Pfizer to acquire ResApp, developer of smartphone COVID test

Thursday, 14 April, 2022

Pfizer to acquire ResApp, developer of smartphone COVID test

Pfizer Australia has announced its intention to acquire Brisbane-based digital health company ResApp Health, with the latter having recently developed a novel cough audio-based COVID-19 screening test that only requires a smartphone.

In a recent pilot clinical trial of 741 patients (446 COVID-19 positive) recruited in the United States and India, ResApp’s screening test, which uses machine learning to analyse the sound of a patient’s cough, was found to correctly detect COVID-19 in 92% of people with the infection (with lower performance in asymptomatic patients, similarly to rapid antigen tests). ResApp’s algorithm achieved an area under the curve (AUC) of 0.93 using cough audio and patient-reported symptoms; a value of 1 represents a perfect test, while a value greater than 0.9 is considered outstanding.

With this AUC, ResApp can select different operating points depending on the setting to achieve high sensitivity, high specificity, or a balanced sensitivity and specificity. For use as a screening test prior to a rapid antigen or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to rule out COVID-19, an operating point that provides a 92% sensitivity and 80% specificity could be selected; this sensitivity exceeds the real-world measured sensitivity of rapid antigen tests. The combination of high sensitivity and 80% specificity results in eight out of 10 people without COVID-19 being correctly screened as negative and not requiring a follow-on rapid antigen or PCR test.

ResApp will initially target use in settings where frequent COVID-19 testing is required, where a high-sensitivity smartphone test would significantly reduce the number of rapid antigen or PCR tests required. A smartphone-based test also has the ability to improve security and reporting of results using biometric identification such as facial recognition.

“We intend to accelerate commercialisation by immediately engaging with regulators globally and we have already commenced discussions with global health and technology companies with the goal of rapidly bringing this product to market,” said Tony Keating, CEO and Managing Director of ResApp. “These results also build our confidence in the development of patient management and monitoring tools for COVID-19 and expanding our research into long COVID.”

Within weeks of announcing the trial results, ResApp revealed that it had entered into a binding scheme implementation deed with Pfizer Australia, under which it is proposed that Pfizer will acquire 100% of the shares in ResApp by way of a scheme of arrangement for $0.115 per share in cash, representing a total equity value of approximately $100 million. The directors of ResApp have unanimously recommended that ResApp shareholders vote in favour of the scheme and intend to vote shares in their control in its favour.

Keating said, “We are excited by the prospect of this acquisition by Pfizer, a leading biopharmaceutical company that shares our vision and belief that technology can help transform health care and improve patients’ lives. The proposed acquisition recognises the years of dedicated work by the ResApp team to build ResApp into a leader in audio-based analysis of respiratory health. We believe that the material premium and certainty of an all-cash consideration is an attractive outcome for our shareholders.”

It is currently anticipated that ResApp shareholders will be given the opportunity to vote on the scheme at a meeting expected to be held in mid-June 2022; if approved, the scheme would be implemented shortly thereafter. In addition to the scheme, ResApp has entered into a research & development licence agreement pursuant to which Pfizer and ResApp will collaborate on the research and development of products in the field of COVID-19.

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