Pfizer buys COVID diagnostic app developed by Aussie-based Sri Lankan professor.

A Brisbane-based company that invented a smartphone app it says can diagnose COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses by listening to someone cough has been purchased by Pfizer for nearly $180 million.

ResApp Health Limited uses diagnostic technology developed by Associate Professor Udantha Abeyratne and his research team at the University of Queensland (UQ) to record and analyse a patient’s coughs on a smartphone.

The app also considers the self-reporting of simple symptoms like a runny nose or fever to diagnose and measure the severity of a range of pulmonary diseases, including asthma and pneumonia.

Pfizer, which is one of the world’s largest bio-pharmaceutical companies, offered to buy ResApp earlier this year when the company announced positive results for its COVID-19 screening test.

Recent studies had shown the app had a 92 per cent success rate in diagnosing the virus among symptomatic patients, but more clinical trials were needed for it to gain regulatory approval.

A Pfizer spokesperson said they were encouraged by the data they had seen so far and the $179 million acquisition, finalised on Monday, was another move toward enhancing the company’s expertise in digital health.

UQ’s commercialisation company UniQuest licensed the technology to ResApp in September 2014.

Dr Abeyratne, from the School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, said the research that led to the breakthrough began more than a decade ago with grant funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Dr Abeyratne said the smartphone technology, which was developed in consultation with medical practitioners, operates similarly to a doctor using a stethoscope to listen for sounds produced by a patient’s body.

A Pfizer spokesperson said ResApp’s solutions in respiratory health align well with their own areas of focus.

Dr Abeyratne said he is hopeful Pfizer’s acquisition of the app will help realise his dream of improving patient outcomes around the world.

Source: www.uq.edu.au


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