Berg, a clinical-stage biotech company, will work with non-profit healthcare system AdventHealth in an initiative designed to improve treatment options and patient outcomes for US COVID-19 patients. At the center of the partnership is the merging of Berg’s artificial intelligence (AI) technologies and AdventHeath’s repository of patient data, which will be used to build a comprehensive patient registry ‘biobank’ used to enhance COVID-19 care.
According to the companies, the patient data registry will include comprehensive electronic medical records for all patients tested for COVID-19 at AdventHealth. Critical data to be considered include length of hospital or ICU stay, administered medications, personal medical history and patient outcomes.
Outsourcing-Pharma (OSP) recently discussed the project with Niven Narain (NN)—cofounder, president and CEO of Berg—and Steven Smith (SS), senior vice president and chief scientific officer of AdventHealth.
OSP: Could you please provide an overview of some of the COVID-related work Berg has been involved in since the outset of the pandemic?
NN: Berg has been engaged in a series of activities related to fighting the COVID pandemic in addition to researching precision medicine opportunities to treat COVID-19 patients. The partnership with AdventHealth is Berg’s latest strategic activity amid the second wave of the COVID-19 surge where the two companies will work on a multi-phased biobank project.
Through the two phases, Berg is collaborating on the types of data going into Berg’s AI system and organizing the initial algorithms where they will be applied to the type of molecular and a laboratory data, in addition to clinical data that's analyzed by the AI system. The initial insights will be shared with Advent leadership and scientific and clinical staff as a calling out point as to the areas we want to focus on, where are the direction allergies from the platform as, as the hypotheses has been developed that impact most prominently in patient care.
The second phase will focus on validating some of the data, either the EMR and the anonymous or aggregate of clinical features, and an outcome of data medications.
In June, Berg announced a new partnership with the DOE-funded Oak Ridge National Lab focused on the use of the Summit supercomputer coupled with Berg AI-enabled Interrogative Biology Platform for rapid drug discovery research to map out existing and novel drug treatments for COVID-19 patients.
Additionally, Berg has collaborated on a series of research papers focused on COVID-19’s impact in target populations. The most recent paper was published in the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities focused on investigating why COVID-19 is more prevalent in African American populations and how to treat it by the use of existing ACE inhibitors and ARBs.
OSP: How did Berg come to work with AdventHealth—have you collaborated on projects before?
NN: AdventHealth and Berg began exploring expanded partnerships in Fall of 2019 in the context of the non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and sarcopenia after working with each other since 2017. This is a first-ever partnership focused on COVID-19.
OSP: Can you provide any insights as to why Florida is the starting point for this project?
SS: AdventHealth is the largest healthcare provider in Florida, which is the third largest state in the union. AdventHealth has been a frontline provider for COVID care since the beginning of the pandemic.
OSP: Diabetes and obesity frequently get mentioned as comorbid conditions, but are there other, less-mentioned conditions that could influence severity or length of COVID-19 hospitalization?
SS: There are obesity hypertension, heart disease, asthma and other respiratory disorders, as well as compromised immunity.