Healthtech startup FriendsLearn collaborates with Carnegie Mellon University researchers to develop and evaluate a digital vaccine candidate for COVID-19.
In the global race against time for a COVID-19 vaccine, this could be a game-changing scientific breakthrough. Indian serial entrepreneur and investor, Bhargav Sri Prakash, Founder & CEO of Healthtech pioneer, FriendsLearn has expanded a longstanding partnership with data scientists and AI researchers at the Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, USA) to undertake a proposed population health human trial with a Digital Vaccine candidate (FYA-003) for COVID-19.
This initiative is led by healthcare informatics and analytics expert in the field, Prof. Rema Padman and her team, through innovative extensions of the Digital Vaccine Project.
Digital vaccines have been described as a new frontier of disease prevention through technology that enables neuro-behaviour and physiological modulation to protect health at an individual and societal scale. Carnegie Mellon University featured digital vaccines as a top breakthrough in technology as part of their Year in Review annual publication, which is especially noteworthy, given that Carnegie Mellon University is the birthplace of Artificial Intelligence.
After nearly a decade of fundamental neuroscience discoveries and translational scientific research in the use of AI and mobile-VR technologies, digital vaccines emerge with vast potential to disrupt the world of medicine, through a focus on precision prevention vs. precision medicine.
FriendsLearn already delivers non-invasive, low-risk and clinically-proven digital vaccine technology through a commercially available, subscription-driven, game-like, mobile App called FOOYA! for children to download on iOS / Android / PCs. The app is also available through select partner schools in India.
Based on published results from 4 pilot, cross-sectional clinical trials conducted with over 1000 children, researchers found that children who use FOOYA! make healthier food choices in the real world. A recent publication in the Journal of Global Health Promotion by independent researchers featured FOOYA! as part of a Systematic Review – considered the gold standard in evidence-based medicine – and concluded that the game-like experience of FOOYA! resulted in better engagement from children.
Results from a dose effect randomized controlled trial undertaken by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University and Hofstra University, showed positive and statistically significant outcomes, which were presented during the JMIR Connected Health Conference in Boston, USA.
FYA-003, digital vaccine candidate for Covid-19, is a repurposed variant of the existing digital vaccine platform. “We are re-purposing the mechanisms and technology from FOOYA!, to help fight the global Covid-19 pandemic,” said Sri Prakash. “The technology has been developed and population scale human trials are being planned soon, after which relevant scientific, ethical and regulatory approvals can be secured. By leveraging the FOOYA! scientific evidence base, we aim for another drug-free and non-invasive digital vaccine that can save lives, without one having to inject or ingest anything that may have long term undesirable side effects.”
Like FOOYA!, FYA-003 will focus on neuromodulation and neurocognitive training through immersive virtual reality to induce neuro-behavior-physiological change through the gut-brain axis and the body’s immune system. Unlike FOOYA!, which was targeted at children, FYA-003 is envisioned more broadly for a wider age group.
Prof. Rema Padman of Carnegie Mellon University said, “FOOYA! has already demonstrated promising evidence for science-based digital vaccine innovation that is targeted towards lowering risk of lifestyle related disease among children. We are currently in the process of adapting and scaling the existing platform towards supporting large scale, longitudinal, randomized field trials and conducting ongoing R&D to gather and analyze evidence of a variety of critical outcomes of interest to individuals and society. Global adoption of a digital vaccine for infectious diseases has the potential to help alleviate current health challenges caused by COVID-19, as well as for other infectious diseases in the future.”
Accredited School Health Partners that are already using the FOOYA! App based child health protection platform, will be preferentially eligible to participate in this ongoing research collaboration with the Digital Vaccine Project at Carnegie Mellon University, for validation of FYA-003.