South San Francisco-based Profusa is looking to go beyond measuring of movement, sleep and heart rate. The company is working on biointegrated sensors for long-term, continuous tracking of body chemistry to eventually make health and disease monitoring as easy as turning on your smartphone.
This, Profusa claims, will provide users and their caregivers with actionable, medical-grade data for personal and medical use for as long as two years at a time.
“In between annual physicals we really don’t know what’s going on in our body,” Ben Hwang, Ph.D., Profusa’s CEO, said in a statement. “While fitness trackers and other wearables provide insights into our heart rate, respiration and other physical measures, they don’t provide information on the most important aspect of our health: our body’s chemistry. What if there was a better way of knowing how you’re doing – how you’re really doing?”
Dr. Hwang says that Profusa’s biosensors will have applications for both consumer health and wellness, as well as the management of chronic diseases such as Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD), diabetes, and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). It’s the latter category where a large chunk of healthcare spending is going, presenting a huge opportunity for smart startups like Profusa, presuming they can prove the cost-savings of their technology.
And Profusa seems to be onto something, as it has already received the Transformative Research Award (EB016414) from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering at NIH, and funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
The company’s biosensor is a flexible fiber, 3-5 mm long and approximately 500 microns in diameter. It is designed to be placed under the skin with a specially designed injector, and is fully integrated within the body’s tissue — without any metal device or electronics — while overcoming the effects of the foreign body response for up to two years.
This is accomplished by using a “smart hydrogel” that is similar to contact lens material, which forms a porous, tissue-integrating scaffold that induces capillary and cellular in-growth from surrounding tissue. The smart gel is linked to a light-emitting molecule that continuously signals the presence of a body chemical such as oxygen, glucose, or other biomarker.
Profusa’s first medical product, the Lumee Oxygen Sensing System, will be available in Europe later this year for use by vascular surgeons and wound-healing specialists.A separate optical reader is used to “engage” the biosensor to emit fluorescent light proportional to the concentration of molecules of interest. The data is then relayed to a smartphone from where it could be shared securely via HIPAA-compliant digital networks with healthcare providers.
Profusa’s first medical product, the Lumee Oxygen Sensing System, is aimed at being the only long-term monitoring technology that ensures tissue oxygen levels persist throughout the wound treatment and healing process. It is aimed at patients recovering from a surgical repair of blood vessels in the treatment of peripheral artery disease (PAD).
PAD, in which plaque buildup obstructs arteries causing decreased tissue oxygen, affects 202 million people worldwide, 27 million of whom live in Europe and North America, with an annual economic burden of more than $74 billion in the U.S. alone.
The Lumee system is slated to be available in Europe in early 2016 for use by vascular surgeons and wound-healing specialists.