Connect with us

Latest

Ask A Digital Health CEO: How Has Coronavirus Changed The Wellness Industry?

Avatar

Published

on

 

For many people, the coronavirus pandemic has changed their nutrition and exercise habits. One app helping people track their food and lose weight is called Lifesum. The company has scaled rapidly to 45 million users and boasts partnerships with Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Nike (NYSE:NKE).

Fool.com’s Healthcare and Cannabis Bureau Chief Corinne Cardina chatted with Lifesum’s CEO Henrik Torstensson about the digital health and wellness space.

Corinne Cardina: Hello, Henrik, how are you?

Henrik Torstensson: Hi, I’m good. How are you?

Cardina: I’m so good. I am Corinne Cardina. I’m the Bureau Chief of Healthcare and Cannabis on fool.com. Fools, I’ve got with me today Henrik Torstensson, CEO of Lifesum, a digital health service. Henrik, did I say your name right?

Torstensson: It’s Henrik, it’s good.

Cardina: Great. We are going to talk about Lifesum today, but we’re also going to talk about investing in the digital health space and what investors should know about the intersection of technology and wellness. I do want to let our viewers know that we’re testing out a Q&A service called Slido. We use it at The Fool internally, we think you’ll really like it. You can open up Slido in your browser or the app and the code is MFlive. You can submit questions, upvote other people’s questions that you want to see us answer. Let’s start out with learning about Lifesum. Henrik, could you give us a brief history of how you co-founded this company, what it is, what inspired you to start Lifesum and what stage of growth your company is in today?

Torstensson: Absolutely. Thank you for having me. We got started back in 2013. For us, digital health has been a couple of years and always exploding this year. What we do is that our mission is to improve lives through better eating. We help people eat better and manage their weight, and we have 45 million members. The U.S. is our biggest market, and we help people manage their weight and eat better by providing a digital service in apps for iPhone, Android phones, Amazon Halo, and other mass-market digital services.

Cardina: Great. We’ll talk a little bit more about Amazon Halo later, a very exciting development there. But for our investors who are familiar with the digital health industry, I’d love to put Lifesum in context with some of the names that we are familiar with. There’s traditional weight loss companies like Weight Watchers, and we like to give the takers when we’re talking about public companies. I’m just going to put that in the chat. There’s Weight Watchers, it used to be people would show up to the clinic. There was definitely an in-person social component. They’ve certainly pivoted more digitally in recent times, now it’s called WW International (NASDAQ:WW). Then there are digital-first psychology based weight loss apps, and I think Lifesum falls more on this side of things. The one I’m familiar with was Noom. I’d love to hear what is unique about Lifesum and where does it fit in the digital health, and specifically the weight loss side of things?

Torstensson: What we’ve built is something that’s popular both in Europe and the U.S., which is quite unique, 45 million members, and what we built is a service that allows our users to take a personalized approach to how they eat, so that might be that you want to eat a balanced diet, you want to have a high protein diet, you want to do intermittent fasting. We think that’s really key to attract the millennial and Generation Z audiences where we do care No. 1, and so what we’ve done, we’ve built a service with great design, a brand that has built a lot of trust and destigmatized actually changing how you literally eat better and healthier. That’s one of the things with millennials and Generation Z, it’s not the weight watchers of 20 years ago, it’s really about eating better, and the drivers of that are many.

Cardina: Yeah, that’s so true. How has the health and wellness industry evolved over the last couple of decades, and more recently, how has the coronavirus pandemic impacted how people view their health and the role of technology?

Torstensson: Healthcare and wellness is obviously an enormous part of the economy. It’s $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. It’s probably maybe the biggest market we have. In digital, it’s been ramping up, but it’s been a fairly slow start because it’s a complex system. You have individuals, you have insurance companies, you have state governments, federal governments that all have interests. It was picking up speed. This year with COVID and Corona, that really the same way we all ended up on Zoom for most of the year, and that really made having virtual meetings really a default way of operating. Healthcare is coming in the same way that it’s really taking a step from, OK, this is happening a little bit at the edges, to becoming this central thrust of healthcare and the overall market.

Cardina: Yeah, great point. We’ve seen digital health disrupting a lot of historical industries like pharmaceuticals and health insurers. What do you think investors should know about traditional healthcare companies as they invest for the future?

Torstensson: I think investors should think that this is an enormous market, digital is really happening now, it’s picking up speed, and it’s growing quite fast, especially for such an important — and for good reasons — regulated industry. You have telemedicine, you have online pharmacies, you have across-the-board, really, digitalization coming both on the traditional aspects and doing things that couldn’t be done before technology, that if you were a doctor 10-15 years ago, you would probably pinch yourself that do I actually have access to this type of data that consumer products like Apple Watch or Amazon Halo has today? If you look at other industries, media, commerce, they were far further along, obviously they also got a bump this year from COVID with the lockdowns, but it’s the same thing happening to healthcare and wellness, and it’s just an enormous industry. I think that’s the big thing to think about.

Cardina: Absolutely. Do you think we’re just starting to see how technology can disrupt the healthcare industry? Are we in the early stages?

Torstensson: I think we are in the early stages. Obviously, how technology is used within healthcare is probably still going to be regulated even if it feels disruptive, maybe for many participants. But it’s also that the technology that was only available for hospitals 10-15 years ago in a reasonable user-friendly way is moving out to our phones and to our watches and blood oxygen levels, etc., that you’re actually getting for very standard home electronics or smartphone devices.

Cardina: Yeah, absolutely. Your company has scaled incredibly fast; you said 45 million users. I think in the recent months, you guys saw 700,000 downloads. What is your guiding philosophy about leading a rapidly growing start-up?

Torstensson: It’s really to start building a great product for users, because the thing that really drives any start-up in any companies is that you’re serving customers; but with that as a focus, hire great people, trust them to do great work, and then find out great partners to really give an extra boost to the growth and reaching out to consumers.

Cardina: Yeah, definitely. Partnership has been a big strategy for Lifesum. The company has developed some really impressive partnerships with big tech companies, notably Amazon recently. Can you tell us more about Amazon Halo?

Torstensson: I’m very happy to be one of the nine launch partners for Amazon Halo, which is Amazon’s new health device and program that is coming this fall. They’re really interested in taking a very holistic approach to health and we are their nutrition partner on the lab side.

Cardina: Great. What does that mean? How does that work in practice?

Torstensson: With Amazon Halo, when you want to change your approach to nutrition and food, they have a part of the service called labs where we’ve made the content and the program that the subscribers and users of Amazon Halo are using to actually go on and change how they eat.

Cardina: Okay. It’s an education component?

Torstensson: It’s an interactive education component. You pick something you want to do and then there’s this daily guidance to actually help you do that.

Cardina: Awesome. That’s super exciting for you all. The Amazon Halo, it harnesses artificial intelligence to inform what we know about our bodies. What excites you about artificial intelligence in the healthcare space?

Torstensson: What I think is so fascinating and really promising is that there’s this great amounts of data, and we collect hundreds of millions of data points every month from our 45 million users, and with artificial intelligence we are able to personalize the experience for individuals and actually dig out what we will learn from others to actually make it easier for everyone to live healthier lives.

Cardina: Great.

Torstensson: Get sick or get really on the preventive side, which is probably the best thing if you get it right.

Cardina: Yeah, absolutely. What might you say to folks who are skeptical that tech companies will protect their most private data, their biometrics, their health information?

Torstensson: I can only speak for Lifesum and we always start with users’ rights and privacy. We collect the data that the user gives us to actually provide a service, and if they want us to share that with other services to make their lives better, we think that’s fine, but it’s not for us to go and share that data without user consent.

Cardina: Great, very important. I enjoyed looking around that Lifesum social media. It looks like social media is an important component of your strategy, really educating folks on some timely wellness trends, education. I saw an explainer on intermittent fasting, which is something I’ve been really interested in recently as well. What do you think about social media and the role it’s playing in Lifesum’s success?

Torstensson: To us, it’s a digital service, and as eight years old, as a digital-native company with the millennial generation, it’s obviously a core part of what we do and how we interact with our membership. It’s important, but there are our partnerships as we discussed before. So it’s really the mix of finding a great product, great social media, great partnerships, to make the magic source.

Cardina: Absolutely. How do you envision the future of digital health? What trends do you think will continue to gain momentum once the coronavirus pandemic subsides?

Torstensson: I think one thing that I’m really excited about, what we’re doing is actually one of the AI-driven products, it’s predictive tracking. By looking at everyone else that’s used Lifesum and what you have done before as an individual user, we can actually predict what you’re going to eat and that really creates this magical fluent experience. That level of being a daily part of a user’s life is really exciting. I think that one segment of digital health that really got this pushed, which I think will stay with us and continue to grow is really telemedicine. I think that’s going to stay with us because it’s just more convenient for a lot of interactions with our doctors.

Cardina: Yeah, absolutely. Lifesum is all about eating, right? Eating is a big part of our lives. When you’re ready to make a big change in your life for your health, food has a really big part of that. How does Lifesum help users change their way of living for the better as it pertains to food, nutrition, and eating?

Torstensson: We’re all about food and nutrition and what we’re saying is we want to improve lives through better eating; nutrition is the numbers aspect, but it’s really about emotions and actually how we were brought up, our culture that impacts what and how we eat. What we do is we help users and we say it’s really about the user. It’s about being personalized, which way actually works for each individual. It might be intermittent fasting that you’re interested in, that is something that you want to go down that road. Then we bring in the best knowledge, build a great experience, actually make that really, really easy.

Cardina: Excellent. What does the interface of Lifesum look like? Is it planned menus? Is it for people to track what they’re eating and look at calories and the macro breakdown? I’d love to just hear about it from a user perspective.

Torstensson: It’s a mix of that. We have a food tracker and you can search, you can use our barcode scanners or our image recognition to actually take a photo of what you’re eating to pick that up, and then we’ll give you individual feedback on that. That feedback differs depending on what your goal is, if you’re trying to lose some weight or if you’re trying to eat healthier or if you’re trying to build muscle or gain weight, depending on if you’re on intermittent fasting or high-protein or a balanced diet, actually what you want is very different feedback and that’s what we built with our food rating algorithms. Then we also have recipes. We have plans that tell someone gets going. What we know is that if we look at 30 days of using Lifesum, you really moved. Even if you start out with very little understanding of nutrition and food and how what you eat impacts your health, after 30 days, you have taken an enormous step in understanding that.

Cardina: Yeah. I love looking at the data on all of my different wellness apps. When I go for a run, I love to see, did I go a little bit longer, a little bit faster than the last time? I think that touch point probably makes the product really sticky so your users continue to use the app for a long period of time. They don’t just forget about it and move on. Is that right?

Torstensson: Yeah, absolutely. We have very loyal users. Sometimes people use it for a while. They use it to understand. We’re nutrition partners of Nike, and as an example, really, if you’re going to run a marathon or longer race, understanding what you eat and how you eat and how that impacts your performance is really critical.

Cardina: Yeah, absolutely. Are there any other partnerships beyond Amazon Halo that Lifesum has created that you’d like to talk about?

Torstensson: We’re very proud and happy of being the nutrition partner of Nike, which we’ve been now for a little bit more than a year and obviously, an iconic company, then we are very happy with more of maybe relationships and partnerships with Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG), and where we were part of the presentation on the WWDC Developers Conference this summer with our new widget which is part of the latest iOS.

Cardina: Awesome. We did get a question in from Andy pertaining to how the app works. What is the technology used to build menus for participants and the database of foods? It sounds really cool. You take a picture of food and the app recognizes what it is. How does that work technologically?

Torstensson: When you take a picture, then you’re using actually artificial intelligence to do image recognition, and there are a few different ones depending on the platform, what you use; then, on menus, etc. that you find in the app, we have our in-house staff of nutritionists and a chef that helps us build that out so it’s both healthy and delicious.

Cardina: Awesome. We have a user named Jayful who said, “I haven’t heard of Lifesum. How do people first find you?” You said it’s available on iOS.

Torstensson: iPhone and Android, you just go to the App Store and search for Lifesum and download us. Most people hear about us through word-of-mouth. For the U.S. market, we just got started four years ago and we’ve been operating for eight, but it’s already our biggest market, so we’re still in a growth phase in the U.S.

Cardina: Awesome. I’d like to talk a little bit more about the U.S. market in digital health. On Fool.com, we’re investors, so we love to look at some of the public companies and the digital health companies, particularly in telehealth, that’s been a big buzzword this year, we have been on a pretty wild ride since the pandemic began. The telehealth pioneer, Teladoc (NYSE:TDOC), is at more than 200% since the start of March, reflecting its record setting number of telehealth visits. There’s Veeva Systems (NYSE:VEEV), which sells cloud software for life sciences companies, that’s up 300% since March. Primary care chain One Medical, their parent company, 1Life Health (NASDAQ:ONEM), IPO’d earlier this year, it’s up 30%. So, I’m loving all of your insight on the digital health industry and I would love to know, what do you think about these types of stocks? Are they overhyped? Are they fairly valued? Or do you think we’re just seeing the beginning and so they’re really trading at a bargain still?

Torstensson: I think that’s obviously the million-dollar question. I can look at it as an operator. The healthcare market is enormous in itself. Digital is really happening. As with any market, when you have those two combinations and through demand from users and consumers, payers, there’s going to be winners and losers. So then, you need to go in and look at individual companies. I have spent 110% of my time on operating Lifesum so I can’t go in and say, this is going to be the winner, this is not going to be the winner. But I’d be extremely surprised if there aren’t multiple winners in this sector.

Cardina: Absolutely. One question is, this is from Mike Migliore, “How does your technology compare to the tech used by Fitbit?” This viewer says that they seem similar on the face.

Torstensson: What are you saying, developed for Android or iOS? I can’t really speak on exactly how Fitbit’s technology is built.

Cardina: Yeah, I hear you. Fitbit seems like it’s more in the exercise side of things, and Lifesum is more about the nutrition. It sounds like together they could be excellent tools for someone who is trying to really take charge of their health and have better outcomes.

Torstensson: We support Fitbit integration within Lifesum. So, I think that’s correct that they are more on the exercise movement side and we’re 100% focused on delivering a really great experience, some food and nutrition.

Cardina: Awesome. So, I’m curious to hear about your personal nutrition journey. Is there any type of food that you love to eat that keeps you healthy? I’m a big foodie and home chef myself, so I love to hear ideas.

Torstensson: So my problem, and that’s part of why I got involved with Lifesum, is I really love food, great food. So I probably eat a little bit too much. But I think it really goes back to finding a daily rhythm for at least most of the week for me to stay healthy, and it’s about being a little bit smarter through breakfast, lunch, dinner, especially during the week. I have a sweet tooth as well, bread is my weakness, so for me, it’s a lot about moderating that side to become a little bit healthier.

Cardina: Yes, absolutely. No one says you can’t have bread, but maybe not bread with every meal every day.

Torstensson: No, but I think, and that’s a lot around health and food, that it’s actually not these enormous changes or crash diet approach, which is actually very hard to sustain. It’s about finding a balance that’s healthier than the one you have now if you’re unhappy with your current health status.

Cardina: Right. A lot of the progress really happens on the margins if you can just get 10% better in a lot of ways, it can have an outsized impact. That’s what I’ve found in my own health journey as well.

Torstensson: It will be a little bit like investing, that you have these compounding returns. You find the right balance and then it just builds.

Cardina: I love that connection, that’s so true. So, to get back to investing a little bit, what is one thing our viewers should know about their own wellness in light of the pandemic? Do you have any favorite takeaways to share, whether it’s about work-life balance, self love and acceptance, education, or even just that it’s OK to have cake every once in a while? What do you think?

Torstensson: I think one of the takeaways from the pandemic specifically is actually that being overweight or obese actually seems to be one of the clear risk factors of getting a worse COVID experience. It’s actually a good thing to think about, what am I eating, how is that impacting my health? Because that’s one of the things we actually can impact seemingly when it comes to the pandemic.

Cardina: Yeah, that’s so true. I think for a lot of us, the pandemic has made us feel very out of control. What I love about digital health apps as it pertains to exercise or nutrition is it can really make you feel in control and really give you your power back in a very stressful situation.

Torstensson: I fully agree.

Cardina: Awesome. So, are there any exciting developments coming up for Lifesum that you would like to talk about, maybe new partnerships, anything along those lines?

Torstensson: So for us, it’s two months to the New Year, so we’re heads down building the new version of Lifesum and working on new things. But I spent 20 years in digital, learnt that you should not pre-announce before you’re actually done. I think that’s a hard-learned lesson from before. So we’re looking very much forward to continue to serve our users and add way more than 700,000 users per month over the next couple of months.

Cardina: Awesome. What is your marketing strategy behind that? Do you do most of the marketing on social media? Any thoughts there?

Torstensson: We always start with the product. I think for any digital product, that’s where you really need to start because word-of-mouth, especially online, is so powerful. But we use social media, we use paid advertising, we use partnerships and we think that actually doing all of them well is one of the things that have driven us to, soon, 50 million users.

Cardina: Yeah, absolutely. When something works, you want to tell everybody about it. You said you spent a lot of time in digital. What were you doing before Lifesum?

Torstensson: So, just before Lifesum I headed the consumer subscription business at Spotify. So, almost 10 years ago now, just when Spotify was starting out. So I ran that for three years, and before that, I was with the company called Stardoll that was the biggest gaming in community website for teen and tween girls globally.

Cardina: Cool. I feel like, with a lot of apps like Lifesum, there is a gaming component. Do you think you learned a lot there that you’ve brought to Lifesum?

Torstensson: Absolutely. I think there are a few key learnings that we brought from entertainment into digital health. One is that it’s about what the thumb wants to do, it needs to be fun. Also, it’s really about giving good feedback, which gaming is about; you do something and you get the feedback, that is fun and you want to do more, and that’s really part of great digital product design, health, wellness, gaming, whatever you’re trying to build.

Cardina: Right, it really activates that reward pathway. I eat a salad, Lifesum tells me great job, I feel better than if I had a cheeseburger, and you repeat the process. Does that sound right?

Torstensson: That sounds about right.

Cardina: Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Henrik. Is there any last thing you want to say?

Torstensson: Thank you for having me. If anyone that’s listening hasn’t downloaded Lifesum, please do so.

Cardina: Absolutely. I know I’m going to enjoy using it. Thank you so much. Well, have a great afternoon.

Business

LPL Financial to Acquire Waddell & Reed’s Wealth Management Business and Enter Into Long-Term Partnership With Macquarie

becker blake

Published

on

Macquarie to acquire Waddell & Reed Financial, Inc. and upon closing sell
Waddell & Reed’s wealth management business to LPL Financial for $300 million

Long-term partnership between LPL Financial and Macquarie will provide existing
Waddell & Reed advisors and clients with continuity, as well as longer-term opportunities through partnership with a leading international asset manager

SAN DIEGO, Dec. 02, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — LPL Financial Holdings Inc. (Nasdaq: LPLA) (“LPL Financial” or “LPL”), a leading U.S. retail investment advisory firm, independent broker-dealer, and registered investment advisor (RIA) custodian, today announced it has entered into an agreement with Macquarie Asset Management (“Macquarie”), the asset management division of Macquarie Group (ASX: MQG; ADR: MQBKY), to acquire the wealth management business of Waddell & Reed Financial, Inc. (NYSE: WDR) (“Waddell & Reed”), upon completion of Macquarie’s acquisition of all of the issued and outstanding common shares of Waddell & Reed. Additionally, LPL and Macquarie have agreed to enter into a long-term partnership, with Macquarie becoming one of LPL’s top tier strategic asset management partners.

Through its subsidiaries, Waddell & Reed has provided investment management and wealth management services to clients throughout the U.S. since 1937. Today, investment products are distributed under the Ivy Investments ® brand, as well as through independent financial advisors associated with Waddell & Reed, Inc. As of September 30, 2020, Waddell & Reed’s wealth management business had assets under administration of approximately $63 billion, up 10% year-over-year.

Dan Arnold, President and Chief Executive Officer of LPL Financial said: “Waddell & Reed advisors are highly experienced and well-respected throughout the industry. They are a terrific fit both culturally and strategically, and we welcome them to the LPL family. Looking ahead, we expect our capabilities and resources will benefit their practices and help them unlock additional value and growth. Additionally, we look forward to deepening our long-term partnership with Macquarie, which will help us preserve unique aspects of the Waddell & Reed advisor experience while also positioning us to explore additional long-term opportunities together.”

Philip J. Sanders, Chief Executive Officer of Waddell & Reed, said: “Over the past few years, we have been focused on leveraging our strong heritage as the foundation for transforming our firm into a more diversified and growth-oriented financial services enterprise. The long-term partnership between LPL and Macquarie as part of this transaction accelerates that transformation and ultimately will benefit our clients and independent financial advisors while delivering significant value to our stockholders.”

Martin Stanley, Head of Macquarie Asset Management, said: “The addition of Waddell & Reed Financial and our enhanced partnership with LPL will significantly increase our ability to grow and invest in our combined business for the benefit of our clients. Ivy Investments’ complementary investment capabilities will provide diversification to Macquarie Asset Management’s capabilities and client base. The consideration offered reflects the quality of Waddell & Reed’s business and the future benefits of our partnership with LPL.”

Shawn Lytle, President of Delaware Funds by Macquarie and Head of Macquarie Group in the Americas, added: “This transaction is an important step forward in our growth strategy for Delaware Funds by Macquarie. The acquisition of Waddell & Reed’s asset management business and our partnership with LPL significantly strengthens our position as a top 25(1) US actively managed, long-term, open-ended mutual fund manager across equities, fixed income and multi asset solutions.”

The transaction has been approved by the Boards of Directors of LPL Financial, Macquarie Group, and Waddell & Reed and is expected to close in the middle of 2021, subject to regulatory approvals, Waddell & Reed stockholder approval, and other customary closing conditions.

LPL Financial posted an investor presentation with an overview of the transaction on its Investor Relations page at investor.lpl.com.

Centerview Partners LLC served as exclusive financial advisor and Ropes & Gray LLP served as exclusive legal advisor to LPL in connection with the transaction.

About LPL Financial
LPL Financial (https://www.lpl.com) is a leader in the retail financial advice market, the nation’s largest independent broker/dealer(+) and a leading custodian (or provider of custodial services) to RIAs. We serve independent financial advisors and financial institutions, providing them with the technology, research, clearing and compliance services, and practice management programs they need to create and grow thriving practices. LPL enables them to provide objective guidance to millions of American families seeking wealth management, retirement planning, financial planning and asset management solutions.

(+)Based on total revenues, Financial Planning magazine June 1996-2020.

Securities and Advisory Services offered through LPL Financial LLC, a Registered Investment Advisor. Member FINRA/SIPC. We routinely disclose information that may be important to shareholders in the “Investor Relations” or “Press Releases” section of our website.

About Waddell & Reed Financial
Through its subsidiaries, Waddell & Reed Financial, Inc. has provided investment management and wealth management services to clients throughout the United States since 1937. Today, Waddell & Reed Financial distributes its investment products through the unaffiliated channel under the Ivy Investments® brand (encompassing broker/dealer, retirement, and registered investment advisors), its wealth management channel (through independent financial advisors associated with Waddell & Reed, Inc.), and its institutional channel (including defined benefit plans, pension plans, endowments and subadvisory relationships). For more information, visit ir.waddell.com.

About Macquarie Asset Management
Macquarie Asset Management (MAM) is Macquarie’s asset management business. MAM is a full-service asset manager, providing investment solutions to clients across a range of capabilities including infrastructure & renewables, real estate, agriculture, transportation finance, private credit, equities, fixed income, and multi-asset solutions. As of September 30, 2020, MAM had $A554.9 billion of assets under management. MAM has over 1,900 staff operating across 20 markets in Australia, the Americas, Europe and Asia. MAM has been managing assets for institutional and retail investors since 1980 in Australia and 1929 in the US, through a predecessor firm, formerly known as Delaware Investments.

(1) Source: Assets under management as of Sept. 30 – Based on data represented in Strategic Insight and Morningstar. Data includes ICI Method of Sales: Salesforce, Institutional and Retirement. Data excludes Variable Insurance Products, Closed End Funds, ETFs, passive mutual funds, Money Market Funds, Delaware Pooled Trusts, and Optimum Funds.

Forward-Looking Statements
Statements in this press release regarding LPL Financial Holdings Inc. (together with its subsidiaries, including LPL Financial LLC, the “Company” or “LPL Financial”) and its potential growth, business strategy and plans, including the expected benefits of Macquarie Group’s acquisition of Waddell & Reed Financial, Inc. (together with its subsidiaries, “Waddell & Reed”) and LPL Financial’s acquisition of Waddell & Reed’s wealth management business and partnership with Macquarie Group, as well as any other statements that are not related to present facts or current conditions or that are not purely historical, constitute forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements are based on the historical performance of the Company and Waddell & Reed and the Company’s plans, estimates and expectations as of December 2, 2020. Forward-looking statements are not guarantees that the future results, plans, intentions or expectations expressed or implied by the Company will be achieved. Matters subject to forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks and uncertainties, including economic, legislative, regulatory, competitive and other factors, which may cause levels of assets serviced, actual financial or operating results, levels of activity or the timing of events to be materially different than those expressed or implied by forward-looking statements. In particular, the Company can provide no assurance that the assets reported as serviced by financial advisors affiliated with Waddell & Reed (“Waddell & Reed Advisors”) will translate into assets serviced by LPL Financial, that Waddell & Reed Advisors will join LPL Financial, or that the benefits that are expected to accrue to LPL Financial, Waddell & Reed, Macquarie Group and their respective advisors and stockholders as a result of the transactions described herein will materialize. Important factors that could cause or contribute to such differences include: failure of the parties to satisfy the closing conditions applicable to the acquisitions described herein in a timely manner or at all, including the completion of the acquisition of Waddell & Reed by Macquarie Group, obtaining the required stockholder and regulatory approvals, and the retention by Waddell & Reed of minimum assets prior to closing; disruptions to the parties’ businesses as a result of the announcement and pendency of the transactions, difficulties and delays in recruiting Waddell & Reed Advisors or onboarding the clients or businesses of Waddell & Reed Advisors; the inability by the Company to sustain revenue and earnings growth or to fully realize revenue or expense synergies or the other expected benefits of the transactions, which depend in part on the Company’s success in onboarding assets currently served by Waddell & Reed Advisors; disruptions of the Company’s or Waddell & Reed’s business due to transaction-related uncertainty or other factors making it more difficult to maintain relationships with its financial advisors and their clients, employees, other business partners or governmental entities; the inability to implement onboarding plans and other consequences associated with acquisitions; the choice by clients of Waddell & Reed Advisors not to open brokerage and/or advisory accounts at LPL Financial or move their assets from Waddell & Reed to LPL Financial; unforeseen liabilities arising from the acquisition of Waddell & Reed’s wealth management subsidiaries; changes in general economic and financial market conditions, including retail investor sentiment; fluctuations in the value of assets under custody; effects of competition in the financial services industry, including competitors’ success in recruiting Waddell & Reed Advisors; and the other factors set forth in Part I, “Item 1A. Risk Factors” in the Company’s 2019 Annual Report on Form 10-K and any subsequent SEC filing. Except as required by law, the Company specifically disclaims any obligation to update any forward-looking statements as a result of developments occurring after the date of this press release, even if its estimates change, and you should not rely on those statements as representing the Company’s views as of any date subsequent to the date of December 2, 2020.

Investor Relations:
Chris Koegel
617-897-4574
Chris.Koegel@lpl.com

Media Relations:
Jeffrey Mochal
704-733-3589
Jeff.Mochal@lpl.com

Continue Reading

Latest

First Responder Announces Proposed Transaction with Airbeam Wireless Technologies

Mish Boyka

Published

on

/Not for distribution to U.S. news wire services or dissemination in the United States/

Homegrown Canadian Disruptor Enters 5G-Edge Technology Race
Proposed Entity to Build Innovative Technology Stack for Smart Cities

VANCOUVER, BC, Nov. 30, 2020 /CNW/ – First Responder Technologies Inc. (“First Responder” or the “Company”) (CSE: WPN) (OTCQB: WPNNF) (FWB: 3WK), a leading developer of public safety and security technologies, is pleased to announce that it has entered into a letter of intent dated November 27, 2020 (the “LOI“), which sets out the basic terms and conditions for the acquisition (the “Acquisition“) by the Company of all of the issued and outstanding common shares in the capital of Airbeam Wireless Technologies Inc. (“Airbeam“) in exchange for common shares in the capital of the Company (the “First Responder Shares“). The Acquisition is expected to be structured as a reverse takeover and will constitute a “fundamental change” for the Company pursuant to the rules and policies of the Canadian Securities Exchange (the “Exchange“). The Acquisition is an arm’s length transaction. Upon successful completion of the Acquisition, it is anticipated that the resulting entity (the “Resulting Issuer“) will continue the combined businesses of Airbeam and First Responder under a name to be determined by the parties.

Creating a Canadian National Leader in Emerging 5G-Edge Enabled Smart City Technologies

Over the past decade, governments, privacy commissioners and industry have been working together to develop a roadmap to realize the potential of 5G for the development of Smart Cities in North America, and around the world. The Acquisition proposes to create a Canada-based leader in this important sector, with privacy at the core of the Resulting Issuer’s approach to product development.

As a result of the Acquisition, the Resulting Issuer is expected to develop and sell a complete Canadian-owned technology solution – chip, hardware, software and services – that could reduce Canadian dependence on foreign-owned 5G networking hardware and software.

The combination of Airbeam’s 60GHz millimeter wave (“MMW“) chipset, and Smart City networking hardware and services, together with First Responder’s innovative AI-enabled weapons detection camera and Wi-Fi-based concealed weapons technology, may create a new capability in the public safety and security segment, an important and fast emerging segment of the Smart City vertical. This new public safety infrastructure developed by First Responder, and powered in the future by Airbeam’s 60GHz chipset, may then be utilized as “edge networking nodes” as 5G networks densify, which can offer wireless backhaul, edge computing and networking capabilities to overcome anticipated bottlenecks in the current infrastructure.

“Airbeam remains one of the few independent 60GHz MMW chipset and system solutions available in the market. Combining Airbeam’s technology and highly experienced leadership team with First Responder’s executive team, advisory council and capital markets vehicle, creates a unique opportunity to develop a full stack technology offering that may enable an industry leader to emerge in North America in the 5G-Edge networking and public safety segment of the Smart City vertical,” said Dr. Karim Arabi, Chairman of Airbeam.

In the future, the Resulting Issuer anticipates developing unique hybrid appliances, which may combine some or all of 5G small cell, edge compute, wireless backhaul, computer vision and AI capabilities, which may enable new and unique Smart City applications to be developed for transportation, municipal infrastructure and public safety that have the potential to directly impact daily life in North American cities and beyond. Given the privacy concerns that attend to such capabilities, the Resulting Issuer is expected to continue a process started by First Responder that will integrate privacy considerations from the earliest stages of product inception, and work with third-party privacy advocacy groups and privacy commissioners to ensure that the benefits of this new capability also preserve the privacy and liberty of North American and international customers.

“In the GFN of First Responder’s management, this is an exciting opportunity for Canada and Canadians to potentially replace dependence on foreign 5G networking hardware and software at the edge, with a homegrown solution to develop 5G hardware, software and integrated solutions, which may be the foundational technology for Smart Cities of the 21st century, in North America, and around the world” said Robert F. Delamar, CEO of First Responder and proposed CEO of the Resulting Issuer.

About Airbeam

Airbeam is a private company existing under the laws of British Columbia and is based in Richmond, British Columbia. There are currently 64,551,545 common shares in the capital of Airbeam (the “Airbeam Shares“), 3,500,000 restricted shares, 1,000,000 restricted share units and 669,999 common share purchase warrants outstanding.

Airbeam is a developer of 5G-enabled Smart City technologies, which sells a proprietary 60 GHz millimeter wave (“MMW“) chipset, hardware and software, which cost in excess of $110 million USD to develop by a leading semiconductor company from which it was acquired.

As of the date hereof, no meaningful financial information has been prepared by Airbeam. Airbeam will prepare audited financial statements in the near future and the Company will provide a summary of significant financial information in due course.

Proposed Acquisition

The Company and Airbeam have entered into the LOI, which sets out certain terms and conditions pursuant to which the proposed Acquisition will be completed. The transaction terms outlined in the LOI are subject to the parties successfully entering into a definitive agreement (the “Definitive Agreement“) in respect of the Acquisition on or before February 12, 2021 or such other date as the Company and Airbeam may mutually agree.

The LOI also contemplates other material conditions precedent to the closing of the Acquisition (the “Closing“), including the completion of a bridge financing to raise minimum aggregate gross proceeds equal to such amount required to fund First Responder until the completion of the Acquisition (the “Bridge Financing“), the completion of a concurrent financing to raise minimum aggregate proceeds equal to such amount required to provide the Resulting Issuer with sufficient working capital for a minimum of 12 months following the completion of the Acquisition (or such other amount as may be agreed upon by the parties) (the “Concurrent Financing“), customary due diligence, compliance with all applicable regulatory requirements and receipt of all necessary regulatory, corporate, third-party, board and shareholder approvals being obtained, including the approval of the Exchange. There can be no assurance that the Acquisition will be completed as proposed, or at all.

It is anticipated that the Closing will involve, among other things, the following steps, which may be amended if the parties mutually agree that such form would better satisfy their objective (including but not limited to, tax efficiency to the parties):

  • prior to the closing of the proposed Acquisition, the Company will consolidate its share capital on a basis to be determined by the parties (the “Consolidation“);
  • the shareholders of Airbeam will receive post-Consolidation First Responder Shares in exchange for their Airbeam Shares pursuant to an exchange ratio to be determined by the parties;
  • completion of the Bridge Financing of First Responder securities to be priced in the context of the market;
  • completion of the Concurrent Financing of Airbeam securities or First Responder securities, as may be agreed upon by the parties, to be priced the context of the market but in no event less than the offering price of the Bridge Financing;
  • receipt of all director, shareholder and regulatory approvals relating to the Acquisition and the Concurrent Financing, including, without limitation, the approval of the Exchange; and
  • each of the parties shall have executed, delivered and performed their respective covenants as outlined in the Definitive Agreement, and all representations and warranties of each party contained in the Definitive Agreement shall be true and correct at the time of Closing.

Certain of the First Responder Shares issuable pursuant to the Acquisition may be subject to the escrow requirements of the Exchange and to hold periods as required by applicable securities laws.

The Company and Airbeam, as applicable, may pay finder’s fees in connection with the Bridge Financing, the Concurrent Financing and the Acquisition up to the maximum permitted under the policies of the Exchange.

The Resulting Issuer – Summary of Proposed Directors

It is currently anticipated that certain of the current officers and directors of the Company will resign from their respective positions with the Company.

Following the Closing, the board of directors of the Resulting Issuer is expected to consist of seven (7) directors, four (4) of which will be nominees of Airbeam and three (3) of which will be nominees of the Company.

Dr. Karim Arabi, current Chairman of Airbeam, and Mr. Wayne Lloyd, current President of Airbeam are expected to become directors of the Resulting Issuer.  Robert Delamar is expected to be Chief Executive Officer and a director the Resulting Issuer.  Naresh Singhal is expected to be Chief Technology Officer, but not a director of the Resulting Issuer, with other officers to be determined in due course by the board of directors of the Resulting Issuer.

The following is a brief description of the known directors and officers of the Resulting Issuer who have been identified as of the date hereof:

Dr. Karim Arabi – Chairman

Dr. Arabi is a seasoned executive with extensive leadership experience in the semiconductor and telecommunications industry. Previously, VP of R&D at Qualcomm, Dr. Arabi also held a diverse portfolio of other roles there, such as head of the ASIC research department responsible for Advanced Wireless and Computing Technologies, and VP of Engineering, Mobile SoC Design. He also served as VP, Engineering at Dialog Semiconductor, working on semiconductor products for mobile devices. Dr. Arabi has had several successful technology exits in the semiconductor sector most recently commercializing an innovative power supply chipset for mobile devices enabling higher efficiency and more compact products.

Wayne Lloyd – Director

Mr. Lloyd is an entrepreneur and technology executive with extensive capital markets experience. Mr. Lloyd currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Tracesafe Inc., is founder of Consensus Core, and has extensive experience scaling start-ups, special situation investing, and completing complex M&A transactions in the technology sector.  Mr. Lloyd has helped raise millions in capital to grow businesses and has a proven track record of attracting world class talent to start-up ventures. Mr. Lloyd earned a CFA charterholder designation in 2015.

Robert Delamar – Chief Executive Officer

Mr. Delamar is a lawyer and high technology CEO with almost 20 years of experience developing and leading technology companies in Silicon Valley and around the world. After starting his career in Silicon Valley, Robert returned to Vancouver to complete law school at UBC and articled at Blake, Cassels & Graydon in Vancouver. He was called to the bar of British Columbia in 2004.  Immediately after his call to the bar, Mr. Delamar left Vancouver to work in the high-tech corridor situated outside of Washington, DC, where he worked at a mobile satellite networking company in a business development role, and co-founded a social media start-up.  Following a brief return to Canada to practise law as a civil litigator, in 2011 he was recruited to serve as founder and CEO of a video streaming technology start-up company, owned by a major Latin American media and telecommunications conglomerate, which through a series of transactions became UUX, Inc., which was later acquired by Spain’s Agile Content, SA. While at UUX, Inc., Mr. Delamar led a sales effort focused on major international mobile telecoms companies. Between 2014 and 2016 Robert split his time between Vancouver and Silicon Valley, where he co-founded and served as CEO of a green refinery development company, and served as Co-CEO of a peer-to-peer networking company.  In July of 2019 Mr. Delamar accepted the appointment as CEO and member of the board of directors for First Responder Technologies Inc.

Naresh Singhal – Chief Technology Officer

Mr. Singhal has more than 30 years of experience in the technology industry in a variety of domains and industry verticals. He completed a B.S. (Honors) in Electronics and Communications Engineering from National Institute of Technology, India, and professional development coursework from Stanford University. He holds one technology patent, with several others pending. Mr. Singhal started his career as a Scientist with India’s Defense Research & Development Organization (“DRDO“), where he led some prestigious defense projects. After the DRDO, Mr. Singhal moved to the United States and worked at a number of different startups. At Entrisphere Inc. (“Entrishphere“), he built Network Management Systems for next generation optical networking products. Entrisphere was acquired by Ericsson and helped Ericsson get a foothold in the wireline business, selling these products to the major Regional Bell operating companies AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, in response to a multi-billion dollar request-for-proposal. Subsequently Mr. Singhal led engineering at streaming media startup Sezmi, which went through several acquisitions and mergers before becoming UUX Inc.. As VP of Engineering at UUX, he helped create the world’s first truly converged internet TV as-a-service platform, that combined linear (live) television and Over-the-Top television in an intuitive multi-device user experience. Most recently, Mr. Singhal was Chief Technology Officer at Trunomi, a fintech startup building technology for privacy and data rights management, in response to regulations like the EU General Data Protection Regulation, amid increasing concerns about how corporations misuse personally identifiable information.

Further details concerning the management and directors of the Company will be provided in a comprehensive press release when the parties enter into the Definitive Agreement and in the disclosure document to be prepared and filed in respect of the Acquisition.

Trading in First Responder Shares

Trading in the Company’s shares has been halted in compliance with the policies of the Exchange. Trading in the Company’s shares will remain halted pending the review of the proposed Acquisition by the Exchange and satisfaction of the conditions of the Exchange for resumption of trading. It is likely that trading in the shares of the Company will not resume prior to Closing.

Disclosure and Caution

Further details about the proposed Acquisition, the Bridge Financing, the Concurrent Financing and the Resulting Issuer will be provided in a comprehensive press release when the parties enter into the Definitive Agreement and in the disclosure document to be prepared and filed in respect of the Acquisition. Investors are cautioned that, except as disclosed in the disclosure document, any information released or received with respect to the Acquisition may not be accurate or complete and should not be relied upon.

All information provided in this press release relating to Airbeam has been provided by management of Airbeam and has not been independently verified by management of the Company.

As the date of this press release, the Company has not completed a Definitive Agreement with Airbeam and readers are cautioned that there can be no assurances that a Definitive Agreement will be executed, or that the Acquisition will be completed.

No securities regulatory authority has either approved or disapproved of the contents of this news release. The securities of the Company have not been, nor will they be, registered under the United States Securities Act of 1933, as amended, or any state securities laws, and may not be offered or sold in the United States, or to or for the account or benefit of any person in the United States, absent registration or an applicable exemption from the registration requirements. This press release shall not constitute an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy any common shares in the United States, or in any other jurisdiction in which such offer, solicitation or sale would be unlawful.

On behalf of the Board of Directors,

Robert F. Delamar

Robert F. Delamar, CEO

First Responder Technologies Inc.
915 – 700 West Pender Street
Vancouver, BC. V6C 1G8
[email protected]
+1-604-227-9821

About First Responder Technologies Inc.

First Responder Technologies Inc. (the “Company“) is a technology development company that commercializes academic and internally developed intellectual property for use in the public safety market. The Company is developing a WiFi-based technology, based in part, on academic research licensed from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey (“Rutgers“) that can be used to detect concealed weapons. The Company’s threat detection technology line of business was created to capture a significant portion of the global weapons detection systems market, and in particular, the global perimeter security detection market. In the Company’s view, WiFi–based threat detection technology may be utilized by a wide range of facilities, including schools, places of worship, shopping centres and theatres, to not only make their premises secure, but also reduce their cost of security, from the interior of a facility to the perimeter.

For more information visit: www.firstrespondertech.com or follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

CAUTION REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING INFORMATION

Certain statements contained in this news release may constitute forward–looking information, including statements relating to the completion of the Acquisition, the proposed business of the Resulting Issuer, the completion of the Bridge Financing, the completion of the Concurrent Financing, the proposed directors and officers of the Resulting Issuer, the completion of the Consolidation, shareholder, director and regulatory approvals, and future press releases and disclosure. Forward–looking information is often, but not always, identified by the use of words such as “anticipate”, “plan”, “estimate”, “expect”, “may”, “will”, “intend”, “should”, and similar expressions. Forward–looking information involves known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause actual results or events to differ materially from those anticipated in such forward–looking information. The actual results of the Company, Airbeam or the Resulting Issuer could differ materially from those anticipated in this forward–looking information as a result of regulatory decisions, competitive factors in the industries in which the Company and Airbeam operate, prevailing economic conditions, changes to the Company or Airbeam’s strategic growth plans, and other factors, many of which are beyond the control of the Company and Airbeam. Each of the Company and Aiream believe that the expectations reflected in the forward–looking information are reasonable, but no assurance can be given that these expectations will prove to be correct and such forward–looking information should not be unduly relied upon. Any forward–looking information contained in this news release represents the Company and Airbeam’s expectations as of the date hereof, and is subject to change after such date. Each of the Company and Airbeam disclaim any intention or obligation to update or revise any forward–looking information whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required by applicable securities legislation.

Neither the Canadian Securities Exchange nor its Regulation Services Provider (as that term is defined in the policies of the Canadian Securities Exchange) accepts responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release.

SOURCE First Responder Technologies Inc.

For further information: Please Contact: General Inquiries: [email protected]; Investor Relations: Lyle McLennan, [email protected]; Media Contacts: Jeff Rutledge, [email protected]

Continue Reading

Latest

Here’s how technology has evolved over the past two decades

Mish Boyka

Published

on

 

<p> The humble fungus turned out to be quite a sage and agreed to share a few pieces of invaluable advice with the <em>Homo sapiens</em> species.</p><p>
In the summer, I went camping with my friends. On the first day after our arrival, I woke up early to take a walk and pick some chanterelles for breakfast. As bad luck would have it, however, I left my glasses in the tent, and without them, I struggle to tell mushrooms apart. Still, I resolved to carry on, and having collected a handful of becapped specimens I returned to our camp.
</p><p>
My friends, still fast asleep, did not take me up on my breakfast offer, so I ate my tofu and mushroom scramble alone. And seeing the effect it had on me, I quickly realized I had accidentally collected some mushrooms from the <em>Psilocybe</em> genus. This little mishap was a surprise, but I didn’t let it throw me off balance – I let the psilocybinous song carry me away. And now, I shall report on the places I visited and the things I saw. If I find the right words, that is.</p><p>The ground began to rumble, or maybe rather stir and writhe, as if there was a gargantuan snakelike creature breathing underneath its surface. A low murmur and chemiluminescent glow seeped from between patches of moss and foliage. Greenish tentacles glimmered in the murky ground, twisting and turning, and showed me the way towards the heart of the forest. I recognized those viridescent threads to be mycelium, made of the hyphae that are the basis of fungi’s organization system, whereas the glow seemed to be caused by luciferins – a protein capable of emitting light as the result of an enzymatic reaction. Once this mycological phenomenon dawned on me, I was no longer anxious and walked ahead.</p><p>As I was forcing my way through the thicket, in my mind I tried to systematize all the information about fungi I have learned. They are a kingdom that belongs to the group of eukaryotes, which encompasses all cellular organisms that pack their genetic material into chromosomes kept in their cells’ nuclei. This makes them quite similar to humans, which convinced me even more that I could trust the call that beckoned me forward, especially since those organisms boast ancient evolutionary history. The oldest fossils that have been identified as remnants of fungi are estimated to be around one billion years old, which indisputably proves the primaeval nature of the wisdom that summoned me.</p><p>With every step that brought me closer to the heart of the land, I could hear the commotion of heated dispute grow louder around me. Then I remembered a certain theory linking the consumption of hallucinogenic mushrooms by the ancestors of contemporary humans with the development of our consciousness. If not for the phenomenon of synaesthesia, the meaning of the conversations I heard would surely have been lost on me. After all, fungal communication happens noiselessly, with the aid of chemical substances that flow through the mycelium. Luckily, I could feel the vibrations of the ground and electromagnetic impulses, catching even the tiniest of signal molecules so that I understood everything that was being said.</p>

<p>I finally arrived at an arena shaped like an ascocarp, the fruiting body of the sac fungi. In the stalls sat tens of thousands of various species of fungi, with the elders occupying the seats at the top of the assembly hall, chaired by the Hatter who looked strikingly similar to the well-known and liked Jersey cow mushroom.</p><p>Silencing the crowd, he announced:</p><p>”Welcome, human, son of mycelium.”</p><p>”Greetings to you, my brothers,” I answered kindly, filled with a feeling of unity with all the organisms that surrounded me.</p><p>”Your current state is no accident. You have been chosen from all the <em>Homo sapiens</em> to help us solve the most pressing problems of the modern world. Are you ready to serve our cause?”</p><p>”If you’re talking about the same problems that gnaw at my mind every day, I will be happy to help,” I said to him, but felt that I had addressed each and every fungus individually, as they were an inseparable entity.</p><p>”We know your thoughts, but it might be more anthropomorphic-friendly to allow you to express your worries about the state of the world verbally. As a kingdom of sage species, we have decided to try and save our shared motherland. The only one we all have.”</p><p>”It would be very helpful if I did a quick recap of what we know about you. Please, don’t get me wrong. In my current state, nothing is certain, and such a historic exchange deserves to be fully comprehended by both sides.”</p><p>”We know what you mean. And we would very much like to know what you, humans, think of us exactly.”</p><p>”As far as I’m aware, you were classified as plants for a long time. Your ability to move is far from impressive, and you seem to be well-rooted in the soil. Even mycelium is deceptively similar to plant roots. What is it that makes you different from other kingdoms of the living world?”</p><p>”Actually, some of us can move at a rather speedy pace, and several characteristics differentiate us from plants. First, we have no tissue. Our bodies are made entirely of thickly weaved mycelium. Also, we are heterotrophs, meaning that we absorb nutrition from other organisms, namely decomposing organic matter. Of course, we help it decompose through releasing our digestive enzymes into the environment. This ability makes us the main cleaners of the natural world. We can also feed parasitically, hunt, and cooperate with autotrophic organisms.”</p><p>”But you are not only what you eat?”</p><p>”We are also different from other organisms on a biochemical level. We have our cell walls just like plants do, and they serve the same purpose – to protect the inside of the cell. Interestingly, however, the main ingredient of our walls is not cellulose, as it happens for plants, but chitin, a polysaccharide also found in the exoskeletons of various insects. It’s easy to tell us apart from animals because we use ergosterol instead of cholesterol to build our cellular membrane. But actually, on a genetic level, we are more closely related to animals than we are to plants.”</p><p>”And I imagine this genetic similarity must be the reason for the brotherly feeling that overwhelms me so. I have heard some rumours about the largest organism on our planet. They say it’s a fungus that weighs 440 tonnes! I must say, I find it quite hard to comprehend. If that were true, its cap would be visible from space.”</p><p>”You are taking it a little too far. Cap-and-stem fungi are called mushrooms. They are the fruiting bodies of a fungus. Its essence that is mycelium remains hidden underground and only grows above it to reproduce. It is the mycelium of our stumpy brother that you believe to be the largest living organism. Unfortunately, he could not make it to our meeting. He is a little listless due to his impressive age and bulk. Nobody can remember it very well, but he claims to be more than 2500 years old.”</p><p>”Please, do send him my regards. There is another question I must ask you, though. I have heard a lot about some pioneer species, capable of preparing a low-grade environment for being populated with more demanding species, including herbaceous plants. That makes it just one step away from a fully-developed ecosystem.”</p><p>”Thanks to the wide range of enzymes we produce, we can decompose next to everything! We are not intimidated by rocky areas and conflagration sites. Mycelium and spores can be found even by receding glaciers and in the desert. By processing unwelcoming environments, we create a layer of fertile ground on which life can thrive. It was thanks to us that the first plants could populate dry land. But enough about us. Now it’s time to discuss the problems you have caused for the Earth, and which we can solve. Ask ahead.”</p><p>”You have been around for a long time, so you must be familiar with the history of fossil fuels. We use them as our energy source. We do it by burning them, and while doing so, we release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Recently, this has become a burdensome issue for our civilization. What should we do?”</p><p>”Forests sponge up more than one-third of all CO2 emitted by the plunderous consumption culture of the current era, aptly named the Anthropocene. Plants absorb CO2 and transform it into biomass in the process of photosynthesis. And while we fungi do not photosynthesize, our role in the accumulation of CO2 could hardly be overstated. By establishing symbiotic relationships with plants, we increase the speed of their growth and improve their quality of life. When your scientists compare the efficiency of CO2 ‘cleaning’ in a forest with a low level of mycorrhiza – that is the coexistence of plants and fungi – and a forest with a high level of such interaction, it becomes clear that fungi-rich ecosystems manage this task much better. We must, however, bring another issue to your attention. CO2 is not the only by-product of your activity. Pollution caused by nitrogen compounds is also very impactful, and we aren’t very fond of them. Take care of us, and we will take care of you.”</p><p>”I shall do whatever I can to convince my people. And speaking of fossil fuels, another issue comes to mind. When we extract and transport petroleum, we sometimes cause spills that pollute the environment. Do you have any advice in this department?”</p><p>”It is but a simple matter. We have several families in our ranks who can digest the hydrocarbons that make up this black gore. Other living organisms can use the products of its decomposition. Not only do we purify contaminated soil, but we can also cooperate with plants that grow there, and help them survive. In the right conditions, petroleum waste could become incubators of earth.”</p><p>”It seems that some of our most pressing ecological issues could be tackled with fungal power. But we also have other problems at hand. Human life is becoming longer than ever, and as we age, our health begins to deteriorate. We suffer from all sorts of ailments, from cancers to metabolic diseases, such as diabetes. Could fungi heal us?”</p><p>”Oh, dear human, you surely know that many medicines are produced with the use of fungi. Baker’s yeast, which you have been using for years to make bread, wine and beer, is also used in micro-factories.”</p><p>”That is true. We discovered the genome <em>Saccharomyces cerevisiae</em>, which allowed us to understand many biological processes. The similarities between human and fungal cells are staggering. This species of yeast is a model organism, commonly used in scientific research. We can even use yeast to produce insulin, a hormone that is indispensable in treating diabetes, one of our civilization’s diseases.”</p><p>”I am proud of you humans. But remember that you have brought upon yourselves so many of those problems that you are so proud of fixing.”</p><p>”You’re right, and many of them remain unsolved.”</p><p>”I won’t tell you not to worry, but do not abandon hope. We fungi are very fond of Russian literature. One of us, the chaga mushroom that grows on birches, is the protagonist of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s novel<em> Cancer Ward</em>. An infusion made of this arboreal growth has incredibly potent healing abilities: it regulates blood pressure, relieves stomach ulcers, and it can even stop the development of some neoplastic cells. It is also used to treat HIV-positive patients.”</p><p>”I have read this book, and I’d hardly consider the chaga its main character.”</p><p>”Do you want our help or not?”</p><p>”I’m sorry.”</p><p>”It doesn’t matter. Our time is almost up. I can feel the serotonin receptors in your body are almost depleted. In a few moments from now, we will no longer be able to communicate. But do take these leaflets with you, they contain some useful information and interesting facts. Whether you choose to use them and save our shared home or not, is your decision. Goodbye, human, and remember: we are always with you, inside you, and around you. Farewell!”</p><p>*</p>

<p>When I came to, I was lying in a beautiful forest clearing, a handful of leaflets in my fist. The mycelium’s hyphae, which seemed to have coiled around my body, were now receding back into the depths of the fungal world. The clearing looked like an endlessly pulsating mandala, in which the fate of our planet was written. It is up to us whether and how we read them. Fungi are a vast, diverse kingdom, and scientists will need many more years to explore them. They have the potential to solve a number of issues that haunt our civilization. Will we accept the helping stem that they are offering?</p><p>For a few more minutes, I daydreamed. I pondered the challenges that loom over humanity. The thoughtless destruction of our environment. Of the natural magic that seems to be the key to the door of perception and survival. Then I heard the voices of my friends and of the fungi that live within them calling me. They didn’t want to believe my story, but I very much hope that at least some of the fungal wisdom can seep through and into the thallus of <em>Homo sapiens</em>. After all, they gave me leaflets!</p><h3><em>LEAFLETS</em></h3><h3>Decontamination of flat surfaces</h3><p>Another nuclear reactor failure? Are the usual cleaning methods not good enough? Is your kitchen covered in radioactive ash? Or perhaps only cockroaches have survived, and you don’t know whom you should call for help? Try the slimy spike-cap!</p><p>This inconspicuous clammy mushroom is capable of absorbing huge amounts of the radioactive isotope caesium-137, thus immobilizing it. The mushrooms can then be picked and burned in a controlled environment, creating radioactive ash, which enables a much easier way of storing or further processing. The concentration of caesium-137 in the slimy spike-cap can be up to 10,000 times higher than in the environment around it. So put on your hazmat suit and go sporulate some mushrooms.</p><h3>Psylololo</h3><p>Psst! Looking for some mystical experiences? Fancy feeling at one with nature and the shamans that surround you? Or maybe you’re after vivid, colourful hallucinations? Come and join the <em>Psilocybe</em> circle, where colours have flavours, and all existential dread fades away!</p><p>Psilocybin, produced by our clever little brothers, has been known to humanity since the dawn of time. It is suspected to have contributed to the development of human consciousness and to have helped shape our spirituality, leading to the creation of religion. Today, it is used mostly for recreational purposes and in <a href=”https://przekroj.pl/en/society/leaving-your-ego-behind-tomasz-stawiszynski” target=”_blank”>therapy.</a> They say that once the door of perception is open and we see things as they really are, everything else will fall into place. We don’t promise that we can save the world, but it’s worth giving us a chance. Under specialist supervision, of course!</p>

<h3>Mushroom meat</h3><p>Are animal-borne diseases giving your civilization grief again? Has factory farming finally been recognized as animal violence? Perhaps you disagree with the concept of using animals as a source of protein in your diet, but you cannot imagine life without a tasty burger? The answer is already here: Quorn, the meat substitute made of <em>Fusarium venenatum</em>!</p><p>This spelling nightmare is, in fact, a delicious mushroom that grows in a sterile bioreactor, where it needs glucose and nitrogen to grow, and is later enriched with vitamins and mineral compounds. The final product is rich in proteins and fibre, has very little saturated fats, and has an exceptionally low track record of allergic reactions. On top of it, Quorn’s carbon footprint is 80% lower than beef’s. So far, the mushroom is known mainly in the West, but its popularity is growing fast – we can expect to see it on our plates sooner rather than later.</p><h3>Will work for food</h3><p>Reliable and hardworking fungus is looking for employment as polyethene waste utilizer. The issue of excessive amounts of plastic waste in the environment is prevalent, and humans are still looking for new ways to utilize them. My brother <em>Aspergillus terreus</em><em> </em>and I, <em>A. sydowii</em>, will happily take it upon ourselves to solve this pressing issue. Can work under challenging conditions with no special equipment required – we produce all of our enzymatic instruments ourselves, and they are perfect for softening and decomposing polymers. We would also like to use this opportunity to recommend the services of our good friend the oyster mushroom, who specializes in the production of environmentally-friendly biodegradable materials that could soon replace the outdated plastics. Feel free to get in touch.</p><h3>Yeast looking for eukaryote</h3><p>I am one of the best-known organisms on the planet, so how come we haven’t met yet? Tired of sexless germination, I am looking for the possibility of genetic recalibration to enrich my genome and establish a stable romantic relationship.</p><p>My full name is <em>Saccharomyces cerevisiae</em>, although I prefer to be called yeast. My career in the baking industry took off back in the times of the pharaohs. I’m still in touch with my friends and acquaintances in that part of the world, so if we get to know each other better, we can go for an exotic trip with a local guide. The baking business turned out to be very lucrative, but I didn’t see it as much of a challenge, which pushed me to keep expanding my horizons. Maintaining my signature freshly-baked bread scent, I tried my hand at alcohol fermentation. But don’t think me some shady moonshiner! I am a master of biochemical transformations, which I can prove with my vast portfolio of carbohydrates that I change into energy and ethanol. I’m comfortable with oxygen, but oxygen-free environments are also perfectly fine.</p><p>Being a fungus of success, I could never sit back for too long. I decided to try my hand at science next. I was hired as a model organism – not that I had to try very hard, considering my impressive skill set. A single-cell organism capable of growing in all kinds of conditions, a master of mitosis, who easily adapts to molecular modifications, has a lot in common – genetically at least – with more complex eukaryotes, including humans. In short, I am your perfect candidate. My academic interests include synthesizing medicines and hormones, ageing research, unveiling the secrets of cellular divisions and their accompanying DNA repairs, and intensification of mitochondrial mysteries. Lately I have become an avid fan of astrobiology, having visited the circumterrestrial orbit, and am planning a flight to the heliocentric orbit next. And while my genetic information isn’t exactly a scientific enigma, I still have a delicious secret or two to share. If you think you might be interested, swipe right. We’ll have a pastry, brew some wine, and if there’s a spark, we can try some conjugation.</p><p><em>Translated from <a href=”https://przekroj.pl/nauka/mysli-maslaka-tomasz-sitarz” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>the Polish</a> by Aga Zano</em></p><p>Reprinted with permission of <a target=”_blank” href=”https://przekroj.pl/en/” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>Przekrój</a>. Read the <a href=”https://przekroj.pl/en/science/the-magic-of-mushrooms-tomasz-sitarz” target=”_blank”>original article.</a></p>

Continue Reading

US Election

US Election Remaining

Advertisement

Trending