Local biotech companies pivoting and ramping up quickly to respond to COVID-19

Biotechnology research and development has been moving at a breakneck pace to bring new innovations forward to combat COVID-19, from manufacturing critical front line supplies for healthcare workers to therapeutic treatments and the long term innovation of developing a vaccine, according to CvilleBioHub Executive Director Nikki Hastings. On April 28, companies in the CvilleBioHub shared updates on the research, solutions and collaborations they are working on locally to combat COVID-19 in a recent CvilleBioHub webinar.

Martin Chapman, Founder/CEO of Indoor Biotechnologies, kicked off the conversation sharing details of how they are pivoting from manufacturing to applying their expertise to the expression of SARS-COV-2 proteins, a project led by Drs. Sayeh Agah and Crystal Richardson. The proteins are the cause of viral infection and how it gets into the body, Chapman said. The scope of the project involves a suite of proteins that will be available for scaling diagnostic tests, vaccine targets and monitoring change in immunity response during treatment in early summer.

One hundred percent of Caretaker Medical’s current medical device sales are COVID-19 related as health systems shift to practicing clinical distancing, said CEO Jeff Pompeo. With the Caretaker touchless wireless device, healthcare workers can now provide real-time care and make early decisions for patients remotely, resulting in less expense and use of precious PPE equipment. The company has seen a surge in demand and recently shifted back to U.S.-based manufacturing, with a new facility on the way to meet increased sales.

In just two weeks time, the team at ArcheMedX, led by CEO Joel Selzer, created robust activities within their training platform to focus on the response to COVID-19. The goal is to connect key information with key resources and get essential documents out to those professionals needing it. ArcheMedX has given access to activities around clinical trial activity and contact tracing on their platform which can be accessed here. 

Locus Health worked with local partner UVA Health to reconfigure their platform solution to service the COVID population in just five days. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned out to be a perfect application of the platform, according to CEO Kirby Farrell, and Locus is poised for growth based not only on new needs servicing COVID and other at risk populations like oncology, but also as the company expands its offering on more devices.

The discussion amongst the panelists illuminated the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic will have lasting impact on biotechnology and health care systems as we collectively navigate the continued fight and eventually re-emerge. Pompeo and Farell both commented that a previous lack of economic incentive for health care systems to invest in telemedicine/telehealth is now a priority and will continue to be as hospitals are driven by a goal to keep doctors, patients and potential high risk patients entering the system safe. The group also discussed a pendulum swing back to onshore manufacturing given supply chain issues and the idea of having oversight and control of both of intellectual property as well as the actual manufacturing process, as is the case currently for Caretaker Medical. 

View a recording of the webinar here.