From a 90-minute virus test to a 'biotech' mask: Pandemic profit tech

The Kings of Covid: From creator of a 90-minute virus test to the ‘biotech’ mask maker… the British tech start-up CEOs turning the pandemic into profit

  • Entrepreneurs are developing products and technology to battle Covid with artificial intelligence, data and ‘biotech’ products all coming to the foreground
  • The pandemic has boosted the profits of several British tech companies 
  • The Telegraph Hot 100 list rounds up the top earning tech CEOs and founders

The pandemic has thrust technology to the forefront of our lives this year more than ever. 

We now rely on Zoom video calls to speak to our colleagues, we cannot live without apps that allow us to order our favourite meals to our doorstep, and track and trace technology follows our every move. 

Even antiquated QR code technology, first developed in 1994, has been revived and is now widely used to check into restaurants or access health information about the pandemic on your phone.  

But a new group of tech pioneers are now stepping to the foreground during the past year, and it is clear the pandemic has helped their bank balances to swell. 

Whether their development has been fuelled by neccesity, or they have adapted alredy established businesses and tech products to help in the fight against Covid, these are the CEOs that are leading the charge against this virus. 

From a 90-minute ‘lab-on-a-chip’ coronavirus test to a ‘biotech’ mask that renders pollutants and viruses harmless, this technology could be crucial to Britain’s ability to overcome the pandemic.  

The Telegraph have rounded up some of the top tech companies in their Tech Hot 100 list. 

It comes amid warnings that up to 100,000 people are currently catching Covid-19 every day in the UK, while Britain yesterday recorded 367 more Covid-19 victims in the highest daily death toll since the end of May.

For comparison, 241 deaths and 21,331 cases were recorded last Tuesday, according to Public Health England. 

U-Earth – Founder and CEO Elisabetta Maggio is worth an estimated £25 million 

Elisabetta Maggio, who is worth an estimated £25 million, runs U-Earth, a company that produces specialised air purifiers and now a mask that protects against covid

Among the businesses that have likely seen their bank balances swell as a result of coronavirus is U-Earth. 

Founded by Italian entrepreneur Elisabetta Maggio, who is worth an estimated £25 million, the company produces specialised air purifiers and supplies companies such as Suzuki. 

These attract contaminants in the air into a ‘bio-reactor’ where a chemical process renders them harmless.

The £36 ‘biotech’ masks work for up to 200 hours, and include an anti-proliferative agent, meaning that it prevents the growth and spread of viruses and bacteria on the mask

During the pandemic, U-Earth launched an anti-Covid ‘biotech mask’. 

Made in Italy, the £36 masks have a five-layer filter that works for up to 200 hours. 

The filters are infused with a molecule – a polymeric mixture containing a natural active ingredient – which stops the growth of bacteria and microbes. 

This unique formula, designed with a team of Italian researchers, limits the risk of transmitting pathogens between humans.  

The masks not only block air contaminants but also destroys them inside the mask, as the material includes an anti-proliferative agent, meaning that it prevents the growth and spread of viruses and bacteria on the mask surface. 

The filters in the personal protection masks can be replaced whenever they stop filtering pollutants and contaminants. 

Money raised by customers purchasing the masks from U-Earth, which has offices in both Milan, Italy, and London, also helps fund ventilators in Italian hospitals hard-hit by the pandemic.  

DNANudge – Co-Founder and CEO Christofer Toumazou worth up to £18.7 million

British-born Greek Cypriot inventor Christofer Toumazou, 59, co-founded DNANudge which is producing a portable covid test that delivers results in 90 minutes

The 90 minute test works by inserting the test swab into the shoe-box sized machine

Another product making waves in the industry is the 90-minute coronavirus test being developed by British-born Greek Cypriot inventor Christofer Toumazou, 59, who co-founded DNANudge.

The CEO, worth up to £18.7 million, has overseen the production of a portable covid test that packs the punch of a scientific lab on a small computer chip. 

The DnaNudge test does not require any medical expertise and can detect the virus from just a nostril sample – much less invasive than some throat swabs. 

Once a swab is taken, it’s inserted into a handheld reader that provides results within just 90 minutes. 

The machine has a sensitivity of over 98 per cent and specificity of 100 per cent. 

The cartridge test has been rolled out in urgent NHS patient care and surgeries  across the UK as part of large-scale clinical testing.  

Dr Gary Davies, medical director of Chelsea and Westminster, said that the test transformed how the hospital dealt with suspected coronavirus patients.

‘This test does work and is actually more sensitive than some of the lab tests,’ said Dr Davies.

After successful trials on 500 patients in hospitals, the ‘lab in a cartridge’ device was approved for clinical use by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) at the end of April.

The technology is looking so promising that the UK Government has reportedly already placed a £161 million order for 5.8 million tests, which will be used as part of the drive to meet their testing targets.

It could soon be on sale to the public for £40. 

Last month Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to more than double testing capacity by the end of October.

He promised 500,000 tests a day, despite widespread backlogs in laboratories and Britons being asked to drive hundreds of miles to get a swab. 

Quantexa – CEO Vishal Marria is worth an estimated £49.5 million

Quantexa’s model uses AI to predict financial crime ‘before it happens’ by studying consumer habits and behaviour. The company is run by Vishal Marria who is worth an estimated £49.5 million

The track and trace system is another key area where technological advancements could aid in the development of a successful system that could supersede the one already in place. 

The current track and trace system has been plagued by problems since its launch, despite the World Health Organisation saying track and trace systems were key to halting the global spread of the virus.  

High level technology already exists, like that developed by Vishal Marria through his company Quantexa.

Their model uses AI to predict financial crime ‘before it happens’ by studying consumer habits and behaviour.

The technology is used by companies including HSBC, and Standard Chartered Bank, and was even used by the security services to track contacts of the London Bridge attackers in 2017. 

It raises questions over whether similar technology could be put to use in helping develop new track and trace systems.

Faculty – founded by Marc Warner and Angie Ma, worth around £25.2 million and £23.2 million respectively

Faculty was founded by Marc Warner (right) and Angie Ma (left) and the start-up has been hired by the government to monitor the impact of the pandemic using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data collection

The government is already using data to map the spread and affects of coronavirus. 

Start-up firms like Faculty, founded by Marc Warner and Angie Ma, are already being used by the Downing Street to monitor the impact of the pandemic using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data collection.  

This year the start-up, which formerly worked for government advisor Dominic Cummings at Vote Leave during the Brexit campaign, has been hired by multiple government departments.  

It researched the virus’s impact on UK GDP and provided live updates to officials in the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

It also collected and analysed the social media of UK citizens to determine how the pandemic was affecting them to provide insights for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in a £400,000 deal.

The collected data was then used to develop ‘interactive dashboards’ which were used to inform policymakers. 

Both contracts how the government’s need to urgently analyse real-time data to effectively monitor the effect of Covid. 

The company has also been working with US firm Palantir for the NHS during the pandemic to compile patient data in order to prepare hospitals for spikes in service demands as the virus spreads. 

Established in 2014, the start-up now employs 125 people.

Huma – Founder and CEO Danoosh Vahdat is worth an estimated £42.9 million

Founder and CEO of Huma, tech entrepreneurDanoosh Vahdat is worth an estimated £42.9 million and has a system that could inform how Covid patients are treated

Technology and AI could also play a key part in helping to find a cure for the pandemic. 

Tech entrepreneur Danoosh Vahdat, worth an estimated £42.9 million, runs a product that could inform how Covid patients are treated. 

The programme by British healthcare technology company Huma gathers ‘biomarkers’ from patients and uses the data to improve treatment. 

It produces apps that integrate health data from existing hospital databases as well as patient wearables, like Fitbits, and other smartphones cameras and securely transmits it to doctors to use when deciding their course of treatment.

It can even work on wearable products like the Apple Watch.

The company has been expanding into the US as rising Covid-19 cases have led to a surge in its remote patient tracking technology. 

The data collected by Huma’s technology could inform how we treat Covid. 

In April 2020, the company, formerly known as Medopad rebranded as Huma after acquiring BioBeats and Tarilian Laser Technologies, both British healthtech companies. 

Huma’s focus shifted from remote monitoring of patients with rare and chronic diseases towards gathering biological data for use in preventative healthcare.

BenevolentAI – Founded and run by Ken Mulvaney, worth an estimated £376 million

BenevolentAI was founded by biotech expert Ken Mulvaney in 2013

London-based start-up, BenevolentAI, could also help source and develop drugs to combat the virus. 

Founded by biotech expert Ken Mulvaney in 2013, the company has already used its AI technology to identified Baricitinib, an existing drug, could act as a treatment for Covid-19 while scientists work develop a vaccine.

BenevolentAI uses artificial intelligence to mine and analyse biomedical information.

This data can be taken from a huge range of sources, including clinical trials data and academic papers. 

BenevolentAI uses the technology to assess the huge amounts of data and work out what is effective. 

For example it could identify molecules that have failed in clinical trials and predict how these same compounds can instead be more efficient targeting other diseases. 

The company can also use the predictive power of its AI algorithm to design new molecules, and so develop new drugs to treat conditions. 

The technology is being used to develop treatments for incurable diseases including motor neuron disease, Parkinson’s disease, glioblastoma and sarcopenia. 

The company is said to be worth more than £773 million and its coffers have grown during 2020. 

It remains ‘one of Britain’s most promising start-ups in the biotech sector,’ according to The Telegraph. 

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