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Partnering Our Way Out Of COVID-19

ByChad Robins|May 27, 2020

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, our team will be interviewing experts from across the ecosystem to bring the HLTH community timely facts and updates.

I’ve heard it said that some of the best marriages show their true strength when faced with adversity. In the face of COVID-19, this clearly rings true as we witness unprecedented and extended partnerships and collaborations to fight what has been defined as “our generation’s greatest war.” I have been both inspired and humbled by all the leaders willing to pivot, dig deep, think outside the box, and put aside our individual company goals in the spirit of one shared goal – to conquer COVID-19. 

This “new normal” has created new rules and new ways to partner. As we develop innovative solutions to solve for COVID-19 and to help prevent a future pandemic, I believe we’ll look back on the partnerships forged during this trying time as a key part of the equation. In particular, these significant components of working together will steer our success:

Fast Moving Relationships Are Good: Yes, we’ve all experienced partnering in health care. Yet, think about how long it took for some of these partnerships or extended agreements and projects to emerge. Today, just as COVID-19 took off at an alarming rate, so has the speed of alliances forming to stop its progression. In our collaboration with Amgen to discover and develop neutralizing antibodies targeting SARS-CoV-2 to potentially prevent or treat COVID-19, we started work immediately with a verbal handshake.  It’s not about economics. It’s about saving lives. We are not the only companies forging ahead in this fashion. A new standard has been established, recognizing there is no time to waste. 

Remain True to Who You Are Individually and Together: Every one of us is stretching the potential of innovation to fight this new enemy. However, we will only win if we stay true to our existing and collective strengths. At Adaptive, we believe the key to diagnosing and treating disease lies within our immune system - nature’s most finely tuned diagnostic and therapeutic. We spent the last 10 years building a unique platform that can read and translate the immune system. Over two years ago, we formed a partnership with Microsoft to map population-wide immune responses to diseases at scale. When COVID-19 hit, we didn’t have to pivot. We were immediately able to apply our platform to advance solutions for the pandemic. As infectious and debilitating as COVID-19 is to society, the immune system sees it as it would any other disease and our platform works in the same way. Whereas others are focused on the virus itself, we have extended our partnership with Microsoft to focus on the immune response to the virus from people who have contracted COVID-19 or have been exposed. 

Commit to the Long Haul: As health leaders, we’ve all worked together to solve issues of the day while planning for tomorrow. However, among the extraordinary challenges of COVID-19, the importance of playing the long game becomes even more critical.  We need to constantly understand how what we are solving for today will also benefit us in the future -- to manage and prevent COVID-19 and potentially future pandemics. 

For example, there are many unanswered questions and challenges on the testing front today. Through our partnership with Microsoft, we recently announced ImmuneRACE – a virtual clinical study to develop a new diagnostic based on patients’ immune responses. With two types of tests currently available, we see the need for a third kind of diagnostic test – one that we believe can give a more accurate picture of a patient’s COVID-19 “status” that could help contribute to reopening society and potentially better manage and contain the virus long-term. 

Everyone Can Be a Partner:  Unfortunately, COVID-19 is anticipated to become “part of life” for the foreseeable future. What we are doing today can - and should - impact how it is managed for years to come. That’s why half the battle in the war with COVID-19 will be our willingness and ability to share information with each other. This war will not be won alone. Individual companies, public health organizations, academic researchers and government entities must work collectively towards diagnostics, treatments and vaccine solutions.

I am encouraged by the traction here. From worldwide efforts in the U.S. and beyond, we are seeing less competitiveness and more collaboration to share research and information. If anything is going to silence the open source vs. proprietary research debate, it will be COVID-19. At Adaptive, we are proud to commit that the de-identified data we uncover with Microsoft about the immune response to the virus will be freely available to any researcher, public health official or organization around the world via an open data access portal. 

Our collective “end game” is to advance solutions for COVID-19. As we do, I know we are also advancing how we partner and collaborate for an even greater impact on the overall health of patients and society for years to come.