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It’s ‘mind-boggling’ to be done in 2020

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A doctor involved in a U.S. coronavirus vaccine study said he is hopeful but not convinced that an injection will be available for circulation this year.

Dr. Carlos del Rio, an Emory University professor of medicine, told CNBC on Friday that a Covid-19 vaccine could be ready in some form for distribution by the end of 2020 but cautioned that it’s an unprecedented timeline.

“I am cautiously optimistic,” del Rio said on “Power Lunch,” echoing comments earlier that day from immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci. “We are developing at a pace that has never been done before.”

Atlanta’s Emory University is one site testing a Covid-19 vaccine candidate from Moderna, which in March initiated the first U.S. clinical trial for a solution. Fauci, a leading health advisor on the White House’s coronavirus response team, in a Friday morning interview on NPR said his projected timetable to develop a vaccine — a 12- to 18-month process — remains “intact” and that it’s “conceivable” an injection could be ready to deploy in December.

“Trying to think that, a year after a virus has been identified, we will have a vaccine ready to deploy and ready to go into massive distribution, it’s simply mind-boggling to me,” del Rio said. “I have to be a little cautious and say I hope it happens, but I don’t want to be — I want to make sure we do it the right way.”

In a 65-day window, researchers have isolated and identified the virus and begun testing a potential vaccine on humans, del Rio said.

“That has never, ever occurred before,” he said.

Moderna’s study is being carried out at Emory’s Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit and the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle.

While it typically takes a decade of research to develop a vaccine for public use, experts are trying to respond quickly to the coronavirus, which has infected at least 5 million people and was connected to almost 336,000 deaths around the globe as of Friday afternoon, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Moderna, a Massachusetts-based biotech firm working with the National Institutes of Health to fast-track its vaccine candidate, released encouraging data from its phase one study — seen as a safety phase — with 45 participants earlier this week that excited Wall Street investors. The company expects to begin phase two trials, giving doses to 600 participants, soon and phase three in July. The company plans to have a vaccine ready for the market in early 2021.

A vaccine is seen as one key remedy to help people venture out of the house without being worried about contracting the deadly disease and in turn getting the U.S. economy, which is partially open, back in full swing. Del Rio said the entire population would not need to get the vaccine for it to be effective in controlling future outbreaks.

“If you get 40% of people vaccinated and 20% got the disease, you will get to herd immunity,” he said. “So that’s where we need to get. We don’t need to get 100% of people vaccinated. Herd immunity will then help us.”

The coronavirus outbreak was first seen in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.

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Nikola shares fall to new low on Wedbush downgrade

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Amazon Fire TV Stick and Fire TV Stick Lite announced, start at $30

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Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite

Amazon

Amazon announced two new Fire TV products during its big online hardware event on Thursday. Amazon’s Fire TV gadgets compete directly with Roku and Apple TV, offering people access to popular apps like Disney+, Netflix, Hulu and more. 

Amazon says people are spending more time in front of TVs than ever before due to the spread of coronavirus. It sees the TV as a the center of the household and wants to get even more features in front of users to keep them coming back. The new features may help it compete more aggressively against Roku, which still has a 50% market share of global connected TV streaming hours with strong growth opportunities, according to an analyst note from Deutsche Bank in August.

The new Fire TV Stick and Fire TV Stick Lite will be the first of Amazon’s streaming gadgets to offer a redesigned home screen when they launch next week, although the changes will come to existing Fire TV devices beginning in the first quarter of 2020, too.

Here’s what you need to know.

Easier to find stuff to watch, new user profiles

The new Amazon Fire TV interface, which includes user profiles.

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Amazon’s vice president and general manager of Fire TV, Sandeep Gupta, told CNBC that Amazon received feedback from users suggesting the home screen was too cluttered. Amazon worked on a redesign to make it easier to find stuff to watch and to quickly jump into live TV.

“Today, you can search for comedies, or stuff by Tom Cruise, but we’ve tried to make a landing spot for when you don’t know what you want to watch. This shows you stuff that’s free, movies and TV shows, broader categories, apps and more,” Gupta said. Gupta said the quick access to a TV guide will provide a familiar experience for people transitioning from cable TV to streaming.

The new software supports up to six user profiles. That means you can log into your profile and see the shows and movies Amazon recommends to you, while your significant other can use a separate account for their own personalized recommendations. You can also create profiles for children that will only show kid-friendly content you’ve approved. Previously, you’d have to switch profiles inside each app, like Netflix or Hulu, to see content recommended to you inside those apps.

The latest software provides a new option to see your Ring or Alexa-ready video cameras on your TV through picture-in-picture — kind of like seeing a small window on your screen — while you’re watching movies or TV show. 

Finally, Amazon is expanding its Alexa voice assistant on Fire TV. Gupta told CNBC that there are billions of requests to Alexa and that it has seen an 80% growth in requests on Fire TV over the last year, although he did not provide specific figures.

“It’s a good indication people like Alexa and are using it more to manage shopping routines, recipes, whatever it is, in a centralized place,” he said. Alexa’s responses now pop up and cover just a small part of the screen so you can keep watching or doing what you were without being interrupted.

Video chat for Amazon Fire TV Cube

The Amazon Fire TV Cube

Amazon

Separately from the Fire TV sticks, though still part of the new software that will roll out to other Amazon Fire TV gadgets during the first quarter of 2020, is new video chat support.

People who own the second-generation Fire TV Cube will soon be able to add a Logitech webcam for video chat through Fire TV. It’ll support Alexa video calls and, later, Zoom. It won’t work on the Fire TV sticks since it requires a USB port that’s only found on the Fire TV Cube.

New Amazon Fire TV Sticks price and release date

The new Amazon Fire TV Stick

Amazon

The Fire TV Stick and Fire TV Stick are relatively similar. They’ll cost $39.99 and $29.99, respectively. The Fire TV Stick offers support for newer technologies, like HDR and Dolby Atmos if your TV and speakers support them. Neither support 4K video and are capped at 1080p, so, don’t buy them if you have a 4K TV and want the best quality possible.

If you need 4K, look at the Fire TV Stick 4K, which costs $49.99 but doesn’t ship with the new software. The Fire TV Stick Lite is more basic without Dolby Atmos and some of the more advanced Wi-Fi support for more stable streaming. Both are said to be 50% faster than the last-generation Fire TV Stick, however, and both come with voice remotes that you can use to speak with Alexa to open movies, TV shows, apps and more.

Pre-orders for the new Fire TV Stick and Fire TV Stick Lite begin on Thursday and they’ll begin arriving to customers on Sept. 30.

Subscribe to CNBC on YouTube. 

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Spotify CEO to invest over $1 billion for ‘moonshot’ bets in Europe

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Spotify CEO Daniel Ek

Toru Yamanaka | AFP/Getty Images

LONDON — Spotify CEO Daniel Ek announced Thursday that he will commit 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) of his own resources to invest in European start-ups.

Speaking at a virtual talk hosted by start-up event organizer Slush, Ek said he would use the funds to make “moonshot” bets in the continent, focusing on deep technology — new tools that are focused on scientific innovation. Among the sectors Ek is looking to invest in are health, education, machine learning and biotechnology.

“I want to do my part; we all know that one of the greatest challenges is access to capital,” Ek said, adding he wanted to achieve a “new European dream” — akin to that of the American Dream — over the next decade.

According to Forbes, Ek is worth $3.6 billion, indicating he’s earmarking roughly a third of his own wealth for the investments.

Ek spoke of his frustration with the number of European tech companies being bought up by U.S. rivals, as well as a brain drain of talented entrepreneurs leaving the region for Silicon Valley. One of the most notable examples of European entrepreneurs heading to the U.S. is payments giant Stripe, whose Irish founders went to California to build their company.

“I get really frustrated when I see European entrepreneurs giving up on their amazing visions selling early on to non-European companies, or when some of the most promising tech talent in Europe leaves because they don’t feel valued here,” Ek said. “We need more super companies that raise the bar and can act as an inspiration.”

Europe is often seen as lagging the U.S. and China with respect to technology. While those two economic powerhouses have produced some of the world’s biggest tech companies — Amazon, Microsoft, Tencent and Alibaba, to name a few — Europe is yet to offer a similar scale of success in the industry.

Last year, a record $34.3 billion flowed into Europe’s fledgling tech start-ups, according to figures from venture capital firm Atomico. Companies in the region have continued to raise substantial sums of cash this year, with “buy now, pay later” service Klarna raising $650 million and digital banking app Revolut securing $580 million in fresh funds.

Ek said he will work with scientists, investors, and governments to make his investments. A $1.2 billion fund would see the Spotify founder competing with well-established venture funds like Atomico — itself founded by former Skype CEO Niklas Zennström — Balderton Capital and Northzone.

Another issue in the region’s tech ecosystem has been initial public offerings. Spotify, which is based in Stockholm, Sweden, listed in New York over two years ago, while London-based online luxury marketplace Farfetch also chose America for its market debut. Europe has lagged behind in terms of tech IPOs this year, while a raft of software companies are going public in the U.S.

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