The COVID-19 pandemic has presented extremely difficult challenges around the world. It has also demonstrated the power of innovation to help address some of the most pressing issues facing humanity. Innovators have made amazing strides in a matter of weeks and months to help address this global health threat, with the support of an effective innovation ecosystem, underpinned by strong intellectual property rights. These five interesting, emerging inventions exemplify how the world can benefit from fostering and protecting innovation:
Remote diagnosis of COVID-19 patients.
In the early weeks of the outbreak in Wuhan, China, Chinese telecom equipment provider ZTE developed and launched the first ever remote 5G diagnosis system for COVID-19. Using 5G cellular technology, ZTE connected the West China Hospital and the Chengdu Public Health Clinic Center of Sichuan University through 5G outdoor hardware and indoor base stations, which turned a West China Hospital conference room into a remote diagnosis and treatment center. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, such potential for 5G to facilitate remote medical services was largely theoretical.
A novel COVID-19 detection kit.
Singapore-based Veredus Laboratories, a company providing molecular diagnostic solutions, launched the VereCoV detection kit less than two months following the identification of COVID-19 in China. The portable Lab-on-Chip application detects the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus and COVID-19, in a single test. It is one of the first commercially available kits that can detect, differentiate and identify these three coronavirus strains, which takes about two hours.
Leveraging artificial intelligence to provide early warning about disease spread.
BlueDot, a Canadian company that conducts automated infectious disease surveillance, identified and notified its customers of the new form of coronavirus before official notices by global health authorities. BlueDot’s early warning system leverages artificial intelligence that combines natural-language processing and machine learning to track more than 100 infectious diseases by analyzing 100,000 articles in 65 languages daily. Final results are analyzed by human researchers to help get health care workers information as quickly as possible to help diagnose and potentially isolate those infected or contagious.
With support of an effective innovation ecosystem and strong intellectual property rights, innovators have made amazing strides in a matter of weeks and months to help address challenges created by the outbreak of COVID-19.
New antiviral masks that help stop the spread of disease.
Two Israeli companies, Sonovia and Argaman, are working towards making new antiviral masks available commercially in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. Sonovia has a proprietary ultrasonic fabric-finishing technology that mechanically infuses antiviral, antimicrobial zinc and copper oxide nanoparticles into textiles for facemasks and other protective products. Argaman also has a washable, breathable anti-viral facemask called Bio-Block with a proprietary cotton and materials mix that blocks pathogens. While these textiles have been effective in stopping exposure to pathogens like Staph and E. coli, results for their efficacy against COVID-19 are not yet available.
Dozens of COVID-19 treatments in development.
According to a survey by Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News, there were 35 active drug development programs to combat COVID-19 in North America, Europe and China as of early March – less than three months after the outbreak became public. Some of these vaccines and treatments, a mix of novel and incremental innovations, have rapidly advanced to testing. The first of these could be on the market as early as next year, which is remarkable given the long, resource-intensive and risky drug development process.