Scientist calls reliance on antibody tests to bring people back to work 'the worst idea I’ve ever heard’

A previously secret group of top scientists has come up with its own plan to solve the coronavirus crisis. The team, which describes itself as the pandemic's Manhattan project, hopes the federal government incorporates at least pieces of it, though they've acknowledged it may ultimately wind up in the shredder, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Some of the key aspects detailed in a 17-page report delivered to Cabinet members and Vice President Mike Pence include having the government purchase potential COVID-19 treatments before they're proven effective. Manufacturers would then have incentive to increase production without fear of losing money if the drugs fail, similar to other recommendations about producing vaccines before they're approved to help make delivery easier in the longer term. The group also wants to dramatically expedite the time required for a clinical review of drugs to a week from nine months to a year.

One thing the scientists are less keen on is relying too heavily on antibody tests. They certainly believe antibody tests are a crucial tool, and the report suggests they're optimistic people will be able to develop protections against the virus, but they don't think the tests should be the impetus for people returning to work. One of the experts, Ben Cravatt of Scripps Research in La Jolla, California, called it "the worst idea I've ever heard." Cravatt, a chemical biologist, said even if people build up defenses themselves, it's unclear if they would be non-contagious. He also fears some people may try to intentionally infect themselves so they can be approved for work more quickly. Read more at The Wall Street Journal.