For the Jewish News February 2019
Israel’s Technion Faculty of Medicine is working with an engineering start-up in the development of a smartphone app which can identify the first signs of heart failure.
Addressing a lunch given by Technion UK, Professor Zahar Azzam, who described himself as “a pure product of the Technion”, spoke about this innovative technology which is now being developed by the Technion and Cordio, the engineering start-up.
Professor Azzam, a Christian Arab who is director of the Department of Internal Medicine at Rambam Hospital, and vice-dean for medical education at the Technion’s Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, is a cardiac specialist.
He is working with Tal Tamir, the CEO of Cordio, one of hundreds of start-up companies working with Technion. Professor Azzam’s focus is on clearing fluid from the lungs of patients with congestive heart failure, or CHF.
The groundbreaking technology uses speech and voice analysis in a smartphone app. A heart patient’s voice is sampled and then captured by the app. Any tiny changes in the voice can be detected to show differences in the level of lung fluid, even before the appearance of physical symptoms. The app allows alerts to be generated so that immediate treatment can be applied.
Mr Tamir said: “Congestive heart failure is the largest chronic condition in the world, with a very high hospitalisation rate”. The team of Technion and Cordio believe that the development of the phone app — which has other applications, to treat asthma, depression, and coronary artery disease — could cut medical costs and even prevent people having to go to hospital.
Clinical trials are currently taking place involving “hundreds of patients”, and preliminary results are “very promising”, Mr Tamir said.
Professor Azzam spoke warmly of the “diversity of intake” at Technion and said that the institution “encourages equality and mutual respect through science and technology. Medicine should not be divisive, but rather bring people together — and at Technion, it does”.
Huge numbers of non-Jewish school students took part in a special day at the Science Museum on Thursday under the auspices of Technion UK.
Three of Technion’s most innovative academics — Professors Jon Finberg, Ruth Hershberg, and Zahar Azzam — came to address the students, almost all of whom are studying A-level biology.
Later the three professors addressed a small Technion UK science lunch at Bank Leumi’s London headquarters, to discuss their most recent work.
Professor Finberg, a specialist in pharmacy, pharmacology and biomedical research, is best known for his part in the development of the anti-Parkinson’s drug, Azilect, which received FDA approval in 2006 and has since been used successfully all over the world.
British-born, Professor Finberg is married to a 14th generation sabra and is now engaged in new work, studying the effect of magnets on neurons.
Professor Hershberg established her own laboratory at Technion in 2012 and works on evolutionary biology. Two aspects of her pioneering work relate to antibiotic resistance and the evolutionary process of cancers. The Hershberg laboratory is also looking at the possibility of editing genetic disorders.
Technion UK’s chief executive, Alan Aziz, reported close co-operation with Imperial College, London. In particular, he said, help was being offered to Imperial’s Israel Society, which is leading a trip of 60 Imperial students to Israel in March.