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Brisbane-based medical technology pioneer and Life Sciences Queensland (LSQ) member WearOptimo is set to make a dramatic impact on how COVID-19 patients are tested and treated, with the development of a wearable sensor to help doctors prioritise patients likely to need ICU care.

The innovative, non-invasive Microwearable enables real-time monitoring of patients to detect early signs of inflammation associated with severe cases, reducing the burden on critical care through early identification of patients’ needs.

The device works by detecting the levels of IL-6 in COVID-19 positive patients — which studies have found is directly linked to accurately predicting the eventual need for a ventilator in infected patients.

WearOptimo Founder and CEO, and Vice Chancellor’s Entrepreneurial Professor of the Australian National University, Mark Kendall, said despite wide-scale adoption of isolation and distancing measures to flatten the curve, the global demand for intensive care resources such as ventilators is set to far outstrip the current availability.

“One of the key events in COVID-19 — and one that is closely linked to multi-organ failure and death — is caused by the patient’s own immune response. This ‘cytokine storm’ is an excessive inflammation response that causes more damage to the body than it does to the virus, leading to the need for ventilators and intensive care to treat patients,” he said.

“The development of our IL-6 Microwearable sensor means that ventilators and other resources in high demand in Australia, and globally, can be allocated to those with the highest need — ultimately saving lives.”

WearOptimo quickly assembled a taskforce to produce its IL-6 Microwearable sensor in light of the coronavirus pandemic, with line-of-sight to rapid test its sensor in COVID-19 patients with the aim of deploying the sensors into hospitals later this year.

LSQ CEO Clare Blain said WearOptimo’s innovative work in this space aligns with LSQ’s driving purpose to feed, fuel and heal the world.

“The coronavirus pandemic has truly put the life sciences industry to the test around the globe, and we’re incredibly proud of companies like WearOptimo that have promoted the innovative thinking and incredible capability of Queensland’s medical research and manufacturing sector on a global scale,” she said.

WearOptimo’s Microwearable will be developed and manufactured in Australia using the country’s world-class manufacturing and testing facilities, with work having already commenced on generating the product for the global market.

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Mark Kendall Founder and CEO