War Footing – Companies Pivoting to Fight COVID-19

Faced with one of the greatest economic challenges ever, U.S. corporations — both inside and outside of the Healthcare sector — are reallocating resources in an all-hands battle against COVID-19. Here are some of the companies and what they are doing.

  • ABBOTT LABORATORIES (ABT: BUY): Abbott is ramping-up production of two types of testing equipment to detect the novel coronavirus. It expects to be able to produce 5 million of these tests by April. The first test is a point-of-care test that can develop positive results in five minutes and negative results in 13 minutes. The test runs on a box about the size of a small toaster and can be used in physician offices and urgent care centers. The second test is a molecular system for centralized lab environments.

  • 3M CO. (MMM: HOLD): 3M, which is a global leader in production of respiratory masks, has taken multiple steps to help the nation and world combat COVID-19. 3M ramped-up to maximum production of N95 respirators, doubling global output to a rate of 1.1 billion per year, or 100 million per month. It also put into motion additional investments and actions that will enable it to double capacity to 2 billion globally within the next 12 months. Some of that additional capacity will begin to come online in the next 60-90 days. The reality is that demand for N95 respirators is much higher than the industries’ ability to deliver. Given the high use rate of N95 respirators, 3M engineers are collaborating with several sterilization companies to find a way for hospitals to clean, reuse and extend the life of these respirators. Additionally, the company is partnering with Ford to bolster production of 3M’s powered air purifying respirators (PAPRs), which are highly specialized pieces of equipment used in the most-demanding healthcare environments. The company is moving forward quickly with the goal of increasing PAPR production by six-fold within the next 60 to 90 days.

  • GENERAL MOTORS (GM: HOLD): General Motors has announced plans to manufacturer ventilators for the company Ventec Life Systems. GM will use its idle Kokomo, Indiana, plant to build the ventilators. GM will employ 1,000 members of its unionized work force to build the equipment. The goal is to make 10,000 ventilators per month, according to the company, which did not specify how long it would take to get to that level of output. GM also intends to make surgical masks at an idled plant in Warren, Michigan, with a goal of reaching an output of 100,000 per day.

  • MEDTRONIC (MDT: BUY): In mid-March, Medtronic said it had increased production of ventilators by more than 40% and is on track to more than double its capacity to manufacture and supply ventilators. It has also publicly shared the design specifications for one of its ventilator models so that participants across industries can evaluate options for rapid scale-up of production. 

  • ALPHABET (GOOGL: BUY): Alphabet’s artificial intelligence subsidiary, DeepMind, is helping accelerate scientific research by releasing structure predictions of several understudied protein components of the SARS-COV-2 virus, the virus that causes COVID-19. Alphabet’s Verily health sciences subsidiary, in collaboration with health authorities, has started a pilot program in the San Francisco Bay Area to help establish testing sites. The effort includes an online risk screening, and a test that directs eligible patients to mobile testing sites based on capacity. The plan is to expand locations over time. Google Cloud Platform is a partner of the White House COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium to provide COVID-19 researchers access to high-performance computing resources.

  • ANALOG DEVICES (ADI: BUY): Analog Devices announced a series of actions to support the global response to the pandemic by expanding production of healthcare technologies that can help fight COVID-19. These include critical measurement and control technologies that are used in medical equipment essential for diagnostics and treatment of COVID-19 patients, including ventilators, respirators, diagnostic test systems, pumps, patient monitors, and imaging gear such as X-ray machines and scanners. In addition, ADI is leveraging its domain expertise in partnership with biosensor companies, research hospitals, and the international open-source ventilator project. The shift of production from a focus on industrial and automotive markets to the Healthcare sector creates organizational, logistics and other challenges. To address the increased need of healthcare customers, ADI is taking steps, including analyzing order backlog daily to identify and prioritize customers who are manufacturers of critical medical equipment; dedicating manufacturing lines to increase production of healthcare components used by healthcare companies; and working with local governments to ensure that ADI and subcontractor facilities remain in operation so they can continue to produce critical parts and components

  • INCYTE (INCY: BUY): Incyte is a profitable biotech, primarily reliant on Jakafi (ruxolitinib), a JAK1/JAK2 inhibitor approved for the treatment for myelofibrosis (MF) and other blood cancers. Jakafi (ruxolitinib), along with Incyte’s baricitinib, have shown notable potential as possible treatments for COVID-19. While it may take significant time before these drugs potentially are approved for label expansions, doctors in Italy are reportedly already gaining regulatory consent to utilize the drugs for ‘off-label’ purposes, with encouraging results.

  • FORD MOTOR (F: HOLD): The auto giant has announced it will convert production lines to make ventilators to specifications from General Electric’s healthcare division. GE has licensed a simplified design that does not need electricity, this from ventilator company Airon (which makes a product already licensed by the FDA). Ford forecast that it could produce 1,500 of the Airon ventilators by the end of April, and eventually reach 30,000 per month. Additionally, Ford is helping make masks and protective hoods for healthcare workers. 

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