Partnership develops wearable for COVID-19 early warning

June 22, 2020 //By Rich Pell
Partnership develops wearable for COVID-19 early warning
Human data analytics company Empatica, a spinoff of MIT Media Lab, has announced a partnership with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) – a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services office – to validate an early warning system for COVID-19 and other respiratory infections using its wearable sensors and proprietary algorithm.

The system, named Aura, is completely noninvasive and uses the company's wearable medical smartwatches, software, and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. Aura, says the company, will enable continuous and real-time insight into the likelihood of SARS-CoV-2 infection before symptoms present, and send a warning to the user and their healthcare provider.

Early last year the company and BARDA's Division of Research, Innovation and Ventures (DRIVe) began to develop a digital biomarker that predicts respiratory infections. Preliminary findings, says the company, have been promising, showing a strong correlation between viral shedding and changes in a person's physiology. Now it will be sponsored to run a validation trial specific to early detection of COVID-19.

The aim of the validation trial is to validate the company's algorithm in real-life settings, with the participation of healthcare workers who are exposed to a high viral load while treating hospitalized COVID-19 patients. They will wear the company's E4 medical-grade research wearable wristband for 30 days, during which their physiological data will be reviewed against daily nasopharyngeal (NP) samples and a daily qRT-PCR swab, ensuring the highest ground truth.

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