Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, said Tuesday that the new lab, set up by Chan Zuckerberg Biohub and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), will expand the scope of new coronavirus detection to handle up to 2,000 samples a day and return results within 24 hours.
Last month, more than 200 researchers, graduate students and volunteers from the University of California, San Francisco, and the Chen Zuckerberg Biocenter, a medical research nonprofit funded by the charity Chen Zuckerberg Initiative, set up the lab. This work illustrates how the private sector can help speed up the detection of new coronaviruses.
The lab will provide free testing of COVID-19 for 30 days to public health authorities in all nine Bay Area counties. These counties are Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano and Sonoma. The lab tested samples from the first batch of COVID-19 patients on March 20.
“This is a great example of cooperation, quick action, and everyone working toward the same goal,” Priscilla Chan said in a Facebook post. In March, the University of California, San Francisco, said it could only assess 60 to 100 patients a day.
On Tuesday, the couple also discussed new coronavirus testing, vaccines and possible treatments with infectious disease specialist Dr. Don Ganem, who is a senior adviser at the biocenter. During the hour-long chat, Ganem discussed three types of neo-coronavirus screening, including polymerase chain reaction testing to detect the virus’s genetic material; serological testing to determine the antibodies produced to fight the virus; and the use of CRISPR technology.
“We need to move testing from cumbersome hospital and laboratory environments to medical points, even where these non-doctors might do it. Ganem said. He didn’t encourage testing at home because he was worried that people would start hoarding test kits when they didn’t. He said the use of the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine still needs to be tested in clinical trials to determine how effective it is and what the best way to use the drug is.
Ganem is the third expert to appear with Zuckerberg in a Facebook live video to discuss the new corona virus prevention and treatment. Previous speakers included California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Anthony Fauci. It is also part of the company’s efforts to guide people to more trusted sources of information in the fight against new crown virus scams and disinformation.
In addition to providing users with more accurate information, Facebook has provided $100 million in cash grants and advertising credit to small businesses. Since the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the company has been plagued by a series of scandals, including issues surrounding privacy, election meddling and the spread of misinformation.
“I actually think that some of the mistakes we’ve made and the work we’ve done to make up for them are now serving us. Shirley Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, recently told the Wall Street Journal.