Abbott Laboratories has begun hiring for facilities in Illinois and Maine that will make the pharmaceutical firm’s new rapid COVID-19 test.

The Illinois site is expected to fill 2,000 new positions. The plant in Westbrook, Maine will hire 1,200 workers. Most of the jobs will be temporary, but are likely to extend well into next year based on the company’s announced production schedule.

Abbott was contracted by the federal government to produce 150 million tests at $5 each. Called BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card, Abbott says the test delivers reliable results in just 15 minutes. The most commonly available current tests take two or more days for results, sometimes even up to a week, depending on where the test was done.

Like other tests, Abbott’s requires taking a nasal swab. Trained workers activate the test kit, inserting the swab into a “test well” in a credit card-sized cardboard test card. Results are ready in 15 minutes. The presence of a COVID infection shows up as two pink/purple lines.

Use of the test is intended for individuals “suspected of COVID-19 by their healthcare provider within the first seven days of symptom onset,” said the Food and Drug Administration.

The test was fast tracked by the FDA, getting emergency approval on August 26. The following day, the government announced the deal to acquire a supply of the tests for $750 million.

Abbott has also created Navica, an app allowing those who test negative to demonstrate their COVID status. Abbott says it will serve as a “digital ‘boarding pass’ that can be scanned to enter organizations and other places where people gather.”

Most of the new jobs don’t require any technical experience. Abbott said it will provide all the training production workers will need.

Photo provided by
United Nations COVID-19 Response


Jun 6, 2023

Clinical Research Hit By High Turnover

Clinical research associates in the US are leaving jobs at the rate of 30% a year, says a new report from the consulting, tax and advisory firm, BDO.

Where turnover rates for these clinical monitoring professionals had been holding steady at 25%, the rate jumped between 2017 and 2018 by 4%. Outside the US, the global average is a modest 16%.

Turnover has plagued clinical / contract research organizations (CROs) for several years, but the increase in the US promises to heighten the problem. The BDO report says the impact to a CRO can be severe: “Losses of team members can disrupt clinical trials, and ultimately damage the relationship with the trial sponsor. High levels of turnover may deter sponsors from engaging in a strategic partnership with a contract research organization.”

There are multiple causes behind the increasing CRA turnover, though compensation and competition for these professionals is at the top of the list.

“If CROs hope to retain key talent, they must do a better job of linking pay raises to an employee’s level of contribution and re-assess merit budget increases,” said Judy Canavan, Global Employer Services Managing Director at BDO. “Competency models can help companies quantify this linkage.”

BDO’s analysis found CRA compensation levels remained “largely unchanged during the last five years” while CRAs have significantly increased their skills relative to their rate of pay. Likewise, annual incentive programs, a tool to attract and retain talent, haven’t changed much in the last five years. Payouts as a percentage of salary, have actually decreased, the report says.

“Quite simply, says Canavan, “Companies need to link the size of the raise to the increase in an employee’s contribution. This may mean increasing the size of the merit budget. Utilizing a competency model can help companies quantify this linkage.”


Jun 6, 2023

The New ‘Normal’ Is Not 98.6

December 22nd, 2020

When mom took your temperature and decided that at 98.6 F you were fine, she might very well have been wrong.

She was relying on a 150 year old standard that a growing number of studies are finding is too high by about a degree.

It’s not that German physician Carl Wunderlich was wrong. It’s that the average body temperature has declined since he first published the figure in 1868.

“Our temperature’s not what people think it is,” said Dr. Julie Parsonnet, a professor of medicine and health research at Stanford Medical School. “What everybody grew up learning, which is that our normal temperature is 98.6, is wrong.”

She and a group of her colleagues earlier this year published an analysis of body temperature trends in the US since the Civil War. It confirm what other studies found — our body temperature has been going down for decades. They determined the body temperature of men born in the early to mid-1990s is on average 1.06 F lower than that of men born in the early 1800s and that of women of the same time periods is on average 0.58 F lower.

The researcers offered a number of possible reasons for the decline ranging from better hygiene and healthcare to lower rates of inflammation and improved diets. Even modern heating and air conditioning were mentioned as contributing factors.

Now, a study of an indigenous population of forager-horticulturists in the Bolivian Amazon has come up with similar findings.

Published in Science Advances, a multinational team of physicians, anthropologists and local researchers found that over 16 years of study the average body temperature among the Tsimane declined by .09 F a year to a current average of 97.7 F.

“In less than two decades we’re seeing about the same level of decline as that observed in the U.S. over approximately two centuries,” said lead researcher Michael Gurven, UC Santa Barbara professor of anthropology and chair of the campus’s Integrative Anthropological Sciences Unit.

Though the Bolivian Amazon is thousands of miles and a lifestyle away from the US, the researchers suspect some of the same factors may be responsible for the declining body temperature. Health care has improved and infection and inflammation have been reduced.

Said Gurven, “It’s likely a combination of factors — all pointing to improved conditions.”

Photo by The New York Public Library on Unsplash