COVID-19 watch

Texas company receives emergency authorization for its COVID-19 antibody test

The FDA has fast-tracked this Austin company's COVID-19 antibody test. Photo courtesy of Babson

A Texas medical company is leading the fight against COVID-19. On June 25, Austin-based Babson Diagnostics announced it has received an emergency use authorization from the Food & Drug Administration for its SARS-CoV-2 IgG Antibody Test.

The blood test helps identify if a person has an "adaptive immune response to SARS-CoV-2 [aka COVID-19]" by testing for antibodies. Antibodies are proteins that help fight off infections and usually provide immunity, though the Centers for Disease Control cautions that this is not yet known for COVID-19 antibodies.

"Not only is serology a crucial tool for the research and understanding of COVID-19, we believe it will become an essential component of ongoing preventive medicine," said Eric Olson, Babson's founder and CEO, in a release. "The early success of our assays, combined with our ongoing clinical studies and research partnerships, will provide pivotal insights into COVID-19 immunity and help us develop future generations of tests."

Babson is one of only five clinical laboratories to receive emergency use authorization from the FDA for a serology (blood) test, including the prestigious Mount Sinai Laboratory - Wadsworth Center in New York.

Since Babson launched its test in Austin on April 30, it's been offering it for free to frontline and healthcare workers. It's also working with research centers, including Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin, to conduct clinical studies to help with COVID-19 research — and future pandemics.

"When COVID-19 hit the U.S. and eventually Austin, the Babson team was inspired to contribute to the fight against one of the largest threats to global health in generations," said Chris DiPasquale, director of assay development for Babson. "While launching the aC19G1 test has been a significant achievement for Babson, it is only the first step in supporting long-term public health and national security."

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

Moonflower Farms grows lettuce hydroponically. Courtesy of Moonflower Farms

A Houston urban farm has earned national recognition for its innovative approach to water conservation. Moonflower Farms won the American Heart Association's Foodscape Innovation Excellence Award, which recognizes positive changes in the foodscape, a term for all of the places where food is produced, purchased, or consumed.

The Heart Association selected Moonflower's submission, titled "Sustainable Farming Through Water Conservation," from 26 entries. Dallas' Restorative Farms earns the Foodscape Innovation Consumer Choice Award.

"These two innovations demonstrate a way of producing food that promotes affordability and equitable access, and the American Heart Association is proud to recognize these efforts," AHA chief medical officer for prevention Eduardo Sanchez said in a release.

Located in a 20,000-square-foot greenhouse south of downtown, Moonflower operates what it describes as Houston's first vertical indoor farm. The method both reduces the amount of space needed to grow the farm's microgreens, lettuces, herbs and edible flowers and it eliminates the disruptions caused by adverse weather conditions, which allows the farm to produce year round.

Moonflower uses a closed-loop system for capturing rainwater to feed its crops. The water is treated and oxygenated so that it can be reused. Not having to pay for water from the City of Houston allows the farm to operate more economically and sell its produce at an affordable price to restaurants and individuals.

"Our hydroponic farm uses 90-percent less water than conventional farms," Moonflower founder and CEO Federico Marques said in a statement. "We provide year-round produce to residents in historically underserved communities and donate produce to local charitable food systems."

One of those charities is Houston non-profit Second Servings, which "rescues" food from restaurants and events and distributes it to food pantries and other resources.

"The donations we receive from Moonflower Farms are incredible," Second Servings founder and president Barbara Bronstein said. "Their hydroponically grown greens are so appreciated by the needy Houstonians we serve, who lack affordable, convenient access to fresh produce."

Recently, Moonflower introduced a SupaGreens subscription box that allows customers to purchase greens weekly, bimonthly, or monthly. The box is delivered directly to consumers.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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