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A tale of tradeoffs for a new type of coronavirus test

July 23, 2020, 4:44 PM UTC

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Good afternoon, readers.

I’m juggling a few things, so I’m afraid I’ll have to leave you with a short one. But I wanted to highlight a story by my colleague David Meyer on a new type of coronavirus test that’s been deployed in France.

Traditional COVID tests—not the blood tests for antibodies, but the ones for an active case of the disease—aren’t exactly fun. You get to have a swab shoved deep into your nose to collect a sample. That sample then has to be sent to a lab where it’s run through a machine that can conduct so-called PCR chain tests, analyzed, and then sent back.

The turnaround times are far from ideal during a surge in American cases. COVID diagnostics are a time-consuming process weighed down by logistics issues and supply chain constraints. But a new platform being built by the Hospital La Croix-Rousse (HCL) in Lyon, France could potentially return results in mere minutes.

The hospital’s research chief compares the process to a classic breathalyzer test—fitting given that COVID is a largely respiratory illness. “The machine will register the molecules in the exhaled air and then detects the traces of the sickness,” said Christian George in an interview with Reuters.

Just one problem: The machine involved is a beast that weighs in at 350 pounds and costs close to half a million dollars.

It’s a tale of tradeoffs. Versatility, timeliness, accuracy, and cost can have inverse relationships.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


Lasers, but for COVID. Speaking of intriguing COVID technologies, FierceBiotech reports on Adarza Biosystems' efforts to use lasers, light, and reflective coating to detect various kinds of coronavirus antibodies. The science is pretty wonky but fascinating. But Adarza's main pitch is that it can be used to detect a wider swath antigens (those pesky proteins associated with an infection which protective antibodies latch on to) that other types of COVID-19 antibody tests cannot. (FierceBiotech)


Roche earnings hit by pandemic. Swiss drug giant Roche on Thursday reported a fall in net profits for the first half of 2020 compared to the same period one year ago (to the tune of $630 million by current exchange rates). And the company is pointing the finger at lingering problems from the global pandemic, including travel restrictions, canceled patient visits to hospitals, and consumer reticence to physically visit pharmacies to get their prescriptions. (MarketWatch)


4 million. The U.S. creeped up on 4 million confirmed coronavirus cases across the nation on Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins. That's nearly double the number of reported cases in Brazil, and more than triple the number in India (the latter nation has more than four times the population of the United States). Case counts don't paint the full picture, as readers have pointed out, but they are a leading indicator of what might happen to hospital capacity and the number of deaths in the coming weeks and months. (Johns Hopkins)


33 states have instituted COVID quarantinesby Jeff John Roberts

How the pandemic is threatening the U.S. dollarby Veta Chan

4 ways businesses can adapt to a changing supply chain environmentby Anne Sraders

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