May 1, 2020

Scientific research makes advances in the battle against the pandemic.…..volunteers offer themselves as research subjects to advance the cause of finding an effective vaccine. UCSF leads a global effort to evaluate existing drugs that can help our bodies reject the virus. Biotech innovators announce new antiviral drug to accelerate the healing of COVID-19 patients and human trials are underway for potential vaccines.

Cities repurpose empty urban streets to make more joyful paths for those who live there. California helps farmers get their unsold produce to families who most need it.

And libraries may not be lending books, but they are lending 3D printers to create PPE for healthcare workers.

Would you volunteer to be exposed to the coronavirus if it meant finding a vaccine sooner?

It’s called a human challenge study. Instead of injecting a vaccine into someone and waiting to see if they naturally become infected, a person is vaccinated and then deliberately exposed to the virus. The method has been used for influenza, malaria, typhoid, dengue fever, and cholera. Researchers are exploring whether human challenge trials could speed up the development of a vaccine for COVID-19, saving thousands or even millions of lives. More than 3,300 people from 52 nations have signed up for the campaign organized by a group 1DaySooner and hope the study will get underway in May. All of the participants must be young and healthy between the ages of 20-45.

Discovering existing drugs to protect human cells

COVID19 needs our cells and proteins to live, but what if we discovered existing drugs that stopped the virus from attacking our cells by starving it or chasing it away? That’s the focus of a team of international scientists led by UCSF molecular biologist Nevan Krogan, who announced they’ve found dozens of drugs that, if repurposed, could block entry or replication of the COVID-19 virus in human cells. Many of the drugs are already in the development pipeline or in clinical trials for other diseases. Nearly 25 are already approved by the FDA. Repurposing existing medications is faster than developing a new drug from scratch.

First human trials for a potential COVID19 vaccine begins in Germany and the UK

No one likes injections….. except if it involves the search for a COVID19 vaccine. Nearly a half dozen clinical trials are now underway globally to find a vaccine to fight the virus. US pharmaceutical firm Pfizer in partnership with the German company BioNTech, say that if successful, their vaccine tests could potentially supply 10-20 million vaccine doses by the end of the year. 200 doses will be administered to volunteers in Germany and there is hope that trials in the US could also begin soon.

Oxford University and pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca are also teaming up for vaccine trials which could have millions of doses ready by this fall. 320 people have been administered doses. To date, the vaccine has been shown to be safe and well tolerated although some temporary side effects have been reported including a fever, headache or sore arm, according to the University of Oxford.

Not a cure but hope for a new drug that may help patients improve more quickly

Gilead Sciences says a new antiviral drug, remdesiver is showing promise in treating patients infected with COVID19. While patients in both the placebo and test group showed improvements in symptoms, those who were given remdesiver exhibited a quicker response to the treatments. In the 1,063-patient trial, the time it took for half the patients to recover was 11 days with remdesivir versus 15 days for patients in the placebo group. Data from the study also suggest that starting remdesivir therapy sooner after symptoms develop might help patients with severe COVID-19 get out of the hospital faster than those who began therapy later in the course of the illness. Company spokesperson say they are pushing to see if the medication can be used earlier in the course of illness — such as when the disease is still “moderate,” and not in the severe stage.

PPE Courtesy of Your Local Library

Libraries nationwide are helping pool resources for students, teachers and the community. Some, like in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, are even using 3D printers to make PPE for healthcare workers and first responders

Farms to Families

With many restaurants are closed or operating as “take out” only, farmers have lost a huge market for their produce and many families can’t afford to buy fresh food. Now California Governor Gavin Newsom is pushing to expand the state’s Farm to Family program which facilitates farmer and rancher donations to food banks, with the goal of raising $15m to support the program for the rest of the year. Roughly 128 farmers and ranchers are donating to the California Association of Food Banks and another 200 farmers have expressed interest in participating. In March, Farm to Family distributed 14.5 million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables and in the first three weeks of April, distributed 18 million pounds of food. These funds will support the donation of 21 million pounds of fresh crops for the month of May.

A push to take back some streets….for good

Cities worldwide are taking advantage of their empty streets during the pandemic to make changes to allow for more foot and bike traffic. It could change traffic patterns in places like Dallas and Tallahassee ….and even Paris, forever., an Ulu portfolio company has launched a new initiative, the Populous Street Manager to help city planners manage the public right of way.

Looking for resources or COVID-19 stats for your zip code?

This website gives stats on numbers of cases/deaths in your area, where to go for help, what the current restrictions are and other resources to access quickly.

Looking for ways to lend a helping hand?

The Washington Post provided a handy guide on how to help nonprofits and businesses during the pandemic. The list includes:

How to help nonprofits

Support restaurants and bars

How to help at risk seniors

How to help ‘flatten the curve’

How to help at stores

How to help pets and shelters

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About the Author: Miriam Rivera

Miriam Rivera is co-founder and managing director of Ulu Ventures