COVID-19 Response

Last updated: 18 June 2020

We would like to recognize and celebrate some of the significant ways that SOSV startups are directly combatting COVID-19.

Top SOSV Startups Combatting COVID-19

Renegade Bio

SAN FRANCISCO, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Renegade.bio invented an improvement on the CDC testing method for COVID-19, turning four reactions into a single-step that doesn’t require RNA extraction. By dramatically improving turnaround time and capacity of testing machines, the RenegadeXP™method is 70% cheaper and takes half the time of a standard CDC test, with a net >4x increase in throughput. Renegade.bio has submitted an emergency use authorization application to the FDA for its RenegadeXP™ test.

In mid-April, Renegade.bio partnered with a well-known genetic research institute in New York City to operate a CLIA-certified laboratory to test government workers and medical personnel. The New York City laboratory is capable of running 1,300 tests every day, and will grow to serve a capacity of at least 20,000 tests per week by the end of June.

CASPR Biotech

SAN FRANCISCO, CA, UNITED STATES

Caspr.bio has a COVID-19 test leveraging the CRISPR Cas-12 enzyme that is cheap and rapid, at point of care. The San Francisco and Buenos Aires-based company started 2 years ago, went through IndieBio, and originally worked on Zika virus and other genetic testing. Caspr’s methodology delivers positive tests results very quickly after RNA extraction (1 hour vs. 8+ hours or days in some instances), using devices that cost less than $200 and testing strips that cost less than $10. Because the tests do not require a lab to process, they can be administered in public places such as train stations, business lobbies and airports. Once approved by the FDA, Caspr’s test will be the first CRISPR-approved COVID-19 diagnostic test. The company has working prototypes, plans to scale production over the next 2 months and start commercial testing at hospitals and labs in New York soon.

Verdex

RICHMOND, VA, UNITED STATES

Verdex has developed a nanofiber material that makes better masks for caregivers. Coronavirus virions are spheres with diameters of approximately 125nm. The smallest particles are 60nm, and the largest are 140nm. N95 masks are designed to shield 95% of objects down to 300nm. Verdex’s masks use nanofibers plus a proprietary resin to shield against objects less than 100nm, including the coronavirus. In addition, Verdex’s masks improve filtration, are twice as breathable as, and are priced comparably to, N95 masks. Verdex is producing sample masks now and is starting to work with American, European and Chinese manufacturers to make masks locally (eliminating supply-chain risk). The company is based in Virginia and Georgia, and the nanofiber material’s inventor was the original inventor of Tyvek and was a Fellow at Dupont.

OaCP IE LTD

CORK, IRELAND

OACP is a “fast reagents" company with reagents that are 18% faster, available in quantity, and less expensive than reagents used by the U.S. FDA and CDC. OACP can provide 100,000 tests per week with a 1 hour 6 min turnaround time using standard qPCR processing, which is 18% faster than CDC tests, roughly 45% faster than the ~2 hr South Korean test, and significantly faster than some other reagents that take up to 2.5 hours.The cost is approximately $14/test for PCR reagents (excluding extraction of RNA costs). The tests can be ordered by the tens of thousands with a 5-day turnaround.

OpenTrons

NEW YORK CITY, NY, UNITED STATES

OpenTrons has a liquid handling robot for small- to medium-scale laboratories that would be appropriate for testing in hospitals everywhere. In a 10-robot configuration, OpenTrons can run up to 15,000 COVID-19 tests per week. Each robot costs ~$8,000 per unit to deploy, and the 10-robot rapid scaled testing configuration costs $100,000. On April 22, OpenTrons announced a partnership with Zymo Research Corp, a California-based life science reagent company, to produce a high-throughput, fast turn-around, and affordable RNA extraction solution to combat COVID-19. Based in Brooklyn, the HAX graduate is well-funded with strong traction, and has been shipping for more than 4 years. Read more here.

Youibot

SHENZHEN, CHINA

Youibot has disinfection and inspection robots that can be deployed in large public areas. The Aris-K2 is a virus killing, autonomous indoor robot, integrated with UV light and an infrared temperature checking camera that can monitor customer’s temperatures during the daytime and disinfect surfaces at night. The accumulated UV light intensity is up to 270uv/cm2, which is the most efficient disinfection and sterilization function in the industry and can kill up to 99.99% of viruses. Youibot’s robot is suitable for mobile regional disinfection in high-traffic areas such as shopping malls, stations, offices, factories, airports, and hospitals. Over 10 Aris-K2 robots have been deployed, including at Renmin Hospital in Wuhan, and at Hefei Airport. Youibot was recently featured by the BBC and the New York Times. You can learn more by watching this video, and queries can be directed to amber@youibot.com.

Strados Labs

PHILADELPHIA, PA, UNITED STATES

Strados offers a COPD feedback monitoring system that provides automatic reports to doctors on unusual lung activity in patients. The company’s RESP product allows one respiratory professional to remotely monitor the conditions of at least 10x the number of patients than otherwise possible, providing continuous lung monitoring to determine which patients are getting worse and when. The system enables enhanced patient monitoring for overloaded hospitals, while also reducing patient and health care provider contact and exposure risk to COVID-19. The product is available now for research and on a compassionate use basis, with clinical trials at leading hospitals ongoing. Read more about it in the Philadelphia Business Journal and in metagadget.

Circadia

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM

Circadia enables the early detection of respiratory complications, the third leading cause of death, to save patient lives. The company provides an inexpensive, medical-grade, frictionless solution to clinicians in order to help improve patient outcomes, reduce provider workload and reduce the cost of care. Circadia’s C100 Contactless Respiratory Monitoring System conveniently monitors patients with acute respiratory illnesses both in-facility and remotely at home. During the pandemic, Circadia is delivering 2,000 C100 devices to health care facilities to minimize health worker contact and exposure to COVID-19, and is on track to tripling its manufacturing capacity. This follows the FDA’s latest guidance to expand the availability and capability of non-invasive remote respiratory monitoring devices. The company has started deploying its AI-powered C100 with a large hospital in Los Angeles and is in ongoing discussions with global governments and health systems. Read more here.

Prellis Biologics

SAN FRANCISCO, CA, UNITED STATES

Prellis Biologics is 32 days from anti-COVID-19 human antibodies, using their bioprinted, human mini lymph nodes. In 2017, Prellis Biologics printed human mini lymph nodes, which they injected with Zika virus. The mini lymph nodes produced human antibodies for passive immunity against Zika. Now, Prellis is doing the same for the coronavirus. In one week, they will be growing immune cells, in two weeks growing lymph nodes, and in a month screening the antibodies. In six weeks the antibodies will be sequenced for scale-up and trials, which could begin in as soon as 10 weeks. This is a much faster turnaround time for antibodies and even if other approaches yield antibodies first, Prellis’ approach is a more rapid way to generate antibodies as the virus mutates.

Formlabs

CAMBRIDGE, MA, UNITED STATES

Formlabs is a desktop 3D printing company currently working with US hospitals to 3D print nasopharyngeal (NP) swabs needed to collect samples for COVID-19 testing. A Formlabs printer can produce approximately 300 print swabs per build with the same material as Surgical Guide Resin. The company received the FDA’s Class I exemption and its swabs are now being used for patients at University of San Francisco and Northwell Health.

HabitAware

MINNEAPOLIS, MN, UNITED STATES

HabitAware makes an awareness bracelet to prevent face touching. Its Keen bracelet uses machine learning to recognize hand gestures in real time. This product was developed to treat Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRB), has won multiple awards including TIME Magazine Best Innovation in 2018, and already sold thousands of units. HabitAware has seen a spike of usage as frontline healthcare workers and the general public are now using the Keen bracelet to stop face-touching behaviors and reduce the spread of COVID-19.

  • More on how HabitAware prevents face touching here.

Aanika Bio (fka Carverr)

NEW YORK CITY, NY, UNITED STATES

Aanika Biosciences is mitigating global supply chain disruption with COVID-19 environmental tests. The tests, which do not require FDA certification, are being offered to large companies for surface testing at their warehouses, factories and other facilities. The cost of $50-$75 per test will help offset the cost of giving the tests out for free to schools and elderly homes in NYC. With sufficient volume of environmental testing, Aanika believes they may be able to create a better map of the virus and mitigate further spread.

LotaData

SAN FRANCISCO, CA, UNITED STATES

LOTaData, a provider of geospatial intelligence for smarter cities and real-world businesses, recently started analyzing their data for Italy, Spain and the US on a daily basis to understand anonymized people-movement and correlations with COVID-19 patterns. Social interactions and movements are the key drivers for the spread and by providing anonymized and aggregated information about the movement of people, LOTaDATA enables local and regional governments to better monitor the adherence to quarantine policy and helps individuals protect themselves by avoiding crowded areas. Fully GDPR compliant. More on their Data for Humanity program here.

O2O2

PORTLAND, OR, UNITED STATES

O2O2 (“Ao Air”) facewear cleans the air of pathogens and pollutants using proprietary nanofibers. Their lightweight, battery-powered facewear “engineers” the air using a fan to create positive air pressure behind a shield, protecting the user without requiring a seal. The mask protects the user from 99.75% of 0.25 micron (250nm) particulates / pathogens. There is an option for customizable filtration that allows for combatting specific threats. Compared to a market leading N95 mask, they are 44-67% cooler, 20-41% less humid and have 60-90% less CO2 inside the breathing area. They have working prototypes, and are aiming to have scaled production ready in the next 2-3 months.

Diadem Biotherapeutics

LOS ANGELES, CA, UNITED STATES

Diadem is engineering exosomes to be inhalable cell-specific immune modulators. Exosomes are small, virus-sized particles released by cells to communicate throughout the body. Diadem plans to develop a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine by engineering exosomes with surface bound SARS-CoV-2 proteins and immune-stimulating ligands, effectively turning them into non-replicative virus-like particles (VLP). To increase immune response and memory for the SARS-CoV-2 antigen, the VLPs can be engineered with immune stimulating ligands (e.g. 4-1BB).

mFluiDX

SAN FRANCISCO, CA, UNITED STATES

mFluiDx is developing a low-cost microfluidic diagnostic to detect COVID-19 in under 15 minutes in decentralized settings. Their chip is as simple and cheap as paper tests, yet has DNA/RNA level sensitivity able to diagnose onsite.

Pillsy

SEATTLE, WA, UNITED STATES

optimize.health, a HAX portfolio company that provides device-agnostic Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM), Patient Engagement and Workflow software for front-line healthcare providers, recently launched a COVID-19 screening tool that practices can use to proactively screen and triage patients. optimize.health was already growing rapidly since new reimbursements for Remote Patient Monitoring were offered by Medicare in 2019, and has seen a recent surge in demand for their solution as practices are rapidly moving towards virtual care models. The optimize.health platform evolved from Pillsy, which completed the HAX program in 2016, and now includes a suite of technology-enabled services in addition to the core software.

Ember Medical Inc

DOHA, QATAR

EMBER Medical Inc. is a comprehensive telehealth platform working directly with physicians and patients in underserved and rural areas to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. With a patient base of over 10,000 in Egypt and the greater MENA region, EMBER has witnessed a significant surge in download and call volume since the outbreak emerged in February.

  • Working with rural clinics in the US to ensure coverage for high-risk areas that lack medical infrastructure. As larger telehealth services struggle to keep up with increased demand, EMBER is stepping up to fight the epidemic.
  • The platform is dedicating additional physicians and resources to the COVID-19 battle, including a new triage service that determines if a patient’s symptoms meet the COVID-19 criteria and immediately connects high-risk cases with a physician.

Lupa Bio, Inc.

SEATTLE, WA, UNITED STATES

Lupa Bio is developing a new drug based on a sugar found in human milk to treat inflammatory diseases. Because of its origins in human milk it has unprecedented safety, backed by human and animal data, by virtue of a mechanism that doesn’t rely on suppressing the immune system which is what causes many of the side effects seen with today’s drugs. Because the uncontrolled inflammatory response is responsible for the severe symptoms and deaths associated with COVID-19 infection, Lupa Bio is evaluating the utility of its drug to reduce severity of symptoms of the infection in milder and moderate cases as well as in the severe Cytokine Storm Syndromes cases. Lupa Bio has completed a positive Pre-IND meeting with the FDA and is working to submit an IND this year to enable rapidly advancing into clinical studies.

Lief Therapeutics

SAN FRANCISCO, CA, UNITED STATES

Lief Therapeutics behavioral coaches and wearable smart patch empower patients to improve their mental health without going to the clinic. As more visits go virtual due to COVID-19, Lief helps people get the mental health services they need, fully remotely and covered by most U.S. insurance plans.

  • Lief is also leveraging its global supply chain to provide N95 NIOSH-approved respirators and other PPE for timing-critical supply chain buyers in need of 100,000 - 1 million pieces. More info here. Lief is helping hospitals and health systems import at-cost N95 masks and other PPE on an emergency basis. If you represent a healthcare organization in critical need of these supplies, please reach out at getlief.com/covid for more information.

Quartolio

NEW YORK CITY, NY, UNITED STATES

Quartolio, a software company that transforms the millions of scientific articles published per year into data points, is working on a new product that connects researchers and doctors with the work that is being done during the coronavirus pandemic. Their new platform, Coronavirus Core, uses AI/NLP to identify clusters of viruses that may be linked by anything from a drug to a hormone. It will be available to the public in the near future.

Chekk

HONG KONG

Chekk provides a secure end-to-end platform for Digital Identity, Know Your Customers (KYC) and Data Portability (for Retail and Corporates). Building on discussions with officials in various countries, these existing solutions can be used to enable a Digital Medical Passport (DMP) and other services for citizen and health professionals, in order to help governments with the current crisis such as identity verification, immunization proof, self-declarative clusters for anonymized alerts, secure digital records for tests. Chekk’s solutions are an alternative to typical contact tracing technologies, respect users’ privacy and associated laws & regulations.

Chronomics

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM

The Chronomics COVID-19 saliva testing kit is one of the world’s first spit tests for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA using the RT-PCR method. This test allows for the detection of COVID-19 infection even before symptoms appear, since it directly assesses for the presence of the virus in our body. The main innovations of the COVID-19 saliva testing kit include:

  • The saliva sample can be collected in a simple, non-invasive and painless manner, in striking contrast with the current state-of-the-art (nasopharyngeal swabs), while remaining equally (if not more) accurate. All the user needs to do is spit in a tube and wait to see their results online!
  • The sample can be collected from the comfort of your own home without the supervision of a healthcare professional. This is much more cost-effective and safe than going to the hospital and it protects our frontline healthcare workers.
  • It is amenable for population-level testing and it is possible to scale to millions of samples to support governments and organisations globally.

You can learn more about the Chronomics COVID-19 saliva testing kit from our website, through our blogs or in this government briefing feature.

Primitive Labs

SAN FRANCISCO, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Primitives is a biomaterials company that engineers plastics alternatives with functional, biodegradable, and environmental sensing capabilities. Currently, Primitives is working to reduce environmental transmission of SARS-CoV-2 via surface contact by developing bio-based, antiviral films.

Stae

NEW YORK CITY, NY, UNITED STATES

Stae has built a COVID Open Data Hub that provides easy access to COVID-related datasets to help civic leaders manage and improve response and recovery efforts.

-Link to the dashboard that is available online: (https://covid-19.municipal.systems/)

Prospective Scientific Development Areas

Synthace

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM

Synthace's goal is to raise universal bioscience productivity, enabling people to better engineer biology for health, food, energy and manufacturing. Central to our technology is Antha, an operating system for biology that enables ease of designing and optimizing biological unit operations that are linked into executable workflows that are reliable, shareable and saleable. Antha spreads biological information in a repeatable way, linking lab equipment, protocols and processes, thereby allowing vast and speedy development, enhancing productivity for any bioscience.

Improving lives during COVID-19

  • Snapask, a leading education platform in Asia for students to ask questions and get answered by qualified tutors, published over 50,000 questions in its question bank for free so that students can learn from home. Most schools are closed or closing amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Khan Academy, a leading education platform globally where SOSV Managing Partner Sean O’Sullivan serves on the board, has seen record registrations and usage, serving tens of millions more students monthly since the shutdown of many schools in America and globally. Useful parenting recommendations during school shutdowns are here .
  • viAct.ai, a Hong Kong-based company that leverages computer vision to automate the real-time monitoring of construction and manufacturing sites, offers an AI solution to detect people who don’t wear masks in public places so that it can help governments and organizations fight against coronavirus.
  • HR SaaS company Atiom updated their training modules and materials for corporates to train the team on how to take the correct precautions against the coronavirus and ensure safety in the workplace. Atiom offers a gamified mobile app to make employee engagement and training fun, efficient and measurable.
  • Digital therapeutics startup Mobio Interactive is working with NYU Grossman School of Medicine and the University of Zurich Psychiatry Hospital to deliver free digital stress-resilience training to people around the world. They will also collect data anonymously for governments and healthcare experts for COVID-19 treatment purposes.
  • ELSA Speak — an AI app for English pronunciation, SXSW Edu 2016 Winner — is making its Pro version free for K-12 students worldwide.
  • Eat Mubarak is a food delivery company feeding restaurant-industry employees being laid off or on unpaid leave in Pakistan.
  • Aylien using their news API to analyze media across the Transport, Manufacturing & Engineering, Sport and Entertainment industries.
  • NewCampus is a lifelong learning school for the modern leader. They've launched a new online programme focussed on building better leaders in times of chaos. The topics covered include - Leading through a pandemic, Transitioning to remote work, and Mental Wellbeing and Personal Development.
  • Endless West is shifting production from molecular whiskey to hand sanitizer during the pandemic. Their sanitizers have already been approved by the World Health Organization and will be distributed to healthcare facilities.
  • LightUp created a free virtual safari game so that kids who are home from school can learn about animals. www.lightup.io/apps
  • Simbe Robotics is helping grocery stores during the coronavirus outbreak with Tally, an autonomous shelf-scanning robot that identifies out of stock, misplaced and mispriced items. Simbe’s COVID-19 efforts were featured in Forbes.
  • Vital Vio manufactures antimicrobial LED lights which meet international standards for continuous and unrestricted use around people, providing a critical no-labor approach to keeping all of our most important spaces better protected.
  • Simply Good Jars is providing free, fresh meals to hospital workers to alleviate stress during long hours. They are doing this at the three hospitals that normally already have their smart fridges.
  • GIVN Water has partnered with Bareburger to launch a program called "Feed a Frontline Hero", allowing people to nominate individuals working in the NYC medical field or hospitals. The nominee will be entered to win a free food and bottled water drop-off for their hospital.
  • Amp Your Good has partners with Curbing Hunger, Inc., a community-based food bank program, launch an emergency online food drive. Goods are being distributed in the NY/NJ areas and are being shared with other food banks and pantries in the area.
  • VIT Initiative - COVID-19 toolkit including symptom screening and leading indicator tracking, to help industries return to operations.
  • A special thank you to Cork (Ireland)-based SOSV staff Mary Zhucui, a native of Wuhan, who on her own volition reached out to the Minister of Health of Ireland and has arranged the shipment of medical supplies including respirators from China to Ireland. We’re all in this together.

Other links at SOSV

There are dozens of other SOSV startups engaged in rapid response to the COVID crises, and this page will update every few days with those companies with particularly on-target responses as their efforts become publicly available. We are very grateful for all those who are taking initiative to help confront the most pressing current risk to our species.

We put together five key lessons learned from China-based startups from the business perspective, including how to manage the internal team and react to the external customers’ demands during the outbreak.

PR-Newswire announcement, $250k for new life science applications for COVID-19

IndieBio Coronavirus Initiative, call for applications

SOSV Medium Blog Post on Coronavirus Activities

To contact someone at these companies, you can reach out to those companies directly, or you can contact SOSV’s Joe.Hurd@sosv.com, who is responsible for COVID-19 Response & Commercialization Efforts.