Verily seeks to establish new COVID-19 'Baseline' with coronavirus antibody research project

Verily has launched a new clinical research effort focused on COVID-19 antibody testing and exploring the body’s immune response to the novel coronavirus. 

Conducted under its Project Baseline endeavors, the life science-focused Google sibling said people who participate in the new studies could potentially help test new public health tools or future interventions.

The program’s first initiative includes a serology study focused on those who previously received a swab-based COVID-19 exam through Verily’s earlier testing efforts in the San Francisco Bay Area. By searching for antibodies in new blood samples, the company aims to help public health workers estimate wider infection rates as well as determine exactly how antibodies may provide protection from the virus, and for how long. 

“We’re still learning about how this novel coronavirus replicates in the body and is spread to others, whether or not a person is exhibiting symptoms,” wrote Verily’s head of clinical science, William Marks, M.D., in a company blog post

“COVID-19 tests have been shown to sometimes pick up viral strains from past infections, or miss a COVID-19 infection because testing occurred at a stage where it’s difficult to detect,” Marks added. “Through Baseline Antibody Research, we hope to support assessment of variability across different COVID-19 testing methods to support ongoing containment efforts.”

In addition, Verily and Project Baseline’s larger coronavirus research will focus on patient outcomes—and the company plans to recruit participants regardless of whether they have personally been diagnosed with the disease. They may be able to provide data through surveys on mental health, lifestyle and more, Marks said.

“Such information from healthy individuals can help quantify the public health impact of the disease, and provide a basis for better understanding the changes caused by COVID-19,” he said. 

Since Verily first launched its California testing initiative in March, the company has begun to expand nationwide and has partnered with pharmacy chain Rite Aid to equip 25 sites in Delaware, Idaho, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The program has screened more than 150,800 individuals and facilitated testing for more than 19,500 as of late April, according to Verily.