How Acorn has joined the fight against COVID-19

The world is currently in the midst of the worst pandemic of the 21st century. SARS-CoV-2 has disrupted the lives of billions of people around the world and brought entire economies to a halt. These uncertain times demand unprecedented cooperation between governments, private organizations, and civil society. Very early on, we at Acorn raised our hands and joined the fight against COVID-19. We remain committed to supporting the efforts to beat this disease and its long-term consequences.

The sudden appearance and quick spread of a new disease is something that humanity has had to face at semiregular intervals throughout history. The last time we confronted a challenge of this magnitude was more than 50 years ago, during the 1968 Pandemic (H3N2 virus). The estimated number of deaths during that pandemic was 1 million. At the time of writing, the coronavirus pandemic has reached half of that number and it is still far from over.

Coming together to fight a common enemy

Unfortunately, the spread of infectious diseases on a global scale is occurring more often than before. In an increasingly integrated world, the potential for diseases to expand across borders is enormous. At the same time, crises like these often bring out the best in our societies. Different groups in government, academia, and the private sector, which had not cooperated before, have come together to create solutions against COVID-19.

Acorn Biolabs Team in Toronto meeting over Zoom to adap to COVID19 pandemic
Our virtual team meetings in this new normal help us continue to serve our clients, our employees, and our community.

The first thing that Acorn did at the onset of this crisis was to get protective equipment to the hands of frontline workers. This has proven to be vital in stopping the spread from patient to patient. We also quickly engaged with the Canadian government to lend our ISO certified lab for diagnostic testing. This effort is still ongoing.

The role of preventative healthcare in fighting pandemics

Knowledge is power. This is especially true in healthcare. While a vaccine may still be months or even years away from development and distribution at a global scale, analytics can make a difference. Data obtained through testing can help implement effective measures to contain the spread of COVID-19. It also allows for a more effective allocation of resources. 

There are differences in the way individuals respond to contracting the virus depending on a number of factors, not just age. These are factors that can be analyzed in order to determine who is predisposed to develop more severe symptoms. If individuals know they have comorbidities or other issues that make them more susceptible to experiencing severe symptoms, they can plan accordingly. This means either avoiding high-risk situations or taking quicker action at the first indication of infection.

This information can be very useful for healthcare workers as well. It empowers them to direct their resources and attention to people that they know will need intensive care immediately. As a consequence, health care systems around the world can better manage the burden of infection, avoiding collapse. This is what makes the preventative and predictive element so important. At Acorn, we are developing tools to predict an individual’s response to infection and risk for severe and life-threatening symptoms. Getting ahead of infections and providing individuals with the best tools to overcome the disease has the potential to save lives.

What comes after the pandemic

Once we are past the phase of containment of the virus, we must look into the long-term implications for those who have contracted COVID-19. There have been reports of different conditions manifesting once people have recovered from the disease. The New York Times has reported that approximately 90 percent of patients who required ventilators develop acute kidney injury. There is also a risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome. That is where tissue engineering has an opportunity to help fight COVID-19.

At Acorn, we are also focusing on these long-term consequences. There is potential for the development of cell-based treatments to help those who are dealing with second-order implications of having COVID-19. We are working to prepare people to take advantage of these treatments by providing them with the cellular material they will need.

Managing and eventually solving this crisis will require a multifactor approach. Collaboration between different sectors has proven essential and it must continue. Building on this will allow us to react more quickly and effectively when this eventually happens again. Investing in preventative medicine and cell-based therapies will put us in a much more favorable position moving forward. We are committed to this goal.

If you are looking to partner on COVID-19 solutions, please contact us at covid@acorn.me.

A message from our CEO during COVID-19

I hope this note finds you and your family safe and in good health. While family, work and overall life routines have continued to adjust, our priorities at Acorn remain the same. We continue to serve our clients, our employees, and our community. 

As news of COVID-19 spread, none of us knew exactly what to expect. As weeks have passed, one thing has become clear, I have been inspired by the reaction of both our employees and of our front-line healthcare partners. I wanted to share a bit of that with you.

Converting to a remote work model and suspending new cell collections

Acorn reacted quickly to convert to a remote work model. We minimized our presence at our facility and reduced staff to oversee the maintenance and security of our cryopreserved samples.

The safety of our clients and employees is always paramount. For everyone’s safety, Acorn suspended any new collections at our offices and at our partner clinics. For those who had appointments booked, I apologize. We look forward to the day where it is safe to continue our work in preparing everyone for the bright future of precision and regenerative medicine. We will resume as soon as it is safe to do so and will notify you immediately. If you are already a client, rest assured that your cells and samples are safe and secure.

Donating personal protective equipment

With our processing laboratory ceasing operations, we quickly gathered up our PPE (personal protective equipment) and supplies and donated them to multiple long-term care and nursing home facilities in the area. At one point while coordinating supplies, I was joined on a call by a nurse from a facility that had several cases.   She was wearing a garbage bag to protect herself and to stop any spreading of the virus to their vulnerable population. I cannot stress how grateful we are to our front-line workers who have put themselves at risk and met this crisis with resolve and strength. Thank you to all who work tirelessly for the health and safety of others.

How to use science in the fight against COVID-10

The outbreak of COVID-19 has reinforced the commitment we have to our crucial mission of empowering individuals with preventative healthcare. A key research area that Acorn is committed to being part of is the long-term solution to the potential lasting effects for those who have contracted the virus; respiratory damage has already emerged in patients. Our science team is actively investigating the permanent detrimental health effects on patients and have added them to our areas of focus for regenerative medicine research.

Due to the nature of our advanced stem cell collection and cryopreservation services, Acorn has resources to leverage in our joint fight against COVID-19. We have an ISO clean room laboratory and state-of-the-art equipment, and a fantastic team of scientists. We are currently exploring multiple ways that we can use our people and infrastructure to assist. I will be sharing more on this in the near future.

I feel immense pride being a part of a company like Acorn, especially during times like these. We are all in this together against COVID-19, and we are here to help and support each other through it. 

Be well,

Dr. Drew Taylor, PhD, MSc
Co-founder & CEO
Acorn Biolabs, Inc.