Back to School Conference Curators

The Virus Project thanks the curators of the The Back to School Conference: Safely Opening Classrooms in 2021 for their assistance in assembling the program.

Anne L. Wyllie, PhD. Dr. Wyllie is credited with pushing forward on the use of saliva as a superior sample for creating high quality low cost testing. Her paper on the subject attracted support by the NBA that led to the development of technology that has enabled others to make possible frequent testing keeping kids in school and enabling professional sports to continue competition safely. The use of saliva as an alternative sample type can alleviate many of the bottlenecks encountered in the mass testing strategies required to control continuing outbreaks.


Simon Turner. Educated in biology, for nearly three decades, Simon has been a pioneer in indoor air quality, most recently as CEO of Healthy Buildings International which he sold to UL in 2019. Healthy Buildings conducts more than 4,000 annual indoor air quality inspections and has completed more than 1,200 projects that contribute to green building certification projects. He is expert in Building Sciences as related to human performance, including HVAC, air quality and microbiology. He now advises building operators and employers on implementing best policy to combat Covid-19 in the workplace.  He is an active member of the IWBI (International WELL building Institute) Global Coronavirus Taskforce.


Prem Premsrirut, M.D, PhD. Dr. Premsrirut is the Co-Founder and CEO of Mirimus, Inc., a biotechnology company harnessing the power of RNA interference and CRISPR gene editing technologies and investigating their potential therapeutic applications. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Premsrirut led her team in a call to action to reopen our schools and economy by developing a fast, cost-effective and scalable solution to increase the overall capacity of COVID-19 testing using saliva-based pool testing. This SalivaClearTM solution is now used by over 500 schools, community centers, shelters and businesses nationwide to quickly identify infected individuals in groups and interrupt the chains of transmission. Her team was named a winner in the XPRIZE Rapid COVID-19 Testing Competition for their innovative strategy and is now scaling this approach across the country.

Robby Sikka, M.D. As the Vice President of basketball performance and technology for the NBA Minnesota Timberwolves, and a former anesthesiologist, Sikka was tasked with finding a way to combat a pandemic that had shuttered the NBA’s season. After hundreds of hours reviewing peer-reviewed papers and testing data a research paper from Yale positing that saliva is more sensitive than nasal swabs for identifying COVID-19. It was the NBAs support of work done at Yale that led to the SalivaDirect strategy that ultimately has been a cornerstone of a viable testing approach to reopening schools.


Simon Johnson is the Ronald A. Kurtz (1954) Professor of Entrepreneurship at the MIT Sloan School of Management, where he is also head of the Global Economics and Management group. He co-founded and currently leads the popular Global Entrepreneurship Lab (GLAB) course – over the past 20 years. MBA students in GLAB have worked on more than 500 projects with start-up companies around the world. Over the past decade, Johnson has published more than 300 high impact pieces in the New York Times, Bloomberg, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, The New Republic, BusinessWeek, The Huffington Post, The Financial Times, and Project Syndicate. 


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