Joel Embiid, Sixers managing partners team up to fund COVID-19 antibody testing of healthcare workers


Updated: 3:24 p.m. 

Joel Embiid, Sixers managing partner Josh Harris and co-managing partner David Blitzer are contributing a combined $1.3 million to Penn Medicine, establishing a funding campaign for COVID-19 antibody testing of frontline healthcare workers.

According to a Penn Medicine press release, “The pledge from Embiid, Harris and Blitzer will provide a much-needed boost for efforts to quickly identify health care workers who may have immunity to the new virus.”

Embiid had previously pledged to donate $500,000 to COVID-19 medical relief efforts. Harris and Blitzer have made several other charitable donations, including to Philabundance, Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania and the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia.

“During this pandemic, many doctors and nurses are working like soldiers on the front lines of a war and they need to be provided with as much armor as possible in this battle,” Embiid said in the release. “COVID-19 antibody testing can help Philadelphia health care workers at this critical time, and we need to do everything possible to help those heroes who are putting their lives at risk to help us.”

Per the release, this contribution will allow Penn Medicine researchers to scale testing immediately to 1,000 healthcare workers in the region.

"It's not as easy as simply writing the check," Embiid told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. "It's a process to figure out the best way you feel comfortable helping."

He told Sheburne that he’s been researching the best methods to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and had been in communication with Harris, Blitzer and general manager Elton Brand about ways in which he and the organization could help. He determined that antibody testing for healthcare workers was an important project, and Harris and Blitzer decided to partner with him.

If they have immunity, then they can work in risky environments with the peace of mind that they most likely won't get infected again or spread the virus," he said to Shelburne. "In addition, it may be possible for those with a lot of antibodies to donate blood and help other patients that are very ill.

"Also, if a patient is sick and a family member has antibodies, it may be possible to allow that person to enter the hospital to comfort their family member, which is important. Ultimately, antibody testing could be used to determine when people can go back to work ... possibly even in the case of professional athletes like me.

With further funding for the campaign, Penn Medicine hopes to expand testing to more healthcare workers, in addition to EMS officers, police officers, and others who are “on the front lines of the pandemic,” according to the release. 

“We are enormously grateful to Joel Embiid, Josh Harris, and David Blitzer for stepping up in a time of great need with forward-thinking philanthropy—helping us to understand COVID-19 through the lens of precision medicine,” University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann said. “We will take this new and powerful knowledge about how our bodies react to the virus and use it to protect our healthcare heroes, sharing these lessons with the City of Philadelphia and across the world.”

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