As COVID-19 numbers continue to rise in South Texas, a number of charitable groups in San Antonio are launching Community Labs to create a safe pathway for schools to reopen, people to return to work, and communities to recover. Supported by a collective of local scientific and philanthropic partners, the public health initiative works with schools and businesses to create COVID-19 Safety Zones through the same accelerated pandemic suppression system used by the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT.
Co-founded by Graham Weston, former CEO and chairman of Rackspace Technology Inc. and founder of the 80|20 Foundation, nonprofit Community Labs is the largest COVID-19 testing effort for schoolchildren operating in America. In addition to 80|20, the Kronkosky Charitable Foundation and The Tobin Endowment contributed to the fund for a combined total of $2.5 million to launch the initiative in September 2020. More recently, Malu and Carlos Alvarez, owners of Shiner Beers, made a substantial gift to Community Labs. Also affiliated with the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center, the lab is housed and operated by BioBridge Global, and testing protocols were developed in collaboration with UT Health San Antonio.
Community Labs is the nation’s second lab to receive FDA approval to conduct the new, highly accurate PCR tests at a sensitivity level to identify positive cases, including persons showing no symptoms – all at a fraction of the cost of a standard COVID-19 test. Through the program, participating schools and businesses are able to continue normal operations throughout the pandemic by conducting less-invasive PCR tests on every individual in the micro-population, receiving results within 24 hours, identifying individuals who test positive, and pursuant to school or employer protocols, requiring self-quarantine for two weeks. Ultimately, Community Labs has two purposes: to stop the coronavirus threat in San Antonio and inspire other cities and communities to do the same.
Jackson Walker is proud to assist Community Labs by providing legal services on a pro bono basis in the areas of corporate, healthcare, tax, employment, and nonprofit law. The Jackson Walker team includes Patrick B. Tobin (corporate law), Edgar “Jed” C. Morrison (healthcare), Jeffery P. Drummond (healthcare), Richard G. Garza (employment), and Michael L. Kaufman (nonprofit and tax).
“Starting a medical lab and a 501(c)(3) in record time has a lot of critical legal aspects, and Jackson Walker helped us navigate those aspects with speed and skill,” Community Labs Chairman Graham Weston said. “We are grateful for the legal assistance Jackson Walker is providing as we launch Community Labs. They are not only sharp lawyers and a pleasure to work with, but they are always looking for ways to give back to the community.”
“Starting a medical lab and a 501(c)(3) in record time has a lot of critical legal aspects, and Jackson Walker helped us navigate those aspects with speed and skill.”
Tullos Wells, managing director of Kronkosky Charitable Foundation, said, “Our investment in Community Labs is by far the most significant contribution in Kronkosky’s 25-year history, and we are grateful for Jackson Walker’s help in ensuring the legal logistics were well taken care of.”
“It was an honor to assist our friends in bringing this community-wide initiative to reality,” Patrick said. “Community Labs is making a difference in the lives of many, and we’re excited to have played a small part in making this happen.”
Jed added, “Community Labs was truly a team effort, and its creation is a testament to the San Antonio community’s ability to come together to create something that will impact the whole area.”
Community Labs already has received nationwide recognition. In a Wall Street Journal article about Community Labs, Dallas investor Joe Colonnetta, who is helping connect Graham Weston with policymakers across the nation, said, “I’ve watched all the naysayers slam all the doors in their faces. The main innovation here is that they have the courage to try.”
For more information about Community Labs, read the following articles:
- “Former Rackspace CEO, other heavy hitters launching nonprofit Covid testing lab,” San Antonio Business Journal (September 17, 2020)
- “Community Labs founders hope to duplicate local coronavirus testing model across Texas,” San Antonio Report (September 17, 2020)
- “A Texas Tycoon Throws Millions at the Covid-19 Testing Puzzle,” The Wall Street Journal (September 23, 2020)
- “San Antonio billionaire wants to test every student in the city for COVID-19,” mySA (September 24, 2020)
- “Jefferson: ‘I thought I was going to die’ — tech entrepreneur Graham Weston on catching COVID-19 and launching Community Labs, his mass-testing project,” San Antonio Express-News (September 25, 2020)
- “Rackspace Co-Founder Weston Looks To Disrupt COVID-19 Testing With Community Labs,” CRN (October 1, 2020)
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