A special flight of Israeli scientists is heading to India this week to work with their counterparts to finalise four breakthrough pandemic-related technologies to detect the presence of SARS-CoV-2 pathogen that causes coronavirus. These include two Covid-19 tests that could give results in minutes from a saliva sample. A third that could tell if a person has incipient Covid by listening to their voice. And a fourth, a virus detector that uses radio waves on a breath sample.
The Israelis will work out of AIIMS in the national capital Delhi. “The first phase of testing of these technologies was done in Israel. The last stage will now be carried out in India,” said Israel’s ambassador to India, Ron Malka.
One technology is a new Covid test that uses polyamino acids to produce a result in 30 minutes, said Dani Gold, head of Israel’s Directorate of Defence Research and Development.
“This will mean you can be tested as you enter an airport, a mall or anywhere and be cleared. Real-time testing would allow the economy to open again.”
A second, inexpensive biochemical test that can be used at home and gives a result in 30 minutes. Both can work with a saliva sample.
The third technology uses artificial intelligence (AI) to listen to a person’s voice and determine if he or she has first stage Covid. “It plays on the fact Covid attacks the respiratory system. One could even do the diagnosis through a cell phone,” said Gold.
The third method is a breath analyser. “One would breathe into a tube. We put the tube into a machine which uses terahertz radio frequencies and an algorithm to tell if you have the virus.”
The project is led by Gold and K VijayRaghavan, principal scientific advisor to Prime Minister Modi. The funding, logistics, cooperation and results are mutual, said Malkin.
The Israeli and Indian scientists will carry out 4,000-5,000 tests of each technology in India to determine if they can work. Indian scientists will also be contributing on the algorithm side.
“India is an AI (artificial intelligence)) superpower,” said Gold. “With these tests, hopefully we will be able to mature the technology and deploy it across the board.”
The airplane will also bring cutting-edge technologies and equipment to help India, including robots, telemedicine, special sanitising equipment and so on.
Noting that India had helped in evacuating thousands of Israelis and provided emergency medical supplies in the early days of the pandemic, Malkin said, the new cooperation was “part of our strong bilateral friendship.” PM Modi and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu have spoken three times since the viral crisis broke out.
Gold said the Israeli team would be in India for about “a week and a half.”
Gold is famous in Israel for having invented the vaunted Iron Dome anti-missile defence system that provides a city-sized coverage against Katyusha-style rockets and mortar bombs, shooting down the incoming threats with small interceptor missiles.
Malkin, in response to a question, said he was unaware of any special arms purchases by India from Israel because of the border clashes between India and China.
“The two countries have had long-standing defence relations,” he said. “Relations have grown rapidly across many sectors, ranging from agriculture to defence, and now health.”