April 10, 2020 11:42AM

Businesses Combat COVID-19

The economics news is dismal with reports every day of shutdowns, layoffs, and furloughs. More than 16 million Americans have been thrown out of work so far, and we have entered the worst downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Yet amid the gloom there are frequent reports of businesses and entrepreneurs making advances in the battle against Covid‐​19. The private sector is racing to produce vaccines, treatments, tests, and medical supplies to defeat the pandemic.

Here are some recent developments:

  • Formlabs is churning out COVID-19 test swabs with 3-D printing, going from prototype to production in weeks. Meanwhile, Prisma Health and Johnson & Johnson are using 3-D printing to produce ventilator splitters, allowing one machine to be used by two patients.
  • Walgreens is expanding drive‐​thru virus testing in seven states this week.
  • Abbott Labs invented a COVID-19 test kit that produces results in 5 to 13 minutes. The company has shipped 190,000 kits so far. Cepheid and Mesa Biotech have also developed tests that produce fairly rapid results.
  • Robotics companies have created machines that drive around hospitals and other facilities spraying ultraviolet light (UVC) to kill viruses in the air and on surfaces.
  • Gilead Sciences has increased production of its experimental coronavirus drug remdesivir, and currently has 1.5 million doses that it is providing free of charge.
  • Brooks Brothers is making surgical masks and ramping up production to 150,000 masks per day from factories in three states.
  • Georgia Tech has teamed with Coca Cola and other companies to produce more than 50,000 plastic face shields.
  • Eli Lilly has teamed with AbCellera to isolate antibodies from COVID-19 survivors and develop a therapy.
  • Regeneron Pharmaceuticals is developing an antibody cocktail to treat COVID-19.
  • Johnson & Johnson is planning to start clinical trials for a possible vaccine by September.
  • Moderna began human trials in March and is hoping to develop a vaccine based on its cutting edge messenger RNA methodology.
  • Entos Pharmaceuticals is working to develop a DNA‐​based vaccine. Such a vaccine would be cheaper and easier to scale than typical vaccines.
  • OyaGen is conducting studies on the safety and efficacy of an antiviral drug that may be effective against COVID-19.
  • Airways Therapeutics, a startup specializing in lung diseases, is working to repurpose a therapy that reduces lung inflammation to treat COVID-19.
  • General Motors is building 30,000 ventilators, while Tesla and Ford are also aiming to produce the machines.
  • Rice University students developed a ventilator alternative to help patients when regular ventilators are unavailable. The devices are cheap to build and the plans are free online.
  • Telemedicine is booming in recent weeks after government deregulation. Stand‐​alone companies, such as Teladoc and Doctor on Demand, are adding doctors, and big technology firms, such as Apple, Google, and Microsoft, are entering the business. Hospitals, urgent care centers, and health networks have moved quickly into telemedicine. Mental health providers are going online. AT&T is partnering with VitalCare to offer free telemedicine to hospitals.

I discuss other business advances against COVID-19 here. Business Roundtable lists ways that its members are contributing here. BIO discusses medicines that its members are developing here. The Chamber of Commerce describes small business efforts to combat the virus here. PhRMA tallies the dozens of COVID-19 therapies and vaccines in development in the chart below and sourced here.

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David Kemp helped research this blog.