COVID-19. The worst public health crisis in a generation.
Back in March, amidst chaos in the healthcare system and when most European countries were moving quickly towards societal lockdowns, a team of entrepreneurs reached out to us and told us they could set up much needed testing capacity to help mitigate the crisis in Sweden. “We want to move quickly,'' they said. We decided to support with capital and our network - showing what can happen when scientific expertise, business, and non-profit work together to complement the work of the public sector in a time of crisis. A lot has happened since then, and over at ABC Labs the tune is no different.
In a short amount of time they’ve become a critical part of the testing infrastructure in Sweden. Using automation to produce testing; they are providing the highest quality, for the lowest cost, and at massive scale. As the pandemic increases in intensity, so does the need for testing, and ABC is getting close to representing 15-20% of all daily PCR/virus testing in Sweden. The next step is to roll out T-cell immunity testing for the general public - which will be unique in the world - and critical for understanding both disease immunity and the effectiveness of vaccines. The work at ABC Labs runs in 3 shifts, 24/6. We were able to peek in and wanted to give you a glimpse of the important work that is happening at Biomedicum.
Ahsan and Ola, how would you describe the last 8 months?
Intense, action-packed, meaningful and exciting, with continuous problem solving and process improvements to scale up capacity and meet demand while maintaining perpetual operations.
What’s been your biggest insight?
That things can be achieved with unprecedented speed by committed teams without an overemphasis on historical limitations - and that there is overwhelming support for purpose-driven initiatives in a time of crisis.
For a complete rookie, could you give us the 101 on what separates the different tests from one another? (PCR, Antibody and TCells)?
PCR testing detects ongoing virus infection, and antibody and T-cell testing detects immunity by quantitatively measuring antibody and T-cell response to COVID-19, respectively.
Can you describe to us why testing is so important throughout this pandemic?
Testing saves lives. It allows even asymptomatic individuals to self-isolate and prevent the spread of disease and seek treatment earlier in the course of their infection. It also enables initiatives like contract-tracing and monitoring of clusters, which are important for keeping society open and functioning without complete lockdowns.
What do you believe to be your most important work in the near future?
Improving testing quality, affordability, and availability so we can keep society functioning until there is an end to this pandemic - and to ensure that we are prepared for the next.
What do you aspire to accomplish with ABC Labs?
Right now, we are hyper focused on supporting Folkhälsomyndigheten and the Regions in the national strategy against COVID-19. Post-pandemic, we will utilise our infrastructure for automated laboratory analysis - and network of public and private healthcare providers - to create new diagnostic products with an emphasis on home sampling and continuous monitoring of chronic diseases, particularly in partnership with telemedicine companies.
So Ola, we could talk for hours about this, but from your point of view, where do we go from here?
We need to keep testing, maintain distance and be patient for the vaccine to arrive
What does the world look like in 2022?
We will be post covid 19, where we have reached herd immunity and protection with vaccination, but alert and ready for covid -23