The company, part of the Oxford Foundry enterprise accelerator set up by the university’s Saïd business school, is developing an app to enable the mass screening of people for the virus by analysing the patterns in their unique hacking sounds. Volunteers can record their “donations” on their smartphones and then send in the clips so Novoic can compile a cough bank to create a reliable test. Set for roll out next month, it will distinguish between the noise made by infected patients and those who are virus-free.
“The app is intended for pre-screening to solve cheap, large-scale, remote testing,” says Novoic chief executive Emil Fristed who co-founded the company in 2019 with chief technical officer Jack Weston.
“We already know that other respiratory conditions can be detected from cough patterns,” he explains. “Covid-19 affects the respiratory system in a unique way. To build accurate algorithms that work for everyone we need a lot of data.”
The app aims to overcome the drawbacks of current wet-lab-based tests unable to meet demand as they are relatively expensive, scarce and slow. In-person visits also increase the risk to members of the public and health personnel.
Novoic, which has set its sights on integrating the app with the NHS, is already known for technology that detects brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s by listening to speech patterns.
It is currently raising new funding after venture capital investment.