This new blood test predicts which COVID-19 patients will develop severe infection

As the COVID-19 cases continue to shoot up across the globe, scientists are still trying to understand the disease’s behavior to stop it and prevent future outbreaks. 

According to the report, as of mid-August 2020, more than 22M laboratory-confirmed cases have been documented worldwide, with over 770K deaths. To date, numerous possible treatments for COVID-19 have been thrust into the spotlight by public health officials. 

Although it’s public knowledge that the virus develops severe symptoms mostly in patients with comorbidities, weak immune systems, or other underlying conditions, there have been numerous exceptions across the globe. It has been seen that even healthy patients with absolutely no underlying conditions, have developed severe symptoms or even died due to the COVID-19. 

Scoring system for COVID-19 testing

Recently, scientists have developed a scoring system for the first time that can accurately predict which hospitalised patients will develop a severe form of COVID-19. 

The blood test was developed by researchers at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences in Dublin and the US. It is published in The Lancet’s translational research journal EBioMedicine.

Called as the Dublin-Boston score, the measurement enables clinicians to make more informed decisions when identifying patients who may benefit from therapies, such as steroids, and admission to intensive care units. Previously, clinicians didn’t have any sort of COVID-19-specific prognostic scores to refer to for decision making.  

But now, the blood test measurement can accurately predict how severe the infection will be on Day-7 after measuring the patient’s blood for the first four days. The 4-day change in IL-6:IL-10 ratio was chosen to derive the Dublin-Boston score.

How does it work?

According to the researchers, the blood test works by measuring the levels of two molecules that send messages to the body’s immune system and control inflammation. 

One of these molecules, interleukin (IL)-6, is pro-inflammatory, and a different one, called IL-10, is anti-inflammatory. The levels of both are altered in severe COVID-19 patients. 

Depending on the changes in the ratio of these two molecules over time, researchers have developed a scoring system where each 1-point increase was associated with 5.6 times increased odds for a more severe outcome.

“The Dublin-Boston score is easily calculated and can be applied to all hospitalised Covid-19 patients,” says RCSI Professor of Medicine Gerry McElvaney, the study’s senior author and a consultant in Beaumont Hospital. 

The Dublin-Boston score uses the ratio of IL-6 to IL-10 because it significantly outperformed measuring the change in IL-6 alone. Despite high levels in the blood, using only IL-6 measurements as a COVID-19 prognostic tool is hindered by several factors. IL-6 levels within the same patient vary over any given day, and the magnitude of the IL-6 response to infection varies between different patients. 

Talking about the limitations, researchers say, “This study has inherent limitations. While the number of patients is more than three-fold larger than prior similar studies in medically ill patients, the sample size is still small, and lacks a replication cohort.”

“More informed prognosis could help determine when to escalate or de-escalate care, a key component of the efficient allocation of resources during the current pandemic. The score may also have a role in evaluating whether new therapies designed to decrease inflammation in COVID-19 provide benefit,” he adds.

The research was funded by the Elaine Galwey Research Fellowship, American Thoracic Society, National Institutes of Health, and the Parker B Francis Research Opportunity Award.

Main image credits: Jarun Ontakrai/ Shutterstock

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The program involves arming discharged patients with TytoCare home health devices, which they and their caregivers use to electronically transmit timely health status information. Providers monitor patients’ vital signs and can quickly address problems or triage patients who need higher levels of care.

Read more here.

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OurCrowd Blog Raises $1.5M to Offer Healthcare and Financial Planning Solutions for Medicare Patients

“My younger brother was in a car accident and didn’t have health insurance. The experience of seeing the financial impact of insurance on individuals is at the heart of what we do. For retirees, health care costs are their second-largest expense during retirement and the best way to control those costs is getting the right insurance.” The healthcare system has become increasingly complex for retirees and Trusty brings much-needed transparency for a financially vulnerable population. CEO and Cofounder Jo Schneier shares more about this mission-driven benefits management platform that empowers brokers and financial advisors to deliver prudent service to their elderly clients.

Tech startups weekly: AI sex therapy, a chip for diabetes patients, next-gen solar PV panels

The European tech startup world has started sizzling with activities after the lockdown that lasted several weeks. As soon as businesses bounced back adapting to the new normal set by the COVID-19 pandemic, several tech startups have started securing investments that will be channeled towards their growth and expansion. This activity makes it evident that the investors are still hoping to see development and growth despite the tough times.

European tech startups weekly

Here, we have listed a roundup of the interesting events that happened in the European tech startup arena this week.

Picture credits: Blueheart

London startup wants to ease access to sex therapy

London-based sextech startup Blueheart has bagged €1 million in a seed funding round led by PROfounders Capital alongside Calm/Storm. The sex therapy app is a pioneer providing AI-powered sex and relationship therapy that is designed by experts using latest scientific research. The startup wants to democratise access to high-quality help and make scientifically-proven and safe sex therapy accessible to anyone facing issues.

Blueheart was founded by Robbie Coomber and Sachin Raoul in 2019 with the aim to go beyond wellness support. The company works with the ambition to provide evidence-based therapy sessions that will resolve a slew of sexual issues that are seen as taboo.

Picture credits: Revolut

Challenger bank extends Series D funding

The London-based fintech startup Revolut just secured $ 80 million (nearly € million) as an extension to the Series D funding round that was announced back in February this year. This new Investment comes from TSG Consumer Partners. Back in February, Revolut secured a $ 500 million (nearly €420 million) investment led by TCV that took its valuations to $ 5.5 billion. With the latest investment, the challenger bank will use the investment to add new features in the U.S. as well as rollout it’s banking operations all over Europe.

Recently, the UK-based challenger bank Revolut founded by Nikolay Storonsky and Vlad Yatsenko in 2015 announced that it will launch an Open Banking feature in Ireland. Revolut’s Open Banking feature lets the retail customers in Ireland connect their Permanent TSB, AIB, Ulster Bank, and Bank of Ireland bank accounts to Revolut. It has been built in partnership with TrueLayer, a leading provider of financial APIs. The objective of the challenger bank is to help people manage their financial life in an easy, quick and convenient manner.

Picture credits: Tandem

Berlin-based language buddy app wants to capitalise on growth

The Berlin-based app for practicing a second language, Tandem has closed a £4.5 million (nearly € million) Series A funding led by European VC firm Brighteye Ventures along with participation from Trind Ventures, GPS Ventures, and Rubylight Limited. The company wants to use the investment to capitalise on the recent growth opportunities during the boom in e-learning set by COVID-19. As the pandemic crisis doesn’t seem to cease anytime soon, there appears to be a surge in e-learning.

The Tandem app connects users with others who are trying to learn their own language to enable mutual practice via text, phone chat or video call. It incorporates formal learning components by enabling access to tutors. Also, this app lets learners get better by practicing to chat with a native speaker of the language.

Picture credits: Thought Machine

Fintech app secures Series B funding extension

UK-based fintech startup Thought Machine has secured an additional $ 42 million (nearly €35 million) additional funding for the Series B it raised back in March. With this investment, the funding round is all set to close at $ 125 million (nearly €105 million) early in August. The investment has been led by Eurazeo Growth along with British Patient Capital and SEB, a Thought Machine customer. On the other hand, the initial Series B funding round was led by Draper Esprit, Lloyds Banking Group, Backed, IQ Capital, and Playfair Capital.

Thought Machine was founded in 2014 by Paul Taylor, an ex-Google engineer. The London-based company wants to grow in the APAC region and intends to transform the retail banking market with cloud-native technology. Vault is a cloud-native core system built by this startup, which is designed for banks constrained by legacy tech.

Picture credits: Indigo Diabetes

Groundbreaking diabetes device on cards

Belgian medtech startup Indigo Diabetes that develops medical solutions using nanophotonics has raised €38 million Series B funding led by Fund+ along with participation from Ackermans & van Haaren, imec.xpand, Capricorn Digital Growth Fund, QBICII, Titan Baratto and existing investors including Capricorn ICT Arkiv. This investment will be used to finance the impending clinical study phase and the development of its ‘Multi-Biomarker Sensor’ for those who are suffering from diabetes.

0Established by Danaë Delbeke in 2016, Indigo Diabetes has come up with a sensor for diabetes patients. This small sensor chip is designed to be inserted under the skin to continuously measure ketones and glucose. And, it is also capable of detecting life-threatening ailments quickly. This invisible sensor is claimed to enhance the overall quality of life for diabetes patients.

Picture credits: VoltStorage

Innovative greentech startup eyes expansion

VoltStorage that develops and produces solar energy storage systems for private homes has secured €6 million funding led by Korys, Bayern Kapital, EIT InnoEnergy and existing investors. The innovative greentech company wants to use the investment to create energy storage systems that are essential for the transition to 100% renewable energies. The company plans to double its team and increase its production space in Munich three times by the end of 2021.

Established by Jakob Bitner, Michael Peither and Felix Kiefl in 2916, Munich-based VoltStorage is the world’s only home energy storage provider that relies on Vanadium Redox Flow (VRF) battery technology. Eventually, the VoltStorage energy storage systems are free from rare raw materials and are completely recyclable. Also, these are 100% non-flammable and can be charged and discharged sans losing the capacity. It is touted that VoltStorage creates the much-needed ecological alternative to the lithium technology.

Picture credits: Insolight

Solar modules with high efficiency to become mainstream

Insolight is a Swiss tech company that develops the next-generation solar PV panels for the global market. Now, the startup has secured 5 CHF Mio (nearly €4.64 million) in a Series A funding round led by Investiere , with co-investors Zürcher Kantonalbank, Swiss Immo Lab and a number of private business angels. The investment will enable Insolight to start producing and selling the solar modules. Notably, the production will be outsourced to external manufacturers.

Founded by Laurent Coulot, Mathieu Ackermann, and Florian Gerlich, Insolight intends to sell the first modules to large solar energy corporates for applications in agrivoltaics. The Insolight team works with the mission to deliver the modules to the market. With its next-generation solar modules, the company wants to contribute to a sustainable future.

Main image picture credits: Insolight

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[MeMed in GlobeNewsWire] Prospective Study Finds Potential Utility of MeMed’s Host Immune Technology for Personalizing Treatment of Severe COVID-19 Patients

Researchers at Israel’s Rabin Medical Center (comprised of Beilinson and Hasharon Hospitals) in collaboration with MeMed, have published prospective data on the potential utility of the analysis of IP-10, a host immune biomarker, in managing the care and treatment of patients with severe COVID-19 infection.

Read more here.

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This Dutch startup is developing Enzypad to bring the lab to haemophilia patients, bags €1.4M funding

Based out of Nijmegen, The Netherlands, Enzyre is a spin-out from Radboud University Medical Center, developing Enzypad, a near-patient diagnostic and monitoring device initially focused on blood coagulation. 

Raised €1.4M Corona Bridge Loan

In the latest development, Enzyre secured €1.4M Corona Bridge Loan granted by the Dutch government in support of innovative startups and scaleups. Novalis Biotechnology Incubation that provides seed funding and ongoing support to biotechnology and life sciences companies also participated in the funding round. 

Dirk Pollet, CEO of Enzyre commented: “We are pleased to welcome Novalis Biotechnology Incubation to our investor base. The Novalis team is very well aligned with Enzyre’s strategy to “bring the laboratory to the patient”, enabling them to avoid hospital visits. We firmly believe there is a huge demand for technology that empowers patients and allows healthcare workers to provide the best therapy without delay and increased cost. Enzypad can meet this demand.“

The first application of Enzypad will revolutionize monitoring of hemophilia by providing a real-time picture of a patient’s blood coagulation status. The result of each test made by a patient is sent automatically to the treating physicians through an app on a mobile phone.

Growing need for NPT tools

Right now, there is a growing need for NPT (Near Patient Test) tools, which offer patients and healthcare workers the possibility for remote personalized and data-based disease management via telemedicine, avoiding hospital visits and reducing healthcare costs.  

Enzyre’s platform technology is unique as it requires just a small volume of blood and can measure up to twelve (12) biomarkers simultaneously without any laboratory infrastructure; at home, on the road, or in a critical care setting.

Small hand-held diagnostic tool 

Furthermore, Enzyre’s proprietary technology is a small hand-held diagnostic tool using disease-specific single-use microfluidic cartridges with high sensitivity and specificity. It has broad applicability in several disease areas.

In December 2019, Enzyre signed a collaboration with Takeda for the development of Enzypad in congenital bleeding disorders, validating this innovative approach.

Prof. Wim Van Criekinge, co-founder of Novalis added: “Near patient testing presents a major opportunity in today’s world to obtain an improved treatment outcome for patients. More and better data is an essential element in our drive to advance healthcare. We were impressed by the Enzyre team and Enzypad technology, which has many application areas beyond coagulation testing. Our investment in Enzyre perfectly matches our strategy of investing in innovative breakthrough technology in life sciences.”

Main image credits: Enzyre

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Ahead, a platform that connects psychiatrists with patients, raises $9 million

In 2015, Andy Rink debuted Lully at a Y Combinator demo day. The product was meant to help children overcome night terrors. Lully had plans to launch into new markets, such as bed wetting, but clinical trials found that the new products simply weren’t effective enough for the company to feel comfortable launching, resulting in the company winding down and returning money to investors.

Today, Rink is onto his next big project: Ahead, a startup aimed at connecting patients with psychiatrists. It just got $ 9 million in funding led by Truepill.

Ahead is a platform that looks to help patients suffering from ADHD, depression and anxiety get the medical assistance they need through a combination of telehealth and in-person visits with providers. The company has its own clinics, and employs its healthcare providers as full-time employees.

While most telehealth platforms contract out their HCPs, Ahead believes that it’s in the best interest of both the providers and the patients to bring HCPs in house.

“We really care about the patient experience, and we care about having providers who really buy into our vision,” said Rink. “We think the best way to get a mental health condition treated is by having a close relationship with your provider. So, even though it’s more difficult, we’ve taken the stance of hiring only full-time providers to really deliver on that.”

Ahead focuses primarily on the psychiatrist-patient relationship for conditions that are often treated with medication, rather than talk therapy. Ahead currently has one psychologist on staff for therapy and has plans to expand into that category, but has initially focused on psychiatry, alongside a mix of nurse practitioners and physicians assistants.

Ahead is also partnered with Truepill, its main investor, to offer a tightly integrated prescription delivery service for free to patients. Ahead offers a patient portal that allows users to see their prescription and get delivery times, and soon the company will launch the ability to request refills through that portal.

The company onboards patients in a 12-minute online process that includes a patient questionnaire. From there, Ahead sends the patient a list of HCPs in their area, along with some background information about those providers, giving the patient the ability to choose who they’d like to be paired with. If all goes well, that patient is always paired with that same provider through the duration of their experience.

The company does not currently accept insurance for visits with HCPs, but insurance can be applied toward medication costs. The first visit with an Ahead doctor is $ 275, and the price goes down for follow-up visits.

Ahead did 1,100 patient visits last month, with 15 healthcare providers on staff full-time and a total team of 33 people. Nearly 40% of employees are male, with nearly 60% female. The company said that all employees selected “unspecified” for race, so Ahead doesn’t have data to share publicly in that regard.

The company sees a real competitive advantage in the landscape by having physical clinics. With ADHD as the company’s primary focus, the company is able to treat the condition via medication, which requires at least one in-person visit before prescribing medicine.

Rink cites hiring as the greatest challenge for the company.

“We could take the approach of letting anybody that wants to work here walk in the door and start seeing patients, but we want to do it the right way,” said Rink. “We want to hire providers that are empathetic and caring and that the patients will love working with. As you know, mental health care is in high demand right now, so these providers have had a lot of offers and it’s hard to hire fast enough to meet our demand.”

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