Stronger Together in the Face of COVID-19

Contribution by: Harald Wolf, General Manager Roche Diagnostics Middle East FZCO

 

Around the world and the Middle East, we at Roche are working with urgency, passion, and purpose every day in the face of the novel coronavirus to help alleviate its pressure on healthcare and support patients and as much as possible to improve the situation in the midst of an unprecedented global pandemic.

First and foremost, I would like to express my deepest sympathies to all who have lost loved ones as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak and immense gratitude to essential workers and healthcare professionals in every capacity working tirelessly to support patients and their communities in this extraordinary time of need. We fully recognize the seriousness of this health threat and that the public and private sectors need to collaborate to help manage this developing situation in an effective manner. 

 

Containing a global threat

The coronavirus outbreak started with a cough as one of its main symptoms when it was first recorded in China. Yet, the underlying cause is something we have never before seen in human beings. Standard laboratory tests weren’t able to identify the virus, leaving doctors to guess which treatments to prescribe and the preventive measures to take while health authorities weren’t sure exactly where and how the virus originated.

With research, we now know the disease as a new (novel) strain of coronavirus – a large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). With no effective treatment, isolation has become the most common form of containment. These measures are truly helpful and impactful yet didn’t stop COVID-19’s relentless takeover from city to city, country to country, and ultimately continent to continent.

Millions of cases have been recorded so far around the world leaving us with a clear picture of the true nature of infectious diseases; it knows no boundaries − we all need to come together to understand, contain and treat the pandemic. What we are experiencing has brought the need for accurate and reliable diagnostic tests to the forefront to determine the extent of the outbreak and to identify those most vulnerable.

 

Containing a global threat

The coronavirus outbreak started with a cough as one of its main symptoms when it was first recorded in China. Yet, the underlying cause is something we have never before seen in human beings. Standard laboratory tests weren’t able to identify the virus, leaving doctors to guess which treatments to prescribe and the preventive measures to take while health authorities weren’t sure exactly where and how the virus originated.

With research, we now know the disease as a new (novel) strain of coronavirus – a large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). With no effective treatment, isolation has become the most common form of containment. These measures are truly helpful and impactful yet didn’t stop COVID-19’s relentless takeover from city to city, country to country, and ultimately continent to continent.

More than 10 million cases have been recorded so far around the world leaving us with a clear picture of the true nature of infectious diseases; it knows no boundaries − we all need to come together to understand, contain and treat the pandemic. What we are experiencing has brought the need for accurate and reliable diagnostic tests to the forefront to determine the extent of the outbreak and to identify those most vulnerable.

 

Our contribution to the response focuses on our existing strengths and capabilities

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Reliable, high-quality testing is essential to help overcome the pandemic. On 13 March, Roche received FDA Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA) for a high-volume molecular test to detect SARS-CoV-2.  On 3 May, we announced an EUA by the FDA for our COVID-19 antibody test, aimed at detecting the presence of antibodies in the blood. Both are also available in markets accepting the CE mark.

While there are currently no approved treatment options for the treatment of COVID-19, Roche is actively involved in understanding the potential of our existing portfolio. Roche has confirmed initiation of a clinical trial, and is also collecting and compiling data from other, independently led, clinical trials that are taking place around the world.

Our existing diagnostics portfolio for critical care has also been playing a significant role in supporting patient management during the COVID-19 crisis.In May we received an FDA EUA for the Elecsys® IL-6 test to assist in identifying severe inflammatory response in patients with confirmed COVID-19, as well as launching Roche v-TAC, which could help simplify the screening, diagnosis and monitoring of patients with respiratory compromise in the current COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

In these exceptional times, Roche stands together with governments, healthcare providers and all those working to overcome the pandemic. With the support of our local distributors across the Middle East, we at Roche Diagnostics consider ourselves a long-term partner with our communities, to shape and develop the healthcare industry wherever we operate for improved patient outcomes bringing global innovations to all corners of the Middle East." - Harald Wolf, General Manager Roche Diagnostics Middle East FZCO

 

From global to local, we are stronger together

In these exceptional times, Roche stands together with governments, healthcare providers and all those working to overcome the pandemic. With the support of our local distributors across the Middle East, we at Roche Diagnostics consider ourselves a long-term partner with our communities, to shape and develop the healthcare industry wherever we operate for improved patient outcomes bringing global innovations to all corners of the Middle East.

Under exceptional conditions around the world, colleagues at Roche are doing everything they can to ensure that patients receive the care our innovations and solutions as fast as possible. It is uncharted territory with many complexities, we are determined to continue providing healthcare systems, communities and individuals the tools they need to overcome COVID-19. There are many unknowns in this journey yet one thing is certain: we are stronger together. 

We understand that healthcare is a long-term commitment, that is why we have continued to invest in education and knowledge sharing platforms with healthcare professionals in the Middle East through a series of free educational sessions online through partnerships with leading experts and esteemed medical journals and associations to shed light on the latest developments in the scientific community, what we continue to learn about the novel coronavirus, and how we can work together to achieve better patient outcomes and disease management. 

 

Antibodies, the heroes of our immune system

Antibodies hold the key to tackling pandemics. In the case of the novel coronavirus, many are now looking at immunity testing as the way forward and the vital element in reopening society. But as with any new disease, there are many unknowns when it comes to immunity and the next steps.

To simply summarize the role of antibodies, they recognize foreign invaders in and on the body and block them to prevent causing any harm. In many ways, they are the true heroes of our immune system. Because they are very specific and easy to target, and already exist in our bodies, modern medicine has come to know a lot about their properties such as inducing them, making them, testing for them, and turning them into effective treatments. 

When a new infectious disease emerges such as the one we are facing now, the fastest way science can respond is with an antibody-based approach. Antibodies are ever so valuable because they can be used to determine who has been infected with a virus and who has not. This can be done many months, or even years, after an infection has ended. The gold standard PCR (polymerase chain reaction) based diagnostic tests provide the most accurate method to detect the genetic signature of the virus in a patient's body. 

Paramount to broad testing programs for SARS-CoV-2 are two important criteria: high throughput; meaning that laboratories can test a high number of samples in a short time frame, and accuracy, which means a test that provides an accurate result to the healthcare professional for diagnosis. This can be achieved by measuring antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 in blood samples.

As the pandemic continues to unfold, we are learning more and more about the novel virus and working tirelessly to ensure that patients and healthcare professionals who rely on our innovations continue to have access to them when they need them the most. We are ever grateful to our network of partners and representatives across borders and disciplines who support us in our purpose of doing now what patients need next.