The sunshine and flowers of spring may be a welcome respite from winter’s cold and gloom, but the season brings menace for some, as the pollen that comes with the blooms can lead to an increase in respiratory diseases, including asthma.
Respiratory diseases affect hundreds of millions of people worldwide, and according to a study by the Forum of International Respiratory Societies, 334 million people suffered from asthma in 2017. In the same year, 65 million more were affected by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which causes obstructed airflow to the lungs.
Other studies have demonstrated that in 2017 COPD was the third leading cause of both death and 30-day readmissions in the US, with an economic impact quantified at $15 billion in direct costs annually for hospital readmissions alone.
To help patients affected by these diseases, Israeli company Resmetrix Medical has developed a device that it says allows respiratory patients to monitor their condition at home so they can detect early signs of exacerbation, preventing deterioration as well as costly hospitalizations.
In a phone interview, Resmetrix’s CEO Carmit Levy said the firm has developed a unique stretchable sensor that accurately and continuously monitors the wearer’s respiratory pattern. The device is a chest strap that connects wirelessly to a smartphone application with cloud-based analysis, she said.
“We are aiming to monitor respiratory disease patients” in order to detect early signs of deterioration in their respiratory status, thereby allowing doctors to treat them faster and possibly eliminating the need for hospitalization and the costs related to complications, she said.
The sensor keeps track of respiratory pattern, detecting such developments as changes in chest circumference and other parameters such as “relative tidal volume” — air volume in the lungs at different moments of the respiratory cycle — along with heart rate and body temperature.
Since respiratory patterns vary by individual, the AI algorithms developed by the firm compare the measurements to the patient’s original baseline, Levy explained.
The sensor is connected via Bluetooth to a smartphone, and “the app will provide interactive feedback to the patient about his respiratory status,” she said. The color green means normal, orange signals that patients are starting to deteriorate, and red indicates that their condition is severe.
“The patient will also get feedback regarding his activity status,” she added.
The chest strap works autonomously and requires no user input. Patients can wear it “anytime and anywhere,” while asleep or while physically active, Levy said. For home use, the company’s main target, it might be worn especially at night, when most deterioration happens, she noted. In the hospital, for post-op patients or those under sedation, it can be used 24/7. It can also serve as a diagnostic tool in emergency rooms. The battery is meant to last for at least a hundred hours, she said.
The device will be available in small, medium, large and extra-large. Levy sees it as particularly important when used for children, whose condition tends to deteriorate or improve rapidly, but who cannot generally say how they feel. Moreover, lung function tests like a spirometry test need cooperation and can only be carried out on patients above the age of five, making Resmetrix solution’s use in this field critical, she said.
The Haifa-based company was founded by Ari DeRowe, head of Pediatric Otolaryngology at Sourasky Medical Center, with Zvi Reznic, an electrical engineer and inventor of several patents and technologies, Levy said. The two came up with the idea of monitoring chest circumference and providing accurate calculations of tidal volume, she explained.
Hoping to get product to market in two years, after regulatory nods
Levy, who holds a PhD in biomedical engineering, also was co-founder and CEO of Pneumedicare, another startup developing devices for monitoring respiration, for eight years, then joined Resmetrix as its CEO about two and a half years ago.
The firm is conducting a clinical study with 15 asthma patients at Haifa’s Rambam Hospital, “measuring their respiratory patterns during baseline, during mild exacerbation and after treatment,” with the aim of developing the algorithm based on this data, she added.
So far, the firm has raised some $750,000 from an incubator program, MindUp, but it is planning to raise more and is approaching investors and companies, particularly in the US.
Once it has the funds, it will take the firm about a year and a half to request European and US Food and Drug Administration permits. “So, we’ll hit the market in about two years, after we get the regulatory approvals,” Levy said.
She said that the company’s aim is for physicians to provide the product to patients, who will wear it while hospitalized and keep using it at home after their discharge. Patients will have to pay for the sensor and for a monthly subscription fee, which could be covered by insurance companies.
For hospital use, the company would sell the device to the medical institutions, with a sensor for each bed.
Asked about competitors, Levy said there are companies producing additional wearable devices that look like a patch, but they usually monitor only respiratory rate, while Resmetrix’s device also monitors changes in tidal volume and aims to monitor the whole respiratory pattern. She added that competitors’ devices are generally more expensive than Resmetrix’s.