A smartphone being held in a child's hand with a blue cough screening application open, green lawn in background

Pfizer is paying Brisbane $179 million behind a smartphone app that claims to diagnose COVID-19

Pfizer has bought a Brisbane-based company that has created a smartphone app that says COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses can be diagnosed by listening to a person coughing, 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 analyze a patient’s cough on a smartphone.

The app also considers self-reporting of minor symptoms such as a runny nose or fever to diagnose and measure the severity of a range of lung diseases, including asthma and pneumonia.

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

Recent studies have shown that the app has a 92% success rate in diagnosing the virus among symptomatic patients, but more clinical trials are needed for it to gain regulatory approval.

University of Queensland Vice President Professor Deborah Terry said the $179 million acquisition, which was completed on Monday, was a “fantastic” outcome for the company and associated researchers.

“The value of translating research into new point-of-care diagnoses to improve healthcare on a global scale cannot be underestimated,” Professor Terry said.

University of Queensland commercial company UniQuest licensed the technology to ResApp in September 2014.

“Information superhighway”

The diagnostic technology used at ResApp Health has been developed by Associate Professor Udantha Abeyratne.(supplied)

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

“When I open my lungs, I open my airways, this is what I call the ‘superhighway of information,’ so I wondered if cough sounds, advanced signal processing and AI technology could be used to select features,” he said. .

“From the beginning, I had a great vision of developing scalable and cheap techniques for diagnosing lung diseases around the world – not just in sub-Saharan Africa, but even in developed urban cities like New York and Brisbane.”

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