As of this writing, the World Health Organization records more than 38 million confirmed COVID-19 cases. Hence, we see people in the Science and Technology industry exploring ways to respond to this pandemic. According to the United Nation’s undersecretary-general, Fabrizio Hochschild, the world can get through this global crisis with the help of science and international cooperation. International cooperation is one matter. But in the meantime, let’s talk about how science and technology can help fight COVID-19.
Here’s the thing: Science and technology are integral in containing and managing COVID-19.
As Biospring co-founder and Life Science expert, Michelle Dipp, points out, the spotlight is now on tech-enabled companies. That’s because they can withstand the pandemic.
That said, here are four ways science and technology work together to fight the COVID-19 pandemic:
1. Pharmaceutical Research and Development
From the US’s Moderna to Russia’s Sputnik V, it is undeniable that pharmaceutical companies are clamouring to develop a vaccine against COVID-19. But beyond that, we also see some changes in pharmaceutical research and development.
On average, it takes a decade before a new medication becomes available in the market. The fact that it needs to undergo three phases of clinical development makes it complicated:
- Phase 1: This is where researchers assess the safety and appropriate dosage of a vaccine to a small group of people.
- Phase 2: The vaccine will be tested on a larger group of people. It will be ideal if people share similar characteristics.
- Phase 3: The vaccine is given to more people to determine its efficacy and safety.
Each phase usually takes months and years. This explains why seeing an effective COVID-19 vaccine in the immediate future may seem far off.
Nonetheless, the current pandemic has pushed pharmaceutical companies to speed up the process. Here’s how it is made possible:
2. Getting a Head Start
Less than two months since the first COVID-19 case was reported in the US, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) started a clinical trial. Part of the fast response is familiarity with the disease.
3. Drive for Innovation
Innovation is integral to the speed of research and development. An example of this is a virtual clinical trial.
Back then, volunteers were recruited from clinics and hospitals. But because of the pandemic, patients can now join the trial virtually. And healthcare providers can monitor them remotely.
4. Mass Production and Deployment
Once a vaccine is found, it needs to be mass-produced and deployed worldwide quickly. This is where supply chain management could come in handy.
Mass production and deployment also entail global manufacturers to work together.
5. Clinical Treatment and Prevention Efforts
In relation to the previous point, scientific research has been directed towards virus prevention. And we are not just talking about the vaccines.
Science and technology are also making contributions on how healthcare providers can detect the virus. There is RT-PCR testing, rapid antigen testing, and antibody testing.
Sure, there is still an ongoing debate in various countries as to what diagnostic is more accurate. Nonetheless, we are seeing government bodies and health departments developing test kits. Plus, they are conducting studies on how they can diagnose as many people as they can.
Moreover, healthcare providers can come up with a couple of therapies. One of them is convalescent plasma.
6. Prevention and Control Technologies
New technologies used during this pandemic have contributed significantly to finding infected patients and their close contacts. Here are some of them:
While it is undeniable how data and technology were integral in crisis management, complex computational research paved the way for scientific progress. A great example is COVID-19 High-Performance Computing Consortium. It is a collection of extensive research that can help us better understand the threat we are facing. Thus, some of the projects include bioinformatics, epidemiology, and molecular modelling.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Aside from big data, AI is also playing a role in tracking, controlling, and predicting the virus’s spread. An example of this is DeepTracer.
It is an AI tool created by a team from the University of Washington Bothell using deep learning. What it does is analyze a 3D model of a virus protein molecule.
Why is this important? Because when you know a virus’s atomic structure, you can speed up treatment development.
Since not everyone has the liberty to go out, we are now leveraging the Internet more than ever. This includes online classes, online shopping, and instant messaging.
Hence, there is an ongoing race for 5G domination among service providers. That’s because this advancement can bring a significant improvement to the many services we use today.
Take remote working, for example. Aside from fast and secured connection, 5G is believed to open the doors for new technology that could be handy in this setup. Some examples are augmented and virtual realities.
Internet of Things (IoT)
Technological solutions were critical in keeping the cities functional during this pandemic. And this may go on after COVID-19. These technological solutions include drones, contactless payments, and IoT. All of these play a role in helping vulnerable communities. But let’s focus on IoT. IoT-powered control and automation systems enable remote employees to render their services. More so, if they are in the manufacturing industry. In addition, IoT protocols like RFID allow portable diagnosis. There is even an ongoing study of how wearable technologies can help identify and prevent COVID-19 cases.
7. Preparation for Future Outbreaks
Let’s face it; COVID-19 is likely to persist until next year. Be that as it may, the pandemic opened our eyes to what will remain and uncertain. The global crisis revealed deficiencies in security, infrastructure, and public health. Even strong countries like the United Kingdom were rendered powerless. Nonetheless, it has also made us aware of what we need if another break out happens in the future.
8. Collective Response
This pandemic has proved how inter-governmental collaboration is integral. Plus, it also emphasizes the need to coordinate with medical experts.
That’s because a pandemic is not just a health issue. It can also hurt a country’s economy.
Implementing safety protocols is what enables countries like Taiwan and Singapore to manage COVID-19 cases. For instance, they used analytics technologies to monitor and isolate people who are or can be infected.
10. Public Cooperation
Here’s the thing: Managing the spread of the virus is not limited to what science and technology, and the government can do. It also requires the public’s compliance with safety protocols. Nonetheless, these safety protocols are based on scientific pieces of evidence. This explains why the WHO advises that you wear a mask and maintain a physical distance of at least one meter when in public.
There is no denying that the pandemic has made, and will be making, a long-lasting impact on the world. As we navigate through this pandemic, it is vital to recognize the opportunities to innovate that come with it. For one, it put the spotlight on the importance of scientific research, robust technological advancements, and public health funding. It is because of these scientific findings that we can see the following:
- Finding a vaccine against the virus
- Developing test kits for accurate diagnosis
- Leveraging technology for contact tracing
- Using technology to prepare for the future
Because of this shift, we can expect that there will be changes in the public health sector moving forward.