It’s a familiar saying that trying times bring out the best in people. These are those trying times. Indiana is indeed fortunate to have such a thriving life sciences sector (2,100 companies with 56,000 employees) at this moment in history. These are companies and people uniquely trained by their profession and experience to throw punches at COVID-19. Since the start of this fight, there has been no shortage of Hoosier life sciences firms willing to jump in the ring and start swinging.
Eli Lilly and Company, the largest of Indiana’s life sciences companies is bringing the full force of its scientific and medical expertise to face this challenge on various fronts. Partnering with the Indiana State Department of Health, Lilly helped jump start COVID-19 testing, leveraging their specialized research laboratories to analyze samples from Indiana healthcare facilities including nursing homes and emergency rooms. It is a service the company refuses to accept payment for. Lilly has also led the way in drive-thru testing for healthcare workers and first responders.
Not just a force on the local front, Lilly is also making global advances as a leader in the pursuit for a vaccine – isolating antibodies from one of the first U.S. patients to recover from COVID-19.
Roche Diagnostics, another major player in the Indiana life sciences, produced and shipped the first available commercial test kit for the disease. They recently sent out their third batch of 400,000 kits. It was a herculean collaboration by various divisions of the company along with the FDA, accomplishing in just six weeks what would normally take 18 months to two years.
Examples of other Indiana companies, organizations and institutions stepping up to making a difference:
- Purdue University biomedical engineers are working to develop a quick and accurate paper-based test for COVID-19. A clear test result can be read directly from the device making it portable. A version of the test already exists for other coronaviruses.
- Butler University’s research lab has been studying other coronaviruses for years – some quite similar to COVID-19. Butler’s research is aimed at finding a drug or therapeutic that could be given to those who have already contracted the disease.
- The Indiana Health Information Exchange is using health data in an effort to predict and prevent further COVID-19 outbreaks.
- Regenstrief Institute in Indianapolis, a global leader in medical information, is creating new codes and concepts, introducing the structure in coding needed for health systems internationally to manage the outbreak.
And, we cannot underscore enough the dedication and bravery of our healthcare providers who are on the frontlines helping patients. We are grateful for your work and sacrifices you are making to save lives.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it certainly demonstrates how Indiana life sciences are heavily involved in combating the pandemic. More organizations will continue to join the battle every day, offering their unique talents and insight to the effort. It’s something all Hoosiers can be proud of. In the best of times, a thriving life sciences sector is a tremendous contributor to the state’s economy. In trying times like these, a thriving life sciences sector is a life-saving necessity to the state, to the nation…to the world.
Patricia Martin is president and CEO of BioCrossroads. BioCrossroads (www.biocrossroads.com) is Indiana’s initiative to grow the life sciences, a public-private collaboration that supports the region’s research and corporate strengths while encouraging new business development.