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Tech Companies Partner on Covid-19 Breath Test

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(profivideos, Pixabay)

25 Feb. 2021. A maker of diagnostics that examine exhaled breath and an artificial intelligence chip provider are developing a simple breath test for Covid-19 infections. BrainChip Holdings Ltd. in Aliso Viejo, California says its early findings show data from sensors made by NaNose Medical in Haifa, Israel can be read and interpreted by a BrainChip neural processor to distinguish between exhaled breath samples of people with and without Covid-19 infections.

NaNose Medical is a spin-off enterprise from the nanomaterials lab of Hossam Haick, professor of nanotechnology and materials science at Technion, Israel Institute of Technology. Haick’s lab devices studies technologies for non-invasive medical devices, including volatolomics that includes analysis of volatile organic compounds or VOCs in exhaled breath. Published research from the lab shows the feasibility of VOC analysis for accurately identifying 17 different disease conditions from more than 1,400 subjects with sensors made of gold nanoparticles and carbon nanotubes.

Haick is a co-founder of NaNose Medical that develops sensors that detect disease in human breath, analyzed with artificial intelligence algorithms, for inexpensive, non-invasive, and easy-to-use medical diagnostic devices. NaNose Medical provided data from its nanomaterial sensors for analysis by BrainChip’s lab in Perth, Australia.

Self-contained chips with machine learning algorithms

BrainChip designs computer chips with circuitry for processing by artificial intelligence. The company’s chips are designed to require very little power, making them useful for mobile or hand-held devices. The chips’ circuits also offer self-contained machine learning algorithms to support edge computing, where all processing is performed locally, without uploading data to the cloud. The NaNose sensor data samples are being analyzed by BrainChip’s Akido, a neural processor system-on-a-chip.

Data from the NaNose samples were collected from 130 people with and without Covid-19 infections, for training the Akido neural processor. BrainChip says the trained processor could then accurately detect samples from individuals with Covid-19 infections, as well as samples from healthy people. No further quantitative results are provided. BrainChip says Nanose Medical is collecting samples from three locations worldwide for further analytical tests.

BrainChip cites a study from China published as a medRXiv preprint, or non-peer reviewed, in June 2020 suggesting breath analysis is a more sensitive technique for assessing Covid-19 infections, than even the so-called gold standard reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, or RT-PCR test. The company notes breath analysis is not only faster and easier for self-testing, but does not require collecting mucous or saliva samples, making it safer for clinicians and lab technicians.

The companies say a simple mobile breath analysis test for Covid-19 infections could have a positive impact on public health. ““Using the NaNose Medical artificial nose, and Akida’s artificial brain,” says Orit Marom Albeck, NaNose Medical’s co-founder and CEO in a BrainChip statement, “is a potential breakthrough in accurate, fast, inexpensive, widespread testing with the potential to control outbreaks and reduce this disease’s death toll.”

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