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Covid-19 update: 30 April 2020

30 Apr 2020

A round-up of this week's coronavirus countermeasures announced by the photonics industry.

AIM Photonics member, University of Rochester, has highlighted “critical Covid-19 work” undertaken by Dr. Benjamin Miller, AIM Photonics academic lead for Integrated Photonic sensors development, and Professor of Biomedical Engineering, at University of Rochester Medical Center.

Miller’s lab is using the optical properties of nanostructured materials to create new biosensors and diagnostic tools. The lab is developing tiny sensor chips that use coronavirus proteins to “very quickly” detect the presence of the immunoglobulin G and immunoglobulin M antibodies that humans develop within two days of exposure to the virus.

“These are different from the tests that are out there now,” commenetd Miller. Existing RNA testing for Covid-19, which includes taking swabs from the nasal passage, concentrates on nucleic acid to “directly detect the virus early on.” But, added Miller, “it’s problematic because it’s very complicated and takes time to actually run the tests.” Miller's lab is exploring two techniques:

  • Binding coronavirus proteins to silicon chips that otherwise have a near-perfect antireflection surface. When the chip is exposed to a drop of blood, any antibodies to Covid-19 will be attracted to proteins, changing the shape of light reflected from them using an Arrayed Imaging Reflectometry technique developed by the lab. Detection is accurate to the molecular level.
  • Placing an optical chip on a disposable card that can detect infection when exposed to a blood sample. This research is part of a collaboration with the AIM Photonics Initiative and Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, a global company. The goal is to develop point-of-care optical tools for infectious disease diagnosis.

“Both projects are moving forward,” said Miller said. “The problem right now is actually getting patient samples. Meanwhile we are optimizing our assays with ‘normal’ serum samples doped with coronavirus antibodies—basically making artificial patient samples.”

Mauna Kea: Covid-19 impact.

Mauna Kea: Covid-19 impact.

Mauna Kea Technologies,, inventor of Cellvizio, the probe and needle-based confocal laser endomicroscopy platform, has announced its delayed full year 2019 financial results for 2019 and first quarter 2020 sales results to March 31, 2020.

  • Total revenue increased €0.6 million, or 8% year-over-year to €8.5 million.
  • Total sales increased €0.7 million, or 10% year-over-year, to €7.4 million.
  • Sales to clinical customers increased €1.5 million, or 27% year-over-year, to €7.2 million.
  • Gross margin was 69.6%, compared to 69.6% in 2018.
  • Operating loss was €13.0 million, compared to loss of €12.0 million in 2018.
  • Net loss was €15.3 million, compared to net loss of €12.8 million in 2018.

Covid-19 impact

Robert L. Gershon, CEO, commented, "While the long-term growth opportunity for Mauna Kea remains extremely compelling, our near-term outlook has been challenged by the global crisis caused by the coronavirus, or Covid-19, beginning in Q1, 2020. Given the rapidly evolving dynamics in our primary commercial markets around the world, we are unable to predict when the procedure and system adoption trends will improve.

“We have implemented a series of significant cost-cutting actions designed to reduce operating expenses and maximize our capital resources to support the company's strategic growth initiatives. In recent weeks, we pursued opportunities to enhance our balance sheet by successfully negotiating a drawdown of the second tranche of our loan agreement with European Investment Bank for €6.0 million and secured a loan for $0.7 million from the Paycheck Protection Program authorized under the U.S. Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

“Together, these actions should provide sufficient liquidity to manage the business for the next twelve months. We are navigating the unprecedented changes in our target markets responsibly and we are focused on ensuring that the organization is well-positioned to drive growth post Covid-19 when normal case loads resume."

Alluxa, a developer of optical coatings and filters, has extended its Ultra Series to include high-performance polymerase chain reaction (PCR) specific filters.

These filters were developed with higher performance optical characteristics and are intended to improve speed and efficiency of real time qPCR testing for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The new Ultra Series qPCR product family includes real-time, qPCR-specific filters for integration into medical equipment that performs Covid-19 testing of patient samples.

These ultra-steep filters with >OD6 blocking out of the band and state-of-the-art center wavelength tolerances of < ± 0.3% offer the highest transmission levels available with a passband average of >95% (see graphic). The new filters aid in the fluorescent detection of the virus and cover most common fluorophores for single and multiplexed qPCR filters.

CCO Peter Egerton commented, “As an essential business, we have moved quickly to offer our optical coating expertise and stand ready to help with the deployment, improvement, or development of technologies including qPCR to help slow the pandemic.”

Characterizing UV lamps

In the battle against Covid-19, UV sterilization techniques can extend the life of high-demand personal protective equipment (PPE), says Ocean Insight – but the company poses the question, “does your UV lamp provide enough power to disinfect face masks safely?”

In support of its offering, the company states on its website, “The strain on PPE supplies including face masks critical to slowing the spread of the virus motivated the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, PPE manufacturers and researchers around the globe to investigate the effectiveness of available techniques to disinfect used face masks for reuse.

“The CDC has released guidelines for the use of ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI), vaporous hydrogen peroxide (VHP), and moist heat for disinfecting used face masks without significantly impacting the function and integrity of the treated masks.

“With UV intensity that varies widely from lamp to lamp, it is challenging to ensure used masks are treated with the recommended dose of UV power. With an accurate measurement of UV lamp power, treatment times can be adjusted to ensure the proper dose of UV to ensure the safe reuse of face mask.”

Ocean Insight offers the optical sensing solutions to monitor the power and spectral profile of UV lamps. The company states, “Our systems have the flexibility to accurately measure UV levels at the same location on the masks to ensure sufficient virus- and bacteria-killing light at the proper wavelength is delivered.”

CDC cites Wuhan study on Covid-19 spread in hospitals

A novel device using ultraviolet light technology can neutralize the human coronavirus and other infectious diseases on the soles of shoes by more than 99.5 percent. HealthySole Plus, is being introduced in hospitals and other settings where infection control is a priority. A home version of the device (HealthySole Home) is also available.

“The device deactivated coronavirus markers by over 99.5 percent versus the control across three separate tests,” according to the report published by CREM Co, an infectious disease research and testing organization based near Toronto, Canada. As hospitals seek ways to reduce Covid-19 infections, the US Center for Disease Control says that the virus is spread through floors and foot traffic – not just by person-to-person contact.

“As people walk, they not only collect and spread pathogens on the soles of their shoes, but also aerosolize the virus, essentially kicking it back up in the air,” said HealthySole CEO Nelson Patterson. “The HealthySole device helps ensure pathogens aren’t tracked from patient rooms or wards to other locations.”

Research published April 10 by the CDC found that floors and shoe soles had the highest concentrations of Covid-19 in samples taken at a hospital facility in Wuhan, China. It also found the virus was being tracked well beyond patient rooms to other parts of the hospital, including into non-patient care areas such as hospital pharmacies where sampling indicated a 100 percent Covid-19 presence.

Santa Barbara Infrared, a manufacturer of advanced infrared and electro-optical test hardware for medical, aerospace, and defense applications, introduces the Nightingale Body Temperature Reference (BTR) Blackbody System for human body temperature detection.

SBIR president Steve McHugh, commented, “We are excited to announce the development of these new thermal sources for use in human fever detection systems to help fight the spread of Covid-19. By leveraging our core technology of military and scientific blackbody sources, our team has created a low-cost, thermal reference that can be produced quickly in high volumes.”

Specially designed for use in thermal imaging body-temperature screening systems, the device utilizes a convenient, viewable, thermal reference area for infrared camera systems.

Nightingale features include a “set and forget” temperature-programming function that is configurable to Celsius or Fahrenheit, with settable temperature ranges from 30 °C to 45 °C (86 °F to 113 °F). Specifications include temperature accuracy of ±0.15 °C (±0.3 °F) and temperature stability of ±0.5 °C (±0.1 °F) .

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