Baltimore company unveils technology to instantly detect COVID-19

A Maryland-based company, Opteev, has developed technology to detect COVID-19 in a room instantly. (Courtesy Steve Winter)
A Maryland-based company, Opteev, has developed technology to detect COVID-19 in a room instantly. (Courtesy Steve Winter)
Conrad Bessemer, chairman and co-founder of Opteev, said the technology is meant to aide a return to normal. (Courtesy Steve Winter)
The products that detect COVID-19 both in a room and in a person could be shipped out as soon as February. (Courtesy Steve Winter)
The products range in price from $499 to $999. (Courtesy Steve Winter)
Three room detection products, marketed under the overall banner of “ViraWarn,” set off an alarm the moment COVID-19 is detected within a closed environment. (Courtesy Steve Winter)
A Maryland-based company, Opteev, has developed technology to detect COVID-19 in a room instantly. (Courtesy Steve Winter)

Let’s face the facts.

Who among us isn’t — at least to some extent — concerned that we may encounter the COVID-19 omicron variant anywhere at any time?

Wouldn’t it be nice if you walked into a room and knew — instantaneously — if the virus was present in that environment … or better yet … if you have, in fact, come into personal contact?


Well, thanks to a Maryland-based company that used research conducted by George Mason University, that scenario is about to become reality.

“For far too long, COVID has controlled us,” said Conrad Bessemer, chairman and co-founder of Baltimore-based Opteev.

“COVID controls everything we do, every event we attend, every bar we enter, every restaurant we visit and every entertainment activity we undertake with friends. The way we get ahead of this is that now, WE control COVID.”

The first part of the solution is a lineup of three room detection products, marketed under the overall banner of “ViraWarn,” that instantly sets off an alarm the moment it detects COVID-19 within a closed environment.

With models ranging in price from $499 to $999 — the Patriot for tight personal spaces, the Liberty for small offices and conference rooms and the Liberty-Plus for larger environments — Opteev has already begun distributing the product in limited quantities.

The second part of the equation is the Freedom by ViraWarn, a medical-grade personal handheld breath analyzer that detects a COVID-19 infection within five seconds. With FDA Emergency Use authorization anticipated within the next two weeks, the Opteev solution “promises to seriously revolutionize the fight against this disease,” Bessemer said.

“Imagine coming out of a restaurant, getting in your car and immediately being able to see if you just contracted COVID before heading elsewhere,” Bessemer says. “If all is green, you’re good to go; but if it triggers positive, you know immediately that you have to cancel your weekend visit to your elderly parents or avoid going to the office for the next five-to-10 days.

“But armed with this information, Americans will finally be able to regain their freedom … freedom to visit their loved ones … freedom to breathe worry-free indoors again … freedom to live life like they used to before the pandemic. That will be the true benefit the Liberty by ViraWarn — to bring about a return to normalcy.”

Both innovative and groundbreaking, the technology behind these product is the result of years of testing and verification by the National Institutes of Health, affirmed by independent analysis under the direction of Dr. Farhang Alem, director of Research Operations at the GMU Center for Infectious Disease Research, one of only 21 National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases certified laboratories.

“George Mason is one of the few labs in the country capable of aerosolizing COVID-19 and then testing it,” said Dana Gardner, Opteev’s vice president of business development. “As you can imagine, Dr. Alem was very excited about this opportunity.”

The study, Gardner said, spanned a month and tested the product with multiple different types of viral loads. From the 200,000 viral particles aerosolized in their chamber, the virus was detected instantly, with 100% accuracy.

“Armed with that data, we took this technology and created a polymer media. Instead of a liquid media, it’s a polymer disk placed inside the device. We added blowers to pull in the particles which allows us to instantly identify the presence of cobalt. As soon as the cobalt touches the liquid media, it immediately triggers the alert.”

“The Freedom breath analyzer unit deploys the same technology,” Gardner said.

According to Bessemer, Opteev has partnered with Qualcomm, Bosch, Panasonic, and Nelson-Miller to bring the Freedom by ViraWarn product to market.

“We are seriously anticipating a speedy Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA so Americans can get their hands on this incredible new testing method now, as it is so desperately needed as Omicron ravages the country,” Bessemer said.

So, Bessemer was asked, when can we expect delivery?

“We intend to ship this product in Feb.,” he said.

If that happenstance indeed comes to pass, Opteev will be responsible for producing what can truly be considered a game-changer.

Steve Winter and Kenny Fried are WTOP contributors who work for Brotman|Winter|Fried, a division of Sage Communications.

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