducted a clinical trial in Wuhan, China. Each of these vaccines will need to make their way through clinical trials, proving themselves to be safe in humans and effective against the virus. After that, a scramble to scale production.
Read more

Peak Picks

  • What's it like to get an infamous "?" email from Jeff Bezos? A former Amazon exec explains.
  • This 100 year old footage of Tokyo is worth 5 minutes of your day.
  • Summer holidays might have to be domestic this year, so here's 10 picks for awesome summer travel destinations inside the country (with a heavy emphasis on outdoor-friendly spots).
Read more