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Coronavirus: Home Testing Innovation Can Reduce Stress, Fear and Uncertainty

Getting some clarity is the best way to boost our immunity system, and be able to reunite families soon.

Photo by Pille-Riin Priske on Unsplash
Photo by Pille-Riin Priske on Unsplash

I spoke to my sister-in-law yesterday who works for the Israel Tax Authority. A colleague from her office got infected with the coronavirus, and is in the hospital with his wife and all six kids. So her entire floor went into quarantine. In the meantime, her son (who helps out in his father’s store) got really sick with a high temperature for three days. The medics came to check him and said it’s not the coronavirus, but he’s in quarantine to be on the safe side. I’m not a professional, but it sounds to me like some mutation of the virus that we haven’t discovered yet, which is impacting young people in a different way. So her and her son are in quarantine in their home in different rooms. As if that’s not enough, her daughter is landing from abroad today (I was afraid to ask from which country), and will go directly into self-quarantine in another room in the house (!!) So we have a whole family living together, but each in their own quarantined area supposedly. My husband’s brother has a fruit and vegetable store in a very affluent area next to one of our largest high-tech hubs. Business has been booming since all this started. Now he is coming home every day to a house where all the other family members are theoretically in quarantine. Not an ideal way for us to live.

Major Tech Companies Coming Together

It’s encouraging to see some of the world’s most powerful tech companies coming together to see how they can help. These are some of the smartest people on the planet. Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and Slack have teamed up with the World Heath Organization to launch a hackathon aimed at developing software to manage the COVID-19 outbreak.  The #BuildforCOVID19 Global Online Hackathon kicks off today, inviting developers, with support from technology companies, to create software that can help tackle the pandemic. It’s nice to see this new level of collaboration but it’s not enough. People need help calming down right now.

Alibaba billionaire Jack Ma just pledged to donate 500,000 coronavirus tests and 1 million face masks to the US as shortages mount

The Need for Mass Home Testing Kits

The key to reducing the stress, fear and uncertainty, and getting us back to some type of normal is home testing innovation.

“Connected” author and social networks expert Nicholas Christakis spoke about the need for testing innovation in his latest Whoop podcast. Nicholas details the testing shortage the United States has faced and continues to face and calls for a major investment in serology testing to determine who is immune to COVID-19. “We need to ramp up production and we need to get the best tests we can.”

Medical Specialties Group of Louisiana (MSGLA) in Pensacola will distribute a COVID-19 Rapid Test kit. The test is a blood test that looks to detect lgG and lgM antibodies to aid in the diagnosis of primary and secondary coronavirus infection. With just a prick of the finger, your results are ready in 5-10 minutes. South Palafox Group, LLC. — the parent company of Medical Specialties Group — is working to sell and distribute the test to hospitals and medical providers. The test can only be taken through a health care professional. This is not a product for at-home testing. “Most people waiting at home right now or in offices where they can’t go to, one of the big detriments is they can’t get tested immediately,” says Chad Brillant of Medical Specialties Group of Louisiana. “The biggest thing right now is these rapid test kits will give you the opportunity to test quickly and get immediate results.” This testing kit was submitted as a proposal to Vice President Mike Pence. Medical Specialties Group and South Palafox Group hope this testing kit will be able to be distributed nationwide to help stop the spread of the hashtag#coronavirus. “Quicker testing will get people back to doing what they love,” Brillant said. “We’re excited to be apart of that.”

Combating the coronavirus pandemic: Bosch has developed a rapid test for COVID-19. The new, fully-automated test delivers reliable results enabling differential diagnosis in under 2.5 hours. Running on the Vivalytic analysis device from Bosch Healthcare Solutions, it can support medical facilities such as doctors’ offices, hospitals, laboratories, and health centers in making fast diagnoses. “We want the Bosch rapid COVID-19 test to play a part in containing the coronavirus pandemic as quickly as possible. It will speed up the identification and isolation of infected patients,” says Volkmar Denner, Bosch CEO.

Coronavirus Home Testing Solutions

Companies and organizations are scrambling to get ahead of this, and there are already some exciting breakthroughs:

The Guardian reported that the UK will be making home testing available for millions in a few days: “Millions of 15-minute home coronavirus tests are set to be available on the high street or for Amazon delivery to people self-isolating, according to Public Health England (PHE), in a move that could restore many people’s lives to a semblance of pre-lockdown normality. Prof Sharon Peacock, the director of the national infection service at PHE, told MPs on the science and technology committee that mass testing in the UK would be possible within days, saying evaluation of the fingerprick tests should be completed this week. The government later took a more cautious line, saying that the tests would not be available so quickly.”

Scanwell’s request for FDA emergency authorization could take six to eight weeks, says company founder and CEO Stephen Chen. If approved, it would be the first at-home test for the disease in the world—in China, because of government regulations, the test was only administered by doctors and health officials. Chen says at-home testing is more common in the U.S., and federal regulators are more comfortable approving properly designed kits, as long as the companies behind them provide ways for people to connect with doctors about the results. (Time Magazine)

Biotech Pioneer Is Making a Home Test Kit for Coronavirus

Jonathan Rothberg of 4Catalyzer says his test will give readouts on a smartphone in 30 minutes. Rothberg explains that before the coronavirus outbreak, the Homodeus scientists were engineering enzymes to do things like repair genes and eat plastics. Now they’re making designer enzymes that “do the entire test that normally takes laboratory technicians and special equipment,” Rothberg says. “No lab. No technician. No expensive machines. No wait. The designer enzymes do all the work.” The app that will accompany the test kit will not only guide the user through the testing process, but also automatically submit results to public health authorities. Eric Kabrams, the 4Catalyzer engineer who’s leading work on that app, says that data will be shared in a way that complies with strict privacy rules for people’s medical data. “Thankfully, the best practices from modern cryptography and data privacy enable solutions that balance these dual objectives of minimizing the virus’ spread and protecting sensitive information,” he tells Spectrum in an email.  If Rothberg’s team succeeds in creating this test kit, the next step will be to get it to academic labs for validation. Rothberg says he expects to have prototypes to send to labs in the next few weeks. “We are already in discussions with Penn and Yale to verify the test at their hospitals and clinical sites as quickly as possible,” he says.  (IEEE Spectrum)

Paper device could bring portable coronavirus detection, but funding bars production

Purdue University biomedical engineers have developed a handheld paper device that quickly and accurately detects a different strain of coronavirus, MERS-CoV, even in really small quantities. A clear test result can be read directly from the device itself, making it portable. Because the device isn’t specific to any virus, the same platform could be used to detect the COVID-19 strain. But developing a process to manufacture it would cost at least a couple of million dollars.

Coronavirus home testing kits are coming to Seattle

The team behind a Gates Foundation-backed project told the Seattle Times that it’s preparing to deliver home testing kits for the virus to Seattle (where the infection rate has been relatively high) within the “coming weeks.” Potential patients swab their noses and send the samples back to a lab for study, with results ready in one to two days. If someone is infected, they can fill out an online questionnaire to determine their contact and travel habits in case officials need to notify anyone else that they might have the virus.

The test will let people stay at home and reduce the chances of spreading the virus. At the same time, it could also improve the turnaround by processing large numbers of tests in a relatively short space of time. The Gates Foundation’s Scott Dowell estimated that the lab will handle about 400 tests per day to start, but should eventually handle “thousands” per day.

The test is the offshoot of a University of Washington initiative that was originally meant to track infectious diseases like the flu.

Israel Accelerating Testing Innovation

The Founder & CEO of AppsFlyer, Oren Kaniel, has pledged $500K for testing innovation: “Assuming the virus won’t magically disappear and a treatment or vaccine won’t be made widely available in the next 12 months, we have to focus on the crucial elements that can get us to this New Normal state. Understanding who carries the virus and who is immuned (COVID-19 antibodies test) is crucial to getting there. This is why I believe that significantly adding more tests is the critical missing piece. To that end, we will dedicate a $500,000 fund for testing innovations, as well as other support such as leveraging our cloud computing and engineering. Our goal is to allow all of us to get back to our immediate circles, hug our parents again, and get back to the office. Specifically, at AppsFlyer we’re examining the idea of creating a ‘safe zone’ in the office to gradually bring people back together and will be happy to become a Beta site. If you are in the testing innovation field and have a viable testing solution for COVID-19, please contact us at [email protected]. This is a global challenge and we, as citizens of this planet, feel obligated to do our part to fight this together. We encourage pharma companies, individuals, and nations to collaborate on this effort. All for one, and one for all.

Israel’s Technion – Israel Institute of Technology is working on diagnostic solutions: “Noteworthy examples in coronavirus diagnostics include Prof. Hossam Haick, from Technion‘s Wolfson Faculty of Chemical engineering. His research is working on a diagnostic test for coronavirus carriers before they show.

Hillel’s Tech Corner: Todos Medical revisited amid the corona pandemic

When the virus hit and its enormity was seen, Todos contemplated trying to develop a test for the virus based on its proprietary technology, as they believe the TBIA (Todos Biochemical Infrared Analyses) platform of Todos can actually screen for most any neurodegenerative disease.Unfortunately, the amount of time it would take and the resources needed to develop this test on their own was too much for the company in its current structure.
 However, as Todos now has a CLIA lab functioning in Atlanta, they wanted to join the fight against corona and try to help by providing testing to as many people as possible. As you surely know by now, tests are in high demand and very low supply, especially in the US.IN RESPONSE, Todos utilized all its resources and reached out to many partners and companies in its corporate rolodex that have developed COVID-19 testing.  To date, Todos has signed formal agreements with two companies (3D Biomed and Shanghai Liangrun) and additional distribution agreements with them for the US and Israel.In addition to working with companies already developing the tests, Todos understood that it possesses the resources and expertise to do more. The team is talking to additional manufacturers of COVID-19 testing kits, and negotiations are ongoing as I write this. 

Government of Israel wages war on Coronavirus

Israel Innovation Authority, Ministry of Health and the Headquarter for the National Digital Israel Initiative will grant Israeli companies an initial amount of NIS 50 million (~$13 million) for the R&D and demos of systems, products or technological solutions designed to cope with the challenges of the Covid-19 (Coronavirus).

These programs will provide financial support of 50% or 75% of the expenditures for a program with the potential for an outstanding affect and advancement of public health and the health system in Israel and worldwide or that will create a technological breakthrough in its domain.

All activities are carried out in collaboration and in coordination with MAF’AT (Administration for the Research and Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure) at the Ministry of Defense and have their full support.

Gov’t exploring voiced-based corona testing technology

The Israel Defense Ministry said that the national emergency task force, led by Dr. Danny Gold, is exploring an artificial, intelligence-based, voice-recognition app that could potentially allow for the home-diagnosis of initial symptoms. Gold’s team is scheduled to begin initial testing on this technology in the coming days. As part of the experiment, the voices of coronavirus patients will be sampled through an application developed by Vocalis Health. The Tel Aviv-based company Vocalis Health – formed by the merger of Beyond Verbal and Healthymize, two early-stage Israeli AI health-tech companies – develops artificial intelligence-based platforms that use one’s voice to evaluate the condition of their health.  The national emergency task force hopes that the coronavirus produces a unique voice imprint that could help identify suspicious symptoms that may indicate infection among the general public. The data collected as part of the experiment will be analyzed using neuronal network mapping. Initial results are expected within four to six weeks. “The purpose of this study is to develop a unique algorithm, based on machine-learning methods and sound characteristics, that will allow the healthcare system to make initial assessments as well as monitor the symptoms of corona patients in their homes.” “This aims to prevent the spread of disease and prevent further burden to the already overloaded healthcare system,” a Defense Ministry statement said. The ministry added that the research was conducted in collaboration with health organizations in Israel and around the world. Participants include, among others, the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, the Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva, the Afeka College of Engineering in Tel Aviv, and other academic research groups and military units. 

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