This week, large-scale research into the risk factors for the coronavirus COVID-19 is being started in the Northern Netherlands. To this end, around 135,000 Northern residents will receive a weekly questionnaire in the coming period. Their answers will be linked to data from the Lifelines biobank to identify both hereditary and environmental factors that partially determine whether someone may fall seriously ill due to the coronavirus or simply develop mild symptoms.
The weekly questionnaire will be sent to participants of the Lifelines and NEXT research programmes. Their answers will be combined with previously gathered data, including genetic information. Head researcher Lude Franke, Professor of Genetics, explains: “With this research, we want to see whether there are differences between the DNA of people who have fallen seriously ill due to the coronavirus and people who have experienced mild symptoms.”
Influence on mental health
Furthermore, the extent to which the coronavirus influences Northern residents’ wellbeing will also be researched in this study. Is it making people feel gloomy or anxious? How is this affecting their dietary behaviour and health? How has this influenced their daily lives, including work? And what effects will this have in the longer term?
Mapping the spread
Thanks to this research, the spreading of the coronavirus across the three Northern provinces over the next few months will be mapped. This knowledge may help to more accurately predict what may happen in cases of infectious diseases or viruses in the future.
Northern Netherlands joins forces
The Lifelines coronavirus study is a joint initiative of the University Medical Center Groningen, the University of Groningen, the Aletta Jacobs School of Public Health and the Lifelines biobank. It was partly made possible by the University of the North, a collective of Northern knowledge institutions. Lifelines director Bert-Jan Souman: “It is extraordinary to see what we have organized together at such short notice. We are joining forces to broaden our knowledge on the coronavirus and to contribute to society through scientific research.”
Contributions by Lifelines participants
Only participants of the Lifelines and Lifelines NEXT research programmes are invited to contribute to this study. They will receive an email invitation to this end. More information can be found at http://www.lifelines.nl/covid19.
"Next Level Dystopian Sh*t": Amazon Rolls Out Portable Panic Booth For Warehouse Employees To Collect Themselves
After years of reports of Amazon warehouse employees being forced to urinate in bottles, forego medical care, and work through injuries - causing hundreds to launch petitions and revolt, the online retail giant has come up with a solution...
...a special sensory deprivation booth that allows stressed out employees to collect themselves before heading back out to the floor.
Known simply as the “ZenBooth,” the new apparatus, according to a video released by the company on Wednesday, is an “interactive kiosk where you can navigate through a library of mental health and mindful practices to recharge that internal battery.” -daily dot
The "ZenBooth" is part of Amazon's WorkingWell program, which allows employees to "recharge and reenergize" with a series of "physical and mental activities, wellness exercises, and healthy eating support."
The panic booth features a small fan, some plants, and a library of meditation videos. Hopefully it features a toilet too.
(Did we mention most COVID-19 transmission occurs via aerosolized particles hanging in the air, particularly in poorly ventilated spaces?)
As the daily dot notes, the announcement received lots of pushback from Twitter users.
"why not just improve working conditions?" said one user.
"Or you could pay your employees well, not treat them like garbage, and accept unionization," added another.
"This is some next level dystopian shit. Maybe just pay people more and let them have bathroom breaks," read yet another tweet.
This is some next level dystopian shit. Maybe just pay people more and let them have bathroom breaks
The following is an interview with Hector Bremner, CEO of Avricore Health Inc. (AVCR:CSE & AVCRF:OTC)
Avricore Health Inc. (AVCR) has been generating a lot of interest and excitement recently on the news of a partnership with U.S. health giant Abbott Laboratories and sizeable financings. In an exclusive interview, Avricore CEO Hector Bremner explains the upside at the Vancouver-based company.
Corona Stocks: Investors have zeroed in on your relationship with Abbott Diagnostics. Can you explain how you are well positioned to assist in Canada’s COVID-19 response?
Hector Bremner: For us it is huge. Abbott’s commitment to human health and point of care is by far second to none. Abbott is as equally focused on pharmacy as us and we have been really grateful to their team, we work quite closely right now and we think that relationship is going to mature over this year. Their device offerings have been fantastic and offer us the type of product offerings that we think fit pharmacy, particularly with the Afinion 2 which is the device that this quarter people will read and see a bit about from us. The Afinion 2 is a blood chemistry device, uses a very small sample, it is right there in the pharmacy. The test is conducted right there and it is screening for diabetes, conducting an A1C test and also testing lipids. So we think that the relationship with Abbott has been really tremendous. It is a really powerful partnership. We have this totally unique service that really brings the devices to life.
Corona Stocks: There was a disclosure that you are meeting with federal health officials along with Abbott and you are together seeking a federal government contract to create a platform using Abbott’s ID Now molecular testing device and Avicore’s HealthTab to test patients for COVID-19. The platform would use Avicore’s software to automatically report results from Abbott’s ID Now, presumably to government health authorities. Can you share any details on that?
Hector Bremner: We are actively pursuing conversations at all levels of government as we think HealthTab is missing piece to a truly successful rapid testing program and this is going very well. And, thankfully in the past few weeks, the focus of the conversation in the media and in government announcements has been moving positively towards rapid testing again. Up until very, very recently rapid testing has been seen as not as important as [getting vaccines]. Now everyone is stepping back and realizing that we are better off using these rapid tests as a way of getting a better line of sight as to what we are actually fighting, and quarantining, containing the virus into areas, really getting on top of it. You can’t fight something when you are in the dark.
Corona Stocks: What role would you play in this effort?
Hector Bremner: Fundamentally, we are a data generating and reporting platform, so that means using HealthTab to better track test results being done with rapid tests. There have several stories lately showing that much of the tests purchased by government have not been deployed. We are also hearing that tests are ending up on the black market. And, what is used, has created a lot of labor and questions about who and how to report this information to. So, HealthTab can automate a great deal of the labor and workflow and ensure timely disclosures and increase people’s confidence in these testing programs overall.
Corona Stocks: More testing will likely mean more cases, correct?
Hector Bremner: Yes, there was even a study this weekend that current estimates are that there are many times more cases than are ever announced at any time due to the lack of testing. We think rapid testing in 2021 and 2022 is going to play a critical role. And going forward for travel, and for certain workplaces and major events, having a real-time rapid reporting system in place to watch for virus outbreaks is something that is going to be part of the 21st century. This isn’t the first major virus outbreak over the last 20 years, it certainly has been the most impactful. We are seeing these viruses mutate very rapidly. The vaccine will get out there but we will be living with virus outbreaks. We have an incredible number of humans on the planet and they are very mobile and traveling all over the place, interacting with each other. The reality is we need to be very, very vigilant and we can’t let this happen again. Testing and real-time reporting is critical to this.
“Rapid testing, and having real-time reporting of [virus outbreaks], and breaking down the silos of communication, which is what HealthTab does, that is going to be critical to maintaining and avoiding future shutdowns.”
Corona Stocks: COVID-19 made for a crazy year for markets, but is a net positive for Avricore, correct?
Hector Bremner: It certainly opened up a business line that didn’t exist in the sense that viral testing – our platform is really fantastic for rapid response and getting real time eyes on the pandemic. We are still in those conversations and we are very bullish on where they are going. Canada in particular hasn’t been as progressive on the rapid testing front as other jurisdictions.
This said, we are making great strides in advancing our blood screening of diabetes and heart disease in pharmacy, and this demonstrates that while we can operate and succeed in today’s environment, we are going to excel beyond it.
Corona Stocks: It also seems given vaccine shortages becoming political dynamite, that governments are very motivated to be seen doing something positive?
Hector Bremner: I think so. We don’t want to do this again. This is a very costly endeavor and I am confident that the economy is going to rebound very quickly when we reopen and the fundamentals are still strong. But the reality is we got to this situation and after Bird Flu, Swine Flu, all of these outbreaks were contained and we were not vigilant, we were not taking them seriously. We need to ensure the infrastructure is there to monitor and respond quickly. We also need a healthcare approach of proactiveness. We offer an important tools in these efforts.
And it’s not just viruses, it’s the big costly killers like diabetes and heart disease that need more screening and monitoring. These issues are linked, and the expenses and deaths associated with them are avoidable. That’s our responsibility today, to act now and make tomorrow safer and healthier.
Corona Stocks: You already have Ontario pharmacy operators endorsing HealthTab, what support do you see coming from the health care industry this year?
Hector Bremner: Pharmacists recognize that they need to change their scope of practice. The future looks like point of care technology and cognitive services. We provide that platform so they are really leaning in on that. We know the patient has also made that decision. Good examples are 23andMe and Ancestry and health apps. With HealthTab and their community pharmacist, patients can take direct control and don’t have to spend huge amount so time to find out what they can now find out in minutes. They can walk in and learn if they have diabetes or if they already have it work with their pharmacists to manage it better. And the drug companies have already been going towards real-world evaluation and modifying the way they are doing studies to lower studies, which HealthTab facilitates in some really powerful ways.
All the players are making the decisions and right now the process is being adopted. Over the course of this year people are going to see from us that major pharmacy groups are really leaning in on the (HealthTab) system, they are going to be see drug makers and private players like insurance companies really leaning in on using our platform and trying to engage their customers better and also enhance their own operation.
Corona Stocks: Is there a competitor to HealthTab in the market?
Hector Bremner: Not directly, everybody is sort of adjacent to us. There are a million and one health dashboard apps, as I call them, that seek to be a digital interface for healthcare. But they are limited in terms of plug-ins and who can connect to them, which reduces their true effectiveness. There are also B2B enterprise solutions, and there are some device specific solutions, but again we are so successful is that we bring the patient, healthcare team, and researcher together by acting as a middleware, allowing for other technologies to be enhanced by the data we are able to generate and share.
So, our approach is entirely unique, and while someone else might have something similar, we have solved the shortcomings out there and will win the sector. It’s kind how Facebook overtook Myspace, both may seem similar, but won was just built better and put the focus on the user experience. That is what we are doing with HealthTab.
Corona Stocks: You are raising a lot of money, $3 million in the last few months. What is the reasoning behind that?
Hector Bremner: When you are running a public company, you are actually running two businesses as the same time. You are running the actual business where you are expected to be a subject matter expert and that is more than enough to fill your day. Then you have the market side of your business which is a whole other universe of activities. We did not want to head into this year, given our very full business development hopper, being split in our focus.
So late last year and into January-February we wanted to make sure we were fully capitalized, we will be debt free at the close of this current round and we will have sufficient capital to roll out what we plan to this year. As much of a dumpster fire that 2020 was, Avricore had a 10X year and we’re going to have another one. We think that we have got a lot of wind at our backs.
Corona Stocks: With your government background, coming to Avricore a year ago, it seems like the company is much more focused today on delivering the promise of HealthTab and playing a key role in fighting COVID-19.
Hector Bremner: My career has largely been in strategic communications and turning things around. We were no doubt in a tough situation when I first got involved, however we’ve done the hard work and sacrifices it takes to succeed and today, we are much more focused.
We fundamentally believe that all the sacrifices, all the hard work, were worth it because HealthTab is just that important. This team has done so much. Roger Seccombe, who developed HealthTab, our CTO, and everybody involved, they have all leaned in and made a lot of sacrifices, especially last year.
Today, we are getting to a place where other people are starting to now see it too and we are really excited. There are big things to come.
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