Here are 22 brilliant examples of how Irish tech and medtech are joining the global fightback against Covid-19.

Ireland has risen to the battle against Covid-19 with what can only be described as dignity and aplomb. Adherence to social distancing rules by the general public and the stoic and courageous response by frontline workers from shops and banks to the bravery of medical workers in hospitals and nursing homes have all played a part.

But also, when the history books are written about this time in Ireland, the sheer scale of ingenuity and innovation, not to mention clever pivots by businesses must also feature, especially the sheer breadth of digital and medtech innovation to emerge from these shores.

To get a sense of what is happening, a CovidBizMap live on TechIreland indicates that there are more than 100 different projects from PPE and contact tracing to ventilators and vaccination are currently under way across the entire island of Ireland.

CATEGORIES # PROJECTS
PPE 24
Contact Tracing 9
Diagnostics/Testing 9
Portal 8
Infection Control 7
Ventilators/ICU 6
Patient Engagement 5
Vaccination 4
Employee Support 2
Medication 2
Other 11

Here are 21 medtech and digital projects, North and South, that characterise how Irish innovation is shining a light on solving the Covid-19 outbreak:

Aalto Bio Reagents

Aalto Bio Reagents has launched a new protein with the power to fight the Covid-19 on three fronts – diagnosis, vaccines and research.

Its new recombinant SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid protein (code CK 6404) is available for diagnostic test manufacturers, vaccine developers and researchers globally, all of whom are working to stem the current pandemic.

“Patients are currently being screened for the virus by PCR”, said Philip Noone, CEO of Aalto Bio Reagents. “However, there is an important need for serological tests as well to detect all those mild or even asymptomatic cases that may otherwise be missed. Sero-epidemiologic investigations, such as those aimed to better understand transmission characteristics and severity of Covid-19, are also essential. The medical field and diagnostic industry has an unrelenting requirement for access to the most scientifically proven raw materials in outbreak situations like this, where fast diagnosis is required. With our new SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid protein we endeavour to meet this urgent demand.”

Aerogen

Galway-based Aerogen is bringing a lower risk of transmission of patient generated infectious aerosol for healthcare professionals in acute care settings compared to traditional nebulisers. Its Aerogen Solo device has an in-line circuit design so the ventilation circuit does not need to be broken for drug deliveryFounded by John Power as Cerus Medical in 1997, Galway-headquartered Aerogen’s acute care aerosol drug delivery devices are used in 75 countries. Customers include 80pc of hospitals in Ireland and 60pc of the top hospitals in the US. The company plans to create 80 new jobs at its new 27,000 sq ft engineering labs at Galway Business Park. Last year the company announced 50 new jobs after it secured a €30m loan from the European Investment Bank.

Akara Robotics

Trinity College Dublin spinout Akara Robotics is best known for its social robot Stevie which is aimed at supporting seniors and which features on the cover of Time magazine last year.

Last year, the company started to study the sterilisation properties of UV light and since the onset of Covid-19 its robots are being tested for bathing rooms in UV light to help stop the virus.

Akkure

Akkure, an Irish digital health start-up, has launched the ‘COVIDMedBot’, an online personalised risk assessment and guideline tool for use during the COVID-19 pandemic. Akkure is based at NovaUCD, the Centre for New Ventures and Entrepreneurs at University College Dublin. Free to use, the COVIDMedBot provides personalised risk assessment and guidelines, in line with the HSE recommendations and leveraging advice from the WHO and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), regarding the COVID-19 virus. The tool is available online at https://www.akkure4covid.com/ and the assessment can be completed in 90 seconds.

Almac Group

Craigavon-headquartered Almac Group is understood to be involved in 11 separate crucial research projects with several organisations into Covid-19 treatment options.

The company, which provides services to the pharma and biotech sectors, is understood to be working on projects including vaccines and potential treatments for symptoms of the virus.

“We are supporting this urgent research need through a range of services across our business units, including analytical services, peptide development, expedited interactive response technology support and clinical trial manufacturing, packaging and distribution,” the company told The Irish Times recently.

Assay Genie

Assay Genie, a Reagent Genie brand, is preparing to release rapid Covid-19 testing kits that can provide results in 15 minutes. These kits can also potentially act as a clinical weapon against Coronavirus. The tests have been developed with the same technology contained in pregnancy kits and could reduce testing times from four hours down to 15 minutes. Founders Colm Ryan and Sean Mac Feharraigh met at UCD while studying biochemistry.

Battlefield ventilator

3d printer in action.

Following an intensive two-week Galway hackathon a team of engineers and specialists in medical devices have built a prototype emergency ventilator for use in treating critically-ill Covid-19 patients. The Covid Response Team is being supported by a number of multinationals including Boston Scientific and medical experts, in particular anaesthetists. The project has been advanced to the point where the components are being built using 3D-printing technology, which means the design can be delivered anywhere in the world where there are 3D printers.

GMIT

Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology has contributed to fighting the Covid-19 crisis by making personal protective equipment (PPE) masks for medical professionals.

Led by mechanical engineering lecturer Brian de Souza, a team engineered a solution to the shortage of masks by designing, manufacturing and supplying face shields to Galway University Hospital, GP’s surgeries, pharmacies and voluntary care organisations in Clare, Mayo and Galway.

Healthwave

Dark haired young man in navy jacket and white shirt.

Healthwave Picture Conor McCabe Photography.

A digital pharmacy service called Healthwave has developed a Carebot digital assistant that helps indicate if you need to be tested for Covid-19.

Healthwave’s CareBot is a virtual assistant that uses AI and natural language processing to process prescription orders and other health related queries. The CareBot also features an online assessment tool that will indicate whether the user is potentially eligible for COVID-19 testing thereby potentially reducing calls to GPs.

Built by Healthwave founder, pharmacist and coder, Shane O’Sullivan (pictured above), the CareBot was initially created to assist the Healthwave pharmacy team in managing the increased volume of orders and enquiries due to Covid-19. In its first four days of operation, 80pc of calls and texts to the pharmacy were transitioned through the CareBot, freeing up significant time which allowed pharmacists to talk directly with patients needing urgent care, to manage prescriptions and ensure medication was delivered to patients as quickly as possible.

The new Covid-19 feature could also be implemented in GP surgeries that are looking to prioritise phone callers.

Hibergene

Doctor holding a vial.

Hibergene, a company specialising in rapid and easy to use molecular diagnostics, has secured €1m in funding from the European Union for the creation of a rapid diagnostic test for Covid-19. The company’s “Hg nCoV 19” test project is expected to be capable of delivering test results within 60 minutes. Hibergene, which was founded in 2009 by Brendan Farrell, is working with partners in China, Italy and the UK to deliver the platform.

McCauley Pharmacy

Pharmacist sorting pills.

The McCauley Pharmacy chain, which has 35 branches countrywide, has launched a smartphone app service to facilitate existing customers who wish to order medicines for home delivery. It will also allow doctors and new customers upload prescriptions directly to pharmacists. The app can be downloaded from the various app stores or the McAuley website. The service will operate alongside a telephone ordering and delivery system in to help people to “stay at home” to protect themselves and others and to slow the spread of Covid-19.

Medtronic

In recent weeks we reported how Medtronic has doubled its capacity to manufacture and supply ventilators, doubling its headcount to 500 people. It has since emerged that the company is to open source the design specifications of one of its ventilators to boost treatment of Covid-19 cases. Medtronic plans to share details for its Puritan Bennett 560 (PB 560) machine in line with guidance from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Software code and other information would also soon be available, the company said. Ventilators are critical in the fight against Covid-19.

Novaerus

DCU Innovation Campus company Novaerus’s plasma technology is being deployed to purify air for patients and medical staff.

Independent laboratory testing has proven Novaerus’s ultra-low-energy plasma technology highly effective against MS2 Bacteriophage, a commonly used surrogate for SARS-CoV, reducing the airborne load by 99.99pc.

Novaerus units operate continually, are safe around the most vulnerable patients, and allow medical facilities to close the infection control loop: hands, surfaces, and air.

Nuahealth

Doctor working at computer.

The Nuaheath service has been endorsed by the HSE following consultation with the Department of Health and is aimed at slowing the spread of Covid-19.

The virtual clinic service has been developed by NuaHealth and fast-tracked through the app stores, including iOS (iPhone and iPad) and Android (smartphones and tablets). The NuaHealth service can be used on any laptop or desktop computer with a camera, speaker and microphone.

The innovative technology, developed by NuaHealth, will allow doctors and clinicians to provide a virtual clinic and offer online consultations to their patients via smartphone, tablet and computer. Members of the public who believe they have Covid-19/Coronavirus symptoms will be able to see their GP from the comfort of their home.

O’Neill’s

Medical scrubs hanging up.

Strabane-headquarters sportswear company O’Neills has pivoted to manufacturing scrubs for the Health and Social Care Trusts in Northern Ireland. The company has begun manufacturing the scrubs at its Walkinstown site in Dublin where the fabric will initially be dyed and treated to ensure it has anti-viral properties.

Open Source Ventillator Project

Open Source Ventilator (OSV) Ireland was initiated by the Covid-19 global pandemic as a result of a community discussion within a Facebook group called Open Source Covid-19 Medical Supplies (OSCMS). This group rapidly grew and currently is targeting the development of a number of different Covid-19 related medical supplies.

OSV Ireland was formed by Colin Keogh, Conall Laverty andDavid Pollard, with the goal of building a focused team in Ireland to begin development of a Field Emergency Ventilator (FEV) in partnership with the Irish Health Service.

Randox

Antrim-based health diagnostics company Randox has developed a rapid test for Covid-19 and has begun shipping test kits to China.

The test, which was developed using Randox’s proprietary biochip array technology, identifies Covid-19 and differentiates it from nine other respiratory infections. Additionally, the technology can process up to 324 patient samples and can generate 3,240 reportable results over an eight-hour period.

SureWash

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Trinity College Dublin spin-out SureWash has launched a hand-washing app to ensure health professionals, workers and the general public are correctly washing their hands to the World Health Organisation (WHO) standards. SureWash’s interactive software system uses augmented reality and is a scientifically validated training technology for the WHO hand hygiene protocol. The company is a founder member of WHO Private Organisations for Patient Safety (POPS) which helps the WHO promote safe hand hygiene in Healthcare. The app can be downloaded for iOS via the Apple Store and for Android via Google Play.

Taoglas

Wexford-headquartered company Taoglas unveiled a technology that will help venues to manage crowd sizes and stick to social distancing regulations. The company, a specialist in antennae for the internet of things, has launched its Crowd Insights platform which uses Wi-Fi to measure, monitor, predict, alert and notify indoor and outdoor venues about social distance limit breaches in real-time.

Technopath

medical waste container.

Tipperary company Technopath has created a technology that breaks down medical waste resulting from lab testing. The company’s Envetec 200 system is being used by Northwell, New York’s largest healthcare provider, to shred and disinfect infectious waste using a process that kills the Coronavirus that causes Covid-19 as well as other bacteria, spores and pathogens.

Trinity Biotech

medical test kit on a purple background.

Irish medical diagnostic company Trinity Biotech is understood to be close to completing a test to quickly detect Covid-19, and developing a second test that will indicate who has immunity.

Trinity Biotech develops, manufactures and markets diagnostic systems for the point-of-care and clinical laboratory segments of the diagnostic market. Its products are sold in more than 110 countries, and it employs more than 500 people.

Wellola

Sonia Neary, founder of Wellola

The HSE recently teamed up with Irish portal firm Wellola to launch of a new secure communication portal for GPs and primary care providers. HSE Covid19 Portal is an easy to use, digital tool which is designed to optimise clinician and patient safety. Based on existing technology already developed and tested by Wellola, the HSE-specific portal was created in just four days, after Wellola was initially contacted by the HSE as the crisis emerged in Ireland. Wellola is an Irish-owned patient portal firm which has been primarily focused on the mental healthcare market in Ireland and the UK. After getting the call from the HSE it developed a specific portal responding to the urgent need to support GPs, primary care providers and patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Written by John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 15 April, 2020

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