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U.S. Rejoins WHO, Participates in Int’l Vaccine Project

White House

(Jonathan Cutrer, Flickr)

21 Jan. 2021. In one of its first actions, the Biden administration rejoined the United States in the World Health Organization, reversing a policy of its predecessor. Anthony Fauci, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at National Institutes of Health, says the U.S. is also taking part an international project backed by WHO to provide worldwide equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines.

After his inauguration yesterday, President Biden issued a plan for combating the Covid-19 pandemic, including several actions for improving international cooperation to better predict and mitigate pandemics. One of the items is, “Immediately restore our relationship with the World Health Organization, which, while not perfect, is essential to coordinating a global response during a pandemic.” Some experts fault WHO’s early response to the pandemic for accepting Chinese government explanations at face value that may have delayed a coordinated worldwide campaign.

In July 2020, the U.S. stated its intention to leave WHO in a letter to the United Nations. Yesterday, in another letter to the U.N., President Biden retracted the July letter, stating “The United States intends to remain a member of the World Health Organization,” adding that the U.S. plans to be “a full participant”.

This morning, Fauci represented the U.S. in a meeting of WHO’s executive board, where he noted that the U.S. would also cease drawing down the number of U.S. officials assigned temporarily to WHO and fulfill its financial obligations to the organization. In addition, Fauci said the U.S. would join the Covid-19 Vaccine Global Access, or Covax facility backed by World Health Organization, European Union, and several non-government organizations. Covax seeks to provide worldwide equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines, designed and led by a group called Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

Arrangements for nearly 2 billion vaccine doses

The Covax facility has financial support from 98 countries, with those contributions supporting vaccine distribution to another 92 countries in lower resource regions. On 1 Sept. 2020, the U.S. announced it would not take part in Covax. As reported by Science & Enterprise, however, the Covid-19 relief bill that passed Congress last month includes $3.36 billion for Gavi and Covax.

Also last month, Covax announced the project made arrangements to secure nearly two billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines. Those arrangements, says Covax, will mean 1.3 billion of those doses will be made available to 92 low- and middle-income economies eligible for assistance through Covax’s advance market commitment mechanism. That mechanism uses funds donated from 98 higher-income economies to purchase vaccines at large enough volumes to qualify for discounted prices.

Covax says its agreements include new deals for 170 million doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine candidate, and 500 million doses of the vaccine in development by Janssen, a Johnson & Johnson company. The group already has commitments from Serum Institute of India for 200 million doses, with an option for 900 more doses of either the AstraZeneca/Oxford or Novavax vaccine candidates. Vaccines made by Moderna, as well as Pfizer and BioNTech, now with emergency authorizations from the Food and Drug Administration are apparently not part of the Covax agreements.

Fauci said the U.S. would also take part in WHO’s Access to Covid-19 Tools, or ACT, Accelerator, a collaboration to speed development, production, and access to Covid-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines. WHO says it has commitments of $6 billion for ACT Accelerator, with another $4 billion expected. However, the program is still facing funding gaps of $23 to $27 billion.

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Disclosure: The author owns shares in Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer.

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Antibodies Prevent Covid-19 Symptoms in Long-Term Care

Mobile lab team

Mobile lab team with its customized RV (Eli Lilly and Co.)

21 Jan. 2021. A clinical trial shows long-term care residents and staff receiving a synthetic antibody treatment have a lower risk of getting symptomatic Covid-19 infections. Early results of the trial were announced today by drug maker Eli Lilly and Co., in Indianapolis, developer of the synthetic monoclonal antibody treatment bamlanivimab with biotechnology company AbCellera Biologics Inc. in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Bamlanivimab was initially developed by AbCellera as an immunoglobulin G antibody designed to block the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein that penetrates and infects cells. AbCellera says it screened more than 5 million immune-system cells against a blood sample from one of the first people in the U.S. infected with the novel coronavirus, as it was called at the time.

From this screening, AbCellera says it identified some 500 unique human antibody sequences that respond to the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for Covid-19 infections. Eli Lilly, which licensed the antibody in March 2020, and AbCellera partnered with the Vaccine Research Center at National Institute of of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, or NIAID, part of National Institutes of Health, to identify the best-performing candidates.

AbCellera Biologics first developed bamlanivimab as a therapy for individuals with Covid-19 infections, which the Food and Drug Administration authorized for emergency use in November 2020. That authorization covers only out-patients testing positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus with mild to moderate Covid-19 symptoms, but at high risk of more serious infections.  For treating patients hospitalized with more serious infections, however, bamlanivimab has less success, with a trial of the drug stopped when results showed little clinical value for these patients.

Eli Lilly, Abcellera, and NIAID are also testing bamlanivimab as a way to prevent serious Covid-19 infections among long-term care residents and staff, individuals at high risk of contracting the disease. The late-stage clinical trial is enrolling 5,000 assisted living and nursing home residents and staff, to test bamlanivimab alone and in combination with another antibody against a placebo as a preventive step against Covid-19 infections. The study team is looking primarily for patients contracting Covid-19 infections, particularly with moderate or more severe symptoms, as well as rates of adverse effects, including hospitalizations and deaths.

Residents and staff, infected and not infected

Eli Lilly and Abcellera are reporting early trial results directly, not peer reviewed, from participants receiving a 4,200 milligram dose of bamlanivimab or a placebo. The findings cover 965 participants, 299 residents and 666 staff testing negative at the start of the trial, and 132 participants, 41 residents and 91 staff, already infected with Covid-19.

Results show, among all participants after eight weeks, lower rates of symptomatic Covid-19 infections for bamlanivimab recipients compared to placebo recipients, reducing the risk of symptomatic infection by 57 percent. Among long-term care residents alone after eight weeks, the risk of becoming infected and showing Covid-19 symptoms is reduced by 80 percent among bamlanivimab recipients compared to placebo recipients.

The companies say rates of serious adverse effects were similar among bamlanivimab and placebo recipients, and consistent with earlier trials. Four deaths among these trial participants all occurred with placebo recipients.

As reported by Science & Enterprise in August 2020, Eli Lilly is taking extra steps to reach long-term care facilities for this and earlier trials, converting recreational vehicles into mobile research labs. The custom-modified mobile units, as shown  above, serve as infusion clinics for clinical trial participants, as well as self-contained materials storage and preparation labs.

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Celebrating the New Administration

Congress west portico

(A. Kotok)

20 Jan. 2021. Today is Inauguration Day in the U.S., a special day in normal times, and an extra-special day, given recent events and current conditions. As a result, we’ll not be posting new editorial stories today, but we will have sponsored/contributed items. Our regular editorial posts will continue tomorrow.

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Three Trends Driving Automation in Industry

– Contributed content –

Robot arm and gripper

(Michal Jarmluk, Pixabay)

20 Jan. 2021. Automation is bringing about huge changes for industrial businesses and any company that wants to remain competitive must invest in these new tools. There are so many benefits to automation including reduced costs, improved accuracy, and increased productivity. Businesses that fail to take advantage of new automation technology will soon become obsolete and fall behind the competition.

If you want to get ahead, you need a clear understanding of the automation trends that are currently driving change in industrial businesses. The most successful companies are the ones that get in on the ground floor and pave the way, not the ones that follow behind and adopt technology once everybody else is already using it. If you want your industrial business to be competitive you need to keep up with these automation trends.

Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence is a major driving force behind automation technology in all sectors. AI can be used in a number of ways to improve your business. Many manufacturing companies, for example, collect and analyze data to predict market trends, allowing them to be more prepared for fluctuations in demand. It can also be used to gather information about supply chains and suggest changes, so they can be optimized.

Inventory management has also been revolutionized by AI systems. Automating inventory management and picking improves logistics and cuts staff costs at the same time, which is a big priority for all businesses.

Robotics

Robotics is already used in many manufacturing businesses to automate tasks normally carried out by humans and as the technology improves, their role will be increasingly important. Robotic arms using an SMC pneumatic cylinder can be used to automatically pick and move items on conveyors or even to check for defects in products. However, there is a new trend in co-bots, which are smaller, more versatile robots that work in conjunction with human employees to carry out more advanced tasks instead of the basic repetitive tasks that robots are typically used for.

Machine vision

Machine vision is a technology that opens up a lot of possibilities when used in conjunction with robotics. Machine vision is already used to identify defects or color differences in products, for example, but in the near future, it will be used to facilitate close working between robots and humans. The majority of robotics at the minute are caged-off for safety reasons. However, as co-bot technology improves, it’s likely that machine vision will have a big role to play. Robots that are able to identify humans will be able to move around them autonomously, opening up a whole range of new working possibilities on the factory floor. Machine vision is also improving grasping applications because robots are now able to differentiate between different items and determine whether a soft or tight grip is required.

These are the key driving forces behind automation in industrial businesses and it’s these technologies that you should be investing in right now. Unless you are willing to be at the forefront of innovation in these areas, your business will fall behind.

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Tissue Culture: A Novel Propagation Method for Cannabis Industry

– Sponsored content –

Blooming cannibis plant

(My 420 Tours, Wikimedia Commons)

20 Jan. 2021. The nascent legal cannabis industry is turning into a big business with the total market value of 17.7 billion USD in 2019 and a projected compound annual growth of 14.3% from 2020 to 2027, according to a report. In 2018, the industry created 64,389 full-time jobs in the US alone which made marijuana the fastest growing sector in the American job market.

The Canadian producers of marijuana flowers, such as Aurora Cannabis (ACB), Tilray (TLRY), and Aphria (APHA), are traded at the world’s major stock exchanges.

All this creates a demand for innovations in cannabis cultivation systems and improving their efficiency. One of the more pressing concerns is the development of propagation methods that meet the requirements of mass production. The huge international market of home growing is currently dominated by feminized autoflowering seeds, with companies such as FastBuds—which specialize in this type of genetics—being the fastest growing.

Unfortunately, for plants that display a lot of genetic variability, the propagation by seeds is not a viable model because it doesn’t produce consistent crops in terms of growth patterns and the quality of the finished product. For this reason, cannabis plants are traditionally propagated on an industrial scale using a more effective approach — taking cuttings and rooting them.

Clones replicate the desired phenotype perfectly, but can be infected by insects or carry viruses and other pathogens. Several companies in the market are working to eliminate this risk by adopting the technique of tissue culture which is a decades-old horticultural method of sterile propagation of plant tissue in a vial.

Cannadabis Medical Inc from Humboldt, Saskatchewan, Canada is one such company which not only develops solutions of tissue culture propagation for large commercial grow-ops, but also caters to individual patients and caregivers — those who cultivate cannabis on a much smaller scale. For this purpose, they market their EZ-TC™ kits.

According to Cannadabis, the method of tissue culture propagation requires 10 times less space than cloning, is more than 100 times more efficient (per square foot of area used), and allows you to store genetic materials in a freezer for several months or years. The technology is easily scalable: e.g., with 400 vials, a large commercial producer can grow two million clones annually.

Besides creating true replications of the desired cultivars, tissue culture can also be used for rejuvenating parent plants and filtering out diseases and pests from the infected genetic stock. Cannadabis also proposes to use it for such potentially disruptive technologies as mutagenesis and genetic modification. Another promising direction is polyploidy—the doubling of sets of chromosomes—which can increase plants’ vigour and yields, potency and flavour, as well as trichome densities and drought and pest resistance.

In short, when it’s made widely available both to large growing facilities and individual horticulturalists, the method of replicating cannabis in a vial will open many exciting opportunities in this budding sector.

It is safe to assume that innovations like this will spur the further growth of the industry, allowing it to meet the rising demand in both medical and recreational marijuana worldwide.

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Crispr Heart Disease Biotech Raises $94M in New Funds

Editing DNA

(LaCasadeGoethe, Pixabay)

19 Jan. 2021. A company applying Crispr gene-editing technology to treat inherited heart disease is raising $94 million in its second venture funding round. Verve Therapeutics in Cambridge, Massachusetts is a two year-old enterprise spun-off from Massachusetts General Hospital and the Broad Institute, a genetic research center affiliated with Harvard University and MIT.

Verve Therapeutics develops treatments for inherited forms of heart disease, starting with heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia, or HeFH, a genetic heart disorder resulting in dangerously high levels of cholesterol, leading to heart failure, heart attack, or stroke at an early age. Unlike most treatments that aim to reduce cholesterol or triglycerides already in the blood, Verve first identifies people with higher genetic risk of HeFH — estimated at about 1 million in the U.S. — and edits the genes with mutations responsible for causing high cholesterol levels.

Gene editing in this case, says the company, needs to be very precise and granular, addressing pairs of nucleic acids called base-pairs that make up DNA. Humans have about 3 billion pairs of nucleic acids — adenine (A) with thymine (T), and cytosine (C) with guanine (G) — with the sequence of these nucleic acid pairs comprising a person’s DNA or genetic code. When mutations or errors occur in the these nucleic acids, the errors are transcribed into faulty instructions provided to cells with RNA and the proteins that result from those instructions.

For gene editing, Verve Therapeutics uses the technique known as Crispr, short for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats. Crispr is a genome-editing process based on bacterial defense mechanisms that use RNA to identify and monitor precise locations in DNA. Verve licenses its Crispr process from Beam Therapeutics, also a spin-off company from the Broad Institute.

Lead product in preclinical tests

Verve’s lead product, code-named Verve-101, is now in preclinical development as an HeFH therapy. Verve-101 is designed to edit genes producing proteins in the liver, particularly the PCSK9 gene to regulate cholesterol in the blood stream. PCSK9 controls the number of receptors for low-density lipoproteins or LDLs, the so-called bad cholesterol, produced in the liver. Verve-101 is given as an infusion of messenger RNA, packaged in lipid or natural oil nanoscale particles, where it’s taken up by the liver.

As reported by Science & Enterprise in June 2020, Verve Therapeutics presented tests of its therapy now called Verve-101 in lab monkeys at a virtual meeting of International Society for Stem Cell Research. The results show monkeys receiving single infusions of the gene-edited treatment had lower levels of PCSK9 and ANGPTL3 proteins in their blood, as well as LDLs and triglycerides, regulated by ANGPTL3 proteins. In addition, the study team found no evidence of off-target edits.

“Over the last year, we made significant progress toward our bold vision of eradicating coronary heart disease,” says Sekar Kathiresan, Verve’s CEO and co-founder in a company statement, “most recently supported by compelling non-human primate data, which validate in vivo liver base editing as a once-and-done approach to lower LDL cholesterol and treat coronary heart disease.”

The company’s second venture funding round is raising $94 million led by existing investors Wellington Management Company in Boston and life science venture company Casdin Capital in New York. Joining the round are existing investors GV, formerly Google Ventures, and Biomatics. Also joining the financing are new investors Redmile Group, Janus Henderson Investors, Cormorant Asset Management, Rock Springs Capital, Novo Holdings A/S, Logos Capital, Surveyor Capital, a Citadel company, and RA Capital Management. Proceeds from the round are expected to advance Verve-101 toward a clinical trial planned for 2022.

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Multi-Variant Covid-19 Vaccine in the Works

SARS-CoV-2 and cell

Scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 viruses emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. (NIAID, NIH)

19 Jan. 2021. A vaccine protecting against multiple Covid-19 viral variations is in development, with an early-stage clinical trial expected to begin soon. Gritstone Oncology Inc. in Emeryville, California designed and is testing the vaccine with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and  National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, or NIAID, but financial details were not disclosed.

Gritstone Oncology develops treatments for cancer and infectious diseases based on the specific DNA composition of target cells called neo-antigens. The company first created its technology, called Edge, for cancer to evaluate DNA from each patient’s tumor using genomic sequencing and bioinformatics to identify individual tumor-specific neo-antigens. Gritstone then applies its own algorithms with artificial intelligence to identify the most likely neo-antigens to activate an immune response, and delivers personalized synthetic neo-antigens for the patient as a vaccine, either on their own or with other therapies. Among Gritstone’s own treatments are T-cell receptors, naturally occurring proteins modified to target other characteristic proteins on the surface of target virus or cancer cells.

For a Covid-19 vaccine, Gritstone Oncology applies its Edge technology to targets on the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for Covid-19 infections. The company licensed from La Jolla Institute for Immunology validated epitopes, binding sites for antibodies and T-cells on antigen proteins recognized by the immune system, for SARS-CoV-2 viruses. La Jolla Institute derived the epitopes from analyzing hundreds of recovering Covid-19 patient blood samples.

Targeting the spike protein and more virus sites

Gritstone Oncology says its so far unnamed vaccine targets epitopes on the spike protein, like other vaccines, but also on other areas of the virus for attack by T-cells. The company says its vaccine is coded in messenger RNA and uses adenovirus vectors for delivery. The Gates Foundation supported preclinical development of the vaccine, while NIAID is partnering with the company on an early-stage clinical trial.

Preclinical tests, says the company’s chief scientist Karin Jooss, show the vaccine can produce multiple immune responses against more regions of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. “Our preclinical work,” says Jooss in a company statement, “has shown that our SARS-CoV-2 vaccines can induce sustained, high-titer neutralizing antibodies and CD8+ T cell responses against the spike protein, plus a broad CD8+ T cell response against epitopes from multiple viral genes outside of spike.”

Gritstone says the early-stage clinical trial will be conducted through Infectious Diseases Clinical Research Consortium, a network of medical centers established by NIAID to host clinical studies of vaccines, but other aspects of the trial are still being prepared.

Infectious disease specialist Daniel Hoft at St. Louis University in Missouri, and principal investigator of the study, says this and other new vaccines can serve a vital role in protecting the public health as the SARS-CoV-2 virus mutates over time. “It is important that we move forward with developing these next generation vaccines,” notes Hoft, “because we do not yet know whether the existing vaccines that have been granted emergency use authorization will provide long-term immunity or prevent transmission. Improved vaccines that can accomplish these additional benefits may be needed to continue mitigating the ongoing pandemic.”

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2020 Venture Funds Mixed, Biotech Keeps Sizzling

2020 venture transactions

Click on image for full-size view (PwC/CB Insights MoneyTree report)

18 Jan. 2021. Total venture investments in dollars jumped to a new high in the U.S., while biotechnology remained the single hottest sector in 2020. At the same time, the latest quarterly MoneyTree Report shows the total number of venture transactions eased from 2019, and seed funding deals for start-ups dropped sharply from the previous year.

The new MoneyTree Report, published last week by accounting-consulting enterprise PwC and technology research company CB Insights, shows venture investment dollars in U.S. companies totaled $129.7 billion in 2020, a new record high. The previous annual record was $122 billion in 2018. Venture investors placed $36.7 billion in the fourth quarter of 2020, almost the same as the third quarter total investment dollars for U.S. businesses.

The total number of investment deals in U.S. companies, however, dropped to 6,022 in 2020, continuing a downward trend from 7,052 in 2018. One glimmer of hope is a gradual increase in the number of venture transactions during the year, from 1,471 deals in the first quarter to 1,549 in the fourth quarter. The 400 seed-stage transactions — funding for brand-new start-ups — make up 26 percent of the total number of deals in the fourth quarter, but investment deals for these new enterprises have been dropping each quarter since 2019. Crunchbase found a similar decline in seed-stage funding over 2020.

Venture investors favored larger rather than smaller U.S. deals in 2020. So-called mega-rounds, deals of $100 million or more, comprised about half (49%) of total investor dollars, with the 318 mega-rounds in 2020 marking a new record number of deals that size.

Biotech remains super-hot

In the fourth quarter of 2020, venture investments in Internet-related businesses far out-paced other U.S. industries, attracting $15.3 billion in 687 deals. Health care companies ranked second drawing $8.5 billion in 244 transactions. But drilling down to individual sectors within industries reveals biotechnology as the hottest venture investment target throughout 2020, continuing a trend that began in previous years. During each quarter of 2020, venture firms invested more than $2.2 billion, in more than 85 deals. Internet companies developing accounting and finance software as a service  ranked second in both investment dollars and deals.

Worldwide venture investments in 2020, according to the MoneyTree report, showed a similar pattern to the U.S. Venture capital funding rose 15 percent to $295 billion last year in North America, Europe, and Asia combined, with venture funding also rising 11 percent in the fourth quarter compared to third quarter. However, the number of deals declined in 2020, by 9 percent in North America, 7 percent in Asia, and 6 percent in Europe.

The MoneyTree report also tracks exits, mergers and initial public offerings or IPOs where companies graduate from venture funding. In the U.S., the number of both mergers/acquisitions and IPOs reached record levels, with 210 and 61 respectively. The single largest merger-exit in 2020 was Bayer’s $4 billion acquisition of AskBio, short for Asklepios BioPharmaceuticals, a developer of gene therapies for inherited disorders, as reported in October by Science & Enterprise.

Venture investors continued to raise considerable funds for more deals. The MoneyTree report says venture investors raised $1.12 trillion in 2020, up from just over $1 trillion in 2019 and the second year in a row exceeding $1 trillion. The top five investment fund raisers accounted for $39 billion of that total in 2020, led by Andreessen Horowitz that alone raised $11 billion last year.

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Infographic – US Public Down on Vaccine Rollout

Chart: Vaccine rollout opinions

Click on image for full-size view (Statista)

16 Jan 2021. Half or more of American adults express negative opinions about the way Covid-19 vaccines are distributed, according to a recent survey. Findings from the survey conducted last week by by polling company Morning Consult and shown in this weekend’s infographic were displayed on Tuesday by business research company Statista.

The results show six in 10 survey respondents (60%) describe the Covid-19 vaccination campaign as frustrating, while about half call it disorganized (52%) or too slow (51%). Fewer respondents, between three and four in 10, use more positive terms to describe the process: effective (39%), strategic (36%), and moving at the right pace (31%). In addition, 40 percent of respondents say the U.S. process is worse than most countries, while 30 percent say it’s better.

Other findings from the poll, not shown on the chart, underscore the public’s mixed feelings about the vaccination rollout as the incoming Biden administration takes over the task. While half or more of respondents use the words optimistic (56%), relieved (54%), or happy (50%) to describe how they feel about getting a Covid-19 vaccine, almost as many say they’re skeptical (50%), anxious (47%), or afraid (41%).

Morning Consult conducted its national tracking poll online with 2,200 adults in the U.S. from 6 to 8 Jan. 2021.

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Registry Tracking Long-Term Covid-19 Impacts

Data pointing finger

(Vitaly Vlasov, Pexels)

15 Jan. 2021. A study now underway is tracking long-term effects of Covid-19 infections using real-world data from electronic sources provided by patients. The Innovative Support for Patients with SARS-CoV-2 Infections Registry, or Inspire trial is conducted by eight academic medical centers in the U.S., led by Rush University in Chicago.

The Inspire clinical trial is a patient registry that seeks to learn effects of Covid-19 on people in the 18 months following their diagnosis of infection. The study is enrolling 3,600 individuals with Covid-19 infections and displaying symptoms of the disease. For comparison, the trial is also recruiting another 1,200 participants reporting symptoms similar to those infected, but testing negative for Covid-19. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is funding the project.

Among participants, the study team is looking primarily for signs of myalgic encephalomyelitis, or chronic fatigue syndrome, a long-term disease causing fatigue, malaise, sleep interruptions, difficulty concentrating, and dizziness. The researchers are also tracking several other indicators including need for hospitalization, outpatient care, survival time without visiting a hospital or intensive-care unit, and death.

“This disease will be with us for years to come,” says Rush University chief analytics officer Bala Hota, also the study’s principle investigator, in a university statement, “and understanding the impact on the health of survivors will be essential to our understanding of how to treat it. This work will provide the foundation for our long-term understanding of the ongoing impact of Covid-19.”

In addition to Rush University Medical Center, participants are currently being enrolled at University of Washington in Seattle and Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Enrollment is expected to begin later at University of Texas Health in Houston, University of California in Los Angeles and San Francisco, University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas, and Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.

Data gleaned from existing health records

Data for the trial are collected through a system called Hugo that compiles real-world data with permission of participants. Real-world data are collected routinely for other business or health purposes, such as from electronic health records, insurance claims, fitness trackers, smart watches, or other mobile apps. They also include data provided from surveys completed by participants.

Participants are expected to complete surveys every three months over the 18-month period, with each survey taking no more than 30 minutes. All data are collected remotely, with no travel required to the medical centers. Participants are also compensated up to $100 for taking part.

Having this wealth of data in electronic form is expected to provide rapid analytics for researchers, to better understand patient outcomes almost as they occur. The researchers say they also plan to engage participants more as partners in the study, rather than statistical data points, to find ways of maximizing value of participants’ information while maintiaing their privacy.

In May 2020, as reported by Science & Enterprise, the Food and Drug Administration began collecting and evaluating real-world evidence from electronic health records and other sources to better understand the Covid-19 patient population, symptoms they express, medications taken, and risk factors for complications. The analytics are expected to help FDA better evaluate proposed diagnostics, vaccines, and treatments.

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