Israeli scientists head to India to develop rapid coronavirus tests

India’s government has designated 100 professionals to support the Israeli effort and many dozens more to build testing zones to be operated by Indians and Israelis

Ambassador Malka with a medical robot Israel is donating to the Indian Governmental Hospital as part of the equipment sent to combat coronavirus (Credit: Foreign Ministry Spokesperson's Unit)
A senior delegation from Israel’s Directorate of Defense Research and Development (DDRD) is set to depart for India on Sunday to develop new and rapid coronavirus tests in cooperation with their Indian counterparts, while treating Indian patients with coronavirus.
The Israeli team plans to bring new technologies, on which they had recently worked and tested to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, in order to complete their research and to help India fight the novel coronavirus. Israeli and Indian scientific cooperation in this matter has been going on over several months.
The Foreign Ministry also plans to send aid packages to India on the flight, including sanitizing and disinfection equipment to protect medical staff, along with ventilators, which received special authorization to be sent out of Israel.
The delegation plans to test four different technologies for detecting coronavirus: sound waves, breathalyzers based on teraherz waves, isothermic identification and checking polyamino acids. The sound wave testing is based on findings that coronavirus patients’ voices change in the early stages of the illness.
All of these methods are meant to allow for rapid coronavirus testing – in some cases in a matter of minutes – which would allow for the chain of infection to be cut earlier, prevent people from going into isolation unnecessarily and allow the world economy to be reopened more rapidly.
DDRD head Danny Gold said the rapid tests could be used in “hospitals, malls, everywhere, so the economy can run again.”
The Israeli team needs a larger number of subjects on which to test the new technologies to check for coronavirus, and is expected to test them on tens of thousands of confirmed coronavirus patients during 10 days in India, an amount of patients that would be difficult to reach in Israel in a short time.
India’s government has designated 100 professionals to support the Israeli effort and many dozens more to build testing zones to be operated by Indians and Israelis.
The samples will be used for machine learning, to find commonalities between them and to shorten the process for authorizing the new testing technologies. The tests will be verified with PCR diagnostic panels, the commonly-used coronavirus test.
The Israeli delegation of 20 people will be led by Israeli Ambassador to India Ron Malka and Military Attaché to India Col. Asaf Meller, as well as Prof. Nati Keller, an infectious diseases expert from Sheba Medical Center and Itai Gordon, head of the Health Ministry’s innovation department. DDRD representatives will join them, as will engineers and developers from private sector companies that had developed the new technologies.
Sheba Medical Center supplied the medical uniforms and protective gear that will be used by the delegation.  
Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz expressed hope that “the research and development efforts led by DDRD together with academia and our excellent industries will bring a breakthrough that will change the way we diagnose the virus and fight it.”
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said the cooperation with India has great importance and this operation “sends a message of friendship and solidarity and is an opportunity for unique scientific and technological cooperation that can help Israel, India and the whole world.”
Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman contributed to this report.