A UAE firm has developed a machine that allows much faster coronavirus mass screenings, delivering test results in mere seconds and allowing more people to be tested. QuantLase Imaging Lab, the medical-research arm of International Holdings Company, told the Emirates News Agency (WAM) the device can be used in hospitals as well as public places like cinemas and shopping malls.

“With a ‘little hands-on training’ it can be used for in-house testing and monitoring,” said Dr Pramod Kumar, who leads the team of researchers at the lab studying the change in cell structure of virus-infected blood. “We believe it will be a game-changer in tackling the spread of the coronavirus."

Abdul Rahman Bin Mohammad Bin Nasser Al Owais, Minister of Health and Prevention, expressed the government’s support of the new machine, which uses a CMOS detector and is expected to be available in the market in a few months. "We are always following innovations related to the early and rapid detection of Covid–19,” he said. “The government is keen on supporting initiatives that help the healthcare system in the UAE. Health officials have been closely monitoring the progress of trials with QuantLase in order to test this equipment. We are proud to see a technology that works and that will help to protect our people better."

Explaining how the machine works, Dr Kumar said, "Our laser-based DPI (Diffractive Phase Interferometry) technique, based on optical-phase modulation, is able to give a signature of infection within a few seconds. What’s more, it is user-friendly, non-invasive and low-cost."

Dr Kumar further explained that artificial intelligence (AI) plays a critical role in the diagnostic system. He said an advanced AI image-analysis model predicts the outcome of each image with precision, speed and scale, which critical in large-scale testing programmes. It currently takes several hours to diagnose a Covid-19 case.

The lab said it is using G42, a leading AI and Cloud Computing company, to further enhance the laser programme.

"With the first 1,000 tests, we refined our experiment and then applied it to the rest of the trials," Dr Kumar said. "The process passed through several stages, and most recently was being trialled on a large scale, in line with current testing procedures.

"As far as early stage detection is concerned, our DPI technique is capable to detect as soon as the blood cell gets infected. Our aim is to eventually reach the maximum level of accuracy."

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