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i3S Health Innovation Prize: winners revealed

Aligned with current times and concerns, the 3rd edition of the i3S Health Innovation Prize set out to award innovative solutions to understand and address the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Among the contenders, the jury distinguished four projects aiming at prevention, disease monitoring, treatment, and protection.

“Antiviral nanotechnology for surfaces and ceramic air filters” is one of the awarded projects, put forth by the Smart Separations startup, headed by Hugo Macedo. The startup developed a nanotechnological coating with antimicrobial properties able to destroy in seconds not only virus of the betacoronavirus family (namely SARS-CoV-2), but also other viruses, bacteria and fungi. According to CEO Hugo Macedo, this coating “could be incorporated in many types of materials, from wood and metal to fabrics and ceramic air filters, and also easily applied to several surfaces designed for frequent contact”. This solution is “particularly useful for spaces with high circulation of people, with a higher risk of transmission through air and surfaces, such as schools, hospitals, nursing homes, public transport, offices, and factory plants”. The jury foresaw promising results and awarded the i3S Health Innovation Prize to the project. Sponsored by i3S, Vallis Capital, Câmara Municipal do Porto and TECNIMEDE, this prize is worth 20 thousand euros plus a prize of identical value in services of innovation support. This project has also garnered the Patentree Award and three enrollment tuitions in the executive training program “Future Leaders”, offered by Porto Business School.

“C-mo, a medical device to assess patients’ cough on the daily” is another project acknowledged by this edition of the i3S Health Innovation Prize. Developed by the C-mo Medical Solutions, this project intends to automatically monitor distinctive characteristics in coughing in patients’ everyday life, like frequency, type, and associated cough patterns, by way of a wearable device.
Sara Lobo, co-founder, adds that C-mo has the “ability to correlate coughing patterns to relevant physiologic parameters, such as body temperature, thus enabling doctors to gather invaluable information and helping them expand their knowledge on COVID-19”. Furthermore, coughing as a symptom provides “a multitude of physiopathological relevant data, albeit hitherto somewhat out of reach of physicians, considering how unreliable and subjective are patients’ accounts. C-mo offers more accurate diagnoses and makes it possible to prescribe treatments suitable to the patient’s clinical condition”, along with being “a valuable tool to assess the efficaciousness of COVID-19 treatments and of many other respiratory diseases, both in the clinical practice and in clinical trials”. C-mo won the Porto Business School Award, earning researchers two enrollment tuitions in the executive training program “Future Leaders” taking place in December.


BfK Awards acknowledges project targeting sepsis, one of the most serious consequences of COVID-19

ANI hands out the Born from Knowledge (BfK) Awards, which this year went to Alexandre Carmo, i3S researcher behind the project “Spα biological receptor as a therapeutic agent against infection and sepsis in COVID-19”. Albeit generally under the radar, sepsis is the direct cause of almost 20% of world deaths; in the hospital setting it’s the third and specifically in ICU it’s the leading cause.
Several types of infection, especially when they target people with compromised or low immunity, may trigger the immune system to react out of proportion, which unleashes an immune response that quickly becomes unmanageable and more detrimental than the actual infectious agent. This process of severe systemic inflammation is generally called sepsis “and it may be particularly lethal once we leap through the stage where antimicrobial therapies (antibiotics, antiviral, etc.) could be effective. When it comes to COVID-19, the most common complication in hospitalized patients may just be sepsis, even over respiratory failure; in Wuhan, all patients who succumbed to the disease developed symptoms of sepsis”.
While there is still no 100% effective sepsis treatment, the Cell Activation & Gene Expression group “has been focusing on the development of a therapy with a natural human protein – Spα – which combines two relevant medicinal traits: broad antimicrobial spectrum and significant anti-inflammatory properties”. According to Alexandre Carmo, “this therapy isn’t intended to target the causa, yet the consequence of infection by SARS-CoV-2. The biggest advantage is that it may be used as a therapy when other viruses or pathogens strike”.

Ricardo S. Vieira-Pires, Luís Pereira de Almeida, Rui Nobre, and Tiago Ochôa-Pires, CNC-UC researchers, proposed the project that took the Esfera Cúbica Award. The goal behind “IgY neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 produced from chicken eggs”, Ricardo Vieira-Pires explains, “is the low cost development of neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, resorting to chicken eggs, thus ensuring scalability”.
These egg-purified Anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies “will be the basis for several bioproducts for COVID-19 control and prevention. Among them there’s an anticoronavirus BioSpray able to neutralize the viral load in surfaces, meaning it can be used in personal protection equipment, such as masks and medical scrubs”. Ricardo Vieira-Pires adds that, alternatively, “these neutralizing antibodies could give rise to new pharmaceutical active ingredients for the development of viral inactivation biodrugs targeting the respiratory tract”.

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