Despite cutting-edge vaccines and treatments, one of the most effective ways to stay on top of COVID-19 surges relies on a decidedly basic entity: human waste. Biobot, co-founded by Massachusetts Institute of Technology biologist Mariana Matus and urban-studies researcher Newsha Ghaeli, is the first company to analyze human waste—which can provide an early warning of an impending spike in COVID-19 cases—on a commercial basis. Its technology, which can detect pathogens as well as other substances of interest (like opioids), is now in use at more than 700 sewage sites serving more than 100 million people.
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