Cambridge biotechnology firm IES Life Sciences has responded to the global pandemic by refocusing its research from autoimmune to contagious diseases. Originally founded to research respiratory diseases such as the flu, the Innovation Center start-up recently applied for a patent for their new COVID-19 test.
“Because our testing platforms can be used to address a multitude of diseases, we seamlessly shifted from the autoimmune to COVID-19 (infectious) space,” said IES CEO David Spiegel. “In addition to traditional diagnostic applications, we hope to see the FSIF test used as a screening tool to limit disease spread.”
Predicting Disease Severity
The value of the FSIF test is its ability to stratify patients into degrees of disease severity. After watching the test being developed in the battle against COVID, Spiegel decided to tack a different direction.
“The test we developed at IES was missioned for COVID-19 use with asymptotic individuals, capable of diagnosing the disease days or weeks prior to symptoms appearing.”
Understanding how an individual patient is likely to respond to the coronavirus helps alleviate many burdens it places on the health care system.
By giving health care professionals the ability to anticipate COVID-19’s path up to two weeks before symptoms appear allows providers to allocate limited resources to best serve the patient population.
The company’s preliminary tests used samples from a commercial biobank. IES is currently participating in a Pre-Pilot Study with Tulane University Hospital. Together with Rob Figliozzi, Director of Research and Development, IES has also applied for a Maryland Industrial Partnership Program (MIPP) grant to work with UMES on further test development.
Adapting Business to Meet Customer & COVID-Induced Needs
While IES has a unique customer base of physicians, researchers and government entities, Spiegel believes that the key to success is listening to their changing needs and being flexible enough to adapt to meet them.
“In an ideal world, we would all go back to a “normal” life and look at this pandemic as a blip in history. Unfortunately, that can’t happen now and may never happen.”
As a biotechnology and life sciences company, IES already observed strict safety protocols that are standard in the scientific community. In the lab, staff wear full protective gear.
Spiegel believes that certain protocols implemented during the pandemic should be part of daily life in the future.
“In general, there need to be more permanent hand sanitizer stations available to the public whether in the office, shopping or just doing recreational activities. For the foreseeable future, face masks should be available at every building entrance and see temperature checks before entering.”
Physical Distancing Space: A Rural Advantages
For Spiegel, Dorchester’s rural location been a distinct advantage.
“While the spread of the disease by asymptomatic individuals is a big problem in larger cities, the general lack of congestion on the Eastern Shore helps limit the spread by people who have yet to show symptoms.
He also believes that ‘folks in more rural locations like Dorchester and Somerset learn to look out for themselves and their neighbors which makes for a greater quality of life, especially in times of crisis.’
Learn more about IES Life Sciences and the FSIF COVID-19 test here.