Prestigious startup program tackles COVID-19

Global Business

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It’s a non-profit community of entrepreneurs and Stanford experts committed to building startups.

And now it’s harnessing its network of scientists and technology to create the StartX Med COVID-19 Task Force

“Our role at StartX is to make sure that if someone does have a cure for something, that it doesn’t just become another paper that’s published in another journal,” said Joseph Huang, CEO of StartX. “If I want to take that all the way to impact real patients, I’ll have mentors and a community and infrastructure and support all the way through all the steps along the way.”

StartX’s Demo Day has been extended online, where among this session’s startups are Kangaroo Health, founded by China native

Dr. Xiaoxu Kang.

“Kangaroo Health acts like your personal nurse in your pocket,” said Kang. Just like your personal nurse we check in with you every single day on your symptoms and vitals. Then we use machine intelligence and AI to do real-time assessments of your health risk.”

Through Kangaroo Health’s mobile app, patients can be monitored from home as AI performs a continual COVID-19 risk tracking and assessment.

That not only frees up hospital beds, but also lowers the risk of others getting infected in hospital settings.

It could also be used by public health agencies in charge of monitoring thousands of potential COVID-19 cases through time-consuming phones calls.

“We reduce the need from several hundred people down to a just very small few people,” said Kang. “So those small teams are able to use the platform to see on a population level. They will be able to track their risks, track their symptoms.”

StartX also has startups that are developing devices for both medical professionals and everyday people.

One company, AVA Breathe, has taken a look at the various masks and face coverings out there and determined there’s plenty of room for improvement.

“So most people have paper masks or cloth masks and things that are poorly fit and don’t actually maybe properly protect people from this current COVID crisis,” said Eric Sokol, Co-Founder of AVA Breathe. “So we developed a small personal air purifier that you can wear underneath it. So this is really the world’s smallest N90 filter. When coupled with a surgical or cloth mask, it provides a lot of protection, along with sophisticated health monitoring.”

That includes the ability to monitor a user’s respiratory rate, respiratory pressure and body temperature.

Sokol is a Stanford professor and physician, who teamed up with two other Stanford professors, to found AVA Breathe and enter StartX.

They showed us a prototype of their upcoming product, which tackles another problem – leaks.

“We can make this as a little stick on filter, clip on filter or it could be embedded into any high-end mask,” said Sokol. “So you can adjust then your mask so that it’s properly fit and working for you to protect you.”

Sokol says while their products provide immediate protection and detection, it may ultimately be the data collected that someday helps predict how your body reacts to the air you breathe.

The startup AVA Breathe spun out of a Stanford Biodesign program and later joined up with StartX.

Reporter Mark Niu continued his talk with Stanford Medicine Professor and Co-founder Eric Sokol, who says his company was focusing on devices for air pollution when the COVID-19 outbreak occurred.