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Contxto – There’s treasure to be found in a city’s sewage. Well… maybe not the kind of treasure you’re thinking of. Rather it’s the kind of treasure that’s increasingly valued by our digital era: data.
To that end, biotech Biobot Analytics raised US$4.2 million in late April to further scour sewage for this prize.
The round was led by The Engine. Other participants included AmFam Institute Impact Fund as well as returning investors Y Combinator and DCVC. It’s also been busy working with local governments across the US to estimate coronavirus infections via sewage sampling.
This service is essentially the same as when you go to the doctor’s and leave a stool or urine sample. Just at a grander scale. That’s right, it’s using samples of poop to map Covid-19.
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Biobot Analytics versus Covid-19
Since March the biotech has been collaborating with governments to analyze wastewater for Covid-19 infection levels, free of charge.
However, it’s been overloaded with work to the point that as of June it will charge authorities US$1,200 per test. Moreover, it will use funds from its investment to hire additional staff—since some of its workers have had to self-quarantine under the suspicion of having caught the disease.
Entrepreneurs Newsha Ghaeli and Mexican-born Mariana Matus launched their startup to give decision-makers public health insights through wastewater. It had previously been working to estimate levels of opioid addiction.
But the coronavirus pandemic has proven to be an equally pressing matter for governments to understand and measure.
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Perhaps one of the greater virtues of Biobot Analytics’ testing is that it’s a less invasive approach for governments to gauge infection levels. That way, they can prepare healthcare centers accordingly if there’s high traces of infection. Or on the contrary, if contagion rates are falling, they can start loosening lockdown measures and begin their economic recovery.
It’s also more respectful of people’s privacy since individuals aren’t geographically tracked nor do they divulge personal information to the government.
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