Andy Hoffer’s Lungpacer medical device has won the BC Technology Industry Association’s 2012 award for the most promising pre-commercial technology.
It’s the fifth award for the SFU biomedical physiology and kinesiology professor’s spin-off company, Lungpacer Medical Inc., jointly founded with SFU in 2009, which is preparing for the device’s first in-human trials.
The Lungpacer uses an intravenous catheter electrode to electrically pace the diaphragms of patients on mechanical ventilators to maintain diaphragm strength and endurance, enabling them to be slowly weaned from the ventilators.
Currently, 25-30 per cent of patients on ventilators cannot be weaned and die in hospital.
Pacing prevents diaphragm muscle-disuse atrophy, resulting in faster patient recovery, shorter stays in intensive care, lower hospitalization costs and greater patient access to scarce ventilators during events such as flu pandemics.
Hoffer has spent much of his 40-year research career developing ways to use electrical stimulation to activate paralysed muscles. He conceived the Lungpacer in Uruguay after his critically ill mother was placed on a mechanical ventilator but never regained adequate lung function and died three months later.
Lungpacer Medical Inc., Hoffer’s third SFU spin-off company, is headquartered in the university’s Neurokinesiology Lab, employing seven engineers and six students. He has raised nearly $1 million in federal support for the device and more than $600,000 from friends, including several SFU faculty and staff members.
In addition, “the role of SFU and the Innovation Office has been crucial for Lungpacer,” says Hoffer, financing patent and initial prototype costs and paving the way for larger grants from the National Science and Engineering Research Council.”
If the patient trials go well, he expects to bring Lungpacer to market in 2015, first in Canada and Europe and then the U.S.