Singapore’s Biolidics Limited is betting big on its COVID-19 rapid test kits after clearing regulatory hurdles from the health authorities in Singapore, the Philippines and the European Union.
The medtech company, which specializes in cancer treatment equipment and applications, has created a test kit that detects antibodies directed against the coronavirus that’s sweeping the world. Biolidics says the tests have an accuracy rate of 95% based on its clinical trial of 570 samples.
Instead of deep throat or nose swabs that are intrusive and typically require hours or even days before the results are known, Biolidics’ tests use blood samples and a small device that measures antibody response to the virus within 10 minutes.
The company cautions that their rapid test kit results should not be used as the sole basis for diagnosis or for confirmatory testing. The results need to be interpreted together with clinical examination and confirmed with supplemental testing. Meanwhile, Singapore’s Ministry of Health issued a document released to all registered medical practitioners on April 3 stating, “There is currently no role for COVID-19 serology rapid test kits in the diagnosis of COVID-19 infections.”
The Biolidics test checks the blood for antibodies and can identify who was previously infected and may have already developed immunity to the virus. To date, 1.5 million people worldwide have been infected by COVID-19, and 88,000 have died from the epidemic.
Shares of Biolidics have risen 29% since announcing it had received provisional authorization from Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority on March 30. The following day, the Department of Health in the Philippines authorized the use of the company’s rapid test kit for the detection of COVID-19. The EU gave its approval to market and sell the tests on April 3.
In the context of blood testing for antibodies, “the technologies are not new,” says Jeremy Yee, chairman of Biolidics. “It’s been around since 1961 and used as a tool for [testing] Ebola and other pandemics.” However, the publicly traded firm with a market cap of S$70 million ($49 million) has been quick to gain a leg up as one of the early movers.
The first batch of test kits are “on the plane from China to Singapore as we speak,” says Dr. Wang Qing-Yin, Biolidics chief operating officer and former principal scientist at the Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases.
Yee estimates commissioning roughly two million COVID-19 test kits in the next two months from Nanjing-based Vazyme Biotech, a Chinese producer of enzymes and antibodies. “In terms of production, we are only essentially limited by our capital,” he says of temporarily reallocating resources meant for its cancer business to fund production costs.
While revenue for Biolidics rose 13.4% to S$1.4 million in 2019 from a year ago mainly driven by its cancer detection systems, the company is still in the red. But Yee expects sales of the new test kits to provide a major boost to earnings this year.
In the meantime, Biolidics is working to gain approval to sell its infectious disease diagnostic kits in other countries in Asia, and with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Emergency Use Authorization.
Biolidics is a spin-off of Singapore’s publicly traded Clearbridge Health incorporated in 2009. In December 2018, the cancer diagnostics unit of Clearbridge listed on the SGX Catalist board as Biolidics, raising S$7.7 million representing 11.3% of the company. Clearbridge remains its biggest shareholder with a 24% stake followed by the government statutory board Enterprise Singapore under the Ministry of Trade and Industry, via its Seeds Capital fund holding a 11% stake. The company plans to expand into China and develop innovative diagnostic solutions to lower healthcare costs and improve clinical outcomes.
Pamela covers entrepreneurs, wealth, blockchain and the crypto economy as a senior reporter across digital and print platforms. Prior to Forbes, she served as on-air foreign correspondent for Thomson Reuters’ broadcast team, during which she reported on global markets, central bank policies, and breaking business news. Before Asia, she was a journalist at NBC Comcast, and started her career at CNBC and Bloomberg as a financial news producer in New York. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and holds an MBA from Thunderbird School of Global Management. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post, Yahoo, USA Today, Huffington Post, and Nasdaq. Pamela’s previous incarnation was on the buy side in M&A research and asset management, inspired by Michael Lewis’ book “Liar’s Poker”. Follow me on Twitter at @pamambler
As the ripple of COVID-19 careens around the globe, it’s forcing humankind to innovate and change the way we work and live. The upside of where we find ourselves right now is that individuals and corporations will be more resilient in a post-COVID-19 world. Here are nine predictions of what our world may look like once we have left the pandemic behind.
1. More Contactless Interfaces and Interactions
There was a time not too long ago when we were impressed by touch screens and all they enabled us to do. COVID-19 has made most of us hyper-aware of every touchable surface that could transmit the disease, so in a post-COVID-19 world, it’s expected that we’ll have fewer touch screens and more voice interfaces and machine vision interfaces. Prior to the pandemic, we saw the rollout of contactless payment options through mobile devices. However, with the increase in people wanting to limit what they touch, an option to pay for goods and services that does not require any physical contact is likely to gain traction. Machine vision interfaces are already used today to apply social media filters and to offer autonomous checkout at some stores. Expect there to be an expansion of voice and machine vision interfaces that recognize faces and gestures throughout several industries to limit the amount of physical contact.
2. Strengthened Digital Infrastructure
COVID-19 caused people to adapt to working from home and in isolation. By forcing our collective hand to find digital solutions to keep meetings, lessons, workouts, and more going when sheltering in our homes, it allowed many of us to see the possibilities for continuing some of these practices in a post-COVID-19 world. For me, I realized that traveling to other countries just for a meeting isn’t always essential, and I have learned that video calls for all kinds of meetings (yes, even board meetings) can be equally effective. My daughter had her first piano lesson over a video call thanks to our social distancing requirements, and it went surprisingly well.
3. Better Monitoring Using IoT and Big Data
We see the power of data in a pandemic in real-time. The lessons we are receiving from this experience will inform how we monitor future pandemics by using internet of things technology and big data. National or global apps could result in better early warning systems because they could report and track who is showing symptoms of an outbreak. GPS data could then be used to track where exposed people have been and who they have interacted with to show contagion. Any of these efforts require careful implementation to safeguard an individual’s privacy and to prevent the abuse of the data but offer huge benefits to more effectively monitor and tackle future pandemics.
4. AI-Enabled Drug Development
The faster we can create and deploy an effective and safe drug to treat and a vaccine to prevent COVID-19 and future viruses, the faster it will be contained. Artificial intelligence is an ideal partner in drug development because it can accelerate and complement human endeavors. Our current reality will inform future efforts to deploy AI in drug development.
Have you received the emails from your healthcare professionals that they are open for telemedicine or virtual consultations? To curb traffic at hospitals and other healthcare practitioners’ offices, many are implementing or reminding their patients that consultations can be done through video. Rather than rush to the doctor or healthcare center, remote care enables clinical services without an in-person visit. Some healthcare providers had dabbled in this before COVID-19, but the interest has increased now that social distancing is mandated in many areas.
6. More Online Shopping
Although there were many businesses that felt they had already cracked the online shopping code, COVID-19 taxed the systems like never before as the majority of shopping moved online. Businesses who didn’t have an online option faced financial ruin, and those who had some capabilities tried to ramp up offerings. After COVID-19, businesses that want to remain competitive will figure out ways to have online services even if they maintain a brick-and-mortar location, and there will be enhancements to the logistics and delivery systems to accommodate surges in demand whether that’s from shopper preference or a future pandemic.
7. Increased Reliance on Robots
Robots aren’t susceptible to viruses. Whether they are used to deliver groceries or to take vitals in a healthcare system or to keep a factory running, companies realize how robots could support us today and play an important role in a post-COVID-19 world or during a future pandemic.
8. More Digital Events
Organizers and participants of in-person events that were forced to switch to digital realize there are pros and cons of both. For example, I regularly take part in technology debates in the Houses of Parliament in London. This week’s debate about ‘AI in education’ was done as a virtual event and went very well and actually had more people attend. We didn’t experience a capacity issue as we do with an in-person event, plus there were attendees logged on from all around the world. While I don’t predict that in-person events will be replaced entirely after COVID-19, I do believe event organizers will figure out ways the digital aspects can complement in-person events. I predict a steep rise in hybrid events where parts of the event take place in person, and others are delivered digitally.
9. Rise in Esports
Sporting events, organizations, and fans have had to deal with the reality of their favorite past-times being put on hold or seasons entirely canceled due to COVID-19. But esports are thriving. There are even e-versions of F1 car racing on television, and although it might not be the same as traditional Formula 1 racing, it’s giving people a “sports” outlet. Unlike mainstream sporting events, esporting events can easily transition online. Similarly to events, I predict more hybrid sports coverage where physical events are complemented with digital offerings.
COVID-19 might be taxing our systems and patience, but it’s also building our resilience and allowing us to develop new and innovative solutions out of necessity. In a post-COVID-19 world, I predict we will take the lessons handed to us by our time dealing with the virus and make our world a better place. What do you see in the future?
Bernard Marr is an internationally best-selling author, popular keynote speaker, futurist, and a strategic business & technology advisor to governments and companies. He helps organisations improve their business performance, use data more intelligently, and understand the implications of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data, blockchains, and the Internet of Things. Why don’t you connect with Bernard on Twitter (@bernardmarr), LinkedIn (https://uk.linkedin.com/in/bernardmarr) or instagram (bernard.marr)?
The new laws came into effect on Friday as the city-state takes drastic measures to try to curb the spread of COVID-19 amid a surge in new cases linked to travelers who have come from other parts of the world.
Anyone who intentionally sits less than one meter (a little more than three feet) away from another person in a public place or who stands less than a meter away from another person in a line will be guilty of an offense, according to rules published by the country’s health ministry. The new restrictions also ban people from sitting on fixed seats that have been marked to indicate they should not be occupied. The measures, which are expected to be in place until April 30, apply to business and individuals.
The Singaporean government also closed bars and nightclubs and placed limitations on gatherings of more than 10 people and banned large events.
Will Coronavirus Ever Go Away? Here’s What One of World Health Organization’s Top Experts Thinks
Dr. Bruce Aylward was part of the WHO’s team that went to China after the coronavirus outbreak there in January. He has urged all nations to use times bought during lockdowns to do more testing and respond aggressively.
On Thursday, officials in Singapore confirmed 52 new cases of the virus. Twenty-eight of those were imported cases, many with a travel history to Europe, North America, the Middle East, and other parts of Asia.
Other governments in the region, which largely avoided large-scale lockdowns that are now taking place across the U.S. and Europe, are introducing increasingly strict measures in the fight against the coronavirus, in the hopes of stopping a resurgence of the illness. The Hong Kong government this week announced that it was considering a ban on serving alcohol at bars and restaurants. Chinese authorities said that they will ban the arrival of most foreigners into the mainland from March 28, in an attempt to stop the virus from coming in from overseas.
The number of people infected with the coronavirus in Singapore rose to 683 on Friday. More than 500,000 people in over 175 countries and territories are now infected by COVID-19.
Topline: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a Sunday CNN appearance that “if we don’t get more ventilators in the next 10 days, people will die who don’t have to die” as the city—now the epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus epidemic—faces a possible shortage of medical supplies.
“We’re about 10 days from seeing widespread shortages,” de Blasio said, adding, “We have seen next to nothing from the federal government at this point.”
De Blasio also said that the military hasn’t been mobilized by the Trump administration, and that the Defense Production Act, which the president invoked by executive order Wednesday, has not been put into motion.
“It feels like we’re on our own at this point,” de Blasio said, adding that April would be worse for New York City than March has been, and he fears May could be even worse.
CNN also reported Sunday that Federal Emergency Management Agency head Peter Gaynor could not provide a number of how many medical masks were in the federal stockpile or how many have been shipped to state and local governments.
In a sign of demand on medical supplies, a Friday letter from a New York-Presbyterian Hospital department head said each employee would only be given one N95 mask (when it typically uses 4,000 per day).
Big number: 300 million. That’s how many masks could be needed for healthcare workers versus the current stockpile of 30 million, as testified to Congress by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar at the end of February.
Key background: The Defense Production Act is intended to be used by Trump to obtain “health and medical resources needed to respond to the spread of Covid-19, including personal protective equipment and ventilators.” Trump faced questions Thursday around his reticence to use the Defense Production Act to compel companies to produce healthcare items to combat the coronavirus, one day after he said he’d be invoking its powers. The New York Times reported Thursday that both the U.S. and countries abroad are facing a shortage of ventilators, with manufacturers saying that they can’t increase production to meet the demand.
I’m a New York-based journalist covering breaking news at Forbes. I hold a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Previous bylines: Gotham Gazette, Bklyner, Thrillist, Task & Purpose and xoJane.
The disease appears to have originated from a Wuhan seafood market where wild animals, including marmots, birds, rabbits, bats and snakes, are traded illegally. Coronaviruses are known to jump from animals to humans, so it’s thought that the first people infected with the disease – a group primarily made up of stallholders from the seafood market – contracted it from contact with animals.
Although an initial analysis of the virus that causes Covid-19 suggested it was similar to viruses seen in snakes, the hunt for the animal source of Covid-19 is still on. A team of virologists at the Wuhan Institute for Virology released a detailed paper showing that the new coronaviruses’ genetic makeup is 96 per cent identical to that of a coronavirus found in bats, while an as-yet unpublished study argues that genetic sequences of coronavirus in pangolins are 99 per cent similar to the human virus. Some early cases of Covid-19, however, appear to have inflicted people with no link to the Wuhan market at all, suggesting that the initial route of human infection may pre-date the market cases.
The Wuhan market was shut down for inspection and cleaning on January 1, but by then it appears that Covid-19 was already starting to spread beyond the market itself. On January 21, the WHO Western Pacific office said the disease was also being transmitted between humans – evidence of which is apparent after medical staff became infected with the virus. Since then, evidence of widespread human-to-human transmission outside of China has been well established, making chances of containing the virus much harder.
What exactly is Covid-19?
Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that are known to infect both humans and animals, and in humans cause respiratory illness that range from common colds to much more serious infections. The most well-known case of a coronavirus epidemic was Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars), which, after first being detected in southern China in 2002, went on to affect 26 countries and resulted in more than 8,000 cases and 774 deaths. The number of people infected with Covid-19 has now well surpassed those hit with Sars.
While the cause of the current outbreak was initially unknown, on January 7 Chinese health authorities identified that it was caused by to a strain of coronavirus that hadn’t been encountered in humans before. Five days later the Chinese government shared the genetic sequence of the virus so that other countries could develop their own diagnostic kits. That virus is now called Sars-CoV-2.
Although symptoms of coronaviruses are often mild – the most common symptoms are a fever and dry cough – in some cases they lead to more serious respiratory tract illness including pneumonia and bronchitis. These can be particularly dangerous in older patients, or people who have existing health conditions, and this appears to be the case with Covid-19. A study of 44,415 early Chinese Covid-19 patients found that 81 per cent of people with confirmed infections experienced only mild symptoms. Of the remaining cases, 14 per cent were in a severe condition while five per cent of people were critical cases, suffering from respiratory failure, septic shock or multiple organ failure. In the Chinese study, 2.3 per cent of all confirmed cases died, although the actual death rate is probably much lower as many more people will have been infected with the virus than tested positive.
How far has it spread?
China has borne the brunt of Covid-19 infections (so far). As of March 11, Chinese health authorities had acknowledged over 81,250 cases and 3,253 deaths – most of them within the province of Hubei. On March 17, China recorded just 39 new cases of the virus – a remarkable slowdown for a country which, at the peak of its outbreak in mid-February, saw more than 5,000 cases in a single day.
But while things were slowing down in China, the outbreak started picking up in the rest of the world. There are now confirmed cases in at least 150 countries and territories. Outside of China, Italy has seen the highest number of cases, with 47,035 confirmed infections, mostly in the north of the country, and 4,032 deaths – more than in China. The entire country is now on lockdown after the quarantine covering the north of the country was extended on March 9.
Spain is also in the grip of a significant outbreak. The country has 20,410 confirmed infections and 1,043 deaths – the second-highest number within Europe. There, citizens are under lockdown, with the government shutting all schools, bars, restaurants and non-essential supermarkets down. People are only allowed to leave their homes to buy food or to go to work. Germany has 19,711 cases and 53 deaths, with the state of Bavaria implementing a full lockdown.
Iran, too, is seeing a surge in cases. The country has confirmed at least 1,433 deaths and 19,664 cases. In the US, there have been more than 14,631 cases and 210 deaths – 74 of them in Washington State, which has become the epicentre of the US outbreak.
While the number of new cases continues to rise sharply, people are also recovering from the infection. Globally, 84,960 people have recovered from Covid-19 – about 32 per cent of all of the people who had confirmed infections, although the true number of coronavirus cases will be much higher.
What’s the latest in the UK?
As of March 18, the UK has reported 3,983 confirmed Covid-19 infections and 177 deaths. On March 16, prime minister Boris Johnson led the first daily coronavirus press conference, saying that the government now advised all UK residents to avoid non-essential social contact and travel where possible. On Friday March 20 this was extended to include a shutdown of all bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants in the UK. From the same day all schools in England, Scotland and Wales were shut until further notice. Only vulnerable children, or those who are the sons and daughters of employees in the NHS or other key industries, will be permitted to remain at school.
People who currently live alone are recommended to self-isolate for seven days if they develop a fever or persistent dry cough – the two most common symptoms of coronavirus. For families and other people who live together, the advice is that the entire household should self-isolate if any member develops either of those symptoms. This strategy is part of the government’s ‘delay phase‘ plan to flatten the peak of the virus and reduce the burden on the NHS.
A key part of this plan is shielding those who are most vulnerable to Covid-19: people older than 70, or those who have underlying health conditions. The prime minister said that this shielding may last as long as 12 weeks in order to ensure that the peak of the outbreak has passed, although modelling from Imperial College London suggests that these measures may have to be in place for as long as 18 months. Despite these measures, some have been critical that the government’s stance doesn’t go far enough. Italy and Spain have both in place widespread lockdowns, while South Korea has rolled-out extremely comprehensive testing for many of its population.
The outbreak has also had a serious impact on the UK’s stock market. On March 9 the FTSE 100 fell by more than eight per cent, knocking billions off the value of major UK companies. Cinema changes Odeon, Cineworld and Vue closed their doors while Euro 2020 was also delayed until 2021, which is an added blow to broadcasters, particularly ITV.
What are the symptoms of Covid-19?
Covid-19 shares many of its symptoms with the flu or common cold, although there are certain symptoms common to flu and colds that are not usually seen in Covid-19. People with confirmed cases of Covid-19 rarely suffer from a runny nose, for instance.
The most common Covid-19 symptoms are a fever and a dry cough. Of 55,924 early Chinese cases of the disease, nearly 90 per cent of patients experienced a fever and just over two-thirds suffered with a dry cough. That’s why the UK government is advising anyone with a high temperature or a new, continuous cough to stay at home for seven days or, if they live with other people, for the entire household to isolate for 14 days from the first onset of symptoms.
Other Covid-19 symptoms are less common. Just under 40 per cent of people with the disease experience fatigue, while a third of people cough up sputum – a thick mucus from within the lungs. Other rarer symptoms include shortness of breath, muscle pain, sore throats, headaches or chills. According to the WHO, symptoms tend to appear between five and six days after infection.
What’s happening with a vaccine?
A vaccine for Covid-19 isn’t around the corner. Bringing vaccines to the market is a notoriously slow process and any potential vaccine will have to pass multiple stages of testing for safety and effectiveness. And once we know a vaccine is safe, we will also need to manufacture it at a scale high enough to use across the world. It’s likely that any vaccine is around 18 months away.
That said, there is lots of work being done to develop a vaccine for Covid-19. The pharmaceutical firm Sanofi is trying to build on its already-approved flu vaccine and turn it into something suitable to treat Covid-19. Other approaches – such as one being trialled by the University of Oxford – are focusing on the external spike proteins on the Covid-19 virus as a way to target vaccines.
But accelerating these efforts will require funding. The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) has called for $2 billion in funding to support the development of new coronavirus vaccines.
What’s going to happen next?
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned that the window of opportunity to contain Covid-19 is “narrowing”. Recent outbreaks in Italy and Iran, which so far have no clear link to China, pose a significant challenge to health authorities trying to stop the spread of the virus.
After initially delaying the decision, on March 11, the WHO declared the Covid-19 outbreak a pandemic. The agency cited the rapid growth of cases outside of China and the global spread of the disease as reasons behind the designation. In January, it also declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern” – the highest category of warning for an infectious disease outbreak.
Since 2009 there have only been five declarations of international public health emergencies: the swine flu pandemic in 2009, a polio outbreak in 2014, the Western Africa Ebola outbreak in 2014, the Zika virus outbreak in 2015 and another Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2019.
And why the disease first appeared in China. NOTE: As our expert Peter Li points out in the video, “The majority of the people in China do not eat wildlife animals. Those people who consume these wildlife animals are the rich and the powerful –a small minority.” This video explains how the people of China are themselves victims of the conditions that led to coronavirus. The virus is affecting many different countries and cultures, and there is never justification for xenophobia or racism. You can find further reading on this on Vox: https://www.vox.com/2020/2/7/21126758…https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politi…https://www.vox.com/identities/2020/3…