Alphabet Verily is launching an antibody research study for Covid-19
The Alphabet Life Sciences Society, Verily, Launches research project with an initial focus on understanding how the human immune system responds to the coronavirus.
The company is adapt your existing study, Project Baseline, which aims to use the latest technology in longitudinal healthcare research to support the pandemic. Its first initiative, Baseline Antibody Research, offers serological tests to those who have already received a nasal swab test from Verily’s testing program.
Verily, from Google Life Sciences, has already deployed test sites on different sites in California for those who suspect they may have the virus.
A serological test is designed to detect antibodies that circulate in our blood to help fight infections. Researchers see some potential in using antibody tests to understand the prevalence of Covid-19 in a community, and studies are already underway.
But there are large variations in accuracy between the different test markers. These tests produce many false positives and false negatives. For this reason, many public health experts are wary of relying too much on antibody tests for so-called “immunity passports”, as we do not yet know whether a positive result means there is immunity conferred.
Verily’s medical director, Dr. Jessica Mega, said the company is trying to find out more about antibody testing, since there are still many unknowns about what a positive or negative result means for the people. Mega spoke at CNBC’s Healthy Returns conference about the importance of testing as a public health tool as the country begins to reopen.
Participants in the Verily study will be asked to provide blood and nose samples three times in ten weeks. The study is open to those who have been diagnosed with the virus, as well as those who have tested negative. The company highlighted that even if Baseline study participants need a Google account, it will not share people’s health information with Google for advertising purposes.
Participants could also be asked about their lifestyle and mental health via surveys. “Such information from healthy individuals can help quantify the public health impact of the disease and provide a basis for better understanding the changes caused by COVID-19,” the company wrote in a blog article. . published Monday.
The initial study is limited to California at this time, but Mega said there is potential for national expansion.
In addition to her antibody test work, Mega also told CNBC that Verily was providing its technology to a clinical trial already underway to understand whether hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug, could reduce the risk for medical workers. In truth, the objective is to study whether hydroxchloroquine can and should be administered prophylactically, that is to say, as a preventive measure.
Hydroxchloroquine has been touted as a Covid-19 treatment by President Trump and others, but some early studies show poor results and an increased risk of side effects, and there is a lack of duplicate randomized trials blind (the gold standard). Other studies are still in progress necessary to assess the overall safety and efficacy of the drug, including whether it is appropriate to administer it to medical personnel.
“The nation needs answers on this front,” said Dr. Mega.
Dr. Mega said his company is working closely with researchers at Duke University as part of the Healthcare Worker Exposure Response and Outcomes (HERO) research program. Duke highlighted that the results will be shared with the wider scientific community.