May 24, 2023 11:52:43 AM
Written By: Biomeme Staff
Our COVID-19 testing facilities have mostly closed, but what they accomplished in three years lives on.
Recently, we did something painful: We shut down a business. We let dedicated staff go. It was hard for them, and it was a difficult decision for us—but we could not be prouder of what that organization and its committed staff of experts achieved, because what they achieved is unprecedented and remarkable.
We don’t have to tell you what the COVID-19 pandemic was like: you lived it. But as scientists, while we felt the fear and uncertainty as everyone did, we also were confident that a solution was not far off, because we knew what it would take to get there. And we were eager to be a part of the solution.
"OHL served the film industry for nearly three years, working on countless productions, conducting roughly 1.5M tests from 2020 to 2023."
The first full genome of SARS-CoV-2 was released in January 2020 and we joined the global race to develop effective tests and vaccines. With the full genome in hand, we were able to design PCR assays that were specific to two different regions of SARS-CoV-2 but would not detect other viruses, even closely related coronaviruses. By the time the pandemic made its way to the United States in March of 2020, we had a highly sensitive and specific shelf-stable test that we started to validate, submitting data to the FDA to receive Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). EUA was received on March 31, 2020.
But COVID didn’t stay still—and neither did we. As new variants emerged—remember Delta? Omicron?—we stayed on top of them, tracking their mutations to ensure our tests remained effective. Using open databases that were updated daily with the latest genome information about the virus from around the world, we checked our assay against new variant sequences monthly and verified that our test did not contain mutations that may lead to false negatives.
As we developed our PCR test, we also developed a business that could bring it to the public and to industries that desperately needed to reopen and stay open. In order for businesses, schools, and other vital industries to stay open for the good of their employees, their communities and the economy, they would need to know they were keeping their people safe with fast, regular testing.
We launched One Health Labs (OHL) as a subsidiary of Biomeme with that focus: to be a testing backbone to any business, any industry that needed it. OHL launched with a team of scientific experts as well as experts in a key field that was one of the first to get back to work, a multi-billion dollar business with a huge workforce and a global reach—the film and television industry.
To stay open and compliant with stringent union regulations, the film and TV industry needed regular, around-the-clock testing capabilities in all the places these productions take place: Hollywood, of course, but also Chicago, Atlanta, Albuquerque, New Orleans, and New York. So the industry needed a testing service that could accurately and reliably process regular high volumes of COVID tests in those locations; of course, because productions routinely set up and strike temporary locations, they also needed the ability to have those testing facilities set up wherever they went.
The OHL team included as many former film production staffers as it did lab technicians, people who understood the frenetic pace and intricate logistics of that industry.
And it worked. OHL served the film industry for nearly three years, working on countless productions, conducting roughly 1.5M tests from 2020 to 2023. If you liked films and TV shows like “Stranger Things,” “Better Call Saul,” “Spiderman,” “Bullet Train,” “Wheel of Fortune,” “Jeopardy,” Blacklist,” we’re proud to say that we had a small hand in helping those productions (and so many others) succeed, keeping the crew and their families safe.
“As new variants emerged—remember Delta? Omicron?—we stayed on top of them, tracking their mutations to ensure our tests remained effective.”
OHL worked with other industries, as well, helping schools stay open and spinning up testing locations for businesses large and small around the country so that they could get back to work and stay open safely, so that everyone who worked for those businesses could know they were taking the necessary precautions to keep themselves, their coworkers, and their families safe.
The emergency phase of the COVID pandemic ended, thankfully and mercifully. And it ended in no small part because of the testing capabilities that were so widely adopted that slowed the spread of the virus. And as that happened, the need for OHL faded away—a good thing in the grand scheme of things, but a hard thing for the people who made their livelihoods working there.
And to those people we say: thank you.
You know who you are, and you know what you did. You worked long hours, you worked in ever-fluctuating conditions during a high-stress time like no other. You did a job that had never quite been done before, you figured out how to do it every day, and you kept countless people safe and healthy. We are proud of everything that OHL did and grateful to you because you made it happen.
For everything that you did, a thousand times, thank you.
Experts had long predicted a global pandemic. And as our global community grows in population and in economic and cultural connections, the likelihood of another pandemic at some future point is very real.
We’re encouraged by what we learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. The strength and the capabilities of shared data and global communication was affirmed. The value of science was underscored and bolded: without the previous work and iterations upon the Human Genome Project, responding to COVID-19 would have been impossible; many more people would have died.
And we’re heartened by the realization of the premise that brought Biomeme to life in the first place, that advanced diagnostics and a holistic approach to global health will be key to ensuring a safe and healthy future.
We were ready for the pandemic because this is precisely what we do, and so we’ll be ready for the next emergency.
In the meantime, we’ll be in the lab.
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