Skin-deep sensing to predict COVID patient’s needs

April 28, 2020

A new sensor from QLD-based company, WearOptimo, could provide medical professionals with a tool to forecast which COVID-19 patients are on the path to severe respiratory distress allowing earlier, more appropriate treatment.

The company’s device monitors the reaction of the body’s immune system to the disease. It measures levels of a protein called IL-6, an inflammatory cytokine that is produced to help tackle infection but can cause damage to organs and tissue when the body produces too much of it.

Early research has suggested that IL-6 is a key discriminator between those COVID-19 patients who progress to critical illness or death, and those who do not, having linked the protein to a variety of poor outcomes including inflammatory pneumonia. The levels of IL-6 are typically very low in healthy people but in COVID-19 patients who go onto become the most critically ill the amount in the body can rise by 10 to 100 times – part of what is termed a “cytokine storm”.

WearOptimo’s sensor is designed to provide real-time monitoring of IL-6 levels, over hours or days if necessary. It then sends the accumulated information to a medical professional’s smartphone or computer, Dr Anthony Brewer, Head of Research and Development at WearOptimo, explained.

“Continuous monitoring of IL-6 will yield insights into the systemic proinflammatory response, and inform on the risk of imminent cytokine storm, empowering clinicians to make improved management choices earlier, streamlining decisions to treat with IL-6 inhibitors,” Dr Brewer said. “This will have the beneficial effect of conserving global stocks, as well as reducing off-target side effect profiles in those unnecessarily treated.”

The device is a microwearable – it is applied as a wearable sticker onto the patient but features a series of microstructures that reach a hair’s width into the skin, causing no pain but providing the sensor with access to the rich source of biomarkers present inside of the body.

The platform technology was originally being developed to monitor troponin – a protein that can indicate damage to the heart – or hydration levels in the elderly. However, by only adapting the sensing surface chemistry, the team were quickly able to pivot to focus on IL-6.

The team have been working with ANFF experts in Queensland and Victoria over a number of years to develop the sensor’s platform architecture, applying ANFF’s cleanroom-based nanofabrication techniques.

WearOptimo’s innovative sensor is developed and will be manufactured within Australia, using the country’s world-class manufacturing and testing facilities. The company has assembled a taskforce that includes engineers and clinicians fighting on the frontline against COVID-19 to reach its aims to deploy the first of its sensors into hospitals this year. The team are now preparing for human trials.

The intersection of entrepreneurial expertise, innovative products, dedicated professional and the support of world-class research infrastructure has allowed the rapid development of this timely intervention to assist in the most significant medical challenge in a generation.

Original Article: https://www.anff.org.au/news/skin-deep-sensing-to-predict-covid-patients-needs


The Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF) was founded in 2007 to provide access to micro and nanofabrication equipment, essential to Australia’s scientific future. It was one of nine original research infrastructure facilities established under the Commonwealth’s National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS).

With more than a decade of operations under its belt, ANFF now represents an investment of more than $400m in research infrastructure made by Commonwealth and State Governments, as well as partner organisations.

The network provides access to more than 500 individual pieces of equipment across 20 sites, and is home to more than 100 experts employed under the ANFF banner that assist approximately 3,000 users a year to conduct nano-oriented research.

ANFF has become critical in translating ideas into products and the development of start-ups in a wide range of tech-based markets.



ANFF is reassigning components of its equipment portfolio of 500+ fabrication tools to prioritise work essential to critical COVID-19 operations.

If you are working to fight the COVID-19 crisis, please contact ANFF to see if there’s anything we can do – assistance can be provided.

ANFF is a Government-funded IP neutral environment spread across 20 sites in Australia.

In addition to R&D assistance, we can be used to fill temporary supply gaps for replacement parts using novel 3D printing, laser scanning, laser cutting, CNC micromilling and far more.

If there might be something we can do to help, please contact our dedicated address: FightingCOVID@anff.org.au.

If you know someone working in this space, download this flyer and send it on.

Read the letter from ANFF’s CEO about the network’s response here.

Click here to see how our teams are already helping by 3D printing face masks to provide protection against the virus.

TAGS Australian Manufacturing Australian National Fabrication Facility Technology & Innovation WearOptimo

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