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Researchers use robots to accelerate COVID-19 testing

Dr Buir loading the testing robot.  In a tucked-away lab at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, a handful of scientists – and their robot “colleagues” – are leading the race to scale up COVID-19 testing to meet the demand of a surge in cases. Alongside his team of molecular microbiologists, Dr. David Bulir of The Research Institute of St. Joe’s Hamilton is automating COVID-19 testing for greater volumes and faster turnaround times. For every 100 samples, Dr. Bulir’s robotic liquid handling system will be able to confirm results in just two and a half hours. Once the system is developed and optimized, it will be rolled out for clinical use at the Hamilton Regional Laboratory Medicine Program (HRLMP) to enable COVID-19 testing to jump from 700 samples per 24 hours to about 1,500 samples o...

2020/05/04 DARPA Announces Discover DSO Day Webinar

The Defense Sciences Office (DSO) – one of six technical offices at DARPA – is sponsoring Discover DSO Day (D3) via webinar June 24-25, 2020, to inform potential proposers about the scientific and technical research areas of interest to DSO. “The goal of D3 is to familiarize attendees with DSO’s mission, provide an overview of the latest office-wide Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) solicitation scheduled for release in June, and facilitate dialogue between our program managers and participants,” said DSO Director Valerie Browning. “While we aren’t able to host the event in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re looking forward to an informative and interactive on-line event.” DSO identifies and pursues high-risk, high-payoff research initiatives across a broad spectrum of science and en...

Deploying virtual care in the battle against COVID-19

Toronto’s Michael Garron Hospital (MGH) has swiftly deployed virtual care in its fight against COVID-19. There, a team overseen by Dr. Christopher Smith joined forces with Ontario Health (OTN) to launch a program that leverages a provincial remote monitoring solution to follow patients with COVID-19 at a distance. “The goal is to ensure symptoms are stable or improving for those who do not require hospitalization or who have been discharged,” says Smith. “We want these patients to know that someone is keeping a close eye on them—something that can be immensely reassuring given how quickly this disease can potentially progress.” The team developed protocols for intake, assessment, secondary assessment, and escalation—and trained staff across both MGH and South East Toronto Family Health Tea...

2020/04/27 AlphaDogfight Trials Final Event Moved to August

DARPA’s AlphaDogfight Trials Final event, originally scheduled for April, has been rescheduled for the summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The third and final trial is now planned for Aug. 17-20, 2020, at AFWERX, the Air Force’s innovation hub, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Eight teams were selected last year to compete in a virtual competition designed to demonstrate advanced artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms capable of performing simulated within-visual-range air combat maneuvering, colloquially known as a dogfight. The series of trials was designed to energize and expand a base of AI developers for DARPA’s Air Combat Evolution (ACE) program. ACE seeks to automate air-to-air combat and build human trust in AI as a step toward improved human-machine teaming. “AlphaDogfight Trials performer...

OMA and Sunnybrook Announce a Partnership to Improve and Expand MyChart

The Ontario Medical Association and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre today announced their joint effort to expand and enhance MyChart, Canada’s largest personal online health portal designed specifically for patients, and through them for their families, physicians and personal care teams. “Patients have been demanding greater access to their test results and medical records so they can better understand and participate in their own health care,” said Dr. Sohail Gandhi, President of the Ontario Medical Association. “Enhancements to MyChart will support this important goal and ultimately lead to improved outcomes for patients.” The collaboration between the OMA and Sunnybrook will result in the expansion of the MyChart support call centre, and enable third-party primary care services such ...

Accelerating virtual care integration

In response to feedback from physicians and pharmacists managing patient consultations virtually during COVID-19, Canada Health Infoway’s PrescribeIT® has initiated an EMR-Virtual Care Investment Program. The Infoway EMR-Virtual Care Investment initiative will provide participating EMR vendors with financial support to rapidly integrate or scale existing virtual care technologies to meet the growing demand during the pandemic when Canadians are encouraged to observe physical distancing. The program is just one way Infoway is working with Health Canada and the jurisdictions to provide support during this time. “This crisis has shown us that we need to get our health care system ready for any eventuality,” noted Michael Green, President and Chief Executive Officer, Canada Health In...

Health Canada approves new fast, portable COVID-19 test

Ottawa’s Spartan Bioscience today announced it has received Health Canada approval for its rapid, accurate and portable COVID-19 test. Approval by Health Canada means that tests can now be shipped to Spartan’s federal and provincial government partners starting immediately. Spartan’s test consists of a portable DNA analyzer called the Spartan Cube, which is the size of a coffee cup. The Cube performs the test with Spartan’s COVID-19 test cartridges and proprietary swabs, manufactured in Ottawa. The automated test can be operated by non-laboratory personnel in settings such as airports, border crossings, doctors’ offices, pharmacies, clinics, and remote communities. “We are grateful to the Government of Canada for working closely with us to expedite the review and approval process,” says Pa...

2020/04/13 OFFSET Awards Contracts to Advance Swarm Tactics for Urban Missions, Enhance Physical Testbeds

DARPA has awarded contracts to nine performers to begin work on the fifth swarm sprint for the agency’s OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) program. The program envisions swarms of up to 250 collaborative autonomous systems providing insights to ground troops as they operate in dense urban environments. OFFSET has five key thrust areas – swarm tactics, swarm autonomy, human-swarm teaming, virtual environment, and physical testbed – each sprint emphasizes one of those areas. The swarm sprints aim to encourage rapid innovation and continuous incorporation of the very latest technologies. The fifth swarm sprint consists of two topic areas: Physical Testbed and Swarm Tactics. Swarm Sprinters in either topic will integrate their technologies into one or both of the OFFSET swarm systems arc...

2020/04/03 Acting Dir. Highnam Discusses COVID-19

The United States confronts a potential national security threat each time a new outbreak of infectious disease occurs anywhere in the world. Our military must be able to deploy safely to wherever they are required to operate. The disease threats seen abroad can also impact the civilian population. The nationwide spread of H1N1 flu in 2009, of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in Indiana in 2013, and the presence of Ebola in Texas in 2014 are recent reminders of this reality. As the current COVID-19 pandemic shows, an unwarned highly contagious virus can rapidly overwhelm medical systems worldwide. There is currently a mismatch between the rapidity at which biological threats can emerge and proliferate and the response time for developing and deploying effective medical countermeasures. Tra...

2020/04/07 Real-time Airspace Awareness and De-confliction for Future Battles

The airspace above future battlefields is expected to be increasingly congested with large numbers of unmanned aerial systems, manned aircraft, munitions and missiles filling the skies. To de-conflict airspace activities of friendly forces and rapidly counter an enemy’s actions on the battlefield requires new technologies to effectively integrate effects from all domains. To that end, DARPA today announced its Air Space Total Awareness for Rapid Tactical Execution (ASTARTE) program, which is being conducted in partnership with the Army and Air Force. The program’s goal is to enable efficient and effective airspace operations and de-confliction in a highly congested future battlespace. This capability is especially critical for implementing DARPA’s Mosaic Warfare concept, which calls for se...

2020/04/06 DARPA Program to Build Travel Adapter for Human Body

Warfighters are travelers and thus suffer from travelers’ ailments including disrupted sleep cycles and limited access to safe food and water. Warfighters who have not slept well have lower alertness, weaker athletic performance, and greater disorientation. Current approaches to restoring wakefulness often lean on chemical methods that disrupt downstream sleep patterns and lead to exhaustion. For sustenance, warfighters typically rely on military-supplied food, which is logistically burdensome and may lead to warfighters having to consume local food and water that could cause otherwise preventable diseases, notably diarrhea. Data from 2003 to 2004 demonstrate that 2/5ths of diarrhea cases among warfighters in Iraq and Afghanistan required medical attention.1 Through advances in medical dev...

maxon launches ‘medical fast track’ in response to COVID-19

maxon, a Swiss developer and manufacturer of drive systems, is a long-time partner of leading medical technology companies worldwide. Its products are used in medical devices such as ventilators, respirators, protection masks and lab automation. During these unprecedented times, maxon is focused on supporting the companies producing these life-saving devices so desperately needed during this COVID-19 pandemic. To do so, maxon launched a “medical fast track” process to ensure the best possible service for critical application needs to fight this pandemic. This fast track system is reviewed in real-time to expedite urgent requests for product. The maxon group management team reviews each request and matches the need with a solution – prioritizing manufacturing efforts globally to ensure prod...