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OraSure gains funding for coronavirus self-test device

Adnan Kayyali



Orasure gains funding for coronavirus self test device

Coronavirus self-test device is now in the works after BARDA granted OraSure Technologies the contract for development with a $710,310 grant. BARDA (Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority) is the federal agency responsible for accelerating the development of vaccines, diagnostics, and therapies to tackle public health emergencies such as the current Covid-19 pandemic.

BARDA previously secured funding for other companies like Hologic, to develop a high throughput Covid-19 testing device to process over 1000 test samples in under a day. Now BARDA is entrusting OraSure, with its extensive portfolio of other rapid testing devices for Ebola, Hepatitis C, and HIV, to deliver on the task at hand.

The device is supposed to be a rapid testing tool that can be administered by the patient from home with oral fluid samples. A result is given within 20 minutes.

OraSure said that they will be developing the coronavirus self-test device within the next 4 to 6 months, with plans for the product to be out in the U.S market as quickly as possible with the FDA’s accelerated approval.

“The sooner the better” said OraSure CEO, Stephen S. Tang, “but I think what we’re doing will have value for the foreseeable future.”

OraSure have proven themselves as leaders in point-of-care diagnostics, specimen collection and microbiome laboratory and analytical services in the past.

According to the company, the self-test device, would be able to identify the virus with or without symptoms and would not require medical professionals to administer or read results.

If successful, this device can be a game changer for testing in the US, especially since their slow start led to an upward spiral of cases, with mass testing proving inefficient. When compared to countries like Luxembourg, Estonia, South Korea and Iceland with the highest testing rates in the world per 1000, the US can really use a push.

A more decentralized method of testing such as that offered by the device can help identify new virus hotspots throughout the country.


Junior social media strategist with a degree in media and communication. Technology enthusiast and free-lance writer. Favorite hobby: 3D modeling.


The future of virtual events post-pandemic

Adnan Kayyali



future of virtual events

From virtual conferences hosting up to 10,000 people, to weekly meetups on a company or team level, the virtual communication space has seen a surge during the pandemic. What could the adoption and evolution of online communication tools mean for the future of virtual events?

The short answer? They will be there. Virtual events boast several advantages which companies and marketers will want to get hold of. In contrast, face-to-face events hold the same status. They are too different experiences, and as we will see, both have their place long after the virus subsides.

Let’s start with the advantages of hosting virtual events. Virtual events are incredibly versatile experiences, the kind of content you choose to show is limited only by the data transfer limit. Event planners can call speakers from halfway across the world to give a talk or attend a discussion.

Virtual events are also cheaper to organize, as no physical avenues are needed. Viewers can essentially browse the event content while listening to a discussion in another tab.

Companies with enough funds can supply their speakers with the equipment needed to hold a much higher production session or talk, including a microphone, face camera, and even a new modem. If not, most basic equipment will generally be good, and planners can test communications with the speakers beforehand.

The educational potential for such technology is pivotal in the 21st century and has so far contributed immensely to knowledge transfer during the pandemic and will likely continue to define the future of virtual events.

Medical professionals from all over the globe attended conferences and discussions to better understand COVID-19, and its lifesaving treatments. Virtual conferences and meetups were perhaps a key to maintaining communications and research initiatives across all industries in the past year.

In doing so, they have revealed their tools of greater influence.

One important aspect to consider in all fields is the data being acquired; with proper data gathering and customer journey tracking tools, companies can gain a substantial amount of quality insight into consumer behavior in any given industry; where the mouse curser goes, where the viewer’s attention is, and how much time they spend on a specific landing page.

Nevertheless, the human element of events will never be forgotten, and most business leaders predict that while virtual events take a new-found importance, physical gatherings have the ultimate advantage of human connection and relationship building.

Thus, the future of virtual events is certainly bright when employed properly.

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The pandemic’s hidden digital divide

Mounir Jamil



Digital Divide

The current pandemic has really opened our eyes to the importance of interconnectivity. Lockdowns, curfews, and quarantines helped us realize how our progress and prosperity is a function dependent upon one other, and we can clearly see this on an individual-micro level and on a group-macro level (companies, groups, governments).

The larger the company, the more complex the ecosystem of partners and their interdependence. Studies show that this is particularly true in developing countries where brewing beer sustains millions of livelihoods dependent on a fragmented and traditional trade such as corner shops, grocery stores and small retail.

Naturally, as a company grows larger, a more complex ecosystem of partners is required, but what about smaller micro retailers? The current pandemic has shed light on a critical weakness for small retailers. In most developed countries, the general consensus is that citizens enjoy high speed internet access therefore transitioning a business from brick-and-mortar to online seems relatively straightforward (with some training and practice). However, when we look at other countries where Wi-Fi is not as readily available, or when citizens have to walk lengthy distances to access Wi-Fi, that’s when you understand the daily impact of the digital divide.

As the pandemic continues, access to technology becomes another source of vulnerability and inequality as smaller retailers struggle to make the shift to digital, which only makes it harder for them to deliver across their value chain. Businesses that played vital roles in their communities are now unable to meet the growing demands online.

The pandemic has forced us to face the issue of the digital divide; while some might think we are all moving toward a digitally enabled future, the reality is that there are many communities across the world still falling behind. The issue of what needs to be done rests in the hands of governments and leaders worldwide to ensure that digital inclusion is extended to all citizens and disadvantaged groups.

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UK to rollout first-round of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine

Mounir Jamil



Pfizer BioNtech

The British Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) recently gave the green light to rollout the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for commercial use in the UK.

The first batch of vaccines are already making their way to the UK, with 800,000 units expected in the coming days. Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care said that the NHS will do its part in contacting people for the vaccine shot.

Based on vaccine storage requirements (-70°C), hospitals will be the first to receive supplies since they already have the correct storage facilities; the first round will likely take place in hospitals for care home staff, NHS staff and patients.

While the typical vaccine usually takes 10 years to be fully accepted, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was developed and introduced in just 10 months.

The UK has ordered enough units to vaccinate 20 million people – around 40 million doses in total. These doses will be given out as soon as they are made available by Pfizer in Belgium. The first round is expected next week, and “several millions” will be made available throughout December said Hancock. He also added that the majority of the rollout will take place next year.

The vaccine will be free, and it will not be mandatory. In addition, there are 3 ways of vaccinating citizens in the UK

  • Vaccination Centers
  • Hospitals
  • In the community, with general practitioners and pharmacists

As we speak, 50 hospitals are on stand-by and vaccination centers in venues like conference centers or sport stadiums are now being set up. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine will hopefully mark the beginning of the end of the pandemic.

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