The rapid spread of COVID-19 across the globe has underscored the need for an equally rapid response, and above all else, sustainable and effective measures of detection, treatment, and prevention. Four of the portfolio companies from the Global Health Investment Fund–Atomo Diagnostics, AccessBio, Univercells and Themis Bioscience–are actively working to address the COVID-19 pandemic through efficient diagnostics that could help identify and track cases and the application of innovative technologies for vaccine development and manufacturing.
With GHIF’s support, Atomo Diagnostics has developed rapid home and point-of-care testing for a number of infectious diseases, including HIV and malaria. The Australian company’s AtomoRapid™ diagnostic test platforms incorporate a lancet, blood collection tube, blood transfer mechanism, and reading of the result into one, palm-sized device. By increasing self-testing capabilities and overall accuracy, the partnership between GHIF and Atomo has saved and improved the lives of people across several developing countries–a trend that is expected to continue annually. Now, Atomo is taking a leadership position in addressing COVID-19. In April 2020, Atomo announced a partnership with French diagnostics company, NG Biotech, SAS, focused on supplying Atomo’s integrated blood test devices to NG Biotech to use for its CE Marked blood-based antibody rapid COVID-19 test. The easy-to-use COVID-19 self-test could help reduce stress on healthcare systems around the world, since results are obtained in fifteen minutes, leading to better personal and community decision-making and greater peace of mind.
AccessBio, another GHIF portfolio company, is joining the fight as well. One of the world’s largest producers of malaria test strips, the company has recently been working on an antibody-based test strip for COVID-19–one that could possibly be integrated with other platforms. AccessBio seeks to increase global availability and accessibility in hopes of increasing testing rates globally.
Perhaps the most vital long-term step in winning the fight against COVID-19 is developing an effective vaccine to build immunity and prevent further outbreaks. A third GHIF portfolio company, Univercells, which is based in Belgium, is currently preparing to manufacture two vaccines for the virus. Production is expected to begin by September 2020, with the goal of making at least 200 million doses per year. Univercells’ unique capabilities are aimed at rapid facility construction and scalable manufacturing, enabling the delivery of large volumes of vaccines at sustainable and affordable prices.
Finally, by partnering with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the Institut Pasteur in Paris, another GHIF portfolio company, Themis Bioscience, is applying its plug-and-play manufacturing technology to help hasten the discovery of an effective vaccine. While developing immunomodulation therapies, Themis has built a unique and versatile technology platform–one that could only help in the discovery of a vaccine to help combat an unprecedented viral outbreak. This approach has previously delivered vaccine candidates for Chikungunya and Lassa fever, and Themis will now work within the consortium to develop a vaccine candidate against COVID-19.
Our mission is to continue to support our portfolio companies as they invest in and help develop and introduce essential global health products and innovations, which is exemplified by the recent efforts to address the pandemic. As others, we are concerned about the health and financial consequences of COVID-19, but we are proud to have supported companies that are on the front lines in developing diagnostics and vaccines to help prevent and treat it going forward.
Curt LaBelle, MD