Marco Tackles the Virus Together with His MBA ColleaguesA GROUP OF ALUMNI LED BY CORPORATE CONSULTANT AND ENTREPRENEUR SALTALAMACCHIA HAS DEVELOPED AN INTERVENTION PROTOCOL FOR MASS SCREENING THROUGH SEROLOGICAL TESTING, VALIDATED BY TWO ITALIAN HOSPITALS. THE IDEA IS TO SPREAD IT TO COMPANIES TO FACILITATE THE POSTLOCKDOWN RESTART
There was a phase when, still segregated in their homes for the lockdown, Italians listened to medical bulletins on Covid-19 deaths every day, praying that the curve would flatten out. Marco Saltalamacchia and a handful of his MBA colleagues at SDA Bocconi School of Management then decided to roll up their sleeves and try to do something to fight the virus. This led to the creation of the non-profit association and initiative #Tamponailvirus (#Bump the virus - in Italian it’s a play on words because tamponare also means to swab). The charity is chaired by a board that includes Marco, as well as alums Marina Del Bue, Antonio Buondonno, Paolo Marizza, Alessandro Cremona, and by a friend who is a legal expert, Elena Pagnoni. It has a clear mission: safety from the virus is achieved through mass screening and this is useful not only to deal with the health emergency, but also to manage restart and the subsequent post-lockdown phases, to give breathing room to businesses.
"In March, at the height of the pandemic, we realized that the response of East Asian countries, to immediately start large-scale screening of the population, was the best solution", explains Saltalamacchia, today entrepreneurial consultant, with a professional background as senior vice president of BMW Europe. Above all, we realized that the oropharyngeal swab, the covid test par excellence, had several economic and technical constraints (not least the lack of reagents) limiting its mass use. We looked for alternatives and decided to concentrate on serological testing.”
So, Marco and colleagues have focused their efforts on how to make these tests widespread and develop a protocol to map the population and obtain risk profiles, together with a scientific committee which has validated the results through two clinical experimentations (one completed and the other in progress) at the San Camillo Forlanini Hospital in Rome and at the Opera Padre Pio Hospital in San Giovanni Rotondo, in the Apulia region. At the same time, a fundraising drive was launched (primarily among former MBA colleagues) to donate serological test kits, to be provided together with the protocol to hospitals that have started the experimentation.
It emerged precisely from clinical trials that serological tests give results at are 98% certain (thus appeasing doubts questioning their validity in the early stages of the pandemic) and, above all, that this system can represent a valid alternative to the PCR swab: "If companies also adopted this approach, alongside the public sector, we would not have thousands of tested people, but millions. Moreover, the cost ratio between a rapid (finger prick) blood test and a nose-and-throat swab is 1 to 15, and time savings are considerable". Consequently, "Our objective is threefold: to contribute to the identification of reliable low-cost kits to be tested in quality medical facilities, as we have already started to do; implement a significant fundraiser to purchase significant volumes of kits to be donated to relevant authorities; and, ultimately, contribute to the definition of a structured approach to restarting the economy that integrates individual protection with the relaunch of economic and social activities".
To do so, however, it is essential to spread the information to qualified decision-makers that this type of approach, based on mass screening of the population through cheap and fast testing, is preferable, so that it gets authorized and gets done in all areas of the country. “Today, in fact, it is the regions that establish testing regulations, albeit within a national framework. This means that since the start of the pandemic each individual region has established its own rules, giving rise to different approaches to testing."
by Andrea Celauro
Translated by Alex Foti