India and Israel, who had announced the joint development of rapid testing tools for covid-19 in May, seem ready to move on to the next step with Israeli scientists set to arrive in India with breakthrough technologies to help the country cope with its soaring caseload.
A team of 20 from Israel’s Ministry of Heath, Defence and others are to arrive in India in the coming weeks put to test four covid-19 detection technologies that could give early pointers to whether someone is infected by the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen or not.
The four tests include two could give results in minutes from a saliva sample. Another one will help detect if a person has covid-19 by examining a voice sample using Artifical Intelligence. The fourth one uses radio waves to detect whether a person is infected from a breath sample, Dani Gold, head of Israel’s Directorate of Defence Research and Development told reporters by phone. Incidentally, Gold is known in Israel for having invented the Iron Dome anti-missile defence shield system that provides coverage against incoming rockets and missiles.
The covid project is led K VijayRaghavan, principal scientific advisor to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Indian side with Gold heading the Israeli side. The funding for the project is shared between India and Israel. The idea to develop the tests for the covid-19 emanated from one of three phone calls between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi who share a close rapport with each other. India now has 1.2 million cases of covid-19 including almost 30,000 deaths.
On their arrival in New Delhi, the Israeli team is to work from India’s premier All India Institute of Medical Sciences hospital. “The first phase of testing of these technologies was done in Israel. The last stage will now be carried out in India," Ron Malka, Israel’s ambassador to India said.
According to Gold, one of the tests uses polyamino acids and can give results in about 30 minutes. “This will mean you can be tested as you enter an airport, a mall or anywhere and be cleared. Real-time testing would allow the economy to open again," he said.
The third technology uses artificial intelligence (AI) to listen to a person’s voice and determine if someone has covid-19 given that the SARS-CoV2 affects a patient’s lungs and respiratory system.
The fourth test works on the same lines as a breath analyser.
“One would breathe into a tube. We put the tube into a machine which uses terahertz radio frequencies and an algorithm to tell if you have the virus," Gold said.
The Israeli team will also be bringing some other cutting-edge technologies and equipment to help India, including robots and special sanitising equipment.
In his remarks, Malka said India had helped Israel in evacuating thousands of its nationals from the country in the early days of the pandemic’s spread. India had also rushed emergency medical supplies to Israel. The Israeli gesture was partly to thank Indi and to solidify new cooperation between the two countries.
Both countries have been collaborating in research and development, quantum computing, artificial intelligence and robotics.
In May, Israel had reported the successful development of a monoclonal antibody with the potential to “neutralize" the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes covid-19. Israel’s defence ministry said its premier biological laboratory had completed the development phase of the covid-19 antibody but did not share any scientific literature on the subject.