BOSTON—In early March, Biofourmis Inc. announced that its technology is being used in a remote monitoring and disease surveillance program in Hong Kong for patients with diagnosed or suspected novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), and could find its way into clinical trial work on the disease as well. The program, administered by The University of Hong Kong, also includes Hong Kong-based Harmony Medical Inc., Biofourmis’ joint venture partner for the China region.
Diagnosed and potentially infected COVID-19 patients are being monitored with Biofourmis’ Biovitals Sentinel platform, a solution that the company reportedly built in under two weeks specifically for this initiative. Biofourmis customized its FDA-cleared artificial intelligence (AI)-powered Biovitals Analytics platform to create Biovitals Sentinel. Biovitals Sentinel’s 24/7 remote monitoring technology and analytics are providing clinicians in the COVID-19 program with clinical decision support for early identification of any physiological changes that could indicate deterioration, and to enable earlier interventions for better outcomes.
“The goal of this program is to leverage Biovitals Sentinel to remotely monitor patients and identify COVID-19-related physiological biomarkers that indicate deterioration in patients,” said Dr. David Chung Wah Siu, of the Department of Medicine at The University of Hong Kong. “We hope our combined efforts also will rapidly lead to a better epidemiological understanding of COVID-19 so we can improve the outcomes of our citizens—as well as the global community—as more people become infected.”
Patients with COVID-19 commonly exhibit symptoms like fever, cough and shortness of breath. All of this can be closely monitored through related physiological parameters via Biofourmis’ biosensor Everion. This biosensor can be worn on the arm by patients quarantined in their homes or in clinical settings. Clinicians and researchers are still learning how this strain of the coronavirus affects the body, and the research will help elucidate the disease.
Everion has several medical-grade sensors, including optical, temperature, electrodermal, accelerometer and barometer to measure body temperature and numerous other biomarkers. The biosensor can be comfortably worn 24 hours a day for several days.
Biovitals Analytics will derive more than 20 physiological signals from the sensor data, including temperature, heart rate, blood pulse wave, heart rate variability, respiration rate, inter-beat-interval and others. These signals will then be fed through advanced AI and machine-learning techniques, in order to flag physiological changes that could indicate disease progression.
“The sooner these biomarkers associated with COVID-19 deterioration are identified, the sooner healthcare providers can intervene and prevent a serious medical issue. We currently know the common symptoms, but we are still learning how this strain of the coronavirus affects the body. This program will be a key step in achieving this important goal,” added Kuldeep Singh Rajput, CEO of Biofourmis. “When a pandemic such as COVID-19 spreads and so much is unknown, every second counts. The Biovitals Sentinel solution is scalable and ready to be deployed in any country or region that wants to engage in similar disease monitoring or for patient care delivery. We look forward to helping any other academic medical centers, government agencies or other entities that would be interested in a similar partnership.”
But what is just as important as disease surveillance applications for the technology is the potential for remote handling of clinical trials, notes Rajput, who looks forward to seeing the technology potentially find its way into trials working to develop new treatments and vaccines for COVID-19.
The Biovitals Sentinel solution includes a smartphone app to collect qualitative data reported by patients as they respond to AI-generated “smart nuggets.” Treating physicians can use the Biovitals Sentinel clinician-facing web dashboard to observe and to be alerted to any significant physiological changes and adverse events, so they can intervene when necessary.
“With this special partnership with The University of Hong Kong and its leading experts in the field, we are tackling the coronavirus in a rapid and an unprecedented fashion, which could potentially save lives,” concluded Dr. Raymond Tong, CEO of Harmony Medical.
Biofourmis is in conversations with government agencies and other potential partners in various regions about applying its technology to help even more patients, and to learn more about COVID-19 so that it can be treated more effectively.
The University of Hong Kong has also recently announced that the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine of the University of Hong Kong (HKUMed) developed rapid nucleic acid amplification tests to detect COVID-19 in patients. The tests are being used by public healthcare laboratories in more than 40 countries and territories.
These tests were developed by Dr. Daniel Chu Ka-wing, Prof. Leo Poon Lit-man and Prof. Malik Peiris from the Division of Public Health Laboratory Sciences in HKUMed’s School of Public Health in January. The reference materials and reagents have been freely provided to overseas laboratories, so that they can prepare for this epidemic and identify COVID-19 patients early.