Innovations in Testing and Vaccine Production for COVID-19

Apr 24, 2020 | Blog


Issue #55. Friday, April 24
Hello Everyone,

For this edition of the Zoic newsletter, we will be continue our coverage of innovations in the COVID-19 space, both on the testing and the vaccine side.-Neal

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Zoic Senior Advisor, Vivienne Ming, joins the podcast to discuss AI for better living, and the economics of the health side of Covid-19 from a data perspective. Chris dives into an analysis of the public market as the rebound continues before Q1 earnings, and Neal presents new predictions on the percentage of business start-up failures, the increase in Americans working from home after the crisis, and a weakened Dollar.Guest Vivienne Ming is frequently featured for her research and inventions in The Financial Times, The Atlantic, The Guardian, Quartz and the New York Times, Dr. Vivienne Ming is a theoretical neuroscientist, entrepreneur, and author. She co-founded Socos Labs, her fifth company, an independent institute exploring the future of human potential. Dr. Ming launched Socos Labs to combine her varied work with that of other creative experts and expand their impact on global policy issues, both inside companies and throughout our communities.

COVID-19, Economics and Health Analysis from a Data Perspective
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Innovations in Testing and Vaccine Production for COVID-19

On the testing side, there are now more tests available for COVID-19, both for detection of the virus responsible and for antibodies. The nucleic acid tests are the only ones to detect an active, current infection of the virus. Some of the testing errors have been due to the requirement for a sample to be taken from deep within the nasal cavity. Because of the time constraints or training, improper sampling can result in a false negative. There is now a nucleic acid test, though, that can operate off of saliva, meaning this potential cause of the error can be reduced. 
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For the antibody testing side, there are now more of these available. These were initially not focused on due to them only detecting if a person had been exposed to the virus (SARS-CoV-2) and recovered in the past. However, even this information can be very useful now, especially since nucleic acid testing is still limited. It can show if a person has some antibodies in their system for some theoretical protection as well as for contact tracing. The tests are also somewhat easier to run; however, they still mostly use ELISA technology, which either requires manual steps and/or equipment that still takes a few hours and a lab to process. 
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There is also continued interest in using wearables to detect at least some of the symptoms, such as temperature. As mentioned in a previous newsletter, these wearables, although not able to detect infections directly, can still be useful now in showing where clusters of symptoms are appearing in order to direct isolation and quarantine efforts. In the future, as more capabilities are added, they can possibly directly detect the nucleic acids or antibodies for this virus or any future ones. 
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Continuing with testing for COVID-19, previously we featured several companies claiming to have at-home tests for the virus. However, those tests were quickly halted by the FDA, probably due to the need to ensure proper sample collection and transport as well as traceability. Now, the FDA has actually approved the first at-home swab test for COVID-19. This technology is offered by a subsidiary of Labcorp, interestingly enough, and will be first deployed for first responders and healthcare workers. This will help with some of the bottlenecks in sample collection, but will still need to be sent to a lab for processing and for the test itself. 
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Lastly, vaccine development for the SARS-CoV-2 virus is now in full swing, with over 70 candidates at the moment. Moderna’s effort has one of the earliest starts, and recently received a large amount of non-dilutive funding. This amount is not far from the ordinary costs associated with the full development of a vaccine, with some extra costs to expedite development where possible. However, due to the extensive safety and efficacy testing required, the time will still take about a year. There will be quite a set of times required to properly follow clinical trial participants for several months. 

Read More 
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