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OU researchers involved in COVID-19 early warning system

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OU researchers have received funding to research the role of wearable device technology and scientific and clinical expertise to create early biomarkers of coronavirus infection.

Dr Duncan Banks, OU Lecturer in Biomedical Science, Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics, is leading a team which has received £50,000 from the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK’s Business-led Innovation in Response to Global Disruption funding call, which received over 8,500 applications, to partner with MindSpire, an innovative start up focused on decoding and treating chronic stress.

This six-month project will look at Heart Rate Variability (HRV) which reflects the ability of the heart to respond to different situations, reacting to stress or illness before any changes in resting heart rate are seen. It will look at emerging research and how existing phone-based and fitness trackers could be easily modified to generate reliable HRV data.

MindSpire’s expertise is in de-coding and treating chronic stress. As infection invokes the body’s stress response, biomarkers established for identifying stress could be used to predict infection. 

"We need an early warning that we are infectious” explains Jane Ollis, Founder and CEO at MindSpire. “Waiting until we show symptoms just gives the virus extra time to spread."

Dr Banks and his team will bring their expertise around the use of wearable technology to track changes in health.

Dr Banks said: “The key to our success is providing the necessary environment to create innovation by utilising the strengths of a multidisciplinary team comprising academics, clinicians and an SME such as Mindspire. This is just the tip of the iceberg, expect to see much more innovation to tackle COVID-19 soon.”

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