Sonavi Labs AI stethoscope to help detect COVID-19

The company’s platform combines a digital stethoscope and software to diagnose respiratory conditions and could soon identify COVID-19.

At Arab Health 2020 in January, Sonavi Labs pitched Feelix, a digital stethoscope and software to diagnose respiratory conditions, and won the Innov8 Talks Pitch Competition. In just four months, the world as we know it has transformed completely, and the company is working tirelessly to deliver this need-of-the-hour solution to physicians, researchers and frontline hospital staff.

Ellington West, CEO & Co-Founder, Sonavi Labs told Omnia Health Insights: “We are sending devices to researchers at the American Hospital in Dubai, UAE to build a reference library of clean audio files for the COVID-19 disease. We hope that by collecting and analysing this data, we will be able to identify the specific acoustic signature of COVID-19, in the same way, we have been able to validate the technology on pneumonia. If we are successful in validating our classification algorithm on the COVID-19 virus, then we will be able to train all of our devices to detect the disease, providing a dry digital diagnostic solution anyone can use that is rapid, accurate and sustainable.”

She explained that the Sonavi Labs classification algorithm has so far been trained to differentiate pneumonia from asthma. The company is currently working with FINDdx, a global non-profit organisation, to address Tuberculosis. So far, they have been able to validate the classification algorithm on over 10,000 patients and have the ability to distinguish healthy from unhealthy lung sounds with a 91 per cent accuracy.

Sounds of life

Sonavi is taken from the Latin word Sono, to make noise, and Vita, meaning life, and the company examines the sounds to detect and manage diseases, West shared. The company was founded in October 2017, when West teamed up with Ian McLane, a student in the West Lab of Johns Hopkins. Her father, Dr. James West, who leads the West Research Lab, and is a world-renowned acoustician and professor at Johns Hopkins, told her about the work that he and McLane were doing since taking on a Gates Foundation challenge to reduce paediatric mortality as a result of pneumonia, but lamented that once McLane graduated, the work would be relegated to the Hopkins archives.

She said: “At the time I was a Business Development Director for a national healthcare organisation, and realised that the work that McLane and my father were doing could have a major impact on global health and there were many millions of people around the world that could use a device capable of detecting respiratory diseases in seconds. We have made it our mission to support health systems, clinicians of all skill levels and patients everywhere with our advanced, AI-enabled technology, Feelix.”

How does Feelix work?

The Feelix and FeelixPro stethoscopes were developed to support the clinicians of all skill levels. From the original Gates Foundation challenge, researchers were able to develop algorithms that could be helpful in several settings, including traditional and untraditional clinical environments, in the field or even a patient’s home. With the ability to be used without Internet access, the company has a mission to increase access to healthcare around the world.

The devices use the company’s proprietary adaptive noise suppression algorithm to collect and store clean lung sounds. Another patented classification machine learning algorithm analyses the sounds in real-time, much like a clinician does and delivers a classification decision in about 10 to 15 seconds.

“We have validated the classification algorithm on thousands of patients and have thus far trained it to detect and differentiate pneumonia from asthma in paediatric patients. Through ongoing studies around the world, we hope to validate the platform on multiple conditions and body systems,” West highlighted.

Both these devices are currently pending U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval and have qualified for the Quality in Review pilot programme, which reportedly expedites the 510(k)-approval process.

West shared that the Feelix@Home platform will soon follow the launch of the Feelix and FeelixPro devices, which will translate the clinical support offered by the FeelixPro to everyday users. “We hope this platform will help chronic asthma and Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients better manage their condition and live healthier lives,” she added.

Saving Lives

The Feelix platform has received numerous awards for its potential impact on healthcare. The company attended Arab Health 2020 as a grant recipient from the Maryland Department of Commerce and were able to display their technology in the Maryland pavilion.

West highlighted: “Our experience at Arab Health was fantastic because it gave our team a great opportunity to review the competitive landscape and showcase our novel technology to a global audience. Participating at the Innov8 Talks had a significant impact. We were able to celebrate the win as a team and made great contacts that will help us to propel our technology forward. The ExportMD programme further provided us with a great opportunity to not only attend Arab Health, but we were also introduced to potential partners and clients.”

Sonavi Labs has also won an MIT - SOLVE Challenge, multiple National Institute of Health (NIH) grants and other global competitions. The company is a Johnson and Johnson Innovation; JLABS portfolio firm and intends to continue building partnerships that connect healthcare institutions to its innovative solution. West’s vision is for AI to augment and increase the capacities of healthcare professionals and health systems, in addition to bridging some of the current gaps that exist between communities, resulting in greater access to quality care.

“The Sonavi Labs team is a diverse group of accomplished and resourceful individuals and we have made it our mission to ensure our technology reaches the communities that are most devastated by treatable and manageable conditions. We aim to help providers save time, save resources and save lives,” she concluded.

Omnia Health Live

West will be participating in the ‘Innov8 Talks - Start-up Panel Discussion’ at Omnia Health Live on Thursday, June 25 at 18:00 GST. Register for free to learn from her and other leaders in healthcare.