In addition to diagnosing disease, another important medical problem is prognosis - how a disease can be expected to develop (worsen or improve), and how soon. With the coronavirus, prognosis can show us which patients should be left at home, which sent to hospitals, and which should be attached to respirators. The prognosis depends on other things besides a patient's symptoms.
MeMed Diagnostics is known mostly for developing devices and tests that can rapidly distinguish between certain bacteria and viruses, based on the immune system's response, mainly in order to prevent unnecessary use of antibiotics. The company is now developing another test for early detection of viruses (including coronavirus) and predicting deterioration in the patient's situation. According to MeMed, development and application of the devices can be very quick.
"MeMed did not wait for this epidemic in order to focus on virus detection," says cofounder and CEO Dr. Eran Eden. "We are in a very unique place in this context, with projects that have been running a long time with a number of partners, including the US army, and data that we have accumulated over many years. Obviously, no one expected it to come with such force and so quickly, but as far as the ideas themselves and the technology are concerned, we're aren't entering the field now; we're using capabilities that we have developed over many years."
MeMed's technology uses the immune system to diagnose diseases in the human body. MeMed cofounder, chairman, and CTO Dr. Kfir Oved says, "In the past decade, we have developed capabilities for detecting an increase or a decrease in the level of molecules relating to the immune system. Through algorithms that we have developed, we can detect whether the body is under attack by a bacterial or viral disease. We have a device that has already received marketing approval that does this within two hours, and technology in the approval process that can do it in 15 minutes. We asked ourselves - 'What other questions can the immune system answer?'
"We began with cooperation with other entities, and considered several questions, for example whether it is possible to develop a test to track an immunological signature in any case in which the immune system is combating a virus. Our real rationale was that in a situation in which a new virus strain appears, such a system can make it possible to detect the virus before a special PCR test is developed for it. Meanwhile, there are already many PCR tests for the Sars-COV2 virus that causes COVID-19 disease, but we think that we may be able to detect the body's war against the infection even before there are any symptoms, and potentially, earlier than the existing tests."
The other calculation that the company believes that it can do is to predict whether the disease will worsen. In addition to sorting the patients into who stays at home, who gets treatment, and who is put on a respirator, it is also possible to begin preventative treatment as soon as a suitable antiviral treatment is available for the disease. Such drugs are liable to have side effects preventing their use with all patients, or are liable to be in short supply, so the trial is important. "We're cooperating right now with a number of centers around the world in order to obtain unique information about patients from different countries and to devise an algorithm, after which we can test our predictive capability specifically for COVID-19 patients," Oved explains.
MeMed believes that it is very likely that it will succeed in this task during the current wave of the disease. "Over the years, we examined the Sars disease and MERS, and this virus resembles them in the immune system response even more than the symptoms are similar. This will help us if Sars-COV2 suddenly develops a mutation that PCR can't detect, while we'll be able to detect that the body is fighting some virus. It will also be effective in the coming epidemics."
"Globes": The coming epidemics? You expect more of them soon?
Oved: "Yes. Maybe not with the same force, but I assume that in the next decade, there will be two or so more."
MeMed is currently in touch with a number of health agencies in Israel and overseas in order to install the new technology. As with other medical companies, the difficult situation is creating an opportunity for a hasty pilot and quick installation for this technology in several months, instead of a number of years. This activity depends on obtaining additional medical information for the purpose of validating the system, but the company believes that it will be able to do this within a fairly short time.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on March 29, 2020
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