With a global pandemic gripping the world and many healthcare systems collapsing under inefficient models of work, there is a market for new innovations that can provide easier and faster solutions for the diagnosis and treatment of the novel coronavirus disease. Technologists have repurposed several existing technologies to create quick solutions to the coronavirus pandemic. In any crisis, such creativity and invention are vital, but they are especially encouraging during a critical period like COVID. As companies seek new tech solutions to fight the COVID crisis, some interesting themes have emerged.
According to a Boston Consulting Group analysis, 25% of new digital solutions deal with detection and containment, 20% with healthcare provider enablement, and another 21% with economic resilience. Furthermore, roughly a third of these use cases were global, demonstrating the pandemic response’s collaborative and interconnected nature. Highlighting these innovative use cases can serve as a reminder of the world’s resiliency and ingenuity in the face of the global crisis.
It is a nitric oxide nasal spray whose core function is to eradicate the virus from your nasal passages if someone sneezes on you – one can pull out the spray and use it in the nose to kill any virion particles deposited there. It is developed on the therapeutic properties of nitric oxide, first discovered by Professor Ferid Murad of the University of Stanford, which got him the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1998. Professor Murad has been a key part of developing SaNOtize. The product has concluded a double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial which was effective in reducing the viral load by 95% in 24 hours and up to 99% in 72 hours. It has received permission to go ahead with a clinical trial in the USA currently. The company describes it as an ‘upper airway disinfectant’.
It is essentially considered a nasal antiseptic, and can rapidly inactivate the SARS-CoV-2. It comes in single-use ampules of liquid povidone-iodine and can easily be stored at room temperature. Since it inactivates the virus in as little as 15 seconds of contact, at concentrations of just 0.5%, it will be vital for use by frontline workers along with personal protective equipment. Intranasal use of this solution at different concentration strengths of 0.5% and 1.25% have been very effective in reducing viral load in nasal passageways.
- CRISPR-based Covid-19 Test
While conventional rt-PCR tests take days and sometimes even weeks to return results, the new CRISPR-based test can provide outcomes in a matter of 20 minutes. The PCR employs the conversion of viral RNA to DNA before it can be amplified and detected as a positive result. With this new application of CRISPR, there is room for direct detection of viral RNA through the protein Cas13, which cleaves RNA. The test can be hooked up to a smartphone and report the swab test as positive if it picks up signals from the Cas13 protein. It can be cost-effective as it doesn’t need complex lab equipment and only a CRISPR kit plus a smartphone.
The Handheld Infrared Thermometer with Enhanced Safety was developed at IIT Kanpur to enable monitoring of body temperature at a physical distance of 6 feet. The generally used traditional infrared thermometers violate the basic tenet of social distancing necessary during COVID-19. HITES ensures the safety of healthcare and essential workers by giving interpersonal space of 6 ft and doesn’t require a battery to run as it is powered by mobiles, and allows seamless cloud storage of body temperature data which can help keep track of infection patterns.
- GigaGen Surge
It is a gene sequencing platform developed by the Jeffrey Modell Foundation in New York, which aims to provide a ‘blueprint’ of a patient’s immune system, by creating a library of all the antibodies present in a person’s blood. This is done by running donor blood samples through the Surge System, and subsequent isolation of antibody-producing B cells. These antibodies can be integrated into mammalian cells and result in a recombinant antibody treatment, allowing the development of immune-mediated treatments for COVID-19. The clinical trials have begun in early 2021 and offer hope that traditional convalescent plasma or immunoglobulin therapies cannot.
It is a mobile app that utilizes artificial intelligence to keep a track of patient’s vitals remotely. It allows for teleconsultation, telemonitoring, and tele prescription during any covid related emergencies. The mechanism by which it works is called remote photoplethysmography (rPPPG), which allows a smartphone to interpret light signals reflected off blood vessels beneath the skin surface. It surveys blood volume, changes in respiratory rate, blood pressure, variability in heart rate, and oxygen saturation. So it works by a simple means of transferring signals from the body into measurements on an app.
This allows for earlier diagnosis of any infections, and also serves as a triaging tool. It was developed by an Italian company called SDG Group, and is currently in the process of clinical trials in the US, having already completed such trials in Japan, Canada, and India. It is potent in the detection of Covid-19 hotspots and does real-time data collection that helps in resource allocation planning.
If necessity is the mother of invention then COVID-19 has certainly been that maternal catalyst that has pushed the boundaries of traditional medicine and combined technology with medical research. One of numerous characteristics of countries that have flattened their COVID-19 incidence curves and maintained low fatality rates could be the incorporation of digital technology into pandemic policy and response.
Countries that have quickly deployed digital tools to facilitate planning, surveillance, testing, contact tracing, quarantine, and clinical management have remained front-runners in managing disease burden in the fight to contain the spread of a highly transmissible virus. As the disease progresses and we learn more about it, we can only hope to find more compelling and new ways to look at our diagnostic and treatment modalities.