Since its establishment in October 2020, an interdisciplinary team led by Professor Tong Zhang, from the Environmental Microbiome Engineering and Biotechnology Laboratory of the Department of Civil Engineering of the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Hong Kong (HKU), has collected more than 1,200 sewage samples for tests to help the government track potential virus carriers in the community.
The research project received support from the Health and Medical Research Fund (HMRF) of the Food and Health Bureau (FHB), and is also technically backed by the Environment Bureau, with the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) and the Drainage Services Department (DSD) providing strategic planning, comprehensive analysis of the drainage network, and optimization of sample collection.
The sewage monitoring system consists of several steps: sampling, inactivation, pre-concentration by centrifugation, nucleic acid extraction, gene testing, and data analysis. In the absence of a standardized and universal method for detecting new SARS-CoV-2 virus in sewage worldwide, the monitoring system was successfully developed by the HKU engineering-led team in December 2020 after various trials.
Since the dawn of the 4th wave of COVID-19 outbreak last November, the HKU team has collaborated with the EPD and DSD in collecting and monitoring sewage samples in buildings near or in the area of housing estates with confirmed cases, so as to help the government assess and respond quickly to the outbreak (including issuing compulsory testing notices).
It was instrumental in identifying 10 Covid-19 cases from December 2020 to January 2021 at the Choi Wan (II) Estate – the first-time worldwide infection cases were confirmed in the community through a compulsory testing notice issued based on sewage test results.
Between 28 December 2020 and 9 February 2021, compulsory testing notices were issued in 26 areas where sewage test results were positive, including compulsory testing in ‘restricted areas’. More than 50 confirmed cases were found, cutting off hidden transmission chains in these communities.
The team had originally planned to process and analyse around 20 samples per week, but after increasing its manpower to 15 people, its detection capacity was increased sevenfold to about 170 samples per week to help fight the pandemic.
The Chief Executive of Hong Kong had a first-hand look at the University’s sewage monitoring system that helps track COVID-19 in building blocks on 15 February, where she was briefed by the Dean of the Li Ka-shing Faculty of Medicine at HKU, and Professor Tong Zhang on the sewage testing process.
The HKU team and the Environment Bureau are working towards doubling the sewage monitoring capability and transferring the technology to commercial laboratories. At the same time, in order to optimize the overall sewage monitoring system, the HKU team is working together with EPD, DSD, and the Food and Health Bureau to develop new sewage sampling schemes.
In the long run, sewage surveillance can provide public health-related information for the Government, institutions and the general public in their joint battle against the pandemic.
Hong Kong’s advanced technology and successful experience can also enrich the world’s experiences in protecting public health and tackling the challenges of other emerging major diseases through wastewater-based epidemiology.
Ho Chi Minh City has received approval from the government to operate electric buses on regular public routes. It has been instructed to work with various ministries and other agencies to finalise economic-technical criteria for the buses and pricing.
Its People’s Committee last month sought permission from the government to operate 77 electric buses on five routes for a two-year trial period. The conglomerate Vingroup will operate electric buses with 65-70 seats during the trial period. However, in the future, the operators will be chosen through tender.
According to a news report, nine new bus stations, a depot, and 12,200 square metres worth of parking lot at Vinhome Grand Park in Thu Duc city will be built. The city will make an assessment at the end of the trial period. Public transportation currently meets only 9.2% of demand in the city, according to the Department of Transport. The city has been seeking to develop public passenger transport and earmarked VND500 trillion (US$21.6 million) for it.
Last month, a group under the Vingroup, VinFast announced the debut of Vietnam’s first electric car, called VF e34. It is a C-segment electric car. Early customers who place bookings prior to 30 June this year, can take advantage of the special pricing at VND590 million VND (US$25,496) along with a one-year free battery subscription.
Customers do not have to pay for batteries and operating costs (including costs of battery rental and charging), which are exactly equal to the cost of gasoline consumption, while the price and features are superior to gasoline cars, as per a news report.
The car has several AI-based driver-oriented features like remote software updates, remote customer support, emergency rescue services, battery tracking status, vehicle operation history, and theft alerts. It is powered by an electric motor and uses a 42-kWh battery making 110 kW power and 242 Nm torque.
The company targets around 40,000 electric car charging points in 63 provinces and cities by the end of this year. Following only three years of operations, since its inception in 2017, the company has launched three smart EV models – VF31, VF32, and VF33 and will receive orders from global markets from the end of 2021. Each of these models will come in with artificial intelligence (AI) and state-of-the-art features.
Vingroup also announced the establishment of the Green Future Fund, which aims to encourage and support initiatives to improve the living environment, towards a sustainable future. The Green Future Fund will immediately donate VND30 million (US$1,298) to customers who change from fossil fuel-based vehicles (gasoline, oil) to electric cars, thereby contributing to reducing environmental pollution through the Smart Solution’s “Car Exchange Offer” service.
Electric vehicles are classified into four groups: HEV, PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle), BEV (battery electric vehicle), and FCEV (fuel cell electric vehicle). The core parts are an electric engine, battery, and electricity storage unit. According to a report, by 2030, the global market will have more than 90 million electric cars, of which HEV and PHEV will become the major line before shifting to BEV and FCEV.
The Science Park at Thailand’s Khon Kaen University held a special event to train people in the industrial sector in “Fundamental Survey with Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Technology”. The “Fundamental Survey with Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Technology” training program was held on 2 and 3 April 2021, including both theoretical and practice sessions.
The opening ceremony was presided over by Assoc. Prof. Charnchai Panthongviriyakul, M.D., President of Khon Kaen University, who conveyed the opening address. Dr Apirachai Wongsriworaphon, Director of Khon Kaen University Science Park made a welcoming speech and reported about the objectives of the event.
Participants included personnel from the industrial sector, both governmental and private. The event was also under preventive measures against Covid-19 at the Main Building of the Northeast Science Park, Khon Kaen.
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Rawee Hanpachoen, a full-time professor of the Faculty of Architecture; an expert and researcher from the Smart City Operational Centre; Khun Pongpat Kangkong, Manager of the Smart City Operational Centre (SCOPC); and Khun Suchat Prommee, a Drone Technology expert, were the trainers of the program.
The Northeast Science Park at Khon Kaen University, as the network node for the operation of the Northeast Science Park, organized this event under the mission to develop technological competency of personnel in the industrial sector (Brain Power Skill Up) and under the Regional Future Manpower and Skills Creation Project, which answer the national innovation development plans.
The event was supported by the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research, and Innovation and was aimed at increasing skills for personnel in the industrial sector to accommodate the changes of technologies that will arise in the future.
Drone tech in Thailand
According to an earlier article, the Digital Economy Promotion Agency (Depa) plans to roll out an artificial intelligence (AI) university project and drone academy this year, as part of the agency’s plan to drive digital skills and support the digital economy.
The AI university project is meant to provide AI knowledge to learning programmes and workshops at designated universities, while the drone academy is set to help Thais learn how to use drones for their businesses, particularly in the agricultural sector.
Depa President and Chief Executive said the projects are part of the agency’s strategic cooperation plans aiming at digital economy development, which covers digital transformation, manpower skill enhancement and start-up incubation.
About 200 million baht will be used to develop the AI university project, with half the amount budgeted by Depa and the remainder by private entities through a matching fund. For the drone academy, Depa plans to set aside THB50 million to develop the project and a matching fund will earmark another THB50 million. Universities are being considered for the AI project, with Mahidol, Chulalongkorn and Thammasat the main contenders, he said.
“Drones are a new technology for Thais in terms of business use, especially big drones, which are very useful in several sectors, including agriculture and logistics,” said the Depa President. When the drone business approaches maturity, international tech companies will come and invest in this segment in Thailand, he said.
Experts from India and Japan discussed possibilities of collaboration for the promotion of hydrogen-based technologies. They also explored related innovations, trends, concerns, and solutions at a webinar on De-carbonisation: Exploring the Hydrogen Prospects and Innovative Technologies.
The areas for India-Japan hydrogen research are cost reduction and improved performance for fuel cells, and hydrogen storage. Also, challenges for viable green hydrogen process routes, significant investments required for research infrastructure, and support for commercialisation, according to a press release.
Professor Kojima Yoshitsugu from the National Science Centre for Basic Research and Development, Hiroshima University, said that ammonia could be a potential hydrogen carrier because of its high hydrogen densities. “Direct combustion of ammonia is also possible without emission of carbon dioxide. The heat of combustion of ammonia is above 1.3 times of liquid hydrogen,” he added.
The webinar was jointly organised by the Embassy of India in Japan, the Indian Department of Science and Technology (DST), the Japanese Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), and the Indian Energy and Resources Institute (TERI). The event was held on 19 April and provided a platform for the experts to deliberate on the most recent innovations, trends, and concerns, and practical challenges and solutions.
Researchers also spoke about renewable hydrogen for disruptive decarbonisation. Hydrogen enables high efficiency and zero or near-zero-emissions operations. Green hydrogen will be good for industrial processes, chemicals producing, iron and steel, food, semiconductors, and refineries. The two sides will explore opportunities for co-innovation in accelerating green hydrogen to reduce dependency on petroleum imports.
The webinar also highlighted the IIT-Madras Research Park, which facilitates the promotion of research and development by the institute in partnership with industry, assisting in the growth of new ventures and promoting economic development. It also elaborated on the challenges in using fuel cells, like the non-existence of hydrogen fuel infrastructure and the difficulties related to hydrogen storage and transportation.
An expert from the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore underlined the sustainable route of generating hydrogen using biomass, hydrogen from a range of sources, utilising, dispensing, storing, and distributing. It creates a level playing field for all sources of green hydrogen.
Hydrogen gas is a fuel with plenty of potentials. But because it is highly combustible, managing it safely is key. The advantages of a hydrogen energy system are that hydrogen gas is generated using a renewable energy source, instead of fossil fuels. It can be stored safely and is a clean, alternative power source, a Professor at the Institute for Materials Research, Tohoku University, explained.
The potential scale of hydrogen demand growth in India is significant. The costs of green hydrogen will start to compete with fossil fuel-derived hydrogen by 2030, at the latest. Hydrogen should be targeted at those sectors where direct electrification is not well-suited.
Representatives from the Institute of Energy Economics in Japan stressed the importance of green hydrogen and energy of system integration. The National Thermal Power Corporation noted that green hydrogen shall play a very important role. Along with pilots, NTPC is pursuing efforts with various stakeholders to shift to green hydrogen, ammonia, methanol, and industries. Also, fertilisers, refining, and long-range heavy-duty transportation blending into gas grids and energy storage.
The experts agreed that hydrogen could be a good alternative because of its capability of producing lower emissions and less pollution and looked forward to collaborations between groups in India and Japan to that end.
An automated general waste collection system in Maroochydore, Queensland, will be operational in July 2021. Waste and recyclables from buildings and street bins in the new 53 ha Maroochydore City Centre will be pumped through a 6.5 km network of underground pipes, at speeds of up to 70 km/h, to a collection station for transfer to disposal or recycling facilities.
Each building in the CBD will include at least three waste inlets, for organic, recyclable and general waste. Waste dropped into each inlet will be stored in a sealed compartment underground until a vacuum pump is activated at the central waste facility, usually twice a day.
Once delivered to the central facility through a network of sealed vacuum pipes, each waste type will be stored in sealed compactors to await collection by a council contractor. The design of the new city centre began in 2015 to provide a mix of residential, commercial, retail, civic and community uses to complement the area’s existing business offerings.
Sunshine Coast Council’s Group Executive of Customer Engagement and Planning Services, James Ruprai, said that although COVID-19 delayed the commissioning of the system, it is expected to be operational by mid-2021.
The waste collection system was designed by a Swedish firm and manufactured in South Korea. It will be extended as the development of the Maroochydore City Centre progresses. A high-speed fibre-optic network will also be installed in the centre’s foundations to enable the council to provide smart signage, free Wi-Fi hotspots, real-time transport information, movement sensors and smart lighting.
According to a government press release, Council and the Sunshine Coast are leading Australia in efficient waste collection. Council is installing Australia’s first underground automated waste collection system (AWCS) in the new Maroochydore City Centre.
High-tech underground pipes will transport waste out of the city centre. Waste will travel at up to 70km/h through a 6.5km system of underground vacuum pipes removing waste from:
- residential apartments
- commercial buildings
- public places
The AWCS is a more efficient alternative to conventional above-ground waste collection. The system will help create a cleaner, healthier and more attractive city centre. Recycling rates are also expected to improve.
The use of the AWCS will result in a significant reduction in the number of large vehicles needing to access the city centre. This will provide a safer and more pleasant urban environment. It will also reduce the carbon footprint associated with this essential service. The elimination of early morning garbage collection also creates better urban living conditions.
The AWCS flier notes that the Sunshine Coast aims to be Australia’s most sustainable region – healthy, smart, creative. They are taking a nation-leading position by installing this high-tech, underground AWCS in the new Maroochydore City Centre, and are committed to ensuring 21st-century technology and innovation are key characteristics of this greenfield site.
This innovative waste management system is the first of its kind in Australia with many benefits including:
- Workers and residents in the new CBD will never have to walk past rows of waste bins or be woken early by noisy garbage collection vehicles
- No front, rear or side lift waste collection vehicles
- No kerbside waste and recycling collection
- No overflowing public place bins
- Underground collection means no impact on street traffic
- Improved resident and visitor safety and amenity
- Improved local air quality by eliminating conventional waste collection services.
The global pandemic caught everyone by surprise, accelerating the digital transformation plans of both governments and private organisations. As the world enters what will hopefully be the home stretch of the pandemic battle – the vaccination stage – both sectors are still looking for ways to efficiently deliver and implement their programmes.
OpenGov Asia had a chance to speak exclusively with Dr Steve Bennett. With deep experience in biosurveillance gained from the various leadership roles during his 12 years at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Steve was able to share rare perspectives in managing disruptions on a global scale such as COVID-19.
He also brings a wealth of knowledge and experience from the hat he current wears as Director, Global Government Practice, SAS. A global leader in analytics for organisations seeking immediate value from their data, SAS has a deep toolbox of analytics solutions and broad industry knowledge. Through SAS’ offerings, organisations gain actionable insights from their data and make sense of it all. Identify what is working and fix what is not, make more intelligent decisions, and drive relevant change.
Steve acknowledged that they have known for a long time that the world was susceptible to a pandemic be it in any form. He said that when the news came from China, the first global news in pro-med, they hoped that it would be contained, but, alas, that was not to be.
For SAS as an organisation, the urgent focus was on safety and continuity of operations. Their initial thought went to what the negative effects of the pandemic would be on their global team. A multinational company with 14,000 engaged across the globe, there were incredible ramifications for employees and other staff.
At the same time that continuity of operations was being managed, SAS was working hard to find ways to get in the fight against COVID-19 and help. Initially, the company’s efforts and ideas, while valuable, were uncoordinated. For Steve, with his experience in dealing with disruptive events, he was able to bring rationale and calmness to the situation. Familiar with a way to manage such scenarios – the Incident Command System (ICS) – he proposed its deployment within SAS. It can orient and deliver information in an efficient manner that cuts through bureaucracy and red tape. This system is globally recognised and is widely used by governments as they manage natural disasters, as well as many industries.
The ICS was SAS’s initial answer to the pandemic, and for them, it changed the way they function and to further adapt to the new normal. After the recommendation, Steve found himself leading SAS’s global response. He spearheaded the development of a system that could cater to the needs of the healthcare sector and government as it rallied to meet the pandemic head-on. With the intention of getting software and tools into the hands of people on the front line that needed it as quickly as possible, the team had to work overtime.
Steve highlighted critical areas where SAS could make a significant difference amid the crisis. Optimising the use of medical resources, dashboard and data visualisation and helping governments distribute benefits. Intentionally, they focused on a handful of things to develop the right applications to support these areas efficiently rather than tackling hundreds of use-cases.
The development of systems to manage limited medical resources, such as ICU beds and ventilators for several countries, proved to be vital. Added to this were their data visualisation and situational awareness programmes. These solutions helped bring a snapshot perspective for governments trying to determine their stock of masks for distribution, available beds, ventilators to deploy, etc. SAS’ simple data dashboards helped connect such critical information, for the first time, in an easy-to-view map. It worked wonders for senior government leaders, allowing them to see all the relevant data in one place; and that led to making better, data-driven, informed decisions.
Beyond a doubt, Steve feels, the real challenge for governments is that their data is spread across multiple channels which is compounded by a lack of process (or desire) for integration. This deadly combination hinders the process.
Public sector agencies should welcome the idea of utilising a system that would take all that disorganisation, duplicity and disinclination and make it work together in one platform. The idea of shared value goes a long way, not only for its citizens but also for the agency – those who recognise that that the visualisation of data will enable them to function better.
Big advocates for using data analytics to aid government benefits programmes, Steve confirmed that they championed a process called “Saving Lives and Livelihoods”. While they wanted to cater to the health sector, they also wanted to incorporate data analytics to protect precious resources.
The company helped governments to distribute benefits – quickly and effectively – prioritising needs. Their solutions helped agencies differentiate between those who needed the benefits immediately and were qualified and those who were not. This not only allowed for significant savings but provided efficient triaging – saving lives and livelihoods.
Steve touched on the role that AI plays in all these initiatives and conceded that artificial intelligence is an essential part of all of their platforms and solutions. Not merely in managing the current pandemic but efforts are underway to leverage AI and machine learning to detect and prevent the next one.
The accepted theory for how the COVID-19 pandemic originated is the close contact between people and animals in a particular environment. Fed with the right data and appropriate parameters, AI can be used to predict hotspots in the world which could be the source of the next pandemic. While it may not prevent one, it can provide lead time to pre-deploy health resources in places where a contagion could break out.
Essentially for SAS, AI can aid pandemic prevention and early detection efforts. The key in this high-stakes situation is all about being early – Steve talked about examples from his time in government in which AI and machine learning helped detect very faint signals and trends in the data much earlier than the post-facto, large signal from hospitals three weeks later when everybody is showing up sick.
As vaccination programmes are being rolled out across the world, the pandemic seems to be on its tail-end. However, the implementation of a vaccine rollout is “the greatest logistics mobilisation since World War II and (we are) trying to move things on an unprecedented scale”.
For SAS, their contribution to these initiatives is developing tools that optimise the roll-out of limited vaccines, that manage logistics and supply chain and programmes on data analytics that will drive better decisions on how to roll out the vaccine in a secured manner.
Steve recommends governments augment their large amounts of internal data with non-traditional data sources like telecommunications and consumer data, (while at the same time valuing privacy), to understand what populations are at risk. SAS empowers the government with the data sources and links that data together for them. They also advise governments to offer citizens easy to use options for vaccination registration.
Steve and SAS are optimistic about the future as vaccine rollouts are commencing worldwide. While it may take longer than everyone would like, they believe that countries can turn the tide in their favour sooner than later. Steve mentioned that preliminary modelling for COVID-19 seems to indicated that about 50%-80% of the population need vaccination to achieve “herd immunity,” where the spread of the infection beings to plummet. At the same time, there are concerns that COVID-19 might turn into something like the seasonal flu where people must get shots all year round and live with it.
In the end, Steve believes that everyone should be ready for the next outbreak. Governments and organisations must learn lessons on the development of vaccines and solutions for viruses using various technologies available.
There is no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly impacted lives across the world and will continue to do so for a considerable time to come. Multiple waves of the infections, new lockdown and fresh mitigation measures seem to be the order of the day. In this context, it is important to try and get a semblance of normalcy where possible. One way forward is digitally enabled solutions.
OpenGov Asia and SAS have partnered to create content-rich and engaging online interactive and engaging virtual events across ASEAN via OpenGovLive! – OpenGov Asia’s in-house, dedicated platform. Aimed at providing senior digital executives access to cutting-edge technology and solutions, the sessions are invitation-only.
Details of the various events can be found below:
- Malaysia OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021Virtual Edition on April 8th and 9th 2021
- Accelerating Digital Transformation and Innovation: Helping Government in Post-Pandemic Recovery and Resilience on April 15th and 16th 2021
- Leveraging Technology for Effective and Efficient Vaccine Distribution, Administration and Management on May 6th 2021
- Singapore OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021 Virtual Edition on May 19th and 20th 2021
- Indonesia OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021 Virtual Edition on June 16th and 17th 2021
This article has been written by Peter Moore, Regional Managing Director, Asia Pacific and Japan Public Sector, Amazon Web Services
2020 was a year like no other. By March, COVID-19 had spread around the world impacting families, businesses, and communities. And, one year later, many are still fighting the spread of the virus, which has since introduced several new variants that are threatening our communities. The speed at which the virus spread left diagnostics for the disease lagging and the healthcare community looking for new ways to use technology to help.
As countries grappled with the challenge of scaling COVID-19 testing, we launched the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Diagnostic Development Initiative to help organizations around the world apply the power of the cloud to accelerate diagnostics research and development. Through this initiative, AWS committed $20 million in computing credits and customized expertise from the AWS Professional Services team to support customers using AWS to drive diagnostic innovations.
In the first phase of the initiative, AWS has helped 87 organizations in 17 countries ranging from startups, nonprofits, research institutions, and businesses. We have awarded $8 million supporting a range of diagnostic projects including molecular tests for antibodies, antigens, and nucleic acids; diagnostic imaging; wearables; and data analytics tools that use artificial intelligence and machine learning to detect the virus.
As we launch the next phase, we are excited to broaden the AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative’s scope and distribute the remaining $12 million this year. From 12 April 2021, we are expanding the scope to three new areas: 1) early disease detection to identify outbreaks at the individual and at the community level, 2) prognosis to better understand disease trajectory, and 3) public health genomics to bolster viral genome sequencing worldwide. While AWS will prioritize COVID-19 projects, we will also evaluate projects focused on other infectious diseases. We will accept applications through the end of the year, with priority consideration given to applications received before July 31. Interested organizations can apply here.
AWS has seen transformative innovations in how startups and organizations diagnose disease over the past year, from machine learning-powered X-ray imagery analysis to new developments in rapid, high quality, and direct-to-consumer tests. These changes will continue to evolve and improve a country’s ability to respond to future outbreaks.
Speeding customer innovation
The AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative has accelerated projects that are changing what is possible with medical diagnostics and having an immediate impact on COVID-19 detection. These projects are not only enabling the medical community to rapidly respond to COVID-19, but also have implications for many other infectious diseases. Here are some examples of the projects funded by the AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative:
Medo uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help healthcare professionals quickly identify severe COVID-19 cases
Medo is an AI healthcare startup founded in Singapore and headquartered in Edmonton, Canada, that leveraged support from the AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative to expedite the development of its Medo Lung solution. Medo Lung would allow a quick ultrasound scan of the lung to be reviewed by an AI algorithm to detect whether a patient has normal lung function or is suffering from complications such as interstitial pneumonitis, which leads to many of the severe complications associated with COVID-19. These scans could be performed in thousands of patients together with diagnostic swabs in COVID-19 screening clinics, to assist with rapid, accurate patient triage by helping identify those who urgently need to go to hospital. This would also eliminate the need for patients, particularly the elderly, to leave their homes and visit a doctor unless absolutely necessary, preserving hospital resources, and avoiding potential exposure in the process.
By leveraging AWS and ultrasound, Medo has helped radiologists and clinicians to perform and facilitate the diagnosis of several other medical conditions, in addition to the lung. As a result, caregivers are able to more quickly and accurately diagnose common and critical conditions, and therefore are able to understand the right course of treatment for patients quicker.
Medo currently pilots its Medo Lung solution in Canada. In addition to COVID-19, Medo Lung will also scan for diseases like pneumonia, pleural effusions, pneumothorax, and pulmonary edema.
“COVID-19 really crystallized our vision of democratizing medical imaging and bringing our solution to as many people as we can by highlighting the need for AI-driven diagnostics that can be administered by any caregiver at the point of care where it’s needed the most, keeping patients comfortable and safe. With the help of advanced AWS AI and ML services like Amazon SageMaker and Amazon Textract, we were able to develop Medo Lung that will make a big difference for patients in both the short term and long after the pandemic subsides.” — David Quail, Co-founder, Medo
Artificial intelligence and machine learning are helping us to democratize ultrasound self-diagnosis across the planet with the help of AWS. The cloud has allowed us to greatly improve patient outcomes, including in remote areas that would not otherwise have the infrastructure needed to perform or manage such patients. Scanning an organ takes just a few seconds and our algorithm provides reliable results in less than a minute, making access to medical imaging and early reliable diagnosis a reality for all.” — Dr Jeevesh Kapur, Radiologist and Co-Founder, Medo
Oncophenomics detects mutated COVID-19 virus quickly through next-generation sequencing
Oncophenomics is a healthtech startup based in Hyderabad, India that develops diagnostics solutions for cancer and infectious diseases. The company is studying the genetic epidemiology of the COVID-19 virus in India and is addressing the need for rapid, accurate, and affordable testing and applying it at scale so that the country can implement a test and track approach to identify infected individuals and impose quarantine measures on those infected with the more dangerous variants of the COVID-19 virus.
Not all diagnostic tests in the market are able to detect these new variants of concern. Confronted with the lack of variant-specific diagnostic tests, Oncophenomics has developed a two-step comprehensive saliva-based COVID-19 diagnostics solution that is able to test patients for COVID-19 on-site in minutes (self-administered test; no need for swabs, or requiring the support of a phlebotomist or lab technician) and the positive samples are shipped to a centralized laboratory to accurately diagnose COVID-19 virus variants using third-generation real-time long-read sequencing (Oxford Nanopore Technologies) approach to sequence the complete viral RNA within hours with the same saliva sample.
The sequencing data is being uploaded and analyzed on AWS Cloud using Oncophenomics’ proprietary bioinformatics pipelines and allows the startup to compare every patient sample against a global repository of more than one million COVID-19 virus genomes via GISAID (Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data – an initiative that promotes the rapid sharing of data from all influenza viruses and the virus causing COVID-19) within minutes and generate a variant report quickly with clinical correlation.
Governments, public health initiatives, laboratory and healthcare professionals can use this platform to effectively identify the individuals infected with COVID-19 virus variants and plan appropriate interventions to prevent the further spread of the virus in the community. Such rapid interventions are needed to combat the second wave of COVID-19 cases rising in India and other countries.
Oncophenomics’s saliva-based COVID-19 diagnostics solution will undergo ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research – the apex body in India for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research, is one of the oldest and largest medical research bodies in the world) performance evaluation and clinical validation by June 2021 for CDSCO (Central Drugs Standard Control Organization – India’s national regulatory body for pharmaceuticals and medical devices) regulatory approval and will be launched in India first, followed by Singapore and other APAC markets.
“AWS makes it easy for us to work on the cloud. Our goal is to address the issue of COVID-19 test performance in light of new variants affecting the conventional RT PCR (Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction) tests – its accuracy, specificity, and sensitivity. We have devoted all our resources to developing a robust end-to-end COVID-19 diagnostics solution within a short time frame and at a critical time where the world is facing an imminent threat of a new wave of COVID-19 infections. Some of the data analysis is computationally intensive and can only be run on the cloud.
Without the publicly available datasets (GISAID) and AWS’s scalable cloud computing capabilities, it would have been impossible to develop this COVID-19 variants testing solution. Currently, our saliva-based testing solution, the part-1 point of care test is targeting India specific mutations (while the part-2 nanopore sequencing can discover all mutations), but we hope to customize it for any region across the world to help combat the new COVID-19 wave.” — Dr Shibichakravarthy Kannan, MBBS, PhD, Founder & CEO, Oncophenomics Inc.
Stanford University School of Medicine develops smartwatch-based “alarm system” for diagnostics
Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine’s Healthcare Innovation Lab have developed a smartwatch app designed to correctly flag signs of fighting a potential COVID-19 infection. The app is powered by an algorithm that detects changes in an individual’s resting heart rate and step count. Early results are promising, and a pilot trial successfully alerted newly infected individuals as early as 10 days before they became aware of any symptoms.
The app has entered the next phase of study, and the Stanford team is recruiting participants with the goal of reaching 10 million participants to increase its ability to detect signs of COVID-19 in real-time. This smartwatch-based early detection system was built on AWS with the support of the AWS Professional Services team, who has collaborated with the researchers to help the study scale its data processing pipeline.
“We’re hopeful that ongoing screening using wearable devices can provide scalable diagnostics solutions to overcome current testing barriers, and that expanding data access to a broader range of researchers will contribute to new discoveries that improve human health. We look forward to continue pushing the boundaries of what is possible with the cloud.” — Michael Snyder, PhD, professor and chair of genetics for Stanford University’s School of Medicine
We continue to be inspired by the ingenuity of our customers across the world in their use of cloud technology to accelerate diagnostics to help citizens fight against COVID-19 during this trying time, and support governments to prioritize healthcare resources to save more lives. We look forward to supporting broader uses of cloud technologies to enable organizations and communities to identify and respond even faster to future outbreaks.
Vietnam’s National Power Transmission Corporation (EVNNPT) has operationalised its first digital transformer station in Thuy Nguyen district, the northern port city of Hai Phong, earlier this week. The 210kV station was built at a total cost of around VND348 billion (US$15 million) on an area of 40,100 square metres spanning the Dong Son and Kenh Giang communes.
According to EVNNPT Deputy General Director Luu Viet Tien, the station helped cut around 80% of the amount of copper cable, slash copper cable transport and installation costs, and reduce the risks of incidents caused by cable damage. The system will use artificial intelligence (AI) in monitoring and examining and make use of cameras and smart drones to repair lines.
He said the 220KV digital station will a ensure stable power supply for socio-economic development in Thuy Nguyen and regions in the vicinity, reduce power loss, and enhance connectivity, safety, stability, and flexibility in the operation of power systems.
EVNNPT will evaluate the efficiency of the station to select suitable technologies for transformer stations in the future. The Vietnam Electricity Group (EVN) plans to have all equipment on transmission lines and 80% of 110 kV circuit facilities digitalised from now to 2022.
By 2025, EVNNPT will have digitalised 100% of facilities on medium and higher-voltage power lines, according to EVNNPT Chairman Duong Quang Thanh. To that end, the group will continue to integrate other digital technologies like the Internet of Things, big data, and cloud computing.
It will continue research on building information models and digital worker platforms to serve its staff while developing AI applications for image analysis and data governance. EVNNPT said it has completed 61 of the 63 centres for the remote control of transformer stations and converted 670 of the 844 transformer stations into unmanned ones.
Tien said that the digital transformer station is a new technology in both Vietnam and many other countries in the world. He added that before the station was constructed, EVNNPT held several conferences with large equipment suppliers such as Siemens, ABB, and GE.
Recently the Minister of Information and Communications (MIC), Nguyen Manh Hung, claimed that digital transformation and innovation will turn Vietnam into a developed country by 2045. He said that innovation always has to start with awareness and thinking and has to be seen from different perspectives. Old infrastructure, old ways of doing things, old knowledge, old products, old business models are no longer suitable. The country needs new infrastructure, new ways of doing things, new knowledge, new products, new business models.
That is why many people say that digital transformation is more of a policy revolution than a technology revolution. Adopting new business models, new technologies that fundamentally change industries. “If we are open to accepting the new, then the new technology of the world will come, talent from all over the world will come, a new industry will emerge and the cradle of Vietnam will create exportable digital technology products,” he noted.