COVID-19 detection to be sped up with new Amazon initiative

July 22, 2021
COVID-19 detection to be sped up with new Amazon initiative

To expedite disease testing during the COVID-19 pandemic tech giant Amazon has launched the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Diagnostic Development Initiative, which is expected to accelerate diagnostics research and development worldwide through the many cloud computing solutions provided, particularly in relation to infectious disease management.

The virus responsible for the current pandemic is continuing to mutate and spread, threatening families, businesses, and communities in various parts of the world. Transformative and effective innovations will therefore be crucial to disease diagnosis and, according to AWS, will ultimately determine a country’s ability to handle future outbreaks.

Read also: Antibodies against COVID-19 vary with vaccination vs natural infection

The AWS online platform has committed US$20 million to drive diagnostic innovations that have “an immediate impact on COVID-19 detection.” It has so far helped 87 organisations in 17 countries – AWS has lent US$8 million to support a range of diagnostic projects from startups, nonprofits, research institutions, and businesses, such as molecular tests for antibodies, antigens, and nucleic acids; diagnostic imaging; wearables; and data analytics tools that use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to detect the virus.

Notable projects powered by the AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative include:

The Medo Lung solution by Singaporean AI healthcare startup Medo, where a quick ultrasound scan of the lung reviewed by an AI algorithm will detect whether a patient has normal lung function or is suffering from unknown complications which may lead to many of the severe complications associated with COVID-19. Apart from preserving hospital resources the Medo Lung solution would also eliminate the need for high-risk patients, particularly the elderly, to leave their homes and visit a doctor unless absolutely necessary.

“AI and machine learning are helping us to democratise ultrasound self-diagnosis with the help of AWS. The cloud has allowed us to greatly improve patient outcomes, including in remote areas that would not otherwise have the infrastructure needed to perform or manage such patients. Scanning an organ takes just a few seconds and our algorithm provides reliable results in less than a minute, making access to medical imaging and early reliable diagnosis a reality for all,” saidDr. Jeevesh Kapur, Radiologist and Co-Founder, Medo.

Indian startup Oncophenomics has developed a two-step comprehensive saliva-based COVID-19 diagnostics solution that is able to test patients on site in minutes (self-administered test; no need for swabs, or requiring the support of a phlebotomist or lab technician). The positive samples are shipped to a centralised laboratory to accurately diagnose COVID-19 virus variants using a unique approach to sequence the complete viral RNA within hours.

The sequencing data will be analysed on the AWS Cloud using Oncophenomics’ proprietary bioinformatics pipelines and allows the startup to compare every patient sample against a repository of more than one million COVID-19 virus genomes via a global influenza database –  this platform can be used to effectively identify the individuals infected with COVID-19 virus variants; governments, public health initiatives, laboratory and healthcare professionals can also plan appropriate interventions to prevent the further spread of the virus in the community.

A smartwatch-based early detection system developed by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine’s Healthcare Innovation Lab, leverages AWS support to correctly flag signs of a potential COVID-19 infection. The app is powered by an algorithm that detects changes in an individual’s resting heart rate and step count.

AWS plans to distribute the remaining US$12 million this year, expanding the initiative’s scope to cover early disease detection at the individual and at the community level; prognosis to better understand disease trajectory; and public health genomics to bolster viral genome sequencing worldwide.

The above article is attributed to Peter Moore, Regional Managing Director, Asia Pacific and Japan Public Sector, Amazon Web Service.

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