Two Israeli startups and an Israeli university are ramping up activities geared to battling the current coronavirus epidemic and future epidemics.

Sonovia is focused on protection, while MeMed and Bar Ilan University are working towards very early diagnosis.

On January 28, ISRAEL21c reported that Sonovia and another Israeli company, Argaman Technologies, are racing to get their novel antimicrobial technologies to China and the worldwide healthcare community.

Now, Sonovia has sent “many meters” of its antimicrobial polyester-cotton fabric to be tested in China for effectiveness against coronavirus, which is now called covid-19. Results should be ready in about 10 days, says cofounder Shay Herchcovici.

He says the technology came to the attention of a Chinese government-owned company from articles including ISRAEL21c’s.

These textiles could be made into washable facemasks, but also other protective garments and even hospital linens.

In hospital tests against various bacteria and fungi, Sonovia’s zinc oxide-impregnated material maintained a lower level of microbial growth in comparison with standard hospital textiles.

In addition to the interest from China, a chemical company in Singapore wants to try using Sonovia’s sonic embedding technology to create fabrics that could protect people from coronavirus or other viruses, and speed recovery of patients already infected, Herchcovici tells ISRAEL21c.

MeMed: Detecting people who are infected?

Approaching the epidemic from a different angle, Israeli startup MeMed aims eventually to help officials detect people harboring the virus before any symptoms appear.

This is one of the most problematic elements of the current covid-19 outbreak, as people appear to be contagious even before they show symptoms of the disease.

MeMed’s first product, ImmunoXpert, is already being used in the European Union, Switzerland and Israel to distinguish within two hours whether an illness is viral or bacterial.

Using a blood sample, ImmunoXpert takes a “snapshot” of the patient’s immune system. Algorithms and sensors monitor the molecules to determine whether they’re fighting bacteria or a virus, anywhere in the body.

“The problem is that when you’re sick you don’t know whether it’s a bacterial infection to treat with antibiotics or a virus to ‘treat’ with chicken soup. They’re often clinically indistinguishable,” said MeMed CEO Eran Eden at the OurCrowd Global Investor Summit last week in Jerusalem.

“This gives rise to one of the biggest healthcare challenges of our time: antibiotics overuse and the rise of resistant strains of bacteria,” he said.

For epidemics such as coronavirus, Eden said MeMed is working with collaborators around the globe to see whether “some derivatives of this technology” could detect infectious patients in the pre-symptomatic stage.

“We have some preliminary data – still a work in progress – that one could potentially monitor the immune response and tell if somebody will be sick before he feels sick,” he said.

Reducing time to diagnosis

On Sunday, Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan announced that a new technology developed by one of its professors could reduce the diagnostic time of coronavirus to just 15 minutes.

Currently it can take two days to get test results on the virus. This is a long, inefficient wait and in China, many people have died while waiting for the results, while others run the risk of spreading the contagion.

The new technology, developed by Dr. Amos Danielli of the Alexander Kofkin Faculty of Engineering, uses a combination of optics and magnetic particles to rapidly test 100 saliva samples of patients potentially infected with the virus and reduce the diagnostic time to 15 minutes.

The technology has already been proven to reduce the diagnostic time of Zika virus and is currently being used in the Ministry of Health’s central virology laboratory at Sheba Medical Center.

Danielli’s lab has developed a technology for sensitive detection of virus-specific RNA sequences by attaching the virus’ RNA to a fluorescent molecule that emits light when illuminated by a laser beam. At very low concentrations of RNA, the signal emitted is so low that existing devices cannot detect it.

“If we think of the saliva of a corona patient filling an entire room, then this laser beam can be compared to the size of a fist and at low concentrations of virus RNA, there might be only two to three fluorescent molecules within that fist,” explains Danielli.

Adding magnetic particles to the solution enables them to adhere to the fluorescent molecules. This enables a greater concentration of fluorescent molecules and a much more accurate measurement.

Danielli is now searching for an investor to accelerate the development of the coronavirus kit, so it can be rapidly introduced in hospitals.

His technology is also being used by Israeli-US company MagBiosense to develop a device the size of a home coffee machine for rapid diagnosis at the point of care.