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Hillel’s Tech Corner: MeMed: Bringing data to medicine

It is 2020 and we have self-driving cars, autonomous drones, and advanced robotics. Yet, when you go to the doctor with a headache, the ability to differentiate between a viral and bacterial infection is significantly harder than it should be. The result is often the prescription of antibiotics that are not actually needed.Antibiotic misuse contributes to the rise of antimicrobial resistance, which causes 700,000 deaths annually worldwide, a figure that is projected to increase to 10 million by 2050. By giving patients antibiotics they don’t need, more harm is being done than good. The ability to analyze data and extract deep and actionable insights into the nature and severity of a patient’s condition is imperative.Meet MeMed, an Israeli company founded in 2009, now with more than 70 employees, and offices in Haifa, Israel and the US.MeMed raised $100M+ from leading VCs and insurers, and is the recipient of $35M+ in grants, including those from the US Department of Defense and the EU Commission. Their investors include: Ping An Global Voyager Fund, Foxconn, Caesarea Medical Holdings, Clal Insurance, Phoenix Insurance, OurCrowd, Social Capital, WTI and Horizons Ventures.MeMed is a leader in host immune response technology and is focused on providing physicians with tools to improve patient management. Their mission is to decode and translate the immune system’s complex signals into actionable insights that can be used to transform the way infectious diseases and inflammatory disorders are diagnosed and treated. Their technology platform makes it possible to conduct highly sensitive, rapid, multiplexed protein measurements at the point of need that previously could only be done on central lab equipment. Their test, MeMed BV, measures host-immune response proteins from a small sample of blood, and then applies machine learning to accurately distinguish between bacterial and viral infections.As of late, the company is using its technology to analyze and interpret the unique expression of three biomarker proteins in response to COVID-19 infection to provide insights into disease severity and risk stratification, in addition to monitoring patient response to treatment. They are currently running various studies around early detection of disease severity that may support physicians in their medical decisions.MeMed is actively collaborating with clinical centers in the US, Israel, Germany and Asia. They collected more than 1,000 samples from COVID-19 patients, which they plan to use to develop a test for predicting how severe a patient’s infection will be, so people at high risk of severe cases can be prioritized for treatment. They also launched a collaboration with a Dutch medical center, sampling hundreds of asymptomatic healthcare workers.While evidence shows that only a small percentage of COVID-19 patients need antibiotics to treat subsequent bacterial co-infections, when the coronavirus first emerged, doctors were left scrambling with how to manage patients. With no drug proven for treating COVID-19 patients, many turned to antibiotics, a concerning trend likely to lead to higher bacterial resistance rates.MeMed was co-founded by Dr. Eran Eden and Dr. Kfir Oved.Eden has been the

How a Lego-like shipping container is bringing the future of mobile medicine to Harris County

The future of mobile medicine is coming to Harris County, focused initially on community-based COVID-19 testing but available for any emergency response or disease care.

The so-called SmartPods, portable aluminum units developed by Baylor College of Medicine for the Ebola outbreak in Africa and envisioned by NASA for the Mars habitat, will be deployed in the United States for the first time in east Harris County’s Precinct 2. The initiative is the brainchild of Commissioner Adrian Garcia, who sees the units as a way to increase health care access and keep people out of hospitals.

“This is the 21st century MASH unit being made available here,” said Garcia. “Tents were the first phase. This is the second phase.”

The first of the SmartPods opened Tuesday at Northeast Community Center in Aldine. Two more will follow, one at East Harris Activity Center in Pasadena and one at Flukinger Community Center in Channelview. Dates for their openings have not yet been set.

Each SmartPod is a modular four-room medical unit — self-contained, fully powered but capable of going off grid, impervious to outside weather conditions — inside a recycled shipping container that inventor Dr. Sharmila Anandasabapathy says is “almost like Ikea.” Anandasabathy, an internal medicine professor and the director of Baylor Global Initiatives, touts how the pods can be linked like Legos, how they fold up in minutes. Though they don’t travel themselves, they can be easily picked up and transported to areas of need, typically by truck but also by ship or helicopter, for instance.

The pods cost less than 5 percent of a brick-and-mortar medical unit, said Anandasabapathy. Precinct 2 is spending a total of $2.9 million in county funding on the Aldine and Pasadena units, money that covers their design, construction, transport, medical equipment and medical services. The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) is expected to reimburse the money.

It is unclear if other Harris County commissioners will purchase units for their precincts, but Anandasabapathy said future plans call for the installation of two more in Precinct 2 — one for women’s health, and one for mental health. The SmartPod in Channelview, on loan from Baylor, will focus on primary care.

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Baylor is getting requests for the pods from other entities around the nation and globe. For now, it is able to build the units on demand, but hopes to turn the manufacturing over to a spin-off company by the end of the year.

The pods in Aldine and Pasadena, focused on COVID-19, feature respiratory isolation rooms. The hermetically sealed, negative-pressure rooms decrease the risk of airborne transmission of disease and enable doctors to treat contagious, sick patients in a safe way. Such rooms are impossible in tents and rare even in U.S. clinics.

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Features of the SmartPod:

— 8 x 20 foot container that expands manually into a 400 square foot facility.

— Can withstand winds up to 116 miles per hour,