In developing nations, lack of equipment and resources translates into potentially thousands of deaths and lack of care for those who need it most: expectant mothers, newborns, and children. Soon, a smartphone may help change that.
LionsGate Technologies has received $2 million in funding from a combination of Canadian public and private investors to develop the Phone Oximeter. The combination app/medical sensor turns a smartphone, tablet, or laptop computer into a medical-grade diagnostic tool that will let health workers monitor blood oxygen levels, a critical measurement in determining maternal and fetal health.
(Source: LionsGate Technologies)
The Phone Oximeter measures blood oxygen levels through a light sensor attached to a person's fingertip. The device then uses a predictive score to accurately identify when oxygen levels in the blood are too low, a condition caused by a variety of problems in women and children, including pneumonia, which kills more than 1 million children each year. With a target price of $40, the device brings pulse oximetry to a level of affordability that is 80% less expensive than comparable high-level medical device.
“Through innovative engineering, we have been able to tap into the computing power of smartphones to produce medical-grade, low-cost monitoring systems amenable to widespread usage in low- and medium-resource countries,” Dr. Guy Dumont of the University of British Columbia said in a press release. He, along with Dr. Mark Ansermino and Dr. Peter von Dadelszen, developed the technology.
The monitor also identifies an estimated 80% of cases of pregnant women at risk of life-threatening complications due to high blood pressure, the company said. The condition, preeclampsia, is one of three leading causes of maternal mortality, according to the Preeclampsia Foundation. Each year, preeclampsia and its related complications kill 76,000 of an estimated 10 million pregnant women worldwide, according to the group. The number of fetus and infant deaths due to these disorders is estimated at more than 500,000.
“That equates to over 1,600 deaths of pregnant young women and babies every day — an unacceptable burden — and more than 99 percent of these deaths occur in developing countries — an issue of social justice,” said von Dadelszen.
The funding comes from a combination of a $1 million angel investment from Irfhan Rajani, CEO of Coleco Investments, and $1 million from Grand Challenges Canada. The investment marks the first grant under a strategic partnership between Grand Challenges Canada and the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD) that will result in $10 million in such investments.
This funding provides a first step toward real-world use. Next, the device will be fine tuned by measuring the blood oxygen of athletes in training. Then, the company intends to perform long-term medical trials around the device's usefulness in identifying preeclampsia. The trails will involve 80,000 women in four countries: India, Pakistan, Mozambique, and Nigeria.
— Hailey Lynne McKeefry, , Editor in Chief, UBM’s EBN
This article was originally published on EBN's sister publication EE Times.