The novel coronavirus has hit home at Biogen, where three executives who traveled to a headquarters management meeting have tested positive for the illness.
At last week’s meeting, a “number of attendees reported varying degrees of flu-like symptoms,” the company said in a statement reported in numerous publications. Some have confirmed influenza, while, so far, three joined the COVID-19 case count.
It’s exactly the sort of development drugmakers are trying to avoid by restricting travel, pulling out of conferences and pushing employees who might be exposed to work from home.
“At the present time, these individuals are doing well, improving and under the care of their healthcare providers,” the Biogen statement says. One traveled to the meeting from a U.S. location outside Massachusetts, and two are from Europe.
Biogen instructed all of the meeting attendees to work from home for two weeks and restricted company travel through the end of March, the statement says. Aside from those who attended the meeting, employees should stay home if they feel sick and contact healthcare providers as necessary.
In a FiercePharma survey of biopharma companies late last month, several drugmakers said they were restricting employee travel to and from China—the hardest-hit country—while monitoring the situation closely. GlaxoSmithKline also limited nonessential travel to South Korea and Italy. Some have since stepped up those restrictions as the case count in other countries, including the U.S., continues to climb.
Aside from individual company operations, the outbreak also threatens conferences and other gatherings. Thursday, after several big players pulled out preemptively, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society canceled its annual conference in Orlando for the first time in more than 50 years. After recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) reports, it was “clearly necessary” to cancel the event, the group said.
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