Community Labs is a nonprofit organization committed to creating COVID-19 Safety Zones in schools and other businesses by testing for asymptomatic COVID-19 patients with speed, accuracy, and the ability to scale to large populations in a zone. Through a non-invasive, front-of-nose swab of a nostril, Community Labs can provide accurate results in 24 hours. The lab, based in San Antonio, will start with 600 tests a day, scale to 12,000 tests a day, and have the potential to scale significantly in the near future.
Community Labs is about getting back to school, back to work, and back together, safely.
Unlike other labs across the country, Community Labs tests designated groups of people – micro-populations -- to determine asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19. Through an innovative, non-invasive model, our labs provide accurate test results in 24 hours, and can scale from hundreds to eventually hundreds of thousands of tests a day to create COVID-19 Safety Zones where people can get back together, safely.
Why not!?! No other group in the country has been able to leverage innovation and technology to create COVID-19 Safe Zones and employees back to work and teachers and students back into school safely. We have innovative founders, a great partner in BioBridge Global, the ability to leverage scientists from Harvard, MIT, and UT Health-San Antonio and the desire to help San Antonio start the recovery in a stronger way than other cities. We are creating the playbook and are willing to share it with other cities.
Assurance testing, or accelerated pandemic suppression, is the strategy Community Labs promotes to identify asymptomatic “silent spreaders” and suppress the COVID-19 pandemic. Pioneered at the Broad Institute by scientists from Harvard and MIT, tactics include: testing individuals in micro-populations at least once a week, providing test results in 24 hours or less, identifying those who test positive and requiring them to quarantine for two weeks before re-testing. Those who test negative may attend school or go to work with the assurance that those around them have also tested negative.
Silent spreaders are people who don’t exhibit symptoms associated with COVID-19 infection, also called asymptomatic. Fifty percent (50%) of COVID-19 carriers are asymptomatic and can spread the disease without knowing it. We know if we can identify those asymptomatic carriers in schools and businesses, it will allow Community Labs to create COVID-19 Safety Zones allowing kids to go back to in-person learning and employees to go back to work.
Rather than partially test the entire US population; we can fully test thousands of micro-populations. A micro-population is a school, business or community organization with a known, cooperative roster of students, employees, or members.
The test that will be used by Community Labs is not a new test developed here. It is a Thermo Fisher Scientific test that first received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the FDA in March, and has been in consistent use since then. It was one of the first COVID-19 tests to be authorized for use under an EUA. As of yet, no tests for COVID-19 have been approved by the FDA — all tests in use in the US fall under FDA Emergency Use Authorization status.
The Thermo Fisher Scientific test is not being modified or altered for use by Community Labs. What IS innovative is how the test will be used to test asymptomatic populations to prevent the spread of the virus. Currently most COVID-19 testing in San Antonio is available only to patients who have symptoms. In addition, we have worked to solve several supply chain issues to help lower the cost of the test and to ensure it can be made more widely available. In many cases, shortages of testing reagents and supplies have limited availability of testing and kept costs high.
The Community Labs testing process uses a PCR test, considered the gold standard for detection of COVID-19 virus. The test has been validated and shown to attain the required FDA level for sensitivity and accuracy.
At this time, the Community Labs is working exclusively with schools, businesses and organizations – contained micro-populations. Individuals in San Antonio can find testing sites at the City of San Antonio’s website: https://covid19.sanantonio.gov/Home. However, local labs are primarily testing those who have been exposed to COVID-19 or are exhibiting symptoms.
We all want children and teachers safely in a classroom and learning. Our strategy is specifically designed to quickly test children and adults, identify the asymptomatic carriers to stop the spread of the virus, and allow children and adults to learn in a COVID-19 Safety Zone that is virus-free and safe.
Two things happened. The first was that many of us assumed this was already taking place. Then, Graham Weston, the Community Labs chairman, was actual diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier in the year, and it is believed he got the virus from someone close to him who was asymptomatic. After a little research and trying to find places that would provide a quick and high-quality test to those who were asymptomatic, an idea was born. The Broad Institute in Boston had done some work with asymptomatic screening but cannot take it to scale in a way that is needed. Leveraging their insight, scientists at BioBridge Global and UT Health-San Antonio were able to innovate a solution. With the funding from 80|20 Foundation, Kronkosky Foundation and the Tobin Endowment, Community Labs was established.
Utilizing innovative supply chain solutions, the price of each test will be materially lower than current market prices, with a goal of scaling the price to lower than $35 per test. Businesses and organizations interested in implementing accelerated pandemic suppression testing for their employees may contact Community Labs at firstname.lastname@example.org or 210-866-6935. An initial pilot program has been established at Somerset ISD and that testing is being funded by generous donors.
Community Labs is a collaborative nonprofit organization co-founded by Graham Weston, former CEO and Chairman of Rackspace Technology (NASDAQ: RXT) and Founder of the 80|20 Foundation; J. Bruce Bugg Jr., Chairman and Trustee of The Tobin Endowment; and J. Tullos Wells, Managing Director of The Kronkosky Charitable Foundation. Weston is Chairman of Community Labs, with Bugg and Wells serving as Vice Chairmen. They provided and initial $2.5 million to launch Community Labs and are exploring other funding options and sources to be able to scale this effort.
The San Antonio Safe Learning Fund has been established at the San Antonio Area Foundation to fund an initial testing pilot at Somerset ISD, with the intention to expand to other area school districts. The fund, seeded by the 80|20 Foundation, is seeking donors to support this important work. Interested donors may contact Alexandra Frey at email@example.com.
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