Ben-Gurion University professor Gabby Sarusi demonstrates the new Covid-19 test kit. Photo Courtesy Ben-Gurion University
An aggressive legal battle is currently raging in Tel Aviv District Court between two groups claiming the rights to the innovation of the device that can diagnose coronavirus (Covid-19) in one minute, according to Calcalist.
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The two sides are Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), its technology commercialization company, and a professor Gabby Sarusi, who has been racing the technology. And a group of foreign companies under the name Ram Group, which its founder Eyal Ram, claims to be the rightful owner of the invention.
Ram Group claims in the court file that the “defendants, who as service providers received drawings and sketches of the invention for a device – which there is a pending request for a patent – are promoting themselves in the media in Israel and across the world as if they developed the invention.”
Ram Group also claims that it has suffered massive damages due to the university’s conduct. “Due to these false publications, a number of investors with whom we were negotiating decided to backtrack from their intention to invest during the funding round,” Ram Group’s filing said.
BGU and Sarusi forcefully deny the claims, saying that the “invention is based in its entirety on what has been public knowledge for years” and that the plaintiffs haven’t provided any evidence that an invention was stolen from them.”
Judge Gershon Gontovnik at Tel Aviv District Court said that he doesn’t believe there is enough evidence to give Ram Group the injunction it requested.
The next hearing scheduled for August, but BGU filed an emergency motion with demanding to remove any temporary warrants that were put in place until the case resumes.
BGU said that crowdfunding company OurCrowd has “committed to investing $8 million as part of a funding round of $25 million in the university’s technological initiative but has now announced that it will immediately halt the investment only due to the fact that the next hearing was postponed to the middle of August,” Calcalist reports
Prof. Sarusi is a deputy head for research at the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering and a faculty member of the Electro-Optical Engineering Unit at BGU. Prof. Sarusi said the clinical trials in conjunction with the Defense Ministry on more than 120 Israelis on the device had a better than 90% success rate compared to Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests.
Current COVID-19 test kits are based on amplifying and identifying the viral RNA sequences and therefore depend on costly reagents and biochemical reactions.
In addition, these tests take hours, and in many cases days, for final results and require logistically complicated shipping and handling of sensitive and infectious biological samples. The one-minute test is electro-optical in nature, rather than biochemical, it is not sensitive to environmental factors as current testing methods. The one-minute test kit costs between $50 to $100 to produce.