Pfizer offers AU$100 million for Australian company that developed COVID-19 cough diagnostic app

Biopharmaceutical giant Pfizer has offered AU$100 million (US$74.43 million) to acquire Australian company ResApp, which has developed a mobile app to diagnose COVID-19 by the sound of a person’s cough.

In its announcement of the proposed acquisition to the Australian Stock Exchange, ResApp said Pfizer will acquire 100 per cent of the company’s shares following an anticipated positive shareholder vote in mid-June on the all cash offer.

“We are excited by the prospect of this acquisition by Pfizer, a leading biopharmaceutical company that shares our vision and belief that technology can help transform healthcare and improve patients’ lives,” CEO and Managing Director of ResApp Dr Tony Keating said.

“The proposed acquisition recognises the years of dedicated work by the ResApp team to build ResApp into a leader in audio-based analysis of respiratory health. We believe that the material premium and certainty of an all cash consideration is an attractive outcome for our shareholders. “

The deal also includes a research and development component for future COVID-19 related products and adds to Pfizer’s expanding digital health portfolio.

“This proposed acquisition and research collaboration will add to our growing digital capabilities and bolster our efforts to pave a new era for digital health,” Pfizer’s Chief Digital and Technology Officer Lidia Fonseca said.

WHY IT MATTERS

In March, ResApp released positive results from a pilot clinical trial of 741 patients in the United States and India, 446 of whom were COVID-19 positive. ResApp’s screening test detected COVID-19 with 92 per cent accuracy, and correctly identified those without COVID -19 80 per cent of the time. The results exceeded the real-world measured sensitivity of rapid antigen tests (RATs).

Diagnosing asymptomatic patients was more difficult, with a 50-60 per cent success rate, similar to RATs.

More clinical trials are needed for the app to gain regulatory approval.

HOW IT WORKS

ResApp was established in 2014 to commercialise technology developed by Associate Professor Udantha Abeyratne funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the University of Queensland and UniQuest.

The company had previously developed the only regulatory approved diagnostic app for respiratory disease using cough sounds. Its machine learning algorithms also measure the severity of conditions without accessories or hardware.

Its products include ResAppDx, a smartphone-based acute respiratory disease diagnostic test for use in telehealth, emergency department and primary care settings that is CE Marked in Europe and TGA approved in Australia.

In February, ResApp inked a two-year deal to launch ResAppDx on the Health Teams telehealth platform.

Chronic lung and respiratory conditions – including asthma, cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), common colds, pneumonia, influenza, acute bronchitis and bronchiolitis – are very common and affect 31 per cent of Australians.

THE LARGER TREND

Mobile apps are a new frontier in COVID-19 diagnostics, with the race on to develop solutions that don’t require nasal swabs and laboratory testing turnaround times.

Researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara announced in January that they had developed a cell phone app that along with a lab kit could detect COVID-19 variants and flu viruses rapidly and accurately.

In October 2021, health tech company Detect announced it had received emergency use authorisation from the United States Food and Drug Administration for its at-home molecular COVID-19 test, which uses an app to help users perform and interpret their results.

Earlier last year, New Zealand tested an app that detected the early signs of COVID-19 on border workers using wearables and AI that checked for symptoms that could indicate potential infection.

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