Duke designs portable isolation chamber for COVID-19
Image from Duke University
Engineering students and professors at Duke University have been pitching in to help the fight against COVID-19. They have designed a portable isolation chamber to protect medical workers who treat patients with the disease. The chamber, called COVIAGE, is a tent that covers a hospital bed and uses a negative-pressure HVAC system to contain the virus by filtering the air that exits the tent.
The device is light and portable, making it easier to move patients within the hospital. The tents are also designed to be used in large numbers. The engineering team worked with members of the nursing faculty to perfect the prototype. Next, the team plans to apply for emergency-use authorization from the FDA, which will allow them to deploy it at Duke and eventually roll it out to other hospitals.
One student, Max Sondland, had to give up his senior robotics project when the shutdown came along. But he hasn’t lost his enthusiasm for the engineering prowess he learned at Duke. “Some of the best entrepreneurs were engineers who saw something they could build,” he said. “It was eye-opening to see that combination of business, entrepreneurship, and startup culture with engineering.”
AI platform helps retailers ensure safe social distancing
As customers are beginning to return to reopening stores, retailers are taking steps to ensure that the shopping experience is a safe one. Ann Arbor tech firm Voxel51 offers the tools to help them develop solutions that can monitor “in-store traffic” to maintain social distancing. Voxel51’s physical distancing index (PDI) combines video feeds and computer vision modeling to show customer activity in specific spots over time.
Voxel51’s platform may help consumers as well as retailers by showing them when a store is likely to be most crowded, based on historical data. The information could help shoppers plan their visits for the least busy times. “That would be a way for people to feel more comfortable going to the store,” said Voxel51 co-founder and CEO Jason Corso.
Auto transport company goes touchless
Super Dispatch, a KC-based car shipping company, has launched Touchless Delivery, a new feature for its free app to help protect drivers from contracting COVID-19. The drivers are considered essential workers, but their job requires a lot of contact with customers. Touchless Delivery enables them to handle pickup and delivery signatures and generate bills of lading digitally, contact-free.
Drivers take a picture of the vehicles they’ve delivered and hit Touchless Signature in the app, which sends a message to the recipient, who can then sign for the delivery on their own mobile phone.
Super Dispatch CEO Bek Abdullayev says that as the automotive industry moves toward online sales, the auto transport industry needs to find digital solutions as well. “(Touchless Delivery) allows us to stay true to our nature as a disrupter,” he told the Kansas City Business Journal. “And I think it just opens a lot more people's eyes to the possibilities that technology can bring to an industry, to employees and to companies."
ReadySet Surgical, headquartered in Cincinnati, offers a system to help hospitals control their vendor-managed supply chains. Its cloud-based platform tracks inventory for things like durable medical equipment and surgical implants. In March, it received $5.5 million in Series A funding, thanks to lead investor JumpStart, along with CincyTech, Queen City Angels, and others. But then the pandemic put elective surgeries on hold, and the company had to change course.
The new direction? Ventilators. ReadySet is now helping healthcare organizations manage their “ventilator fleets.”
ReadySet founder and CEO Keerthi Kanubaddi explained why that’s become so important. “With so many companies creating ventilators right now, they don’t all come with instructions for use and set up. That’s what our technology does. It allows hospital systems to create an asset tag for any ventilator.” Those asset tags provide information for setup, as well as maintenance and disinfection cycles and vent management.
And because many healthcare organizations can’t afford new tracking tech, ReadySet is providing its software for free.
The technology uses synthetic DNA to bind with a human protein called “nucleolin.” That technique takes away COVID-19’s ability to replicate itself inside the body, as early research indicates. Researchers at UofL’s Center for Predictive Medicine and Regional Biocontainment Laboratory discovered that the technology is effective against COVID-19 (and theoretically all coronaviruses) after first developing the procedure to fight cancer.
Qualigen, whose main business is the fight against cancer, is also working with the university to develop the tech in the cancer fight. The synthetic DNA, called an “aptimer,” has already been shown to be safe in humans. Perhaps one of Qualigen’s first tasks is to name the technology, which is currently called “AS1411.”
“This has been a true collaborative effort—everyone at UofL has rallied together to take on this big global challenge,” said Paula Bates, who co-discovered the aptimer tech.