In collaboration with Newsight Imaging, Sheba Medical Center is piloting a “less-than-one-second” portable coronavirus testing technology.
Sheba Medical Center’s IRB Ethics (“Helsinki”) Committee recently granted approval to Newsight Imaging, a start-up based in Ness Ziona, to conduct a pilot program for COVID-19 detection tests that take less than a second to deliver results. The spectral testing device is mobile and cost-effective.
Newsight’s device is about the size of a computer mouse and can identify and classify evidence of a virus in the body immediately. It tests fluid samples, either blood serum or saliva, with spectroscopy. This method involves shining a broadband light source into the sample, which is inserted into a disposable test cuvette.
“We collect the spectral signature after the light is absorbed in the sample, and we can then analyze the its contents,” explained Eli Assoolin, CEO of Newsight, noting that spectral analysis technology has already been used for identifying certain human diseases and abnormalities.
On one side of the sample, there is the source of light, and on the other side is the sensor chip – a fast, sensitive camera that can discern different wavelengths. The light that returns from the sample is thereby analyzed to determine its wavelength content. Presently, Sheba and Newsight are initiating use of spectral testing for COVID-19.
“We are really excited that we are doing something like this – not just from a business standpoint, but because we feel we are doing something for humanity,” said Assoolin.
“Newsight is yet another outstanding example of how Sheba’s ARC Innovation Center and the Israeli startup ecosystem are working in tandem to reinvent existing technology to battle the scourge of COVID-19,” said Dr. Eyal Zimlichman, Chief Innovation Officer at Sheba.
Doctors at Sheba’s Infectious and Tropical Diseases Department are already working with Newsight, and initial studies to determine feasibility have shown success. “We proved that we can differentiate between people who have contracted the virus and those who have not,” Assoolin said.
The results of one study demonstrated that the testing device can separate between alpha-coronaviruses (Alpha-CoV) and beta-coronaviruses (Beta-CoV) with almost 100% accuracy. Other studies performed on people infected with Dengue virus were also found to be highly accurate.
Newsight was founded four years ago, and its machine-vision products have been integrated into dozens of different devices in the automotive, robotics and advanced industrial manufacturing fields. While hyperspectral cameras are already used in hospitals, the market is limited due to the high cost of these devices, which can range from $50,000 to over $1 million. However, Newsight has now taken this technology and applied it in a cost-effective silicon chip that can be used at any type of care facility, even in a private home.
Additionally, the data set generated by the silicon chip can be applied to two models: one that detects infected people and one that identifies people without the virus. The chip is therefore ready for artificial intelligence. According to Assoolin, that means “if you take an anonymous sample, the algorithm will determine which model is a better fit.”
At present, ARC@Sheba and Newsight intend to establish a joint incubator company. Then, they will pursue US FDA approval.
“We will get FDA approval and commercialize as fast as possible,” Assoolin said. “But, I imagine many on the market will be willing to test the solution even before that happens.”
In fact, an artificial intelligence company in Hong Kong has already purchased a license from Newsight to develop devices to detect viruses and bacteria.