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PathSpot sells a scanner that fact checks your handwashing efficacy

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The novel coronavirus disease has reminded millions that handwashing is a great way to avoid preventable diseases. Christine Schindler, the CEO and co-founder of PathSpot, has been preparing for the past three months for the past three years.

“I’ve been obsessed with handwashing,” Schindler said, who has a background in biomedical engineering and public health. Combine that obsession with her experience building low-cost resources in hospitals atop Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and PathSpot was born.

Christine Schindler, CEO of PathSpot

PathSpot sells handwashing hygiene machinery to any place “where food is served, handled or stored,” according to Schindler. Its customers range from restaurants and packing facilities to cafeterias and farms.

PathSpot sells a scanner that mounts on a wall next to handwashing sinks. An individual can come to the hand hygiene machine, place their hands in it and get a green or red light depending on if their hands are clean.

Technology-wise, the company does not compete with Purell, but instead fact checks it to an extent. PathSpot uses visible light fluorescent spectral imaging to identify specific contaminants on someone’s hand that can carry bacteria and potentially make them sick. It shines a specific wavelength onto the hand and begins “autocorrecting” contaminants on the hand. Autocorrecting means that PathSpot sends an image through a series of filters and algorithms to identify if unwanted contaminants are present.

Schindler says that the scanner takes less than two seconds to do a whole scan of someone’s hands.

It is looking for the most common transmission vectors, like fecal matter, for food-borne illnesses, like e.coli.

“It’s not identifying if your hand is washed or not in terms of whether it has water droplets,” she said. “Because most of the time people fail a wash, they wash their hands, but they didn’t wash for the full 20 seconds or didn’t use soap in the proper areas.”

But would it save someone from the coronavirus? Schindler says that the coronavirus is transmitted predominantly through respiratory droplets and fecal matter, as of now. PathSpot covers the latter, she said.

However, according to the CDC, it is still unclear if the virus found in feces can cause COVID-19. There has not been any confirmed report of the virus spreading from feces to a person, and scientists believe the risk is low.

So PathSpot can’t specifically detect the coronavirus right now, but instead can detect every-day and potentially infectious contaminants. Overall sentiment around sanitation has increased since COVID-19 began in the United States. Schindler said that usage of the machine has gone up 500% across their hundreds of customer

PathSpot’s second product is a live dashboard to help restaurants better manage and train their staff around sanitation. “We can tell if the hot spots were right under their right pinky fingernail, or underneath their jewelry,” she said. “We can see where all the hot spots are.”

Efficacy wise, a study shows that the scanner was found to have sensitivity and specificity of 100% and 99%, respectively, during nominal use within a food service environment. Restaurants that use PathSpot see handwashing rates increase by more than 150% in one month of using the product, PathSpot said.

PathSpot charges a monthly subscription fee that includes the device itself and the data dashboard, as well as consultancy from its team to the customer regarding actionable insights. The pricing ranges based on size and number of devices, but on average it starts at $175 a month, Schindler said.

Competitors to PathSpot include FoodLogiQ, which has raised $31.8 million in funding to date; Nima Sensor, which has raised $13.2 million in funding to date; Impact Vision, which has raised $2.8 million in funding to date; and CoInspect, which has raised $5.2 million in funding to date. Schindler insisted that competitors focus more on the food and sourcing itself versus the individual handling of it.

Today, the startup announced it has raised $6.5 million in a Series A round led by Valor Siren Ventures, which is a fund formed by Starbucks and Valor Equity Partners. Existing investors FIKA Ventures and Walden Venture Capital also participated.

The new financing brings PathSpot’s total known venture capital to $10.5 million. Richard Tait, a partner at VSV, will take a seat on PathSpot’s board of directors.

PathSpot is raising during a time when its product is more palatable to the general public. Yet its main customer, restaurants, are reeling from the pandemic and are barely able to complete payroll for their entire staff. PathSpot, therefore, targets the next generation of restaurants that rise after the pandemic — the ones that have no choice but to be digitally enabled and adopt technology to keep sanitation in check.

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U.S. billionaires richer by $434 billion since coronavirus pandemic began: report

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Billionaires in the U.S. grew wealthier by US$434 billion (or C$605 billion) during the coronavirus pandemic, according to figures analyzed by an American think tank.

Since March, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos saw his wealth grow by just over 30 per cent — or US$34.5 billion, says the report, a joint venture between the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., and Americans for Tax Fairness.

READ MORE: Amazon ending COVID-19 pay incentives for Canadian warehouse employees after May

The analysis is based on Forbes’ list of billionaires in 2020. The report looked at Forbes data from March 18 as well as Forbes data on real-time estimates of net worth on May 19.

Since March, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg saw his fortune grow by a little more than $25 billion (or just over 46 per cent), the analysis showed.

Hope for a post-pandemic transportation transformation
Hope for a post-pandemic transportation transformation

Also among the top five billionaires who saw their wealth grow: Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Larry Ellison. Everyone else included in the analysis saw an increase of nearly US$359 billion in the last two months.

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“Between March 18 and May 19, the total net worth of the 600-plus U.S. billionaires rose from $2.948 trillion to $3.382 trillion,” the Institute for Policy Studies noted.

READ MORE: Jeff Bezos is not primed to become the world’s first trillionaire — yet

Some billionaires did better than others. For instance, Elon Musk saw his net worth increase by 48 per cent since March, while Walmart’s Jim, Alice and Rob Walton each saw increases that were less than two per cent.

Not everyone on the list saw their wealth increase — beef supplier Henry Davis saw his wealth contract by four per cent over the last two months.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

As pointed out by CNBC, some billionaires, while seeing their wealth grow since March, have experienced losses over the past year. For example, Buffett has lost nearly US$20 billion since last year, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, while Bill Gates has seen a drop of more than US$4 billion.

Coronavirus outbreak: U.S. Federal Reserve chair says economic recovery will be slow
Coronavirus outbreak: U.S. Federal Reserve chair says economic recovery will be slow

Overall, American billionaires are now nearly 15 per cent richer in the two months since the pandemic was declared and lockdowns began.

There’s also more of them. Forbes had 614 U.S. billionaires listed in March, out of 2,095 billionaires worldwide. By May, the number of American billionaires had grown by 16 people, to 630.

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READ MORE: More Canadians likely to shop, eat out than go to concerts, sports games in 2020: poll

Nearly 39 million Americans have filed for unemployment in the same time period. Human Rights Watch has warned the economic and health brunt of the COVID-19 crisis will likely be shouldered by low-income workers.

Unemployment in the U.S. could peak in May or June at 20 per cent to 25 per cent, a level last seen during the depths of the Great Depression almost 90 years ago, according to remarks made over the weekend by U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.

Employment rights you need to know as Canada’s economy slowly reopens
Employment rights you need to know as Canada’s economy slowly reopens

Unemployment in April stood at 14.7 per cent, a figure also unmatched since the 1930s, according to the Associated Press.

In Canada, the COVID-19 crisis resulted in more than three million jobs lost since the pandemic began.

Coronavirus outbreak: Dr. Tam addresses ‘second wave’ concerns with much of Canada seeing warm weather
Coronavirus outbreak: Dr. Tam addresses ‘second wave’ concerns with much of Canada seeing warm weather

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Source: Global News

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Scientists find coral reefs emit dazzling colours as ‘sunscreen’ against warming waters

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Corals during a colourful bleaching event in the Philippines in 2010 (Credits: PA)
Corals during a colourful bleaching event in the Philippines in 2010 (Credits: PA)

Some corals emit a ‘sunscreen’ in the form of a dazzling colourful display to protect them from rising sea temperatures, according to new research.

Scientists at the University of Southampton believe that the corals emit the bright neon colours in a fight for survival.

The team from the university’s coral reef laboratory explained in a report published in the journal Current Biology that many coral animals live in a fragile symbiosis with algae embedded in their cells.

A rise in water temperature of just 1C can cause this relationship to break down causing the algae to be lost leaving the coral’s limestone skeleton exposed through its transparent tissue leading to the fatal condition of coral bleaching.

But the study found that in mild or brief warming incidents, some coral produced a type of sunscreen which takes the form of the colourful display which encourages the algae to return in an ‘optical feedback loop’.

The University of Southampton's waterfront campus where researchers looked at how corals protect themselves against warming temperatures. (Credits: PA)
The University of Southampton’s waterfront campus where researchers looked at how corals protect themselves against warming temperatures. (Credits: PA)

Professor Jorg Wiedenmann explained: ‘Our research shows colourful bleaching involves a self-regulating mechanism, a so-called optical feedback loop, which involves both partners of the symbiosis.

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‘In healthy corals, much of the sunlight is taken up by the photosynthetic pigments of the algal symbionts.

‘When corals lose their symbionts, the excess light travels back and forth inside the animal tissue, reflected by the white coral skeleton.

‘This increased internal light level is very stressful for the symbionts and may delay or even prevent their return after conditions return to normal.

‘However, if the coral cells can still carry out at least some of their normal functions, despite the environmental stress that caused bleaching, the increased internal light levels will boost the production of colourful, photoprotective pigments.

‘The resulting sunscreen layer will subsequently promote the return of the symbionts.’

Staghorn corals during a colourful bleaching event in New Caledonia in 2016. (Credits: PA)
Staghorn corals during a colourful bleaching event in New Caledonia in 2016. (Credits: PA)

‘As the recovering algal population starts taking up the light for their photosynthesis again, the light levels inside the coral will drop and the coral cells will lower the production of the colourful pigments to their normal level.’

Dr Cecilia D’Angelo, lecturer of molecular coral biology at Southampton, added: ‘Bleaching is not always a death sentence for corals, the coral animal can still be alive.’

Staghorn corals during a colourful bleaching event off Lizard Island in 2010. (Credits: PA)
Staghorn corals during a colourful bleaching event off Lizard Island in 2010. (Credits: PA)

‘If the stress event is mild enough, corals can re-establish the symbiosis with their algal partner.

‘Unfortunately, recent episodes of global bleaching caused by unusually warm water have resulted in high coral mortality, leaving the world’s coral reefs struggling for survival.’

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Source: Metro News

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New species of frog discovered and it’s already critically endangered

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Stumpffia froschaueri was discovered in a north-western region of Madagascar. (Credits: PA)

Stumpffia froschaueri was discovered in a north-western region of Madagascar. (Credits: PA)

A tiny new species of frog no bigger than a 5p coin has been discovered and it is already being classed as critically endangered.

The stump-toed Stumpffia froschaueri was discovered in a north-western region of Madagascar.

The amphibian measures just 1cm in length.

The frog’s known distribution is limited to three forest patches which, according to the scientists, are ‘severely threatened by fire, drought and high levels of forest clearance, thus suggesting a classification of critically endangered” according to IUCN Red List criteria.

Dr Samuel Penny, lecturer in the University of Brighton’s school of pharmacy and biomolecular sciences, was a member of a team of scientists on an expedition to the island.

He has just had a paper on the discovery published in ZooKeys.

Dr Samuel Penny examining the tiny new species of frog (Credits: PA)

Dr Penny said: ‘This small and inconspicuous frog measures around 1cm in length and inhabits the leaf litter of relatively undisturbed forests.

‘Habitat loss across its limited range suggests it should qualify as critically endangered.

‘The species name honours Christoph Froschauer (ca. 1490 – 1564), a renowned printer whose family name means the man from the floodplain full of frogs.’

Mr Froschauer used to sign his books with a woodcut showing frogs under a tree.

Dr Penny added: ‘It’s amazing to find a completely new variety of frog but it’s worrying to know they are already threatened with extinction.’

Source: Metro News

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