The coronavirus crisis is first and foremost about people.
People stuck at home, people out of work. People sick with the virus, people caring for them. People canceling dream weddings and vacations, people deciding public-health policies.
Technology is also about people.
Here in Israel, a powerhouse of innovative technology, people are busy inventing and adapting technologies to ease the corona burden.
“Technology has a great role to play in solving and helping us get through this crisis, from diagnosis, mitigation, patient tracking, contamination prevention, and protecting medical staff, to education and exercise for the homebound,” says OurCrowd CEO Jon Medved.
As you read below about Israeli medical technologies for the COVID-19 pandemic, remember that each one is about people – people striving to protect themselves, their loved ones and all humankind against this terrible pandemic.
ASSESSING AND DIAGNOSING COVID-19
The economic and logistic limitations of current assessment and testing methods have motivated many Israelis to find better solutions.
BATM is scaling up production of a rapid diagnostic kit that detects coronavirus infection from saliva samples within 50 minutes. The kit is compatible with equipment used to do the current PCR test for diagnosing COVID-19 in a matter of hours.
Diagnostics.ai is working toward complete automation of PCR testing for COVID-19 using artificial intelligence (AI). Now being tested at King’s College Hospital NHS London and soon at CLIA labs in the United States, the pcr.ai method would enable doubling the number of samples tested per day without additional staffing needs.
The Defense Ministry’s Directorate for Defense Research and Development is working with Vocalis Health to identify a unique vocal ‘fingerprint’ of virus carriers based on voice samples from confirmed coronavirus patients and a control group from the general population. The remote technology also could help monitor recovery of COVID-19 patients.
Researchers from Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and Rambam Health Care Campus say they can dramatically increase COVID-19 testing capacity by pooling multiple samples in a single test tube.
MyEleanor, a voice bot and virtual care manager from MyndYou, can call individuals or act as a hotline to assess risk, manage symptoms and provide guidance. On each call, AI-driven voice analytics can detect subtle changes in health and trigger proactive interventions.
An app from K Health uses AI to give free COVID-19 risk assessment and primary care advice based on US Centers for Disease Control guidelines. Symptomatic or high-risk users may be connected to a physician for a free 14-day chat-based consultation.
Geneyx is working with hospitals in Israel, China and Italy to determine whether certain genetic mutations may lessen or worsen individual COVID-19 infections. The company intends to create a database to help predict the severity of each patient’s case.
RADLogics has adapted its AI-powered medical-image analysis solution to automatically and accurately detect and classify COVID-19 infection in chest CT images of patients believed to be infected. The solution has been deployed in China, Russia and Italy to measure the percentage of affected lung volume.
Air Doctor, an app connecting travelers with local doctors, now offers a constantly updated list of COVID-19 testing sites and regional rules in 42 countries across five continents.
MANAGING COVID-19 PATIENTS
TytoCare’s unique modular device and telehealth platform is allowing healthcare organizations in the US, Europe and Israel to remotely examine and monitor potential and actual COVID-19 patients at home and in hospitals. Tyto Care exams of lungs, heart and temperature fully replicate an in-person checkup.
Several hospitals are using software and hardware from Mittwoch to enable remote exams and diagnosis of COVID-19 patients using technologies such as Tyto Care devices and digital stethoscopes.
Datos Health introduced a Coronavirus Telemedicine Program for hospitals and HMOs to provide online symptom-checking and video consultations to COVID-19 patients who don’t need hospitalization.
The Wearable Vital Sign Monitor from Biobeat is providing continuous, noninvasive medical-grade monitoring of blood pressure, oxygen saturation, respiratory rate, heart rate, temperature and other vitals in COVID-19 patients at several Israeli hospitals and at home.
An under-mattress contact-free monitoring solution from EarlySense allows hospitals to monitor and analyze COVID-19 patients’ breathing patterns for subtle changes and signs of respiratory distress.
The OLO blood analyzer from Sight Diagnostics performs rapid automated testing ofCOVID-19 patients’ samples using a self-contained cartridge to collect two drops of blood from a venous or finger prick sample. The cartridge is inserted in the OLO unit, which provides full blood count results in minutes via computer vision and AI. (OLO has point-of-care regulatory approval in Europe and Israel but not yet in the United States.)
A TeleICU technology from Clew Medical — now being deployed in two Israeli hospitals and tested in two US facilities — uses AI-based predictive analytics to expand ICU capacity and resources while protecting frontline care workers. It includes AI-based algorithms to identify respiratory deterioration in advance, and machine learning models for proactively managing disease severity and workload.
Sweetch AI-powered mobile health platform, developed for diabetes patients, is enabling remote monitoring, management and intervention for COVID-19 patients with chronic diseases.
Hospitals are using the RenalSense Clarity RMS platform to monitor critical COVID-19 patients’ urine flow remotely and continuously.
A robotic process automation (RPA) solution from Kryon allows for automated reporting of COVID-19 testing results to the Israeli Ministry of Health from Maccabi Healthcare Services, one of Israel’s national HMOs. Manual uploading was causing huge backlogs and human errors. The streamlined process is available free of charge to healthcare providers anywhere.
“We have no reliable clinical data about any drug useful in reducing severity and mortality” in COVID-19 patients, says Dr. Eyal Leshem, director of geographic medicine at Sheba Medical Center. “Perhaps in several weeks or months we will know what drugs may be useful.”
In Israel, about a dozen existing drugs are being tested for their effectiveness alone or combined. Israel-based Teva Pharmaceutical Industries is donating millions of its hydroxychloroquine sulfate tablets to US hospitals for testing as a potential treatment for COVID-19.
As for vaccine candidates, “Studies are in various stages and we’ll have to wait patiently for safety and efficacy trials to be completed within one to one and a half years,” says Leshem.
Antibody therapy, immunotherapy and immunization options are being investigated in many Israeli companies, universities and research institutions.
Kamada is developing a polyclonal immunoglobulin treatment for severely ill COVID-19 patients, using purified blood and plasma samples from recovered patients. Kamada previously developed serums for treating rabies and Zika.
The Israel Institute of Biological Research is working toward a coronavirus vaccine as well as an antibody-based treatment for COVID-19 using plasma from recovered patients. The treatment is expected to take less time to develop than the vaccine, says Chief Innovation Coordinator Eran Zehavy, who is actively pursuing collaborations with startups.
A poultry coronavirus vaccine under development at MIGAL Galilee Research Institute is being reformulated as an oral vaccine against human COVID-19 that could be adapted to future forms of the virus.
CEO David Zigdon says animal trials of MIGAL’s human formulation may begin this week. “We are raising money and looking for a GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) facility to produce our vaccine,” he says.
TransAlgae has opened an investment round to support development of an oral algae-based coronavirus vaccine in pill form.
The patented PLX cell product from Pluristem Therapeutics is being evaluated at the BIH Center for Regenerative Therapy and the Berlin Center for Advanced Therapies as a potential treatment for respiratory and inflammatory complications associated with COVID-19.
Pepticom is seeking partners to validate and develop peptide drug candidates to inhibit proteins in the novel coronavirus.
Intubation and mechanical ventilation of critically ill COVID-19 patients is invasive, expensive and can damage the lungs.
Inspira is developing a disposable alternative for direct blood oxygenation via a catheter placed into a central vein. Another solution comes from Dr. Ishay Benuri, a pediatric gastroenterologist and medical device inventor. His unique laryngoscope, enabling easier, more accurate and faster intubation of critical COVID-19 patients, is patented in Israel and soon to be patented in Europe and the United States.
Enlivex has developed a medication that could help treat severe symptoms of COVID-19 including catastrophic organ failure.
XRHealth provides specialized therapeutic apps delivered through virtual reality (VR) headsets for quarantined coronavirus patients. Options include stress and anxiety treatments, cognitive and physical exercises, support groups and two-way interactions with healthcare providers. XRHealth recently set up virtual reality telehealth clinics in the United States.
Israeli VCs are also working toward solutions
On March 24, Jerusalem Venture Partners launched the first of a series of teleconferences bringing together experts from Israel and other countries to address immediate and long-term strategies for the COVID-19 crisis.
Cukierman & Co Investment House will hold a COVID-19 Innovation Conference in early April, matching investors with Israeli and global medtech and biotech companies.