Following last month’s report on the many ways in which innovative companies in Scotland are using their expertise to combat the coronavirus pandemic, we have tracked more efforts from a wide range of different sectors. Life sciences companies have been able to find useful channels for collaboration, but in other sectors the contributions are sometimes unexpected.
Three mission-led businesses which received investment in 2019 from SIS Ventures’ inaugural Impact First Fund have contributed to the business community’s pandemic response. SIS Ventures (www.sisventures.com) invests for financial, social and environmental and impact creation, applying a unique approach to supporting the impact aspirations of its investments.
Craft beer brand Brewgooder (www.brewgooder.com) responded to Covid-19 by launching One On Us, enabling customers to donate a round of drinks and a message of support to NHS Champions. In just four weeks, more than 6,000 four-packs of clean water lager have been paid forward by the public for NHS staff to claim.
Ethical advertising-tech company Good-Loop (www.good-loop.com) has launched a ‘watch and donate’ campaign in which viewers of online brand content are able to donate 50% of the advertising revenue from that view to high-impact charities which fall within three ‘frontline action areas’ – protecting the vulnerable, supporting local foodbanks, and funding international research.
Good-Loop recently signed up bathing brand Soap & Glory, which has invested in running purpose-powered ads. Every time a user swipes up to watch the ad, Soap & Glory donate to The Hygiene Bank, a charity working to ensure those living in poverty have access to basic toiletries. The donation complements the brand’s existing commitment to gift one ‘Clean on Me’ shower gel to the charity, for every 50 Soap & Glory products purchased.
Health care data technology company Talking Medicines (talkingmedicines.com), whose Medsmart® app allows patients to better manage their medicines at home, has been engaged in regular consultation with its community to capture their voice during lockdown and learn about the impact of COVID-19, particularly for those shielding and self-isolating. The company is also supporting carers within the home care sector with an app based solution called Care Connect Call, which helps carers to safely schedule, call and track video consultations.
Tissue Solutions (www.tissue-solutions.com) is working in tandem with CBSB, part of the Department of Haematology in the School of Clinical Medicine at the University of Cambridge, to provide within 24 hours COVID-19 samples for researchers racing to increase understanding of the virus for the development of diagnostic tests and vaccines. Thanks to the new partnership, a test tube of blood (the equivalent of one patient sample) can be divided into multiple plasma or serum samples before being sent on to several researchers, helping to ensure that there is no waste of the limited supply of COVID-19 samples.
Tissue Solutions is sourcing fresh blood samples on demand through its well-established network of collection sites. The company’s shipping and logistics team quickly arranges the delivery of the samples to CBSB, which then uses its laboratory facilities to separate the highly infectious blood sample into its component parts. These blood fractions are more useful to scientists in labs, due to their increased stability.
Tissue Solutions and CBSB joined forces following the Tissue Directory and Coordination Centre’s call for biobanks to record their capabilities online to make it easier to identify opportunities for collaboration, and Tissue Solutions does not earn any profit from its provision of COVID-19 samples.
Mobile and app development company xDesign (www.xdesign.com) volunteered its services to create NHS 24’s symptom checker app, having observed that NHS 24 contact centres were managing an extraordinary volume of calls since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Having worked with the Scottish Government in the past, xDesign was introduced to NHS 24 and within hours, was working with them on the solution; an app that helps people to assess the potential of COVID-19 symptoms and take appropriate action depending on the severity of the symptoms they are displaying. The app uses existing APIs to ensure that it is always up to date with the latest information. Importantly, it also includes notifications, so NHS 24 now has an immediate way of alerting users to new information and guidance, which can be accessed with a single tap of the screen.
Bio-printing technology company Arrayjet (www.arrayjet.co.uk) has re-purposed its antibody screening technology to create a population-scale diagnostic programme that will help scientists better understand the behaviour of the Covid-19 virus and hasten a global vaccination programme. For this screening platform, an international collaborative partnership has been formed between Arrayjet and CDI Laboratories, a US-based proteomics company which specialises in advancing proteomic research and development.
The team is using Arrayjet’s antibody screening technology ArrayPlex, and optimised reagents from CDI, to print thousands of droplets of synthetically made COVID-19 viral proteins on ‘biological microchips’. The microchips are then used to profile the immune responses of large groups of patients by accurately printing tiny droplets (0.0000001 ml) of their blood serum on top of the virus proteins. The platform provides an automated antibody profiling test using the serum of 18,000 patients per instrument every 24 hours.
Current Health (currenthealth.com), which offers a suite of AI-powered remote patient monitoring solutions, has entered a partnership with the Mayo Clinic to develop technologies that identify coronavirus cases and predict symptom and disease severity in patients, health care workers, and other at-risk individuals. As part of the partnership, the Mayo Clinic will become an investor in Current Health.
The collaboration is likely to involve the use of wearables to collect real-world, continuous data like temperature, heart rate, oxygen saturation, activity, and posture from a subset of vulnerable patients. Health care professionals from both the Mayo Clinic and Current Health will be able to access this data to make diagnostic and treatment decisions, at least in part by investigating novel biomarkers and the ways in which they manifest in diverse populations.
Reactec (www.reactec.com), which has developed HAVwear, a wearable wrist device that monitors in real time an individual’s exposure to vibration when using power tools, has repurposed the technology to create Safedistance, enabling employers to manage the social distancing of their workforce within construction, rail, manufacturing, and other workplaces.
Safedistance is based on an industrial grade wrist-worn device which alerts workers if they have strayed to within two metres of a colleague, informs employers of the frequency and severity of breaches of social distancing protocols, and can assist with contact tracing of those who have been close to employees subsequently displaying COVID-19 symptoms.
Home security company iFire (ifireuk.com) has developed a fever screening camera designed to detect elevated skin-surface temperatures, capable of measuring up to 30 people at a time with accuracy up to ±0.3°C, which can be used for rapid and preliminary fever screening in office buildings, factories, stations, airports and other public places.
The CoVent-19 Challenge, an open innovation 8-week Grand Challenge for engineers, innovators, designers, and makers, is fostering the innovation of a rapidly deployable, minimum viable mechanical ventilator for patients with COVID-19 related ventilator-dependent lung injury. Ross Hunter, chief executive of Armadilla (armadilla.co.uk), a designer and manufacturer of ‘luxury experiential accommodation’ pods, entered the challenge with CORE Vent, a fully functioning ventilator designed to use off the shelf components and be constructed from 12mm (1/2″) sheet material (the prototype was constructed out of compact laminate). The design uses a novel bellows system to provide PEEP (Positive End Expiratory Pressure). Team Armadilla is one of only seven entries (and the only one from the UK) to go to the final stage of the challenge, with results to be announced on 1st June.
Breathe Easy (www.breathe-easy.info), set up last month by Edinburgh businessman Gavin McAdam, has been supplying quality fabric facemasks to frontline sector workers and others at risk, free to anyone who wants them, with the company appealing for donations to support the service. Breathe Easy is currently manufacturing around 200 masks a day, with over 5,000 having already been distributed. As a result of the guidance from the Scottish Governmental and WHO, and other advice across the EU, Breathe Easy is now opening up its fabric facemask range for purchase by the general public. The facemasks are double-ply cotton and come with a concealed pocket as standard for filter insert if desired.
Breathe Easy, working closely with a number of organisations helping the hard of hearing, has now developed a facemask that allows lip-readers to have access to protection via a plastic insert which allows sight of the movement of the mouth.
Citruslabs (www.citruslabs.com), formerly named MindMate and based in Glasgow but now in Santa Monica, California and focused on the US market, supports patient recruitment for clinical trials and is offering its services for free to organisations and researchers trying to find vaccines and drugs to treat Covid-19.
NASDAQ-listed Quotient (quotientbd.com), originally established in Scotland in the 1940s as Alba Bioscience, has entered into an exclusive contract with hVIVO, whereby Quotient is hVIVO’s exclusive supplier of COVID-19 antibody testing equipment, to support COVID-19 antibody testing in the UK.
Cyan Forensics (www.cyanforensics.com) is a founder member of the newly formed Online Safety Tech Industry Association (OSTIA), which is supported by the UK government, NSPCC, Internet Watch Foundation and WeProtect Global Alliance. OSTIA’s launch comes at a crucial time, as a rise in online child sexual abuse is predicted during the coronavirus pandemic; earlier this month Interpol issued a global threat assessment, demonstrating that recent weeks have seen increased online activity by paedophiles seeking child sexual abuse material.