Dipty Desai, Megha B. Purohit, Arushi Saxena-
In a recent news conference, U.S. President Donald Trump announced: “a new partnership with the private sector to vastly increase and accelerate our capacity to deal with the coronavirus.”
This emphasis on public-private partnerships is not new. During World War II, when our nation mobilized for war, private industry answered the government’s call to action, and factories shifted production to manufacture products that would help the nation.
Eighty years later, facing a global pandemic rather than a global war, U.S. companies are once again rising to the challenge. Here are some stellar examples of how our enterprise members are contributing in this time of unprecedented need.
Google and Apple to the Rescue for Contact Tracing
Since COVID-19 can be transmitted through proximity to affected individuals, public health officials identified contact tracing as a valuable tool to help contain its spread. Apple and Google have announced plans to leverage APIs and technology to assist in enabling contact tracing. The initiative will be implemented in two phases and maintain secure protections around user privacy. In the future, the companies plan to build the software directly into Android and iOS operating systems, so that it won’t be necessary to download an app to start contact tracing.
Apple also launched its own coronavirus screening site developed in collaboration with the White House, CDC, and FEMA. The website provides a screening tool for users to determine if they should be tested for COVID-19, as well as best practices and tips on social distancing, sanitation, and symptom monitoring. Apple CEO Tim Cook said that the company is also supplying masks to hospitals and healthcare workers to keep them safe.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced that his company would be donating more than $800 million in ad credits and loans to help government organizations and small businesses respond to the COVID-19 crisis. Google has also set up a 24-hour incident response team to stay in sync with the World Health Organization and will continue to invest in helping suppliers scale up production of face masks and other personal protective equipment.
Tesla aims to repurpose its large supply of auto parts to build ventilators, to boost the nation’s supply of the life-saving machines. Tesla CEO Elon Musk plans to reopen Tesla’s Buffalo factory in order to produce new ventilators and even deliver them to the hospitals that need them.
Tesla is also partnering with Medtronic to produce ventilators based on the company’s design specifications and code.
Medtronic committed to doubling its global ventilator production to support the needs of patients and health systems amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and CEO Omar Ishrak says the company is on track to meet its weekly ventilator production goal. As well as partnering with Tesla, Medtronic released the full design specifications and code for its portable ventilators for other companies to use. Medtronic also pledged an additional $10 million to COVID-19 relief efforts.
At the end of March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency use authorization for Abbott’s new molecular point-of-care test to detect COVID-19. This latest test delivers positive results in 5 minutes and negative results within 13 minutes. Abbott CEO Robert Ford believes this test will significantly add to the broad range of diagnostic solutions needed to quickly identify the infected population and contain the spread of COVID-19.
Bloom Energy is working on refurbishing unused, out-of-warranty ventilators and shipping them to state agencies and hospitals throughout the country. California Governor Gavin Newsom reached out to KR Sridhar, the founder, chairman, and CEO of Bloom Energy, to help fix these broken ventilators. Bloom’s mantra that “Manufacturing is in our DNA” allowed them to react quickly and work with biomedical engineers at Stanford Health Care to test the functionality of its refurbished ventilators.
Cisco is allocating $8 million in cash and $210 million in product to the global coronavirus response, including the United Nations COVID-19 Response Fund, with a focus on supporting healthcare, education, government and critical technology. Additionally, the Cisco Foundation has committed $4 million to match employee donations and $1 million in grants to nonprofit partners.
Gilead is pursuing options to make investigational drug Remdesivir more widely available through expedited regulatory processes, should it demonstrate the potential to be a safe and effective treatment option based on the results of preliminary clinical trials. Gilead is also in discussion with multiple organizations regarding the potential for future trials.
Facebook is offering its workplace chat service for free to emergency services and is providing up-to-date information about the pandemic to keep people informed. In addition, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) and affiliated CZI Biohub announced it will purchase two diagnostic machines capable of running tests for COVID-19, quadrupling the capacity of testing machines currently available in San Francisco.
In light of the stay-at-home orders in most states, Amazon is giving free shipping and delivery on qualifying items. Its voice-activated assistant Alexa provides up-to-date and accurate information on COVID-19, including guided self-assessment of risk factors and information on what to do if users think they have the disease.
Netflix, which has benefited from the accelerated adoption of streaming services as people are in isolation and social distancing, has pledged $100 million to support the casts and crews of suspended productions as well as donations to third-party non-profits.
With people across the country and around the world stuck in their homes, virtual conferencing services such as Zoom have proved invaluable. Zoom has become one of the most downloaded apps, and the company is giving back to the community by providing free subscriptions to K-12 educators. Zoom has put together a number of offerings for school systems, making it the most-used classroom app.
In a time of uncertainty and sorrow, it is heartening to see public-private partnerships blooming and the community banding together for the greater good. Sooner or later, the pandemic will be contained and America will recover, but trends that have been set in motion by COVID-19 will change the way humanity will respond in the future.
Call to action:
If you are a member of USISPF and are either a US company or an Indian company and have a giving story to share from your enterprise, please write to dipty@usispf so that we can schedule some time to talk to you and add your enterprise contribution to this oped.
[Dipty Desai is the head of the West Coast Division of USISPF and is the co-chair of TiE Global Health. The column is co-authored by Megha B Purohit and Arushi Saxena. The views expressed are their own].