Full list and ways to reach out here: https://www.covid19-response.com/projects
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Project I: Curative - COVID-19 centralized diagnostic testing
Website is here.
Curative is an infectious disease diagnostics company focused on building specialized coronavirus clinical testing labs. Coronavirus testing is severely bottlenecked in the US in part because current tests requires cumbersome collection mechanisms, facilitated by a medical provider (rather than being able to do from home).
Fred Turner (CEO) is a biochemist, whose previous company was backed by Andreessen Horowitz, and was ranked among the top 100 scientists in the UK (Guardian). Vlad Slepnev (Head of R&D) has nine FDA diagnostic clearances under his belt. Dr. Jeffrey Klausner (Lab Director) is a professor at UCLA, medical doctor, and an infectious disease and public health expert. They have a team of seven and are pulling in volunteers and other team members quickly. Their main bottleneck in scaling will be hiring lab staff quickly, in addition to securing adequate reagents and equipment.
How the test works
The assay combines viral RNA isolation from a preserved saliva specimen and RT-qPCR amplification of purified RNA. This assay set is recommended by the CDC in their Emergency Use Authorization. Curative uses raw materials for much of the process, as opposed to the typically used kits which are currently in short supply. This will allow them to scale their test quickly, with a more secure supply chain in place. Saliva was selected as a sample type, rather than swabs, in order to allow people to self collect. This reduces the risk of exposure to healthcare workers during collection.
What Curative needs:
- Hiring: 1) Head of the clinical lab (Director/VP of Clinical Lab Operations), 2) as many technicians, accessioners and CLSs as possible (college PhD students may be ideal for technicians)
- Funding: $800k+
Project II: Critical Technologies - N95 mask v2 production & N95 v1 scale-up
Currently hospitals all over the nation are reaching critical shortages of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The shortages include N95 masks, the CDC recently loosened regulations to allow medical staff to wear surgical masks if they no longer have access to N95 masks. This is extremely dangerous. It’s common knowledge and significantly documented that surgical masks do very little to prevent the spread of aerosol-borne diseases. While the N95 masks do help with prevention and are much better than surgical masks they also have issues with fit because the design doesn’t put enough pressure on the cheeks, nose and chin allow particles to get in. This must be solved immediately to protect the healthcare professionals who will in turn protect our families.
Critical Technologies is ramping up production of N95 masks since there is a severe shortage that must be resolved ASAP. Secondly and more importantly, they have a new mask which has been proven to decrease infection by a factor of 6 compared to the N95 masks. It’s extremely important to get this new mask out and reduce the regulatory barriers associated with production. There is typically a 3 month process by NIOSH which is needed to accelerate as quickly as possible.
What this project needs:
- Funding: $500k+
- Regulatory support: fast track production through NIOSH regulations
- Manufacturing support: additional partners who can help scale production to millions of mask
Project III: COVID-19 Initiative PBC
What COVID-19 Initiative PBC needs:
- Funding: $1M
Part 1: Determine Neutralizing mAb and viral capsid structure
Research has shown broadly neutralizing activity of CR3022 and 47D11. Since we now have structure of both Spike protein and ACE2 (the host target receptor), we could use computational methods to find and verify the binding site (epitope) and affinity. This would have applications in vaccination, treatment, and diagnostics. We would also crystallize CR3022 and 47D11 in complex with Spike which would definitively show binding site. Work would then commence on determining structure of antibodies found in infected patients. We also seek to determine structure of the whole viral capsid.
Part 2: Produce Virus Pseudotype
Live virus samples are difficult to obtain and must be handled in at least a BSL-3 facility. And this still carries risk. Virus pseudotypes consist of a virus capsid with the viral DNA or RNA removed, rendering it non-infectious. This would allow for safe, rapid screening of antibodies for neutralizing and detection as well as resolving the structure of the whole viral capsid.
Part 3: Direct Detection PoC Test
The ideal test for COVID-19 would be a point of care test that would detect the virus directly. The way to do this is a lateral flow assay using 2 antibodies: one to connect the nitrocellulose substrate to the antigen, one to connect the antigen to a nanoshell which would give the visible signal. There is a chance 80R and CR3022 could work if their binding domains do not interfere. We know the binding domain for 80R but not CR3022 since we do not have the structure [see project 2].
Part 4: mAb Therapy
We need to run an assay to test definitively if CR3022 works as a broadly neutralizing antibody. To do this we would combine serum with antibody and virus and inoculate in to a susceptible animal. We need live virus samples and work in a BSL-3 lab. We are in talks to use one at UCLA and get viral material from here. If it works this would be the basis of a mAb drug. Other potential candidates are being released regularly including EK1C4, ACE2-Ig, and 47D11. We need to screen all of these and select and then optimize a final antibody for a therapy.
Project IV: Campaign to inform government officials to deploy significant containment measures immediately
“Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now” is an coronavirus response run by volunteer experts: epidemiologists, analysts, and organizers.
We are launching a campaign (CoronavirusActNow.org) led by epidemiologists to educate journalists and leaders on the range of outcomes of the coronavirus in stark terms — to level set with the public — and drive leaders to deploy drastic containment measures immediately.
Zack Rosen is the CEO of Pantheon where he leads the mission, strategy, and long-term vision of the company and the continued improvement and evolution of the product into an agile digital experience platform for enterprises. Zack pioneered the first large-scale Drupal website for the Howard Dean campaign in 2003, which helped revolutionize the business model of politics from offline to the Internet.
What this campaign needs:
- Share this initiative with your local government officials to influence them to act proactively now.
Project V: Informational public health resource on COVID-19 response
Flattenthecurve.com seeks to inform the public with up to date best practices for the public dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak. Provides analysis, links to relevant research, and common sense approaches to keep the public informed and engaged.
Julie McMurray is an Associate Director at the Translational & Integrative Sciences Laboratory (tislab.org) and in Assistant Professor of Senior Research at the Linus Pauling Institute. Julie is cross-trained in biomedical research, public health, project management, software engineering, bioinformatics, and data visualization.
What Flattenthecurve.com needs:
- Volunteers for vetting content, serving on scientific advisory board, translation, legal, and many other areas
- Funding: $5k (scroll to bottom of page for PayPal link)
Project VI: Distributing expert opinions via online NYU class
Professor Chris Dickey is hosting a public health and epidemiology course starting Monday, March 16th. The class features experts in virology, public health, and epidemiology with the goal of providing best practices to local communities to mitigate and respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. We are looking for 1-2 students to take notes in the
Chris Dickey is is an international development innovator and public health entrepreneur whose work seeks to develop sustainable public health models and to forge bonds between the academic community and practitioners in the field. He sees the challenges facing public health - vast health inequities, applied skills gaps among public health professionals, weak community health systems, and shrinking research budgets - and seeks to reimagine sustainable solutions through a multidisciplinary approach.
What NYU class needs:
- 1-2 volunteers to take meticulous notes and share them broadly