Baltimore-based Opteev Technologies Inc. is going through an emergency authorization process with federal officials to launch new products that instantly detect COVID-19, either in a room or on someone's breath.
The in-room detection is suitable for conference rooms, cubicles and classrooms to monitor groups of employees or students.
The personal model will be similar to a breathalyzer but for illness instead of blood-alcohol content. Individuals and families will be able to breathe into the device and know in as little as two to three seconds if they have COVID-19 or influenza.
"This will be a breakthrough for the country in enabling truly the quickest test at truly the best accuracy," said Conrad Bessemer, chairman and co-founder of Opteev and CEO of Novatec Inc., which owns Opteev.
Opteev products use patented sensor technology that focuses on the unique electrochemistry of spiked protein viruses, including COVID-19 and influenza, to trigger an alert.
Bessemer said the company has strong supply and manufacturing partners that rounded up millions of microchips amid the global shortage and are working long hours during the holidays to put the company's new virus detectors in the hands and houses of as many people and as soon as possible.
One of the partners is Los Angeles-based Nelson-Miller Inc., an injection molder that specializes in flexible and rigid circuitry, user interface components and in-mold decorating. The processor has U.S. facilities in Wisconsin.
As production ramps up, the Federal Drug Administration is reviewing Opteev's latest products, which will be introduced to the marketplace at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas from Jan. 5-8, 2022.
"We are presently going through emergency authorization with the FDA for release and ultimate approval just as they did with the vaccines," Bessemer said.
Both products have been tested in hundreds of homes and most recently by the National Institutes of Health in Virginia.
"They found that our device is 100 percent accurate in instantly detecting COVID either in a room or on your breath," Bessemer said.
The device for desk, cubicles and small conference rooms is called Checkpoint and the one for larger spaces like classrooms and conference rooms Sentinel.
The names are still under consideration for Opteev's COVID breathalyzer. Right now they are called Protex for monitoring large groups like schools and businesses and Freedom for the individual version.
Shipping for the room devices is expected to begin in February with the personal devices following in March.
"It will provide instant personal detection and separates flu from COVID in five seconds. It's portable, and you can travel with it or put it in the car," Bessemer said.
Opteev partners include Qualcomm, Bosch, Panasonic and Sun Micro for electronics in addition to Nelson-Miller as the molder and assembler for several of its products.
"Our partners are staying open during the holidays to have thousands, millions available for the next year to help get them to people as quickly as possible," Bessemer said.
The goal is to have about 500 million virus detectors available next year.
Bessemer calls it "another example of U.S. ownership at work." He declined to disclose what kind of investment he made with business partner Steve Maguire, but he is proud of it.
"These devices haven't been financed by any government grants. It shows you what good, old American ingenuity can do with Steve and I providing the necessary guidance and funding," Bessemer said.
Earlier this year, Opteev announced it developed an airborne virus detector called ViraWarn that is the first plug-in screening device to analyze air in indoor spaces, detect virus contamination and warn occupants. Shipping for that product is expected to begin in early January.
Opteev is a sister company of Novatec, which holds patents in airflow and air-drying machinery, and MachineSense LLC, which develops Industry 4.0 manufacturing platforms for airflow conveying systems.
The manufacturers of airflow, temperature and sensor technology formed Opteev in June, but the devices have been the focus of MachineSense and a company in India called Prophecy Sensorlytics for a couple years.