Archive for category Biotech – Medical Device – Life Science – Healthcare

Covid updates – July, 2020


Virus, Covid, Science, Covid19

Here are some covid updates from last couple of weeks. I have gathered info from zoom sessions. For more details, accurate sources, and veracity, please research further.

  • CA expecting 19000+ deaths by Nov. 1
  • US covid deaths top 150,000
  • More than 6,300 covid cases in the US, are linked to colleges
  • After some decline in people dying, now daily death counts are rising in 21 states
  • 47% (that is, almost half the population) of US adults have some underlying condition that slightly increases the chance of severe covid illness
  • Blood glucose level of 7 or higher leads to 33% chance of dying 60% chance of contraction
  • Spain had 2,255 more cases in last 24 or so hours.  Britain imposed quarantine on travelers from Spain
  • WHO warns of new EBOLA outbreak in Congo
  • China reports biggest virus spike since end of Wuhan outbreak
  • India has the fastest growing coronavirus cases in the world
  • 23% of Delhi residents seem to have antibodies 
  • North Korea is reporting their first covid case
  • Plastic visors in place of masks are NOT effective
  • Israel & Japan experience huge spikes in covid cases
  • Chinese study found that people with type 2 diabetes had shorter telomere length
  • Study found that aerosoles in covid patients’ rooms, had live virus floating around even after 5-6 days
  • Research found no transmission of covid from infected moms to newborn babies, even after 2 weeks of breast feeding with proper cleaning protocols
  • In another study, pregnant women who had virus, their placenta also had virus
  • Study says mosquitoes cannot pass on covid from infected patients to non infected patients
  • From 3334 patients with covid in NY hospitalized, 16% had DVT, stroke or heart attacks
  • Presence of virus in the gut likely means that virus takes longer to leave the system and would lead to higher risk of liver injury
  • Spain study found that about 5% of those who contracted covid  in large cities had antibodies while only 3% of those of contracted covid near the coast, had antibodies
  • In one study, over 50% of people who contracted covid show some heart damage
  • 85 babies under age 1 tested positive in one county in Texas
  • Overwhelming fatigue, palpitations, muscle aches are symptoms that linger for 4-6 weeks after recovery from covid

On potential vaccines & treatments & safety products

  • There are 42 potential vaccines — Most in phase 1, 14 of them are in phase 2 and 4 are in phase 3 
  • Oxford/ AZ vaccine results look good in phase 1 / 2
  • China’s Sinopharm is in phase 3 trial for covid vaccine
  • Cage Bio developed sanitizers that offers protection for up to 4 hours
  • Steroid treatment slightly reduces the need for mechanical ventilation 
  • A client has very exciting and fascinating prevention strategy. If interested in investing then let me know & I’ll put you both in contact.
  • Boehringer Ingelheim identified 28 new antibodies to fight the virus

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Diversity on Boards


In 1995, when I began doing diversity training for employees at @IBM, there was often some resistance among corporations. Some felt that it was better to not “open a can of worms”. At IBM, a grand diversity initiative was started by Ted Childs Jr., who is widely recognized as the leading corporate diversity expert. 

Diverse People Stacking Hand Together - Royalty-free Adult Stock Photo

At the core of the diversity training, we focused on how workplaces that become inclusive where each and every employee can bring their best and contribute at the highest level of productivity, such teams enjoy high morale and the company enjoys high retention rate. In our trainings, we emphasized the importance of embracing diversity to uncover the competitive advantage it provides. 

All of that is still true. AND additionally, it seems, today the climate exists where we can also speak freely of how and why it is ethically and morally the right thing to do, to embrace the entire range of diversity, from diversity of gender, race, religion and sexual orientation to diversity of thought, functionalities and perspectives.

I am eagerly looking forward to the Road to @TiEcon panel on July, 22 at 9:40am on the roadmap to bring diversity on boards of corporations. It is widely understood that just having a diverse range of people on a team, is in itself not enough to create a high performing team. In order to leverage diversity and create a high performing team, a team needs to strategically and consciously create a culture that values diverse people, diverse range of behaviors, and creates a space for listening to diverse perspectives. 

I am eagerly looking forward to the views and best practices that this panel will share. The panelists are: Anjali Bansal, founder at Avaana Capital; Dipti Jaggi @clinakos; and Tina Shah Paikeday, Head of D&I @RRAonLeadership at Russell Reynolds Advisory. 

Sign up for this exciting panel and the entire event at the link below.
https://www.tiecon.org/?campaign=Referral&source=DaNa 

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Hardware enabling Artificial Intelligence Revolution – Panel at TiEcon


Artificial Intelligence, Brain, Think

From virtual doctors to hassle free data maintenance to driverless cars and robotic surgeries, artificial intelligence (AI) has been transforming the way we live, work, learn, and conduct business.  But it is only now, as powerful GPUs have become available to train networks, that the technology has become more practical and it’s use more strategic. 

At Road to TiEcon event on July 22, an exciting panel of senior leaders across a range of industries, will discuss how hardware is enabling the AI revolution. Panelists include Chris Rowen, CEO at @BabbleLabs & founder of #Tensilica; Gaurav Singh, Corporate VP at @XilinxInc; Gordon Wilson, CEO at Rain Neuromorphics @Rain_AI; and Sumit Gupta, VP of AI strategy & CTO, Data & AI at @IBMData @IBMcloud @IBM cognitive systems. This will be an exciting panel.

The algorithmic superiority of certain complex functions comes only with high computation and memory and this requirement poses significant challenges to the hardware platforms required to execute these functions. The AI teams under proven leaders, are in constant quest for new devices, architecture and algorithms that would lead to improved efficiency. 

Sign up for this exciting panel and entire event at the link below. https://www.tiecon.org/?campaign=Referral&source=DaNa  

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Changing Healthcare Landscape in the post-Covid world


In the post Covid world, one thing that is certain to change is health care and health technologies that impact the quality of care. There is already an enormous impact of digital technologies with remote monitoring, remote diagnosis, and telehealth platforms, and artificial intelligence powered apps and devices. Related to that is an explosion and access that providers have in the number of data points. 

In the immediate covid world, there is an urgency of some of these new technologies in contact tracing and monitoring the spread of the pandemic. There is also a necessity for protective gear that while protecting providers can make care more personalized and is easy to use. Providers are also trying to balance providing care for other health issues while dealing with continuing covid cases.

So what might be possible attributes that will make new technologies and devices stand out?

Medical Equipment on an Operation Room

For any tools that impact healthcare, accuracy, reliability, and safety are of prime importance. Also delivery of care is rapidly transforming and all devices need to seamlessly integrate into rapidly changing clinical flow. All devices that work with healthcare data must also be extremely secure. 

At Road to #TiEcon2020 @TiEcon @tiesv on June 24th, domain experts will discuss new technologies and how it is all poised to make an impact in the changing arena of healthcare.  Domain experts speaking at this event include, Dr. John Whyte @WebMD, Aashima Gupta @GoogleCloud, Dr. Suraj Kapa @MayoClinic, Ramesh Raskar @MediaLab, Dr. Meera Kanhouwa @Deloitte.

If you need more information than post your question with your email. Register for the event with the link here:
https://www.tiecon.org/?campaign=Referral&source=DaNa

 

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Coronavirus: Treatments and Vaccines


Recently a science teacher said that treatment for covid with remdesivir or hydroxychloroquine is better than a vaccine. I said, treatment like that is good but a vaccine is better. She said, “no. since many people get adverse reactions from vaccines, a treatment is better”. So I decided to write this blog post. First, let us consider what are drug treatments and how they are different from vaccines.

Drug treatments: Currently over 70 companies are working on various drug treatments for novel coronavirus. Although this virus is novel, not all drugs being considered are entirely novel. For instance, like the previously considered malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine, Gilead’s drug, Remdesivir, that is in the news, is not a novel drug. Remdesivir is a broad spectrum antiviral drug that has been found to successfully prevent MERS coronavirus in rhesus monkeys. Besides antiviral drugs, there are other anti-inflammatory drugs. Scientists believe that in the end, what might work may be a sort of a cocktail or some combination of antiviral and anti-inflammatory drugs.

Drug treatments do not prevent Covid-19. These drugs are offered to patients who are already suffering from coronavirus. On the other hand, vaccines prevent people from contracting the disease in the first place.  

Drug treatments are not cures. 1) there isn’t a 100% response rate among people treated with remdesivir or any other treatment. So despite many drugs showing promise, there are a few people who will respond to a drug; many still die. 2) many who suffer from the disease but go on to recover, they still utilize huge amounts of hospital resources during their illness phase. 3) during the illness phase, these sick people also spread the virus with the possibility of making others (including healthcare professionals) sick. 4) even people who may recover with the help of these drugs from covid, may have suffered substantial damage to their lungs and that may reduce their lifespan or affect them in other ways.

Vaccines:  Vaccines prevent people from getting sick. So when people don’t get sick, they don’t spread the virus, don’t utilize healthcare resources, don’t infect healthcare professionals or others in the community, and don’t get any kind of long lasting damage to their lungs. Clearly, vaccine is a far superior way to deal with coronavirus.

Why are vaccines taking much longer than drugs for covid?

Virus, Pathogen, Infection, Biology

As I mentioned above, many of the drugs considered currently for treatment of covid are already in existence for some other illnesses or diseases. So there are existing drugs considered for either preventing covid deaths or preventing people from becoming sicker and helping them recover faster and ending hospital stays earlier.

Vaccines on the other hand, have to be developed. There are considerable challenges at each stage of vaccine research, development and manufacturing. First of all, pharmaceutical companies have decreased vaccine research and development in the last several years, because vaccine development and manufacturing is expensive, time consuming and offers smaller payback in terms of revenues. For each new virus and for all mutations, the vaccine has to be developed and then when the virus is not active then the vaccine is not useful. Clinical studies take place during the research and development phase. Only if the studies show the vaccine to be safe and effective then the vaccine proceeds to the next phase where it has to be manufactured in large quantities required.

During a pandemic like this one, not only do we need a vaccine quickly but the world will also need  hundreds of millions of doses for the entire world population.  Fortunately, pharma companies, scientists from all over the world, billionaires like Bill Gates and Governments and countries have stepped up to tackle this challenge, with an unprecedented spirit of collaboration.  There are measured expectations for an effective vaccine to be available within 12 to 18 months. That is an unprecedented and highly aggressive timeline. Bill Gates has offered to support manufacturing of top 7 candidates during the research and development phase. That means, even without the proof of effectiveness of any of them, he will foot the bill for manufacturing all of them, in the hope that at least a couple of them will prove to be safe and effective and the world will get required doses speedily. Meanwhile, countries like India are getting ready for manufacturing of vaccines. India has proven capability and expertise to ramp up production of vaccines, while keeping costs down. Regulatory hurdles are likely to be less severe as US FDA and other regulatory bodies have promised EUA (emergency use authorization) for drugs and vaccines that may help contain covid.

If drugs like Remdesivir work then that will help some people recover and recover faster; so let us hope that any one of these drugs alone or in combination with other drugs will reduce mortality, shorten hospital stays, and help reduce spread of covid. But ultimately we need a vaccine for covid-19 and the way in which entire world is coming together, gives much hope for availability of a speedy vaccine.

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Herd Immunity for Covid-19?


Have you noticed only politicians and some lay people talk about #HerdImmunity? Scientists and business people seem to be talking about #testing, cure and vaccines. Amazon is planning its own tests just for their own workforce. Some of my clients are doing the same. Chemicals for covid-19 diagnostic tests are hard to find but businesses may tap into their global connections to acquire them.

So what is herd immunity?

A person is answering question relating to herd immunity.

Herd immunity is an epidemiological concept coming from an idea that ultimately if enough people in a population are immune to a disease then it stops spreading. For instance, if 80 people out of 100 can’t get the disease than the 20 people who can get it remain protected because they may be unlikely to actually get exposed.   

Herd immunity can be achieved in a community in one of the two primary ways.

1) Vaccine access and acceptance:

If a significant number of people get access to the vaccine, they accept it and avail of the opportunity and become non carriers of the virus then even if 5% may not have gotten the vaccine, they may not get the disease because there may not be enough people to get it from. But we don’t yet have a vaccine for coronavirus.

2) Virus has a free rein: 

This is how the politicians have been speaking of herd immunity. Herd immunity is also connected to the argument that the best way to end the social distancing is to allow the virus to run free or at least almost free and in the end the population will achieve herd immunity. This sounds like a creative new idea rather than something horrifying that we should try to avoid at all costs. But let us remember that this only happens after VAST numbers in a population, get infected. So that requires us to “sacrifice the vulnerable on the altar of the economy in vast numbers.”

What kind of vast numbers of fatality might we be speaking of? As per some estimates, herd immunity for Covid-19 can occur after at least 60 to 70 percent of the population develops immunity.  That means at least 60 to 70 percent of the people have to first get infected. Moreover, these have to be random infections. That means, several people would die with a highly contagious virus running free in a society, before herd immunity is achieved.  This would overwhelm our healthcare system and several healthcare professionals would die while working in a high virus load environment.

Even with all our social distancing measures in place, we have a high death count that has brought healthcare system on the brink of overwhelm, in many places. In New York, a dense state with high international travel, there was a death count of almost 15,000 in a population of less than 10M. Healthcare professionals from several other geographical regions traveled to New York to lend help. Can you imagine every state taxed that way beyond their maximum capacity to care for the patients? And that is the reason that scientists and business leaders are not advocating herd immunity as an ultimate preventive measure. We can be lay people and choose to remain ignorant and spread the forwards and myths about herd immunity OR we can listen to what science has to say over what the politicians may be advocating.

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Lessons from Shanghai, China: Strategy for containment & care during Covid-19 


Recently, CABS, the Chinese American Biopharmaceutical Society hosted a webinar on the topic,  “COVID-19 Clinical Treatment and Research Experiences from China”, with Dr. Wenhong Zhang. Dr. Zhang is Director of the Department of Infectious Diseases in Shanghai and leader of Anti-Covid-19 team. He is also on Chinese Society of Infectious Disease and with Chinese Association of Internal Medicine. During the fight against Covid-19, Dr. Zhang led the Shanghai team to formulate a clinical treatment and containment plan.

 

Night, City, Shanghai, Asia, East, Architecture, Urban

An article in scientific publication Lancet predicted in late January that after Wuhan, Shanghai can be the epicenter of the virus with as many as 800,000 cases. However, with very early focus on containment and reasonable social distancing (even without complete lockdown measures), Shanghai managed to restrict the spread to about 4,000 cases. The key was that the healthcare system went on full alert when they had their very first case of a person traveling from Wuhan.

 

Dr. Zhang shared many details of their process for containing the spread and answered questions sent by the audience members. I have captured a few of the nuggets from his talk and I am sharing them below.


Diagnosis: Immediately they optimized diagnostics and did all needed tests for suspected patients. Shanghai made separate fever clinics and all patients who met 1 epidemiology criteria plus one clinical criteria were encouraged to go to these clinics. Suspected Covid-19 patients were sent to separate quarantine wards for full testing, and while they awaited results.  If the results came back positive, they were sent to separate hospitals for quarantine stay and were tested again, before release.

 

Further, while in the US some hospitals first tested for flu and other viruses and if the patient tested positive for any of them then they were not tested for coronavirus, Shanghai tested all suspect cases for coronavirus. Dr. Zhang said that they have found that there are a lot of co-infections so a person can have regular flu virus plus coronavirus. Additionally, they found a high negative rate in PCR testing, while a positive rate was around 70%. Therefore, despite negative test results, if the patient was highly suspect than they did more testing. They did not rely on CT scans because they found that a chest CT cannot precisely confirm Covid and all cases needed molecular diagnosis.

 

Detailed process in place: Shanghai had a very detailed process in place for the steps to be taken for patients in the first screen, then first test, then when tested positive, if tested negative, and for followup.  Timely diagnosis and timely distancing and quarantine is very important, said Dr. Zhang. Immediate separation and early control of local transmission is the key to stop the Covid-19 disease spread, said Dr. Zhang.  This is something that did not happen in Italy. Almost all of their early cases were of foreigners. Eventually all of their cases and high death toll has been among the local population.

 

Treatment Options: Dr. Zhang shared that over 95% of the patients recovered and eventually were released. One patient died. There has been debate around anti-viral treatments. Dr. Zhang said, these treatments don’t seem to be effective. China also used hydroxychloroquine (widely touted malaria drug) to treat Covid patients and did not find it to be effective. However, it can have compassionate use since it shows little lasting side effects, said Dr. Zhang. Although he did not observe clinical evidence of anticoagulants, he said, it is possible that early anticoagulation may block clotting and eventually reduce the risk of major organ damage.

 

Respiratory Treatment: Dr. Zhang shared that the most fundamental treatment in keeping patients alive is respiratory treatment. We have a narrow window to stop progression from mild symptoms to severe symptoms, said Dr. Zhang. Low and short duration corticosteroids may stop progression and we need more studies to find that out. Life support for critically ill patients is crucial. Timely intervention with mask oxygen inhalation, nasal cannula oxygen therapy, mechanical ventilation etc. can prolong life until the body’s immune system gets critical time to fight off the virus.

 

Medical Personnel: In Shanghai, strict following of protocol, translated into not a single infection spreading into the healthcare professionals. Highly qualified and standardized process included appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment) with gowns, goggles, masks, double layer gloves and shoe covers. Healthcare professionals were asked to never share a meal with others at home, during the time this contagion was active. As far as possible, the patients were kept in negative pressure wards and surfaces were cleaned with disinfectants every 4 hours.

My Comments
Stay tuned for my next article on how China effectively used high tech, specifically big data and coupled it with public awareness and public participation to contain the virus. Please note: I am not a fan of, or in any way endorsing communism or authoritarianism. And yet, perhaps there are lessons even for Western democracies, to pay heed to early signs and implement containment strategies. And that is exactly what Bill Gates was referring in 2015, when he spoke at TedTalks and warned us about a virus pandemic that can possibly kill millions. That is what various scientists have been warning of, for years.

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Summit, IBM supercomputer is our recent hero in the fight against Covid-19


The looming threat of Covid-19 and the grim reality of the toll that novel coronavirus takes on humankind, makes it imperative that we find a way to prevent the spread faster and with less cost. Currently nine out of ten drug therapies fail mostly between phase 1 trials and regulatory approval. The estimated cost of developing a new treatment is around staggering US $2.6 billion.  While this article won’t address it, I want to mention that many bio/pharma companies are working with repurposed drugs to find a cure and at least 69 drugs have been identified as treatment possibilities. Drugs also have side effects and need to be tested for safety. Let us focus for a while on search for the vaccine.

Artificial intelligence icon AI, isometric cloud computing concept, data mining, isometric, neural network, machine programming, vector

Many companies including Moderna, CureVac and BioNTech are working on vaccines. With the help of  Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence and other technologies the hunt for new pharmaceuticals and appropriate chemicals is expected to be quicker, cheaper and more effective. Novel coronavirus presents the most unprecedented challenge to date because of the speed with which it spreads. 

Who better than a supercomputer made by a company that has been on the cutting edge of innovation for over a century, to take on this speed challenge? IBM scientists instructed the world’s fastest computer to tackle this challenge at its Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. Summit can run 200 quadrillion computations per second. The scientists ran thousands of simulations to analyse which drug compounds could stop the coronavirus from infecting the host cells. 

Summit, an IBM supercomputer equipped with the “brain of AI” identified 77 compounds (from over 8000 compounds) that could be efficacious in preventing coronavirus from spreading in the host.  This is promising news in humanity’s quest for an effective vaccine against the virus. These findings are published in the journal ChemRxiv and give us hope although road is still long to get there.

With increasing computer processing power and advanced algorithms, AI has been employed to analyze large data sets with greater efficiency and will likely lead to many exciting innovations.  While AI and ML show promise to change every industry sector for the better, artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning have become the most widely discussed topics in the healthcare sector and the excitement keeps growing.  

I will be looking forward to hearing about new innovations AI/ML at #TiEcon2020. Stay tuned for new dates for the conference at http://www.tiecon.org and on this blog.

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AI/ML Bootcamp at TiEcon2020


Artificial Intelligence emphasizes the development of machines that think and reason like humans. As this technology is becoming more and more sophisticated where machines are acquiring an ability to learn, reason and self-correct, the applications of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are expanding and are becoming relevant to almost all professional areas. 

Artificial Intelligence, Brain, Think, Control

At TieCon 2020, a bootcamp focused on AI/ML will provide an overview of the methodologies and its implications in many professions. Experts in the field will share information on deploying and monetizing AI applications. 

Dr. Ronjan Nag will lead the workshop. Dr. Nag co-founded the technology company Lexicus that was acquired by Motorola in 1993 and Cellmania that was acquired by Research in Motion in 2010. Later, he served as Vice-President of both Motorola and Blackberry, and served as Chairman of Eratz Labs, which specializes in ML. Currently, Dr. Nag is a Fellow at Stanford Distinguished Careers Institute and is founder and managing director of R42 Group. 

In addition to Dr. Nag, AI/ML bootcamp speakers will include several experts. Dr. David Stevens is an IP attorney specializing in patent prosecution, due diligence, infringement, right-to-practice, freedom-to-operate, licensing and litigation. Dr. Eric Saund, Principal of Saund Laboratories has over 50 patents, is widely published and his prototypes have served thousands of users. Vaidhi Nathan has 30+ years of experience as an entrepreneur and business leader and was founder and CEO of IntelliVision, an AI/Analytics focused company for videos and cameras that was acquired by Nortek Security and Control.  Matteo Colombo has 18 years of information technology and consulting experience and is currently senior executive at KPMG.

In this bootcamp, attendees will learn the basics of how AI techniques work so they can effectively lead data science teams, evaluate business potential of AI projects before investing and critically evaluate AI products for business deals. This is a not-to-miss workshop for professionals who are attending #TiEcon2020 and work in AI/ML related field and need to expand their knowledge base. Registration is open at www.tiecon.org 

 

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Healthcare and High-tech combining to combat Coronavirus Covid-19


As coronavirus is raging on, entrepreneurs and scientists are called upon to come up with innovative ways to deal with this deadly virus. For instance, after 11 Israelis were quarantined after disembarking from a cruise ship in Japan, Israel has become a “Living Lab” for technologies to treat the virus.  Israel, which has a large digital health sector, put out calls to entrepreneurs for proposals for new solutions to contain and combat the disease. Meanwhile, China is also taking a lead in exploring how futuristic technologies powered by artificial intelligence can help identify coronavirus symptoms, find new treatments, and track the spread of the disease.  Chinese scientists sequenced its genome and shared around the world within weeks.

 

Coronavirus, Corona Virus, Covid-19

Unlike MERS, but more like SARS, Coronavirus is very contagious and has a long incubation period when people feel fine as they unknowingly walk around, infecting others. After identifying infected people, it is challenging to care for them while trying to contain the disease. Some healthcare workers who cared for coronavirus patients have themselves died of infection. We also heard that even after learning of highly contagious and deadly CD-19 coronavirus, some healthcare workers from the USA were “improperly deployed” when sent to assist in bringing home the patients infected in China.

 

In caring for coronavirus patients, human touch needs to be avoided and assistance should be provided remotely. Robots and automated technologies are of great help here. Robots are being used to disinfect rooms, take laundry items, help check for symptoms and disease progression, deliver medications and communicate with family and healthcare providers.  Robots help disinfect surfaces and help in killing viruses and bacteria by emitting ultraviolet light.  Drones and self-driving vehicles can deliver medications and supplies, petrol public places, spray disinfectants and do general surveillance. 

 

Silicon Valley’s largest entrepreneurship conference, TiEcon 2020 has a dedicated track on health technologies. Amidst growing fears of coronavirus becoming a pandemic, emerging technologies like drones, robots, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning Digital Health and TeleHealth are likely to be game changers. Investors and entrepreneurs alike are focusing on the space with great interest. There will likely be exciting conversations as entrepreneurs from several countries (depending on travel restrictions), converge at TiEcon 2020, at Santa Clara Convention Center in CA, on May 8 and 9. If interested, you can register for the conference at www.TiEcon.org  

 

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