Mayo Clinic, Amazon, others launch collaboration to increase COVID-19 testing, vaccine development

An industry coalition of health systems, tech giants and healthcare vendors are collaborating to increase COVID-19 testing and coordinate early therapies.

The private industry effort, spearhead by Mayo Clinic's John Halamka, M.D. and other industry leaders, plans to leverage the strengths of healthcare organizations, technology companies, non-profits, academia, and startups to provide a focused response to the coronavirus outbreak.

"Each coalition member is bringing its unique assets, sharing resources and plans, and working together to support those on the front lines in responding to COVID-19," the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition said in a press release.

The idea behind the effort is to crowdsource capabilities from the private sector and use data analytics and evidence-based decisions to respond to the health crisis. The coalition is seeking more industry partners to help share best practices.

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Coalition members include big tech companies Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft and Salesforce as well as healthcare technology vendors, athenahealth, Buoy Health, Epic, and nference.

Health systems involved include HCA Healthcare, Intermountain Healthcare, Rush University System for Health, and the University of California Healthcare System.

Other industry partners are MITRE, LabCorp, Leavitt Partners, CommonWell Health Alliance, and MassChallenge.

Mitre, a national research and development center, will serve as a program manager to facilitate communication, aggregate de-identified data, from clinical insights to resource requirements like beds and ventilators, and coordinate the response across a range of organizations.

"Pandemics stress our healthcare delivery system. We are now familiar with the generalized public health measures that help contain the spread of infectious disease including social distancing, hand washing, self-quarantine, cancellation of large public events, and school closures. More targeted measures are needed and that requires coordination," Halamka, M.D., president of Mayo Clinic Platform, wrote in a blog post.

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The coalition has started focused efforts to increase COVID-19 testing capacity for the country, to coordinate early therapies, and to accelerate vaccine development, Halamka said.

"Our first task is to share learnings and encourage innovation across the coalition. We’re moving fast to support technology and policy innovations," he wrote.

Jay Schnitzer, M.D., Mitre’s chief technology and medical officer, said applying real-time data analytics and best practice guidance to a pandemic can flatten the curve of infection and change its course, as seen with Ebola and H1N1.

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"The business and research communities have mobilized to address COVID-19 and give this data analysis to the healthcare system leaders and public health officials to make evidence-based decisions that can save lives," Schnitzer said.

The coalition set up several guiding principles: No organization will get paid for the coalition work or receive preferential advantage and each organization cooperates and openly shares their plans. 

The collaborative effort plans to use data and evidence to inform decisions on people at risk of COVID-19 exposure who need diagnostic testing and healthcare delivery systems with a focus on staff, space, and supply chain.