Space Foundation News

In Midst of Coronavirus Pandemic, Space Companies Contribute to Testing and Diagnostic Efforts

Written by: Andrew de Naray

It’s easy to imagine space companies as having their eyes firmly set skyward and their heads in the clouds (and beyond), but the coronavirus pandemic has motivated companies that are in the business of space to shift some of their focus to more terrestrial matters. Among the immediate concerns of the public since the pandemic began have been the shortage of testing kits and limited information about how the virus spreads. Opinions abound regarding the varying responses to the pandemic, yet most would agree that more testing and better understanding are critical components to containing the virus. With that in mind, the Space Foundation has chosen to spotlight a few companies that are assisting on these fronts.

On March 26, Blue Origin and Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos spoke with World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to exchange thoughts on how to help control the pandemic. Notably, Amazon Web Services has pledged $20 million to support the development of new tools that will diagnose the virus. Bezos’ Instagram post following the exchange expressed “the urgent need for collective action to produce and distribute plentiful COVID-19 test kits.” Adhanom Ghebreyesus later tweeted about the meeting, describing the conversation as a “good call” and praising Amazon’s support in many aspects, among them their intentions to “scale up availability of #coronavirus tests.” Meanwhile, Amazon Care is also helping by leveraging its infrastructure to provide logistics, deliveries, and pickups of at-home coronavirus test kits in the hard-hit Seattle, Wash., area.

Besides providing a variety of mission-critical electronic solutions for space, air, land, and water, Cobham Advanced Electronic Solutions (CAES) reported that they’re responding to an increased demand for their Application Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs). These circuits are employed in the rapid sequencing of coronavirus samples to aid in diagnosing patients and are used in medical devices to deliver the genomic sequence of the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease. Technologies such as these provide insight as to how the virus is transmitted and evolves. Said CEO Shawn Black, “Today, we are proud that our ASIC solutions are able to contribute to the world’s fight against the coronavirus.”

Diazyme Laboratories, Inc., an affiliate of aerospace company General Atomics, announced that with guidance from the FDA, they have increased the availability of two proprietary test kits they produce to study the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). Said Dr. Chong Yuan, Managing Director of Diazyme Laboratories, “Research has shown that after infection with SARS-CoV-2, viral antigens stimulate the body’s immune system to produce antibodies that can be detected with our IgM and IgG tests.”

In uncertain times, it’s comforting to know that these companies are taking an active role in the efforts to restore our everyday lives — another reminder of how often those who engineer and produce space technologies later evolve those applications to benefit our collective wellbeing
here on Earth.

This article is the first in a series highlighting how Space Foundation corporate partners are addressing the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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