With the exception of some large counties, this week some restaurants and businesses across Tennessee were allowed to reopen with a set of guidelines. Governor Lee, the Unified Command Group (UCG) and Tennessee’s Economic Recovery Group (ERG), along with input from health experts, state and local partners and business and industry leaders, developed the “Tennessee Pledge.” The pledge is not mandatory but asks business owners to voluntarily comply with guidelines such as employees wearing masks, spacing out seating and cleaning front-of-house surfaces. This reopening comes as the number of positive cases of coronavirus is growing in the state. According to a report, Sunday saw the biggest jump in positive cases yet, with 478 new cases.

Meanwhile the White House rolled out a plan to expand state testing albeit positioning the federal government as a “supplier of last resort.” However, major retailers and diagnostic companies like CVS Health, Walgreens, Walmart, Kroger, Quest Diagnostics, LabCorp and Abbott Laboratories have announced an expansion of their COVID-19 testing capabilities. 

Below, we highlight COVID-19 updates and developments from our members and others in Tennessee. Visit our COVID-19 page for additional resources and supply needs.

Optimism for Gilead’s Remdesivir; Pfizer Vaccine May Be Ready by Fall
A government-run study of Gilead’s remdesivir, perhaps the most closely watched experimental drug to treat the novel coronavirus, showed that the medicine is effective against COVID-19. A Gilead Phase 3 SIMPLE trial evaluating 5-day and 10-day dosing durations of the investigational antiviral remdesivir in hospitalized patients with severe manifestations of COVID-19 disease also showed promise. On Wednesday afternoon Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the CDC, said, “The data shows that remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery.” 

Additionally, Pfizer reported Tuesday that their experimental coronavirus vaccine may be ready for use in the fall pending ongoing testing. In an interview, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla stated that testing of the vaccine, which has already started in Germany, could start in the U.S. as early as next week. Should regulators allow for U.S. testing to proceed, results could be available as early as next month. If the vaccine is proven safe, the vaccine could be available for emergency use in the fall and become more widely available by the end of the year.

Fractal Hardware Makes Masks, Face Shields for Emergency Workers
Nashville-based Fractal Hardware uses mechanical, electrical and industrial design to prototype and engineer manufactured products for the internet of things, medical devices and more. Some of their current clients include Vanderbilt, SmileDirectClub and Mentor Network graduate Healing Innovations.

In response to the pandemic and the ongoing need for personal protective equipment, Fractal has begun producing 3D printed masks and face shields. They’re currently supplying to medical professionals and first responders but others can visit their website or reach out to [email protected] for more information. Additionally, anyone with a 3D printer can also download the design and make it themselves.

SSTI Plan Cites LaunchTN Resource to Support Entrepreneurs
In letters sent to congressional leaders, the State Science & Technology Institute (SSTI) outlined recommended actions to support the innovation economy and speed recovery. Specifically, the “letters call for expanding SBA’s technical assistance to startups, leveraging EDA’s Build to Scale program, catalyzing new programs for equity investment and commercialization and incorporating innovation into any infrastructure initiative.”

In describing ways to expand emergency technical assistance, SSTI cites the Tennessee Innovation Crowdsource Platform, which “has registered 900+ vendors and received 300+ proposals through their efforts to channel medical and manufacturing innovations toward areas of need throughout the state.”

Other important updates and resources:

  • The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, which has raised nearly $1 billion to help fund nine different coronavirus vaccine projects, is now saying a vaccine could be available later this year.
  • In an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb suggests that the United States must “engineer a development and regulatory process that is unprecedented in scope and urgency” in order to win the “race to a vaccine.” 
  • View this guide from Deloitte on response strategies for life science companies in the face of supply chain and clinical development disruptions.