5 things you should know about tech today

- February 25, 2020 3 MIN READ
NASA research mathematician Katherine Johnson at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. She worked there from 1953 until her retirement in 1986. Photo: NASA


1. Ozdaq dacked

The ASX’s new technology sector index, the S&P/ASX All Tech Index (ATI), an Australian version of the US Nasdaq composite index – which is why we’ve dubbed it the Ozdaq – had a less than auspicious start yesterday amid as concerns about coronavirus rattle markets globally. Around $51 billion in value was wiped from ASX-listed companies on Monday – the pain looks set to continue today – with the All Ordinaries down 2.34%.

The All Tech Index (ASX:TXT), which features 46 listed companies, including Xero, Computershare, Afterpay, Altium,  Carsales and REA Group, Next DC and Wisetech, had a tougher time, losing 4.12%, the second worst performance among the more than 40 indices on the ASX.

Source: ASX

Even tech market darling Xero had a bad day, losing 4.35% to close Monday at $83.50. Afterpay lost more than 5% for finish under $37. Wisetech, which has seen around $3 billion, a third, of its market cap, wiped in the past week as the coronavirus hits trade volumes for the logistics software business, fell a further 2.33% to $18.83.

Overnight, Wall Street had it worst day in two years. The ASX looks set to follow the mood today.


2. WeWork’s sex and drugs hush money

WeWork paid more than US$2 million to a woman on its real estate team who sent the company a 50-page dossier of allegations about inappropriate sex, illegal drugs, and pay discrimination, including male managers who slept with their subordinates Business Insider reports ($). BI spoke to 18 current and former executives and employees, either involved with the investigation or familiar with the real estate team, about the complaint and threatened lawsuit about the company’s culture and what was going on. It’s not a pretty picture.

WeWork’s new CEO, Sandeep Mathrani, issued a statement saying the business is now in a “new chapter” that’s “fully invested in upholding a culture of integrity.”

There’s more on it all here.


3.  $2.32m up for grabs in Vietnamese collaboration grants

Grants worth up to $1 million for startups willing to make a difference in Vietnam are up for grabs under a program known as Aus4Innovation Partnership Grants. All up $2.32 million is available in this second and final round.

The program’s theme is “Scaling existing Australia–Vietnam Innovation Partnerships”, and offers between $100,000 and $1m for existing partnerships between Australian and Vietnamese institutions ready to scale up.

Australia’s Ambassador to Vietnam, Robyn Mudie, said “we will support innovative ideas in different sectors that have potential for wide-scale application, will deliver lasting socioeconomic impact, and can help strengthen the Vietnamese innovation ecosystem.”

You can download the Grant Guidelines and Frequently Asked Questions and send in an Expression of Interest to apply here. Appliocations close on March 17.


4. Opyl says its AI for clinical trials is working

ASX-listed data science software startup Opyl took another small step forward last week, saying it had successfully completed the first critical proof-of-concept stage of development for a machine learning/artificial intelligence algorithm based software interface predicting the likelihood of a clinical trial completing each phase. 

The software optimises clinical trials across study planning, protocol design, recruitment and site location through to selection of the best contract research organisation for particular diseases in key geographic locations.

Opyl CEO Michelle Gallaher said the algorithm has the potential to dramatically disrupt the clinical trial feasibility sector and reduce risks and cost to global biopharma and medtech developers. 

“Understanding how trial variables impact on outcome is a powerful competitive advantage for developers in designing the optimal protocol and for investors looking to reduce risk and optimise returns,” she said. 

The Opyl model has predicted trails with a 70% chance of success,  and others low as less than 1%.  The company is hoping to commercialise its software via subscription. 


5. Vale Katherine Johnson

Mathematician Katherine Johnson, whose life story was told in the film Hidden Figures, has died. She was 101.

A pioneering black American, Johnson was one of NASA’s “human computers”, calculating trajectories and other movements for Project Mercury, the space program, and the Apollo moon missions, a brilliant mind in a nation still in the grip of segregation.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine paid tribute to Johnson, saying she “helped our nation enlarge the frontiers of space even as she made huge strides that also opened doors for women and people of color in the universal human quest to explore space. Her dedication and skill as a mathematician helped put humans on the moon and before that made it possible for our astronauts to take the first steps in space that we now follow on a journey to Mars.

“At NASA we will never forget her courage and leadership and the milestones we could not have reached without her. We will continue building on her legacy and work tirelessly to increase opportunities for everyone who has something to contribute toward the ongoing work of raising the bar of human potential.”

NASA renamed its West Virginia facility in her honour last year and in 2015, Barack Obama presented Johnson with the country’s highest civilian honour – the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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