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April 23, 2020

Covid-19 roundup: NIH partners with drugmakers to establish nationwide Covid-19 research strategy

Daily Briefing

    Researchers use CRISPR to detect the new coronavirus, Novartis launches a randomized trial for hydroxychloroquine, and more.

    Covid-19 weekly webinar: What you need to know in 45 minutes

    • FDA last week approved a low-cost, compact ventilator developed by the University of Minnesota to treat patients with Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, who experience severe respiratory symptoms. The device, called the Coventor, is designed for use in clinical settings where traditional ventilators are unavailable. The Coventor will now be moved into production so it can be distributed to health care systems (Associated Press, 4/15).
    • FDA will temporarily allow compounders to make drugs needed for Covid-19 patients on ventilators in an effort to address a shortage of the medications. The agency said it will not take action against compounding pharmacies that make copies of FDA-approved drugs used for patients on ventilators, fail to meet manufacturing requirements for stability testing for the drugs, or use bulk ingredients that are not on an approved list. FDA said the relaxed rules will remain in effect for the remainder of the country's coronavirus epidemic (Silverman, STAT News, 4/16).
    • Mount Sinai Health System in collaboration with Sana Labs has launched a free virtual learning platform for nurses who treat Covid-19 patients. The two-day curriculum aims to help nurses improve their knowledge of ICU policies, procedures, and equipment. The platform, called Project Florence, is available to hospitals and health systems worldwide (Drees, Becker's Hospital Review, 4/16).
    • Researchers at the University of California-San Francisco in a study published last week in Nature Biotechnology outlined a testing method for the new coronavirus that uses CRISPR. The test, which provides results in about 40 minutes, relies on CRISPR to search for and detect the new coronavirus from samples obtained from patients via nose or throat swabs. The test is faster than traditional tests for the virus but produces more false-negatives than the traditional tests, according to the study (Brodwin, STAT News, 4/16).
    • Cigna is launching a pilot program to address loneliness among 24,000 of its Medicare Advantage members during the Covid-19 epidemic. Through the program, Cigna will monitor the members' health and well-being and track their need for housing, food, and transportation. Members also can select to receive calls from Cigna representatives to increase social connectivity (Morse, Healthcare Finance News, 4/15).
    • Diagnostic startup Curative has received FDA's emergency use authorization for its novel Covid-19 diagnostic test. The test detects the new coronavirus using an oral sample collected from patients when they cough. As of last week, the tests had been used to diagnose more than 53,000 Los Angeles residents with Covid-19 (Shieber, Tech Crunch, 4/18).
    • Amazon has adopted thermal cameras to detect fevers in warehouse workers who could be infected with the new coronavirus. The cameras detect a high temperature by measuring the amount of heat the workers emit from their bodies relative to the temperature of their environment. Amazon had been using forehead thermometers to detect fevers in warehouse workers, but employees said the thermal cameras are faster and require less contact (Dastin/Hu, Reuters, 4/18; Axelrod, The Hill, 4/18).
    • NIH on Friday announced that it is launching a partnership with 16 pharmaceutical companies and a group of federal researchers to develop a coordinated strategy to speed up the development of vaccines against the new coronavirus and treatments for Covid-19. The partnership, called Accelerating Covid-19 Therapeutic Intervention and Vaccines, will standardize testing models and endpoints for clinical trials on Covid-19 treatments to ensure the federal government and drug companies are using the same criteria to evaluate the potential treatments (Facher, STAT News, 4/17).
    • Novartis on Monday announced it will initiate a randomized controlled trial to test the efficacy of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for Covid-19. FDA previously authorized use of the medication to treat Covid-19 on an emergency basis, but researchers have said there is no proof that the medication is effective against the disease. Novartis expects to have initial data from the trial by June (Miller/Erman, Reuters, 4/20; Herper, STAT News, 4/20).
    • Facebook on Monday released a map that tracks the percentage of people experiencing Covid-19 symptoms in each county in the United States. The company created the map in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University by deploying an opt-in survey that allows Facebook users to report potential Covid-19 symptoms like cough, fever, and loss of smell. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company will roll out the survey globally this week. As of Monday, more than one million people had responded to the survey (Bursztynsky, CNBC, 4/20; Klar, The Hill, 4/20).

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