Microsoft and Facebook vet leads nonprofit making software to improve COVID-19 rapid tests

Most of the Audere team, gathered together in pre-COVID times. (Audere Photo)

A Seattle-based nonprofit launched to provide digital health solutions for poorer countries is applying its expertise to help with COVID-19 testing.

Audere is building software for administering rapid result COVID tests that can be integrated into products being developed by U.S. manufacturers that use saliva or nasal swab samples.

“There is a critical need for rapid testing,” said Philip Su, CEO and founder of Audere. People are increasingly realizing that the widespread distribution of a vaccine is still many months away. The availability of accurate, inexpensive tests that provide results in minutes can help control the spread of the virus in the meantime, Su said.

Philip Su, Audere CEO and founder. (Audere Photo)

The tests — known generally as rapid diagnostic tests or RDTs — can have high rates of failure, though the basic concept is simple. Imagine a home pregnancy test, as an example. A liquid sample is applied to a testing device, the fluid travels across the testing material and triggers a chemical reaction if a target disease or hormone is present. That reaction is visible as a colored bar or other shape.

In the past 20 years, the tests have grown in popularity, particularly as tools used in low- and middle-income countries for detecting HIV and malaria. They can be administered in clinics by providers with limited medical expertise or by people at home.

The tests “are simple, easy to use, affordable and they’re stable,” said Roger Peck, a senior program officer in diagnostics at PATH, a longstanding global health nonprofit not affiliated with the project. “They’re becoming more and more commonplace, and really accepted by healthcare workers.”

But they’re not fail-proof. Studies show that the tests can give inaccurate results when people take the

TSMC Leads Chipmakers’ Sales Surge Ahead of New iPhones

(Bloomberg) — Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. reported a stronger-than-expected 22% rise in quarterly sales, buoyed by orders from its largest customers including Apple Inc.

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The world’s largest contract chipmaker saw revenue for the three months to September climb to a record NT$356.4 billion ($12.4 billion), up from NT$293 billion a year earlier, according to Bloomberg calculations based on monthly sales data disclosed by TSMC. Fellow Taiwanese chipmakers United Microelectronics Corp. and MediaTek Inc. on Thursday also reported strong sales, suggesting a broad recovery in the industry.

TSMC in July raised its 2020 outlook, saying that revenue this year will grow by more than 20% in dollar terms. Sales for the first nine months of the year suggests that Apple’s main iPhone chipmaker is on track to meet its growth forecast as the Covid-19 pandemic fueled demand for home computing equipment.

The company’s business typically revs up in the months before Apple unveils new iPhones and the holiday season. It also likely received a boost during the quarter as its second-largest customer Huawei Technologies Co. raced to stockpile supplies before a U.S. ban on shipments to the Chinese telecom giant came into effect last month. Rival chipmaker Samsung Electronics Co. reported on Thursday earnings that beat analyst estimates after its mobile and chip businesses benefited from the curbs on Huawei.



chart, pie chart: Market Leader


© Bloomberg
Market Leader

“The demand strength will sustain and see an upside risk to TSMC’s 4Q20 revenue guidance to be announced next week,” Bernstein analysts led by Mark Li wrote in a note. “The ramp of iPhone is delayed but just makes 4Q20 sequentially stronger. Apple silicon is ramping and will fuel the momentum in 4Q20 too. More recently, Huawei’s competitors are aggressive in placing orders, all vying to gain the share left by Huawei.”

Monthly figures released

Madrona leads $3.9M seed round for cybersecurity compliance startup Strike Graph

Strike Graph co-founders Justin Beals and Brian Bero. (Strike Graph Photo)

Seattle startup Strike Graph raised a $3.9 million seed round led by Madrona Venture Group.

The company, founded less than a year ago and spun out of Madrona Venture Labs, helps companies prepare for the cybersecurity certification process.

Most B2B organizations need to pass cybersecurity audits to ensure their service meets security and privacy standards. Strike Graph says its customers can earn a SOC 2 Type 1 certification in 45 days and save $50,000 in consultant fees thanks to automation and customization features.

The 5-person startup is led by CEO Justin Beals, a veteran of NextStep, Koru, Roundbox Global, and other startups, along with Brian Bero, who previously co-founded Seattle tech stalwart Apptio and recently sold security startup Greytwist to SmartRIA.

The idea for Strike Graph came about after Beals struggled with the SOC 2 process as the CTO of an AI startup getting through procurement. The biggest roadblock to closing deals was the security review process that could take anywhere from six months to two years with one client.

Beals said Strike Graph competes against legacy compliance platforms that have “empty databases” and require outside consultants.

“Some new entrants into the market are overly prescriptive and don’t allow companies flexibility in their security practices,” he added. “Our platform carefully threads the difference so that companies can efficiently adjust Strike Graph to meet their current cybersecurity practices.”

GeekWire previously reported on the company in May. It launched just as the COVID-19 pandemic began in the U.S., though Beals said demand for Strike Graph’s initial pilot offering was high.

“This team is going after a large and significantly growing opportunity to serve a sharp pain point for B2B businesses,” Madrona wrote in a blog post. “Strike Graph defines what we

Coronavirus news you may have missed overnight: Computer glitch leads to record 22,961 new cases

The total number of Covid-19 cases recorded in the UK since the start of the pandemic has exceeded 500,000, with official figures for the number of patients in hospital beginning to rise as the number of cases also increase around the country.

It comes as Boris Johnson warned the nation that the Covid-19 crisis will remain “bumpy until Christmas and possibly beyond” on Sunday.

Here is your daily roundup of coronavirus news you may have missed overnight.

An “artificially high” new daily record of almost 23,000 new Covid-19 cases were recorded in the UK on Sunday night due to a computer glitch, said the government.

Public Health England said its official Covid dashboard failed to count more than 15,000 positive results reported between 25 September and 2 October, and added it to the figures for the weekend, resulting in record rises of 12,872 on Saturday and 22,961 on Sunday.

The backlog meant contact tracing for those cases had potentially been delayed for over a week. While officials insisted it had not affected “decision-making in local areas”, the glitch has been criticised by Labour as “shambolic”.

Less than half of the UK population could receive a vaccination against coronavirus, said the head of the country’s vaccine taskforce.

Speaking to the Financial Times, Kate Bingham said officials were hoping to vaccinate around 30 million adults in the UK, which has a population of around 67 million, adding: “We just need to vaccinate everyone at risk”.

She said there would be no vaccination of people under the age of 18, and that it would be “an adult-only vaccine for people over 50”, focusing on health workers, care home workers and the vulnerable.

Lord Bethell, a health minister, has compared the UK government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic to the staging of the