US biotechnology company Biogen might have acted as a "superspreader" of coronavirus in the US, say reports. The annual meeting held in the Harbor View Ballroom of the Boston Marriott Long Wharf hotel on February 26 had around 175 executives from the company attending the leadership conference.
Within days of the conference, Massachusetts became the epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak. Soon after the meeting, it was recorded that the employees travelled on flights to several other states across the country, making it difficult for health officials to track them.
According to Massachusetts public health officials, 99 people, including the employees and their contacts, fell sick. They included the people who live in the state. The first known cases in several places like Tennessee, Indiana and North Carolina have been attributed to the Biogen meeting.
Concerns over large gatherings
Even prior to the annual meeting in February, there were concerns over such public gatherings in the country. The company was criticized even as it prepared for the annual meeting. The first case was reported in Massachusetts on February 1 and later that month Japanese tech company Sony said they would be cancelling the PAX East gaming expo at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center which was supposed to be held between Feb. 27- March 1.
Following the meeting, cases started to appear at a slow pace among the attendees of the meeting. Biogen chief medical officer Maha Radhakrishnan had asked those who attended the annual meeting to seek medical help if they were feeling unwell.
The company was working on a promising treatment for Alzheimer's and a year ago they had announced failure during large-scale trials which led to the company's stock being severely affected. But later they announced that the drug worked in higher dosages. The company sought approval from the Food and Drug Administration following the success. The success brought in more pressure to deliver and there was reportedly no discussion of cancelling the annual meeting despite several international gatherings being cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic slowly spreading globally.
Potential trials for new vaccine treatment by Biogen
The company is also contributing to the fight against coronavirus in the country. A donation of $10 million was made by Biogen. It has also teamed up with Vir Biotechnology to produce a potential treatment for Covid-19. Vir's basic goal is to identify the antibodies that could be effective against SARS-CoV-2 and move towards developing a treatment with the help of Biogen.
Many other companies are also working to make a similar breakthrough. A second trial has kicked off in the US as well.