Innovating to Combat COVID-19

 An integrated approach to identify and support technologies to end the pandemic

Projections indicate that the incidence of COVID-19 infections in India will be among the highest in the world. With public and private health systems shifting focus to tackle the growing burden of COVID-19, there is an emerging need for innovative technologies and solutions that can help flatten the curve.

India Health Fund (IHF) has been working closely with innovators to support leading innovations that provide novel solutions to existing threats posed by tuberculosis (TB), malaria and other vector-borne diseases, which can be potentially adapted for COVID-19.

With the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic constantly evolving, IHF shifted focus from solutions for only TB or malaria to developing platform solutions for infectious diseases. IHF aims to do this by a) leveraging existing solutions that have potential to adapt for COVID-19 and b) identifying new solutions that can address multiple problem areas across infectious disease. IHF hopes to rapidly deploy key technologies and practices to mitigate the risk from the Coronavirus.

To ensure affordable access at scale, IHF is partnering with implementing agencies to facilitate deployment to target regions quickly and effectively and supplement the efforts of the Government of India.

From the existing IHF portfolio of innovations, two organizations are being supported in adapting diagnosis and screening tools originally meant for TB, to test for Covid-19 instead. IHF is supporting them in deployment, implementation, and scale-up:

Innovator Stories

Qure.ai adapted its IHF-funded Artificial Intelligence-based chest X-Ray screening solution for TB to enable rapid and affordable screening for Covid-19. This is product currently being employed in 20 countries, but its use in India has been limited so far.

Molbio Diagnostics received approval from ICMR to use a compact, battery-operated system which provides test results at the point of care within an hour. This IHF-supported solution was originally intended for detecting TB but has since been modified to screen for Covid-19. The Central Tuberculosis Division (CTD), Government of India, has ordered 1,500 testing systems for TB but the TrueNAT tests for Covid-19 are only being used by the governments of Goa and Andhra Pradesh right now

In April 2020, IHF also launched a Quest 2020 seeking projects airborne infection control, screening and diagnosis for TB and Covid-19 as well as Adverse Drug Reactions (ADRs) for TB. Sixty-five applications were received and are being screened by an expert panel, with the final selection of projects to be completed by June 2020

In line with its earlier strategies, IHF is currently scouting for pathbreaking innovations which can help combat COVID-19. The problem areas within which innovations can apply are in the following domains:

Problem Statement 1: Diagnostics

IHF aims to ensure rapid and accurate diagnosis, as timely screening is the first step in preventingCOVID-19. With 1 lakh test per day in India, there is a growing need for innovative and point-of-care diagnostic assays beyond quantitative RT-PCR and rapid serological tests.

Innovations could aid in increasing the speed and accuracy or diagnostics, via affordable tests.

Problem Statement 2: Infection Control

IHF aims to fast track infection control measures to curb the transmission of COVID-19, by supporting innovations that provide solutions to administrative and environmental controls to reduce the risk of droplet infection etc.

Infection prevention and control measures in the community and health facilities aimed at reducing transmission depends a lot on new technology in the elementary products such as N-95 masks, sanitizers- chemical, UV or plasma, personnel-protective equipment (PPEs), and disinfecting devices.

Problem Statement 3: Tracking, Monitoring and Surveillance

IHF will support innovations that aim to gather reliable and relevant data to assess the spread of infection and the feasibility and sustainability of programs and tools used to combat COVID-19.

The ongoing surge in cases calls for tracking and surveillance of migratory population, people not following the regulations and contact tracing. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions, real time information apps, cloud based heatmaps are few innovative solutions which can help in mitigating the issue.

Problem Statement 4: Disease Management in Hospitals and at Home

Support to patients is critical to supporting our healthcare systems, which are over worked, over-crowded and under supplied. Innovations in oxygenators and alternative tools, like 3D-printed devices, smart beds, cloud-based remote care management platforms, could help with disease management.

  1. Innovations that combine affordability, accessibility, efficiency, and user experience with high quality related to the focus areas mentioned above
  2. Innovations should have crossed either of the following stages, whichever applicable:
    1. TRL-6 or beyond (where TRL defines the Technology Readiness Level and TRL-6 describes that the Technology has been put together and can be tested in a simulated environment)
    2. PRL- 4 and beyond (where PRL defined Process Readiness Level and PRL 4 describes that the Process has undergone formative research and has been initiated in experimental setting i.e. in a few project villages or in a healthcare facility setting, but not applied outside the special project setting

Interested innovators can reach out India Health Fund at contact@indiahealthfund.org and the innovations can be further discussed on a case-to-case basis. Innovations will be screened and evaluated on an ongoing basis.

  1. Evaluate proposed platform-based innovations and developments which are adaptable and applicable to addressing COVID-19 or other such threatening infectious diseases.
  2. Support for clinical validation, clinical investigation, beta prototyping, clinical trials, feasibility studies, confirmatory testing, and pilot introduction.
  3. Collective engagement with Indian stakeholders and global players in infectious diseases space to gain access to the global ecosystem working towards elimination.
  4. Direct program engagement with national programs addressing COVID-19 and airborne infections including public health emergencies.
  5. Hands-on mentoring through a handpicked committee of experts for navigating regulatory landscape and understanding national market dynamics.
  6. Opportunities:
    1. With implementation partners and potential funders to co-create targeted solutions to ensure implementation at scale and to facilitate fund raising.
       
    2. Strengthen collaboration with partners to mobilize resources, for advocacy and government engagement (regulatory approvals, adoption in public system), to develop financing mechanisms, and for technical expertise and capability building.

Interested innovators and partners can reach out India Health Fund at contact@indiahealthfund.org for more information.

IHF Covid-19 Response

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