Light AI Inc., a Canadian company pioneering advanced diagnostic technologies, has announced an agreement with the Western Hockey League (WHL) to complement the WHL’s return-to-play health and safety protocols for the 2020-21 season with a trial of Light AI’s smartphone-based, artificial intelligence (AI) powered COVID-19 diagnostic test.
To help minimize the risk of COVID-19 infections, the WHL is implementing extensive safety protocols with “enhanced screening” for players, team staff, billets and officials during its shortened 2020-21 season. Players will be tested once per week using the current “gold standard” for COVID-19 detection: the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) exam. The trial of Light AI’s smartphone-based AI diagnostic test will run concurrently to PCR testing.
“The WHL is pleased to partner with Light AI on this research project and we appreciate the cooperation we have from our players and staff in this regard,” commented WHL Commissioner, Ron Robison. “Our first priority continues to be the health and safety of our players, and everyone associated with the WHL, and we are hopeful this research will improve the technology in our fight to protect our WHL family and communities from COVID-19 and other illnesses.”
The Light AI diagnostic test is non-invasive and requires no swabs. Users download the Light AI app to their smartphones and follow guided instructions that enable the phone’s native camera function to take an appropriate image of the user’s oral cavity. The acquired image is automatically uploaded to Light AI’s cloud-based server, where a complex AI algorithm analyzes it for signs of COVID-19. Results of the exam are sent back to the user, along with appropriate instructions in the case of a COVID-19-positive result. The trial has been structured so each image sent to Light AI’s Cloud server will be verified by PCR testing to compare for accuracy of Light AI’s solution.
“This is an excellent chance to test and improve our technology in the ongoing fight to protect our communities from COVID-19 and other illnesses,” said Peter Whitehead, inventor, visionary and CEO of Vancouver-based Light AI. “We believe that components of artificial intelligence, including convolutional neural networks, deep learning and predictive analytics, are the technologies most likely to create significant breakthroughs in our ability to identify and manage a wide variety of diseases, including COVID-19. By coupling our AI algorithms with a smartphone, we believe Light AI can offer convenient, reliable, and extremely rapid diagnoses of COVID-19.”
Partners involved in developing the Light AI diagnostic exam include Dr. Dhiren Naidu, Chief Medical Advisor for the WHL, Peter Whitehead, CEO of Light AI, and Light AI’s Principal Investigator, Dr. David Talan, who is affiliated with the UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center. Dr. Martin Dawes, who is based in Vancouver, B.C., will also take part in the study.
“We believe that a rapid, accurate, non-invasive test will allow us to open up a wide variety of venues and markets, including sporting events, airports, offices, music venues and theatres, and all of the necessities and amenities we’ve been missing since lockdown began,” added Whitehead. “We hope our trial with the WHL validates this and confirms our confidence in the use advanced diagnostic technologies that utilize AI.”
The Light AI Story
The development of Light AI’s COVID-19 test began prior to the pandemic in 2016, when Peter Whitehead began leveraging AI to create a rapid diagnostic test for strep throat. The test created, named “Strepic®” is currently able to differentiate streptococcal infections from viral infections with >96% accuracy (sensitivity >97% and specificity >94%, CI 86%-99%) within four seconds of image capture.
Light AI and Strepic® are competing in a global competition to win $8 million, run by Nesta. The international competition will reward a team of researchers who develops a point of care diagnostic test that will conserve antibiotics for further generations. In pursuit of FDA regulatory approval, worldwide clinical trials for Strepic® were scheduled to begin in April 2020. However, they were put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While not being able to proceed with our international trials was an initial setback, it also presented Light AI with an opportunity to apply Strepic® technology to address a new and urgent disease,” says Whitehead. “Using the database we collected and curated for strep throat, in addition to images taken of throats infected with COVID-19, we were able to demonstrate that sore throats caused by viruses – including COVID-19 – display a distinct signature that can be captured by a smartphone camera and uploaded to our cloud-based server for analysis.”
With basic research and development of the Light AI technology now complete, the 2020-21 WHL season represents an opportunity to apply the test under real world conditions. The trial officially launched in the third week of March 2021. All 17 Canadian teams in the WHL have been invited to participate in this trial.
About Light AI Inc.
Founded in 2016, Light AI is headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The Company’s mission is to pioneer advanced technologies that will save lives, improve quality of living, and mitigate threats to global medical infrastructure, such as pandemics and antibacterial resistance. For more information, visit www.light.ai.
About the Western Hockey League
Regarded as the world’s finest development league for junior hockey players, the Western Hockey League (WHL) head office is based in Calgary, Alberta. The WHL consists of 22 Member Clubs, with 17 located in Western Canada and five in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. A member of the Canadian Hockey League, the WHL has been a leading supplier of talent for the National Hockey League for over 50 years. The WHL is also the leading provider of hockey scholarships, with over 375 graduates each year receiving WHL Scholarships to pursue a post-secondary education of their choice. Each season, WHL players also form the nucleus of Canada’s National Junior Hockey Team. For more information, visit www.whl.ca.
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The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 provides a “safe harbor” for forward-looking statements. Certain information included in this press release (as well as information included in oral statements or other written statements made or to be made by the company) contains statements that are forward-looking, such as statements relating to anticipated future revenues of the company and success of current product offerings. Such forward-looking information involves important risks and uncertainties that could significantly affect anticipated results in the future and, accordingly, such results may differ materially from those expressed in any forward-looking statements made by or on behalf of the company. For a description of additional risks and uncertainties, please refer to the company’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.