On August 12, 2021, In-Q-Tel (IQT) convened a virtual Roundtable meeting to examine the technologies used to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic and other epidemics, to discuss what needed capabilities were missing from the Covid response, and how these critical needs might be addressed. Roundtable participants included experts drawn from several United States government (USG) agencies, academia, private-sector technology companies, and members of the IQT/B.Next team. The meeting was conducted on a not-for-attribution basis.


For over two decades, increasingly frequent and consequential outbreaks of infectious disease have demonstrated that we are living in an “age of epidemics”. It is urgent that nations become more adept, individually and collectively, at controlling disease outbreaks. While improving global preparedness requires changes in national, institutional, and individual behaviors, many of the capabilities required to respond to lethal, fast-moving epidemics are technologies which can be realized through collaboration among governments, universities and private companies.


Our collective struggle against Covid-19 has demonstrated that technologies, ranging from diagnostic tests and vaccines to personal protective equipment and contact tracing apps, are essential to the task of quenching pandemics. Yet, with a few exceptions, analyses of how technologies might enable critical pandemic management functions, and the strategies required to make such technologies widely available for this—or the next—pandemic, remain the exception, not the rule.


This paper provides background and details high-level takeaways from this important Roundtable discussion.

This database is a tool for those who need to quickly obtain information about COVID-19 test kits and services for use in the United States. The database includes molecular tests that have received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), whether they are kits that can be purchased by lab managers, or tests performed as a service by laboratories, whether sourced from manufacturers, or developed for their own use (so called laboratory-developed tests, or LDTs). Our intention is to inform and simplify the task of buying and using the panoply of COVID-19 diagnostic test kits and services now on the market. The database was assembled to aid hospitals, health officials, employers and others in identifying and locating tests and test manufacturers that would be appropriate to their needs.

As communities relax stay-at-home orders and ramp up testing, the public health system is seeing increases in COVID-19 cases. Until vaccines are broadly available, the primary ways of preventing transmission of COVID-19 include interventions such as case investigation, contact tracing, social distancing, and isolation and quarantine. Case investigation and contact tracing are well-established public health functions that have been implemented for many diseases like Ebola, sexually transmitted infections, and tuberculosis. However, the scale and speed needed for COVID-19 is unprecedented.

Co-published by B.Next and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), this guide aims to help health officials think through critical functionalities needed for case investigations and contact tracing, technological options, and issues of implementation in adopting these technologies. It also addresses the latest topic of focus: the Apple/Google exposure notification application programming interface. The background and key considerations included are intended to inform decision-making for technology-enabled enhancement of case investigation and contact tracing capacity.

Wearing a mask is one of the most important steps we can take to reopen our country safely. It is not the only step – social distancing, frequent handwashing, and increasing diagnostic testing capacity are also critical – but it is an easy way to provide significant protection as the economy starts to ramp up. The health of one person affects the health of the entire community.
The initial guidance from public health authorities on the novel coronavirus did not emphasize mask use for the general public. ‘It’s a cultural thing’, we thought of widespread mask wearing in Asia. ‘It won’t make a difference’, we suggested, not knowing just how difficult this virus is to contain, given the high prevalence of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic spreaders. ‘We need to save masks for the healthcare workforce.’ Yes, but cloth masks are almost as effective at reducing community spread and don’t draw from the medical supply chain. Learn more…

Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic necessitates the adoption of traditional public health measures for disease control, including rapidly tracing the contacts and locations of infected individuals to prevent further spread. Leveraging technology can accelerate the scale and speed of this essential public health measure, and many organizations have announced plans to launch or support contact tracing initiatives though their underlying technologies, workflows, and privacy architectures.

In April 2020, B.Next and In-Q-Tel convened members of the public health and technology communities for a virtual roundtable to discuss the key elements of tech-enabled contact tracing programs, potential strategies to optimize their implementation and adoption, and possible frameworks for preserving the privacy and civil liberties of Americans. View the presentations on YouTube to learn more about:

Note, these presentations were recorded June 19, 2020.

Diagnostic tests are a critical tool to contain epidemics, to support medical care, and for public health measures. Understanding when they are accurate and inaccurate is necessary for understanding which individuals have the virus, need isolation, and need their contacts traced.

Many diagnostic tests are reliable, though all are imperfect. And at a large scale, tiny errors in accuracy for single tests can aggregate into large errors if deployed without care. This is especially true when the rate of true infection in the tested population is expected to be low. For example, when testing for infection in a person who doesn’t have symptoms or a history of exposure, or when testing for a history of infection when the overall prevalence of disease for a given population is low.

This paper covers:

  • The accuracy and errors in diagnostic tests
  • How low disease prevalence can cause many false positives
  • Diagnostic testing in normal times: testing for influenza
  • Balancing errors with diagnostic needs

B.Next’s experts from healthcare, government, and industry leveraged its knowledge and expansive network to create the following high-level guide that maps sensors in commercial products to key vital signs and explores ways to capitalize on the smart products that may supplement digital health efforts in response to COVID-19.

What’s Inside:

  • Connection between health sensing techniques and relevant vital signs
  • Highlight of some challenges with existing commercial solutions
  • Catalog of current product capabilities and emerging trends for future products
  • Use cases for understanding potential ways to use sensors during contingency care

This Technology Insights Guide provides an overview of the use of commercial-off-the-shelf (not medical grade) sensor technologies that might be useful in supporting the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak response. The intent of this guide is to acquaint clinicians with the fundamental concepts related to the use of wearable sensors and to provide a possible adjunct to existing healthcare related strategies for managing the potential surge of patients with COVID-19 symptoms. Emphasis on technologies that could serve as an adjunct to conventional methods of patient monitoring are provided. This effort is not intended to convey medical guidance or provide recommendations regarding the outpatient management of presumed or confirmed COVID-19 patients. It is intended as a supplement to support the ongoing efforts of the healthcare community currently managing COVID-19.

Within a single 48-hour period earlier this month, the Trump administration announced plans to begin returning federal employees to work – and found that two non-symptomatic White House staffers were positive for SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The White House discovered the infected staffers because it regularly tests staff, regardless of symptoms, in order to prevent an outbreak in the country’s most important workplace. But as President Donald Trump pushes for a wider reopening of the U.S. economy, the White House infections highlight both what is required to reliably protect Americans at work and how remote that goal remains.

Co-written by B.Next and Jeremy Konyndyk, this article explores how aggressive testing can be essential to prevent an outbreak and safely bring the U.S. economy out of lockdown.