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10 Companies Helping Fight COVID Through Innovation and Technology

It’s been nearly two years since the first cases of coronavirus appeared in Wuhan, China. Within a few months, the entire world began to feel its effects. But most of us believed that the pandemic would now be history, especially once vaccines became available. Unfortunately, with each new variant of the coronavirus, it’s become apparent that COVID isn’t leaving anytime soon. Understanding this, it’s easy to feel disheartened and frustrated. Thankfully, that’s not the case for everyone. In fact, many are committed to developing innovative solutions for COVID and its impact. These companies are helping to fight COVID, and they deserve some attention.

Over the past many months, several companies helping to fight COVID have emerged to the forefront. Using various technologies, these businesses have developed better ways to track, monitor, and prevent the spread of the infection. Others have created innovative solutions for COVID diagnosis and management. (Read more about one such innovative solution–the COVID breathalyzer–in this Bold story.) It goes without saying that the goal would be complete elimination of the virus itself. But despite the absence of such an option, these bold businesses have not thrown in the towel. With this in mind, the following are some notable companies helping to fight COVID today that are worth mentioning.

  • BlueDot – Based in Canada, BlueDot has been one of the companies helping to fight COVID from the beginning. In 2013, it created a global warning system for global infection disease risks. As a result, it was the first to warn its customers of the outbreak in Wuhan. It also predicted the global spread as well as emerging epicenters in Brazil and India. By anticipating risk ahead of time, BlueDot’s innovative solutions for COVID spread have saved the lives of thousands.
  • AIDoc – Based in Tel Aviv, this business’s innovative solutions for COVID involve enhanced CT scanning abilities. The system basically serves as a triage system for reviewing CT scans that contain lung images. Each CT is screened using AI, and those with suspicious findings for COVID changes are flagged for radiologist review. Recognized as one of the major companies helping to fight COVID, AIDoc has received FDA support as well.
  • Airspace Systems – One of the challenges in preventing the spread of the coronavirus has been compliance with facemask wearing and social distancing. But Airspace Systems developed an innovative solution for COVID policy monitoring through the use of drones. Drones capture aggregate data images to identify those not wearing masks and those clustered in groups. This data is then provided to communities and governments to guide public health messages, cleaning crews, and policy-making.
  • Cotiviti – Based in Atlanta, Cotiviti is another one of the companies helping to fight COVID through outbreak tracking. In essence, the software collects data from emergency rooms, radiology centers, and billing codes to identify cases. It can then use analytics to map out emerging outbreaks as well as areas where mitigation efforts are working. These forecasts can similarly be used to guide policy-making and decision-making about population health.
  • VIDA Diagnostics – This Iowa-based firm has been one of the companies helping to fight COVID from the start. Their product, called LungPrint, uses medical data, CT images, and automated analysis to define COVID risk. By collecting large amounts of data, it can now better predict those who will be most affected by an infection and detect them earlier. This allows for better outcomes since treatment can be employed earlier.
  • ZOE – One of the early innovative solutions for COVID tracking and diagnosis involved ZOE. Researchers in Boston and London launched an AI-based diagnostic tool that predicted COVID diagnoses based on symptoms. Patients reported symptoms and also their subsequent testing results. Based on positive and negative testing outcomes, ZOE has been able to refine diagnosis and better tracking the infection’s spread.
  • Spark Beyond – Based in New York, several governments have recognized Spark Beyond as one of the companies helping to fight COVID. Described as a massive hypothesis machine, the business’ predictive analytic technologies evaluate thousands of potential hypotheses about the disease. Given that the company operates now on 4 continents, it boasts anonymous patient data from multiple governments. This has allowed it to help guide policies concerning both COVID restrictions and reopenings.
  • Diagnostic Robotics – Also based in Israel, this company offers innovative solutions for COVID monitoring. Using predictive analytical epidemiological mapping, it offers a digital triage system. Patients with COVID can be monitored or ask questions. Providers can receive alerts, And communities can benefit from data reports and population mapping. All of this helps systems make better decisions about patients and areas with symptomatic populations.
  • Apixio – One of the more challenging aspects involving healthcare data involves coordinating data from incompatible data sources. Poor interoperability is common in healthcare. But Apixio is one of the companies helping to fight COVID by improving these barriers. Using AI and machine learning, its software gathers unstructured data like doctors’ notes to identify at-risk patients. It is also involved in vaccination efficiency, adverse event monitoring and more.
  • Benevolent AI – One of the more interesting approaches to the pandemic has been researching existing therapies that might help. Benevolent AI offers these types of innovative solutions for COVID management. Using automated language tools and AI, it searches biological data and research articles for such opportunities. As a result, the company has been able to identify a few existing drugs that can be repurposed for managing COVID.
A hypodermic needle and lots of COVID vaccines
Innovative solutions for COVID–beyond just vaccines–are being developed and rolled out.

Seeing the Pandemic as an Opportunity

The companies helping to fight COVID listed above offer tremendous inspiration. Through a variety of innovative solutions for COVID tracking, diagnosis, and management, they are making a difference. Understandably, the persistence of the pandemic, as well as continued restrictions and illness, are worrisome. But the best and brightest businesses are leverage knowledge and technology as a means to persevere and promote hope. Human ingenuity and an entrepreneurial spirit is certain to win out eventually. And based in current efforts, it’s likely these victories will be sooner rather than later.

 

The official Bold Business survey results are clear: most favor work-from-home over going back to the office. Read more in this important Bold story!

Never Grow Old: The Business of Anti-Aging Science

Since the dawn of human existence, many have dreamed of living longer lives and enjoying better health into their later years. Some have wished they could live to eternity and escape the fate of death. But despite many attempts, and many false claims, the ability to extend life decades into the future has remained elusive. However, that hasn’t stopped the number of anti-aging startups that see this as their mission. Equipped with tremendous funding from those who share the dream, these companies are forging ahead. And some believe they’ll finally usher in a new era of human longevity.

By all accounts, the business of anti-aging science is alive and well. For many years, anti-aging supplements and diet fads have existed. But the anti-aging startups today are taking a more science, technology and engineering approach to the problem. While most of the emerging biotech firms in this field lack an FDA-approved product on the market, they remain hopeful. Several are conducting animal trials in mice, and new discoveries continue to arise to further guide research. And if all goes as planned, longevity research could lead to a new daily health routine. (Dive deeper into the field of longevity research in this Bold story.)

“Whenever you meet a fundamental human need, there’s a market. And in this case, the market for age-related disease and aging is a trillion-dollar market.” – said Michael West, CEO of AgeX Therapeutics

Targeting Senescent Cells for Anti-Aging Therapies

When it comes to the business of anti-aging science, there are generally two main approaches. The one that seems to be attracting attention the most involves altering cells that no longer divide. These are referred to as senescent cells by researchers. By altering genetic material, some cells may be able to live longer before getting to their senescent stage. Researchers at UCSF discovered this to be the case in the 1990s when experimenting with worms. Likewise, some anti-aging startups are trying to offset the inflammatory response these senescent cells trigger. The inflammation reduces the immune system’s ability to keep the rest of the body young. Thus, preventing this response could similarly have promising antiaging effects.

The other strategy used by anti-aging startups involve the administration of systemic molecules that promotes youthfulness. In this instance, the chemicals do not alter the genetic makeup of a cell to combat senescence. Instead, they trigger cells to think they are younger and function in a more youthful way. These could consist of a variety of substances ranging from a tablet to a topical gel. Though these seem similar to vitamins and other anti-supplements, these would be FDA-approved and backed by research. This is the direction the business of anti-aging science seems to be heading.

“These efforts are not about creating physical traits that don’t already exist naturally. This is about enhancing the mission readiness of our forces by improving performance characteristics that typically decline with age.” – U.S. Navy Cmdr. Tim Hawkins

Notable Anti-Aging Startups Currently

There are a number of anti-aging startups today heavily invested in advancing the human lifespan and quality of life. While each is taking a slightly different approach, all are attracting big dollars from wealthy investors. In particular, some of the wealthiest individuals in the world are showing quite an interest in the business of antiaging science. Among them include Jeff Bezos, Peter Thiel, and Larry Ellison. Even Google has their own aging research company called Calico. With this in mind, the following are a few anti-aging startups that have been making recent headlines.

  • Metro International Biotech – This Michigan-based anti-aging startup company recently partnered the U.S. Special Operations Forces Command (SOCOM). SOCOM has invested $2.8 million into clinical trials involving an anti-aging pill. The pill is supposed to boost NAD+ levels in the body, which has been linked to enhanced metabolism and anti-aging. SOCOM leadership is hoping to develop a nutraceutical that improves endurance and speeds recovery from injury.
  • Unity Biotechnology – As a leader in the business of anti-aging science, Unity Biotech has already begun some small human clinical trials. Based in San Francisco, Unity has already received $300 million in funding. Its current trials involve injecting a drug into osteoarthritic knees to counter the inflammatory effects of senescent cells. The anti-aging startup is pursuing FDA approval with hopes larger clinical trials this year show promising results.
  • AgeX Therapeutics – This startup company is taking a different approach to the business of anti-aging science. It is focused more on induced tissue regeneration and on stimulating cells to regenerate and repair themselves. Its current product is a topical hydrogel that minimizes scarring and promotes youthful healing. The anti-aging startup hopes to advance its efforts toward drugs that retrain heart cells to regenerate after a heart attack.
Someone holding an anti-aging pill in their gloved hand
A pill to reverse aging? That’s what some anti-aging startups are shooting for.

“It’s probably not a single factor that drives aging or a single factor that can rejuvenate tissues. It’s going to have to eventually be a cocktail of things that people take.” – Paul Robbins, Molecular Biologist, University of Minnesota Medical School

The Ethics and Economics of Anti-Aging

These new developments in the business of anti-aging science are certainly exciting, but they also raise important questions. Living longer is not necessarily a good thing in every aspect. If health and quality of life remains poor in one’s later years, this may not even be desirable. Likewise, the social burdens that may occur with a longer lifespan have to be considered as well. Currently, the fastest growing segment of the population are those 85 years and older. If anti-aging startups are successful in their efforts, this will expand even faster. The effects these disruptive technologies can have on social securities, health systems, and care institutions could be overwhelming.

Notably, the goals of anti-aging startups is not to create immortality or even increase the length of life alone. Instead, the business of anti-aging science is more about expanding the health-span and not just the life span. This means improving not just the number of years lived but the quality of life and good health concurrently. This is their primary goal, and if successful, it could change how each of us approach our daily lives. For now, a nutritious diet, exercise, and a healthy lifestyle are still the best bets. But a few decades from now, there might be a few additional options we need to consider.

 

The official Bold Business survey results are clear: most favor work-from-home over going back to the office. Read more in this important Bold story!

Introducing Digital IDs – Is This the Beginning of the End for Physical Wallets?

Most of us with smart phones are accustomed to having our credit cards and transit passes stored in our digital wallets. These have offered convenience from the start by allowing us to leave paper and plastic cards at home. But they became even more useful during the pandemic because they allowed touch-less transactions. Resistant companies soon installed readers for these digital cards because the public demanded it. Thus, there has been a progressive and actually fairly rapid shift from physical to digital wallets to some extent. But this didn’t apply to things like digital IDs…until now.

Apple recently announced its latest platform, iOS 15, will allow users to store their digital IDs in their Apple Wallet. The platform requires a few initial steps for verification. But subsequently, users can simply “touch” their iPhones to a reader when identification is required. Only a few states have acknowledged they will accept these digital IDs, and in only certain situations. But it won’t likely be long before the practice becomes commonplace, just as it did for credit cards. Of course, with any technology, there are some pros and cons to only having a digital wallet. But it does raise the question whether this indeed may be the beginning of the end for physical wallets altogether.

“This new and innovative mobile driver’s license and state ID initiative with Apple and states around the country will enable a more seamless airport security screening experience for travelers.”- David Pekoske, TSA administrator

The Basics of Apple’s Digital IDs

In order to use Apple’s new digital identification system, users will need to upgrade to the new platform. Once done, they can upload their state drivers license or ID card the same way they would a credit card. But there are a couple of additional steps. Users will be asked to perform a few facial and head movements to complete the verification process. They also will be required to sign approval of disclaimers concerning the use of face and touch ID platforms. This is primarily required for use when using digital wallets for transit security authority (TSA) purposes. After this is accomplished, all that will be required thereafter will be facial or touch validation.

Despite the new biometrics technology, Apple’s digital IDs will not be permitted in many place. Currently, there are only two states that have accepted digital IDs, which are Georgia and Arizona. Others reporting that they will soon approve the use of digital wallets include Connecticut, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Oklahoma, and Utah. In addition, the only locations accepting these digital IDs will be at airports by TSA. Apple has been working with TSA authorities to ensure that the process is not only verifiable but secure. As such, Apple claims that data encryption and other measures will prevent identity theft from occurring.

(Read more about digital wallets and biometric readers in this Bold story.)

“[Digital IDs] might be a big step towards national identification, in which every time we walk through a door or buy coffee, a record of the event is collected and aggregated. They may also lead to the routine use of automated or ‘robot’ ID checks carried out not by humans but by machines, causing such demands to proliferate even more.” – Electronic Frontier Foundation statement

Weighing the Pros and Cons of Digital Wallets

Naturally, there are some important convenience advantages associated with digital IDs. One doesn’t have to have a physical ID with them in places where digital ones are accepted. Likewise, digital IDs can only communicate specific information required rather than additional facts that might violate one’s privacy. But at the same time, there are some concerns associated with fully digital wallets. For one, if all our credit cards, IDs and other passes are in one location, then some risks become greater. Losing your smart phone becomes that much more concerning. And security breaches could have access to all of our information instead of only part of it.

Someone holding up their digital wallet in their phone
Digital wallets and digital IDs are here, and they’re making for a contact-free world.

One of the bigger concerns that many have concerning digital IDs involves their convenience. If all it takes is a “tap” on a reader, then more and more places may begin requesting identification. Such a process could easily be automated, resulting in machine-based ID checks instead of human ones. If this occurs, then it allows companies and governments to easily track mobility of every person from place to place. Some therefore worry that digital wallets will further invade our right to privacy in the process. By giving up physical IDs and wallets, we also may be giving up some privacy as well.

“Many people do not have smartphones, including many from our most vulnerable communities. Longer-term, if digital IDs replace physical documents entirely, or if physical-only document holders are placed at a disadvantage, that could have significant implications for equity and fairness in American life.” – American Civil Liberties Union statement

Converting to Digital Wallets

There’s no question that the emergence of digital IDs will accelerate already-present trends toward contact-less transactions. But Apple’s latest development is not likely to be the final nail in the coffin for physical wallets and IDs. For one thing, Apple’s digital ID does not offer an actual visual image of your drivers license or identification. Instead, it provides authentication only through touch or face mechanisms. This means those wanting to verify digital IDs will need a reader. It also means that a digital identification will do little good when being pulled over for a traffic stop. These are practical issues that will take some time to resolve.

Regardless, the shift to digital wallets is likely inevitable. In order for that to happen, this means that smart phone and ID readers will need to be ubiquitous. Notably, a significant number of Americans still lack devices that would allow them to use digital IDs. As a result, socioeconomic factors could play a role in the widespread adoption of digital wallets as well. The technology to make this conversion is certainly here, and Apple is doing its part in accelerating the trend. But for digital wallets to truly become a reality, there remains some major hurdles to overcome.

 

The official Bold Business survey results are clear: most favor work-from-home over going back to the office. Read more in this important Bold story!