• Mahsa Keikha

Holding out for the Light

Updated: Sep 10, 2020

September long weekend. Already the light is changing, shifting. The first hints of autumn waft on the breeze. Soon the days will shorten, and we will move into months of darkness. What happened to the time?

It now seems ages past that I wrote here about the spring equinox. Those first days of spring coincided with the lockdown measures that were swiftly implemented across the world’s nations—though, as we learned, not swiftly enough. COVID-19 more than lingers, and in some places, it continues to ravage. Many hoped the summer would bring some respite, but here we are. In BC, where our caseload had been low and our provincial government was lauded for its handling of the pandemic, we are now seeing our highest daily numbers of new infections. Projecting through the winter, many countries are bracing for a second wave, though some would argue there are places that are not through the first. As the temperatures drop and people move indoors, what will occur? Despite the many scientific advances that have been made in mere months, we are still, in many ways, in the dark when it comes to tackling this virus.

Before the pandemic, I had big plans for this blog. Even in the early days of the lockdown, I still had intended to write a series of posts about topics of interest to me, including artificial intelligence (AI). I hope to still, though the onset of the pandemic quickly shifted me onto a different track—one that has been quite intense and which I am still on. It was not the path I expected. I knew that I wanted to help people get through the pandemic. I didn’t want to be passive. Then I heard from an old friend in Europe. He had developed COVID-19 rapid test kits and wondered if I might bring them to North America. The chance to assist others seemed suddenly right in front of my eyes.

So, then, I started a new company, CT-Scientific, to be able to import the tests, and set about working through all that would be required. I could not have imagined what a challenge it would be. Beyond adjusting to the new normal of the COVID-19 world, the last months working with CT-Scientific have been one of the steepest learning curves of my life. My background is in controls and mechatronics engineering, after all, not the life sciences.

Since March, I’ve basically been taking a crash course in biotech and medical diagnostics. I’ve had to gain an understanding about the different types of tests—those already in existence, and those being developed—as well as the requirements to get those tests approved by the regulatory bodies in each country. And then there are the studies to be done to meet those requirements—an evolving list as scientific understanding of SARS-CoV-2 develops. I have pitched to investors and written grant proposals. I’ve reached out to existing connections, and forged new ones.

I have been collaborating with a small but mighty team, and I’m proud of the work we have accomplished. Though some days, to be honest, it is hard. Some days it feels like progressing through the pandemic…in that we’ve made headway, but not enough, and not as quickly as we’d like. Some days it feels like time is speeding by, and others it feels like we’ve been standing still. Some days I feel overwhelmed, some days hopeful. Where are we now? We’re still in the process of seeking funding, and we still have further studies to do so we can gain regulatory approval. And now autumn is nearly here, and then it will be winter.

I keep going because I believe in what we’re doing, and I see the benefit to others. I keep going because I believe in the value of testing. Many scientists and public health officials have been advocating for increased testing. Quick, accurate tests can help stop virus transmission—if a person knows they are infected they can take steps to prevent infecting others. And then there are the tests, like antibody tests, that help determine whether a person might be immune to being re-infected. Individual testing can help with personal piece of mind in these trying times. Widespread testing can provide details that help us understand rates of infection, and information about how the virus operates and mutates. It can show us the bigger picture. Testing, I believe, is part of the overall solution. So, we keep going, despite the challenges.

For a while I had envisioned writing a blog post about CT-Scientific once we reached a big milestone—for instance, once we’d achieved regulatory approval, or secured a contract to widely distribute tests. I would make some big celebratory announcement, I thought. I realize now, with all still to be done, that may be some way off. But I remain hopeful, even as we move toward the darkest time of the year. Like winter eventually transforms into spring, so I believe this path will eventually become clear. I also remain hopeful we all will emerge, safe and healthy, on the other side of this pandemic.

I decided not to wait for some big announcement because I realize there may be some people who are interested in this part of my journey, who can identify with the challenges I am facing. There also may be someone out there who sees a way through, and who would like to, and be able to, help in some way. If what I’m doing resonates with you, please reach out to me at

I’ll wrap with a quote from my dear friend Max Tegmark. He said it in the movie We Need to Talk about AI— which I hope still to write about, and which you should definitely watch if you’re interested in the future and technology. He says, “If we can’t envision a future that we really, really want, we’re probably not going to get one.”

As this situation evolves, as this universe evolves and becomes more conscious, and as we live in an observer based participatory universe, I believe we are all responsible to participate and envisioning a brighter future. Hold out for the light. Together we can create a positive outcome.

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