The PandemicTech Newsletter: Summer 2021

Luis Ochoa Carrera, Andrew Nerlinger, and Lisa McDonald in Austin, Texas; June 2021

After a narrow window of optimism in the U.S. — and a welcomed but too brief chance to see our family and friends in person — the Delta variant seems to have taken us back in time to February 2021 or July 2020. As our team is spread throughout the world and dealing with separate waves and completely different scenarios, we hope you are all staying safe and healthy…

Virtually the entire PandemicTech community is involved in some way with the ongoing response to COVID-19, and this work has been recognized in many ways in through awards, new positions, and via the press. Despite the challenges of the past 18 months, many of our team members are not only surviving but thriving and we are incredibly excited to share news of these accomplishments.

We hope you enjoy the introductions and updates in this newsletter. Stay tuned for big news from PandemicTech in the fall!

Introducing: Biju Jacob, Senior Advisor

Dr. Biju Jacob, Senior Advisor, PandemicTech

We are thrilled to announce that Dr. Biju Jacob has joined the PandemicTech team as a Senior Advisor! Biju is an experienced leader in innovation strategy, research infrastructure and start-up advisory with a decade of experience in early-stage discovery, clinical research and regulatory affairs. He has worked in both large organizations and start-ups with deep medical research & management experience. He currently serves as the team lead in India for the UNAIDS Health Innovation Exchange (HIEx).

Academically trained as a medical geneticist and a serial entrepreneur by passion, Dr. Jacob has advised 100+ biomedical/healthcare startups in conceptualizing, building, and running new ventures through Starthealth-Unitus Seed Fund, Axilor Ventures, CAMTech- Massachusetts General Hospital. He previously led innovation at the Narayana Hrudalaya hospital system in Bangalore, India. He is a recipient of BIRAC Innovation 2014 award, ISBA National award for entrepreneurship 2010 and CV Raman Young Scientist Awards 2007.

Introducing: Ifeanyi Nsofor, PandemicTech Innovation Fellow

Ifeanyi Nsofor, PandemicTech Innovation Fellow

Nigerian physician and public health expert Ifeanyi Nsofor has been awarded a PandemicTech Innovation Fellowship to support his efforts to promote healthcare innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa, including organizing the September 2021 Health Meets Tech Pan-African Hackathon in Abuja.

A public health physician from Nigeria, Dr. Nsofor is Director of Policy and Advocacy at Nigeria Health Watch and leads the organisations’ advocacy interventions. He is a leading advocate for universal health coverage in Nigeria. He serves as CEO of EpiAFRIC, a public health consultancy based in Abuja. Ifeanyi received his medical degree from Nnamdi Azikiwe University School of Medicine.

As a 2006 Ford Foundation International Fellow at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Ifeanyi obtained a Masters in Community Health degree. He is an alumnus of Harvard Kennedy School’s Strategic Frameworks for Non-profit Organizations. He has led 17 research projects across Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, Ghana and Nigeria. He was Co-Lead of evaluation of African Union intervention for Ebola Outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Dr. Nsofor is a 2018 New Voices Fellow at the Aspen Institute and is an Atlantic Fellow for Health Equity. He has spoken at TEDxOguiRoad on “without health, we have nothing.”

PandemicTech is proud to have sponsored and helped organize the 2018 Health Meets Tech Infectious Disease Hackathon in Abuja alongside EpiAFRIC, and Nigeria Health Watch. The 2018 hackathon was an extraordinary success in promoting public health innovation and entrepreneurship in Nigeria, bringing together over 100 innovators with news reaching 1.6 million unique Twitter users through an astonishing 10.4 million timeline views over the course of the event. Ifeanyi and the teams at EpiAFRIC and Nigeria Health Watch are building on the success of this event by organizing the 2021 Health Meets Tech Pan-African Hackathon.

Introducing: Mayra Ameneiros, PandemicTech Innovation Fellow

Mayra Ameneiros, PandemicTech Innovation Fellow

Argentinian biorisk management and biosecurity expert Mayra Belén Ameneiros has been awarded a PandemicTech Innovation Fellowship for her efforts to support PandemicTech’s collaboration with Cairo University to build biosafety and biosecurity training capacity in Egypt. Mayra will work directly with PandemicTech Senior Advisor Luis Ochoa Carrera on implementing PandemicTech-sponsored projects in Egypt that address this critical need through cross border collaboration with Egyptian biosafety professionals, organizations, and thought leaders.

Mayra is a member of the Biosafety Committee and the Biorisk Management Committee at the Argentine Normalization and Certification Institute (IRAM) and is a member of the Biosafety and Biosecurity Subcommittee at the Argentinean Association of Microbiology (AAM), an International Federation of Biosafety Associations (IFBA) Member Biosafety Association.

In 2019, Mayra won the MERRICK Scholarship for the South American Region to Certify the technical competence of individuals engaged in Biorisk Management. Due to this achievement, Mayra has a Professional Certification in Biorisk Management from IFBA. In 2020, she was sponsored again and acquired a Professional Certification in Biosecurity from IFBA. Mayra is the second professional in Argentina to achieve this IFBA Professional Certification.

Mayra has been recognized as a young emerging leader in her area by the IFBA when they nominated her to participate in its Global Mentorship Program 2020/2021 designed to link experts with less experienced counterparts in LATAM developing scientific communities. She serves as a Mentor in this program working with mentees from National Reference Laboratories in Paraguay and México. In 2021, she was selected as one of the 30 young scientists from the Global South to participate in the Biosecurity and Diplomacy Workshop from UNODA (United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs).

Mayra was the Biosafety and Quality Advisor at INTA (The National Agricultural Technology Institute) for their new containment laboratory and served as a Technical Advisor for the Ministry of Health to design fully equipped Mobile Laboratories while advising about containment and Biosafety/Biosecurity Practices. Mayra is also a Professor at the Argentinian Chemical Association (AQA) where she taught courses about “Biosafety in the Laboratory.” During the COVID-19 pandemic, she translated into Spanish and taught a course in association with Sandia National Laboratories about “SARS-CoV-2 Biorisk Management” designed for Latin American professionals.

Mayra has a BS in Biochemistry, with a Biotechnology orientation from the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) and an MSc in Blood Banks and Immunohematology from the Argentinian Association of Hemotherapy, Immunology and Cellular Therapy (AAHITC).

TEXGHS awarded U.S. Department of Commerce EDA SPRINT grant

The University of Texas at Austin

Congratulations to PandemicTech Co-founder Lisa McDonald and the Texas Global Health Security Innovation Consortium (TEXGHS) on being awarded a $750,000 grant to continue building a thriving a health security innovation ecosystem in Texas through the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Scaling Pandemic Resilience Through Innovation and Technology (SPRINT) Challenge.

The SPRINT Challenge was launched in 2020 to harness America’s entrepreneurial potential to address the economic, health, and safety risks caused by the coronavirus pandemic through entrepreneurship and innovation.

“The Biden Administration applauds the SPRINT Challenge awardees’ efforts to pivot to help their communities through difficult times quickly,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. “American entrepreneurship and innovation will help our country through this coronavirus pandemic and build back better, stronger, and more resilient.”

Awardees include nonprofits, higher education institutions, and entrepreneurship-focused organizations that demonstrated alignment with their region’s economic development priorities. Project scopes range widely and include efforts to scale biotechnology and health security efforts, re-open businesses safely, upskill workers, and boost entrepreneurship. Grant recipients received awards between $200,000 and $750,000.

“The SPRINT Challenge builds on EDA’s efforts to work with communities to build strong regional economies,” said Dennis Alvord, Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, in the award announcement. “Our grantees’ projects are laser-focused on using innovation to help America overcome the economic, health and safety challenges brought on by the pandemic.”

With the awarded funding, including a $750,000 grant and $201,150 in matching funds, TEXGHS will work with innovators and entrepreneurs developing technologies that complement the large global effort to facilitate the following:

  • Technologies that complement the development of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics (e.g., mass vaccination systems, vaccine tracking and distribution, modeling, COVID-19 rapid diagnostics, antibody modeling)
  • Safe return to work (e.g., commercial disinfection systems, business contact tracing)
  • Safe return to school (e.g., modeling reopening strategies, school sanitation technologies)
  • New paradigms in the provision of healthcare (e.g., remote monitoring and patient care, provider collaboration in remote care settings)
  • Innovations that mitigate the mental health impact of the pandemic (e.g., meditation and wellness, suicide prevention).

For more information:

The PandemicTech Podcast

The PandemicTech Podcast: Season One available now!

Join us as we introduce experts in health security, straight from the front lines of the fight against pandemic infectious disease, in Season One of “The PandemicTech Podcast: Innovation Gone Viral” — we invite you to listen via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, other major podcast sites, or our website:

Narrated by Grammy-nominated performer Tavia Gilbert and written/produced by Talkbox (Tavia Gilbert and Katie Flood), The PandemicTech Podcast shares the personal stories of public health experts confronting global biological threats like COVID-19 who, despite vast differences in language, culture, and politics, come together for the greater good.

Season One Episodes include:

  1. The Story of PandemicTech
  2. Disease Surveillance: Nurturing Ecosystems of Information
  3. An Invisible Biosafety/Biosecurity Network Made Visible
  4. Fostering Passion and Collaboration in Healthcare Innovation

Thank you to the PandemicTech team members who appeared in Season One (Sarah Gerwig, Lisa McDonald, Andrew Nerlinger, Luis Ochoa Carrera, Oyewale Tomori, and Ikpeme Neto). Special thanks also go to the many outstanding guests who joined us for Season One, including Moredreck Chibi (World Health Organization), May Elbatran (Parliament of Egypt), Maureen Ellis (International Federation of Biosafety Associations), Britta Lassmann (International Society for Infectious Disease), and Philip AbdelMalek (World Health Organization).

Stay tuned for season two!

The New PandemicTech Website

Check out the new PandemicTech website! Please send us any news, articles, or announcements you would like included in the new News feed.

TEXGHS at SXSW2021 Global Health Security Demo Day

Congratulations to the TEXGHS team on an incredible TEXGHS @ SXSW2021 Global Health Security Demo Day! On March 17, 2021, over 25 early stage companies from the U.S., Australia, Denmark, and Norway presented virtual pitches to the international South by Southwest (SXSW) audience as part of the virtual SXSW2021 conference. Keynote speakers included The Honorable Dan Tehan, Australia’s Minister for Trade and Tourism, and The Honorable Bent Høie, Norway’s Minister of Health and Care Services. Attendees also participated in outstanding panel discussions from health security leaders on topics including vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics, mental health, telemedicine and digital health, and technologies for frontline healthcare workers. Visit the TEXGHS @ SXSW2021 Vimeo Showcase to relive the event:

Global Health Security Innovation Week 2022

The Global Health Security Innovation Week 2022 is the world’s first conference focused on bringing together the health security and technology innovation communities to define and communicate today’s most pressing challenges in preventing, predicting, detecting, and responding to global health security threats.

Organized by TEXGHS and the Global Health Security Network, GHS Innovation Week 2022 will emphasize the importance of locally driven innovation in emerging ecosystems (LMICs) and will promote equitable access to technologies and resources for ensuring health security in all communities. Together participants will create a roadmap and a call to action for innovators to solve the most pressing current and future challenges in global health security.

For more information:

Health Meets Tech 2021 Pan-African Hackathon

PandemicTech is proud to be a Titan Sponsor for the 2021 Health Meets Tech Pan-African Hackathon, a September 2021 hybrid event in Abuja, Nigeria, organized by PandemicTech Innovation Fellow Ifeanyi Nsofor and the teams at EpiAFRIC and Health Watch Nigeria. Information is available via:

International Meeting on Emerging Diseases

PandemicTech is pleased to offer team members registration for the International Meeting on Emerging Diseases (IMED) conference, a virtual event from November 4–6, 2021, organized by the International Society of Infectious Disease. Please contact us if you are interested in registration. For more information:

ABSA International Elections

PandemicTech Senior Advisor Luis Ochoa Carrera

Congratulations to PandemicTech Senior Advisor Luis Ochoa on his nomination as a candidate for President of ABSA International, the world’s leading professional society for biosafety and biosecurity. For more information and to vote (ABSA International Members only):

Congratulations!

Luis Ochoa Carrera accepted a new position at Michigan State University in July 2021 and now is a proud resident of East Lansing, Michigan! Luis will serve as the High-Containment Lab/Pandemic Safety Manager in Environmental Health & Safety at MSU.

Innovation Fellow Amal Kasry has accepted a new position as CHIEF of Section for Innovation and Capacity Building in Science and Engineering at UNESCO:

Innovation Fellow Aniegbe Joel earned his Bachelors of Medicine/Bachelors of Surgery (MBBS) degree from the University of Nigeria Nsukka.

Innovation Fellow Ikpeme Neto led Wella Health to a second place finish in the Swiss Re 2021 Entrepreneurs for Resilience Award competition:

Innovation Fellow Fatima Aziz was named a Member of the Global Health Security Agenda Consortium Leadership for 2021–2022:

Innovation Fellows Fatima Aziz and Mayra Belen Ameneiros were selected by the U.N. Office of Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) to join the 2021 Cohort of Young Scientists from the Global South of the Biosecurity Diplomacy Workshop, Second Edition.

In the News

Lisa McDonald and Andrew Nerlinger were quoted in a Forbes article on venture capital funding for infectious disease companies:

Senior Advisor Oyewale Tomori wrote and was quoted in numerous publications on topics including the COVID-19 response and maintaining vigilance to prevent the next pandemic:

Acknowledgements

We would like to greatly thank our key sponsors — Bill Wood Ventures (Austin, Texas) and the Laura and John Arnold family (Houston, Texas) — for their ongoing support for PandemicTech. Thank you also to all of our team members and advisors for your support as we continue to build PandemicTech as a vehicle for innovation in the fight against pandemic infectious disease!

— The PandemicTech Team

PandemicTech (Austin, Texas, USA) is a virtual technology incubator confronting pandemic infectious disease threats