More than 4,000 SpaceX employees took part in a study, helmed by Elon Musk, to track the spread of COVID-19 throughout the company.
Musk partnered with researchers from Harvard and MIT to develop the antibody testing program, which required volunteer SpaceX employees to submit to monthly blood tests.
This week, the group published a peer-reviewed study — Musk, known as an unusually hands-on executive, carries a byline on it — in the journal Nature Communications.
The findings shed new light on how the severity of COVID symptoms impact the amount of antibodies each person has, and suggests those who experienced mild symptoms from the virus are less likely to have long-term immunity.
"People can have antibodies, but it doesn’t mean they are going to be immune," Dr. Galit Alter, co-author of the study and member of the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard, told The Wall Street Journal.
The findings have the potential to help public health officials identify who is most vulnerable to the coronavirus and then prioritize them for vaccinations. Of course, more research is needed before it can be more widely applied.
"To really nail this down at a public-health level would require doing reinfection studies and following people for reinfection," Joshua T. Schiffer, associate professor at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s vaccine and infectious-disease division, told the WSJ.
SpaceX is continuing to research, test, and monitor its employees for infection and reinfection each month. As the vaccine is distributed throughout the country, it’ll also examine the impact the vaccine on antibody production.