For COVID Peace of Mind – and No Swab Up Your Nose – Huntsville Hospital and Kailos Genetics Roll Out Assure Sentinel

Two issues negatively impacting COVID testing are false readings and the turnaround time it takes for results. False positive results can cause undue concern, whereas false negative readings have the potential to unwittingly add to the continued spread of COVID.

The waiting game is especially difficult; it’s the kind of time that most people don’t really have to spare. They must then play the quarantine game which, in addition to the restrictions, often means a loss of income as they wait for their results.

To overcome these hurdles, Huntsville Hospital and Kailos Genetics have teamed up to offer a COVID-19 test option  through its Assure Sentinel and Peace of Mind programs. The programs are designed for non-symptomatic individuals who want to know if they are carrying the COVID-19 virus.

“It’s the second program we’ve put into place with Huntsville Hospital,” said Troy Moore, chief science officer at Kailos, which is headquartered at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology. “The first program was focused on a return to work or return to school testing, on a routine basis. Then, we learned there were quite a few people that had a son or daughter going back to school or to college, or they’ve been around family members during the holidays, or they have a parent they are taking care of.

“This is a place where they could go if they have concerns, but not necessarily a known exposure event.”

In this partnership, the hospital staff will administer the test, collect samples, and deliver the results. Kailos will process the tests utilizing its Assure Sentinel program which can detect SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Assure Sentinel testing is painless and affordable and can detect viral infections in individuals before they become symptomatic. By reducing the potential for exposure, Sentinel testing helps to minimize the impact in the workplace, as well as in the community.

The best news is the process is a saline swish and gargle – the company’s ViraWash – to provide a viable sample. No long swab going up your nose –  and it can be easily done in the workplace.

For more information, contact the Huntsville Hospital Clinical Lab at: 256-265-2LAB (2522).

Sit Down with Success: Bob Baron ‘in Motion’ with Baron Critical Weather Intelligence

Sitdown with Success is a feature of the Huntsville Business Journal on entrepreneurs and their keys to success. This month’s subject is Bob Baron, founder/president/CEO of Baron Critical Weather Intelligence.

Many Huntsville residents will recognize Bob Baron from local TV weather and his famous “weather in motion,” but immediately following one of Huntsville’s largest, most destructive, and unexpected tornadoes hit the city in 1989, Bob Baron formed Baron Services to try and find ways to keep people all over the world, safer in dangerous weather events.

 

You were an on-air celebrity here and in Tampa as Chief Meteorologist in the 1970s and 1980s. Why did you take a more behind-the-scenes stance by starting your own company?

When the F-4 tornado struck Huntsville in November 1989, I was Chief Meteorologist at Channel 48. It came without warning and I realized that what I thought were weather tools were just weather gadgets.

I thought the community was well prepared for severe weather, but in analyzing the disaster, we determined that we needed to find a way to detect dangerous events; disseminate very specific advisories to those in harm’s way; and to effect immediate response. That detection, dissemination, and response had to occur within 10 minutes, or you started losing lives.

That has been our focus for 30 years.

 

What attracted you to the technical aspects of the weather?

I transitioned from radio to TV and then to TV weather around 1977. It was a glorious time as the first “big data”, satellites, and modern radar were launching at the same time as computerization. I loved working with both, and interfacing with the public on a daily basis; and every day we were either creating or introducing new technology to the public.

 

What are some of the technologies you have created and implemented since you started the company?

Our first product facilitated live radar and strike-by-strike lightning and allowed the user to zoom in on a storm, instantly draw out a direction and (area of threat), and then pull the communities at risk, as well as the estimated time of storm arrival.

Then we got into storm tracking. Over time we patented the ability to send alerts to cell phones of those only in harm’s way.

In the wake of the 2011 Super Outbreak of tornadoes, the Governor’s task force determined a need to have a statewide alerting system focused exclusively on those directly in harm’s way. Only our company could provide it, and it would take forever to have all state entities sign off on the system; so, we decided to provide it for free.

Over the last eight years, Baron has been providing the free Safety Net alerting service statewide. We have launched millions of alerts and anyone can still download the Alabama Safety Net free and receive not only the most precise alerting, but also a wide variety of other weather information like live radar and tropical weather data.

 

Why did you change the name from Baron Services to Baron Critical Weather Intelligence?

Baron is a national and international player not only in weather data but also Doppler weather radars. The company was chosen by the National Weather Service to upgrade all 171 of their Nexrad radar to next generation Dual Polarity.

Our official name remains Baron Services, Inc.  but over the years we adopted uses of “Baron Weather, home of Critical Weather Intelligence”, which speaks more directly to what we do.

 

What has been the hardest parts about developing weather technology?

If things were easy, everyone would be doing them.

Our development of early Doppler radars and more recently, building out the technology and hardware for Dual Polarity, which is sending out simultaneous horizontal and vertical signals that are then analyzed when those signals bounce back, may be the most challenging work we have done.

But we also felt a great sense of accomplishment developing the data stream, the hardware, firmware, and software to send over very narrow bandwidth to provide weather to the cockpit as displayed in real-time on all major avionics. For the past 17 years, that has been one of my favorite successes.

 

What vision do you have for your business in the future?

Our company has three major verticals: broadcast, international weather services, and what we call enterprise, which provides weather data in various formats to assist other developers.

This later effort is becoming quite successful as we add insurance and fleet customers, among others; and I see great opportunities for advancement as we are able to reach out to the marketplace.

We have developed a next generation TV broadcast system that also includes the ability to do traffic programs, and all of this is being extremely well received.

We recently finished development of a brand new next-gen processor for our radar market that allows us to provide a highly competitive product around the world that I’m looking to add to our marketing going forward.

 

What advice would you give to someone interested in getting into weather technology or the development of weather-related equipment, research, or work?

For me, most of my experience has been applied science – power user, if you will. But you also need the researcher. It is a team effort with room for success for everyone. I believe weather, the big umbrella, is a rapidly growing area both in applied meteorology and meteorological research.

HudsonAlpha Tracking COVID-19’s Transmission through Alabama

The state of Alabama, HudsonAlpha and Diatherix-Eurofins are teaming up to trace and identify COVID-19’s transmission throughout the state.

The HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology recently announced its ongoing efforts in support of Gov. Kay Ivey’s work to respond to and mitigate COVID-19. Through Alabama’s Coronavirus Relief Fund and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, $600,000 has been allocated to HudsonAlpha to perform genomic sequencing on positive SARS-CoV-2 samples from people across the state.

“All of us at HudsonAlpha are grateful to the state of Alabama for this support to help strengthen our state’s response and planning for this pandemic,” said Dr. Rick Myers, HudsonAlpha president and science director.

Dr. Jane Grimwood: “You can track the transmission of the virus from the original source all the way through to an infection …”

Leading the project is Dr. Jane Grimwood, the co-director of HudsonAlpha’s Genome Sequencing Center.

“Through this initiative with the state, HudsonAlpha aims to provide actionable information to help the collective efforts of policymakers and frontline workers in the fight against the pandemic,” she said.

When the pandemic started, HudsonAlpha was looking for ways to help, particularly in Alabama. Working in collaboration with Diatherix-Eurofins, the genomics team secured funding to sequence the virus. With Diatherix on the HudsonAlpha campus, obtaining samples is an efficient, as well as convenient, process.

“We are getting positive Alabama samples from them,” said Grimwood. “And then, we are sequencing them, using technology we use every day for other projects.”

The goal of the project is to sequence up to 2,000 virus samples – ideally from all of the counties.  The information will be provided to the Alabama Department of Public Health and other parties having critical roles in response to the pandemic.

Along with plans to identify the different strains of SARS-CoV-2 virus from across the state, the COVID-19 initiative will generate longitudinal data to track changes in the SARS-CoV-2 virus during the pandemic, as well as uncovering possible sources of new hot spots of infection.

“When the virus replicates, it makes errors, and these errors are what we call mutations,” said Grimwood. “Using these mutations, you can track the transmission of the virus from the original source all the way to through to an infection today, based on those errors.

“And you can potentially see how the virus is transmitting around Alabama.”

Other components of the initiative include surveying for possible emerging strains of virus which could have implications for vaccine development and vaccine efficiency, as well as adding an Alabama perspective to national and global COVID-19 initiatives through statewide genomic sequencing.

“Essentially, it’s surveillance,” Grimwood said. “To better understand the virus better and to try to be ahead of any changes. On one hand, the transmission side; on the other hand, to look at any differences or any errors or mutations that would cause the vaccine to behave differently.”

Myers said, “HudsonAlpha’s genomic research scientists are fully committed to combating this deadly virus.”

 

HudsonAlpha Scientists Among World’s Most Highly Cited Researchers

It’s becoming a tradition for the ground-breaking HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology.

The tradition being its scientists are among the world’s most highly cited researchers.

Dr. Jane Grimwood

And, for the seventh straight year, a group of HudsonAlpha scientists were named to the 2020 Highly Cited Researchers 2020 list from Clarivate.

This year, three HudsonAlpha researchers were named to the annual list: Dr. Jane Grimwood, faculty investigator, cross-field; Jeremy Schmutz, faculty investigator, plant and animal science; and Dr. Jerry Jenkins, cross-field.

The list identifies scientists and social scientists who demonstrated significant influence in their chosen field or fields through the publication of multiple highly cited papers during the last decade. Their names are drawn from the publications that rank in the top 1 percent by citations for field and publication year in the Web of Science citation index.

HudsonAlpha has a strong record of making significant contributions to the research community. This is the seventh year in a row that at least three HudsonAlpha scientists have been named on the Highly Cited Researcher list. This speaks volumes to the expertise and respect that these scientists have in their field of study and beyond.

“HudsonAlpha’s outstanding track record of Highly Cited Researchers is a testament to the impactful foundational research that our Institute prides itself on,” said HudsonAlpha President and Science Director Dr. Rick Myers. “Collaborative research is an important pillar on which the spirit of HudsonAlpha was built, and we are proud that our scientists are able to be active contributors to the open flow of research and information in the genomics field.”

Jeremy Schmutz

HudsonAlpha faculty who had been on the list in previous years include Myers, Grimwood, Schmutz, Dr. Devin Absher and Dr. Greg Cooper.

Grimwood and Schmutz serve as the co-directors of the HudsonAlpha Genome Sequencing Center.

Together with their research teams, they have sequenced more than 150 de novo plant genomes, both for their own research projects and collaborative projects. The de novo plant genomes serve as a foundation for genomic and functional plant research, meaning that hundreds of scientists rely on and utilize the reference genomes created by Grimwood and Schmutz’s group.

Because of their expert status in the plant genomics field, Grimwood and Schmutz are no strangers to the Highly Cited Researcher List, both having been named to the list several times. In fact, Schmutz has made the list every year since its inception in 2014.

Dr. Jerry Jenkins

Although Jenkins is a newcomer to the list, he has been a critical part of the Genome Sequencing Center team for nearly a decade. He serves as the Genome Analysis Group Leader and is involved in the generation and improvement of de novo plant genomes.

“Working in the Genome Sequencing Center with Jane and Jeremy over the past decade has given me the opportunity to participate in high-quality research and collaborate with dozens of research groups to help address important questions pertaining to plant science,” he said. “It is rewarding for me personally to see that our peers recognize the impact the group is having in plant genomics, and we plan to continue to make high quality contributions to address questions in plant science.”

Grimwood, Schmutz and Jenkins are three of 6,167 researchers from more than 60 countries and regions recognized this year, 2,650 of which reside in the United States. They are also joined by 26 Nobel Laureates.

“In the race for knowledge, it is human capital that is fundamental and this list identifies and celebrates exceptional individual researchers who are having a great impact on the research community as measured by the rate at which their work is being cited by others,” said David Pendlebury, Senior Citation Analyst at the Institute for Scientific Information at Clarivate.