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Thursday, Oct 6, 2022
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OC Eyecare Ties For COVID-19 Tests

A new COVID-19 testing network launched by the Orange County Health Care Agency has its roots in the area’s eyecare industry.

Avellino Labs USA said late last month it had partnered with the agency to launch the OC COVID-19 Testing Network.

The network will offer COVID-19 testing to Orange County residents who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, but are unable to receive testing through a healthcare provider.

Six sites will offer the tests; initially they’ll offer a few hundred tests per day per site. Officials expect up to 5,000 tests per day will be available through the network later this month.

The county placed an initial order of 14,000 tests with Menlo Park’s Avellino Labs, whose board members include longtime OC ophthalmologic executive Jim Mazzo; he also serves on its CEO committee.

The biotech company has been expected to go public this year on Korea’s stock exchange. Along with the U.S., it has operations in China, Japan and Korea.

Avellino had been focused on gene-based diagnostics, data and therapy to treat eye disorders. It said it has created the world’s first DNA test to confirm the presence of genetic indicators that are positively associated with corneal dystrophies and keratoconus genetic risk factors.

The 12-year-old firm pivoted to coronavirus work earlier this year.

It created a new type of coronavirus diagnostic test, and in late March helped set up a first-of-its-kind testing center last week in the Bay Area city of Hayward.

The Hayward tests were free, and initially tested up to 370 people daily with a focus on first responders like firefighters.

About 10% of the 1,254 people who were the first to get tested at the Hayward location had positive results for the virus, according to local reports. Avellino’s test determines if a patient is currently infected or not; they are not antibody tests, which determine who has already been infected and recovered.

Eyecare to COVID-19

Avellino’s test detects the SARS-CoV-2 virus in patients with or without symptoms by identifying and isolating the genetic markers associated with the virus’ genetic RNA sequence, the company said. Test samples are processed at Avellino’s lab; results can be available the same day or the next day in most cases.

“Much of the expertise in testing technology applied to the AvellinoCoV2 test comes from the Avellino’s work in genetic testing for corneal diseases,” Mazzo said.

“The eyecare community, of which Orange County is a major hub, can take great pride in knowing that work done over the past decade was able to be quickly translated to help with the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Our goal is to make testing available to everyone and help the nation stay safe and quickly recover from this pandemic,” added Avellino Chairman Gene Lee.

6 Locations, More Expected

“The OC Health Care Agency will continue to work diligently to expand this network by bringing more locations online in the days and weeks to come,” said Dr. Nichole Quick, Orange County Health Officer.

OC residents who think that they have COVID-19 symptoms and cannot access COVID-19 testing through their regular medical provider can get testing through the OC COVID-19 Testing Network.

Initial testing locations include:

• AltaMed Medical Group, Anaheim

• AltaMed Medical Group, Santa Ana

• Nhan Hoa Comprehensive Health Care Clinic, Garden Grove

• UCI Health, multiple locations

AltaMed Expansion

Los Angeles-based AltaMed Health Services, which bills itself as Southern California’s leading nonprofit healthcare system, has expanded its OC base the past few years. In late 2018, it bought an Anaheim office built for CKE Restaurants Holdings Inc.—parent company of one of Orange County’s iconic businesses, burger chain Carl’s Jr.

That building is one of the initial testing locations.

AltaMed is a nonprofit operator of what’s known as “federally qualified health centers,” which serve as safety-net providers of healthcare services to people who are uninsured or underinsured.

Additional sites are expected to be added over the course of the month.

Information on test sites can be found at www.ochealthinfo.com/novelcoronavirus or by calling the HCA’s Health Referral Line at 1(800) 564-8448. 

Mark Mueller
Mark Mueller
Mark is the Editor-in-Chief of the Orange County Business Journal, one of the premier regional business newspapers in the country. He’s the fifth person to hold the editor’s position in the paper’s long history. He oversees a staff of about 15 people. The OCBJ is considered a must-read for area business executives. The print edition of the paper is the primary source of local news for most of the Business Journal’s subscribers, which includes most of OC’s major corporate and community players. Mark’s been with the paper since 2005, and long served as the real estate reporter for the paper, breaking hundreds of commercial and residential real estate stories. He took on the editor’s position in 2018.
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