Pfizer forks out almost $120m for app that detects Covid from a cough
Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has spent nearly $120 million on a mobile phone app that can recognise Covid-19 by analysing the sound of a cough.
The app, created by Australian digital healthcare startup ResApp, started training its algorithm to detect the sound of a Covid-19 cough at the beginning of the pandemic and had its first positive trial earlier this year.
ResApp has been in development for diagnosing general respiratory illnesses for almost a decade and was initially built and trained to diagnose pneumonia. By 2019 it had proven to effectively distinguish asthma, bronchiolitis, and croup.
Since then, the team pivoted towards preparing the app to recognise Covid, and said that the first trial early in 2022 showed good results.
The statistics show that 92% of positive Covid cases were accurately depicted from the app, just from the sound of a cough.
It also recorded 80% accuracy, which means two out of every 10 people received false positive results.
Pfizer initially offered about $65m for the technology a few months ago, but the deal ultimately went through for almost double at $116m.
“We believe the Covid-19 screening tool is the next step to potentially provide new solutions for consumers that aim to quell the disease,” a Pfizer spokesperson told ABC news. “We look forward to refining the algorithm further and working with regulators around the world to bring this important product to consumers as quickly as possible.”
In September, the head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that the world has “never been in a better position to end the pandemic,” and the US President Joe Biden also said that “the pandemic is over”.
However, the ResApp team said that it hopes the acquisition by Pfizer will help the technology be widely deployed into more remote parts of the world.
Udantha Abeyratne, one of the original developers, said: “I had a big vision to develop scalable, cheap technologies to diagnose pulmonary diseases all over the world – not only in remote sub-Saharan Africa, but even in developed urban cities like New York and Brisbane.”
“I hope they will be able to diagnose killer diseases like pneumonia in very remote communities in Africa and Asia because they don’t have access to sophisticated hospitals.”
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