Experiencing a tech conference in the time of COVID-19


It’s easy to look at the media in the world right now and assume that everything is falling apart. With the global pandemic pushing economies to the verge of collapse and a seemingly stunted social environment, it is vital for the world to use these circumstances to move forward; without a doubt, innovation is paramount. 

After spending some time travelling around the Middle East several years ago on an educational tour, I was fortunate enough to maintain contact with many inspirational entrepreneurs, officials and businesspeople. This week, amidst global crisis, I was invited to a webinar press-conference which covered some of the groundbreaking technological advances being developed to combat COVID-19, many of which are based in Israel and the US. During the conference, six companies presented their new developments to global journalists and corporate representatives, divulging updated information regarding their advances. I was fascinated by the amount of creativity, as well as concrete success, behind each product. It was extremely captivating to be so inspired by the amount of necessary, yet enthralling, invention happening right now.

The press-conference covered some of the groundbreaking technological advances being developed to combat COVID-19.

Israeli companies have frequently been at the forefront of technological advancements. It is no different right now.  A number of corporations based largely in the US and Israel have created hugely impressive and innovative ideas – and all of them have been brought to the forefront within the current global climate, compounded by the COVID-19 outbreak. Here, I want to shed light on some of the phenomenal ways these companies, mainly Israel and US- based, are encouraging an environment of innovation and growth during such trying times.

To start, Yaky Yanay’s Pluristem is a leading regenerative medicine company developing novel placenta-based cell therapy product candidates. It is the first Israeli company to be granted money by the European Fund for Strategic Investments, the financial leader of the Investment Plan for Europe – a joint initiative of the European Investment Bank and the European Commission. With high success rates thus far, the company’s products aim to rebalance the immune system through anti-inflammatory processes, thereby allowing the body to fight the virus.

Perhaps even more significant, though, is Kamada, Israeli-based and publicly-traded biopharmaceutical company, led by Amir London. The company is in the process of developing a highly-anticipated vaccine against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. The company has been building upon their existing portfolio, creating an anti-SARS-COV-2 immunoglobulin “Passive Vaccine” using its proprietary plasma derived IgG platform technology as a potential treatment for severely ill coronavirus patients. The product will be produced from plasma donated by patients recovering from COVID-19, which is expected to include antibodies to the coronavirus.

The “passive vaccine” will use plasma from recovering COVID-19 patients.

Whilst these medical advances are hugely significant, the sphere of innovation does not end here. Not only does the world need to find ways to tackle COVID-19, we also require adequate infrastructure to monitor, detect and limit its spread. Whilst the UK is on its way to using technology to analyse the spread of the virus amongst the population, Israel has already implemented similar systems.

Diagnostic Robotics, an online triage system, has been used to monitor, and thus predict, the spread of SARS-CoV-2 amongst the Israeli population, allowing the government to make informed decisions about which regions to quarantine. The app allows citizens to input confidential data about their whereabouts. This, of course, has had huge benefits for the Israeli Ministry of Health and Emergency Services, and has even been included in the US National Coalition, coordinating the efforts of the private sector in conjunction with local, state and federal responses.

Whilst, thus far, the advances explored have been directly linked to the outbreak, the extent of innovation does not end here. Partially motivated by the virus, but also in response to greater demand for online services in general, three companies are using this unprecedented era to profit from the need for greater online services.

A number of companies aim to service the greater demand for online services in this time of crisis.

Flytrex, based in North Dakota, has created small drones able to deliver goods directly to people’s homes with unprecedented speed. Rivalling large home delivery corporations, Flytrex presents a superior, viable alternative, allowing for socially distanced delivery. Undoubtedly, the impact of this is huge, and is not purely limited to a world under lockdown.

The developments of Kaltura, a US-based company, have a potential to play a large role in the lives of students, being the largest remote video education platform in the world. This hugely competitive corporation has offered free services for universities, mainly in the US, until June 2020. Whilst this is unquestionably necessary now, there is no way to predict the immense impact it will have on the future of the workplace and, indeed, the future of university education.

Finally, other developments may be of huge interest to those who play a team sport. LEGEND Sports Tech is an immersive mobile basketball training platform that engages young athletes in sports. Legend uses powerful AI and machine learning tools to provide performance analysis, feedback and improvement plans of training for the athlete. During the current pandemic, in response to quarantine and lockdown and thus the end of team sport training, LEGEND presents an alternative: the app provides athletes with a daily routine, which they can use to train, even without their usual equipment and facilities. LEGEND has also provided coaches with the ability to view and guide their players through the platform, by adding their commentary to the system’s automatic analysis.

It seems to me that perhaps the world is in a period of immense change. Not only are we using technology to adapt to our current, devastating circumstances, but also to go beyond this; many companies are demonstrating that the world has no choice but to adapt, working to build an unrecognisable yet positive world in the future.

 For anyone particularly interested in current technological advances in the world, particularly in the Middle East, please do not hesitate to get in contact and find out more: erin.waks@durham.ac.uk

Image: d26b73 via Flickr

One thought on “Experiencing a tech conference in the time of COVID-19

  • Erin what a comprehensive report – thank you for all this info. You never cease to amaze me.


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