At the start of the COVID pandemic, many researchers explored ways to detect early signs of the disease without going through PCR tests. For example, in August 2020, researchers from Fitbit, the company acquired by Google, presented a study suggesting that the brand’s watches can detect almost 50% of cases a day before symptoms appear.
In Australia, the startup ResApp Health has focused on the sound of the patient’s cough to detect the disease. In essence, its app analyzes the sound of the patient’s cough along with other symptoms like a runny nose.
The technology is not new, since before the pandemic, it was already used to detect other diseases, such as asthma, pneumonia, bronchiolitis, croup and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This technique, to diagnose respiratory diseases via an app, was designed at the University of Queensland, then transferred to ResApp in 2014.
Pfizer buys the app that could put an end to PCR tests
Regarding the detection of COVID-19, tests have already been carried out, with encouraging results. Clinical trials are still ongoing and if these are successful, it would reduce the number of PCR or antigen tests patients have to undergo. The cost of diagnosing COVID-19 would also be reduced, not to mention the potential uses in telemedicine.
In any case, Pfizer did not wait for the publication of the results of these clinical trials to release its checkbook. The company completed the acquisition of ResApp in September for 179 million Australian dollars, the equivalent of 116 million US dollars.
Of course, this deal is a success for the University of Queensland, where the technology was developed. “It is gratifying that the company’s technological breakthroughs have attracted such significant international support”said Dr. Dean Moss, head of UniQuest, the university’s marketing company.
Thanks to Pfizer, the app should benefit more people
ResApp should benefit from the means of Pfizer to continue the development of the technology. For its part, the pharmaceutical giant says it is eager to refine the technology and bring it to more users around the world by working with regulators.
Pfizer is certainly also interested in the fact that the technology used by ResApp is not limited to one disease. According to the explanations of Udantha Abeyratne, one of the researchers who developed the software used by ResApp, it works a bit like a doctor using a stethoscope to listen to the sounds produced by the patient.
For him, the acquisition by Pfizer could lead to the realization of his dream: “I hope they can diagnose deadly diseases like pneumonia in very remote communities in Africa and Asia, because they don’t have access to sophisticated hospitals.”
It should be noted that the software does not need an internet connection to detect diseases.