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The US Defense Department is helping to fund a new study to determine whether an under-the-skin biosensor can help detect flu-like infections even before their symptoms begin to show. Could this help cope with the global Coronavirus crisis?

The DARPA-backed study is aimed at developing an early identification system to detect disease outbreaks, biological attacks and pandemics up to three weeks earlier than current methods.

Its developer, Profusa, a digital health company, says the sensor is on track to try for FDA approval by early next year. It’s like a blood lab on the skin that can pick up the body’s response to illness before the presence of other symptoms, like coughing. 

The Company’s minimally invasive injectable biosensor technology, the Lumee Oxygen Platform, as a platform to potentially assist in the early detection of influenza outbreaks. The study is part of a collaboration with RTI International, a nonprofit research institute developing algorithms for illness detection, and research centers including Duke University and Imperial College London, according to the company website.

The sensor has two parts. One is a 3mm string of hydrogel, a material whose network of polymer chains is used in some contact lenses and other implants. Inserted under the skin with a syringe, the string includes a specially engineered molecule that sends a fluorescent signal outside of the body when the body begins to fight an infection. 

The other part is an electronic component attached to the skin. It sends light through the skin, detects the fluorescent signal and generates another signal that the wearer can send to a doctor, website, etc., according to