Just one cough and a simple and inexpensive new smartphone technology can instantly and accurately identify respiratory diseases.

UQ’s ResAppDx records a patient’s cough on a smartphone and analyses it to diagnose the type of respiratory disease it most closely resembles, including asthma, pneumonia, bronchiolitis, croup and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

The technology’s accuracy approaches that of a hospital-based diagnosis and requires a standard smartphone microphone, without the need for additional hardware, accessories, sensor attachments or a network connection.

Easy-to-use, it has the potential to provide doctors – and almost every home and village in the world – with the means to quickly diagnose and manage potentially life-threatening diseases.

Associate Professor Udantha Abeyratne and his team at UQ’s School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, worked closely with a team of biomedical engineers, paediatricians and respiratory physicians to develop the app.

ResAppDx can also analyse other measurements and symptoms, such as fever and runny nose.

In 2009, Associate Professor Abeyratne and his team were developing sound analysis technology to detect respiratory conditions such as sleep apnoea.

UQ’s technology transfer company UniQuest recognised the potential of Associate Professor Abeyratne’s research, as did the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which selected it for funding as part of its global initiative to reduce millions of child deaths in developing countries from pneumonia.

This strong support enabled Associate Professor Abeyratne’s team to further develop the technology to create the respiratory disease diagnostic tool.

In 2014, UniQuest licensed the technology, resulting in the creation of company, ResApp Health Ltd, which was listed on the Australian Stock Exchange in 2015 and went on to raise more than $AUD16 million to fund the technology’s development.

Global interest, global impact

Pneumonia kills one child in the world every 30 seconds while respiratory disease accounts for more than 700 million doctor consultations every year across the world.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is the third-leading cause of death worldwide after heart disease and cancer, while bronchiolitis is the leading cause of hospitalisation of infants under six months.

Meanwhile, asthma affects an estimated 10 per cent of the world’s population.

Early intervention has the potential to significantly improve health outcomes and reduce the economic impact of these diseases.

Most respiratory illnesses are currently diagnosed using stethoscope, respiratory laboratory tests, imaging (X-ray, CT), blood and/or sputum tests, which are time consuming, expensive and are not available for long-term monitoring or immediate decision-making in the doctor’s consultation room.

ResAppDx was shown to be more than 90 per cent accurate in detecting respiratory diseases.

The road to commercialisation

Recognising the potential to significantly improve healthcare on a global scale, UniQuest licensed the technology in September 2014.

It then created ResApp Health Ltd to commercialise this versatile, affordable, clinically-validated and regulatory-cleared diagnostic and management tool on smartphones.

With the support of UniQuest, this digital healthcare solution has attracted global interest and won many innovation awards.

Since listing on the Australian Stock Exchange in mid-2015, ResApp has raised more than $AUD16 million to fund the technology’s development.

ResApp undertook clinical studies in hospitals in Perth and Brisbane, Australia, between 2013 and 2016, providing analysis of more than 1000 patients enrolled in paediatric and adult studies.

Preliminary trials demonstrated high accuracy in identifying adult and paediatric respiratory diseases such as bronchiolitis and pneumonia.

ResApp continues to evaluate the clinical utility of the technology and is enrolling more than 1100 patients up to the age of 12 in a paediatric US FDA registration study that involves three US hospitals – Massachusetts General Hospital, Cleveland Clinic and Texas Children’s Hospital.

In the US alone, telehealth is the second fastest growing industry, with a predicted value of $US12 billion.

ResApp’s technology provides unprecedented opportunities to diagnose and monitor respiratory diseases: From emergency medicine in hospitals, screening in airports, remote healthcare in developing countries, telehealth applications, in elderly care, and home-based personalised management of chronic diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma.

Associate Professor Udantha Abeyratne
impact-sector-icon

Sector

Health and Medicine

Information Systems and Computational Science

impact-inventor

Innovator

Associate Professor Udantha Abeyratne
UQ Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology

Impact-overview

Overview

A smartphone app helping doctors and patients breathe easier

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Commercialisation

Licensed IP

Spin-out company