EghtesadOnline: As the novel coronavirus resurges in Iran, local knowledge-based and tech firms have upped the ante in the fight against the lethal disease.
In the early days of the pandemic, the world faced challenges in supplying health protective equipment and virus prevention equipment on the one hand, and boosting the capacity to research and produce sterilization products on the other. Hence, domestic knowledge-based companies pitched in to fill the gap in Iran.
According to the Vice Presidential Office for Science and Technology, the local tech ecosystem produced clinical equipment, Covid-19 test kits, facemasks, medicines and sanitizers that marked a game-changer in the early pandemic days.
The office has been a strong supporter of tech teams working on medicines to reduce the disease's wide range of side effects.
According to Vice President Sorena Sattari, the vice presidential office, along with the Health Ministry, eagerly supports knowledge-based companies working on potential vaccines for the lethal disease.
“At present, eight companies are working on Covid-19 vaccines, two of which have completed laboratory tests and begun clinical trials,” he said.
When it comes to preventing the coronavirus, air hygiene is one of the most important considerations. Yeson Tech, a Tehran-based knowledge-based company, has developed advanced air purifiers that can eliminate the virus in a short period.
According to Fereshteh Qomi, a co-founder of the company, the air sanitizer system can kill microorganisms like Covid-19 in a matter of 20 minutes.
“The device employs advanced nano and cold plasma technologies to achieve a high efficiency of over 90%. It sucks up polluted air and then releases sanitized air after going through a series of steps,” she explained.
Cold plasma is a novel non-thermal processing technology that uses energetic, reactive gases to inactivate contaminating microbes. Its primary function has been on meats, poultry, fruits and vegetables.
The system, which can purify air in enclosed spaces up to 500 square meters, can also serve as an air generator for homes and clinics.
According to Qomi, her company has manufactured and sold 350 air purifiers in the domestic market to date.
“We're working on expanding Yeson's horizons by negotiating exports to neighboring countries,” she said.
A similar product has been developed by a Qazvin-based tech company.
It is an electro-optical air purifier under the commercial name “ViruNot”.
By releasing electromagnetic beams, the device is able to terminate a wide range of viruses and harmful microorganisms in the air. It can be used for the sanitization of items, such as mobile phones, glass tops, wristwatches, jewelries and keys.
ViruNot can be used in drugstores, offices, banks, shops, beauty salons, restaurants and homes.
Domestic tech firms have also managed to produce two types of coronavirus test kits: one for blood and the other for saliva.
Surgical and N95 facemasks are being produced in the country and 40 new production lines will soon be added to the current capacity.
In addition, local companies are producing tons of hand and surface sanitizers of different kinds, making the country self-sufficient in supplying these products.
Stepping beyond the aforementioned consumer goods, Iranian tech teams have also met the health sector’s demand for high-tech medical devices.
According to Sattari, hospitals are not facing any shortage of health devices and equipment, including CT scan machines, ventilators, intensive care unit and surgery room equipment, oxygen concentrators, blood oxygen meters and BiPAP machines.
Ozone generators, which purify the air via O3 molecules, ventilators, nanotechnology face shields, medical and surgery gowns, silicone gloves and hospital oxygen canisters are among products successfully localized by the tech ecosystem.
Knowledge-based firms and startups are also working on supplying telemedicine, smart health platforms and remote care tools to help people cope with their health conditions.
Synapse, a tech firm at Samsung AUT Tech (a substitute of Amir Kabir University of Technology) specialized in equipping hospitals with smart technologies, is working on a system that converts the documented information of patients and converts them into digital data.
The database is connected to Synapse’s smartphone application called “InLab” that can be used by physicians and other medical staff.
The app gives doctors remote access and helps them review patients’ test results and write prescriptions.
The coronavirus pandemic has created a storm in healthcare systems around the world, including Iran.
The negative effects of the pandemic have disturbed the business activities of a large number of fledgling startups and knowledge-based companies. As a result, Iranian authorities are increasing support for these entities.
In early May, the state-run Iran National Innovation Fund announced that it has loaned 8 trillion rials ($36.36 million) to startups after the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in mid-February 2020 to cushion the impact of the pandemic on tech-based companies.
Siavash Malekifar, the fund’s deputy for development, said financial aid packages were prepared to help virus-hit businesses normalize their operations.
The arrival of Covid-19 in the region, according to the official, disrupted the daily operations of many knowledge-based businesses.
INIF vowed to make amends, allocating 500 billion rials ($2.27 million) in loans between January and March 2020.
“As the losses caused by the virus increased, the fund decided to buttress the tech firms and startups against the disease,” he said.
INIF called on tech teams to help provide health protective and medical devices to improve treatment facilities with 3.5 trillion rials ($15.9 million) in financial aid.
Malekifar noted that out of 400 companies that applied, 70 received funding to produce ventilators, oxygen generators, test kits, facemasks, sanitizers and medication.
“INIF resumed loan payments to distressed fledgling and growing businesses a few months later,” he said.
“The second round of loans, worth 5 billion rials [$22,200] for each company, went to small businesses with fewer employees and lower wages. The Vice Presidential Office for Science and Technology introduced innovative teams in tech parks and tech units as the next group for loan consideration.”
According to Malekifar, loans totaling 4 trillion rials ($18.18 million) were given to 500 virus-affected tech units.
Since its inception in 2011, INIF has assisted about 3,000 tech teams with $400 million in funding, according to the official.
The officials believe that investing in the potentials of the growing technology ecosystem is a key measure to ward off the deadly disease.
The coronavirus has so far infected over 158 million people around the world, claiming the lives of 3,296,835. The number of recovered cases has topped 135, according to a Reuters report on Sunday.
The virus has taken the lives of 74,524 people out of a total of 2,640,670 infected people in Iran.
According to Iran’s Health Ministry, 2,092,381 patients have so far recovered from the disease.