Coronavirus Updates: Virgin Orbit Gets OK on Ventilators, Curative Signs Pact With Air Force

Coronavirus Updates: Virgin Orbit Gets OK on Ventilators, Curative Signs Pact With Air Force

Here are the latest headlines regarding how the novel coronavirus is impacting the Los Angeles startup and tech communities. Sign up for our newsletter and follow dot.LA on Twitter for the latest updates.


  • Curative signs pact With Air Force to deploy COVID-19 tests
  • Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Orbit gets FDA approval on new ventilator design
  • New report quantifies Q1 loss of L.A. filming days from COVID shutdown

    New figures show COVID shutdown cut L.A. filming by 18% in Q1, set to free-fall

    A new report from Film LA released Thursday reveals that filming days in L.A. in the first quarter of this year were down 18% compared to the same period last year. That number will plummet next quarter due to a county-wide filming moratorium that began on March 20.

    In its forecast for Q2, Film LA has assumed the earliest date that filming could resume is June 1st -- and even then, only for small projects that can adhere to social distancing. Even if this scenario occurs--which FilmLA VP of Communications Philip Sokoloski admitted is optimistic--analysts already forecast that the shooting days lost this year so far are unrecoverable.

    The timing of the shutdown is particularly bad for pilot season, which typically runs from February through May. In Q1, television took the largest hit, seeing a 20.6% decline in filming days. Feature film shoots fell 6.9%, while commercial shoots fell 12.5%. Reality shows, however, did see a Q1 uptick, of 11.7%.

    Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Orbit gets FDA approval on new ventilator design

    Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Orbit received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to begin immediate delivery of a new "bridge" ventilator designed and built by the satellite launch company. The Long Beach-based space company was given clearance through the FDA's Emergency Use Authorization, and expects to begin delivering ventilators to hospitals within the next few days.

    "Virgin Orbit has leveraged its extensive engineering design, manufacturing, and operational capabilities to quickly design a novel ventilator, test prototype units, and ramp up production of these devices," the company said in a statement.

    The device has been funded entirely by Virgin Orbit, and is a simple ventilator that's driven by a windshield-wiper motor. Physicians believe it can be used as a stop-gap solution until patients are able to be put on a standard ventilator.

    Curative signs pact With Air Force to deploy COVID-19 tests

    COVID-19 testing startup Curative and aerospace accelerator Gothams have signed an agreement with the U.S. Air Force to deploy its FDA-authorized oral fluid tests and comprehensive testing service to military personnel around the world.

    "Broad testing is critical to our nation's ability to understand the COVID-19 pandemic, maintain operational readiness and restart the American economy," the companies said in a statement.

    In this initial agreement, Curative will rapidly establish a new laboratory facility, fully operational this week, which will process up to 50,000 tests per day for the presence of COVID-19. In future phases of this agreement, Curative will establish eight testing locations across the U.S. to support testing for the U.S. population.

    Curative has processed 75,000 tests amounting to about 20% of those administered in California, according to a spokesperson for the company.

    Turner set up shop in a San Dimas lab in March and became an unsung hero in the battle to combat coronavirus in Southern California when he turned the focus of his company, originally meant to detect sepsis, to the pandemic. As part of this agreement with the Air Force, each Curative lab will have a daily capacity to examine 50,000 tests per day. Currently Curative has the capacity to scale to a network of 10 labs across the country for a total of 500,000 tests per day.

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    The Future of Hologram Tech Comes Down to Its Price Tag

    Samson Amore

    Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

    The Future of Hologram Tech Comes Down to Its Price Tag
    Photo: Proto

    In 1971, Dennis Gabor was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his invention of the holographic method, which was based on bending light waves to reproduce images. Since then, the hologram’s been adapted for a variety of uses, from reanimating dead musicians to 3-D movies and passport stamps.

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    SXSW Transportation Events Heavy on Hype Light on Details

    David Shultz

    David Shultz reports on clean technology and electric vehicles, among other industries, for dot.LA. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside, Nautilus and many other publications.

    SXSW Transportation Events Heavy on Hype Light on Details

    It’s day two of the transportation events at SXSW and I don’t really get it. It’s my first time at the tech conference here in Austin, but so far, these panels don’t seem like they’re worth the carbon emissions of the plane ride to get here.

    There’s a lot of talk about how autonomous vehicles are going to change the world.

    There’s a lot of talk about how EVs are the future.

    While I personally believe those are pretty safe predictions, there’s been a conspicuous lack of discussion about how we’ll get there and what it will cost.

    Yesterday afternoon, Kyle Vogt, CEO of autonomous vehicle company Cruise, spoke with General Motors CEO Mary Barra. If you didn’t know any better, you’d have left that panel thinking that Cruise’s coming fleet of driverless cars could have the climate crisis pretty much wrapped up by 2025.

    I’m not trying to discount how impressive the company’s tech is or how autonomous vehicles will revolutionize society. But scientists have shown that rideshare services increase congestion, and autonomous vehicles could potentially double carbon emissions in the United States, if the tech is implemented the wrong way. While Vogt may be keenly aware of these pitfalls, the discussion never ventured anywhere near the edge of these waters.

    I also have yet to hear a substantive conversation about how we’re going to source the astronomical amounts of lithium and other metals necessary to power this transition. I haven’t heard anyone talk about how to decarbonize the mining process. Nobody has dared to bring up the millions of rideshare workers who will lose their jobs as autonomous vehicles expand their reach, save for when Vogt pointed out that the human was the most expensive part of Uber and Lyft’s business model.

    These are, admittedly, hard questions, and I certainly don’t have answers for them. But it would be both more interesting and somewhat reassuring to watch these industry leaders debate or at least acknowledge them. I’m not asking for a 4-hour lecture on the optimal way to distribute federal funding, but my kingdom for a panel moderator who asks “Where do you see the biggest challenges?” or “What are you the most worried about?” or “How do we make sure this technology doesn’t worsen the inequality in this country?”

    In a nearly full session this morning Shailen Bhatt, the Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, joked that his time slot on Transforming America’s Highways and Transportation Infrastructure was competing against Ryan Gosling interviewing Keanu Reeves.

    Which is to say the people attending these panels care about transportation and emissions and infrastructure. They aren’t dumb and their time is valuable. They recognize the potential afforded by these technologies and the opportunity in Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan. I think we’re ready for a slightly more nuanced discussion here.