In the summer, Laakso Health Station in Helsinki will begin a trial to research whether the coronavirus can be detected in a patient’s exhaled air. If functional, the breath test may be the world’s quickest and probably the most affordable coronavirus test. The test result is delivered in two minutes, and one test costs two euros.
The breath test is being researched by the Finnish company Deep Sensing Algorithms Ltd in co-operation with the City of Helsinki’s innovation company Forum Virium and the City’s Social Services and Health Care Division. The City provides Laakso Health Station for use as a test platform, while the actual research is conducted by Deep Sensing Algorithms. In Laakso, the company is researching whether the breath test can be used for a reliable coronavirus diagnosis.
Since the spring of 2020, Forum Virium Helsinki and Deep Sensing Algorithms Ltd have been co-developing the technology in the Co-created Health and Wellbeing project funded by the Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council.
“We are carrying out innovative co-operation with businesses to resolve the coronavirus crisis, and we are helping businesses to use the City as a development platform. We are utilising artificial intelligence and digitalisation, as is par for the course in the most functional city in the world,” says Forum Virium Helsinki’s Managing Director Mika Malin.
AI identifies the coronavirus in exhaled air
The coronavirus test taken from exhaled air measures the customer’s exhalation for 30 seconds. The customer blows into the analyser 2–4 times during that time. The nanosensors of the analyser measure and observe volatile organic compounds, which are biomarkers generated by human metabolism, in the exhaled air. Identifying the biomarkers generated by different diseases is the key to analysing exhaled air.
The analyser communicates with a cloud-based machine-learning AI-based diagnosis algorithm, and the algorithm submits information about the diagnosis. The cycle time for one test subject is two minutes. In addition to its speed, the test based on the new technology is also affordable. The price of one test is two euros.
The customer is asked for consent to the breath test. Every person taking the test will also undergo a conventional throat swab test, and taking part in the breath test research is voluntary.
Test research to be expanded outside Finland
Control group research on the breath test will first start in Helsinki and Kazakhstan, and later in the summer the research will be expanded to the Netherlands and USA. The analyser developed by the Finnish company is about to enter the manufacturing stage, and the first devices will be ready for delivery in August. According to the company, customers have already reserved the first batch.
The same analysers can potentially be used in the future for diagnosing other diseases from exhaled air, as the development of parallel algorithms begins. According to Deep Sensing Algorithms, at least lung cancer and intestinal cancers can potentially be screened using the technology in question. Deep Sensing Algorithms’ Managing Director Pekka Rissanen believes that if the research proves the breath test to be functional, the device will make it possible to test large groups of people in a short time.
“For example, think about testing the entire population of Finland in ten days. The testing costs would be negligible compared to those of large-scale restriction measures,” Rissanen says.
The coronavirus pandemic is dying down in Europe, but the virus is currently spreading rapidly in areas such as South America. If the breath test is proven functional by the research, there may be global demand for it.
The Co-created Health and Wellbeing project funded by the Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council facilitates the implementation of new and innovative products and services related to well-being and health. In Helsinki, the practical implementation of the project is coordinated by Forum Virium Helsinki, and the trials will be conducted in collaboration with the City of Helsinki’s Social Services and Health Care Division. Other project partners are Tampere University Hospital Tays, the City of Tampere, the City of Vantaa, the City of Oulu, the University of Oulu and Laurea University of Applied Sciences. Read more about the project here.
Inquieries concerning the breath test: Deep Sensing Algorithms Oy
Photo: Deep Sensing Algorithms
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