Posts Tagged “Coronavirus”
For some months now, countries across the world have been vying for much-needed, key supplies for healthcare professionals and essential workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. The shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has been especially acute, forcing governments into a global race to buy protective clothing, surgical masks, face shields, helmets, goggles, and gloves – with middling success. Despite these efforts, doctors and nurses in the US and the UK, for example, have been forced to acquire their own gear or reuse existing equipment with great risk.
With no immediate solutions even as the global health crisis rages on, innovative alternative initiatives have popped up to help medical workers do their critical jobs: save lives while being safe.
One such initiative was recently launched by the Israeli-founded non-profit organization Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM), a global movement that develops and creates practical, affordable, workable solutions for under-served sectors and communities. Tikkun Olam loosely translates to “repair the world” in Hebrew.
As the pandemic began spreading rapidly across the world beginning in early March, the group tapped into its vast network of worldwide makers, fellows, and volunteers to develop and deliver solutions useful in fighting the global pandemic: 3D-printed face shields, masks, straps, handless door openers and even DIY alcohol-based hand rubs. By late April, TOM had overseen the manufacturing and delivery of over 30,000 units of equipment for people who need it most, with a goal to reach 100,000 in the short term and half a million in the medium term.
Donate Now to Essential Workers from TOM Global on Vimeo.
The organization was well set up for such an operation. Established in 2014 by the Reut Group led by entrepreneur Gidi Grinstein, TOM brings together designers, developers, engineers, and “makers” to solve everyday challenges for people living with disabilities, the elderly, and the poor (“need-knowers”). The organization has hosted dozens of “makeathons” across the world focused on creating products that aim to improve people’s daily lives and enhance their interests. Close to 500 such products have been made in 67 communities in over 20 countries so far including Mexico, Chile, Greece, Serbia, and Australia.
When TOM began focusing solely on COVID-19 solutions, it felt like a natural pivot.
“Our mission has not changed. We systematically create highly affordable solutions for people who are largely neglected by the markets and governments and are structurally marginalized,” Grinstein tells NoCamels via video-conference from New York
Throughout its journey, TOM “developed a process for mass inventions where people can come and innovate and create solutions so this vision remained but the operational manner has changed,” he explains.
To start, the organization began taking stock of all the products created over the years to see what could be relevant during the pandemic. Next, TOM repurposed its network into a “maker army,” calling on all those who could design, engineer, invent or even just access or operate a 3D printer to join the movement and help deliver solutions. The next focus was on partnerships with universities, student communities, maker spaces, Jewish and non-Jewish organizations that could aid with volunteers, materials, and logistics.
To date, TOM’s online library includes over 40 solutions ranging from PPEs, ventilators and ventilator parts, respirators and hygienic solutions, with detailed instructions on how to make them, and a playbook for people to launch their emergency coronavirus response teams.
The most sought-after items have by far been the face shields, specifically the Prusa shields, which are quick to print and easy to assemble, says Maayan Keren, TOM’s Director of North America Communities.
Based in New York, which has been hard-hit by COVID-19 and leads US cities with over 300,000 confirmed infections, Keren tells NoCamels her work has involved finding resources such as 3D printers, cutters, and sewing machines, helping makers get started, and identifying “circles of needs.”
For example, in NY, TOM recently put together a delivery of some 500 face shields that went to nursing homes and fertility clinics. “These are very high-risk people who need immediate help and protection,” says Keren. Other circles of needs include mental health facilities, care homes, and prisons.
In Atlanta, a university student organizer with a 3D printer at home started his own response team to make face shields for clinics, nursing homes, police officers and first responders, with help and some seed funding from TOM.
The needs, however, differ and evolve depending on location.
In Mexico, TOM makers and response teams led the manufacturing of some 3,000 Y splitters for ventilators designed to divide the airflow of artificial ventilators so that they can be shared by two patients, Keren tells NoCamels. In fact, the design was created specifically for the MakersMexico through a request process where providers and makers submit needs and TOM works to find a solution.
In Israel, TOM works with the Holon Institute of Technology, Tel Aviv University and design schools such as Shenkar and the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem – all of whom have 3D printing capabilities.
Bezalel student Yuval Buzaglo, 26, tells NoCamels she is part a team of university students that created thousands of pieces of equipment for hospitals, clinics, and special education schools using TOM’s instruction files and materials.
“There’s been a lot of sharing knowledge and efficiency,” she says.
Grinstein tells NoCamels most of TOM’s development and documentation is, in fact, done in Israel at Impact Labs, a hardware innovation center in Tel Aviv where TOM is based. The Lab is for entrepreneurs, companies, and social innovators to develop physical products and solutions.
TOM is funded philanthropically, employs 11 people, and works with hundreds of volunteers across the world, Grinstein explains. The organization helps local teams raise money for their COVID-19 relief efforts and source donations of 3D printing materials.
TOM makers are “community organizers, people working in the medical field, academics, university faculty, moms, dads, and basically anyone who wants to get involved,” Keren tells NoCamels, adding that “people have really stepped up to help.”
The Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) said on Tuesday that it completed a “groundbreaking scientific development” toward a potential treatment for COVID-19 based on an antibody that neutralizes SARS-CoV2, the coronavirus that causes the disease.
The Israeli Ministry of Defense speaking on behalf of the institute emphasized that this achievement could potentially develop into a treatment for COVID-19 patients but that the development was not a vaccine.
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The IIBR is a governmental research center specializing in biology, chemistry and environmental sciences that falls under the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister’s Office. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tapped the secretive institute in early February to begin development on producing a vaccine. In early April, the center reported “significant progress” and trials on animals.
The institute has also been involved in plasma collection from Israelis who have recovered from COVID-19 to research antibodies, proteins made by the immune system that can attack the virus.
“This is an important milestone, which will be followed by a series of complex tests and a process of regulatory approvals,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that the process could take several months given “the nature of this breakthrough.”
The development has three key parameters, according to the IIBR: first, the antibody is monoclonal (lab-made identical immune cells that are all clones of a unique parent cell), and contains a low proportion of harmful proteins; second, the institute has “demonstrated the ability of the antibody to neutralize the coronavirus”; and third, the antibody was specifically tested on SARS CoV2.
“Based on comprehensive scientific publications from around the globe, it appears that the IIBR is the first institution to achieve a scientific breakthrough that meets all three of the aforementioned parameters simultaneously,” the ministry said on Tuesday.
The Ness Ziona-based institute is now pursuing a patent for its development, according to the announcement, after which it will approach international manufacturers.
Meanwhile, a study in the Netherlands published this week in Nature Communications also claimed that a human monoclonal antibody neutralized SARS-CoV-2, and SARS-CoV, in a lab setting.
“Monoclonal antibodies targeting vulnerable sites on viral surface proteins are increasingly recognized as a promising class of drugs against infectious diseases and have shown therapeutic efficacy for a number of viruses,” the scientists of this study wrote.
The antibody known as 47D11, targeted the spike protein that gives the coronavirus its name and shape, and “exhibited cross-neutralizing activity of SARS-S and SARS2-S,” according to the researchers.
These neutralizing antibodies “can alter the course of infection in the infected host supporting virus clearance or protect an uninfected host that is exposed to the virus,” and the 47D11 antibody can either alone or in combination with pharmaceuticals and therapies, offer potential prevention and/or treatment of COVID-19, according to the study.
Carice Witte is the founder and executive director of SIGNAL, a Sino-Israel think tank focused on researching Chinese foreign policy and China-Israel relations, as well as advising policymakers in Israel and abroad on strategy.
In the midst of this coronavirus pandemic, testing is central to bringing the virus under control to save lives and end the economic devastation. It may thus seem peculiar to hear that Clalit’s CEO, Johanan Locker, recently rejected the Israeli government’s $25 million deal with China’s state-owned conglomerate, BGI, to supply equipment for 10,000 tests a day. His decision is reminiscent of actions by Israel’s Commissioner of Capital Markets Dorit Salinger, who blocked numerous Chinese state-owned enterprises from purchasing Israel’s leading insurance companies Phoenix and Clal in 2016 and 2017 for similar reasons. Mr. Locker’s reasoning: protecting the data of his company’s 4.9 million patients.
Against the backdrop of increasing tensions between China and the US, the issue of data protection has taken center stage. The US has been warning governments around the world against implementing Huawei 5G because of potential back doors that provide access to sensitive information. Most US allies share these concerns and are not even considering implementing the full range of Huawei 5G equipment – despite it being the only company worldwide currently able to offer this end-to-end solution. Instead, they are conducting exhaustive review processes to decide if they will implement even the peripheral networks produced by Huawei. In most cases, the core networks are already off-limits.
In February this year, Angela Merkel’s CDU party backed a strategy paper that seems to have eliminated the distinction between core and peripheral, deeming all aspects of a network subject to breach. The German strategy paper focuses on the issue of trust. It essentially bars 5G rollout by ‘untrustworthy’ companies. Trust, in this case, is defined by whether the company is subject to state influence. To address the 5G issue more robustly, the paper recommends that Germany not put undue reliance on a single supplier; it should support the “building of an internationally competitive safe 5G network.”
Mr. Locker’s concerns reflect a broader awareness that China’s government is actively seeking to acquire people’s data through their business ventures. The CCP’s efforts to access sensitive information and personal data is no secret. Its recently passed cybersecurity law requires “network operators to store select data within China and allows Chinese authorities to conduct spot-checks on a company’s network operations.” Many have voiced concerns over these data controls and the increased risks of intellectual property theft.
America has been particularly worried about these developments. In 2019, the US government turned a lot of heads when it revoked the acquisition of dating site Grindr by Chinese firm Kunlun, after the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) assessed that access to the personal data of the users constituted a potential national security risk. Cybertheft of personal data was the focus of the February 2020 decision by the US Justice Department to charge four members of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) with the 2017 Equifax breach that resulted in the theft of personal data of about 145 million Americans.
While corporate cyber theft is a serious problem, as seen in the case of the British firm Cambridge Analytica –which gained access to data of tens of millions of Facebook users – government access to private information is an entirely different story.
Of course, China is not the only country seeking to acquire private data. It is well known that governments have methods of gaining access to personal information, as exemplified by the Edward Snowden leaks. A 2014 investigation into whether the United States’ National Security Agency eavesdropped on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone calls, serves as another compelling example.
Russia has long been suspected of repeatedly hacking American databases – with accusations ranging from interfering in the 2016 US elections to complaints by Bernie Sanders this year of Moscow helping his campaign.
And yet despite these truths, it seems that China is being singled out for privacy concerns when its state-owned enterprises seek to provide valuable goods and services.
Just as Huawei has the only end-to-end solution for 5G, BGI is one of the very few companies worldwide able to provide the necessary quantity and quality of testing for COVID-19. This is emblematic of the success of China’s long-time investment in research and development. Over the past decade, China has directed significant resources toward cultivating the skill and talent necessary to take the lead in advanced technologies. China’s 2001 and 2006 five-year plans emphasized the development of National Champions. These companies receive easier access to financing, preference in government contract bidding, and special status in protected industries. In return, they help advance China’s strategic aims.
As a China-based state-owned enterprise (SOE), BGI would certainly fail Germany’s “trust” test as defined by its new strategy paper; because under Chinese law, SOEs are fully subject to party/government scrutiny. All data stored on the BGI’s servers would thus be available to China’s leadership upon request.
The same system that produced these comprehensive solutions remains opaque and authoritarian – characteristics that do not inspire trust with friends in the international community, particularly in the West. It’s often said that trust is built over time, but China has virtually burst onto the international stage over the last few years of Xi Jinping’s presidency. The world is not used to China taking a leading role in global affairs. While many may criticize the US for its international relations practices and geopolitics, US actions do not generate many surprises. For the good and the bad, the international community mostly knows what to expect from American leadership.
China is an unknown quantity with a system and style of leadership very unfamiliar to the West. It has no track record of global leadership. There are those who question the degree to which China’s domestic policies are indicative of how a China-led system might look. Ultimately, these questions generate the very mistrust that caused Israel’s largest HMO to turn down the opportunity for thousands of tests rather than exposing 4.6 million Israeli medical profiles to China’s government.
Haifa’s Rambam Hospital is set to trial speech-based analysis technology by Israeli company Cordio Medical to remotely monitor and diagnose the status of COVID-19 patients based on samples obtained via a smartphone app.
The Or Yehuda-based Cordio Medical developed the HearO technology to monitor patients suffering from heart failure and the platform could prove useful for the sophisticated management of COVID-19 patients who have received a diagnosis and are in isolation but have yet to be hospitalized, the hospital said.
HearO analyzes recordings of a patient’s speech and can sense fluid accumulation and forewarn of an anticipated deterioration, the company says, adding that the tech has already been proven in clinical trials at 10 medical institutions in Israel including Rambam, the Beilinson-Rabin Medical Center, and Barzilai Hospital. The system provided a pre-deterioration notice on an average of ten days prior to an acute heart failure hospitalization with an accuracy rate of over 80 percent, Cordio says. The HearO system is in the process of seeking FDA approval as a means to monitor heart-failure patients.
Cordio’s solution for COVID-19 patients is based on adapting HearO to the deterioration process associated with the disease characterized by bilateral pneumonia with edema in the lungs. The system would pick up on a deterioration based on slight changes in lung fluids and the onset of inflammation before the patient can feel it, Cordio explained.
The system will also be used for remotely monitoring patients who have recovered and are at home.
The trial will monitor “5,000 patients ongoing in all stages: isolated (no symptoms), mild, moderate and severe conditions,” for 18 months, Cordio Medical CEO Tamir Tal tells NoCamels via email.
Cordio is concentrating on the lung disease-related symptoms that are not easily trackable. Currently, all other symptoms are easily discovered — for example cough and fever, Tal tells NoCamels
The system works by establishing a baseline for each patient after which they will record their voices daily “and we analyze it in our cloud-based system. Each day the system is not alerting, the baseline is adapting and adjusting utilizing the new info,” he says.
Tal explains that if successful, the HearO system will be able to alert the medical team about the start of a lung condition 10-48 hours before the patient’s condition becomes moderate or severe due to the infection.
As of April 1, Israel has over 6,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including over 200 recoveries and 25 deaths. Most of those diagnosed with the disease are in isolation at home or in hotels with a minority in hospital.
An Israeli-made AI-powered robot assistant is being used in hundreds of hospitals, medical centers, nursing homes, and corporate buildings in Asia to help minimize human-to-human contact as millions of people take precautions due to the novel coronavirus outbreak worldwide.
Israeli startup Robotemi, the developer of the Temi robot assistant, says the product has already been distributed to hundreds of locations throughout Southeast Asia including China, Japan, South Korea, and Hong Kong. The Temi was initially conceived as a companion to senior citizens and busy families and executives and was not specifically intended to help with a virus outbreak but that is exactly what is happening, the Israeli company says.
This article was originally posted by NoCamels.com. See Featured article: Artificial Intelligence.
The Temi, which the company calls the world’s first intelligent personal AI robot, is a mobile, smart-display assistant, featuring human-robot interaction capabilities and characteristics. Standing at three feet tall and featuring a 10-inch tablet for a head and thin, curved body on top of a base, the Temi can roll on four small wheels for as much as eight hours on battery power. It connects over Wi-Fi, LTE, and Bluetooth has a built-in sound system and can be used with Amazon’s Alexa technology. It also has an autonomous navigation system that allows it to move around on its own while avoiding obstacles.
As the novel coronavirus began spreading starting in late December, the Robotemi team, which is headquartered in New York with an R&D lab in Tel Aviv and a manufacturing location in Shenzhen (China), decided to add special features to the robot including a thermometer, a thermal camera, and even a sink attached to the machine where employees can wash their hands.
“In China, there are regulations currently in place where an employee arriving at the office must get his body temperature before continuing his day. Temi is standing at the front door waiting for him,” Goren explained, “There is a thermometer installed on top of the robot. It can measure the employee’s temperature and show the number on its screen.”
This is not only done in places of work, he explained. It can be integrated wherever there is a Temi, like in hotels, stores, and restaurants.
As the novel coronavirus continues to spread across the world, with infections confirmed in over 60 countries, large conferences and events are being canceled and more people are avoiding large crowds and gatherings for fear of contracting the virus. France went as far as banning all indoor gatherings of more than 5,000 people over the weekend, and countries across the globe are updating travel restrictions as the US and Australia recorded their first death from the virus. The future of the 2020 summer Olympics in Japan is also in question.
As of March 1, over 2,900 people have died after contracting the virus,
known as 2019-nCoV and which causes COVID-19, and over 85,000 have been infected globally, with a majority in China. South Korea, Italy, and Iran are also recording a growing number of confirmed coronavirus cases.
Thousands of people are in either hospitalized quarantine or home isolation as international health officials try to get a handle on the spread. In China, authorities locked down major parts of Hubei province – home to over 50 million people – where the outbreak was first recorded in the city of Wuhan.
While global travel restrictions are still being heavily enforced, others are cautiously leaving quarantine and heading back to work — but not without emergency measures in place to reduce the risk of exposure.
“Many businesses and offices already have Temi but now it is being used for specific purposes related to coronavirus,” Goren says.
This article was originally posted by NoCamels.com. See Featured article: Artificial Intelligence.
Israel’s Sheba Medical Center is set to use top-of-the-line Israeli tele-medicine technologies to care for 11 nationals making their way back from a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship docked off the coast of Japan for the past several weeks. The Israelis are expected to arrive at the hospital early Friday where they will be placed in isolation for the next 14 days.
This article was originally posted by NoCamels.com.
See Featured article: Artificial Intelligence.
The patients do not have any symptoms of the novel coronavirus which has so far (as of February 20) infected over 75,000 and killed over 2,1000 people, mainly in mainland China, but the 14-day quarantine is in accordance with guidelines set out by the World Health Organization. Three Israelis traveling on the ship, the Diamond Princess, were diagnosed with the coronavirus, currently known as 2019-nCoV and severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), and are currently hospitalized in Japan. The ship was carrying over 3,700 people from more than 40 countries.
The 11 Israelis will be housed in an isolation unit at an evacuated hotel on the Sheba campus but away from the main hospital, the medical center said in a statement.
Virus particles are shown emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. The spikes on the outer edge of the virus particles give coronaviruses their name, crown-like.
The hospital will be using technologies such as medical robots, devices and AI-powered sensors operated remotely by doctors to monitor patients and conduct basic check-ups. Participating Israeli companies include Tyto Care, a tele-health company that developed handheld, at-home examination devices that examine the heart, lungs, skin, ears, throat and abdomen, as well as measure body temperature; Datos, a big data platform and app that allows for continuous contact with patients and leverages patient-generated health data for care delivery; and EarlySense, which developed a clipboard-sized sensor that can be embedded in any mattress to monitor sleep, vital signs, and motion, leveraging AI and big data analytics to help clinicians in early detection of patient deterioration
“As Israel welcomes home its citizens from the Diamond Princess cruise who have been directly affected by the coronavirus, Tyto Care is honored to be working with Sheba Medical Center to provide the safest, highest quality medical care to the patients during the quarantine period to help stem the spread of the virus,” said Dedi Gilad, Tyto Care CEO and co-founder. Each of the 12 patients will receive a Tyto Care device to perform comprehensive medical examinations on themselves which “will provide Sheba staff the clinical data they require to make fully informed decisions from a safe distance, without physical exposure to the patients or any contact between the patients.”
“Our solution ensures complete isolation without sacrificing the quality of medical care, preventing further escalation during this critical time,” added Gilad.
Dr. Galia Barkai, director of tele-medicine services at Sheba said, “Datos’ solution can help us greatly reduce this risk by enabling us to monitor less severe patients outside the hospital …with the telemedicine app enabling us to communicate with them via video whenever necessary.”
Professor Arnon Afek, deputy director-general of the Sheba Medical Center and the director of Sheba’s General Hospital said: “We are using some of the world’s most sophisticated high-tech tele-medicine applications taken from our startup ecosystem at Sheba and Israel, using sensors, robots, hand-held devices in order to minimize exposure to our medical staff. The goal is to make our returning citizens feel comfortable in an environment where they will know that all of their needs will be taken care of.”
Professor Afek said the hospital will be doing its utmost “to minimize and eliminate the danger to the public by isolating the returning Israeli citizens,” and is had been preparing for a potential outbreak in the country.