An Israeli delegation of researchers that traveled to India last week to evaluate four cutting-edge coronavirus testing technologies has returned to Israel “optimistic” about developing rapid COVID-19 testing kits with results potentially “in tens of seconds.”
The delegation completed its mission on Wednesday and will return to Israel in the coming days with more than 20,000 samples collected from COVID-19 patients, the Defense Ministry said in a statement. The group of officials, scientists, and researchers took off for India last week, led by the Directorate of Defense Research and Development (DDR&D) in the Israeli Defense Ministry and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“We are in the midst of processing and analyzing the data that we have collected, and will continue this process upon our arrival to Israel.” said Lt. Col. Yaniv Meirman, head of the delegation on behalf of the DDR&D. “We are optimistic and hopeful that in the near future we will put in place a system for the rapid diagnosis of the coronavirus, which will make it possible to further open the Israeli economy, ‘open’ the skies and reduce the damage caused by the pandemic.”
The rapid testing kits are based on Israeli technology and Israeli-Indian scientific research and will potentially deliver simple methods and quick results. The first stages of testing the four technologies were done in Israel, NoCamels reported. This included a voice-based test that identifies changes in the respiratory system; a breathalyzer test that uses terahertz waves to detect the virus; a polyamino acids test that helps detect virus proteins in a saliva sample; and an isothermal test to detect the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen that causes coronavirus in a heated up saliva sample.
Quick real-time testing could help get the economy back on its feet. “The goal is to bring the technological capability to perform rapid corona[virus] tests within tens of seconds,” said Col. Asaf Meller, Israel’s Defense Attache to India.
To collect the 20,000 samples, the Israeli delegation set up six drive-in sites in the city of Delhi for sampling purposes, and two labs for data processing using technology brought from Israel, the Defense Ministry said.
The Indian government assigned hundreds of local professionals to collect the samples (50-100 per site), from thousands of volunteers via non-invasive means. Four types of samples were collected from each patient: sound, saliva, breath, and a swab test.
The samples were inserted to systems based on artificial intelligence, enabling the DDR&D personnel and representatives of Israeli industries to begin processing and analyzing the data. This procedure will continue upon the return of the delegation to Israel.
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The delegation consisted of 20 individuals from the Ministries of Defense, Health and Foreign Affairs as well as engineers and other professionals from the companies involved in the development of the various diagnostic technologies.
On the medical side, the delegation was led by Prof. Nati Keller, an infectious diseases specialist from the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer Hospital, and Itai Gordon, Head of the Innovation Department at Health Ministry.
India’s chief scientist, K Vijay Raghavan, headed the Indian side of the project.
India is a partner to Israel in scientific research and home to over 1.4 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the Corona Tracker. The researchers hoped to carry out tens of thousands of tests of each of the four advanced technologies to determine their efficacy in real-time.
The joint operation was supervised by joint Israeli-Indian teams at all sites, ensuring that everyone complies with predetermined guidelines and regulation.
“We came to India to enrich Israeli diagnostic technologies and while there, we found real partners – partners who were fully committed to the success of the mission,” said Meirman.