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Smartphone Obstetrics App Gains $2M Angel, Public Funding

Phone Oximeter

Phone Oximeter (LionsGate Technologies)

10 March 2014. LionsGate Technologies, a medical device developer in Vancouver, British Columbia, received $2 million in private and public financing for its smartphone app measuring blood oxygen levels in pregnant women. The funds will support clinical trials and scaling up for production of LionsGate’s Phone Oximeter, a device that checks for risks of developing high blood pressure that can lead to preeclampsia, causing serious complications and high numbers of infant and maternal death.

The new round of financing for the Phone Oximeter is divided between Vancouver angel investor Irfhan Rajani and Grand Challenges Canada, an initiative supported by the Canadian government that funds medical innovations aimed at improving health conditions in low-resource countries. Both Rajani and Grand Challenges Canada are providing $1 million.

Preeclampsia is a rapidly progressive and dangerous condition usually diagnosed with a pregnant woman’s blood pressure readings that develops during the second or third trimester, and often requires immediate delivery of the baby. Statistics collected by the Preeclampsia Foundation indicate the disorder is the cause of 13 percent of all maternal deaths worldwide, estimated at 1,400 per day or 500,000 per year.

The Phone Oximeter measures proportions of oxygen-carrying molecules in the blood, a factor known as pulse oximetry that’s monitored routinely among hospital patients to detect hypoxemia, a condition where blood in the arteries is not sufficiently oxygenated. LionsGate says the device makes it possible to find those at risk of developing preeclampsia much earlier through their blood oxygen levels, using a predictive score that can identify some 80 percent of cases of pregnant women at risk of high blood pressure.

The Phone Oximeter uses the same principle of measuring blood oxygen levels as found in hospital equipment, shining red and infrared light on the skin and measuring the waves that pass through, from sensors worn on the fingertip. The proportions of different light waves passing through are then calculated into a percentage of oxygen saturation. However, the Phone Oximeter takes advantage of computing power in mobile phones to analyze the readings and return blood oxygen measurements, as well as communicate results from the point of care in remote locations, without the need for highly trained medical staff.

LionsGate says the Phone Oximeter can test for preeclampsia risks well before hypertension develops in the pregnant woman, when it is possible to take corrective actions. With the mobile phone platform, the device’s cost will also be much lower than hospital equipment; its target price is $40.00.

LionsGate is a spin-off company from University of British Columbia, Child & Family Research Institute, and BC Children’s Hospital, all in Vancouver. Electrical and Computer Engineering in Medicine, a University of British Columbia research institute, conducted the studies leading to the Phone Oximeter. Mark Ansermino and Guy Dumont are co-directors of the research center, as well as two of the lead researchers for LionsGate on the project, with Peter von Dadelszen, professor of maternal fetal medicine at the university.

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