Pharma giant Pfizer has shelled out nearly US$120 million to acquire a small Australian company claiming to have developed a smartphone app that can accurately diagnose COVID-19 by analysing the sound of a cough.
For around a decade small Australian digital healthcare company ResApp has been working on developing an algorithm that can diagnose respiratory illnesses by simply studying the sound of a patient’s cough.
Initially the system was trained to diagnose pneumonia, but by 2019 the researchers had shown the technology could effectively distinguish asthma, croup and bronchiolitis.
When the pandemic struck in 2020 the team unsurprisingly quickly pivoted to incorporate COVID-19 diagnoses into its cough-recognition technology.
By early 2022 the first data from a pilot trial testing the COVID algorithm revealed impressively good results.
The trial found the system could accurately detect 92% of positive COVID cases solely from the sound of a cough.
Soon after ResApp revealed these results pharma giant Pfizer began circling, initially offering around $65 million for the technology.
Now, in a formal acquisition announcement, a deal has been finalized for Pfizer to buy ResApp for a massive $116 million.
In a statement, a Pfizer spokesperson said the preliminary data was encouraging and the deal expands the company’s footprint into the sphere of digital health. The ResApp team hopes the acquisition by Pfizer helps the technology grow and be widely deployed in remote parts of the world.
“From the very beginning, I had a big vision to develop scalable, cheap technologies to diagnose pulmonary diseases all over the world – not only in remote sub-Saharan Africa, but even in developed urban cities like New York and Brisbane,” said Abeyratne.