“There’s an enormous number of pandemic silver linings,” said Genentech CEO Alexander Hardy at a recent Fierce Pharma conference. Faster, more plentiful partnerships both public-private but also private-private. Supply Drones, 3-D Printing, Telehealth and Video Conferencing have all been advanced by their use or their need to be used in the pandemic. Here is more detail on these pandemic silver linings.
Anthony Japour on MorningConsult.com talked about one of the pandemic silver linings, vaccine development. “It has been accepted for years based on first principles that an mRNA vaccine would be a logical platform advance to prevent viral infections. And yet this technology languished in development.” Chinese scientists released the coronavirus genome sequence publicly in January of 2020. Almost immediately scientists at the CDC, who had been working with mRNA development released their work to private pharmaceutical companies who used this work to develop the current vaccines at lightening speed. Without the pandemic, this type of vaccine might not have been developed for years or possibly ever.
The FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) was established in 2004 to authorize the use of unapproved medical products or unapproved uses of approved medical products to be used in an emergency to diagnose, treat or prevent serious life-threatening diseases. The highly interactive EUA process, including weekly town hall teleconferences, enabled manufacturers and academics to advance molecular diagnostic tests to be developed, validated, and deployed within weeks and months rather than years.
Genentech, as just one example, worked with competitors to further develop the monoclonal antibody (with Rengeneron), led a study combining Actemra and Remdesiver (with Gilead) and established an antiviral accord with Atea Pharmaceuticals for pandemic silver linings in private-private partnerships.
The integration of the use of artificial intelligence in healthcare was accelerated in the pandemic. It was used to scan publications worldwide to identify public health information, build disease prevention maps and integrate health apps and chatbots to rapidly screen people with COVID-19 symptoms. AI has the potential to increase effective detection and treatment methods in ways traditional means don’t.
Drones are already lifesavers in natural disasters and on remote battlefields but their use for delivering medical and other supplies to remote, quarantined and other hot zones was never clearer than in the pandemic.
Utilized both by basement hobbyists and the Department of Defense to address the early ventilator shortages in the pandemic, this technology facilitated the creation of new manufacturing pipelines that could produce human ventilators reliably and at relatively low cost. PPP was produced by idle industry and even those at home with a 3-D printer. An amazing amount of material was produced without a standard procurement process.
Most providers used to believe that telehealth was a poor substitute for face-to-face interactions. As one of the pandemic silver linings it is now recognized as an underutilized tool in the doctor’s toolbox that patients really like. Increased use of telehealth means a reduced need for office space, exam space, waiting rooms and administrative assistance. It could mean more time for follow-ups on chronic conditions and a patient’s overall health needs versus meetings that take place online in crises moments.
During the 1918 flu pandemic the telephone was recognized as a valuable tool unique in reaching out to those with the disease safely. The telephone wasn’t invented during the pandemic but its value was realized. Just like the applications Zoom, Google Hangouts and Blackboard are proving essential to ensure social distancing but also continue operations for governments, businesses, schools and family and friend’s interaction.